Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: After 44 years of marriage, I recently discovered my husband had several one-night stands during the first 15 years of our marriage. I always thought I was intuitive and aware, but I truly had no idea. I have pressed him for "why," but he offers very little, saying he was "angry" with me at the time (but does not remember why). He hopes I won't "throw away" nearly 30 years of him being faithful due to this behavior in the earlier years. He claims to love me and to feel sorry he has hurt me. I have started seeing a counselor but he will not go. We are approaching retirement age, so neither of us has a lot of time to rebuild a life with someone else. Do I run? Or do I try to leave this in the past and stay? If I were younger, I would have left, but our ages and finances cause me to consider the practical side of this. What do you think I should do?
DEAR SAD: There is no single or "right" way to respond to infidelity. Unfortunately for you, your husband "did the crime," and now you are left to "do the time." His refusal to discuss this with you in a counselor's office is unfortunate, because in doing so he is diminishing and denying the impact on you. He is also refusing to reflect and perhaps learn and grow from his own mistakes.
"Hey -- it happened so long ago I don't even remember why, so why don't you just get over it?" is not an apology. It is not an explanation. It is not a plea for forgiveness. He needs to add a layer of compassion on top of his three decades of fidelity.
I do not suggest "running." Rather, you're going to have to do what each of us has to do during life's biggest challenges, and plow bravely through the heart of this. Weigh the pluses and minuses of your situation, consider the impact on you now and in the future, and see what you can afford to do -- financially and emotionally.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been feeling growing pressure from both of our parents in regard to what seems to be grandparent jealousy and competition. We have three school-age children who spend time with each set of grandparents at least one time per week. I make a point of alternating requests for extra help with child care to keep the time equal. My mother frequently makes comments about how she noticed the children were just doing such-and-such with my husband's parents. My mother-in-law says the same thing about my parents. If my parents take the children on a day trip, my in-laws have to do the same thing. This makes me feel guilty when I have done nothing wrong. When we are all together for a birthday party or sports event, the awkward tension between our mothers is almost too hard to take. I have made multiple attempts with words and in writing to express our gratitude for their time and also to explain we try our best to make things equal, but the pressure keeps building. What's your advice?
DEAR FRAZZLED: Stop. Stop letting these grandparents run you. Stop bending over backward to cut their grandchild sandwiches in equal and identical squares. Your behavior only emboldens them.
In addition to the impact on you, think about your three children -- no doubt they are subjected to extensive debriefing sessions from each set of grandparents about what the others are doing.
Your answer to all of this should be, "We are in charge of these children. We will make decisions concerning them. If you don't like it -- well, what can I say? Life isn't fair."
DEAR AMY: The letter from "A Sad, Scared Mother" hit me like a shot. This very young mom was staying with an abusive alcoholic. I hope she figures out how to protect her child's future, by leaving. That's what I had to do.
Been ThereDEAR BEEN THERE: Many people have responded with compassion. Thank you.