Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Phone call would just add to couple's marital problems
Remorseful and Confused: I told my husband last week of a yearlong affair with a former colleague. I've since ended the affair. Last night my husband asked for his phone number so that he could call and confirm the affair is over and I'm assuming to tell him to stay away. I think this is an awful idea and have told him so. Your thoughts?
Carolyn: It's an awful idea. Your marriage, right now, lives or dies on your ability to stay away from the other man, and on your husband's ability to believe in you.
Neither has a thing to do with the other man himself, and neither cause is advanced by calling him.
In your husband's defense, it sounds as if he's feeling helpless and needs to do something, anything concrete to gain a sense of control over what's happening to him. I wish I could suggest something, but there's no such thing.
That's why my advice is always of the take-care-of-yourself variety when it comes to grief. (And this is grief for him, make no mistake.) His chasing down the guy can't "confirm" anything, and so may leave him feeling worse than before.
It could also give his mental images a voice, a face, gestures — thus making it even easier to imagine you flirting with him, smiling at him, doing all the things one does when falling for someone.
This in turn can be debilitating, making it all but impossible to shake the images from his head in the middle of the night.
If your husband pressures you for the number, you'll be in a tough spot — protecting him in a way that looks distinctly like protecting yourself and the other man.
Just calmly remind him this is between you, and consider taking this show to marriage counseling. Ending the affair doesn't fix what started it, nor does it come with instructions on how to put yourselves back together again.
Anonymous: Re: Calling the "Other Man": My husband had an affair with a co-worker. I know her name, where she works (obviously), her e-mail and phone number, and where she lives. Some of it I knew before the affair came to light and the rest I found online during moments of panic and pain.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been on the brink of contacting her.
But I never actually do it. Partly because we're already dealing with some pretty epic trust issues and this would just toss another big old log on the fire.
But mostly because, childish or not, I do find comfort in not allowing myself to get to that level. I have been amazed at all the ways I've dealt with this situation and no matter what happens with my marriage, I know I have behaved in a way that I can be proud of.
Calling this woman and tearing her apart or getting hysterical would take me to a place I just don't want to go.
Carolyn: I'm not sure how one would beam this message to the distraught husband, but it's very useful, I think — and admirable.
Thanks for being willing to explore what must be some very low moments.