I cheated on my wife once several years ago with my co-worker on a business trip out of town and ended it after that one time but I feel really sad all the time and I really don’t want to be married any longer but I am trying to honor my vows to a wonderful woman who has been by my side for 17 years whom I am not even sure I am in love with any longer although of course I love her and she’s never been anything but good to me. How do I handle this?

—Cheater (United States)


I applaud your integrity and willingness to look at how to handle this. First of all, although you cheated once, consider not labeling yourself a cheater because that was one mistake, not who you are as a person, as evidenced by your email.

Are you still working at the same place with your co-worker you had sex with? If so, consider asking for a transfer to another branch (if your company has various locations) or looking for a different job. It would be very hard to move on if you have to still see and interact with that person every day.

Keep in mind, too, that it is easy to mourn the could-have-beens when you only interacted with that woman for one great occasion rather than having to see her in the banality of daily living with possible arguments over whose turn it is to do the dishes or the toilet seat being left up. Is there a way you can create some passion and newness with your wife? Going on a trip together or doing something new? It is easy to forget the charm and magic of a woman you have spent almost two decades with because it is easy for anyone to start to take those charms and particular brand of magic for granted when so used to them that they become part of the scenery, beautiful but almost invisible at times.

I suggest you go to counseling and also start couples’ counseling with your wife rather than quietly suffering in regret, guilt, and unfulfilled desire, as I imagine you might have been doing all these years.

After you’ve been doing therapy or counseling for at least a year or two, you can have a clearer idea of the energies in you that make you feel unfulfilled as well as what you truly need in a relationship. At that point, only you can decide what’s right for you. If you cannot love your wife the way it sounds like she deserves to be loved, perhaps it is kindest for you to let her go at that point. But without trying, you will never know if you could have had magic and passion and fun with the woman you’re already with.

Much love on your journey.

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