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Ask Ellie: Dig deep to find unmet need behind extramarital affair

It’s crucial that you talk to a professional to figure out why you aren’t satisfied and happy, which is what led you to seek something outside of the marriage.

Dear reader: As I noted in an earlier column, my daughter, Lisi, will be handling the writing duties a few times a week. Enjoy her take on today’s questions. – Ellie

I’m a happily married woman in my mid-40s. We’ve been married 17 years. My husband is warm, caring and thoughtful. I’m very happy with our marriage and consider myself very fortunate. Given all of that, my behaviour is very confusing and shameful.

About 18 months ago, I started an affair with a married man. It was very intense and sexually exciting. It lasted nearly three months. My husband never knew. Nothing like this has happened before or since. I’m ashamed of my behaviour and disgusted that I let my husband down. He didn’t deserve it nor did he do anything to cause it.

I’ve felt so guilty and ashamed for so long now that I feel I need to tell him. I also think that if I tell him, it will probably end our marriage. That is something I could not live with.

What should I do? I am desperate.

Conflicted Wife

It’s been over a year since the affair ended. Has something happened recently that makes you think your husband might find out?

Either way, living this lie is clearly eating away at you. But before you spill your guilt and potentially end your marriage, it’s important that you discover why you had the affair.

What were you seeking elsewhere if your husband is so awesome? Is your sex life not stimulating enough? Do you not feel nurtured enough? According to Pamela Perlis, a social worker and family mediator, most often, affairs stem from a lack of something — intimacy, emotional connection, support, financial stability.

It’s crucial that you talk to a professional to dig deep and figure out why you aren’t satisfied and happy, which is what led you to seek something outside of the marriage.

It’s dangerous, in this day and age, to keep this type of secret. Social media and technology can out you whether you’re ready or not. I suggest you start figuring it out quickly. Once you’ve discovered what’s really going on within you then you can have a healthy discussion with your husband. I can’t guarantee he still won’t walk, but at least there’s a chance of fixing what’s broken.

Dear Ellie: My wife has booked a girls’ weekend – again. The first time she booked one, before the pandemic, it worked out great as I took the kids somewhere fun for the weekend. Everyone was happy.

We were very careful during the pandemic and kept to our small bubble of family. Since the spring, we’re figuring out how to live more normal lives and she booked a weekend away with her close girlfriends. I was happy for her to have a break from the routine, and it was easy to keep busy with the kids and their sports.

She’s just informed me she’s going away again. This time, I’m annoyed. We haven’t gone away as a family, and were planning on going camping or up to a lake. If she goes away this weekend, we won’t have another opportunity due to work constraints. She doesn’t seem to care.

I’m now questioning the real reason behind this trip….

Suspicious Spouse

You have every right to be suspicious, but not necessarily of what most readers will conclude. I’m not convinced she’s having an affair or doing something salacious. But I am convinced that something is amiss.

Either way, you need to have a deeper discussion. There’s something she needs from this weekend that she can’t get at home. Yep, it could be sex. It could also be a good night’s sleep and someone else cooking her meals. That’s for her to tell you.

FEEDBACK regarding the woman who was told her husband’s having an affair (July 15):

Reader – “She needs to prepare herself for any and every response her husband may have. He may very well respond angrily and with incorrect ‘legal assumptions.’

“First, she must seek legal consultation. She needs to know the facts, her rights and her children’s rights. Plan for the worst but hope for the best.

“Then, seek counselling on her own to prepare herself for how she’d want to approach her husband, and for any and every response from him.

“With her legal knowledge and mental preparedness, then approach her husband — without the children around.

“Be mentally prepared for any outcome, from him agreeing to seek couples counselling to him deciding the marriage is over.

“Always take the high road and always place the children’s best interests first.”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca.