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Saturday 23 August 2014

Dear Mary: My husband has cheated on me for the past two decades

Mary O'Conor

Published 28/01/2013 | 06:00

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Photo posed. Photo: Thinkstock

I have been married for more than 40 years and have grown-up children. We had an ordinary life, the usual ups and downs, not much money, but we got by. I trusted my husband implicitly; I had no reasons not to.

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However about 20 years ago I discovered he had been unfaithful, the awful evidence was there, so he couldn't deny it.

I was totally traumatised and devastated. He swore it was a one-night stand, a terrible mistake and wouldn't talk about it. My heart was broken, I knew I could never trust him again and I asked him for a divorce – I wanted him out of my life. But he promised it would never happen again, and so I forgave him.

About five years later, I became suspicious that he was having an affair with a woman he worked with, but he denied it of course.

I became paranoid and was continually searching his pockets and his car.

His phone was always locked and never left his side. However on the few occasions when I did manage to see it, there were texts from her of an intimate nature. When I questioned him about it, he scorned me, told me I had a vivid imagination and to grow up.

He finally admitted his affair when I discovered this woman had accompanied him abroad a few years previously. I cried bitter tears, told him to get out and leave me in peace to get on with my life.

He begged me to go to marriage guidance, and stupidly, I agreed, thinking it would help. It did – for a while. He promised he would have nothing more to do with this woman.

Last week, I found out he's been in touch with her again. Luckily I have many friends and interests, but my big problem is I can't cope with the lies, the deceit and the broken promises.

Mary replies:

For the past 20 years, you have had a cycle of his infidelity, your forgiveness, a period of hope for you and then those hopes are dashed. He hasn't shown much respect for you and seems to think that apologies would suffice, whereas what you really needed was for him to change his ways.

You are probably both in your 60s by now and yet he has continued to need the excitement of having these affairs. I really don't think that he is going to change his ways at this stage, and if you are to have true peace of mind then the best option for you would be to separate.

You haven't done anything wrong and yet you are the one who is suffering – he seems to have it all, the comforts of home and the thrill of the chase. If it does not suit you to separate, which is quite understandable particularly in to-day's climate, then why not let him see that you are not prepared to go along with life as it has been?

You could start by immediately withdrawing any services that you have been providing in the home, such as cooking, shopping, laundry and whatever else you do that makes his life as good as it is.

You haven't mentioned whether you continue to be sexual with him, but it goes without saying that this benefit should also be withdrawn.

All of this will not make for a very pleasant life, but at least you will feel that you are making him suffer. Perhaps not to the same extent that you have suffered over the years, with all the hurt that you have experienced, but in a very practical way you will be able to make your point.

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