She says she has a happy marriage, but she’s having an affair

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 4, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

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

I have a happy marriage to a great guy with two fantastic kids. I am also having an affair with a man who I have fallen in love with. I really don’t know what to do.

I am stressed out by the crushing guilt that I feel for cheating on and betraying my husband and fear that my actions could lead to the breakup of our happy family. But I just feel like I cannot end the affair. I really love this other person, and I feel caught in a terrible situation that is 100 percent my fault.

I don’t want to leave my husband for the other man, but I know the current situation likely can’t last forever. I am lost and confused as to how I ended up in this situation. Should I seek counseling? Would it do any good given my rock-and-a-hard-place situation? Please help, I can’t talk to anyone about this, and I feel like I’m going to explode!


Do I Need Therapy??

Yes, counseling, ASAP. You seem to think it won’t change anything but I wager it will — in part because yours is a situation that’s very hard to sustain when spoken out loud. The stories you’re telling yourself are credible only in your own mind, and trying to articulate them to someone else is often a quick way to expose that.

Another argument for counseling: You need to get your emotions under control.

You also need to swap out your fatalism for willpower; there’s no rock-and-hard-place here, there are only your choices. You just want to believe the narrative you’ve constructed that tells you otherwise.

Tackling all three of these is a realistic goal from therapy with a skilled provider. Get moving, for your poor kids if no one else.

Dear Carolyn:

My bestest, bestest friend is getting married this summer. The wedding coincides with my fiance’s birthday, and he has said the only present he wants to mark the event is not to have to go to the wedding.

I’m not going to insist that he come with me, but I was pretty taken aback by this attitude. I wish he would be there because my friend and her husband will likely be in our lives for years and I want him to be part of this memory. It’s local and will cost us almost nothing to attend.

I get that not everyone enjoys weddings (and my fiance is particularly impatient with them), but isn’t this bad sportsmanship?

California

He sounds like a weenie. Marrying him is a good idea, you’re sure?

For what it’s worth, I’m not sold on the “want him to be part of this memory” argument; it’s squishy, for one, plus it suggests you’re working harder than necessary to justify wanting him there (”bestest, bestest friend”). This is a celebration of someone very important to you, and you’d like your fiance to give a spit, or just half of one, if only on your behalf. The “bad sportsmanship” angle sounds right to me.

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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