Dear Harlan: After 24 years of a happy marriage and four outstanding kids, my husband had an affair with a woman from his office (17 years younger). Although we spent time in counseling, he eventually decided to leave our marriage and marry this woman. My youngest child was only 7, and my ex did not play a very active role in his upbringing. Although we all went through considerable pain, all four kids have developed great lives and I have a wonderful relationship with all of them. We have seven grandchildren. Now, 25 years later, we occasionally meet in family gatherings for graduations, weddings, birthdays, etc. Despite the fact that I now have a wonderful life, successful career and many friends, I am quite miserable when we are forced into these small, intimate events. The presence of his current wife brings back all the pain and trauma that I suffered while they were having their affair and lied about it. She seems to think that "time has removed all the pain" and that everything has worked out well. I need help to resolve my anger, resentment and discomfort in her presence. She clings to him and makes everyone uncomfortable with her public displays of affection and makes it even more uncomfortable for me to try to have a conversation with him. I am no longer in love with him, but I am totally miserable in their presence. We have several upcoming family events in small settings, and I need coping mechanisms. — Coping
Dear Coping: You must be exhausted. Twenty-five years of hating will do this. What part makes you miserable? Is it that he hurt you so badly? Is it that you think you should be playing the role of wife, not his cheating accomplice? Is it that while you have a wonderful life, successful career and friends, you don't have an adoring man by your side? If any of these are the problem, being miserable isn't going to help you get over this. It will just perpetuate it. To cope, figure out precisely what makes you miserable. Then focus on what you can control. Use the help of a therapist to help you work on this and guide you. For example, hating the new wife (she's not new after 25 years) won't heal wounds; it will just rip them open. Thinking that you should be the adoring woman by his side won't create adoration, just resentment. And yes, while you're an amazing woman, having a man who adores you will make watching an adoring woman love your ex a lot less painful. Accepting that this marriage was sick before she came along and focusing on your own happiness can help relieve the pain. If you can't do this for yourself, do it for your grandkids. Find a therapist who can help you through this. After 25 years, it's time. READERS: Suggestions are welcome. Email Harlan@helpeharlan.com, Subject: Miserable Ex.
Dear Harlan: I've started to have sex with my good friend. I'm falling in love with him, but he just wants to hook up and keep things how they are. What can I do? I'm in love with him and don't want to lose him. — In Love With Friend
Dear In Love: He's not in love with you. He's in love
with your vagina. Stop letting him spend time with it, and figure out if he's
interested in loving you. Sleeping with you when he knows you are in love with
him isn't friendly or nice. You can do better. (c) Harlan Cohen 2012. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.
Harlan is the author of "The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent's Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)" (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at harlan(at)helpmeharlan.com or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.