Ask Fiona: I'm caught in the middle of my friend's affair
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers advice on a tricky love triangle and walking away from a loveless marriage
FOR the past three years, my friend's husband has been having an affair. She has no idea that he is cheating on her and thinks he is a wonderful husband and father.
However, I know differently because he is having this affair with another friend of mine and she paints a very different picture. He expects her to be available at the shortest notice and gets angry with her when she's not, even though she has a busy job and a very ill mother. And even when he's with her, it's not for very long – it's all about quick sex and then he's gone.
I don't approve of what she's doing but she says she loves him, and I do not want to see her hurt. The problem is, all the while she allows this man to see her, it is hurting my other friend.
I hate that I am stuck in the middle of this. Two of my friends are being treated very badly by this man and I don't know how much longer I can keep this a secret. However, if this all blows up, I also know that at least one of them is going to be really hurt. I also stand to lose a good friend, or two.
What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: This can't be easy for you and frankly, I am amazed that it has lasted this long without your friend, the wife, finding out.
And find out she surely will eventually – because there are entirely too many connected people in this sad situation for it to remain a secret much longer.
The issue for you is if you are prepared to be the one who exposes the affair, because there are some very real risks if you do, not least of which is the loss of some long-standing friendships.
Where the wife is concerned, it could be a case of 'shooting the messenger', as she may blame you for making her see there is a problem in her life. She may even be aware that her husband is having an affair but is choosing to ignore it, so if you tell her, you'll force her to confront the situation – which she may not want to do. If you cause the affair to end, your friend who is having the affair may not forgive you – she may be clinging to the hope that, eventually, the husband will be with her. If that's not happened after three years – and considering the way he's treating her as well – that's only likely to happen if your other friend throws her husband out!
You could try talking to her to see if you could make her see sense about this unpleasant man, but I suspect she's blinded by her feelings for him and she could turn against you.
You could, of course, find a way to tell the wife anonymously, either by letter, by setting up an email account and sending a message, or by text from a number she doesn't know. It's tricky but not impossible, and while you'd have to make sure you weren't identifiable, you'd have to include enough detail for your friend to know it's authentic.
You'd probably end up with two very unhappy friends and an angry husband, or the wife could ignore the warnings and things could continue exactly as they are.
Have you considered the possibility of confronting the husband? I'm assuming he doesn't know that you are close friends with both his wife and his mistress because if he does, he clearly doesn't care, so speaking to him won't achieve anything. If he doesn't know, it might just be the wake up call this man needs.
The easiest thing might be for you to say nothing and hope someone else brings all this out into the open – but then the wife might blame you for not telling her sooner.
You are in a no-win situation here and the reality is, there is a chance you could lose both these friends – which is sad because they could both do with a friend they can rely on. Whatever you do and whatever the outcome, please do not blame yourself.
Hopefully your friend and her husband will be able to rescue their marriage, not least for the sake of their children. But if they can't, it's not your responsibility, that lies with your friend's husband.
MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE TOTALLY DISCONNECTED
I have been married for 30 years but for the last 10, we have been living almost separate lives.
My job means that I must travel regularly, and I am often away for a week or so. He's busy too and when he's not working, he's with his cronies at the golf course.
We rarely eat a meal together and even when we are both at home, we rarely talk. What's worse is I can't remember the last time that there was any affection between us. It's as though we've been on autopilot, going through the motions just because that's what we've been doing for years.
I hate it, which probably explains why I was so happy to meet a wonderful guy at a recent conference. He's everything my husband isn't: Witty, kind and, above all, interested in me and what I am doing.
Nothing has happened yet, but we have kept in touch and he has already signalled that he wants more than just friendship. It's what I'd like too, so why am I finding it so difficult to walk away from this loveless marriage?
FIONA SAYS: Tempting though this offer may seem, I think it would be a mistake to make any hasty decisions, especially as part of you seems reluctant to walk away.
This might indicate that you are frightened of losing the security of a marriage, however unhappy, and it also suggests that you may still have some feelings for your husband.
I know you long for some happiness, but you've invested a lot of your life in this marriage and, even if it can't be rescued, you owe it to yourself to understand why it went wrong.
So before accepting this man's offer, please consider talking with a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk). This will give you the opportunity to talk through what you want in life and love.
In the meantime, you might want to let his other man know that you are interested but that you need some time to think things through. If he's as wonderful as you say, he shouldn't mind waiting.
I FEEL BAD FOR MY EX
My ex-husband cheated on me repeatedly throughout our seven-year marriage. When I eventually left him, he had destroyed all my self-respect and confidence.
It took me a long time to get back on my feet, but I now feel happier and more secure than I have done for years.
My ex-husband, however, seems to have gone from bad to worse. He's been evicted from the flat we shared, is drinking a lot, and was arrested recently after a fight with the lady he is currently seeing.
Although it's almost two years ago now since our divorce, I still feel guilty sometimes. Should I have given him one more chance?
FIONA SAYS: Based on his previous behaviour, what do you think would have been the most likely outcome of that opportunity?
Your empathy for your ex-husband does you credit but you really should not be feeling guilty. This situation he finds himself in is entirely of his own making.
You showed great patience in giving him many chances to mend his ways and show that he cared for you, but he betrayed that trust repeatedly.
It's understandable that you regret what happened, but I think the time has come to move on and start to enjoy your new life.
He's and adult, not a child, and you shouldn't feel any responsibility for what's happened to him.
POOR SLEEP IS REALLY STRESSING ME OUT
It doesn't matter what time I go to bed, I always wake up after about three hours and find it extremely difficult to get back to sleep. I usually end up either reading on my tablet, watching TV or catching up on emails. I have also done the housework at 4am! Eventually I get so tired that I do fall asleep, sometimes on the sofa. If it's a work day, I must be up at 7am and am usually over-tired and grouchy. Then I struggle to get through the day and sometimes have to sleep as soon as I get home, only to then be wide awake at midnight and unable to sleep again.
Please help, I am getting really stressed by this and I am worried that my job is starting to suffer.
FIONA SAYS: Once established, disturbed sleep patterns can be very difficult to break – but there are a few simple steps you can take to maximise your chances of sleeping.
Firstly, fix set hours for sleep and stick to it. If you can't sleep, so be it, but try to remain in bed.
Set aside 30 minutes or so before sleep for winding down. This could involve doing some meditation or light yoga exercises. It might also involve simply reading or listening to some music.
The last things you should be doing are reading on a tablet, watching TV or doing your emails. Many experts believe that the blue light emitted by these devices affects the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. They advise switching them of at least half and hour (and preferably an hour) before bedtime.
Finally, make your bedroom as sleep-friendly as possible by cutting out as much noise and light as possible.
These steps should help, but if your sleep continues to be disrupted, it may be a good idea to discuss some treatment options with your GP.
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.