Q. My wife had an affair almost 30 years ago with a married man. The affair lasted several years (at the time I found several letters). Fast forward to now : I found a birthday card to him on her desk. I positioned it so it would be evident I’d seen it, hoping it would lead to a conversation. After several weeks of no response, I asked her about it. She denied writing it or knowing anything about it.
I now struggle with trust all over again. What advice can you offer? This man lives several states away but that did not stop anything physical and emotional last time. — Greetings
A. The birthday card isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe she was daydreaming about him (it happens), or heard something about his life and wanted to send some benign thing to let him know she still cares. I’m not saying any of that is great for your relationship, but sometimes, instead of Googling exes, people send cards. Life is complicated.
The bigger issue is that she denied she did it. It sounds a bit like gaslighting; you saw a card on your wife’s desk, written in her handwriting, and addressed to her ex-lover (right?), and she told you she had no idea what you were talking about. It would have been so much better for her to ask for privacy than to deny that it happened.
My advice is to approach the conversation again, and to tell her how it’s making you feel to be dismissed. It’s easier to trust her intentions if she acknowledges that the card existed. Also, if this ever happens again, just bring her the evidence. The passive-aggressive “I see you!” display of the card clearly didn’t work for anyone.
I’m sure you have wondered about ex-girlfriends before. The sticking point here is that your wife had an affair with this man, so the overlap to your marriage is what makes these otherwise normal actions unfortunate and suspect. I’m sorry, but try not to assume the worst. . . .
I’m not asking this in a condescending way, letter writer, so please take it with the kindness intended. Are you happy? At some point, you need to look at yourself and think about what you want. Do you trust your wife? Do you still love her? (You don’t say you do in the letter.)
I am going to suggest marriage counseling, to air this and to learn some skills for communicating with each other better. JIVEDIVA
I don’t get it. It would make sense if it had been a card from this guy to your wife, but it was from her to the guy? Why would that be sitting on her desk for any length of time? You fill it out and mail it. Or you buy it and don’t fill it out ‘til you’re about to mail it. To fill it out, but then have it sitting out? ENJOYEVERYSANDWICH
Agreed! It was never mailed if he found it on her desk! REDSOXPATRIOTSNYFANMeredith Goldstein’s novel “Chemistry Lessons” is now available. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.