Virgina Ironside's Dilemmas: I ran off with my husband's best friend. What now?

Her new partner says she should go for the money she's entitled to, but what if that means her ex-husband has to sell the home that's been in his family for generations?

Virginia Ironside
Monday 31 December 2012 17:20
A mansion style home is seen for sale July 12, 2005 in Atherton, California.
A mansion style home is seen for sale July 12, 2005 in Atherton, California.

Dear Virginia,

I’ve left my husband after six children and 35 years of marriage. We had just grown apart. I now live with my husband’s best friend – ex-best friend – who’s urging me to go for what money I’m entitled to in my divorce, or I’ll regret it later, but I don’t want my husband to have to sell his home that’s been in the family for years, and I also have a small income of my own. I feel my new partner should support me as he stole me from my husband. My ex isn’t speaking to me and I’m in a muddle. I want to do the honourable thing and I’m torn.

Yours sincerely,


Virginia says...

The two options you give yourself are typical after a separation. One is to take your husband for every penny he's got. A horrible idea. The other is to see yourself as the guilty party (or, in this case, your current partner: I find it odd that you say he “stole” you from your husband. Didn’t you have any say in the matter? Surely!) and tend towards leaving your husband with everything. That’s not a good option either.

Lawyers tend to take these extreme views, which is why they can be so expensive. But what you need in this case is some kind of compromise. When you feel so benign and forgiving to your husband (and presumably he has something to forgive: I can’t believe the separation was entirely your fault) you’re not looking to the future. What if he married again to a grasping woman who insisted he made a will leaving everything to her children by another marriage? I’ve known this to happen and it’s caused misery all round. What if he took to gambling and riotous living, raised a mortgage on the house and squandered every penny – some of which, morally, would belong to you? Again, leaving nothing to the children. What if he was seized by a cult and made everything over to them, including what would have been your share of the joint assets had you asked for them? I know it’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened. What you need to do now is not to think of yourself or, indeed, your husband. Both of you, clearly, can survive reasonably well. What you should do is think only of your children.

Why not ask for half the house, and on receipt of it, make ownership of it over to your children so he can still live there? And if you feel you deserve some kind of lump sum or yearly payment, give this money to your children rather than keep it for yourself. That would surely be honourable.

Unfortunately, just after a separation is the worst time to start divvying up the goodies because each partner is so raw. I remember swinging, daily, just after I’d separated, from wanting to reduce my husband to penury, to feeling so guilty I wanted to give him everything while I lived in a cardboard box under the Thames.

I’m sure if you bear all this in mind and find a lawyer who specialises in mediation and conciliation – they’re all over the place these days – you’ll both be able to come through this with your heads held high.

Readers say…

Do the right thing

It’s a bit late to do the honourable thing. You seem to think you are living in a medieval romance –your new partner didn’t “steal” you, you left your husband of 35 years and your children of your own accord. I applaud your wish not to make things even worse for them by forcing him to sell the family home, but why should your new partner support you? He has no right to interfere in your divorce or separation arrangements; that’s a matter for you and your long-suffering husband.

You need to decide what kind of life you want to live now. It will be different from the presumably comfortable life you led before; that’s a consequence of leaving a marriage. Do the honourable thing: talk to your husband, make a generous settlement, and let him and the children get on with the rest of their lives. If your new partner is unhappy with this, you will have to leave him or put up with it. You deserve each other.

From Ros, by email

Face facts

The simple fact is you are entitled to a chunk of your ex-husband’s wealth, as presumably you built it together. Get a lawyer.

From Jeremy, by email

Next week’s dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Last year my dad left us to go off with another woman. It made us all so unhappy but in a way it was a relief when all the rows stopped.

My younger brother and I took our mum’s side and we didn’t want to see him again. We moved into a smaller home, and things were just starting to be OK and mum had got a job and we were starting to be happy again, when dad asked to come back. Mum took him back at once, and forgave him, but we just can’t. We hate him for what he did. I feel so let down.

Yours sincerely,

Sonia (15)

What would you advise Sonia to do?

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