DEAR ABBY: I'm 38, married for 16 years and the mother of two small children. I was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had a hysterectomy to remove it.
My husband has cheated more than once in the past, and since my recovery I have realized I never forgave him for it. I kept quiet and pretended I didn't know. Now I am bitter, angry and hurt. He goes out and stays out constantly. He does help with the kids, but I know I don't belong here. I know what I want, and it's not this life with him anymore.
I know I can leave at any time, but I feel my children deserve to be raised with both parents in the home since neither of us had that when we were growing up. (My father died. His parents divorced when he was a toddler.) His family has been my family since the beginning of our relationship.
I want my children to grow up thinking marriage is forever and growing old with your partner is great. I want them to have what I did not. If we are civilized and "pretend to be in love," would my children be OK? I'm willing to stay in this marriage until they are old enough and on their own before I walk away.
Will they understand that I sacrificed my happiness for them to live with both parents? I want to be in love and happy, but would rather raise my babies with their father than someone else. Your advice is greatly appreciated. -- WILLING IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR WILLING: OK. First, let's talk about your diagnosis and the treatment you had. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness can cause anyone to rethink how one has been living one's life. It can cause all sorts of repressed emotions to boil to the surface, causing anger, bitterness and hurt. Before making any life-changing decisions, please talk with your doctor, a marriage counselor and your husband about those feelings.
If you think that staying in an unhappy marriage with a man who goes out and stays out constantly while pretending to be in love would be healthy for your children, I'd be less than honest if I didn't warn you that you would be doing them a disservice. Even if you could pull it off and the kids didn't sense the tension between you and your husband, how do you think they'll feel when they are older and realize what they were led to believe was a happy marriage was a lie?
Because you feel so strongly about raising them with your husband, my advice is to make every effort to clear the air and work out your marital problems with him. That said: It takes two to tango. If he is unwilling to cooperate, all of you might be happier if you separated and agreed to an amicable divorce and shared custody. I'm not saying it would be easy, but it can be done if both parties are willing.