Falling for the gym friend

There's a lot going on in this letter. I mean, a lot.

Dear Meredith,

I met my wife on vacation in college. We had a fun couple of days then went our separate ways. Daily e-mails turned into phone calls that turned into her staying with me for a month. After graduations and a summer together, I went into the military and she went off to grad school. We were again miles apart, but kept the relationship alive with nightly phone calls and bimonthly trips to see each other. We were married by year's end, a mere nine months after first meeting.

We continued the long distance now-marriage while she finished her degree -- until I was diagnosed with an illness. She left school to come be with me and although I had numerous no-kidding near death moments, I pulled through. The military decided I should be medically retired. We were in our mid-20s at this point.

Realizing that I was going to be jobless in a few months, my wife took her dream job a few states away. I was supposed to join her six months later when I was released from the military. During this time I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right and I considered not moving out to be with her.
I was able to get into her e-mail accounts and found suspicious emails between her and another guy. She said that nothing had happened but that we were losing touch. We decided I would come out and we would work on our marriage. Our marriage remained pretty rocky with frequent arguments. Then she received a promotion which moved us to Boston.

Things were going well in Boston and we decided to have a baby. We were blessed with a healthy son and I was fortunate to get a great job.

A few years after moving to Boston I started seeing regular e-mail and text contact between my wife and the guy, and I again got into her accounts to try and find some sort of evidence. I ended up finding some suspicious email between her and different man. We agreed that we had other issues and that we should try marriage counseling.

My wife eventually confessed she'd had an affair. My first reaction was "It's over," but over time I agreed to continue with the marriage counseling. While my wife started to put forth great effort to improve our marriage I didn't feel the same way about her that I had; I just fell out of love. This is where things get complicated. For the past few months I have been friends with a girl I see at the gym who is younger, married, and has a child. It started out innocently but escalated into hand-holding and lengthy chats about what we were doing and how we felt.

Now I'm wondering if I'll ever be able to feel the same way about my wife that I once did. Given all of our other issues I believe I will just be settling and not truly happy. I don't believe I will ever be able to trust her and I believe we may be incompatible.

And are my feelings for this new woman real? If we end our marriages, we'll need time alone, and she should have a chance to be single. Are we doomed anyway and is what we are having just a means to tell us we don't want to be married anymore?

– Marital Troubles, Boston

MT, you're falling for your gym friend for all of the reasons you fell for your wife years ago. Gym friend wants to get to know you. You have intimate conversations with her. You have dates. Isn't that how it started with your wife back in the day?

You were in the military for a long time. Then you were dealing with an illness. That means you didn't have time to learn to live like a normal couple and experience being in a relationship with the usual, everyday stresses. Staying happily married is sometimes more difficult when you're living together with jobs, routines, a kid, and threats to your relationship
I understand she had an affair, but before you see your wife and raise her one, sit down with her and talk. Find out what she wants. In therapy again, if possible. Don't divorce her in your head just yet. I think it would do you both good to have some verbal diarrhea about all that's happened in the last few years and how you want to proceed.

What I don't want you to do is commit to your new gym friend in your head before you deal with your wife. Gym friend is a catalyst. Gym friend is a reminder of what you want from your marriage. And if you lived with gym friend and paid bills with her, she'd be a different gym friend, maybe more like your wife.

This is between you and your wife -- not between you and gym friend, and not something you decide by yourself. I'm not trying to get your hopes up, but sometimes hitting rock bottom with someone brings you closer. Sometimes you can get to know someone all over again. Sometimes you build the friendship that's been missing. It's worth finding out if it's possible. And if not, you'll have come up with a plan with your wife instead of around her.

Readers? What does gym friend represent? Can he save this marriage? Was the distance a factor in his marriage? What should he do? Discuss.

– Meredith