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

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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?

David,

Leicestershire, by email

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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

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