Welcome to Relationship Rehab, a weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.
This week, resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles a husband whose affair has come back to haunt him.
My affair has come back to haunt me
Question: My wife and I have been together for 25 years and on the whole, we've been happy. The only problem is that for the past 10 years I've been hiding a terrible secret.
When our kids were younger and life was tough, I had an affair with a woman from work. I'm not proud of what I did but it was a brief fling and seemed harmless at the time. The woman moved away and I moved on with my life.
The only problem is that my ex-mistress got back in touch recently and says her 10-year-old boy is mine. I haven't had a paternity test so I don't even know if it's true but the dates do match up, I don't want to ruin our relationship because of a past mistake. I'm terrified of what my wife will do if she finds out. What should I do?
Answer: A fling is never harmless.
You may be realising that now that you're seeing the repercussions.
You screwed up. Your wife is likely to be devastated if – when – she finds out.
You have a responsibility to the woman you had an affair with – and potentially your child with her. You need to get really clear on whether this child is yours. If it is, you need to take responsibility. That's going to have a huge impact on your entire family and I feel for them.
You seem to be having some difficulty taking responsibility for this at all. It sounds like you didn't end the relationship because you wanted to, but because your ex-mistress moved away. You've also said that you're worried about what your wife will do if she finds out (read: you're worried about the impact this will have on you), not worried about how this will potentially completely devastate and shatter your wife.
It's not fair to simply call this "a past mistake". Don't diminish it like that. This is infidelity. If your relationship is ruined after this, it's because of your infidelity and lying. Not because of "a past mistake". Take responsibility.
Whether you tell your wife about the paternity test now or not, is really a decision that you really need to make yourself.
If there's a good chance that your wife will find out about this affair at some point, it's in both your interests for you to disclose to her sooner rather than later.
In regards to an affair, the longer it takes for someone to find out, the harder it can be. But make no mistake, it's going to be devastating for your wife to hear whether you're the father of the child or not. You don't get brownie points for being honest at this point.
I suppose you do have the possibility of not telling your wife about the affair at all if you're not the father, but if you are, she'll know that you've been going through this process for weeks without telling her (yet again). And if she finds out anyway, she'll wonder why you didn't tell her.
Having said all of that, and I know it's not a popular fact, but relationships can recover from infidelity. It will be up to your wife whether she wants to work through this with you.
Expect for it to take years to work through this if/when she does find out. I hope you're prepared to do that, given it was you who caused this.
Am I in love, or is it just a habit now?
Question: How do you know when someone is really in love with you? My husband says he loves me but he doesn't really show it. Sometimes he's short with me and he seems happier when he's with his mates at the pub. I'm questioning whether we're really in love or if our relationship is just a habit.
Answer: Love changes throughout a relationship. The phase we normally associate with being "in love" is called "limerence". In this stage, our bodies release a cocktail of endorphins that help us feel excited about the other person and connected to them.
Love then grows through other phases. According to John Gottman, these are "Building Trust" and "Building Loyalty and Commitment". In these phases, for a relationship to be successful, couples must learn to argue well together, support each other and keep each other's interests in mind.
Your husband seeming happier when he's out with his friends may not be a matter of his love for you, but an indication that there are issues going on in your relationship that need to be addressed. Talk to him about it and take steps together to rebuild your friendship, improve communication and find ways to show each other you care.