Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: Should I meet my husband's mistress?

Dear Virginia,

A few months ago, my husband admitted to me that he'd had an affair. Somehow – God knows how – we managed to get through it, and he promised not to see this woman again. But while he was at work the other day, she rang me up and said she wanted to meet and talk. Of course, part of me desperately wants to know what went on and see what she's like. But my husband says I should have nothing to do with her. What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Susie

Before you agree to meet this woman – or decide not to – go through all the possibilities of what she might tell you – and, more importantly, what she might be getting out of this meeting.

Is she going to tell you how sorry she is, how she dragged your husband to bed, how all the time he protested he loved you and felt guilty, how she wants you to know what a loving and dear husband he is to you? Well, you know what the answer is. You're right. It's highly unlikely. And why on earth would she risk perhaps getting into a physical cat-fight just to do and your husband a favour?

Or is she going to tell you how your husband told her he loved her, how he complained about you all the time (giving details), how he promised he'd leave you and marry her as soon as the children were grown up (if there are any children) and how it would be better for you to part now rather than later?

This is a possibility. And even if it weren't true, and she's only hell-bent on getting revenge on a man who dumped her, realising he'd made a frightful mistake, it would make you feel awfully wobbly about everything in future. In the middle of the night when your husband was out late or made some slightly two-edged remark, your mind would automatically stray back to this woman's words as they echoed, like some frightful witch's incantations, in your ears.

Or then there's the possibility that she's going to produce photographs. Love letters. Video! Who knows? That would mean the end of your marriage, almost certainly. You wouldn't be able to deny concrete evidence of his love for her. And nor would your husband. Even though it might have been a moment of emotional madness. Do you want that? Or, let's go all the way now, she might have brought a bottle of acid along to throw in your face.

I know I'm painting the worst possible scenario, but do you really want to risk experiencing any of these except, perhaps, the first, which is, as you and I know, not going to happen?

You can always keep her name and address if you ever – though touch wood you won't – need it as evidence in some future court case were you to go through a messy divorce. But I wouldn't even do this. You've decided to forgive your husband and start again. He's keeping to his side of the bargain – one hopes – so you should keep to yours. And long may your marriage last with no further unpleasant blips in the future.

Readers say...

What's he hiding?

It seems your husband has something to hide. If she wants to meet up and talk, there must be a good reason. And if he claims he has told you everything and isn't seeing her anymore, he should have no objections to you meeting her. While it may be a painful meeting for you, it is better that, than continuing your marriage with doubt burning a hole in your mind.

Ian Laird, Birkenhead

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I wouldn't risk it

It's always worth asking what the best and worst outcomes are before judging if it's worth doing something like this. Best outcome? You see she was a poor imitation of you, and is no threat now. Worst? She tells you all the promises your husband made to her. You realise she is SO much a better woman than you, and that your husband only stayed out of duty. I'd say the best outcome is far outweighed by the worst, wouldn't you? Don't risk it.

GC, Australia, by email

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It's a question of trust

A relationship is predicated on trust and respect. If you have one hundred per cent trust and respect for your husband, then you should listen to his opinion and not meet his mistress – although I'd be interested to know why he thinks you shouldn't. But if you have any doubt, meet her: women tend to be more emotionally literate and she's far more likely to be honest with you than he is. Just be aware that you may hear things you don't like.

Manda Scott, Clungunford, Shropshire

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You must meet her

Of course your husband doesn't want you to meet his girlfriend. Once you are together he knows it is the end of him having both of you and I doubt you would agree to share him from the tone of your letter. She might be coming to tell you that he has told her he would leave you, something you should know. So it's obvious that you must meet her, and it could be very interesting, but you must do it in a friendly relaxed way.

Robin, By email

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