Dilemmas: I had an affair. But I can't forgive my wife for having a one-night stand

Ten years ago Greg had a love-affair, and his wife left. She then returned , but constantly made him feel guilty. Now she's admitted to a meaningless one-night stand when on her own. He's furious and wants to leave, but loves his daughter. What should he do?

VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

Talk about double standards! Greg has got to take a long, hard look at the situation. First, he didn't just have a one-night stand. He didn't just have an affair. No, he had a full-blown, long-lasting, emotionally committed, 100 per cent love-affair. During that time his wife left home, presumably because she found it unbearable.

How does Greg think she felt, for all those days or weeks that she was away? I bet she didn't wake up whistling: "Oh, what a beautiful morning!" Every single day she probably dragged herself about, positively marinated in bitterness, anguish, misery, jealousy and general emotional torment. Perhaps she cried herself to sleep every night. She probably felt she was no longer feminine or appealing to anyone. By his actions, Greg had made her feel like a lowly worm - and just as androgynous. I think it would have taken a woman of steel not to have succumbed to just one one- night stand during that period, if only to reassure herself that she was still attractive and sexual.

So, back she comes when Greg has decided his affair is over, and yet occasionally she's seized with rage about the unfairness of it all. That's when she blurts out her accusations about him, trying to make him feel guilty about what he did, trying to get him to grovel with apologies so she can have the satisfaction of seeing him as desperate as she was. But clearly nothing's been forthcoming; it sounds as if she's never really forgiven him for the affair - which could well be because he's never really made her feel as if he regrets it.

So why confess to this piddling little misdemeanour now? Perhaps she's frightened he's going to have another affair. Perhaps she feels taken for granted. Anyway, this frightful little time-bomb has been smoking away in her undies drawer for 10 years now, and for some reason she's decided to confess.

I really can't blame her, though it's a stupid thing to have done because some men are so dim about women and sex that they take even a one-night stand as a personal assault. A vengeful one-night stand for his wife, in this situation, could almost be seen as a compliment to Greg. It shows how very hurt she was. Certainly, she'd never have done it had it not been for Greg's appalling behaviour. If she said it was meaningless, then it was meaningless - nothing like the sex Greg had with his girlfriend, with whom he was passionately in love. That one-night stand for his wife was probably no more to her than using a vibrator that happened to have a bloke attached to the other end.

Greg has to see that it was his actions, almost certainly, that sparked off everything his wife has done. He had an affair - so she had a one- night stand. He wasn't sorry enough - so she's been trying to make him feel awful. He has been particularly unfeeling recently, and may even have had his eye on someone else, so she's finally delivered her coup.

Greg should grow up, and realise that he isn't the only person in the world to have feelings. His wife suffers pain and anguish, too. I hope that by understanding this, and realising that all that's happened is a sign of his power, not his powerlessness, he'll buy her a huge bunch of flowers, tell her that he loves her, and take her for a weekend in Paris.

For he will clearly ignore her pain at his peril.

READERS SAY

She needs reassurance

Greg has never communicated to his wife that he understands how she felt. Therefore she still feels it. Maybe it is impossible to understand such emotions until you have experienced the same thing yourself. Greg's wife was probably trying to give Greg some real knowledge. His own description of a "world fallen apart" shows he's now been enlightened!

Greg needs to tell his wife that he knows her hurt and should have made this clear when she returned. I assume he has already assured her that he has no intention of falling into any other affairs. (I am sure she will assure him likewise.) As he has discovered, you cannot live happily with someone who has formed a closeness with another.

Greg's wife did come back, so the marriage is worth saving.

RAE WOOD

Sad case of a selfish man

You are a very sad case. I am sorry to hear that your wife did not meet someone and fall in love while she was on her own - on the eve of your wedding. I can't believe that she "came back" when you fell in love after you were married. You're supposed to be in love with the woman you marry, remember? By the way, why did you get married? You sound far too selfish.

Both of you really have bigger things to worry about now, so be responsible adults and give your daughter a happy life. She is Numero Uno.

DA SEYMOUR

Cuxham, Watlington

You should admire her

Does your wife not also have the right to a life too? When you were burning in your love nest, she was out in the cold feeling rejected, second best and extremely insecure.

Your wife was then prepared to give your marriage a second chance even though the hurt, deeply felt, occasionally had to surface. She has given all, while losing so much.

Honesty of what time alone meant is probably her way of dealing with the trauma, before moving on.

How can you feel anything other than admiration for this person who wants to be your partner, to love and to cherish, for better AND for worse?

FRAN SMITH

Thorpe Bay

Essex

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia, I know you'll think this is silly, but so far no one's invited me to do anything for Millennium Eve. All my friends are asking what I'm doing, and they seem to be choosing between two or three parties. I don't normally do things on New Year's Eve, and I don't mind normally, but somehow the idea of spending the millennium night alone fills me with horror. You'll say: "Have a party of your own", but everyone I know is going out! What should I do?

Yours, Deborah

Anyone with advice quoted will be sent a bouquet from . Send letters and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside at `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail dilemmas@ independent. co.uk, giving a postal address

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