As most of you know, every Monday, MSN.com publishes another one of my Suddenly Single Match.com columns. These can always be found at:
Many of these columns hit a nerve! A recent one generated tons of orders for my book, “Don’t Bet on the Prince!,” Dr. Gilda’s Guides, and my Personal PHONE and Personal E-MAIL Dialogues. In addition, hundreds of you sent me your comments. Because these comments might benefit others in the same situation, I am reprinting
the question and my answer, along with a few valuable insights from you, my readers. Of course, I am keeping all names confidential. I look forward to your comments on this Blog.
THE COLUMN--AND MY RESPONSE
Dear Dr. Gilda,
My divorce is almost final. My husband had an affair and has been living with the woman, but he has been calling and asking me if there is any hope for us. We have a three-year-old son. His girlfriend recently discovered he’s been calling me. He told her he is still in love with me and that he wants to make our family work. I’m scared to jump back in because I don’t feel I can trust him after he cheated on me. Our final divorce hearing is only a month away. Do I give him a second chance, or do I go ahead with the divorce and see what happens after that?
- Wanting to Do the Right Thing
Dear Wanting to Do the Right Thing,
It’s natural to distrust your husband after he betrayed you. And to make the situation more painful, he’s been living with the woman he left you for. This is bad enough, but there are a few other concerns I have about your future with this dude:
1. This guy is unable to be alone. He left you, moved in with the other woman, and as soon as the passion wore off, he decided his new fantasy-land wasn’t what he thought it would be. (No kidding, fool!) So now he wants to return to someone he knows is a sure bet.
2. Why are you considering taking him back? Is it because you’re lonely, or do you really love the sucker? Are you afraid of being single again, or are you convinced the two of you have a real chance at making the marriage work this time?
3. What will make things different the second time around? He left you once and saw few consequences for his actions. He might repeat his little vacation from you, convinced you will take him back again.
I don’t believe you should consider a makeup from your breakup before you get counseling. This is your life—and a three-year-old child is watching! I suggest you proceed with the following:
1. If, and only if, you begin counseling at once, try to postpone your final divorce hearing for six months. By then you’ll have a better idea about your own motives, and you’ll have a sense of whether you want to be with this man again.
2. Begin socializing with girlfriends. See more of the world than you’ve been accustomed to. The more you expand your horizons, the easier it will be for you to make a wise decision about your future.
3. Have some deeper conversations with your husband than you’ve ever had before. Hear his explanations for his bad behavior. Listen as though you were an outsider. Do you buy his excuses?
You have the power now because he’s begging. Don’t rush! As my Gilda-Gram says, “Take time to breathe. The tortoise in you can always catch up with the hare.” Besides, the more you mull over the consequences either of single life or of a re-commitment, the more anxious to return to you your husband will be. That’s just human nature! But it doesn’t mean his hopes and pleas should sway you. This is a crucial decision—take your time and make it the right one.
A FEW COMMENTS FROM READERS
Dear Dr. Gilda,
Another reason to hold off from renewing the physical side of the relationship with the straying husband is that doing so starts the waiting time for filing for a divorce all over again. This means that under most conditions the wife would have to wait the entire period of time before even filing for divorce again. I know this is the case in Maryland, where the waiting period is a year, I believe there would be a similar result in some other states as well.
An attorney practicing family law in Maryland
I did not know this aspect of the divorce law. I asked the attorney whether this was the case in all States. This was his response:
Dear Dr. Gilda:
Yes, I think the same does hold true in MOST other states. However, the only way to be certain would be to look in every State's Family Law statute and applicable Court decisions to see if a reconciliation resets the divorce waiting time back to the beginning (aka "destroying the status of an existing voluntary separation").
It used to be worse in Maryland. Prior to 1972, merely an offer of reconciliation could reset the divorce waiting time back to the beginning. In 1972, the Legislature amended the Family Law statue in Maryland to prevent the making of a reconciliation offer from resetting the divorce waiting time. It is possible some of the more conservative States still observe this Neanderthal theory.
Another reader wrote how the same law hurt her friend:
Dear Dr. Gilda,
I read your column today. In many States, if a woman is divorcing her husband on the grounds of infidelity, she must not have any sexual contact with him or there will be serious financial consequences to her settlement. One of my friends had a moment of weakness and allowed her "soon-to-be-ex" to spend one night with her. This turned out to be an event that had been planned well in advance by the husband and his attorney to change the playing field on the divorce settlement. The judge decided that his infidelity did not bother my friend enough to give anywhere near the alimony she was asking for because she was willing to allow him back in her bed, no matter how brief it was. This may not be what the husband in your column is up to, but it may well be the case.
Thank you for listening.
Another reader offered her own experience to the reader who sent me the question:
Dear Dr. Gilda,
In your Suddenly Single column your reader wanted to know if she should give her cheating husband a second chance. I have some advice for her. I have been there. If this couple is fighting and bickering on a steady basis, then they really do need time apart. My husband figured out that life wasn't so “green" on the other side. If this guy is calling her, then he's having second thoughts, and that's good.
We started out being really hateful to each other at first, and then as time passed, our conversations got nicer. We always told each other we loved each other. You can't just cut off your feelings. After a few months of talking regularly, we actually became friends, probably better friends than before. It felt like the "stress" was off, and we could communicate much better. Like your reader, I had also filed for divorce, and we were a month away from mediation. As our friendship grew and we were able to talk without the hurt feelings, we would meet at open public places and chat. He wanted to reconcile, but I was skittish. We finally made an adult decision that we hoped would help our family. We will be celebrating our 17th year wedding anniversary this month.
It's not easy to forgive and forget, and YES, there are times you wonder, but that's the chance you take. I wish your reader all the best in her very tough decision.
A Woman in Her Shoes.
A male reader, however, thought my question-writer ought to show her husband she means business, and go through with her decision to divorce after all:
Hi, Dr. Gilda,
I just finished reading Suddenly Single. And I liked most of your suggestions. The one thing I think that you're dead wrong on is in the postponement of the divorce, which is a month away. And for six months yet!
I'm a guy, and it’s rare that I'll take the girl’s side of the story. In this case, however, she should go through the divorce to its absolute finality. He needs to know that she can make a decision. Guys don't respect woman who can't decide. I can tell you that I don't. Make the decision, and the situation is clear in his mind. He screwed up. Pure and simple. The consequences have to be clear in his mind. Divorce. I lost her.
Now it’s clear he has to earn back her trust. Whether he gets her back or not is irrelevant. It’s about earning, and if he has to earn it, he'll appreciate it more.
The divorce has to be final.
This is just a small sampling of comments I received. For sure, it is challenging to dissect love from your other emotions. To simplify your situation, and clarify your decision-making, follow this Gilda-Gram, a new Commandment for you: "Thou shalt not fornicate whilst thou litigates." From the legal advice we received, and from other comments above, make whatever decision you make out of strength. Consider the reasons you’re leaving. Consider therapy and mediation. But while you’re considering, sleep alone!