Ask an expert: Should I leave my wife for an old flame?

The problem…

My wife and I have two young children, aged two and four. Things are not great; she is an extreme introvert to the point where, even now, it’s hard to start a conversation with her.

However, my real problem is that I think I love another woman, someone I’ve known since school. Back then I was too afraid to approach her, then, last year, we made contact again.

We started out just having quick lunches and I soon found out she had had a child, but had split up with that man. I have become intimate with her in a way I never have with any woman, even my wife.

Recently my wife found out and, after going for counselling together, she forgave me, but I still can’t get over this other woman. I really don’t know what to do – should I divorce my wife?

Fiona says…

There’s no way I can tell you what to do here, because you have to think about this very carefully. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of both relationships and base your decision on issues that are more important than just what you want in life. Not only are there two women to consider here, but there are also at least three children – your own and your lover’s child.

(Thinkstock/PA)

I’m sure there have been times when you’ve wished you’d never met this woman again, because although your relationship with your wife is difficult, you clearly loved her once. None of us know what will happen in life and that’s why relationships need work – we can’t just assume that, because we’re married, all feelings will remain the same.

A marriage that isn’t worked on can become stale, ordinary – perhaps even boring. So, a moment of intimacy that you don’t tell your wife or husband about becomes a risk, even when it seems quite trivial. It’s potentially a real threat to the day to day routine of a marriage, which simply cannot compete.

People can crave excitement in their lives and passion is exciting – I suspect your quiet wife, mother of your two young children is not as exciting as a woman you craved from an early age. You describe her as extremely introverted but, a loving, caring person would – over the years you’ve been together – found ways of drawing her out and talking.

Although she’s aware of your affair, your wife has given you a second chance – some women would not have done. She may not give you another.

Turning to the children, many youngsters do feel deprived when their parents separate, some even blame themselves. Staying together for their sake is as good a reason as any to try and make your marriage work. It’s almost always something I’d encourage people to try and do, unless there is abuse or cruelty involved in the relationship.

You say you’ve been for counselling together as a couple, but I’d encourage you to consider going for counselling on your own. You have to decide which of these two women you are going to hurt – you’ve almost certainly hurt at least one of them already. You need someone who can help you work your way through this mess and decide where you go from here and Relate can help you look at all sides of this.

It may be that you decide to stay with your first love – but, do be aware that passion can fade. It may be that you’ll stay with your wife – if she’s still willing to take you back.

Whichever relationship you end up in, please make sure you work at it, nurture it and care for it, because otherwise it will just become dull and you’ll start being tempted to look elsewhere again.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

- Press Association

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