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Ask Ellie: When in doubt about partner's fidelity, be direct

Don’t let doubts cloud your most important relationship. Ask directly what’s going on.

Dear Ellie: My husband of 16 years and I have two sons. We’ve known each other since we met at university, so there have been few surprises, until recently.

He got a new job five years ago and was given a project teammate. He introduced me to her early on, and I liked her.

He said she was gay, and didn’t mind if he told me. She came to dinner at our house a couple of times, and was very good company. It was all very friendly and relaxed.

Then, before COVID, my husband said they had another more demanding project and he’d be working late sometimes, also travelling occasionally. I thought nothing of it, and just adjusted my own schedule by working from home, which I stayed with when the pandemic started.

Meanwhile, I began to wonder about their relationship. Once they weren’t going to the office, my husband still insisted his “partner” was in his COVID bubble and they had to get together sometimes. When some restrictions were lowered, he was at her place several times a week.

I’m now wondering if both of them have been playing me for a fool? What are your thoughts?

Suspect Third Party

Your thoughts are the important clue here. An evening or two a week of working with a project partner is only about “time.” What you’re uneasy about is the content of that time.

Assess your response by considering his behaviour when he’s at home alone with you, after the kids go to sleep. Is he warm and personal with you, interested in your day, cuddling and intimate in bed? Or tired from work and soon asleep?

Ask him directly: Is he using the word “gay” as a cover for their having a sexual relationship? If he insists that “she’s gay,” tell him that doesn’t mean that their relationship isn’t interfering with your marital life. It is.

What matters is honesty between you two. If he considers her his best friend, then he’s denying you that same important bond. If, instead, he’s honest about an attachment to her — whether they’re having sex or not — the future is now up to you to decide.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the question from a reader whose mother has Alzheimer’s’ (Jan. 22):

“Her husband knows. What is she going to tell him that’ll make him more understanding? Nothing. All she can do is tell him that she’s sorry, and it’s tough for her as well.

“I suggest a discussion about what can be done. Does the husband have any suggestions? They can ask around, whether people who went through that situation can offer any advice.

“I experienced this situation with my mom. First, I took her to a neurologist who prescribed very good medication — not a cure, but a way of slowing down the process.

“I also realized I needed time “off.” I hired somebody to take care of my mom for this reason. Also, I hired somebody who would take my mom for walks every day. Small things that made life easier.

“I think it was also easier for my mom, not being “stuck” with just me.

“There are solutions, small steps, that can be taken and make everybody feel better. Also, it’s good to hear other people’s stories because you might learn how to deal with new situations that arise.

“The worst part is when this person dies, if you feel so guilty thinking that you did not do your best.”

FEEDBACK regarding the book whose life-coach/author advises career-planning in 18-year stages (Feb. 18):

Reader: “His formula urges young adults from age 18 to explore ideas for their future, but wait until age 36 to decide what they really want to do.” Etc.

“What decade is he living in? Today’s technology and job markets are continually changing. The job a person has at 36 won’t be the same job the person has at 63. Today, a person must be continually growing and learning, not “deciding” at 36.

“Every job I ever had, in some way prepared me for the next job that I got. What I “wanted to do at 36,” is nothing like what I wanted to do later at 63.”

Ellie: Interesting to me, was that, years before I interviewed this man about his theory, my own life — education, marriage, then career path, coincidentally came in waves of time, mostly 18 years.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Don’t let doubts cloud your most important relationship. Ask directly what’s going on.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.