Haunted by Wife's Possible Affair
Q: I'm a 50-year-old male with a 44-year-old wife. We've been together for over 24 years. Nearly 20 years ago, I'm pretty sure that my wife had an affair with a man who lived next door. We moved away the following year, but this still bothered me. I never knew how to confront my wife about it. The evidence I had was very subtle and suspicious but not definite. Six years ago a single younger guy moved in next door and I thought, oh here we go again, and sure enough, she seemed overly friendly to this guy. I finally confronted my wife. I asked her whether she fooled around with this other guy all those years ago, and her response was one of almost total hysteria, tears, anger and denial. She totally freaked out. Which made me believe that my worst fears were true.
My wife and I love each other a great deal. I would be more than happy to forget and forgive her if she would only come clean and tell me the truth. Every time I try to bring it up, she says that there is no issue, but I know she's lying. What would be your suggestion: counseling or a stress analysis test? We have been blessed with three children and have never been happier. And yet this keeps haunting me. -- Dan
Dr. Susan: First you need to be honest with yourself: Do you really believe you'd so readily forgive and forget if your wife admitted she'd slept with someone else? Is it her possible dishonesty that haunts you or is it raw sexual jealousy? I suggest you forget about trying to pull the truth out of her with any kind of test. Counseling might be in order. To wait 14 years or so to bring up your suspicions tells me that you don't have intimate and open communication with your wife. Even though you say you're very happy, you don't trust her. Her friendliness with a neighbor sets your imagination aflame. On the other hand, I can name countless cases in which suspicions meant exactly what betrayed spouses thought they meant. If your wife wants to gain your trust, she needs to clarify what went on all those years ago, without the hysteria. That is strange, I admit. It's a tough situation that only genuine openness on both your parts could possibly alleviate. But be prepared: If she tells you the truth, and you don't like that truth, you may risk your current happiness.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.