Q – My wife of eight years has suddenly caused me extreme pain and distrust.
Six years ago, I had a promotion and was working long hours, returning home exhausted. During that time, my wife’s job contract ended. She was alone a lot, bored and resented my absences.
She decided to visit her best friend from university, who lives in another city, and left for three weeks. I was happy for her.
She returned more understanding of my work (which I soon handled with less extended hours). My wife was hired for another job, then a year later became pregnant and stayed home to raise our kids – two children now, ages four and two.
She has become very busy and stressed but suddenly revealed that when she’d visited her friend, she had a fling with that woman’s brother whom she’d met years before.
I’m shocked, hurt, have no idea how to handle this. Did she have him in mind when she left? Was it a continuation of a past attraction between them which may repeat in future? Or was it payback for my being so preoccupied with my job?
I’ve loved her dearly right until this revelation. Now I’m not sure I can forgive or trust her again. But I don’t want our children to suffer from this.
A – Her sudden confession was intended to shock. Your first questions should be why she did it and why now. Is he someone she still yearns for? What does she expect to happen next?
Is this, again, anger about being stuck at home while you have a separate life at work?
Over years of such letters from readers, I’ve learned this. Some would call it a cry for help. Or a stupid outburst that makes both spouses equally miserable.
Tell her the immediate consequences: You can’t trust her, maybe can’t ever forgive her. You’re unsure if the love you felt for her will ever be possible again.
Some couples facing such dramatic crossroads find the will and the courage to try to repair the damage and re-build their life together. Others immediately separate.
Some try solutions such as the mother returning to work with the help of a babysitter. Some part, then later try again, having missed what they lost. Many get counselling which can be helpful.
Let her information settle a while. The answers about how to deal with it will become clearer.
Q – We’ve been close friends for a decade. Our children are similar ages. But we’ve handled pandemic decisions differently. She’s on the extreme side of caution. I’m cautious but not extreme.
I live in the suburbs with lots of open spaces. Yet even when restaurants opened outdoors, our family ate at home. She lives in a crowded neighbourhood. They order their groceries, never go to food stores. I shop in uncrowded stores in early hours.
My kids are encouraged to run or bike in open spaces, hers can only go for socially-distanced walks with a parent.
Recently, her conversation with me sounded judgmental, questioning my every decision. How do I handle this?
A – When it comes to fear of COVID-19 or its variants affecting a family, everyone has their own reaction. Most people hopefully read the experts’ opinions and try not to just react against restrictions.
No one likes being cloistered at home all the time. But no one wants to risk themselves or their loved ones either. Make no harsh judgments.
Reader’s commentary regarding the mother’s need for a break during COVID/lockdown restrictions and demands (Feb. 1):
Bring the mom’s needs into the family’s conversation along with those of her husband and children – home-based work, home-schooling, food and exercise. Discuss which hours she needs for her work (and time off) and how the rest of the family can support that.
Find ways to share the cleaning, cooking and planning of family activities. These require meaningful help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, meal-planning and exercise activities.
Enlist kids digital help for weekly meal-planning and online food shopping. Kids can learn about nutrition, create theme nights and find new recipes. Kids need some coaching to learn how to do these things.
Routine breaks for Mom! Use a meditation app, alone and/or with the rest of the family. Exercising together also teaches kids that everyone needs exercise, and it’s fun to do together, at home or outdoors.
Ellie’s tip of the day: A revelation of past cheating must be followed by the cheater’s answers as to why and what it means now.
Read Ellie Monday to Saturday. Send relationship questions to [email protected]. Follow @ellieadvice.