Carolyn Hax: After wife’s infidelity, a husband plots his course

Carolyn Hax
Columnist January 1, 2012

Dear Carolyn: I found out in August that my wife was having an affair for the past year with a man who is married and allegedly going through a divorce. He has cheated on his wife a lot, I’m told by others.

She has never been with another man, as she got married young, and she is going through pre-menopause, I believe. We have been married a long time. Our kids are older but at home and they know she was seeing someone but don’t know the extent. She says she isn’t seeing him now, but he texts her and calls her almost every day, and she will return the messages and call him occasionally.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

We have not filed for divorce, but I have seen my attorney, who wished me good luck and says he’ll see me soon.

Ten years ago I had an affair, and it lasted well over a year. My wife does not know about this.

I believe it’s just a matter of time before they get together again. I love my wife and family and I believe she does love me. Our sex life is actually good. Is it possible that I’m fooling myself and that I should just move on and pull the plug? She knows my feelings and says to not get divorced. What would you do in this situation? — Almost gone


Two wrongs may not make a right, but they do relieve this discussion of the burden of righteousness, which, when it comes to adultery, is rare indeed.

Take the moral hand-wringing away and what you have left is this: If you want to stay married to your wife, then be patient to see whether the affair outlasts your patience. If I were the betting kind, I’d bet on a flameout based on his reputation alone, but that’s not a reason to stay. Loving your wife is. Period.

If you do stay, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “fooling” yourself. You certainly seem to grasp the possibility she’ll run off with this guy; you had the presence of mind to talk to your attorney (and to choose one with a sense of humor); you know firsthand that, 10 years from now, you both can have feelings about your marriage that are very different from the ones you have now; you even get that it’s possible for her both to love you and be cheating with him. And you understand that it’s possible you’re wrong about her loving you.

Unless there’s more you could be doing to protect your family and assets in the event of marital meltdown, you seem to have all the “doh!” contingencies covered. That, again, frees you to make this only about whether you want to stay.

Dear Carolyn: My best friend is engaged. She is over the moon and I am happy she is happy. However, I think she’s making a big mistake. Every adult relationship she’s had has ended disastrously; they were unhealthy and she didn’t act responsibly in them.

Her fiance is wonderful (from what I can tell). He has children from a previous girlfriend and he takes great care of them. He has a job, plans for the future, and treats her like a queen. I just don’t think she is mature enough to handle marriage just yet.

On the one hand, I want to be the supportive best friend who helps her gush over dresses. On the other, I feel like it’s my duty to be the voice of reason who is willing to tell her, “I think you are jumping in too quickly,” especially with kids involved. I just don’t know what to say the next time she asks me when I think the wedding should be, and I want to blurt out, “2050.” — Skeptical Skeptic

First, no current problems mean this is only minimally your business. As her designated vent-ee when things do implode, you have some standing to speak up preemptively, but not much.

Second, there’s just so much you can do. Even someone who wasn’t conflicted about being her “voice of reason” (VOR) couldn’t make her grow up.

Third, they haven’t set the date yet, so time itself might be the VOR, as it so often is.

Fourth, you like the guy. VORs who despise the intended are usually too compromised to help. You aren’t.

So: Exercise your credibility and your restraint. Tell her how much you like this guy, and ask if the two of them have considered attending a premarital class. Meaning, support her responsibly, instead of just shooting her down.

If she gets defensive, hold firm and cite the kids as one reason for suggesting it. It may not be your only reason, but it’s the finest of the bunch.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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