Sacrifice His Happiness?
Q: I became sexually involved in a relationship outside of my marriage because my wife was either uninterested or indifferent about me and our relationship. Now I cannot get this woman out of my head, and I'm thinking about whether or not it's right for me to leave my wife to explore my feelings for this other woman. I have two children and think I owe it to them to try to work on the relationship with their mother, but at what point do I stop trying to repair things with my wife? Do I forever sacrifice my feelings and happiness for my children? This woman has offered to take in me AND both my children in order to make me happy. What is your advice? -- Charlie, 37
Dr. Susan: Ah, the excuses we find in order to rationalize infidelity! Of course you can't get this other woman out of your mind. She's new and fresh, and your relationship with her is as yet nowhere near as complicated as the one you have with your wife. My advice, since you asked, is immediately to stop seeing your affair partner. Give your marriage and wife and kids a proper chance. That probably means confessing your betrayal to your wife, but at the very least, it means telling her you're miserable and considering ending the marriage, and would she go with you to a good therapist to see what can be done.
People usually give up way too early. Your wife may care about you a lot more than you think. She may have taken you and the marriage for granted, but that doesn't mean she won't be devastated to realize her family and way of life are now threatened. "Explore your feelings for the other woman"? What does that mean? Are you going to sit around in a coffee shop and discuss the philosophy of emotion with her? Probably not. You're wanting to be told it's okay to sleep with her. No, don't sacrifice your happiness. Make your happiness by acting like a grown-up so that you can deserve the respect of your children. And don't be so quick to take up strange women's offers to take in you and your kids. Your wife gets first dibs, if I read the law (moral and otherwise) correctly. Get all this out in the open, and don't stop trying to repair things until you and your wife both agree that it's genuinely hopeless. Don't expect a new woman to solve your problems.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.