Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Plays Game of Tit for Tat and Winds Up Losing Marriage

DEAR ABBY: I have seen letters in your column on signs of a cheating spouse. Allow me to offer a word of caution. The "guilty" husband or wife could very well be innocent.

A year and a half ago, I began working out at a nearby gym during my lunch hour. My wife, "Connie," and I were both overweight when I started my exercise program. I ended up losing 55 pounds.

During this time, Connie was still gaining. When she'd complain about her weight, I tried to be supportive and reassure her that she was still attractive to me, but said that I was worried about her health. Connie knew I had the same concerns about my own health, and that's why I was trying to get into shape. Once I started, I discovered I enjoyed my exercise routine, including the hour a day I had to myself. (I work a 40-hour week, and spend every other available moment with my wife and three young sons.)

After my weight came down, I needed new clothes and rewarded myself with a new wardrobe. Around the same time, I shaved off my beard and began sporting a new, shorter haircut that made me look years younger. I felt like a new man.

Connie became convinced I was having an affair and went out and had an affair of her own. Suddenly, my wife wanted to go "work out" or "go shopping" two or three evenings a week. I eagerly volunteered to watch our boys so Connie could enjoy the time to herself. Little did I know she was driving an hour out of state to have sex with a guy she met on the Internet. I was devastated when I found out. Connie told me she thought the reason I had been so accommodating was because I was cheating, so she was fighting fire with fire.

We are now in the process of divorce, and Connie is in therapy. The guy she was seeing is married with four children -- so now, two marriages are messed up. Please share my story with your readers, Abby. It CAN happen. -- LOST WEIGHT AND A WIFE IN WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR LOST: How sad. As your experience proves, people who fight fire with fire usually wind up with ashes. Your wife's self-esteem was so low, she assumed you had found someone more attractive. How much sorrow could have been avoided had she discussed her fears with you.