DEAR ABBY: A year and a half ago, my wife of 18 years confessed to an infidelity I had feared in the back of my mind all along. In our second year together, I was in the military. We were stationed overseas. We had a small group of friends -- couples and singles -- who partied three or four nights a week. We never allowed the parties to get too crazy, but occasionally someone would sleep overnight on our couch if they weren't sober enough to drive home.
One evening I returned from work very tired, and after a few beers, I retired early. A few friends were still hanging around, but were leaving soon. It happened in the adjacent room with one of my best friends, while our 2-year-old and I slept.
Since I found out the truth, I have experienced all of the emotions -- betrayal, sadness, shock, hatred, anxiety, denial, etc. After talking to two family counselors, three preachers, a psychiatrist, my parents, God, reading tons of books, fishing, taking countless long walks trying to reason why -- and finally attempting to talk to her alone -- what else can I do? (She refuses to discuss it further.) It still bothers me every single day. There has to be some relief from this continuous bad feeling I am trying desperately to get rid of.
Nothing has worked so far. I don't want to say divorce is the answer, because this happened so long ago. However, at times, it seems like it happened yesterday.
Once again, what else can I do? -- LIVING IN A GRAY WORLD
DEAR LIVING: Learning that your wife committed adultery once, 18 years ago, must have come as a terrible blow -- even though you had your suspicions. It is not surprising you have experienced all the emotions that come with the death of your illusions.
However, if you want your marriage to heal, it's time to stop concentrating on the past and devote your energies toward rebuilding. This may include accepting some of the responsibility for having made your home "party central" while you were stationed abroad. It's the quickest way I can think of to stop viewing yourself as a victim, and that, I suspect, is what is prolonging your depression.
By now, you've gathered a lot of advice from two family counselors, three preachers, a psychiatrist, your parents, God and self-help books. (You may have even written to more than one advice columnist!) Consider this: Marriages take work on the part of both spouses. You and your wife have nearly two decades invested in each other. Unless you're willing to forgive your wife her long past indiscretion and allow some joy back in your lives, your marriage is already finished, and you might as well move on. Which is more important to you -- hanging onto your anger and disappointment or your marriage?