Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I found out a month and a half ago that my husband had a brief affair with a co-worker. We’re in counseling now, and we’ve identified the reasons that led to the affair and are working on how to fix those things.
I’m not sure I want to stay with him. I certainly don’t like him right now because of what he did, and I’m not sure I love him anymore either. I’ve stayed so far because we have a young son, and I want to protect our son.
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I’ve been able to pretend to be happy, and even sometimes be happy. How am I going to know whether to stay or go? Overall my husband is a great father and a decent guy.
Stay or Go
Dear Stay or Go: Sometimes it takes time to know what you want. That’s OK.
It’s also OK, if you think you’re at that point, to make this decision while separated. (He moves out, though, not you — and you talk to a lawyer before you make any moves because mistakes can burn you later.)
While it’s good and important to protect your son, there are multiple ways to do that – and many different things to protect your son from, too. One of them is having his parents divorce, yes, but another is to grow up with two parents in a loveless or high-conflict marriage.
So, again — take your time, but also keep your mind open to the idea that there’s no one outcome that’s best for your son.
For the wife of the cheater: My heart goes out to you. I was in the exact situation as you several years ago — affair with co-worker, young child in the mix. I am so sorry.
You may want to consider asking him to look for a new job. My spouse stayed at his job, as did his affair partner, and it has made for some challenging circumstances over the years.
You will get through this in time and the answer will become more clear.
Dear Carolyn: One of my cousins, “Kathy,” is really into lineage. She submitted samples to determine her genetic makeup and discovered her eldest brother “Bill” had a different father. Both of their parents are deceased.
My mother, Kathy’s mother’s sister, is in assisted living. Kathy wants me to accompany her to visit my mother and ask her what she knows about Bill’s father. Chances are my mother knows something, but she is a private person. If she wanted us to know this, I’m sure she would have volunteered the information.
Bill doesn’t care about who his biological father is. Unless Bill’s biological father submits his DNA for a match, the last chance anybody has of uncovering his identity is my mother.
I can’t shake the feeling that asking her will disrupt my mother. I believe Kathy will eventually corner my mother herself.
What do you suggest?
Dear Ancestry Issues: Your mother can speak for herself (yes?), Kathy can speak for herself, and Bill can speak for himself.
You know how you clap your hands to remove loose flour when you’re baking? That’s the literal version of what I advise you to do figuratively. You have no stake in this. Let it play out without you.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.