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LOVE LETTERS

I want more from this marriage

‘I love who my husband used to be’

Love Letters

Love Letters

Q. I’ve been married for 34 years and had an affair six years ago with my first love. It lasted two years. My spouse and I have been separated since then.

So much is written about men cheating, but I don’t find much to guide me through the guilt and shame as a woman. I know it might not make sense, but I do love my husband. Let me rephrase that — I love who my husband used to be. After he hit 50, years ago, it felt like all he wanted to do was go to work or watch TV and go to sleep. I’m the woman, and I’m the one begging for sex, which we both used to enjoy immensely. I get that we’re getting older, but we’re not dead yet.

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That’s the biggest reason I believe I had the affair. I want fun and excitement in my life. I’m not content to just get old and die. As long as we were in the same house, he was content. We’ve gone back and forth trying to work things out, but he just can’t forgive me. He says he has, then gets angry and throws the past in my face. I’ve tried to explain, but he sees it as me making excuses. I can’t win.

Our adult children can’t forgive me for breaking up our “perfect” family. We have a long history, and I can’t see my life without him in it. He says he feels the same way, until his head starts swimming in the past. How — or can — we get past this? Yes, we’ve tried counseling, both separately and together. We’ve both been celibate for 10 months. I thought if I cut off the good stuff, he might see things differently. But really, he hasn’t done much to be more like he used to be. Do I just deal with it and reconcile, or do I just keep waiting and hoping he’s missed me enough to make an honest effort?

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Thanks. Horrible mistake I made.

MISTAKES

A. You weren’t happy in the marriage before the affair. You’re still unhappy, now that the affair is over. You need more than forgiveness to get your relationship to a good place.

It might be time to let go. You can’t imagine not having him in your life, but can you consider a path where the two of you care for each other as ex-spouses? You share children and many memories. Maybe you can become something new — with space that allows both of you to live the lives you like.

You want fun and excitement. I’m not sure your husband seeks the same version of happiness.

Ask him to go back to counseling, even for a one-time visit with your former therapist, to talk about what a new beginning — as former partners — might look like.

What would you miss? How could you both benefit? You’ve tried to withhold sex as some kind of lesson, but all you’ve learned is that he can take the status quo. It’s the kind of life he liked before the affair.

This marriage isn’t good for either of you long-term. Apologize to your adult children for the deceit, and tell them you love them. Let them know that the state of your marriage doesn’t change how you feel about them. They’re grown-ups, but it sounds like they still need to hear that kind of thing.

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Then go back to therapy for a real plan. Talk about your dream life — how you’d like to spend your days as you get older. Include travel, sex, romance, and all kinds of experiences. Ask your husband if your aspirations match his at all. Even if he can forgive what happened in the past, it might be best to move on.

MEREDITH


READERS RESPOND:

Humans ARE sexual beings. I don’t blame you for going outside the marriage if he refused to be intimate with you.

GDCATCH


Yeah, relationships need work from both parties over time, but they also change and evolve. If you constantly measure them against the yardstick of the past you’re not embracing the future.

DOGSKI


Withholding the “good stuff” is not a productive strategy. You both need to try therapy again.

NANOSECO


He’s not going to change — he was fine with the status quo. Either you resolve yourself to being in this limbo, or you make the separation permanent.

DANGLEPARTICIPLE

Send your own relationship and dating questions to loveletters@globe.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.


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