ASK ZELDA: Our relationships expert Zelda West-Meads answers your questions
If you have a problem, email [email protected]. Zelda reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally
My husband has been living a double life
I have been married for ten years and found out recently that my husband has been having an longstanding affair. He has two children, aged two and one, with the woman, so has been living a double life. We also have two children, who are aged eight and two, and a mortgage on our lovely house. The other woman works two nights a week. He used to look after their children when she was working and lie to me by telling me that he had to work nights. When I first discovered the affair, he told me he was sorry for hurting me, that he wanted to be with me and that he would end it. So I decided I would give it a go with him and try to heal our relationship. However, three months later, he has started doing the nights at her house again. He told me that unless she can work, he will have to pay for everything and for this reason he has got to look after their children. I have told him that I cannot accept him staying overnight at her house and that, as a compromise, he should bring their children to stay at ours twice a week instead. He said that it’s not fair to take them out of their comfort zone at that age. I am hurt and angry that he is doing this and feel as though it’s a dealbreaker. Should I give him an ultimatum or am I overreacting?
No, you are not overreacting. I’m pretty sure that when you got married you didn’t promise to love, honour and share your husband with another woman and their children. This is a devastating betrayal and must be incredibly painful for you. The fact he has two children with her means it was not a mistake – they agreed and planned the family. As you suspect, you can’t be sure that he wouldn’t continue to have sex with her on the nights he stays over. I think offering to have the children at your house twice a week is an act of desperation to try to save your marriage somehow, and to stop your husband from seeing his other woman. However, in reality it would be too hard for you to cope with this knowing that they are the result of his affair, and you would resent them. Also, it would be very difficult for your own children to adjust to this – your eight-year-old is already old enough to find it very confusing. It is difficult to understand how a man could behave like this if he really loves his wife. I know it will not be easy as you have two children and he will now have to provide financial support for both families, but he has let you down badly and I suspect he will also continue to be unfaithful, so I am afraid you need to end the marriage.
Being his carer is making me miserable
Two years ago my husband was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He also has a heart condition. I feel as if my life has been put on hold. When I get a chance to go out, I don’t really want to come back but I am his carer and also administer all his medication. I am 77. We don’t get any help from social services but our savings won’t last for ever. My two sons have been wonderful, even though he is their stepfather, as they respect and admire him. I know there are many people in this position but it is so incredibly difficult.
This situation is extremely exhausting and, because the demands are so great, it’s sadly all too easy not to look after yourself. Is there any way you could afford to put your husband into a care home for occasional weeks to get some respite? If you have a spare room, perhaps you could join the Homeshare scheme (homeshareuk.org), where young people rent rooms at cheaper rates in return for helping around the house. This would provide you with some companionship, a little income and it may allow you to go out more. Also contact the Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk) and Age UK (ageuk.org.uk) for information about local support groups and day centres, and to make sure you are getting any allowances you are entitled to. If your husband has to go into a home full-time, could you downsize or rent your house out and live with one of your sons? Don’t feel guilty if it comes to this, as looking after someone full-time can be too much and can make you ill.
- If you have a problem, write to Zelda West-Meads at: YOU, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS, or email [email protected]