Q: I’m a 50-year-old man married 17 years. When travelling for business, my married male co-worker friends didn’t have good morals.
I’d work, go to my hotel room alone, as raised by my parents.
My wife was born/raised in a European country and comes from a very healthy family. I grew up on a farm, my family were good people but unlike my wife’s.
I met her when she was hired where I work. I was dumbfounded at how attractive she was.
After some months we started talking and had a couple lunches together. She asked me to attend an office party with her.
We met there and many guys had started bringing her drinks. She couldn’t drive home, so I brought her to my place where I lived alone. I slept on the couch.
We started going to movies, out to dinner and hanging out.
She’d stay overnight, due to attending university classes after working full-time at the company.
We dated for several years and talked about everything including past relationships. I was once married, which she knew since my kids visited every other weekend.
She told me about one guy she worked with at her first job, like it was not much.
Now, 20 years later we ran into that guy and I discovered she was with him for six months and had sex with him.
This has caused me more pain than I could ever imagine, feeling my whole world has ended.
For four months, I’ve cried myself to sleep. All these years I thought I was her first love, her first guy, and I don’t understand why she didn’t tell me about him.
I’ve tried to talk to her about it, but she gets angry and I don’t want to even be around her. We have a 15-year-old son who doesn’t know what’s going on.
I ask her, how many times? Where did you go? What did you do?
I still love my wife; I just don’t understand why she didn’t tell me about him.
It’s affecting my job, my marriage, making us both so unhappy. Please help me get happy again, especially if you’ve dealt with something like this before.
A: Yes, I’ve heard from other readers who’ve been badly shaken by learning of a partner’s infidelity, which is how you seem to view this situation.
She did not cheat on you, but she did lie to you. Your account makes it easy to see why.
From the start, you recount your own strong moral stance. (Your longer original letter mentions co-workers’ adultery and misbehaviour several times.)
Your then-girlfriend must have feared she’d lose you if she talked about this one other relationship.
Meanwhile, you’d already been divorced. That’s not immoral, but it usually implies some understanding that most adults have had other sexual relationships before dating/marrying anew. Apparently, not you.
Facts: You still love the woman you met 20 years ago, were happily married for 17 years, have a teenage son and other children.
Despite those enviable and lucky realities in your life, an overriding sense of morality drilled into you since childhood is driving you away from love and family cohesion.
I see no gain from this path you’re on. Stop barraging your wife with questions … it was way in the past before she’d even met you.
She lied because she loved you. It’s not the “right” choice, but she didn’t want to lose you.
Choose happiness over judgment. Forgive your wife.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Sometimes love and happiness count more than the issue you’re letting divide you from it.