Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Husband lying to you about going to work but really he was laid off and having an affair? New girlfriend wants to meet daughter who isn’t ready?

DEAR NATALIE: My husband told me that he is no longer in love with me. He has been seeing someone else. This whole time I thought he was going to “work” during this Covid-19 nightmare, he was actually spending time with her. His job had laid him off weeks ago and he didn’t even tell me. We’ve been married for four years and while things haven’t always been easy, I had no idea he was doing this to me. What really hurts is that he was exposing himself, myself and our young son to Covid because of this. I am devastated and don’t know what to do. I still love him and want to figure this out. He just said that I am “boring” and that this new girlfriend is “more fun.” The affair started just a few months ago. They met on Instagram. I feel so betrayed and hurt. My religious upbringing also weighs on me because divorce really isn’t an option, but he wants one. What should I do? How can I ever trust anyone ever again? — BROKEN

DEAR BROKEN: There is so much to unpack here. A betrayal of the heart is one of the worst pains to go through, and during such an incredibly uncertain time in our history, I’m sure it weighs on you heavily for many reasons. Unfortunately, if your husband has no interest in working through this, I don’t know what other option you have other than a divorce. While you mentioned that your religious community frowns on divorce, they aren’t walking in your shoes. Why should you have to suffer when you can start fresh? This is 2020 and you don’t have to stay in an unhappy marriage for anyone. The fact that he lied to you about losing his job to spend time with this other person is also just deeply disturbing to me.  I would start exploring your legal options with a divorce attorney. I would also tell him that he needs to find somewhere else to live during this time. We have no idea how careful his new partner is being while out in the community, and we have no idea who the two of them have also been around during this time. Amidst all of this stress and sadness, I hope you can take a moment to yourself to reflect on what it is you want moving forward. Of course you feel betrayed. Of course you feel as though you can’t trust again. These are totally normal reactions to what has happened. I would take this time to reevaluate what you want moving forward. When you are ready, therapy may help you put the pieces back together as you find a new normal. I know it’s hard to hear, but letting him go may be the best thing that could happen to you. Maybe he did you a favor. Who wants to be with someone so callous, cold and selfish, anyway? Find support around you and move forward with your head high. 

DEAR NATALIE: I am a single father and recently met someone online that I really like. She is also a single mother and our daughters are around the same age. Hers is 13, mine is 11. She’s been really wanting to have the girls get together. My daughter has a lot of anxiety right now, and the idea of being around someone she doesn’t know is making her more anxious because of Covid-19. My ex-wife doesn’t want her to be exposed to any new kids, either, but my girlfriend thinks it is time they meet. What do you think? With school starting up again--theoretically--in a few weeks, I really don’t see what it matters if she meets one more kid. Plus, we are all taking precautions. Thoughts? — COVID ANXIETIES AND DATING

DEAR COVID ANXIETIES AND DATING: Take things slowly. You said that you “recently met” someone online. Why do your kids need to meet yet, anyway? Even in “normal” circumstances, I always encourage people with children to take their time introducing them to new partners. Kids get attached. They watch every move you make when it comes to relationships and they internalize the good, the bad and everything in between. It seems to me that your new girlfriend is trying to rush the timeline. Maybe she is expecting you to commit quickly to her. Listen to the person that this will impact the most: Your daughter. She has already voiced her hesitation. Why put more anxiety on her than you need to at this point? Let her decide the pace and support her sense of personal agency to make decisions that impact her own body. She doesn’t owe your girlfriend anything. When she feels ready, and if your relationship is on solid ground, then make an introduction. It is also important that you take your ex-wife’s opinion on this matter seriously, too. This impacts your whole family and with Covid-19 rippling through communities, it is so wrong to err on the side of caution?

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