Ask Ellie: Story of unfaithful husband has a happy ending after all

Advice columnist EllieNote to readers: For years, I’ve answered your questions two weeks ahead, to be on time for their publication date. Thus, recent columns were written before the full reality of COVID-19 elicited your concerns. Some columns still include your pre-virus issues, but many will soon reflect how our relationships are affected in the new not-so-normal.

 

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Dear Ellie: My neighbour for five years and I became very close friends. We had same-age children but also discussed many things besides our kids. She and her husband had moved here from another country and we enjoyed learning about each other’s lives.

Six months ago, she called me with urgency to come over immediately.

Right at the door, she told me that her husband was having an affair.

She’d phoned him when he was late returning after work, and a woman answered his phone.

She knew the voice — it was his company manager.

My friend told him to get home immediately to confess everything, or she’d take their two daughters back home with her.

She then confided his recent absences, his excuses and her growing suspicions over the last couple of months. She cried and revealed more about their marriage and intimacy than I cared to know.

I listened and soothed her until she could calm herself, and not waken her girls. Then I went home.

She didn’t call until two days later. She said, things were “fine” now. Her husband had admitted everything, said he’d made a terrible mistake, and apologized. She told me she’d not be discussing it again.

He got a transfer back to their country and the family was gone within six weeks. I never heard from her again. One mutual friend let me know, a few years later, that they were still together and their daughters were thriving.

I’ve read your advice in the past that the best way to react when you know someone’s cheating is to alert him/her that you’ll inform their partner, unless the cheating stops.

But this was different — I listened to a friend’s heartbreak, and she cut ties with me! Did I do wrong by listening? What else could I have done and still kept my friend?

Lost Friendship

It feels unfair and hurtful, but you helped your friend far more than you realize, and when she needed you most.

Your presence was important — she might’ve otherwise behaved irrationally had you not calmed her, listened and kept her company.

That was how she was able to reach a practical decision with her husband about how to go forward, rather than spend hours fighting with him about his affair.

We can only guess that when she’d first threatened him with losing his family, he realized the extent of her fury and her strength. He chose his family, and her.

Many stories that start off like this one do not end up with a conclusion that works. I believe that, because your friend had time with you to cry, vent, and get calm, she was able to make a rational choice and give her husband another chance.

She valued you enough to trust and turn to you. Then she focused on how she was going to deal with her marriage and the future of her family.

Feel good about your part in that.

Dear Ellie: A grade-school parent in my community overreacts whenever there’s any change or issue at the school.

She’ll keep texting me/other parents the same questions when only a school official knows the answers. She doesn’t read the school’s information emails.

She’s been almost hysterical about the coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, when a child at a seventh-birthday party vomited after over-eating ice cream and cake, she grabbed her daughter, and told other parents that child had Covid-19 (not true).

How should I/others deal with an adult who blames another child (without proof) and becomes hysterical in front of other youngsters?

Fed Up

There may be some reason for her alarmism, unknown to you. Without being rude, it’s best to be truthful: “I don’t know the answers, you need to call a school official.”

However, when children are exposed to her blaming/overreaction, someone should usher her out gently while others reassure the children that nobody’s “sick,” someone just ate too much.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Friendships sometimes end when one party needs to deal privately with tough family situations.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca. Follow @ellieadvice.

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