Advice: After His Affair

Should she move on?

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on May 1, 2004 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

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

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.