Dear Annie: I had a textbook midlife crisis. In my early 50s, after an affair of six weeks, the guilt became too much and I confessed to my lovely and intelligent wife of 31 years that I wasn’t sure I’d ever loved her. The new love of my life was also in her early 50s and had been married more than 30 years.
My wife and three adult children were blindsided. Our marriage seemed perfect to others. But the relief from my confession was instant and cathartic, and I was anxious to begin my life anew with a woman I thought I could not live without.
It is now eight years later, and I still haven’t put my life back together. I work hard to maintain a civil relationship with my ex-wife, who hasn’t remarried and who graciously invites me to the house for family occasions with the children. However, I have yet to marry the woman of my dreams, who also gave up everything for me. Every time I think I’m prepared to complete what I started, I become paralyzed by guilt and a sense of responsibility to my ex-wife and family. I am now convinced that any new life for me is impossible.
Please help me sort this out. No one is getting any younger. – Adrift in NYC
Dear Adrift: And apparently no one is getting any wiser, either. You have figured out that guilt has paralyzed you. And your ex-wife is being kind, which makes a new marriage feel like a second betrayal. You cannot take back the damage you’ve done, but right now, the only favor you are doing your ex-wife is giving her the satisfaction of knowing you are miserable. Moving forward may be painful, but it also will allow normalcy to eventually re-enter everyone’s lives. If you can’t get beyond this point on your own, please consider counseling.