‘For many years, my marriage was cold, sexless and lonely.
‘Eventually I started an affair with a woman who reminded me that life can be fun and adventurous.
‘I took this feeling into my marriage and my wife responded well. We have reconnected and are having regular sex again.
‘My lover says she desires nothing more than our current set-up but I have dark days when my conscience cripples me.
‘I can’t bear to end my affair. I believe my lover is making me a better husband and I don’t want to return to being the man I was.
‘What’s your advice?’
In many ways, this arrangement appears to be working well.
‘You are fulfilled, your marriage is improved and both your wife and your lover are getting what they need,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘For many people, in many cultures, this is normal, acceptable and satisfactory to all parties.’
But not only is your wife unaware as to the source of her husband’s new-found vitality and the situation she is entangled in but you have now become dependent on the crutch that has allowed you to live with a seemingly broken relationship.
‘You have got yourself into a symbiotic triangle,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘Being with your lover depends on you being married and being with your wife relies on you having your lover.’
Justify this as you might, the reality is that you are living under false pretences.
‘You talk as if by having an affair you are doing your wife a favour,’ says James McConnachie. ‘If — or when — she finds out, do you think she will say: “Wow, thanks for saving our marriage”?’
Judging by the guilt that is now weighing heavily on your conscience, we’re not sure you are even doing yourself a favour any longer.
‘You may have found fun and adventure but you’re gambling with your security and you have already lost your integrity,’ McConnachie continues. ‘If you really don’t want to let your wife down, be the source of fun and adventure, not the beneficiary.’
Your marriage may have improved but you have not treated the source of your marital dissatisfaction. Instead, you have simply applied a plaster. To know if it really has a future, Rudkin says that your wife must now have total transparency about your affair.
‘After the initial shock, she may accept its role in your relationship or she may want to end your marriage — but she must have the choice,’ she says. ‘You also need to do some soul searching. Would you give up your lover for your wife? If not, then it’s time to leave, as using one relationship to prop up another is not a healthy long-term strategy.’
We know that this prospect might not feel good initially.
‘But it also means you won’t feel quite so bad either,’ Rudkin adds.
What your affair has taught you is that a fulfilling relationship is fed with attention and energy.
‘For long-term happiness, always choose a healthy diet over empty calories, however sweet,’ says McConnachie.
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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