Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: Should what's sauce for the goose be sauce for the gander?

Dear Virginia,

My husband has had numerous affairs over the years and each time he promises he'll never do it again. I have, of course, been extremely upset, and threatened divorce at one point, but we have stuck together because of the children. We get on well enough. But now a mutual friend, whom I've always fancied, has made a pass at me, and I feel that what's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. I'd also like to see how my husband feels when the boot is on the other foot! Would I be silly to take it further?

Yours sincerely, Caroline

Are you, by any chance, about three years old? Forgive me, but you certainly sound it. Because I don't think you realise the possible consequences if you went ahead and had an affair with this mutual friend.

Yes, you'd get revenge – but would that make you feel better? Or would you just feel silly and childish, indulging in a kind of "you nicked my pen so I'll nick yours" kind of way? And how would your husband's reaction make you feel? If he were to break down in tears and say he could never trust you again, would that really make you feel "ner-ner-ner-ner-ner, now you know how it feels yah boo!" or would you feel, as you would if you were a reasonable adult, racked with remorse and guilt about making him suffer in the way you suffered when he betrayed you?

And if he just gave a great big grin and said, "Great, now I can have as many affairs as I like with a clear conscience. You're just as bad as me!" would that boost your self-esteem or make you feel like a powerless idiot who had lost any semblance of a proper marriage, however full of holes it might have been?

You'd also ruin the friendship your husband has with this other man, and no doubt cause ghastly rifts in any mutual social circles, with people taking sides and so on.

As for the high moral ground, never forget how precious that is. One kiss from this other bloke that your husband discovers, and from occupying the high moral ground you'll be down not just scrabbling about on the lower slopes, but at the bottom of a pit. All the stuff you spouted when your husband had affairs – which no doubt included accusations of breakdown of trust, treachery, betrayal, cruelty, you name it – will be flung back in your face, and more so because you were the one who went banging on about some kind of morality in the first place.

The only way you could possibly get away with this is if you said to your husband, "What would you think if I had an affair?" and saw what his reaction was. If he said, "Well, look, I love you, but we haven't had sex for years and I'd love to have it with other people and if you'd like to too, that's fine by me as long as it doesn't threaten our relationship because it means so much to me", then you might consider it.

But, I can assure, you, he won't say that. So my advice to you is to feel very flattered - and then put the whole thing out of your mind. You've got too much to lose.

Readers say...

Leave this marriage

You say that despite your husband's affairs, you have "stuck together because of the children". But now you are contemplating an affair yourself, so I take it your charming husband has not stopped fooling around. Have the children reached an age where you no longer think that staying together for their sake is necessary?

What about the friend whom you have always fancied? Is he prepared to get involved with you simply because you want revenge on your unfaithful husband?

You are still carrying the baggage of your unresolved feelings towards your husband and by turning those feelings inward you may harm yourself. By all means. have the fling you so desire, but for your own sake, leave this marriage that is so damaging to you and regain your self-respect.

Mae Caley, by email


Seize your chance

Caroline, this is a message from your Fairy Godmother. Here are your suspenders and red silk underwear. Go and have a ball, but remember that midnight will come sooner than you think. Remember, a man making a pass is not an affair, so be careful and don't take the lead. Remember that women are different from men. For a woman it can be a short step from falling into bed to falling in love. Remember the law of unintended consequences.:you do not know what the repercussions will be

Finally remember that when you are in your rocking chair, the regrets at not doing are the worst of all. How would Cinderella have felt if she had turned down her one chance to meet her Prince?


Leicestershire, by email


Get some help

To say it would be "silly" is an understatement. Adding a further complication to your already damaged marriage would be utter madness. Perhaps a more constructive alternative would be to take time to think about what keeps you in this marriage and get some professional help rather than playing games, which will ultimately end in tears.

Julia Leggett,

Polegate, East Sussex

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General


    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    SAP Data Migration Consultant

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Linux Systems Administrator

    £33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice