Dear Prudence: Three months ago, the woman who was having an affair with my husband died suddenly in an accident. I found out about the affair only two days after her funeral. I thought she was simply a co-worker and I was wondering why my husband was so disturbed and emotional. He quit his job, saying it was too traumatic to go to work. She was in the early weeks of pregnancy when she died and my husband doesn’t know whether he or her husband was the father. So, on top of everything, he’s also grieving for a baby that may or may not have been his.
I find it difficult to be emotionally supportive when he wakes up at 3 a.m. crying and trembling — yet I don’t have the heart to yell at him like I want to.
He says she’s dead, so there’s no reason for me to feel jealous or threatened, and asks for my understanding as he grieves. We’ve barely talked these last weeks because I don’t know how to respond to my husband when he cries and says he misses her and wishes she were here, then also how much he loves me and that he never intended to leave me.
I asked him to visit a marriage therapist together and he said he’s “not ready” to work on our marriage, and thinks he needs to see a grief therapist instead. Do I need to give him time to mourn the loss of his mistress? Or should I demand he focus on our marriage?
Prudence says: You cannot impose a schedule on someone else’s grief. So I think you should let your husband fully experience his — alone.
If you are being asked to be an understanding source of solace while he mourns the loss of his mistress, a woman who was possibly the mother of his child, then that is an emotional burden that’s simply outside the bounds of what one spouse can ask of another.
He’s told you he can’t work on his marriage because he’s too torn up about the death of the woman he loved. So I think you should tell him to move out while you each figure out what you want out of your marriage and life.
In addition, I hope he is independently wealthy, or has fantastically in-demand professional skills, because quitting his job over her death indicates he’s gone off the deep end.
I can’t imagine how he’s going to explain that departure to potential employers. Of course you’re reeling over these events, so if he won’t see a counselor with you, consider going alone. And you’ve left us all wondering: Does the grieving widower have any idea what his wife was up to?
Send your questions for publication to prudenceslate.com.