I can’t forgive my husband for his post-retirement affair

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my late 70s. My husband and I are the same age, and we dated as teenagers before getting married. We were blessed with children and a grandchild, and even built our own house, which made me believe that we were living a happy life. But I was totally wrong. After retiring, my husband began an affair.

The other woman is the wife of a man who used to work for my husband. My husband met her when I was away. I have no grudge against the woman, but I can’t forgive my spouse. He cheated on me for years, and when I found out about it, he said, “I’d have continued the relationship if you hadn’t caught on,” and “I don’t feel bad about it.” When I think about how I devoted myself to such a man, I feel mortified and cry every day.

I loved him so much, but now I’m filled with hatred and find it hard to live with him. He has asked for my forgiveness, but I can’t believe anything anymore. I asked him to make amends for the good times he enjoyed with her, but I got no response. I’ve thought about getting a divorce, but I wouldn’t be able to tell my kids the reason for the split. What can I do to feel better emotionally, even slightly?

— C, Niigata Prefecture

Dear Ms. C:

You were shocked to find out about your husband’s affair. Right now, I think you need a break to rest your mind and pull yourself together. Spending time with your husband, for whom you feel nothing but hatred, will only reopen the wounds in your heart.

Why don’t you take a holiday by yourself for a couple of weeks or so, staying in a hot spring resort or a luxury hotel in Tokyo, with your husband paying for it? Face up to your feelings during this time and ponder what to do in the future, including how you’re going to deal with your marriage.

In your letter, you initially said your husband “didn’t feel bad” about his infidelity, but you later said he asked for your forgiveness. Which is correct? Even though your husband asked you to forgive him, and even if you could put the past aside, I don’t think the trust you once felt can be restored.

I believe the affair he began shortly after retirement with a woman who was close at hand was a shameful act by a lonely man who trampled on the respect you felt for him.

If getting a divorce is unfeasible for financial reasons, I suggest you psychologically distance yourself from your spouse and expand your world through hobbies, studies and activities, such as volunteer work. Please take care of yourself and spend time with your friends and children, who make you happy.

— Junko Umihara, psychiatrist