Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


For three years I had an affair with a man living in our village. We're both married. Then I left my husband to go off with this man, but after a couple of months we both realised it was a mistake. I'm now back with my husband – happier than ever, oddly – but my ex-lover's wife is causing no end of trouble. I work in the village shop and last week she came in and threw a bucket of water over me. Sometimes she comes in and screams at me. My ex-lover says there's nothing he can do. And I'm too ashamed to go to the police. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Megan

Virginia says...

Clearly if this furious woman ups the ante and starts coming into your shop with an axe, then I think you'd have to go to the police. Or if she comes in when there are other customers around – you say in your longer letter that so far she's only come in when you're alone – then I imagine the person who owns the shop would want to have a word with her. She'd be keeping customers away from the shop, and though she clearly has a gripe with you – a gripe which is perfectly understandable – she doesn't have a gripe with the shop per se.

Now, I say that her feelings are understandable. That doesn't mean to say I approve of them at all. She's clearly got pretty much out of control. But you're in a cleft stick here – only because most people would say that both of you have behaved or are behaving extremely badly. And if anyone compared whose behaviour was worse, you'd come out as the clear winner. OK, she shouldn't scream and throw water over you, but it's absolutely piddling behaviour compared with pinching her husband, having an affair with him for three years and then running off with him. You don't say whether her marriage is still intact, but if she's lost her husband because of you – or thinks she has – it's small wonder she's become unhinged.

I would imagine that if you stick it out long enough – three months, say – the behaviour will gradually stop. But first I would take a long leave of absence from the shop. This action wouldn't only be to get away from the aggro, but also to give this woman the message that her behaviour is having some effect. That will make her feel a lot better.

If she continues to attack you, then I'd suggest meeting her, perhaps in a public place, so that you can offer her the most grovelling apology you have ever made. Don't try to shift the blame on to anyone else. Don't say, "But your husband made me think you weren't happy together," or "But your husband said you didn't want sex," or anything that takes away from your utter and abject contrition. Admit that it was an entirely selfish act, that you have behaved like a worm, that, indeed, most self-respecting worms would cut you dead in the street, with reason, and that you wish you could turn the clock back... etc etc etc.

She wants to make you suffer, so suffer. And show her you're suffering. And if she still won't give up, either go to the police or move.


Readers say...

Get a middle man

Megan should get the shop owner to intervene and perhaps act as an intermediary, as it is obviously harming his business. Failing the conciliatory talks either the other lady has to be banned from the store for disruptiveness or Megan has to find a new job. The other lady is in a rage because it appears Megan has had her cake and is very publicly eating it, which she is to a degree. With the intermediary perhaps the three of them can come to some arrangement.

Gurinder Singh by email


Feel the shame

Your ex-lover's wife is causing you to feel too "ashamed" to go to the police and I imagine that is exactly her motivation, to make you feel some sense of shame. You have had it all basically by wrecking her marriage, ruining her husband and now there you are every day in broad daylight in the village shop as if all is well again.

She will move on from this, I imagine, once she has made you suffer a little more. She also needs to be able to hold her head up in the village.

Chris by email


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, I've been made redundant and my wife has just found a job. We need her to work so we can keep the house. So the idea is that she goes to work and I look after the children. But I am no good with kids. I love them, but I couldn't look after them like she does. They're eight, six and five. She says just give it a go, but I am frightened that I'll do something by mistake and there'll be an accident. I know some men like being house husbands, but I've been brought up to be the breadwinner. Do you think I can do it? Yours sincerely, Eric

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