Old Mistrust

Q: My wife and I had a great relationship until I became suspicious that she was having an affair with a casual friend of ours. First there was a birthday party video that showed her looking at him in a way she only looks at me. The second time was when this same friend invited us to dinner at his house, and then cancelled. My wife was furious, and I thought that it was not enough reason to be so upset. Finally, in 1987, our young son had to be in the hospital. On a day when my wife was supposed to be there all day, the nurses couldn't find her. They checked everywhere, including the cafeteria, several times. I learned (not from her) that she'd spent the entire afternoon with this same friend, but when I confronted her, she said she'd been in the cafeteria all along. I asked for the truth. She said that I wouldn't understand. I asked if she was having an affair but she just kept quiet; no explanation.

We are still married 18 years later. She always says she loves me and that I've always been the only man during her married life. I'm 47, and I cannot live with this doubt anymore; it's eating me alive. I'm going to ask her once more, and if won't speak about it, I don't think we can stay together anymore. Do I have any grounds to pursue this or I am just going crazy about nothing? -- Carlos

Dr. Susan: Is this long-ago incident the only time your wife has refused to discuss something of importance to you? Or a pattern of silence to avoid arguments? So many possible explanations come to mind: could be she was intimate with him before you married, and these were only meetings to talk about something. Even so, it's suspicious that she wouldn't tell you. She could have been terrified of your reaction. Or, you may be correct and something major was either already going on or very nearly about to begin happening.

The only way there's a chance of her admitting a long-ago affair is if she believes you'd forgive her and go on with your basically happy marriage. But if the suspicion alone is driving you mad, you have to think about what you'd do if you found out your suspicion was on target. Be prepared when you bring up the subject again. At the very least, she could tell you what she was doing that afternoon with your friend when she wasn't with your son. When she says you wouldn't understand, you need to say, nicely and encouragingly, "Try me."

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