Dear Thelma,

I have been married for 21 years, and have two kids and a stable life until I learnt of my husband’s secret life with a divorcee with kids. I had my doubts about him when I noticed a change in his attitude and lifestyle. He was disinterested in sex, citing tiredness and work stress as excuses.

This affair has been going on behind my back for more than a year. The divorcee had been waiting on the sidelines, hoping that he would leave me for her. When that did not happen, she confronted me with all the visual and written proof of their relationship and romantic escapades.

When I confronted my husband about the affair, he said it was just for fun. He had apparently given her false hopes. He told me he was not so stupid as to marry a divorcee with kids. I gave him an ultimatum: it’s either her or me. He insisted that he wanted to stay with me and the kids, and that the other woman was just a distraction. He blamed me for what he did, saying I was no longer romantic and did not take the trouble to look attractive for him.

To cut a long story short, he promised to leave her. But trust, once broken, is not easy to regain. Now I view his actions with suspicion and this has led to many confrontations in the past six months.

Now he spends more time at home, travels less, and has fewer night outings. But what makes me wary is the way he guards his mobile phone so zealously. His phone is password protected, and is never out of his sight. He would not even charge it in my presence.

My dilemma is this: I can’t trust him and love him freely like before. I feel I am just play acting to keep the family together. I suspect he has not split up with the other woman. He may be meeting her during office hours. Should I confront the woman to find out the truth? Will she tell me the truth? She has blocked my telephone number, so it’s obvious she does not want to communicate with me. Should I lower myself to her level to try and talk to her? I have asked my husband outright, but he made a big fuss of it and I ended up apologising to him even though my intuition tells me I am right. Should I put a private investigator on his trail? Is it worth continuing this farce of a marriage?

Please help me put my thoughts in order. I am financially independent, but emotionally not that strong as 20 years of marriage is a long time to put aside and start new. Deep down I know I’m wasting my time on a compulsive liar and a cheat. – Disillusioned wife

Dear Disillusioned wife,

Infidelity in a relationship is a big issue. In a marriage – which is supposed to be a committed relationship – fidelity is a cornerstone. It is necessary to build trust which is important for the longevity of that relationship.

People have argued that monogamy is unnatural, and that fidelity is a myth. Yet, these people will differ when asked if the same rules apply to women. So, it is assumed that men cannot be faithful. The jury, it seems, is still out on that question.

What is clear, however, is that fidelity – being faithful in a relationship – is a choice that people make. When someone cheats, it is not the fault of their spouse. It is a decision that that person has made. It is a decision they make knowing full well the implications it has on the relationship. They undertake the affair knowing how it will hurt the people affected.

Mostly, people cheat because they suspect they will never be discovered. But these things do have a way of exploding in the faces of everyone involved. And it is never pretty when this happens.

Looking at your situation, it seems that your husband has been going on with this affair for awhile now. The fact is, irrespective of whether or not this other woman is a divorcee, she was under the impression that your husband was going to start a life with her. One must wonder what transpired between them for her to have harboured this belief. Could it be that he promised her that?

When you confronted him, he said he embarked on the affair “just for fun”. He promised her one thing and then tells you something else. Who is he lying to?

Yes, you will have to bring yourself to her level, but not in the way you think. Before you judge the other woman, you must put yourself in her shoes. If she was bold enough to come and confront you, then she must have been given the knowledge and hope that there was a future between her and your husband.

So, it is not you who has been cheated. It is her, also. She also has children. Everyone gets hurt. It is important for you to consider that you are not the only one who is aggrieved here.

On to what you have to do now. For that, you should consider a few questions. What do you expect from a marriage? If it is what you have now, then you can remain as you are. You will always be suspicious of your husband, especially if he continues to be as guarded with things like his mobile phone. This suspicion is unavoidable. Trust, once broken, is very hard to mend. The onus is on your husband to rebuild that trust. And, you must be willing to allow that to happen. Can you?

You have called your husband a compulsive liar and a cheat. You must, therefore, believe that. Are you willing to live with that knowledge? He cannot change unless he wants to. Do you think he wants to? Do you think he will? Are you ready to live a life where you turn a blind eye?

It is advisable for you to consult a lawyer to consider your options. You are financially independent. You can take care of yourself and your children. You probably need to protect yourself and your children. For this, a lawyer can inform you of your best options.

It seems that you have already made up your mind on what you want to do when you questioned how long you can go on living a lie. What you need now is the courage to see through your decision.

There is no shame in being a divorcee. You won’t be depending on anyone. You are successful. You have the love of your two children. You know that you tried your best to save your marriage. It is nothing you didn’t do that led to your husband straying. He is an adult, and is responsible for his own actions. Because he refuses to take responsibility, he blames you.

You are not being unreasonable. It is normal for any husband or wife to expect their spouse to be loyal to them. That was part of the agreement when one gets married. Marriage is a contract. What happens when one party fails to meet their end of the bargain? Do you continue as it is? Do you renew the contract with extra conditions the other party has to comply with? Or do you cancel the contract? The decision is yours. – Thelma

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