Dear Thelma,

I am a 29-year-old mother of two. I got married in 2013. I had my first child in 2014, and my second child last year.

My husband cheated on me a few months before we got married. When I found out about it, I wanted to call off the wedding but his parents persuaded me against it, hoping that their son would change after marriage. I was hopeful he would change, but things just got worse.

He broke up with A, his girlfriend before marriage, and got a new girlfriend, B. I found out about B when I was pregnant with my first baby. After the baby was born, I asked him to leave B, and promise me that he would be faithful to me. But he just stood there in silence. I was devastated and cried for days.

When I decided to file for divorce, I discovered I was pregnant with our second baby. I thought hard about the future of my babies. I didn’t want them to grow up in a broken family, so I stayed on.

My husband told me he loves me, but I know it’s not true. How can he have one girlfriend after another, if he really loves me? I know he and B are going strong. My in-laws know about their relationship, too. They advise me to be patient and wait for him to realise his mistakes and repent, and return to me.

Time goes by, and he’s now a better Muslim man but he still keeps his girlfriend, B.

I’ve come to the point where I don’t feel any love for him anymore. I am staying in this marriage for the kids’ sake. I have told him many times that if he ever marries B, he has to let me go.

Now, there’s a guy in my office whom I like very much. He is of a different race, and is three years younger than me. I love going to work everyday as I look forward to seeing him. I miss him very much when I am at home. I think of him all the time, and always check my phone for any text messages from him. Am I in love with him?

I feel sad when he does not pay attention to me. I know I am not supposed to start a relationship with him as I am a married woman with kids. But I want to feel loved, too. I want to have someone who truly loves me, misses me, wants me, and appreciates me. Have I lost my mind? – Lonely heart

Dear Lonely heart,

It is very hard to continue in a relationship when you know that your partner is not faithful to you. Many people continue to do this and they have many reasons for it.

Often cited and quoted is the fact that love and fidelity are not inter-related. Neither are they mutually exclusive. However, the question of fidelity comes into play in relationships. It is to be expected in marriages, especially.

It is probably true when your husband says he loves you. You have your standards, of course, and have communicated that clearly to him. While he may understand that you will not tolerate him taking another wife, that is probably not going to stop him from seeing other women. Unfortunately, no amount of patience is going to change that.

Along comes this colleague of yours. He is attentive to you. He is kind and you enjoy his company. This is the distinction you have to understand. You like the attention. This does not mean you like him. And it definitely does not mean that you love him.

As you said, you want to be loved and missed and wanted and appreciated. Because you feel that you are not getting these things in your marriage, you can be impulsive and assume that any attention from a man means this to you. You are at a vulnerable point in your life and you do not want to make drastic decisions on a whim.

It is completely normal to want the things that you do. You have to be clear about what it is that you want. You want your husband to be monogamous. You have to make a decision based on whether or not you think he can do this.

You have a few choices. You could do as your parents-in-law advised, and hope and wait patiently for your husband to repent and change. It does not sound like a viable option to you. He has a pattern of straying that started even before marriage. He will not change unless he wants to.

You must be careful here. You should not fall into the trap of issuing threats to compel him to change. It may seem to work in the short run, but it will have long-lasting and painful repercussions.

It may be helpful to sit down with your husband and tell him clearly what you expect of him. It has already been established that it is not a question of love. Do not challenge him on that. Instead, tell him that it is a question of what you expect of him as a husband. One of your expectations is monogamy.

If he thinks he cannot meet this expectation, then you have a really big decision to make. This decision can only be made by you and your family. It will be good to seek the advice of a lawyer so that you are aware of your rights and how you and your children will be affected in the event of a divorce.

It all boils down to you. Are you willing to accept that you can still be loved in a non-monogamous relationship? Only you can make that decision.

You should not make this decision based on whether there is another man on the horizon for you. This is not going to be solved by you jumping from one relationship to another. Think about what you want to do independent of the presence of this male colleague of yours.

Sometimes, when there is unhappiness in a relationship, it makes sense to change your expectations of that relationship. It will help you to accept people for who they are, instead of pining for the person you wish they were. When expectations are misplaced, there can be a lot of unhappiness in a relationship.

Sometimes, when expectations change and the real person emerges, it may be that they were not the person one fell in love with.

Or, if some expectations cannot be changed, then one has to contend with the reality that the person may never meet that expectation.

When that happens, the relationship will have to be re-evaluated. Only you can do that. No one else can make this decision for you. The best way to do that is to see things the way they are. – Thelma

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

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