Tell Me About It

My husband has had several affairs but I’d be destitute if I left

Since my husband found out that I have met someone else, he has made life hell for me at home

PROBLEM: I have lived my married life with a husband who I know has had several affairs. I put up with it as I was financially dependent on him and we had five young children. Eventually we agreed to live separate lives under the same roof, as I have no independent means to set up home by myself.

Over time I developed a drink habit, which honestly I needed to get through, day to day. I got myself into recovery about five years ago with the help of my very supportive sister and that has taken me from strength to strength.

Eighteen months ago I met a new person, who was in my recovery group and I am really happy with this. I never would have expected it to happen as we are both in our 60s. The problem is that, since my husband found out, he has made life hell for me at home. He has twisted my sons against me (they are adults, but two still live at home). Our financial arrangements have collapsed, and he won’t talk to me about money. Now I can’t afford normal things like a haircut. I am out of my mind trying to figure my way out of it, but I can’t leave as I would be destitute.

My new partner and I can’t move in together as he lives with his very elderly mother and is her carer. I feel very stuck.

ADVICE: It sounds as though your life has been full of struggle, with few avenues of escape due to financial dependence. Now you not only have a difficult relationship with your husband, but also with your two sons who live at home. Yet you have found the strength to tackle a drinking problem and you have supports: your sister and your new relationship. At the age of 60 everyone has gathered responsibilities, and your new partner is looking after his elderly mother, so it might be some time before both of you are free to engage in a full-time relationship. If you develop a long-term view, it might allow for some planning and patience.

There is a danger that you have developed a lot of endurance for living in difficult circumstances. The worry is that you and your family will continue to live in this negative home without taking opportunities for change.

Your sons have lost their relationship with their mother, and your husband is faced with rejection, while you seeing a chance for happiness move slightly out of reach.

I wonder if it is time that all of you address what is happening instead of suffering and living in anger. Your husband may not be open to discussion of separation, but you could try talking to your sons so that they might open up this discussion with their father. Your sons are clearly unhappy living in a tense household and they might like to be asked what shape they think a solution might take.

What is needed is an agreement for you and your husband to go to mediation (citizensinformation.ie). This is a free service and takes place over a number of sessions to allow parties to come to terms with their separation and to agree on how this should happen. If you want your sons to hear about this solution, first they will need to feel that you understand their upset; this will involve you listening tolerantly to their concerns. Your sons need to know that their parents will sort out their own relationship, and it is better for them to step out of the crossfire. If they support a move for your husband to attend mediation, there is a possibility that you will both be able to come to terms with what is happening in your marriage with the security of having a professional in attendance.

Of course, this solution might not happen, as both parties will have to voluntarily participate, so you may be faced with ongoing conflict.

Perhaps you could find somewhere to talk where you can articulate what life is like for you in order to avoid repeating the patterns that have made you feel stuck. This might offer you a chance not only to grow in confidence but to involve your sons or husband should an opportunity arise. There are many agencies that provide low-cost counselling such as Accord, Relationships Ireland and the Clanwilliam Institute. If you are not in their area, they might direct you somewhere else.

It sounds as if you have grown in strength and courage. Now is the time to have faith in yourself and take steps to address the family conflict so that all of you will benefit.