*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a happy relationship after you get married takes commitment, trusting each other, and avoiding any kind of situation that can cause disagreements or misunderstandings. But what do you do when you realize your partner is having an affair, they agree to end it but then keep feeling upset and regretful?
Is that an indication your relationship can't last and you're better off getting a divorce, or should you still try and find a way to help your spouse feel positive again so you can have your family stay together?
My friend Angela, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Nigel, for eight years. They didn't have kids together because they wanted to wait, but then their careers became more demanding, and they weren't sure being parents was the right choice for them at all.
"I wanted to be married and in love, but looking after kids would have stopped me from pursuing every project and getting promoted. I'm not sure I'd find a purpose while staying home, and Nigel wasn't in a hurry to be a dad at all. At first, we said we'd wait for two years, but when that time was up, we decided we'd wait a lot longer until we really felt we wanted a family," Angela said.
Even if they don't have kids, the couple does look after their nieces when they get the time. They play with them and read stories., but they're not considering having their kids anytime soon.
While focusing on their careers meant they were able to buy a bigger house and plan family trips that included their parents and siblings, it also changed their marriage.
They spent less and less time together because each of them did overtime. They also took work trips occasionally, with Nigel being away a lot more than Angela. Gradually, their relationship was a lot more about sharing costs and buying things together than enjoying what they had.
"It was unfair. Before, we had struggled, and we weren't sure we'd be able to have our own home, but we've changed homes twice since, and we're not happier. Our relationship is just not what it used to be," Angela said.
And it wasn't just about being distant and not making time for dates or cooking or any chores they could share. Angela also realized that some of her husband's work trips didn't add up when comparing what she heard from his coworkers.
"I called a few of them and checked on his trips, and it turns out half of them were not related to any projects they had. So I began thinking something else was up and got worried. I didn't want Nigel to walk away from me. Maybe it wasn't as exciting as before, but I wasn't ready for a divorce at all," Angela said.
She waited for her husband to come back from his latest trip, and she let him know she'd been talking to his colleagues. Then she asked him what the other trips were for.
Nigel tried to say he was just meeting friends, but when Angel insisted on a clear explanation, he ended up admitting he was having an affair. Angela asked him how long it had been going on, and he told her it was about eight months.
"That was a lot to handle, but I kept trying to think of a way to keep our relationship from ending. I was upset to know what he'd been doing, but then I asked him if he meant to let our marriage go. He said the other woman was also married and had just told him she wasn't going to get a divorce," Angela said.
Nigel added that he wanted to be with Angela and that he was willing to end that relationship. He liked being close to her, and all their relatives, and he felt like that had been just a reaction to getting further apart from Angela.
Angela agreed to give him another chance and to do all they could to improve their marriage, but she was still doubtful about whether he could forget about the other woman.
The problem is six months have passed since then, but Nigel is still sad and misses what he had with her.
"She'll stay with her husband; he's upset but wants our family together. But I don't see any improvement, and I'm not willing to see him regretting someone else like I'm not even here. I'd like to see he respects our connection at least, but when he's openly upset like this, he doesn't seem to care what I think about it," Angela said.
While she wasn't willing to consider a divorce at first, she's beginning to think maybe Nigel's feelings are permanently changed. And if he cares about someone else now, she doesn't think there's any way to make their marriage work again.
Angela hasn't told her parents or sisters about what took place because she doesn't want to change their good opinion about Nigel, but she'd been talking about the affair and how he's reacting with her friends. They advised her to wait at most two more months and, if things stay the same, to end their relationship.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Angela to have to see her husband upset because his affair couldn't last longer instead of him trying to get their marriage back on track? Should Angela still try to have a happy relationship with her husband, or is it time to find someone else who can make her happy and feel valued?