Virginia Ironside: Dilemmas

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I have been having an affair with a married man for more than a year, and recently he left his wife and children to move in with me. My problem is that his wife has now phoned me and she wants to meet me to talk about things. In one way I would like to meet her because I feel it will make arrangements with the children easier in the future – and also I'm curious! – but my partner is dead against it and flies into a rage if I suggest it. I'm tempted to see her behind his back. What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Charlene

Virginia says...

What an excellent move on the part of this man's wife! What an operator! Simply by suggesting that you meet, she's started a row between you both, and it's one that's going to run and run. Because if you see her behind your partner's back and he finds out – which he surely will – there'll be hell to pay. And yet, if you refuse to meet her, you will forever be worrying about what it was she wanted to talk to you about.

Her suggestion of meeting has, therefore, inflamed your suspicions, his guilt, and your ability to go behind your lover's back. Are you really certain you're suited to each other? Clearly neither of you trusts each other an inch and if your lover gets so apoplectic about the idea of your meeting, it must show that he has something to hide.

How stupid is was of him to go up in flames at the idea of this meeting when, of course, he should just have shrugged his shoulders as if he couldn't have cared less, and said to you: "Go ahead. She's mad. I'd prefer you didn't. But it's up to you." Then you wouldn't be tempted to go behind his back. But then this woman knows him through and through. She knew he'd blow a fuse at the suggestion, and that that would unnerve you.

If it were me, I would be unable to resist meeting this woman. I wouldn't do it secretly, however. I'd tell my partner what I was going to do and see what happened. If you follow my example, I suspect he'll immediately start defending himself about the charges that he knows his wife will bring against him. This in itself will be revealing.

My only experience of having an affair with a man who was living with another (older) woman was salutary. She rang me, quite coolly, and just explained her side of the story. There were no histrionics. But suddenly I could see everything from her point of view. Once I understood the whole picture, I was unable to continue the affair. The truth simply made it impossible.

You could, however, decide to draw a line under everything and start afresh with no rumours or accusations in the background to undermine your trust for one another. If you can do this, fine. But won't you always be wondering what it was that your partner didn't want you to discover?

I suspect that your partner's wife is, at this moment, holding all the cards. And I bet that, after a few months, you'll find yourself alone again.

Readers say...

Don't patronise her

Well, he saw you behind her back, didn't he? So I would go for it if I were you. He has earned no loyalty from anyone due to his betrayal of his family. My concern is that you show not the slightest remorse at what you have done and are simply wanting to see her out of "curiosity". How patronising to a woman who clearly has every right to meet the "other woman". I am surprised it has taken her so long to contact you. She is now showing dignity and courage and I suggest you do the same. Meet with her, say sorry and ask her for forgiveness. Talk about her children. I suggest you ask her husband to do the same. It's called accepting one's responsibilities, and it is what mature people do in the real world.

Susie Courtault By email

He's just scared

Of course he flies into a rage. Were the two of you to meet and exchange notes, the whole story of his marriage and the truth behind its end will come out. His version will be shown to be what it is – his version. You may well learn much more than you expect or want.

Hillary Pepler By email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My husband has the opportunity to take a job in the West Indies for a long-term contract. We estimate we should be there about ten years. We have no intention of settling there for ever. The problem is that we have two small children. My husband argues that a change of culture will be good for them and will broaden their minds. My fear is that they will grow up rootless. And of course there are all the grandparents to consider, who are understandably upset about the idea of our going. What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Joanna

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