My Husband or My Other?

Who do I choose?

I’m a 40 year old woman with a 4 year old son. About 18 months ago my husband of 10 years had an online emotional affair and one day told me that he never really loved me and wanted a separation. I was devastated.  He also had an ongoing porn addiction which affected our sex life. There was often a coldness and distance between us. However he has always been a hard worker and good provider.

I literally had a nervous breakdown and went into the hospital. He remained very cold and I had an affair and met someone else. I met a man who was very kind to me and we have a bond and a closeness I never felt with my husband. However he has a mild mental disability and is on a government pension. We moved in together and are talking marriage. After all this my husband one day decides he wants to get back together.

Now I am torn as to what to do. He hurt me a great deal and I don’t know that I can trust him anymore. I have a friendship and bond with my current partner that is deep and he tries to provide as best he can but cannot provide the way my husband could. Also because of his disability and the commitment we made to each other I feel if I left him it would destroy him. He has been rejected by his family and many other people. I could use some advice as to what to do. Stay with my current partner whom I don’t want to hurt?  Or get back with my husband who broke it off with me and treated me cruelly? 

In a lot of ways my current partner helped me when I was forlorn and rejected and I feel like if I were to leave him because my husband wants me back I would be the bad person. My heart is so torn and I don’t know what to do. Please. Please give me some advice or wisdom as to which path I should take.

~Joy

Dear Joy,

At the moment, your name is not a reflection of your state of mind. There are no magic words we have to quickly solve your dilemma, though we disagree with you as to what your choices are. You turned to us for guidance and so we are going to respect you enough to speak honestly. 

We all make mistakes in life. Some are more serious than others, and we’re afraid that yours falls into this category. It sounds like your husband and your marriage had serious problems. The distress of being in a marriage where the best you can say is that your husband is a good provider is immense. Sadly, pornography is a vice whose tentacles are reaching into many men’s lives and discovering that your husband was being emotionally unfaithful to you was heart-wrenching. For a woman to be told that by her husband that he never loved her is excruciatingly painful.

Given those unfortunate circumstances, it is questionable whether your marriage was salvageable even with a great deal of therapy and soul-growth. However, we don’t think that you will ever know that because your reaction—having an affair—took away the opportunity. Your husband behaved badly, you behaved badly and the man you are living with behaved badly (by entering into an adulterous relationship).

There is truly only one innocent victim in this story and you barely mention him. That is your young son. While we sympathize with you, we think that he is the one in this whole, sad tale whose interests are primary. You don’t say anything about your husband wanting a relationship with his son, but if it is safe, having a father is vital for a boy, and certainly possible even if his parents are divorced. However, we think that you now need to take whatever steps are necessary to establish a home for your son that does not include your being in a personal relationship with either of these two men and certainly not with any new men.

We encourage you to find out who you are in your own right, and to build on your strengths and combat your weaknesses and determine just what sort of woman you want to become. Your son needs an emotionally, psychologically and spiritually healthy mother and a stable environment.  We think this will entail months and years of working on yourself, with the help of spiritual mentors, supportive friends and family, and a good therapist. Only at that point will there even be the possibility of sharing your life with someone else, but from a position of strength rather than neediness.

The most important man in your life right now is your son. He has already suffered from the missteps of the adults in his life. Your opportunity for atonement comes from changing the path of his life by doing the hard and arduous work of turning away from your errors and looking forward.

We pray that your life soon reflects your lovely name,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin 


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