A heartbroken wife who was already coming to terms with the impending death of her terminally ill husband has revealed her fresh agony after he confessed to having a number of affairs throughout their 30-year marriage.
The woman, identified only as Mary, said she has been “hurt” by her husband of many years’ newfound honesty, after he admitted to a series of affairs over the course of three decades with women he had met through work – but confessed that she was not surprised by his revelations.
Mary, from Cambridgeshire, UK, wrote to The Telegraph’s agony uncle Graham Norton to ask for advice on the sensitive topic, revealing she actually wishes that her husband had never bothered to tell her about his indiscretions.
“We recently discovered that my husband of many years has an inoperable brain tumour, and we’ve been told he has a few months left at most,” she wrote. “His mood is stoical – he is trying to appreciate what we have while he can. My problem is that in his pursuit of serenity he is settling various emotional accounts.
“This has included confessing a series of affairs over three decades, none especially serious or protracted, none with women I felt any particular fondness for – people he met through work, generally.
“I feel I am a rational person: although I am hurt by this, I always wondered if it might be the case – he has a strong sexual appetite, which to be candid I always felt ill-equipped to satisfy; he has been away a lot, and when here he has never been less than attentive and loving towards me.”
The hurt woman went on to say that, while she has been upset by the confirmation of the affairs, it is actually her calm reaction to the news that has caused the biggest rift between them – with him now turning it around on her and accusing his wife of “never really loving him”.
“What has come between us is not so much the revelation of infidelities for which he has calmly taken responsibility, as my response to it, which was something along the lines of the paragraph above, but which concluded, ‘I wish you’d effing well not told me’!” she said. “He reacted very badly, suggesting I am in denial about his condition, never really loved him, and resorting to unattractive displays of self-pity, making barbed remarks about how I shall be free of him soon enough and so on.
“The truth is I shall miss him desperately and I am terrified of the future. I feel that what he wants at this point is for me to be more angry about his extra-curricular activities than I am. But whatever it is I feel, I do not feel I owe him some exaggerated outburst that will unlock who knows what other doors, merely in order for him to feel better – whatever his condition. Am I wrong?”
Norton – who also presents popular UK chat show The Graham Norton Show – replied to the moving letter by advising Mary to find a way for the couple to support each other throughout this difficult time, saying her husband is “experiencing everything through a filter of fear, anger and deep grief” as he comes to terms with the reality of his diagnosis.
“It will be hard, of course, but try to remember that your husband’s reactions are bound to be strange and multi-layered,” he wrote. “He is experiencing everything through a filter of fear, anger and deep grief. He is mourning for himself and for his life with you.
“Who knows what he hoped to achieve with his confession, but clearly it didn’t work out the way he planned. Talk to him. Use all the words you know. Time is precious and in the months after he has gone, you don’t want to be suddenly struck by the things you wish you had said.
“Try to draw a line under these infidelities so you can talk about other things, happier things. Explain that in different circumstances you would have screamed the house down, slammed doors, maybe even left him, but everything is altered now. His condition puts your lives into perspective. The triumphs, the joys, the mistakes, have all led the two of you to this point.”