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Carolyn Hax: They watched ‘The Affair,’ then the accusations began

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My wife and I have been watching “The Affair” on Showtime recently — in retrospect, maybe not a couples show, but I thought we were secure enough to go ahead. She has since repeatedly asked me if I’m having an affair. To which I say “no” because I am not and never have.

But she doesn’t seem to believe me, and I don’t know how to disprove a negative. I get why she’s scared. I’d be crushed if she had cheated on me. But what do I tell her to ease her mind?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Ha. Past the first few episodes, it was such an intense, multi-season argument for not having an affair that I could argue it’s a great couples show. The first few episodes made it seem like a terrible idea, too, come to think of it.


First and worstmost, anyone who is utterly fixated on the possibility of being cheated on hints at two possible histories (though obviously not certainties): being a cheater, or having been cheated on without ever having done the work to recover from it.

So that’s where my mind goes first. It’s worth a think. Or even a talk if you can get there without being accusatory.

Second and more useful: When you’ve gotten through the, “Are you having an affair?” “What? No! I’m not having an affair,” conversation, and that is not enough to put the issue to rest, it’s important not to keep having and re-having the conversation. Instead, push it forward, unequivocally:

“You asked, and I have answered. It’s hurtful that you asked, but I understand — trust is hard. Counting on other people when you know you can’t know everything about them? It’s scary. I know I can’t prove you’re not cheating on me, either. So, what do we do now? What do you think you need, what will be enough, to get past this?”

If that doesn’t clear the path, then you’re going to need harder thinking about life with someone who can’t be persuaded of your decency, which I hope you won’t have to do.

Dear Carolyn: My wife comes from a family of seven. Often when all seven siblings get together with their mother, the mother wants a new “family shot” taken for her mantelpiece. She means just her and her kids. I and one other spouse are asked to stay out of the picture. Is this rude of her or am I being sensitive? And should I express how it makes me feel or just vamoose?

— Vamoosed

Vamoosed: I don’t know what else is going on in the family, but a person can love the sons- or daughters-in-law and be the head of a loving and inclusive family and still want a photo that includes only the family of origin. So, no, I don’t see it as rude on its face, as long as there’s a full-family version, too.

There are certainly rude ways to get the just-us photo, which could be what’s irking you, and there are certainly families who are rude to all plus-ones (typically at their own eventual expense).

If you’re comfortable in their company, then you and the other outlaw can pose for your own shot together, for comic relief.