I haven’t even told my family as I know they would disapprove
PROBLEM: I have been having an affair with a man for the past two years and I am beginning to fray at the edges. At first I saw it as casual and, as there are not many choices for me in a country area, I grabbed the opportunity for adventure and romance.
I thought I’d pass the time until the “real” person came along, but now I can’t sleep and I am caught between wanting to tell everyone and terrified that people will find out.
His wife had an accident some years ago and has some personality change due to a bang on her head. I know that everyone would be on her side if they found out about the affair, and I don’t think I could handle that.
But I want to have my own home and kids and I think I want to do this with this man. He is also undecided; some days he says that he will leave his wife and other days he says that there is no hope for us as a couple.
I feel like I am about to explode all the time. Last week I went to the doctor and got anti-depressants – of course I could not tell her the truth as everything in this town has a way of getting out. I haven’t even told my family, as I know they would disapprove. I am going crazy trying to find a way out of this hidden life. My lover has two children, and this is the worst part of it – but surely I have a right to happiness too?
ADVICE: You sound very distressed and worn down by your situation. If this situation continues as it is, you might find yourself in a difficult mental-health situation or a crisis might happen where you are exposed and derided by your community. Possibly the best step for you is to take deliberate action so that you are in charge of what is happening and get to decide what your future is going to be about.
It seems that, from the start of the relationship, you knew it was risky and also knew of your lover’s family situation. Thinking that it would offer some fun and a way to “pass the time” was the justification for the venture, but you have learned the hard way that there are risks and consequences to this.
Many people spend years in relationships waiting for the “real” thing to come along only to discover that they are embroiled in a mediocre situation that was never intended to last. The difficulty is that you are now suffering from depression, inertia and isolation; taking action from this place is very difficult.
The first step you have already taken: self-awareness. You are aware that this situation cannot continue, you have sought help by going to the GP, and you are aware that happiness is not on offer in your current situation. The second step is to talk about this with someone who can listen fully.
It seems that you do not have access to anyone in your family or community, so I suggest finding a counsellor who can help you unravel this story and ultimately find your own answer (confidential, accredited, countrywide mental-health support can be found on psychotherapy-ireland.com or iacp.ie). The third step is to exit this situation with your physical, mental and emotional health intact.
It seems from your letter that you see no hope in this situation, and he has not offered togetherness as a real option. Clearly, your lover is not happy in his home situation, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed with his wife in the first instance. Living a clandestine life that has deceit at its core has effects on everyone, and it is false to think that it is not having an effect on the betrayed wife and family.
If your relationship were ever to have a chance of existing, you would have to own up to the dishonesty and handle the subsequent commentary and this would be very demanding for you.
You are suffering from not being able to live openly, from not having a community to support you and a lover who is only partially available to you. This is not a life that can sustain you, and it seems that if you do not make a decision soon, you could become more debilitated.
You have taken the first step towards seeking help, but now you need to source someone who will let you talk and reflect on your situation so that you can choose a path that is right for you. You deserve to be number one in someone’s life, and it seems that you may have to let go this current relationship in order to create this possibility.