Dear Patricia: After 30 happy years, his fling tears us apart
Published 28/02/2010 | 05:00
I really don't know why I'm writing, as it is already too late for me.
I've been married for nearly 30 years to a lovely man. We have three fantastic children, one of whom, our son, is getting married at the end of the year. We have a very nice lifestyle, to which I have always contributed, as my career was always successful.
I recently discovered that my husband has been having an affair with a woman almost young enough to be his daughter. I had noticed that he was getting a lot of text messages, and then staying away a lot even at weekends, which he had never done before. So I started searching, and what a can of worms I opened. He has been living it up, staying in hotels and even bringing her home to our house while I was away. This really upset me, the thought of somebody else in my bed. It particularly hurt me that he was spending money on this woman that I had worked so hard to earn.
Our family has been destroyed. The children no longer want to know their dad and my son won't even have him at his wedding. So you can imagine the state of our household at the moment. I now totally blame myself for ever letting the children know, because my husband has lost them, which breaks his heart. Why on earth do middle-aged men in mid-life crisis fail to think of the consequences when they start a relationship with some gold-digging young woman?
I don't know if you've noticed, but you still love your husband. Maybe it's not enough to see your marriage safely through this crisis, but don't ignore it. It's not clear how recent these revelations are. You do sound like you're in the first phase of severe emotional disorientation. Whether that is true or not, I still think you should listen to what you've just written me.
It's not too late to mend fences on the children front. We make mistakes when we're angry and anguished, few of which are so awful that they can't be fixed. No, it's not wise to involve sons and daughters -- whatever their age -- in our marital heartache. Certainly not until we've handled the situation in some fashion ourselves. It's friends and perhaps some marriage guidance counselling you need right now, not the pained input of your kids. Sure, they have to know if their parents intend to split, but you and your husband haven't got there yet.
Talk to them. Explain that you absolutely don't want them to take sides. Tell them the truth, namely that you regret involving them, that you did it in the first flush of despair, that you want them to back off, that you need to clear your head and deal with your marriage difficulties, that you don't want them putting a gun to their father's head, that you and he need space, that you've no notion right this minute how things are going to pan out. Don't worry about the wedding invitations. A father can always be slipped into a seating plan. Your son was just trying to be supportive with that threat, and angrily reacting to his own distress too.
It's not too late to mend fences on the marital front either. Marriages go through dry stretches, and not just in mid-life. And yes, sometimes it's a husband, or wife, grabbing for short-term satisfaction, or momentary comfort, or the gratification of close attention -- being immature in other words. Often, though, the "dry" stretch is a two-way process. Wives take their eye off the ball. So, indeed, do husbands. No, I'm not now suddenly blaming you. This isn't about blame. It's about recognising that sometimes a partner strays because we've stopped paying attention. That doesn't mean we're responsible for his behaviour. It does mean there's a lesson to be learned. Either way, love doesn't end just because we've been betrayed.
Marriages survive all kinds of crises. I don't of course know if yours will. You do have a lot of unfinished business which you need to sort out with your husband, away from the turmoil of family distress. At the very least, you two will go on being parents to your lovely children for the rest of your lives. Far more importantly, your relationship deserves time and thought and care and wisdom. Nobody throws away 30 years. They may pretend to, and pull down some emotional shutter, but it doesn't work. Start talking to him, today.