DEAR AMY: I married my girlfriend when we were 17. She was pregnant. We have been married for more than 25 years. Our marriage has been happy and successful. The issue is that she cheated on me before we got married. I spent the summer with family out of town, and when I got back she was dating someone else. She didn't tell me about him. She pretended everything was fine between us. So she and I continued our relationship. She got pregnant. I found out about the cheating. Even though I hated her, I married her because she was pregnant. She married me because she was pregnant. Other than the initial reaction when I found out, we never discussed her cheating. She never really acknowledged it and she never apologized. I never brought it up again. It was as if it never happened. We fought a lot but never directly about her cheating. I felt a sense of obligation. I decided to put it all behind me and enjoy my beautiful wife. I buried all the anger and resentment and thought I would be married forever. Now, more than 25 years later, the anger and the resentment are back. I brought it up for the first time with my wife a year ago, and we have been arguing about it off and on ever since. She has apologized a thousand times, saying that it was a stupid mistake in the past. That she never meant to hurt me. That she didn't know it hurt me so much. And that I needed to get over it. Is it too late for me to divorce her over her teenage cheating? Do I just bury those feelings again? We have both invested a lifetime in this marriage, and she doesn't want a divorce. I don't want to hurt her or the kids, but I am not happy with our situation. I have suggested counseling, but she refuses.

-- Too Late

DEAR TOO LATE: You do not have to have adultery as grounds in order to divorce your wife. You can get divorced tomorrow, if you want to.

You and your wife are demonstrating what happens when couples sweep their problems under the rug. You assert that your marriage is "happy and successful." You deserve, demand and receive a thousand apologies. And yet you are obviously very hurt and looking for the exit. I assume that you actually have a host of other issues to raise, going back to the circumstances leading you to marry, but you are bundling your dissatisfaction in the long-ago cheating.

Your wife needs to figure out how to apologize (again), and you need to figure out how to forgive her.

Don't bury your feelings. Bravely plow through them, all of them. If she won't see a counselor with you, go on your own.


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