TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 51 and 54, draw on their 20 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . .
Please help. I’ve been married to my husband for 17 years — we are in our late 40s and have two children, age 12 and 15. Things seem fine between us, although our sex life is not that great any more, and we do argue but, overall, I am content in our relationship.
However, one of my good friends, recently divorced, has just told me that she has seen a picture of my husband on a dating app. I am in a state of shock. I don’t even know what to think.
I can’t believe he would do this to me and our family and in such a public, stupid way.
I found out a week ago and don’t know what to do. I feel so betrayed, but I am worried that once I confront him, everything is going to change. Part of me can’t bring myself to accept the reality of it. Should I tell him, or pretend it never happened for the sake of our family?
You poor thing. This fills me with fear. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare. What you’re experiencing is a thoroughly modern type of adultery — yes, adultery — because make no mistake, even if your husband hasn’t actually slept with another woman, this is cheating. And it’s particularly awful because it is so very deliberate.
In the past, married men might have committed their indiscretions on business trips and kept this at a distance from their home life. And affairs might have started when two people had a chance meeting.
I’m so sorry for you as that’s not the case here — this is a very deliberate act. Your husband has gone to some effort to craft a profile, find a photograph and put the whole thing online.
I agree with you when you say that it’s such a public, and stupid, way to behave. His lack of discretion compounds the betrayal.
You’re not wrong for feeling that, and I’m sure tons of other women will, too. I also understand how you’re feeling in terms of being in shock. Of course you are. It’s like you’re sitting there staring at Pandora’s box, wondering if you should open it or not.
The first thing I think you should do is forgive your friend for telling you. I’m sure she will have agonised over whether or not she should. It won’t have been an easy thing to do. For what it’s worth, if it were me, I would have told you as I know I would rather know myself.
This is a very serious issue and I do believe I am not the right person to give you specific advice. With that in mind I think you should explore discussing this further with a professional who is experienced in this area, perhaps through Relate or a similar organisation. I think what you need to do now is allow yourself time to process this before you make a decision.
I have no doubt you have played the scenarios over in your mind already, and I am sure they are all terrifying. But the reality is, there are many possible outcomes here, but you need to decide which one you want to push for before you set the ball rolling. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t be able to try to make it happen.
Writing to us is taking the first step. Now it’s about how you want your future to look. Many couples go through infidelity and emerge stronger on the other side, or, you might find that after the shock has subsided, you think you’d be happier on your own. The only thing you can control at the moment is your reaction to this news. Give yourself the time for this.
The first thing I must say is that I’m terribly sorry for your predicament. My heart really does go out to you. My assumption is that you have checked the truth of your friend’s report. If not, then please summon the courage to do so — it’s important you are sure about this.
There are no excuses for this kind of despicable behaviour, but we need to know more.
Has your husband’s behaviour changed at all? Surely if he was going out and meeting women for dates then you’d have noticed he was spending a lot less time at home? And if he’s having a full-blown affair then it’s natural to assume he would be acting in a very suspicious manner. Does he hide his phone from you? Charge it in the other room and have furtive texts?
Actually, his behaviour around his phone is key here — if he’s merrily swiping away on his dating app while sitting next to you on the sofa I’d expect you’d know about it!
The reason I say this is because, while I condemn his behaviour utterly, there are shades of grey. It is possible that he has put up a picture of himself online as part of a midlife crisis. This doesn’t make it OK, but it does mean that he hasn’t necessarily acted on his folly.
I’m told by a friend with experience of dating apps that there are plenty of men who simply text back and forth — seeking reassurance from random women that they’ve still ‘got it’.
You say you’re content in your marriage, and I have to say I’d far rather hear you say you’re happy. You’ve been married for 17 years and while, yes, that is a long time, you’ve hopefully got a lot more ahead of you! It is easy to drift into a kind of companionable non-marriage, particularly when you have kids. They may have taken over your life at the expense of your marriage.
So. What to do now? The one thing you really shouldn’t do is bury your head in the sand. No good will come of that. Sit down with your husband and tell him what you know. Try your hardest to be calm when you do so. If what you hear hurts you further, then so be it. If it’s over, it’s over, and you can start to move on.
I hope for you both that your husband has been engaged in a cack-handed attempt to boost his self-confidence and you are able to resolve this and move forward together.
But if not, then take solace from the fact that you have the courage and resilience to get through this, so it’s time to start now. Relationships are hard work and need a lot of attention. I hope that this is all your husband is looking for.