QUESTION: I have been married for 21 years. I am 50, my husband 45. Out of nowhere, he said he wanted a divorce. That same week, I found out he had started a texting relationship with a coworker, which turned into sneaking around and seeing her. The whole time, he lied about everything. Unless I got proof of a lie, only then he would admit to it. He swears they had no sex.

He ended that relationship, which lasted five months. He said he would work on our marriage. That was three weeks ago. Just tonight, I found a printout in his stuff about a quick divorce. Its print date was from today. I love my husband, and believe to ask forgiveness you must also forgive. I was a bitch and mean to him for 15 years. I promised to change, which is important to me, to save my marriage. What the hell do I do? I don’t want to give up.

ANSWER: I am sorry to hear of your pain. These types of happenings are traumatic and shocking to the system. Having been through it myself, I know how brutal it is. They are also an incredible chance for deep healing. The helplessness part of this process is the most difficult to bear, after the betrayal. You are helpless here. So you know that his actions are damaging and not excusable. The question is whether he is willing to do something about it. All you can do is to open up the channels of communication and see if he is willing to do the work or is willing to work it out. Whether you decide to stay together or separate, a couples therapist will be of invaluable assistance here. It will help clear the smoke and show what the underlying issues are that have led to this breakdown.

You say you were “mean to him for 15 years”. What was the reason for this? A fear of intimacy on your part or because of some past trauma with him? Regardless of which direction your marriage goes, this is an opportunity for you to deal with your own baggage and heal the past. You are not a victim of circumstance here, regardless of how it might seem externally. It usually takes something so brutal to force us to face ourselves. Here is your chance to open your heart.