Dear Amy:

I have been married for eight years to an amazing woman. We have two sons under the age of 5 and a newborn baby daughter.

In October of last year I started an affair with another woman. After I ended it, she called my wife and informed her of the affair. My wife was devastated by the news, and in my desire to tell her the complete truth, I told her of another one-time liaison that I had five years earlier.

For the past three months I have attended therapy twice a week and have begun the process of understanding what drove me to do such a horrible act to the woman I love. Now my wife has filed for divorce. She refuses to try counseling because she spoke to one therapist who said, "Once a cheater always a cheater."

I love my wife and our three amazing children, and I can't accept being a divorced father. My wife tells me that I should just give up. She says that giving up is the gentlemanly thing to do.

Should I give up?

Miss My Family in Chicago

By my math, you were having affairs at the same time that your wife was having babies.

I assume that in your therapy sessions, you are exploring any connections between your feelings about fatherhood and your choice to be unfaithful.

I'm not sure why your wife would expect you to do the "gentlemanly thing" when you haven't been much of a gentleman up to now, but I'm with you in your desire to fight for your family to stay together.

Because your wife refuses to enter therapy, you should at least try to persuade her to attend one meeting with you and your therapist or with a mediator. A thoughtful mediator could help you and your wife establish some parameters for a "probation" period (perhaps three to six months) during which you agree to talk regularly.

Your three children will do best if the two of you stay together in a loving partnership. You both have a lot of work to do to put this family back together, but if she refuses, you cannot make it happen.

Dear Amy:

I live in a small community where I know just about everyone. I dated a man off and on for six years, but the relationship failed.

Last year I attended a party where I spent the evening chatting away with his brother. After a few drinks, he stated that we both want the same things in life. I joked with him about how I was probably with the wrong brother for all of those years. I knew there was a spark.

Weeks after that we were at another party. Sparks flew, and it was now out of control. We have been seeing each other secretly, and the feelings are growing stronger, though we're not sure where this relationship is going.

The brothers are close, and the ex-boyfriend has said that he has never gotten over me. Before the ex-boyfriend finds out through the grapevine, who should tell him -- the brother or me? When should we do this -- or should we just stop what we are doing and let it all go?

Taboo Turmoil

If I suggested that you should stop seeing each other, would you listen?

I thought not. Sooner or later you'd be at the same party, you'd have a few drinks and the sparks would fly all over again.

Try this: Let your relationship grow for a month or two without either of you drinking or partying. Meet discreetly and talk this out. You need to figure out if this relationship is just about the sparks or if there is a deeper connection.

If you two find that you feel strongly about each other, the news should go from brother to brother. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be fun, but these two brothers need to work this out between them.

Once you've chosen one brother over the other, you don't get to play switchy-switchy again, right? Otherwise, you may have to move to a new town.

Write Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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