Dear Annie: I recently obtained proof of what I had long suspected: My husband of more than 40 years has been seeing prostitutes and having affairs for the past 20 years. During this time, he was always considerate and loving to me. I thought we had a wonderful marriage. When I confronted him with the evidence, he finally confessed. We went to a counselor, but after a single session, he wouldn’t go back.
Aside from dealing with the shock and humiliation, I have two problems: First, I cannot forgive myself for not taking a firm stand when I first suspected his cheating. I put it out of my mind and continued as before. The second problem is that I cannot erase images of his affairs.
My counselor, along with some books I have read, says to reestablish our close, loving relationship and let the past go. So I made the effort, and our marriage now seems fine. We are happy with each other, but I still suffer with the mental images. I fear that I have demeaned myself by reestablishing an intimate relationship with him. I wonder whether I might regain my self-esteem by telling him our marriage is over. I know there are other women in this situation, but I haven’t been able to find a support group. I am fortunate to have a job I am passionate about that allows me to enrich the lives of others. Please help me get over this. – California
Dear California: You must decide whether you are truly ready to leave your marriage. Forty years is a long time. But your husband’s track record doesn’t inspire confidence in his future fidelity, and his unwillingness to commit to counseling indicates that he wants things to be exactly as they were before. First, see your doctor and get checked for sexually transmitted diseases, and then find another counselor. The one you are seeing is not helping you make the best decisions. You also can find online support by typing “infidelity support group” into your search engine.