DEAR ABBY: Several months ago, I discovered my wife was having an affair with one of our closest single friends from church. Their relationship had been going on for almost a year. This was her second affair in our 12-year marriage, and I'm about ready to cut my losses and file for divorce.
My wife has expressed great remorse for her mistake and claims that she will do "anything" to save our marriage. I am still very much in love with her -- and I have the happiness of our young son to consider. My wife and I are in counseling, but my feelings of betrayal and anger are so great that I don't know if I can trust her -- or any woman -- ever again. I feel as though I've not only been betrayed by my wife, but also by my "friend," my church -- even by God.
Is it possible for a spouse who has a history of extramarital affairs to change? And if change is possible, how do I begin to trust again when the person I loved and cared for most in the world is the one responsible for my pain and misery? I would be grateful for any insight you can offer, Abby. -- SHATTERED IN BLUEGRASS COUNTRY
DEAR SHATTERED: Yes, it is possible for a spouse who has a history of extramarital affairs to change. But in order to do so, the person must be willing to confront the reasons for the cheating. Rebuilding trust, however, can take years, because even with the most forgiving spouse, the memory of the transgression is always lurking in the background.
Now I'll paraphrase a question I usually ask my female readers: Are you better off with or without her? Only you can answer that.
DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing "Ted" for two years. He is the love of my life. Last week, out of the blue, he said he didn't want to see me anymore and ordered me out of his apartment. He raged at me as if I had done something terrible to him. I left immediately.
The day after Ted's blowup, I talked to him on the phone and his anger was gone. He explained that he needed his space, and I accepted it. The following day we talked again, and I could hear the anger was back in his voice. The day after that, he was as sweet as he's ever been. We tearfully discussed breaking up, but remaining friends.
I would like nothing more than for Ted to enjoy his "space" and discover that I really am the one for him. But I love him, and this is the hardest thing I have dealt with in our two years of ups and downs.
Until three months ago, Ted was a drug user. Now I wonder if he's using again. I am all too familiar with the signs. Because of Ted, I have learned more about drugs than I ever thought possible. But my love for him has endured.
When Ted got clean, we joined a church and I believed we were finally in a better place. Now I don't know what to think. Am I spinning my wheels here, Abby? What should I do? -- SCARED AND CONFUSED IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR SCARED AND CONFUSED: I suspect your instincts are on target -- he is using again. However, as much as you might wish to, you cannot "save" Ted. Only he can do that. Please don't tolerate his irrational mood swings. They will destroy your self-esteem. Let him go. Direct your interests and energies elsewhere. Get some counseling. It'll be the smartest, most self-protective move you have ever made -- and a favor to yourself.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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