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Flexible husband bounces between women

Amy Dickinson

August 3, 2013

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Dear Amy: I have been married for 40 years. A couple of years ago I found out my husband was cheating on me. I have learned that he has been unfaithful to me during almost all of our marriage.

He claims to love this other woman but says he loves me too, and he keeps going back and forth between us, swearing he will never see her again and that he doesn't love her anymore (lies).

Our two grown daughters will not associate with their father anymore. I have lost friends and faced scorn from family because I keep trying to save the marriage for the sake of the family.

My husband has left me several times to be with this other woman but keeps coming back for various reasons, and I keep taking him back because I believe him. He says he loves me, but I think he doesn't want to lose our friends, family and lifestyle.

There is no trust or intimacy or real affection between us anymore. I do not want to give up everything I've worked so hard for all my life, and if I divorce, the other woman will get half of that.

I don't know if I love him, but I want to stay with him. I have gone for counseling but that does no good. My friends and family think I should walk away from the marriage because a leopard does not change its spots, but I don't know how to end it after so many years. I keep clinging to the situation hoping it will improve. It won't get better, will it? What should I do?

— Betrayed

Dear Betrayed: If you truly want to stay with your husband, then you should figure out how to happily engage in an "open" marriage with him and this other woman.

You don't seem able to do this, however. I imagine it is confusing and heartbreaking to be yanked back and forth by your husband. His behavior and your acquiescence keeps you permanently off-kilter, and this is why you are so paralyzed right now. You know you should leave the relationship, but you have been conditioned to stay.

You are not in this marriage for the sake of your family. Your kids have already checked out and your family and friends are mystified. You need to imagine how painful your passivity and paralysis is for your children, friends and family to witness.

Clinging to a marriage because you are clinging to a lifestyle is a natural — but shallow — impulse. The minute you are able to let go of this idea, the more liberated you will feel.

Speak to a professional counselor (or your bravest friend). Start the conversation by saying, "I'm scared and I need help."

Dear Amy: I am a soon-to-be divorced middle-aged man.

My daughter has a boyfriend, and I have known his mother since we were both teenagers. She has been divorced for five years.

We've had this unspoken thing for each other for over 30 years. We met for drinks and hit it off, just talking about our kids. Is it wrong to take it to the next level?

— Wondering Dad

Dear Dad: If by "the next level" you mean waiting until your divorce is final and then pursuing a romantic relationship with this friend — then I say, go for it! Climb aboard life's elevator, hit the "up" button, and see where it takes you.

Dear Amy: I could really relate to the letter from "Tired," who had the misfortune to work in a place where loud music destroyed his/her ability to concentrate.

I had a similar problem at work. I find that any music with lyrics is extremely distracting.

We solved this problem by everyone in my section agreeing to turn the overhead music off. Those that still wanted music were permitted to bring their own sources in and either play it at an extremely low volume or use earphones — as long as it didn't interfere with our work or our interaction with customers.

It was a peaceful solution.

— Earful

Dear Earful: The advent of ear buds has made our world a little quieter, and I am grateful.