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Q: I've been with my husband for 18 years and we have 3 kids together, a teenager and two young school-age boys. Recently my husband started going to bars after work and reconnected with a woman, his boss's daughter who works where he does. I thought he cheated on me with her 14 years ago, but he still denies it. After the first couple of weeks of going to the bar and then coming home, it has now turned into just about every other night after work and then not coming home until the following morning in time to shower, change and go back to work. When I confront him about it, he insists they're "just friends," supposedly they have a lot in common and he doesn't understand what my problem is with her. Some of the nights he hasn't come home he said he slept on the couch of his new married friends from the bar. But recently I received a phone call early one morning from this girl's ex-boyfriend saying that if I was looking for my husband, he was at this girl's house and that he (the ex) was watching him get out of her bed. At first when he came home in the morning he at least acted like he was sorry. But as time goes by the remorse gets less and less. I don't know what to do. He knows I have no job, no money and no place else to go, but I'm to the point where I cannot sit back and take it and let my kids watch me take it any longer. That the only way something is going to change is if I find a way to do something drastic like leave. What do you advise? -- Carla, 37

Dr. Susan: See a lawyer. Your man has been playing you for a sucker for a long time now, and the first thing you need to do—since you've tried talking with him and he denies the obvious—is to find out your legal options. I don't know where you live, and I believe different states have different laws about dividing property, so for the sake of your own future and that of your children, you need to find out how to determine exactly what your marital assets are. If you can, bring one of your husband's pay stubs and a tax return to the lawyer. Once you know what you'd legally be entitled to if you leave your cheating husband, then you can more calmly decide what to do.

In some countries, women with children are fine with their husband's sleeping around and taking mistresses, just so long as they don't have it flung in their faces publicly. You're still young, though, and it's obvious you aren't at all happy with your husband's lies and infidelities. Please, please, stop believing him when he tells you baloney stories about regularly sleeping over at friends' houses. Even if you've only been half-believing his self-serving tales, or only wanting desperately to believe them, he figures he's getting away with it. No remorse means he's not about to stop what he's doing. What's he got to lose? You, on the other hand, have a lot to lose: your youth, your chance to start anew, maybe even your health and life, if he brings home a deadly disease.

Let him know in no uncertain terms exactly what he does have to lose: his comfortable home, his kids, a big chunk of his income, and, not least, you. Don't make threats. Instead, get help (legal, therapeutic) and then start making decisions. Tell him he has to stop what he's doing now, he has to stop making excuses for not coming home at night, and he has to recommit to an honest marriage, or else you're out of there. Expect a lot of resistance. Expect to feel more pain than you've ever felt as this gets worked out, one way or another. But it's either deal with it now, or continue in this half-married state for the rest of your life, or until he makes the leap and leaves you, without giving you the chance to plan and prepare ahead. Your kids are old enough now for you to think about how to make a living on your own. What he's putting you through is unbearably sad, but wishing he were a better man isn't going to make him one.

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