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David Eddie's Damage Control

My husband's mistress moved into the guest house Add to ...

The question

My husband of 35 years has invited his lover to live in the guest house of our farm. He met her while she was visiting from Europe for three days; they fell for each other and became lovers. I'm devastated by this. While we were not super, super happy, we are good friends, talk to each other about most things and have the same view of life: In short, we're on the same page. We have three children, ages 19, 25 and 26. The youngest still lives with us.

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I've told him that under no circumstances will I allow this. His parents are supportive of him, while his brothers are appalled. The children are so disgusted by their dad's behaviour (they've told him so), that they are sticking close to me and want nothing to do with him, and especially not with this woman. How does a man throw away 35 years without any remorse? Do men really behave so badly in the waning part of life?

The answer

The answer to your last question is: I'm afraid so, madam; I'm afraid so.

As to the whys and wherefores, that may be a little outside this column's purview.

Maybe it's precisely because he's in the "waning part of life." Mortality looms, the flesh sags, maybe he mistimed his Viagra - suddenly this European babe comes along. He can't believe she even looks at him, let alone allows him to have his way with her. Cha-a-a-rge!

Probably it is simple houndliness. It never ceases to amaze me what men will throw away when an opportunity presents itself. Don't get between a horny man and something he wants. You could lose an eye.

(I don't want to be guilty of sexism here: Women can be dogs, too, though I've seen less first-hand evidence of this.)

But I sense, madam, that what you're really asking is how you should handle this with aplomb, so that you can come out smelling more like a rose than a freshly fertilized field.

Prepare yourself for a surprise: Maybe you should let him establish residence in the guest house with his mistress. Because your next step is to pick up the Yellow Pages, look under Lawyers: Divorce, phone them all up, and then hire the one that seems like the smartest, most aggressive, nastiest one of them all.

Then strap on your cowboy boots and kick your husband right in the assets, where it hurts the most.

You should come out of this episode with both the farm and the guest house - at the very minimum.

You seem to me to have pretty much an open-and-shut case. But with your scalawag soon-to-be ex setting up some kind of crazy rural ménage-rie in your guest house - the outrageousness of it could cause the right judge to become emotional and really hose your husband down.

Now, don't get me wrong. While I do encourage you to win, I don't want to encourage you to think in terms of annihilating an enemy.

Once you've won - that is, once you've Hoovered everything out of your husband's bank account and had all the properties and assets put in your name - be gracious.

Remember: There are other losers in this transaction. I read somewhere, once, that the worst time for one's parents to divorce is when their offspring are in their late teens or early 20s (which is when mine did), because that's the age at which a person is just starting to become serious in his/her romantic relationships. Seeing parents divorce can make you bitter, cynical, jaded just as you're coming out of the gate.

Show your kids your mettle. It is an axiom of parenting that your offspring learn more from watching you than from listening to you; and they learn the most, I feel, from watching you face adversity.

Be a model of courage and grace under fire. Of course, you are allowed to be mad and to vent; in fact I encourage it. Bottled-up anger turns bitter fast. But reserve your venting, as much as possible, for friends and people outside the family circle, for fear of sending your kids into a frenzy of righteous rage and/or turning them permanently against their father (which, though it might seem hard to believe right now, you don't want).

And maybe you'll both wind up happier in the long run.

Even though your husband will be, thanks to your lawyer's thunderous summation, poor as a church mouse, and likely living in a tiny, cramped apartment, he may nevertheless find happiness in the arms of this European woman.

And I wish you, madam, only the best in finding someone more suitable (I know it's tautological, but nevertheless true, that if your husband could do this to you it means he was ipso facto no longer right for you); or perhaps just the strength to know you no longer need your husband.

I'm sure that in 35 years there were some good times. Focus on those, and (having lawyered up and taken your husband to the cleaners), move on.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, will be published in the spring of 2010.

I've made a huge mistake

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