Q. In our 70’s, married 50 years, just found out he’s been in an affair for 25 years. He blames me, dismisses it as just friends with benefits, and insists it never affected our relationship. Now he says he loves me, forget about it and move forward. Too late for me to have any real options besides lumping it. Is recovery possible? How??
A. I am so sorry for the pain that you are going through. This is an extremely complex situation, and one that doesn’t necessarily have one clear-cut answer. I will, however, do my best to give you the advice that I can.
Firstly — his behavior and his decisions could in no way, shape, or form, be your responsibility. Ever. We all choose who we want to be, and we choose how we want to react. He made his decisions (cruel as they are) and no one is accountable for them but him.
Secondly — it did affect your relationship. It’s affecting your relationship right now, and it’s affecting the way you see and feel about him. It will also have had an impact on his interactions with you. No human is impervious to emotional connection, especially when the affair has been carrying on for so long.
His behavior has demonstrated not only a callousness, but also a deep-seated self-obsession that prevents his ability to feel empathy for anyone else. He dismisses your feeling because he doesn’t care about them. The only reality he lives in is his own, and you will play whatever part he assigns you.
Someone who loves you does not behave this way. If you are determined and inspired to make it work, then it’s going to take some frank conversation and a commitment from him to transform who he is from the inside out. He’s going to have to face what he did and then change his behaviors and beliefs around that. Then, the two of you will have to come back together and figure out what you need to give and take from one another (explicitly).
What you decide to do, and how you decide to do it, is ultimately up to you. It is never too late to find the kind of love that fills your life up, even if it looks different than what you expected. While you may spend the rest of your life differently without him — would it be better in quality? Would you be happier? Would you be able to find others, filled with kindness, to take up the space he left?
I wish you will on your path to healing, and I hope you make a decision that honors the beautiful person and inner child in you. What would you tell a daughter, a mother, or a best friend to do? Remember to love yourself whatever the choice.