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I've been married for 19 years. I've been feeling pretty unhappy for at least five years, probably longer when I really think about it. When COVID-19 hit, it made things worse. My husband and I have had a decent marriage overall but I feel like we are growing apart. I finally said something late last year and my husband fell apart. Told me he'd rather die than live without me. Or tells me that if I leave him, he'll never have any contact with me again and that our marriage meant nothing. We're in counseling, have been for months, but I'm still not feeling a good connection.
On top of that, last September, I made a really bad decision and got in touch with an old flame. We dated 20-plus years ago, and it came to a choice between him and my current husband. I didn't break up with the old flame for any bad reasons; we were just in two different places in life and I had to choose. I didn't know if he was really serious about a life together and I knew my husband was, so I made my choice.
Fast forward to now, we connect again online, and we began an affair a few months after that initial contact. I told my husband about the affair and he agreed to forgive me if I cut off all contact. I did for a while but I missed this man so much, I went back. I think I'm in love with this man. And he loves me. I'm sure of it. But I'm terrified of leaving my marriage. I don't want my husband to feel like his life means nothing. My husband is not a bad person and I know he deserves better than what I've done. But I'm really not happy here. What should I do?
At this point, you're already gone. Leaving. Literally moving on with someone else.
You can't stay because you’re worried about your husband. Instead, you need more help. Talk to that counselor – on your own – about how to end this marriage safely. Let this professional know you're no longer there to fix what you have, but to create a space where you can exit. Come up with next steps.
Also, call on your community. I don't mean that you should tell everyone you want to leave your husband, but just … make plans with people who remind your husband he's part of something bigger. Show him the life he has without you, the friends that stick around – and maybe would show up more if you weren't there. It's possible these people don't exist, but if they do, see them.
If you're asking for forgiveness for the affair, I can't give it to you. If you're asking for permission to continue to live this way, I can't condone it. All I can say is that yes, it's OK to leave, even if your partner is desperate for you to stay. You can't live a lie forever. Also, he doesn't know that there is so much beyond you. You might be stopping him from learning what a better, less tense life could look like.
You just need to find out how to do this in a healthy way, so ask. Change the path and get the help you both need.
Readers? Should the LW stay any longer? How do you end this in a healthy way?