'My wife is cheating on me with a married man 7 years her junior'

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

Dear Thelma,

I am 70 but I look 75. My wife is 57 but she looks 45. We have been married for 35 years and we have five children who are well-educated and independent. My wife is well-educated. I am not. She is still working and gets a good income. I earn a little from my small-time business.

Our marriage was neither an arranged one nor a love marriage. We met and after some time, we decided to get married. She is not the romantic type. There is no hugging and cuddling throughout our married life.

After we registered our of marriage, I found out that she had many boyfriends. When I found out that she was intimate with one guy, I wanted to call off the marriage. But I married her out of pity.

I am no angel. I had a few girlfriends before marriage. Maybe due to frustration, I strayed during our marriage. Currently, I do not have any girlfriends. I am a responsible husband to my wife, and a responsible father to my children. I try to give them the best.

My wife is quite pretty, soft-spoken, well-mannered, has a pleasant character and is friendly with everyone, especially the men. So much so that some men took advantage of her and tried to seduce her, but I nipped the problem in the bud.

What I don't like about her is that she likes to lie; she thinks I am a fool.

Two years ago, she went on a holiday. It was a group tour. In the group, she met a married man who is seven years younger than her. I did not know anything about this until a couple of months ago.

Late one night, a text message came in. As she was asleep and thinking that it could be something urgent, I checked her phone. There were many messages from many people, but there was one from this guy who had sent her about 400 messages over the past two years! There were numerous romantic exchanges between them.

When I questioned her, she got angry as usual. She said they are just friends. I was very upset. I knew she was lying again. She has fallen for this man, and vice versa.

Maybe I am to be blamed as I am outstation quite often and I do not spend much time with her. Maybe it is the age difference. Anyway, we were never compatible. I discussed this with my lawyer friend who said that she is encouraging him by responding to his intimate messages. This shows she is obviously interested in him.

Nowadays she locks her phone. One day, I insisted on checking her phone. There was nothing much inside. I know she has deleted the messages after reading them. She thinks I am a fool.

I am depressed. To add salt to injury, she says that I am a lunatic.

I have decided to divorce her as I can't stop her from loving another guy. I cannot forgive anyone who betrays me.

- Broken-hearted

Dear Broken-hearted,

You have been married for a long time. Like most marriages, yours has had its share of challenges. You have been through a lot. So, the question is: why is this an issue now?

First off, you admit to having had relationships before you were married. When you found out that your wife also had relationships before meeting you, it was challenging. It was enough for you to want to call off the marriage. Why? How come it is acceptable for you to have had past relationships but not your wife? That sounds a tad unfair.

And then, you say you proceeded with the marriage out of pity for your wife. Why pity? Did you think you were doing her a favour by marrying her? Did you think that she had no other choice but to marry you?

Perhaps it is this sense of pity that is now fuelling some of the resentment in your relationship with your wife. You feel like she owes you something. You feel like she owes you loyalty even though you were not loyal to her during your marriage.

Added to this is the slight hint of jealousy that is evident in the way you describe your wife. Resentment and jealousy are dangerous things in a relationship. These elements affect your relationship with your wife, but not your duties as a husband and father. These are all very different things.

All this does not, however, justify your wife's actions if she is indeed cheating on you. What is your definition of cheating, though? She seems to have these intimate conversations - evidence of which you have seen - with another man. It could be emotional cheating.

But, really, these conversations could be indicative of anything. They could just be flirtations. They could even just be intimate conversations, and nothing more. You do not know if she is in love with this other man. But you have made up your mind, so it does not matter what she says anyway.

Sure, your wife obviously likes the exchanges with this man. That is why she continues doing so. Does this mean she is a bad wife? The problem seems to be your relationship with your wife, and this precedes the current situation with this man she is chatting with.

Perhaps you have had enough. Perhaps you have now lost any reason to carry on with your marriage as it seems that there was little connection between both of you in the first place.

So, before you consider divorce, it may be worth trying to figure out what it is that you want. Do you want your wife to be totally loyal to you and not have any unnecessary conversations with other men?

You describe your marriage as being devoid of romance, hugging and cuddling. Obviously she is capable of this. It is only missing in your relationship. So, would you like her to show you some of the affection that she is capable of? Are you envious that she shows this side of hers to others and not to you?

If you want her to stop these conversations with other men, perhaps you should figure out why she does it in the first place. Maybe she likes the attention. Maybe she likes the thrill. Could you, then, provide her with these?

Of course, what you are willing to do now is incumbent on what you think the state of the marriage is. The situation now is a result of factors accumulated over the years. It cannot be solved over a short period of time. It will require a lot of work and investment of time and energy. Do you want that? Can you do that?

Perhaps another thing to consider, also, is why your wife has chosen to remain married to you all these years. If she is as attractive and capable as you say she is, could she not have initiated divorce if she were unhappy with you?

You have spoken with a lawyer and you have enough grounds for a divorce. Why don't you speak with her to consider what she wants and where she sees the relationship heading before making a decision.

Is your relationship even worth fixing? You and your wife have to be willing to admit past mistakes and ask for forgiveness from each other. You may have to find something in your relationship that is worth fighting for. Do you believe in second chances and are you willing to give it another go?

It hurts when you know that a loved one - someone as close as a spouse - may have invested their emotions elsewhere. It hurts even more when they lash out in anger and denial, and then accuse you of being insane for believing those things in the first place.

No relationship is perfect. Some people feel the need to fulfil their unmet needs outside their relationships. While this does not justify cheating - in whatever form - it also does not mean that the person is bad. It indicates that the relationship needs help. That would imply, however, that the relationship is worth saving in the first place.

- Thelma