My husband has had two affairs, simultaneously. One affair he kept going through texts and emails (it was long-distance) and the other was an intern from work. We’ve been married for 11 years, and been together since we were just 13. I gave him the freedom to leave without any fuss, telling him if he has fallen for someone else, then he must care for that person more than me, so he should leave, and we can have a decent separation for our children’s sake. He begged me to forgive him, saying he was confused and his mother was very ill, and the women he had affairs with had both lost a parent when he met them. He said he would go to therapy. This was a year ago. I am over the disappointment and rage, and we are still together. He is saying he would never do it again, but somehow I cannot help but wonder. Should I trust him? Name supplied
I’m not convinced that the question: ‘Should I trust him?’ is getting to the heart of the matter. There are many other questions that I want to ask you both, and my basic belief is it’s up to you, not me, to find the answers.
I’m reading a novel at the moment called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, where the main couple have co-existed without really speaking to each other for 20 years: ‘Small words were exchanged and they were safe. They hovered over the surface of what could never be said…’. To the outside world, this might look like a marriage, but is it what you would want?
The two of you have a long-shared history – you got together when you were still children yourselves, and now you have children of your own. That’s an exceptional achievement, and it will always be an important part of your life. Now I imagine that you have been profoundly hurt, and your whole world view shaken. I wonder how much you have been able to share this. When you say ‘leave without any fuss’ and ‘a decent separation for our children’s sake’, it sounds a bit like: ‘go on then, see if I care’. Is that really what you mean?
My key question is ‘Where is the love?’ If you are over the disappointment and rage, what is left? Your husband said he would go to therapy – did he? Would you both go to therapy together? If not, why not? To start exploring similar questions in a low-cost DIY way, you could try using the cards in the 100 Questions: Love Edition relationships toolkit, available from The School of Life, which has questions such as, ‘Is it a sign of cynicism or wisdom to tolerate affairs?’
In the meantime, I urge you to be careful about sharing the details of what has happened. If you and your husband decide that you want to work this out together, you don’t want to be continually explaining and defending your husband to whoever you have confided in. The heart of a marriage is vulnerable, precious and unknowable to other people. Please do not take anyone else’s advice on it, including mine.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line
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