Life Advice



Recovering From Wife's Infidelity -- 25 Years Later

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: More than 25 years ago, my wife cheated, likely multiple times with multiple men. She wanted to divorce me, but I convinced her to go to couples therapy. I won't go into all the details, except this: The therapist recommended that she not share who the affair partner(s) were. They were a husband-and-wife team of therapists, and I still remember them saying that normally they recommend sharing information, but in this case, they do not.

Because of this, I have constant fear and resentment that any male acquaintance is him. This is not good way to live, or stay married.

Repeatedly, she has said I have never met or spoken to any of the men she was with, nor has she seen or had any contact with any of them whatsoever in the last 25 years. This really is hard to believe, since we live in a fairly small metropolitan area, and it seems unlikely we never crossed paths. Should we return to counseling so either I can accept this or she can actually share this information? Should I just go alone to learn to accept? -- Frustrated and Angry Husband

Dear Frustrated and Angry Husband: Twenty-five years is a long time to stay in a marriage where you still don't fully trust your partner. It is understandable that you have some fears, but you can't let them rule over your relationship. You have to ask yourself, can I forgive her for her indiscretions 25 years ago? If you can, then you have to truly forgive and let go of your anger and hurt over the past. The rearview mirror is a lot smaller than the front windshield for a reason.

With that being said, if you can't forgive and are constantly mistrusting, then yes, you have to go back into therapy. Living in fear or doubt is no way to live and does not lead to a healthy relationship. In the end, it really hurts you.

Dear Annie: I'm 70, and my mother is 93, and we have the same dynamic as a writer described to you of her criticizing everything.

What this controlling criticism stems from is a persistent low level of anxiety and a narcissistic tendency. She's not going to respect anything I say, no matter how I say it.


Hence, I have learned to keep my visits with my mom short and focused on something external: a meal out with shopping or a movie (which she always criticizes). I keep the conversation focused on external interests. For instance, we both like nature, so news on climate change or PBS shows are a good topic for her.

Most importantly, I tell her nothing personal. If she disapproves, I deflect. If she persists, the visit is over. She will never validate or approve. My advice to everyone in a similar situation is: Stop driving yourself nuts. -- Struggling for Independence

Dear Independence: It sounds like you have a good system in place to protect yourself from your mom's negativity while at the same time spending time with her.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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