Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Wife's ultimatum to cheating husband leaves her devastated
U.K.: A few weeks ago, my husband came to me and told me he had an affair. He came clean only after finding out she was pregnant.
Despite being devastated, I told him I'd be willing to try to work things out — for the sake of our two daughters, at least — if he convinced her to have an abortion. He agreed and she had the abortion, although I suspect she only agreed because my husband lied to her and told her they'd have a future if she had the abortion. He says he has broken off all contact with her since she terminated the pregnancy.
Now I'm disgusted with myself because I feel like it's my fault she had the abortion, and I can't get past the fact that my husband cheated on me. Sometimes I feel just worthless. Is there any hope?
Carolyn: Oh my.
Your phrasing could be interpreted two different ways: either you know your husband made false promises (and suspect they tipped the mistress' decision), or you suspect your husband made false promises.
Even with the vagaries, it says something devastating about both of you: that you're married to a man who is flat-out morally depraved, or you believe it's possible he's flat-out morally depraved — and, nevertheless, you did something depraved to keep him.
The other woman isn't an innocent party here; unless she was expertly deceived into believing your husband was single, she messed with someone else's husband.
And, if your husband did offer himself as her reward for aborting their child, then her only decent choice was to tell him to get out of her life and stay out — whether she ultimately bore the child or not.
Pressuring someone to abort her child is bad enough, and to abort one's own child is grim escalation. But pressuring through deceit and then abandoning her? I can't wrap my mind around the idea of staying with someone you deem capable of that.
Please start taking steps, immediately, that lead you away from this whole sordid episode. Find someone you can talk to who has the moral authority to speak hard truths and also the therapeutic chops to help you guide your family in a direction that's responsible, functional and sustainable. If you are a person of faith, then start there; many clergy members are also trained therapists. Otherwise, look for a family therapist who has a solid reputation and a philosophy you respect.
I'm not sure your husband can come along for this restorative ride — not unless self-recognition has brought him to his knees, and he is actively trying to put himself back together.
As for your feelings of worthlessness, remember not only your inherent value as a person and your value as a person of conscience (you have to have one somewhere for it to beat you up like this), but also your immeasurable value to your children.
Your way out of this devastation is to be strong and good for them. Find someone to lean on as you need it, and base each choice you make, from this moment onward, on whether it's something that brings you closer to being able to live with yourself.
Tuesday: Readers weigh in, and, what does U.K. do now?