I have been married for almost eight years. There's nothing wrong with us on paper, but I just don't feel happy. I moved to his hometown shortly after we got married and have never really found my place. I feel like I generally just do what he wants. I do not feel like I have my own life at all. His is a close-knit family, and divorce would rock their world and leave me with really nowhere to go.
Almost a year ago, I started hanging out with a male coworker, "Joe." It started as friends. He was going through a really bad time in his marriage, and I helped him get through some of the hurt as that relationship ended. On the flip side, it felt like he was my only friend, someone I could tell my secrets to and finally have a connection with. Our relationship grew into something very close and turned physical, though we only slept together once in all that time. After we slept together, I felt insanely guilty and promised myself it wouldn't happen again unless my situation was different. But for me, it wasn't just the physical nature – I believe I fell in love. He made me feel something I don't think I've felt ever with another person. He accepted me for me, cared for me, wanted to be with me and make me happy. We talked about spending our lives together. My connection with him is stronger than anything I've ever felt.
About a month or so ago, something with Joe changed. I didn't hear from him that much, the content of his messages was different, and we got together far less. I finally called him on it, and he told me he was trying to date, he was messed up over his feelings for me, still liked me, and wasn't sure what was going on. Fast forward and now the dating has turned into Joe having a girlfriend. I haven't seen him in over a month (we work in different locations most times), and I found out from another coworker.
Meanwhile, I was finally moving in the direction of wanting to find a way out of the marriage to be with him. Joe and I never talked about how to get from Point A to Point B, or if it was realistic or not. He apparently reached the conclusion on his own that it was too complicated and therefore would never happen. I am hurt, confused, angry, and I miss my friend. He knows this and we talked briefly about whether we could be a real-life couple if things changed, but it doesn't sound like he's about to end his new relationship anytime soon. So I am recommitting to my marriage and trying to forget him. But I can't. I don't know how to get over this. It feels like the greatest loss I've ever experienced. So, please set me down the right path of putting this behind me – or not.
You're making decisions about your marriage based on Joe. That helps no one.
What would happen if you worked on your marriage, things got better, and then Joe was suddenly single and willing? You can't keep switching the plan based on Joe's status at any given moment.
Assume Joe will never be in the picture – assume he will spend happily ever after with this girlfriend – and begin the process of moving on. Cut him off for good – because there is no reason to talk to him. Grieve the loss. Be sad. Make a playlist of songs and keep busy. Really, it's the same recipe for getting over anything. It might help to remind yourself that if you and Joe had been sure about each other, you would have made yourselves single. Even now, you continue to be unavailable to each other, and that says plenty.
You might need to give yourself some time to process this secret breakup before diving in to work on your marriage. But when you're ready – and you can separate your feelings about Joe from the rest of your life – be very honest with your husband about your loneliness. Talk about what worked for the two of you and when. Are all of your problems tied to the move? What brought you together in the first place?
Understand that this has never been about Husband vs. Joe. It's about you finding a full life and a community. That seems to be what's missing here.
Readers? How do you grieve a breakup and work on a marriage at the same time?