Dear Ms. Meniscus,
I’m a 35-year-old woman whose husband has rheumatoid arthritis. It’s gotten so bad that he had to stop working. Lucky for us I can work and make enough to make ends meet (we also have two children).
Here’s my problem Ms. Meniscus. I have to work late a couple of nights a week so my husband does not suspect that on one of those nights I meet with a man that I’ve been having an affair with. He’s single so we go to his apartment. He’s a nice guy and we have fun together. However, I would never leave my husband. He and I had been together since I was 18.
Here’s my question. More than once my husband has said he would understand if I saw someone else but please just tell him. Is it wrong of me not to tell him?
Am I a terrible person?
You’ve certainly put the cart before the horse now haven’t you? Yes, (it was) wrong of you not to tell him, but not for the reason you seem to think. He didn’t say go and have your fun and let me know when it’s over; he said he would understand (Madame assumes this is about sexual fulfillment?) if you saw someone else, but please tell him.
Now why is that?– because no one wants to be deceived. When you betray someone you harm the relationship, and how much damage is incurred depends on the individuals involved. Madame doesn’t know if your husband is extraordinarily considerate about your needs, or if he knows that a betrayal would hurt him terribly, or, if he suspects you already and is worried about losing you. You say he has mentioned this (idea of someone else) several times. And now that you are involved with someone else in an on-going affair, the situation is more complicated.
You are married to this compassionate man who is suffering. You have two children; you also have a job. You have responsibilities, but you can’t suddenly negotiate the terms of your relationship to suit your interpretation at the moment—and Madame knows that you know what she means. Your husband wants honesty and only you know how much he can handle. What you must do is sit down with him and tell him how grateful you are to have a spouse as generous and understanding as he is. Assure him that you will never leave him (your words) and that you have children to raise together even if he can no longer go to work.
Next you need to think carefully about the ramifications of this relationship. It’s not only about you and your husband, or, you and the guy. Nothing is that simple. There are children to consider. What if he gets too attached to you or vice versa?
Perhaps your next move would be to speak to a therapist who can help you decide whether or not it is wise to reveal the affair. It will be a relief for you to have someone with whom you can speak freely, about the stress you carry—caring for a spouse, caring for the children, as well as carrying many of the responsibilities outside of the home.
Your husband may no longer work, but he can be a great asset to your children when they come home from school. It’s unfortunate that he is ill, but the children will have their father to themselves while you are out, and there is a wonderful opportunity here for them to develop a deeply caring and reciprocal relationship. Depending on their ages, the children can help their father and, he of course, will do what he can for them. Maybe he can read to them or help them with homework.
Right now you may feel confused, but you certainly are not a terrible person. From now on you must think first, and act secondly. You want to keep all those plates spinning in the air, not crashing down on your head. You’ve been doing a great job…keeping those plates up… but from now on think everything through before you act. It’s about reflecting first. This will mean less confusion and fewer feelings of terribleness, agreed?
Madame wishes you all the luck there is, with not a crack in a plate to be seen.