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Ask Ellie: Scarred marriage can be healed

Dear Ellie: I cheated on my husband, and my husband’s not sure he can forgive me. We’ve been married for 10 years, with two children nine and seven. We met in college, graduated together, got good jobs.
Advice columnist Ellie
Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I cheated on my husband, and my husband’s not sure he can forgive me. We’ve been married for 10 years, with two children nine and seven.

We met in college, graduated together, got good jobs. I immediately got pregnant and extremely nauseous. I had to stop working.

After three years at home with babies, I begged my mom to babysit a few days a week. I got a part-time job.

When my mom found babysitting all day too much for her, we put the kids in morning day care. My husband started working extra hours in the evenings to cover the expense.

My boss said I showed “promise for getting ahead.” I was flattered and asked for a full-time position. He said there’d be a trial period including occasional travel. I soon realized we were playing with fire.

Meanwhile, my husband and I fell into bed too exhausted for anything between us.

The only night I went out of town overnight with my boss, I said his name next day instead of my husband’s. He said the guilt showed on my face.

We’ve been through his hurt and anger, and my shame. We’ve had counselling. We’ve agreed to stay together if at all possible. I left my job.

Should we be focusing on the years ahead, of keeping the children secure in their home life, or on us understanding each other better? Will he ever fully love and trust me again, or forgive me?

The Wife Who Cheated

Focus on the present and each other. You lost each other as companions and lovers even before you cheated.

Your early domestic life so soon into your marriage had you feeling unprepared and overwhelmed. Rising expenses with two children and day care, put the economic burden fully on your husband.

Cheating was your escape from pressures at home. But saying the wrong name was, sub-consciously or by mistake, a cry for help. And the good man next to you, though hurt and angry, heard it.

Your decision to stay together is the partner project you two needed most.

Find ways to relieve the pressures. Make time for couple connection. Start with your apology to him and appreciation of the responsible man he’s been throughout.

Remind each other how you both felt when you met, and while dating. Be affectionate in front of the children. When they’re asleep, be intimate sexually.

If you seek another job, be open with your husband on details of hours, co-workers, bosses etc. This is about sharing information and building trust. No secrets, no worries.

Dear Ellie: Recently, a friend brought her friend and her five-year-old-son along. The woman looked very distant, and mentioned a poor past relationship. I offered her to join our exercise group and outings. Her tears started and the boy had a sad face. Afterwards, our mutual friend said that a month ago, the woman had visited her ex with her son and he did something terrible to them that left both traumatized. She refuses/doesn’t believe in professional help.

How do we get her to accept the help they need?

Worried Friends

Talk to her about her son’s sadness. Say that children need to heal from fears/traumas in order to have success in learning at school and in making friends. There are excellent children’s therapists who can help him realize that whatever happened wasn’t his fault.

She must go with him to therapy so he’ll believe it. Hopefully, she’ll seek counselling, too.

Feedback regarding chronically-late in-laws (August 11):

Reader: We had the same problem. In our case, the people were regularly a half-hour late.

One tactic we used that worked at least some of the time:

If a function was to start at 7 p.m., we would tell them it started at 6:30pm. They might arrive a few minutes late, but not the half-hour or more than they’d previously been late.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Reader 2: The reason could be as simple as they don’t care if they inconvenience others. Talking to them about it is unlikely to bring change as this has been going on for a long time.

I think there should be no accommodation for late arrivals. Just go ahead and eat. Let them microwave their own plates when they get there. Do not apologize.

If you tolerate the behaviour without consequences, nothing will ever change.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Where there’s hope for a scarred marriage to heal, focus on loving each other and your children’s security will follow.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.