QUESTION: On the eve of my 21st wedding anniversary I started a teasing conversation over dinner about whether my husband and I had ever thought of sleeping with anyone else. I admitted to stupid crushes, but was astonished when my ‘Captain Sensible’ husband confessed to a one-night stand 15 years ago. He started crying and said he regretted it instantly. However, my world is shattered. Now I feel like leaving him or getting even with my own affair. How can I cope with this?
ANSWER: You are experiencing a storm of emotions. The key is to hold fast and not do anything rash while the tempest rages.
What has really shocked you - almost more than the act of infidelity - is that your husband once acted in a way that was so out of character you feel you barely know him.
You call him Captain Sensible. Is it fair to say you view your spouse as your rock, allowing you to be the flighty and capricious person in the relationship?
If so, it’s more than a wedding vow that’s been shattered, it’s your whole notion of security.
However, the one thing we all have to learn in a long relationship is that you can never fully know another human being.
People are contrary and surprising, so should it really surprise you - as a woman who has crushes on other men - that your husband is capable of weakness, too?
I know you never acted on your restlessness, but you thought about it. Infidelity is a great test of empathy, it is a quality the wounded must bring to the table.
If they don’t understand how their partner could be unfaithful, they can never move beyond it.
The striking thing here is that there is no sense your partner is a determined or habitual philanderer. If he were a serial cad, I’d advise you to boot him out.
But he made one mistake and regretted it immediately. It’s clear he’s long wanted to restore trust and honesty and leapt at confessing his error the first time you gave him an opportunity.
I’m not saying “Give him a medal”, but there’s a case for giving him the chance to make it up to you.
Why not invest in a course of counselling from an accredited relationship adviser? This means you can vent your emotions in a contained space and understand the reasons. This will help you draw a line under the incident.
Your discovery is life-shattering at the moment, but I wonder if, in time, you can begin to wrestle something positive from the chaos. It seems your marriage will succeed or fail depending on the attitude you adopt.
I understand your initial urge is to punish him. But such a course of action - particularly if you embark on an affair - would only hasten the end of your marriage.
You have loved one another for 21 years: do you really want to throw that away because your husband was an idiot 15 years ago? - Daily Mail