Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I’m ashamed to admit I made the classic mistake of having a brief, midlife-crisis affair. I love my wife and family and quickly realized I couldn’t risk it all for a fling. Before I could end it, though, the woman I was seeing got pregnant and the result has been nothing but pain.
My wife and I have stayed together and are in counseling, but the woman is keeping the baby. I know I have to agree to partial custody and my affair will have to become public. Soon everyone — my older children, friends, neighbors — will know I cheated on my wonderful wife. When I think of the pain and humiliation it will cause my family, especially my wife, I’m not sure how we will bear it.
My wife says she is ready to welcome the baby into our home but her burden is about to become so much heavier. How can we prepare ourselves for, and most importantly do right by, a child who is (if I’m being brutally honest) going to ruin our lives?
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Prepare for Affair Baby?
If I could dope-slap you in writing, I would.
Not for the affair, since you’ve slapped yourself on that count. I’m talking about the “ruin our lives” part, which may be “brutally honest” by your lights but by mine is a three-way failure of imagination, flexibility and love.
Your wife has come through this wringer embracing both you and your coming child. That is a towering and, frankly, inspiring display of love.
Please make damn sure it’s contagious enough to spread to you. This child is a person who will come to you with love of his or her own, unburdened and uncomplicated and as fierce as only a child’s love can be. So please accept this love in the spirit it is given by opening yourself to the possibility that your life will be only enhanced, if complicated, by it.
Will the “reveal” portion of this love-fest (all senses intended) be difficult? Yes, of course, like you only read about. But your wife has accepted that challenge, so accept her acceptance. Be OK with this public-shame phase as the necessity it is to get you to the other side, which is to manage and love your messy family out in the open where it belongs. Village gossip just does not rate as a valid priority.
Be an example to your kids that even massive screw-ups can be survived, dealt with and mined for goodness — by bringing not just full accountability to the fallout, but also a positive attitude and a selfless plan. Be patient, be tough.
And be daddy-on-the-spot for every night wake-up when Baby is in your care, because, duh.
Re: Baby: If anything is going to destroy your life, it’s not the baby, it’s the affair you decided to have.
Yes — its “classic” nature notwithstanding, thanks.
Re: Baby: Enlist friends and relatives to spread the news, to avoid putting your wife and kids through awkward public questions over and over again. Yes, everyone will see you as a glass bowl. But everyone will see your wife as the hero. Everyone will treat the baby like the adorable baby it is.
Stand-and-cheer-worthy, thank you.
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