Dear Annie: My wife and I were married for 61 years. We had three sons. “Mary” passed away this year from complications of Parkinson’s and dementia.
Mary and her friend “John” had a relationship most of our married life. She had gone to school with John and renewed their “friendship” soon after we were married in the 1950s. I only discovered all this about 10 years ago by finding John’s name on telephone calls he’d made to our home. I could not act on it then because my wife was having cognitive impairment, which soon developed into dementia.
In the past, I had thought something was wrong with our marriage and asked my wife several times whether she wanted out, but she just said no. Maybe that was because in our generation, there was a stigma around getting divorced, or it could be that John’s wife refused to give him a divorce.
It has devastated me, as I always thought my wife loved me. Evidently, she loved another man. Therapy did not help; I tried that. I cannot describe the hurt. My sons and their families do not know anything about this, and I cannot tell them, as they all loved my wife. – Sleepless in Anywhere, USA
Dear Sleepless: I can’t imagine what you’re going through. My heart goes out to you. You’re right not to tell your sons about their mother’s affair, as that would benefit no one. Time is the only thing that will ease your pain.
And it might offer you some comfort to know you’re not alone. Just this week, I received the following letter.
Dear Annie: My wife of 59 years passed away three weeks ago. While going through her things after her death, I came across her diaries. She kept these her whole life. The worst mistake I have ever made in my life was to read these diaries.
I thought we had a very satisfying married life. We continued having sex well into our 70s. Thirty years ago, while I was away on a business trip, she and a friend went out barhopping. She met a guy whom she described as “a very caring and sexual man.” She wrote, “He brought out feelings in me that I never thought I’d have.” This man swept her off her feet, and she proceeded to have sex with him multiple times over the next month. She raved about how good the sex was.
During this time, we also had sex with each other at our usual frequency. At that time, she was 48 years old. She was beautiful. She could have passed for 28. She was an upstanding member of the community, was involved in various organizations and was a grandmother of two.
I cannot get over this affair. I cannot sleep or eat. I keep visualizing what they were doing. This knowledge, on top of my grieving for her, is leaving me sick. There is no one I can talk to about this. I don’t want the kids to know about it. I have always loved her deeply. In my heart, I have forgiven her.
Annie, what would make a woman who seemed otherwise stable and satisfied do something like that? What can I do to ease my pain? I cannot get this out of my mind. – Sick and Hurt
Dear Sick: I’m so sorry for your loss.
I don’t know why your wife did what she did. Perhaps it was a midlife crisis and she wanted to feel desirable and young. But what she described in those pages was infatuation, not love. The terms might appear together in a thesaurus, but they have little to do with each other where it really counts.
Infatuation is intense, passionate and superficial. Love is patient, strong and selfless. It is the most profound kind of friendship. Infatuation fades with time; love only grows deeper. Infatuation’s got nothing on love. Those few weeks several decades ago cannot negate the lifetime of happiness you shared. May your wife rest in peace. I wish you all the best.
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