When I discovered that the man I’d loved and trusted for 20 years had a secret girlfriend on the side for the last 10, I knew what I had to do. I threw Mike out, changed the locks, got a good therapist and, with the support of my amazing friends and family, I’m doing my best to move on.
But I’m left with a question. It’s a big one. And I want to get it right.
Should I tell Maggie’s husband?
Although Mike cheated on me with Maggie for 10 years, I learned, when he finally came clean about the affair, that the two of them actually go back 30 years. They see themselves as star-crossed soul mates, meant to be together but kept apart by circumstance.
They originally met in grad school. They saw each other across a crowded conference room. The attraction was immediate. “She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen,” Mike told me.
Sparks flew! Love blossomed.
But Mike, alas, was married. And he and his wife Jill had a young child.
So? They carried on behind Jill’s back.
When Jill (inevitably) found out, she told Mike that if he wanted to stay married, he had to stop seeing Maggie. So he did. Eventually. After Maggie graduated and moved to New Jersey.
By the time Jill finally divorced Mike years later, Maggie was married, and she and her husband had a young child.
So Mike took up with me. I wasn’t perfect passionate beautiful Maggie, but I’m pretty cool in my own quiet way. And I wasn’t married and living in New Jersey.
Ten years into our relationship, he phoned Maggie and they picked up where they’d left off.
I never had a clue. They kept what they were up to well hidden. She knew all about me, but I had no idea she existed.
Their secret relationship flourished until I stumbled upon evidence of their passionate, intense and decades-long union.
That’s an experience I don’t recommend to anyone. You’ve been with a guy for decades. You think you know him. You definitely love him. You have no doubt that he loves you. Then you discover that for years he’s been in love with somebody you’ve never even heard of.
Learning about Maggie was one of the worst moments of my life.
So — do I tell Maggie’s husband? Do I give him his own cruelly illuminating emotionally devastating very-worst-moment?
Why would I want to do that?
Because the only thing I know for absolute certain is that if he’d discovered the affair first, I would have wanted him to tell me.
It was devastating to learn about Maggie. I was shocked. Horrified. It felt as if the Universe had gut-punched me.
But I’m so glad that I know the truth.
It makes me sick to think that this could have gone on for years. I could have continued to be a trusting chump in love with a liar with a secret girlfriend for the rest of my life!
Thank God that’s over.
Wouldn’t Maggie’s husband feel the same?
If it were just a stupid little fling, two people who met and maybe had too much to drink and fell into bed together, and then repented and fessed up and said it would never happen again? I wouldn’t tell. A strong relationship can recover from that.
But if your wife has been phoning and texting and meeting for furtive sex in hotel rooms with another man for a decade, wouldn’t you want to know?
I imagine phoning him out of the blue. “You don’t know me,” I say, “but you and I have something in common. Your wife is in love with my boyfriend.”
The one thing that stops me is that fact that he and Maggie have a 15-year-old son.
Do I really want to do something that could break up his parents’ marriage?
I’m an honest person. I was raised to believe that telling the truth is the best thing to do. But, as every grown-up knows, sometimes it’s necessary, even ethical, to lie. To spare somebody’s feelings. To save a life. To preserve and protect something valuable.
As a lawyer I know once put it, “Honestly is usually the best policy.”
Is keeping mum the best policy for me?
Maggie’s husband continues to live, as I once lived, in a fool’s paradise, believing that he’s in a good marriage.
If I tell him the truth and he leaves Maggie, it will hurt Maggie (Yay! Hurrah!) But it could also hurt their son.
Being 15 is tough enough without your parents marriage imploding because of a long-term secret love affair.
Of course, telling the truth might finally, after 30 years, leave Mike and Maggie free to become the couple they’ve always longed to be.
And there’s no question in my mind that these two richly deserve each other.
Now that I’ve cut Mike loose, I’m free to find a partner who is honest and trustworthy and who loves me truly and well.
Don’t you think that Maggie’s husband deserves that too?