Life

Ask Fiona: Should I give my cheating husband another chance?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman who's unsure about getting back with her cheating ex and another torn between two men

You need to weigh up what is best for you in this relationship

AFTER 22 years of marriage, my husband and I separated three years ago. He'd had numerous affairs, which really upset me – but when he had an affair with my best friend, it was the final straw.

I was devastated, broke and life was hard, as I had no job and no real means of supporting myself. My parents gave me a bed for a few months, and I got a job. Before too long, I had found a better job and a home of my own – for the first time in my life, I have a promising job with real prospects, I'm financially independent, and I really love the work I do – which makes a difference.

When I was married, my husband used to control everything. Money was a big issue with him, and he only let me have as much as he felt I needed to run the house.

So now I'm so much more confident and successful, why on earth am I even considering his request to try again?

He's thrown me into a complete spin by asking me to come back to him. He's promised, repeatedly, that things will be different – but how can I be sure? I was just about to sign the divorce papers, and suspect it was when he received his copy of these that the reality of our separation hit him. I am so confused.

PM

FIONA SAYS: It's natural that you should still have doubts about your separation – after all you, were married to this man for 22 years. It's also natural that you're reluctant to give up your newly found independence and freedom. The fact that you have uncertainties now though, does not mean you made the wrong decision in separating.

I would want to know a great deal more, personally, before giving this serial adulterer another chance. You need to balance whether what you feel you will gain by going back to him, is worth more than what you're being asked to give up.

You say your life has been rewarding since you overcame the problems around your separation – will that continue?

Will he expect you to go back to being the woman who had to rely on her husband for money, or can he become a real partner; one who allows you both financial and emotional freedom?

Will he expect to be allowed to continue to have affairs – as you didn't leave him until he started a relationship with your best friend, he may think he can go back to his old ways? I think you need to know what he expects from this relationship in the future.

If he only wants you back because he wants someone to care for him as he's getting older, then going back to become a carer does not sound like a good choice. If there is a genuine chance that your marriage can be rescued, and that the two of you can be happy together, then walking away may not be what you really want.

You clearly still have some feelings for this man – but you need to be sure in your own mind if that's just nostalgia on your part, or if you care for the man he is, the one he has shown himself to be.

It could be worth you and your husband going through counselling together, to see if there is anything there to save. Relate (relate.org.uk) will be able to help you ask him and yourself some of the difficult questions that need to be resolved.

Your husband needs to know that you are not the same person who left him three years ago, and that you are not going to go back to being that person. He needs to understand how much his affairs hurt you, and that if trust is to be restored, you need more from him than just a vague promise that things will change. If he can't honestly discuss what went wrong and how things will be different, I would be extremely wary of going back.

I'M TORN BETWEEN TWO MEN

A COUPLE of years ago, I met and fell in love with a man who had two children from his first marriage. I had nothing to do with his break-up – he'd been divorced for a year when we met. We really cared for one another and decided to get engaged but, sadly, things didn't work out for us.

It wasn't that there was anything wrong with our relationship, it was because of his elder daughter. She was 13 at the time and determined to hate me, and made it very clear she wouldn't visit him if I were there. That rather put paid to our getting married and living together. I understand how important his relationship with his children is to him, but it still hurt. I thought it was just that the girl hoped he would go back to her mother – but that was never going to happen.

He and I have still been seeing one another, on and off – although he said he didn't want to tie me down when he couldn't marry me. I have never really felt close to anyone else, although in the last couple of months, I have started seeing someone a bit more seriously. But I've also been seeing my ex more frequently again too.

I understand that his ex-wife has now remarried, so I broached the idea of our getting engaged again as, presumably, his daughter will now accept he won't go back to his wife. However, he now realises he doesn't want to get married again and is happy to keep things the way they are.

We're not living together and there is no commitment on his part, so I'm very confused. I know I would like to marry, settle down and have children of my own – and as the new man in my life wants the same, I'm wondering which way to turn. Am I wasting my time trying to get back together with my ex, and should I try harder to make a go of things with the new man in my life?

KW

FIONA SAYS: When you first got together with your ex-fiancé, he had only been divorced for a year. He was probably still pretty raw and perhaps missed the companionship and family he'd had with his wife, in spite of any problems they may have had. Now he's had time to get used to his freedom – and he's clearly enjoying it.

He said he didn't want to tie you down, but perhaps he didn't want to tie himself down either. It may even be that he'd come to this conclusion well before he called off your engagement, and that he used his daughter as an excuse. Had the two of you remained together, I'm sure that the girl would have overcome her negativity towards you eventually – but she was never given that chance.

Sadly, I think you have to accept that, whatever his reasons are, this man no longer wants to settle down with you and start a family. He's probably perfectly happy to continue to have a casual, enjoyable relationship with you that gives him plenty of freedom. That's not what you want though, and you will only be hurt if you continue to hope for this, when he has made it clear it's no longer in his future.

Whether that means that you throw yourself into the arms of this new man in your life though, is a very different question. The two of you seem to be getting on well, but are you sure he is part of your long-term future?

Are you pinning your hopes on him simply because of the breakdown in your previous relationship?

If that's the case, then it's definitely too soon to think about any commitment. You need to recover from the hurt you feel about your ex-fiancé and, not until you've done that, will you be ready to commit to anyone else. That may be with this new man, or it may be someone else – but just don't try and decide until you know you're ready.

MY FRIEND IS DATING MY EX-BOYFRIEND

I AM 17 and I was going out with my boyfriend for two years, until a couple of months ago. When he told me he loved me, I felt he was putting too much pressure on me and we split up.

I told him I needed a bit of space to think about what he said – but he took that to mean I didn't want to be with him anymore. He then started going out with one of my friends, and that made me realise that I do love him and would like us to get back together.

But my friend is really happy with him and I don't want to hurt her, so I'm really confused. Is it too late to get him back?

FN

FIONA SAYS: If he was able to walk away from you straight into the arms of someone else, I suspect his depth of feeling for you wasn't as strong as he thought it was. You were cautious and, I think, probably rightly so. Whether his relationship with your friend will last, who knows?

I know breaking up isn't easy, but I think you should trust your initial instincts about this young man and start looking for a new relationship elsewhere – or just enjoy life for a while until the right person comes along.

You were only 15 when you started going out with him, and getting a bit more life experience wouldn't be a bad thing, before thinking about serious relationships.

It could be possible that, at some point in the future, you and he might get back together again – but meanwhile, don't try and break up his relationship with your friend. You would not only lose her friendship, but he might turn against you as well.

WHO CAN I SPEAK TO ABOUT IMPOTENCE PROBLEM?

I AM 74 and would like to discuss a sexual problem with someone. I have become impotent and when I tried to discuss it with my GP, he just said he thought I was probably depressed.

I don't think that's true, although it does upset me that I still have strong feelings but am unable to do anything about them. Can you please advise me as to where to go to get help?

VB

FIONA SAYS: I am surprised your GP has not offered further help for this, and I think you need to go back and speak to him again. He concluded you were depressed but has failed to offer you any kind of support or treatment, and that's not satisfactory.

Ask him what he plans to do about both the depression – if that is really what you have – and the fact you are experiencing impotence. It is a very common problem among men – but there's no need to just put up with it, without exploring options that may help.

Occasional erectile dysfunction can be caused by a variety of things, including alcohol consumption, anxiety, stress and tiredness. Regular or ongoing issues can have a variety of causes too, including high cholesterol, side effects of certain medication and hormone problems.

None of these things should be dismissed without a thorough conversation, so please go back to your doctor and ask him to look into it further, and ask about treatment options. If you don't get anywhere, ask for a referral or to see a different GP.

For more advice and information, you could contact the Sexual Advice Association or take a look at their website (sexualadviceassociation.co.uk) for details.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net 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.

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