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by Abigail Van Buren

Did He Cheat or Didn't He? That Is Couple's Question

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have a different opinion about the rules of marital separation.

Early in our marriage, following the birth of a child, my husband became unhappy with our union. Without warning, he announced that he was moving out for a trial separation. During that time he slept with another woman.

He claims that his infidelity was justified because he had moved out. Had I known that the separation was his idea of permission to resume a single lifestyle, I would likely have made very different decisions on my own behalf. If his rules apply, whenever I feel I'm "unhappy" and need to get away, it's OK to take a nice vacation and sleep with whomever I find attractive. However, I doubt he would approve of the shoe being on the other foot, although he thought it was permissible for him to behave that way.

I believe a trial separation serves as a vehicle for couples to work out their differences and in no way nullifies the marriage vows. In my opinion, only when there is intent to dissolve the marriage AND a suit for divorce has been legally filed are the vows waived.

I say he cheated on me and had an affair. He says not. Abby, what do you say? -- FORGIVING BUT UNABLE TO FORGET IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FORGIVING: I, too, say he cheated on you when he had an affair. However, you were sufficiently committed to each other for the marriage to have withstood his infidelity.

Since this is still a bone of contention, you would be wise to seek professional counseling to discharge your lingering anger. It will undoubtedly strengthen your union.