DEAR ABBY: I have been married 15 years to a woman I have always placed on a pedestal. I recently learned that when she was single, she had an affair with a married man. I can't get it out of my head. I'm afraid it will drive me to drink.
Yes, she has been a good wife and mother to our two girls (ages 11 and 13), but I no longer have the respect for her that I once had. We recently got into an argument that escalated into name-calling, and I called her a "slut" because that's what I feel she is. She dated at least seven or eight other men before we married, and knowing she had sex with a married man, I'm sure I can safely assume that she had sex with the others.
Our sex life is deteriorating. I feel I'm not making love to a "clean" woman, that she is used and dirty laundry. I told her she had cheated me the same as if I paid for a new car and then found out the dealer delivered a used one.
She always claimed to be a good Catholic, and I told her she even ignored her religious teachings, as they teach you to be a virgin for your husband. I won't leave her because of the children, but I'm afraid I'll have a hard time staying even though I believe I love her.
Instead of having her on a pedestal, I now have her in the gutter. Please advise me before I go out of my mind. -- HURT AND SAD, TRENTON, N.J.
DEAR HURT AND SAD: Hurt and sad? Imagine how SHE feels! Assuming that you are also Catholic, were you a virgin when you married your wife? Surely, the same rule applies to Catholic men as it does to Catholic women. If, after 15 years of solid marriage and two children, this is what your wife gets from the man who promised God he would love, honor and cherish her until death, frankly, I think she deserves better.
Pedestals are cold, drafty places on which to live, and it is unfair and unrealistic to label your wife as either a Madonna or a whore because of a youthful indiscretion. These days, most people fall somewhere in between.
Please, don't be a "martyr" and "stay because of the children." Unless you can find it in your heart to forgive (as your religion preaches), give the poor woman a break and go. Name-calling isn't going to fix this; psychological and religious counseling for you might. Your wife does not deserve the abuse you have heaped upon her, and you need more help than anyone can give you in a letter.