Needs Courage to Dump Him

Q: While I was away on a business trip, my husband saw a former flame. I did the unthinkable: I read his emails for the three days we were out of contact, and they had written each other non-stop. They called each other the bedroom names they had for each other. Their affection and sexual interest hasn't waned a bit since the day he met her. In fact he told her he was having trouble with his partner (but he left out the fact that we've been together for 20 years).

I was beside myself with outrage, hurt and a final sense of loss. I confronted him and he lied about it. He has had one excuse after another, like he has in the past when doing this. He is now distant, short-tempered, and not at all interested in spending any time together. Is there anything I could say to him to teach him a lesson so he never does it again? He is clever and manipulative to the core. I just never saw it until it was too late and I'd moved in and never left.

I could win money in court for half the property, but is it worth the time having to see his face knowing his lies? He is a ruthless, selfish jerk, and I need to find the courage to go. How do we get courage when we lack it? — Natalie, 57

Dr. Susan: Unless you've got money to burn, you really ought to pursue whatever legal rights you have with regard to your joint property. You don't always have to go to court to get your half, but that depends on your state. So see a lawyer now. Perhaps he or she will be able to help you get the courage to take the next step. Or perhaps you have a friend, or can find a therapist to whom to vent. Courage sometimes begins with taking one little step and then grows as you feel more in control. Your unfaithful fellow sounds like no prize at all, nor have you mentioned any reason to stay other than sheer inertia.

Getting someone on your side, someone to help you begin the process, may be all you need to feel strong enough to leave the jerk. And no, nothing you can say would be likely to change his behavior, as it's actually his lack of character that makes him who he is. Think of it this way: do you want to be writing this same letter to an advice column five years from now, or twenty?

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