DEAR HARRIETTE: I never thought this would happen to me: I am a 35-year-old married woman who is having a full-blown affair. When we got married two years ago, we were compatible and had similar interests. I was not in love with him, but we had been dating for four years, and most of my friends were getting married. So when he proposed, it seemed like the right thing to do. Immediately after the wedding, we began to fight. He goes out drinking just about every night, and I hate it. I have suggested counseling, but he won't go. We haven't been intimate in six months.
Several weeks ago, I became friendly with a man at work. My co-worker paid a lot of attention to me and built up my battered self-esteem. It didn't take long for me to start seeing him on the side. This new guy is 40 and has never been married. He says he can make me happy and feel fulfilled, and I know he is right. He has asked me to leave my husband and marry him. I love him (my co-worker), but I hesitate to throw away the history I have with my husband. Also, I don't want to admit to my parents that my marriage is a failure. What should I do? -- Torn and Trapped, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR TORN AND TRAPPED: Deal with first things first. Stop dating your co-worker for now. If you feel there is a possibility of a life with him, ask him to wait until you handle your affairs at home. Then ask your husband for a divorce. Hire an attorney and draw up the papers. Take the time to go through the legal process and to explain to your husband that you no longer have faith in the marriage. Stay focused on uncoupling from your husband. When that is settled, you will discover if the other man remains an option. But don’t get the two confused. You don’t know what’s next until you make space for it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Our son and his wife have separated after four months of marriage; they will be divorcing shortly. They want to know what to do about the wedding gifts. Should gifts be returned when the marriage does not last six months? Many friends have said their gifts should be kept and that my son and his wife should divide them. Gifts of money were spent already on the honeymoon and on furnishing the house. -- 120-Day Marriage Gifts, Houston
DEAR 120-DAY MARRIAGE GIFTS: The going wisdom in 2018 is that you do not have to return the gifts. It is likely that the couple has used many of the gift items already. And clearly their thoughts are not on the fruits of the wedding but on whatever happened that has split them up so quickly. For now, they should focus on handling their business.
If there is any chance of reconciliation, they may want to seek professional counseling to figure that out. If divorce truly is imminent, they should handle that first. If they are inclined, it might be good to send a note to all of the guests informing them that, sadly, their marriage has ended. The note can ask for discretion and privacy during this period of transition as it also thanks guests for their love and support. This may help with the inevitable “How is married life?” questions that will pepper all conversations for months to come unless people know otherwise.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)