Do I forgive my two-faced husband?

Dear Thelma,

I've been married for more than 25 years and am blessed with three children. My husband is an approachable person and makes friends easily.

For the past two years, I realised that he has been very close to his former colleague, Y, who's in her early 30s. Last year, I found out from a close friend that she was going out frequently with him.

With the help of a friend, I managed to get pictures of them shopping and dining together, like a newly married couple. He has even lied to me stating he had to stay overnight at work when in fact, he was spending nights at her apartment.

When I confronted him, he said they were just friends and I should not listen to gossip. Back home he plays his part as a good husband. But his relationship with me and the family is no longer the same. I even showed him evidence and told him that I would take matters in my own hands by confronting the department head where Y works. He pleaded with me not to do so and promised to stay away from her.

Even though I love my husband I still don't trust him. I went undercover with some good friends and family members, and tracked his movements. My children are all close to me and they aren't happy about their father being "two-faced". All my children are already working with good jobs. They feel embarrassed about their father's affair and have even ask me to think about my future with him, and consider the possibility of a divorce.

My family, however, has asked me to be patient and hold on, that maybe he may regret his actions. I decided to give my marriage a chance but have told myself to be careful with his movements.

True enough, four months after our first fight, I noticed he seemed different again. To my disbelief, I caught him with Y in her apartment. I confronted her and scolded them. He was like a fish out of water and at a loss for words. Y was shocked and speechless.

It was all very horrible for me and I decided to talk it out with my children since they are all adults. All of them agreed that he should not be let off so easily for causing me so much pain. My family advised me to see a lawyer.

I talked to my husband and he confessed to the affair with Y, but said that now they are just business partners. I don't believe a word he says. He has begged me and my children for a second chance.

Confused And Hurt

Dear Confused and Hurt,

No one in your situation will have an easy time making a decision. There are so many things to consider. But, the most important thing for you to think about what your marriage means to you.

For many people in your position, factors like children and money would come into play. You don't have to think of those things as your children are all grown up and financially secure. It won't be hard for you to find financial security, either.

Your husband's behaviour will always leave a mark on your marriage. Even now when he says that he and this woman are business partners, will you ever believe that it's true? Will you be able to accept that this woman - who will have to see your husband frequently, talk to him, share meals and work long hours with him - is purely in a business relationship with your husband?

It will take a great amount of understanding and self-assurance on your part. It will also require a whole lot of trust in your husband. The bottom line will always be your belief in him. This cannot come without forgiveness.

Then only can your relationship with him move on to this next stage of trust. It's absolutely necessary in any relationship if it is to continue. But, it takes time. It cannot be rushed - if it is, then there are usually many reservations. You want to be able to fully forgive. For that, your husband has to behave in a way that shows remorse. You also have to move into a space where you have accepted all that has happened and find that you are no longer angry.

Forgiveness also means there is no vindictiveness. You are not trying to make him "pay" for all the hurt he caused. You and he both acknowledge that his actions have hurt you and you work to resolve that.

Where there is a need for revenge or spite, there cannot be forgiveness. And, when you are in this space of spitefulness it is very difficult to see things for what they are and to move forward.

How you find forgiveness is up to you. You have to find space - emotional and psychological - to be able to seek that part of you. The journey will not be pain-free. You will have to confront painful truths about your husband and even yourself. You just have to decide if you want to invest the energy required for this.

Of course, you are in a very secure position and can contemplate divorce. No one has the right to judge you for that decision.

Mind you, forgiveness can also take place after a period of separation. To forgive doesn't mean that everything will be back to normal.

Nothing will ever be the same again. You, your husband and children must understand that. Your relationship as a family has changed forever. In making your decision it is good to keep this in perspective as well as you don't want any idealised version of the family - what was and what may have been - to cloud your judgement.

Take time to think about it. You may want to speak to a lawyer to consider your options. You may even want to see a counsellor to see if the process can help you heal. Whatever your decision, it is yours alone and no one can decide for you.

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