Dear Wanda and Wayne,
I just spent last week staring down my husband's ex-affair partner from Anchorage at a conference in another state. She didn't seem very interested in talking to me ... go figure.
It's two years since it all came to light. He and I are recovering, but the experience stirred up some nasty feelings. He was a complete dumb-a--, which he freely admits.
This was not her first workplace affair with a married co-worker. She is single. She is outwardly a smart, attractive and competent professional. My only issue with her is that I'm baffled by why anyone with all that going for themselves would be interested in a 10-month affair with a married guy (she was well-aware he was married, albeit unhappily). Or for that matter, a series of one-nighters with guys she works with. She does have a pattern established. What gives?
-- Better but Still Baffled
What gives is that you shouldn't spend another minute worrying about this woman -- she's on her journey and the more time you dwell on her, the less time you're investing in repairing your life and relationship.
It's human to have a visceral response to seeing someone who participated in such a damaging incident in your life. And you know what, that's perfectly fine -- why would you feel anything but anger and disgust toward her after an unexpected bump-in? But don't let it consume you and don't fool yourself into thinking that she's the problem.
She wasn't the problem to begin with. Your reaction to bumping into her is proof that you still haven't made peace with your husband and his affair. I mean, you're still calling him a dumb-a-- two years later.
I'm sorry you went through that ordeal and serious props to you for trying to work through the mess with your husband -- few people could follow that level of distrust by offering a second chance. But there's still a lot of work to do if you truly want a happy life with this man. Find a marriage counselor, if you haven't already, and get very serious about that work. And be honest with yourself -- is it worth the effort? Can you live the rest of your life with a man you can't forgive?
Tough questions, tough road ahead -- good luck.
Many couples muddle through and recover from infidelity, but it takes time and -- like Wayne says -- work. I agree: If you haven't already, try marriage counseling. For personal support, check out survivinginfidelity.com. It hosts some helpful online forums for people who have been cheated on.
There are many reasons people have affairs. Boredom. Cheap thrills. Revenge. Interestingly, and generally speaking, experts say that men and women usually cheat on their partners for different reasons.
For men, it's about the sex. For women, it's about emotional fulfillment. Likewise, men who cheat tend to see it as an isolated sideline activity and aren't typically looking for a relationship to replace their marriage. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to get emotionally involved and view their lover as an alternative option to their current one -- all of this according to Helen Fisher, PhD., author of "Why Him? Why Her?"
Fisher's research found that more than half the men she polled who were unfaithful were also perfectly happy in their marriage, whereas only a third of the women claimed to be happy with their spouses.
So why did this woman go down that path with your man? Who knows. Maybe she was lonely or sad. Maybe she's an awful person with no morals. Maybe she genuinely felt a connection to him and chose to go for it rather than keep away. Maybe she's not interested in commitment and found attractive the fact that he was taken, because it meant it wouldn't go any further than just sex.
We could speculate for eternity. Whatever the case -- again, Wayne is right -- that is her path. You're on your own road now. Leave her behind, stop pondering her motives as best you can and move forward, either on your own or while working toward forgiving and trusting your husband again.
Best of luck.
• Wanda is a wise woman who has loved, lusted and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.