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Marriage is plainly finished

Dear Carolyn: A year ago (and a year after my wedding) I found out that during the wedding planning, my spouse had an affair. Since we had been married a year and I loved him, I wanted to stay and work on the relationship.

Recently, I found out that he had been talking to some other woman and told her he was divorced and living with his ex-wife in separate bedrooms. At that point I packed my car and drove home from Colorado to Virginia, where I’m from.

He says he’s sorry, that he’s been in counseling, that he’s never giving up. We have no kids, no mortgage, no shared assets – I’m 25 and he’s 27, and my entire relationship with him has been about him, not who I want to be.

Part of me feels like I got a do-over to live my life the way I want to, but am I giving up too easily? I’m not sure I can look past the hurtful things he’s done, but I don’t want to leave without trying everything.

– Anonymous

A: As it happens, I just referred in a recent column to the importance of doing all you can to save a marriage. But that advice rested on a presumption there was intimacy in the relationship once, and therefore the goal was to restore it.

In your case, your two revelations – the affair while planning your wedding and the lie-infused extracurriculars while you were supposedly working on your marriage – suggest there was never any intimacy to begin with. Instead, they suggest there was only the illusion of it, the illusion of a marriage, while your husband devoted his attention to serving his own needs on the side.

Given all you know now, does that sound about right?

Maybe it doesn’t, or maybe you have your own reasons for “trying everything,” be it your conscience or your respect for the institution of marriage or your desire for a vaccine against future regrets. No one should talk you out of those.

Maybe, too, your husband is the rare exception who isn’t groveling just because he got caught and because he now stands to lose his sturdy platform from which to indulge himself, and instead he really is doing the hard work to get well from the treatable ailment that happens to be the sole cause of his taking shameless advantage of you.

By all means, wrestle with these possibilities.

However, anyone who has been betrayed and insulted as you have also has earned the right to skip “trying everything” on a marriage that, pardon the grim analogy, is plainly DOA.

Oddball family request

Dear Carolyn: My parents are both deceased. I have known relatives only on my mother’s side.

After doing some research, I found family on my father’s side a few years ago – a first cousin and her husband. We’ve met in person and spoken on the phone and through email.

This cousin, “Joyce,” wants only me to be in contact with her – no other relatives, including her children and their families. I’m not comfortable with that. I’d appreciate your feedback!

– J.

A: An odd request for sure, and the best approach to any odd request is to insist, gently, on knowing why before you agree to it.

Obviously, Joyce has no business telling you whom you can and can’t contact, the adults at least – but because she has presumed to do so anyway, expect that ignoring Joyce’s wishes will cost you Joyce. Whether that’s an acceptable price is entirely up to you.

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