Saturday 21 January 2017

Dear Patricia: After his affair I'm depressed and facing the loss of our house

Patricia Redlich

Published 27/03/2011 | 05:00

I'M the mother of three children aged between 15 and 11. I love my children and they keep me going. Eight years ago, I discovered that my husband was talking to another girl. He worked away from home a lot and met someone. I found texts, which seemed more than merely friendly, although he insisted she was just a friend. He had been distant with me for some time and I had become suspicious.

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He agreed, however, to stop the contact. At this point, his job relocated him back to base, so he was around. I tried to put aside my insecurity and doubts, and, of course, it helped that he was at home.

A couple of months later, however, I discovered that he had made contact with his friend again. He said he just wanted to talk to her to get closure. It felt like another blow and I felt so stupid. However, the children were thrilled to have him around, so once again I set my doubts aside. His job then sent him travelling again, and he returned to his old withdrawn ways. I felt very low and went to counselling. My doctor also put me on anti-depressants. The relationship between my husband and I became more and more fraught.

I then found gay porn in our home. At first he denied it was his, but then said it was only curiosity and that I was over-reacting. This was the end, and I asked him to move out. He refused and we slept separately under one roof for several years. He was away a lot. He now lives abroad with a woman who has several children, we are in the final stages of divorce, and he has since admitted to having an affair back then when all the trouble began.

I had felt so alone for years while he worked away. He used to constantly tell me that I needed to change for our marriage to work out. By that, he meant that I was too insecure. I tore myself apart trying to make things work. I so wish he had told me the truth back then, that it wasn't just all me, that he was, indeed, having an affair. Instead, I was left feeling I was the problem and my confidence is still not good. I no longer take medication, but still often feel very low. I have no feelings for my husband now. I really don't like him, when I think of the mind-games he played.

My main worry is this depression, which I don't seem to be able to shake off. When my husband had the children at Christmas, I felt so lonely and spent most of the time crying. I'm glad the children are in contact with their dad, I have always been flexible on access and I have been careful about keeping them out of our problems. The kids are okay. It's just me who feels so desolate.

At the moment, I am very tight for money, which doesn't help. My working hours were reduced, due to the recession. Our family home is also up for sale, but we won't get as much as we expected for it, so I don't know how I'm going to afford to buy another one. We own a large house, and I don't mind moving into a smaller one, as long as it's in a safe area and the children are happy. But on my income I'll never get a mortgage. My solicitor is aware of this, so I hope he'll ensure the kids and I have a proper home.

I'm wondering if I'm going mad, or is it possible my depression is really serious? I also think I have problems with eating. I regularly throw up after a meal because I'm afraid I will get fat. I am not overweight at all, at most I have a few pounds I should shed, but that's all. This has been happening during the past few years and I am so ashamed, which is why I waited until the end of this letter to mention it. If my family found out, they would be so ashamed. Certainly, my mother would be mortified. And my sister is very judgemental. But we are a close family. I really just want to be happy.

AI'LL get back to the eating problem in a minute. The most immediate concern is your passivity in relation to the financial settlement of your divorce, most particularly the loss of the family home. It's not up to your solicitor to ensure you end up with a proper home. It's up to you. Even if you won't fight for yourself right now, you have to fight for your children. They are young teenagers. They need solidity.

I can't, of course, advise you legally. But I can warn you not to be a walkover. Sure, you can agree to downsize. But you have to at least fight tooth and nail to get a settlement which ensures you have a decent home for your kids. Maybe your husband has to wait a while for his full share of the family home, say, for example, until the youngest child leaves school. Maybe you could do a deal on maintenance. I don't know. All I do know is that depressed people often fail to fight their corner, and hence, get even worse. Think hard about it.

It's early days yet in terms of getting over the emotional damage of a failed marriage. This is particularly true since you still have a lot of unfinished business. So it's not surprising that your scars haven't faded yet.

On the positive side, you can now see that your husband did not treat you well and you don't like him. The next logical step is to slowly but systematically free yourself from your memories.

Yes, he did undermine your self-confidence when he invalidated your feelings by pretending your distress was all in your mind. But you now know you were right all along. You are not just a good person, who is still generous and loving enough to let the children have proper access to their dad. You are also a person of sound instinct. And you are a brave woman too. When your husband went that step too far, you ended your marriage. Let me say it again. Your history shows you to be a good, strong, determined, fair-minded and balanced woman. Your heart is just taking a while to catch up with this reality.

You should not be battling on your own. You deserve better. A simple step would be to contact Bodywhys, the organisation that gives counselling and support to people with eating disorders. You'll find it at the front of the telephone directory. You say yourself that you're not fat. You're using food as your psychological battleground. There's no need to be ashamed. There is a need to get help. Do it.

Finally, your family may be close. They are just no help to you at the moment. This is not about fighting with them. But if you feel they would be ashamed to know of your difficulties, or would be judgmental about them, then you don't need to be around them right now. On the contrary, it's probably necessary to keep a certain emotional and maybe even physical distance from them, just until you can find your feet again.

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