Dear Mary: My wife admitted having an affair. Would I be crazy to let it continue?
I am a middle-aged male and I have been living with multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years. I have been married the same length of time and we have two children.
Some years ago, I developed some transient symptoms that slowly have become permanent fixtures. Today, I walk with great difficulty, have lost a good portion of feeling in much of my right side, foot to hand.
That in itself is not tragic; I'm not the only person with a disability in the world.
But about two years ago, my wife, with whom I've generally had a warm, loving, respectful and fun relationship, entered into an emotional and physical affair with a married man we both knew.
I had a sense something was amiss and asked my wife if she was having an affair. She began to cry, and looking down shamefully (which was a bit frightening because she was driving us at 70mph), she admitted she was.
Initially they had been friends but then became lovers. At first, surprising myself, I was not angry, even accepting that it made her happy.
A few weeks later, however, I underwent the classic progression of emotions.
She stopped seeing her lover, whose wife has no idea to this day that her husband had a sexual affair with a married woman, but he and my wife have kept in touch by phone, email and texts.
He recently emailed my wife and me, congratulating us on our wedding anniversary.
Now here's the twist. I have a permanent, progressive and incurable disease that will soon put me in a wheelchair and rob me of more functions, including having intercourse.
I'm fine in that respect now, and my wife and I continue to have mutually satisfying sex. But in my mind, I can see how my future will look and I am depressed and terrified by it.
I am actually strongly considering giving my wife my consent to continue her relationship, with all that entails, with her lover. Am I crazy, pragmatic or ridiculously generous to my wife?
I have broached the subject in a light-hearted manner and each time she is enthusiastic about it, while telling me she would only continue if she knew it wasn't killing me psychologically and would not adversely affect our marriage.
I have mostly forgiven her and moved on from the initial affair, with only occasional thoughts of anger and betrayal.
Those thoughts then get superseded by my desire to see my wife in a good place, knowing she is affected by my disease almost as much as I am, though obviously not physically.
The notion that I could accept her not being faithful while she remained loyal to our relationship and my needs is gaining traction in my brain.
Her lover has been married for more than 30 years and has grown children.
Bottom line: marriages are not a guarantee of lifelong or exclusive partnership and if someone wants out, they'll find a way out. And though it would hurt tremendously, especially since my prospects of attracting female companionship are poor to non-existent, living alone is always preferable to being in a toxic relationship.
Thank you for any insight you can impart.
A Ultimately any decision you make will be yours but I do have some observations to make which may help in that decision-making.
Cast your mind back to how you felt after initially accepting that having an affair made your wife happy. You were very unhappy and felt all the normal emotions that one feels when trust has been betrayed, no matter what the circumstances.
You are now contemplating giving your blessing to a resumption of this affair with the difference being that you will know about it. Given your reaction the last time, why would this be different?
How would you feel when she would tell you she was going to meet her lover and you would know that they were having sex?
I realise you are not from Ireland but the wedding vows as practised in most English-speaking countries derive ultimately from the Sarum Rite of medieval England and include the words 'in sickness and in health'. You both made vows - how would you be thinking if she were the one with MS?
You are facing a normal lifespan albeit one affected by a debilitating disease.
You seem to be thinking along the lines that if you don't allow her sexual freedom - because in time you will not be able to have sex with her - then she will leave.
This is being unfair to your wife as nowhere have you given an intimation that she intends leaving you because of your MS.
You are very much splitting the physical and emotional components of your marriage by focusing on her having sex with this man. I would be more worried about her involvement with him emotionally - which is continuing with phone calls and emails.
Do you really want to give your blessing to him supplying both her emotional and sexual needs, while hoping that she will continue to be loyal to your relationship?
This man is already married and in condoning the affair you would be colluding in deceiving his wife.
Although living alone is indeed preferable to being in a toxic relationship I don't see your relationship as being toxic right now. Instead, I see lines of communication being very open between you.
Please take advantage of this and talk things through fully with your wife.
Put yourself first when making up your mind. Be very honest regarding your needs and I feel sure that you will make the correct decision.
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