Advice: After His Affair

I am a victim of my husband's midlife crisis, after 28 years of marriage and four adult children. I’m 44 and was shocked to find my husband is having an affair with a worker 25 years his junior. I can't trust him although he is affectionate and says he doesn't want to lose me. I want to leave him but don't have the courage to go, as I have no friends. I have been seeing a psychiatrist for the past year, but am still so angry I can't accept what he has done to me. I'm so confused that it's destroying me inside. I do need my space but don't know how to go about getting it.

Shock, anger, confusion—these are highly appropriate responses to learning that the person you love has betrayed you. If a man (or woman) reaches midlife unhappy with his life, then he owes it to his spouse to discuss ways of initiating change that work for both partners, not just one of you. I presume he has stopped the affair—and if there is any hope of saving your marriage, he must furnish proof that he has, whether it’s showing you records of his cell phone calls or changing jobs. It’s part of taking pains to rebuild your sense of trust in him—and the burden is on him to prove to you that he is trustworthy. It takes a long time to build trust in the first place, and even more time and effort to rebuild it after it has been shattered by deliberate actions. Does your husband have any sense of the trauma he has inflicted? After all, he was the one who broke the rules you thought you were both living by. If he doesn’t have an awareness of the pain he’s caused you, then it is almost impossible to repair the damage and you might be better off creating a new life of your own. If you choose to stay, you and your husband must jointly construct a new relationship from the ground up, openly agreeing to the rules you both establish.

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By no means are you the cause of your husband’s affair, but having little life of your own imbalances the relationship in a way that can make an outsider appear alluring; it renders you far more dependent on your husband for companionship than he is on you. Over time, people in such a position often grow to resent the burden of responsibility. Whether you stay or go, you need a life of your own; you need friendships and activities that are rewarding to you. Everyone does.

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