By Hara Estroff Marano, published on March 8, 2006 - last reviewed on October 23, 2007
I am a married woman whose husband is not faithful. He started to sleep outside and when I asked, he told me he is sleeping in the rest house in the army, as he is an army man. This has upset me so much I am depressed. We started quarreling to the extent that since 2003 we have had no sexual relationship. I recently came to realize that he has another woman. He has been accused by a man of having an affair with his wife, a matter reported in the local newspaper and even taken to his employer. I am thinking of divorce but we have three children. What can I do to forget about him completely?
It would be difficult and unwise to forget about the father of your children—they need some connection to him, even if you don't—but it is important to evaluate your situation realistically. It sounds as if you already have a divorce in all but name—a partner who is no longer around, cares little about your feelings and is involved with other women. It's not clear whether he sees his children, but there's no advantage to being married "for the children's sake" if your husband has decamped for other places. Divorce, at least, will free you to reorganize life around your needs and those of your children; ultimately you may want to seek a new relationship. What you need now is a good divorce lawyer to draw up an agreement that protects you and your children and gets you all the alimony and child support are entitled to. The fact that your husband abandoned the marital bed and is openly involved with another woman will give you a certain bargaining advantage that should be pursued. Your husband should certainly have visitation privileges with his children, and I hope he exercises them liberally. Understand that depression is a natural response to being abandoned and then publicly humiliated. As you reorganize your life, the feeling that you are actively doing something for yourself and your children will help dissipate the depression.
I have been involved with a man for almost three years. Our relationship began while he was married to a woman he says he was never in love with. They have been separated since he first told me of his feelings for me, and he is an active stepfather to her children, now 11 and 12. But he is still not divorced. She lives with her two children in one of his two homes. We have talked about a wonderful future but to me having a future means moving forward. However, he is still not divorced. I would like to tell him let's take a break until he gets a divorce. He says the main holdup is financial, because even with a good job he carries a lot of debt. Still, I want to be married. Do I keep waiting or tell him we need to break until he resolves the situation.
Clearly, your strategy of pushing is not working. It's just an expression of your anxiety and it's not getting you what you want. If you stop asking for a while (and find some other outlet for your anxiety, like working out or deep-breathing), he is likely to bring up the subject—if for no other reason than that he might fear your silence means you have made other plans. Sometimes it's hard to see a path into the future when you have so many strings attaching you to the past. When he gets around to the subject, tell him kindly that it's still a goal you hope he shares, and then ask to sit down together and talk about it constructively. Abandon your limited either/or vision and opt instead to map out a path. Together draw up a plan for the next five years and rough timetable of steps that incorporate both your needs. It is critical that you get his input. That will give you the security you crave and he will have a plan he himself devised for moving forward.