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Dear Mari: Who’s to blame for his affair?

DON’T BLAME yourself for his affair, says Dear Marilyn.

Dear Marilyn,

I am a 36-year-old woman, and a mother of four. My husband of 18 years has been having an affair for the last several years of our marriage. It’s kind of an open secret, in that we don’t talk about it. He’s not sure that I know, but I think he suspects that I do.

   He is an excellent father to our four children. He attends all of their sporting events, and he helps them with their homework. I think about ending our marriage all of the time. However, I can’t imagine breaking up what everyone else thinks is a wonderful storybook family.

But, my heart is broken. It is hard for me to take the pain of sharing one more night in the same bed as my husband. I have looked to both my mother, and my best friend for advice.  My mom believes that raising four children without their father in the house would be very bad for them. She thinks that I should stay with him for their sakes.

My best friend thinks that I should leave him. She says that he is destroying my self-esteem and my self-respect. I think that she is right. By being so flexible with my own morals and values by letting my husband get away with having an affair, makes me blame myself. I keep thinking that there must be something wrong with me, or he wouldn’t be doing that.

What do you think that I should do? I really need your help.

Signed, Truly Desperate Housewife

Dear Truly Desperate Housewife,

   I am not going to give you advice as to whether or not you should end your marriage. That is an extremely personal decision that only you can make. As you found out, when you asked your mom and your best friend, you received conflicting advice. I will give you some things to think about, though.

   First of all, you are worried for the future of your children. That is understandable. Do you truly want to raise them thinking that the way your husband is treating you is how a husband should treat a wife? Helping them with their homework does not make him a good father or role model.

   Secondly, you are finding yourself blaming yourself for what is happening. Yet, he is the one that has broken your vows. Please don’t blame yourself. You are a wonderful person of value and worth. You are not remotely being treated as such.

   Finally, I strongly suggest that you go to a marriage counselor. If your husband will go with you, that would be a good thing. If he won’t, please go anyway. You need a trained professional to help you with this problem. I wish you the best.

Dear Marilyn,

I am a 22-year-old woman. I have been going with my boyfriend for over a year. I’ll call him Jeff. My younger sister is 16. She hasn’t had her first real boyfriend yet. She is very jealous of the relationship that I have with Jeff.

She is always telling my how lucky I am, and that she can’t wait until she meets a guy like Jeff. The problem is that whenever Jeff comes over to our house, she actually starts flirting with him. She puts on her cutest outfits, and doesn’t give us much privacy at all.

If we are watching TV, there she is. If we are just talking in the living room, she comes in and joins us. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I want her to stop this. I am thinking of not asking Jeff to come over so much. We can always go to his place. However, I do like having him over.

I haven’t gone to my parent’s with this problem, as I know they will think that I am being silly. I have mentioned it to Jeff, and he says to just ignore her. He says that he doesn’t mind it that she is around. He says she is my kid sister, and not to worry about it.

What do you think that I should do?

Signed, Bugged Sister

Dear Bugged Sister,

   Jeff sounds like he is a great guy. Listen to him. Remember that you can’t control someone else’s behavior. You can only control how you react to someone else’s behavior.

   This applies to your reaction to your little sister. You can’t force her to stay away, but you can control how you feel when she is there. I don’t blame you for wanting privacy with Jeff. You are right; you can always go to his place. But don’t stop him from coming over to your house as well.

   It’s OK that your sister hangs around some of the time. Don’t sit there fuming, but rather try to actually enjoy having her around some of the time. You will feel much better. I have a strong suspicion that her behavior is going to change when she does start dating. I’ll bet that it won’t be long before that starts to happen.

   She will always be your little sister, for the rest of your lives. Someday you will look back at this time and smile. Relax. It will be OK.

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