"He Cheated with a Woman from the Gym"

Listen in as one real-life couple works through a major crisis in their relationship with the help of a marriage therapist.
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The Couple

Ericka: 47, owner of a health club

Peter: 40, financial advisor

Married: 15 years

Kids: Janie, 22, and Sylvia, 25, from Ericka's first marriage

The Counselor

Robin Newman, Huntington, New York

The Background

Ericka found out that Peter slept with a gorgeous 26-year-old he met in a spin class at the health club Ericka owns. Peter is begging for forgiveness but Ericka's devastated and wants him out.

Ericka's Turn

I knew something was wrong. In the past few months Peter had become distant, short-tempered, and sulky. Sex had always been good for us and suddenly we were barely having any. Then three different clients of mine tipped me off that they'd seen Peter out with Julie, a woman who recently joined the club -- and that it didn't look like just a friendly chat. I checked his phone and saw a string of text messages to one number, which of course I called. Julie answered. I recognized her voice immediately and hung up, shaking. Does it get much worse than this? Your husband sleeps with a younger woman, and you know her and everyone in town knows the story before you do?

I knew the seven-year age difference between Peter and me would come back to haunt us. I'm in good shape but I can't compete with someone my daughter's age. I feel humiliated, angry, and incredibly sad. I could kick myself for not paying more attention to the signs. Although Peter was never much of a texter, he was suddenly glued to his cell phone. He was even texting at the funeral of my best friend's mother. When I asked who he was talking to, he got defensive and quickly put the phone away. He's also been unusually concerned about getting older, fretting about putting on weight, and checking the mirror for wrinkles or gray hairs. I started to plan a 40th birthday party for him but he didn't want one.

Now Peter is full of apologies and promises that it won't happen again, but I've turned into a suspicious schoolgirl, checking his phone and rummaging through his briefcase after he goes to sleep. I'm in spy mode and I hate myself for it. Women have always been attracted to Peter and it never bothered me before. He's very handsome and charismatic -- I was thrilled to have such a cute husband. I feel like a fool. And I want him out.

Peter's Turn

I made a huge mistake, but it was just sex, just once. I don't know why I did it, and I feel terrible that I've hurt Ericka so badly. The fact that Ericka's older than me had nothing to do with any of it. Our age difference has always been irrelevant.

I know how lame this sounds, but at the time it made sense: I was trying to help this woman. Julie had recently gotten divorced and lost her job, and I felt sorry for her. She was looking for a position in finance and I knew I could help with my connections. Plus, I know what it's like to have your life fall apart, because that's what happened to me after my mother died of cancer when I was 18 -- I spun out of control, dropped out of college, and bounced from one dead-end job to another. Finally, when I was 23, my older sister helped me pull myself together. I fantasized I could do the same thing for Julie.

I guess I was also on edge because of work. I started my own business six months ago and it's going terribly. My business partner and I can't agree on anything and I've been scared that it's going to fail. Meanwhile, Ericka's been totally checked out -- I've tried to talk to her about my work fears and she won't listen. I've been feeling like a loser both at work and at home.

So when Julie started talking to me and she so clearly needed help, I guess it fed my ego. I know that's no excuse, but I'm just trying to explain my behavior. I offered to look at her r?sum? and send it around. We met a few times and then, well, I stepped over the line. I'm so ashamed, and I'll do anything to make it up to Ericka. I love her and I want our marriage back.

Ericka's Turn

Why didn't Peter talk to me if he was this unhappy? I'm always asking him to tell me how he feels but he never does. We used to talk about lots of things -- sports, movies, politics. We had so much in common. But lately we don't communicate. I had no idea he was stressed about work. He comes home and buries himself in the newspaper or plants himself in front of the TV. I'll call out, "Hey, how was your day?" and he says "Fine." If it's not fine, he needs to tell me. I can't read his mind!

Peter's Turn

She asks how I am but she's still on the phone talking to a friend. She doesn't really want to start a conversation. I'm an afterthought. I've tried to talk to her many times and she's always busy. Ericka and I don't fight much but there's no life in our marriage anymore. We were both focused on raising her kids for so long, but now that they're out of the house there's not a lot connecting us. We have our routines, our jobs, our favorite TV shows -- but no spark.

I fell in love with a woman who was high energy and full of life. But now Ericka is bossy and critical. She treats me like I'm a stupid kid. I do all the food shopping but instead of thanking me she tells me I bought the wrong cereal. I clean up after dinner and she complains about crumbs on the kitchen counter. The other night I started to tell her that I'm having serious regrets about starting my own firm. She pretended she was listening, but I could see she was playing Words with Friends on her phone. "Oh, you shouldn't feel that way...you'll be fine," she said. And that was it.

I thought that once the girls were at college we'd be closer, but Ericka always has something better to do. If she's not giving a class she's racing to meet with private clients or talking to contractors about renovating the studio. I dropped by a few weeks ago to see if I could help and she scolded me for getting in the way. Does she have any idea how she sounds?

Ericka's Turn

I didn't mean to snap when Peter came into the studio the other week. I was in the middle of an argument with the electrician about the air conditioning, and I needed to stay focused. Still, this is a reason to cheat? My first husband had an affair and that's why we split. I'm totally freaked out that it's happening again.

Continued on page 2:  The Counselor's Turn

 

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