Q. I’m a 26-year-old woman and I’ve been married to my husband for five years.
My husband has been cheating on me with a woman I do not know. He has cheated on me more than once, and we even moved because our neighbors and family knew about it. But we are still married and have a 2-year-old daughter, and I do not want to leave him despite our problems.
Before meeting my husband, I was in a relationship. After that breakup, I thought about my ex all the time. In fact, I didn’t want to marry my husband but had been sick of waiting for this ex, who was in the military.
I have a family member who lives a town away and he invited me over to his house. That’s when I found out that he and my ex are neighbors. I started to talk to this ex again and began to feel like I should have been with him instead of my cheating husband.
He makes me feel loved, so we started seeing each other. He has been pressuring me to tell my husband that I no longer love him, which I’m not even sure is true. I do love my husband, but I also love this ex. I do not know what to do because this ex wants me to forget the life I’ve built and start over.
I’ve made a decision to tell my husband, but I really want your thoughts and opinion on what I should do here.
STAY WITH MY HUSBAND?
A. Is there a world in which you and your husband break up, pursue the romantic lives you want, and coparent your 2-year-old daughter?
That sounds like a solid option. Above all, you want to figure out a way to maintain a stable and loving home for your child, right? If you’re upset about his cheating — and cheating yourself — there’s probably a lot of tension. Maybe you can work with your husband to create a more honest system where yes, there will be uncomfortable adjustments at first, but then everyone can thrive.
One thing to know: Your new relationship with your ex might not last forever. Right now it’s passionate, fun (I assume), and a secret — meaning, he’s not around when your child’s needs are your priority. After some time, your ex might reveal that he doesn’t want to join your life. That doesn’t mean your husband was the right answer all along. All it means is that you’ll still be looking.
When you tell your husband, ask him what a happy life looks like to him. Is he with someone new? Does he live in a different place? Are you friends? Are you in a more open relationship?
Then try to imagine new versions of your arrangement. You won’t have to lose each other because you’re connected by a very important person (your child). If your husband tells you he wants to stay together, ask him why, what might change, and how. Also consider family therapy. It helps to have a guide as you consider the options.
Get a lawyer and divorce him. Get a place on your own or with family. Don’t hang around. Not good for you or your kid.
Do you want this to be who you are at 35? 40?
Sometimes we grow up in a family where disrespect and selfishness are common. We come out of that not knowing what a healthy relationship would be like. Maybe you are afraid to be alone if you went straight from your family to marriage and feel that you must always have a man. Be determined to be strong and show your daughter a good role model in all respects. You will need to get your life together, and I think it will happen by divorcing your husband and stopping your relationship with the ex (go no-contact and be firm). Spend at least one year with no dating, no relationships; instead, be focused on making a home for you and your daughter; getting a job (including some health benefits) if you do not have one; doing co-parenting; and going to therapy.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.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.