My wife wants a concrete reason why I kept in touch with an old mistress

Last year I ended a rough 18-year marriage. It took me several years to get the courage to leave my alcoholic/drug addict wife. We have a disabled child together and I always stayed married for her sake. I was miserable but stayed.

Last Feb I found an old high school friend on FB and we started talking. We have never dated. I told her I was going to leave my wife and we talked constantly. It didn’t take long (she’s married) for us to meet and have an affair. I soon left my wife and continued to see her some (physically) but mostly we talked and texted.

I thought I was in love, but deep down knew I wasn’t. I decided to try online dating. A legit start at a new life and relationship with someone single. I met a wonderful woman and fell fast for her. At the same time I was texting and calling the other woman. I vowed not to be physical with her anymore and kept that vow, but I was in constant communication. The relationship grew with my new girlfriend and was wonderful, but I was still talking to my mistress.

It took about 5 months for my girlfriend to figure out something was up. I of course denied it, but kept texting my mistress and moved in with my girlfriend. I guess I rationalized things since it wasn’t physical, I could have my cake and eat it too and it wasn’t cheating in my mind, but I admit I knew it was wrong. I wanted to tell my girlfriend, but was afraid. The lies snowballed.

She finally snooped long enough in my phone records and figured out I was in contact with my old mistress. She threw me out. I was devastated. Begged her for forgiveness and she finally let me back in. every week or so after I moved back in, she would get upset and interrogate me demanding answers as to why I did it. Saying if I didn’t know why I would repeat it. It was ugly. It repeated over and over. I broke off contact with the mistress when she gave me the ultimatum her or me. I gave my girlfriend access to everything. Complete transparency.

It didn’t matter; she kept at me, always demanding why I did it. No matter what answer I gave it wasn’t good enough. I said get over it or kick me out. I couldn’t stand it. It slowed down; she would be ok for 80% of the week then bam! Hit me again. Demanding an explanation. I begged for forgiveness, but nothing worked.

But we didn’t split. We both wanted it to work. I thought time would heal and she thought she would just learn to live with it. We got married in July. You wouldn’t know what was happening, the fights that repeated about the same thing over and over. It’s the only thing we ever fight about.

I started reading books, this month, trying to see her side. Made an apt with a counselor for next week. I’ll do anything to give her an explanation as to why I didn’t stop texting and calling the other woman. When she demanded I stop, I did. I’m glad. I don’t miss it. I won’t do it again, haven’t, but I need for my wife to heal so we can move on.

She says she can’t heal until she knows why I did it. Her friends tell her to move on, that he’s not doing it anymore and he regrets it. She can’t, keeps blaming herself, and saying she did something to make me do it.

I tell her I did it and it’s not her fault. I chose to do it. She gave me the ultimatum to stop and I’m glad. I just can’t give her a reason why I did it. I think it was years of a bad marriage and someone who came along and made me feel good, that I couldn’t give up, but when I did I didn’t miss it. She doesn’t believe any reason I give.

She thinks there’s more I’m not telling her. She’s constantly accusing me of cheating or thinking that I want to. What do I do? She says that all this reading about why she’s angry and hurt is more of me trying to fix her and not accepting responsibility. I accept responsibility, but yes I want her to get past this or heal.

What do I do? We now talk more and fight less, but it’s still there and she still says I need to give her a reason why I did it. Man up.

I think it was a combination of things. I say I’m not the same person I was, I’m not healing from a bad marriage anymore, and I don’t need different women’s attention. I just need hers. What do I do?


Given that your wife wants a clear answer about your motives for keeping in contact with your mistress and she wonders if she did something wrong—it is possible that she is anxious about whether you love her and she can trust you (see anxious attachment).

Most likely, she wants a concrete reason because it will reduce her uncertainty and give her something tangible to focus on instead of the unknown.

With that said, if this problem is due to her anxiety about being loved, then this problem would have come up in your relationship somehow. It just took the form it did now, but it would have eventually emerged.

If this is the case, she is probably very upset that you can’t identify a simple cause for your behavior. Her insecurity is most likely being fueled by something unknown and uncontrollable.

If you want to resolve this problem, it may help to

  1. not change your story (offering multiple explanations probably makes her more anxious).
  2. not ask her to get over it and move on (doing so takes control away from her).
  3. address the real issue—her need to know that you will be available and responsive to her needs.

When she asks why you did it—tell her you are going to therapy to understand so that the two of you can find a solution to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It might be wise to follow through and provide a concrete reason for your actions that can be resolved.

 anxious attachment | trust issues

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