What price for her affairs?

I am 48 and my husband Y is 12 years older than me. We have four children aged between 15 and 22. We have been married for 23 years, but our sex life has been very inactive as both of us are busy working, and given our age gap, Y is past his prime.

About nine years ago, after years of a dwindling sex life and disinterest from Y, I was courted by a client and eventually succumbed to his advances. I spent a lot of time on the computer and mobile phone e-mailing and texting secretively, and late into the night.

It was the happiest moments of my life and I thoroughly enjoyed the sex, the company and attention I was getting after years of neglect. Eventually, the affair tapered off and stopped. However, not long after that I started another affair with an ex-boss of mine.

He also showered me with niceties and attention, and I eventually fell for him and slept with him.

Our company has regular incentive trips and we would spend the night together in each other's hotel room on such trips. The sex was not as good as my previous affair, but nevertheless, it was still enjoyable as I've never really had good and regular sex with Y.

Recently, I think some people in our company have found out about us and they are gossiping about us. As we are both senior managers, I feel embarrassed, especially in the company of my junior team members.

I don't want to stop, but am afraid that Y or my children will find out one day. Please advise me what I should do. - M

THELMA: It's not uncommon to have a waning sex life after many years of marriage. And, because of that, it is also not uncommon that one party in the marriage falls for the attention from others when this happens.

Two people become comfortable with their routines and find satisfaction in raising their children. The focus of the relationship then becomes the children and not each other. People are expected to put on hold their urges and needs, and this usually does not go down well with them. Also, we tend to laugh off a partner's need for attention because you are supposed to be "past that stage now".

In your current dilemma, it does seem pretty clear that you have to come clean with your husband and tell him what has happened. Only you can decide if you want to stop your affair. It comes with a price - your reputation at work and also the future of your marriage.

And, of course, you may have to forego the attention and sex that you have been enjoying outside your marriage. But, for that there is a remedy. The lack of interest in sex from your partner is probably not due to his age. Just because a spouse is older doesn't necessarily translate into less interest in sex. In a relationship, especially a long-term one, interest in sex is sustained through communication. And, also, you need a bit of a sense of adventure to keep that proverbial flame alive.

It seems that as much as the sex itself, what you are really craving for is attention. Communicate that to your husband. Tell him you would like him to notice you, flatter and flirt with you, and shower you with attention once in a while. When it comes to sex, communicate clearly what you want and what you like. This is very important in order to actually enjoy a healthy and meaningful sex life with a long-term partner.

Also, sex is not just about the orgasms. It is just as much about touching, sensing and enjoying each others' bodies and company. Logically, people in long-term relationships should enjoy better sex as they have come to accept their bodies and that of their partner's, translating into less insecurities. Each couple have to find their own groove and what they are comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with experimenting to explore what suits you best.

Finally, people tend to shrug this off, but sex is an important aspect in a relationship. It builds and maintains closeness and intimacy. It is important to build and maintain trust. And, it is completely healthy, irrespective of age or duration of marriage.

Back to your dilemma: before talking to your husband, consider whether it is worth your sitting down and contemplating how important your marriage is to you. What does your husband mean to you and does he have a place in your life? If so, how important is it to you? When you have the answers to these questions, it will make it easier to let him know where you see the future of your marriage. And, ultimately, you will have to seek forgiveness from him if you have indeed hurt him with your behaviour.

In the end, it is up to you to make some very important and difficult decisions. And then, commit to keeping to your decisions.

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