In 2005, when my then-girlfriend had gotten a new job, I had to deal with a bizzarre summer that left me in therapy, only to be told there was nothing wrong with me. Let me explain.
We were together 4 years - we dated one year, then got an apartment together. Closing in on year 4 together, she had gotten a new job -at the behest of her parents, who thought she wasn't making enough money at her current one. At this new job, she told me about this kid - a male co-worker who was 4 years younger than her - who seemed really ambitious, and had figured out a way to bypass normal protocol to get a promotion out of their department. She said that if I hear her mention him, it's because she was speaking to him to get tips on how to do the corporate job thing, as she had no clue. This was in the middle of her getting increasingly sexual with me on one side - albeit it in an more impersonal way - and also initiating fights, mostly about getting married. She'd yell at me about not having proposed yet, not knowing I was secretly shopping for a ring. I kept telling her to be patient, and that if I proposed because she was yelling at me to, it wouldn't really be appropriate. This initiated one large 'fight' that seemed to be one-sided. She kept avoiding contact with me - things like me just putting a hand on her back or shoulder - and when I complained about being rejected, she blew up and from that moment on said the fight made her feel 'estranged'. She said she didn't know what that word meant, but that's how she felt.
She started going to more after-work functions, and said she was having coffee with this new co-worked to pick his brain, get some tips, and to talk about a book he was writing. Said that I should go out with my friends too, as it would be good to have more things outside the relationship to talk about. I was feeling really strange about the whole deal - in a sort of shock, feeling like I had caused this 'estranged' feeling, and stupidly agreed to let her hang out more.
I asked point blank if I should be worried about this guy, and was told no, he's just some kid. Well, moths of gaslighting later, I ended up finding a hotel bill in her jeans, missing condoms, and emails of them flirting with each other. I was, at this point, convincing myself I was crazy and imagining things, and she encouraged it. But when I conronted her with the hotel bill. shit hit the fan. Denial, the usual, and eventually - with me pushing for weeks - het admitting, kinda, to being in a depressed, weird, 'addict' phase and that she would stop doing what she was doing.
The only reason I didn't run was because she was right - she, underneath it all, seemed more scared and confused than anything else. I thought she might be a bit mentally ill, something I had dealt with in my family growing up, and was a little too understanding about.
Months passed, then a year, and she had given up all contact with him. She was herself again, and our relationship was normal again. I waited until 2008, and then, figuring things were ok, and that I could forgive a confused girl one messed up incident, we got married.
Years later, we have a house and a child, and it's been tough for her to be a mom - she doesn't seem to understand kids, and I have done most of the work in trying to take care of him. She loves him, but just doesn't seem to have it in her to adapt to being a parent now. She does work, we do things together, but it's lopsided. The kid has her wrapped around his little finger, and it makes it hard to co-parent. I'm tired, overworked, and perhaps haven't been able to give everything to the relationship that I should.
Then, a couple of months ago, I start getting that random anger directed at me - not the post-baby, pre-menopausal anger I've grown accustomed to for the last 4 years since our son was born, but that scornful anger and distancing that was familiar years ago. I heard her mention that at one work conference, a colleague pointed out a customer and said he was going to go big things in research. That he'd cure cancer, that he was in a band.. and she told me about this 'kid' again, once. The red light went off above my head, and I started looking for signs.. and sur enough, that subtle contact was made from her to him - donating to a race he ran, then a mail saying congrats, and only if they could have met in another life. Then another, saying it was good to see him at work, and that his eyes and smile were distracting.. but he never responded, so her fishing was unsuccessful. In the meantime, she's been in 'crazy' mode again, listening to the same songs on her phone over and over and over, exercising in the living room every free second while watching the same tv shows over and over.
My wife is either bipolar, borderline, or just not grown up after 40 years. Or, this is just how she is. I care for her, but if this is a pattern to be had over and over again, I don't know what to do.
Thinking back to storied she told of earlier boyfriends, it seems it's a pattern - be with one guy 4 years, then start fights, find a new guy on the side, reach out to initiate some 'innocent' contact, then once the new guy is secured, either dump the old guy or make it so miserable he dumps her. And the old guy has no clue there was someone else.
She hasn't reached out to this guy in a couple of weeks now, so maybe this episode has passed. I'm in a different situation now - married, home-owner, child - so I'm not confronting at the moment, sort of observing to see if it will reach that point .. but this is not how I enjoy living.