Dear Annie: My husband of 18 years recently had a stroke and is in rehabilitation because of partial paralysis. I have been with him at the hospital every day since the ordeal, helping him get better.
While at the hospital, I found out through his Facebook page and his cellphone that he was cheating on me. I am frustrated and thinking of leaving him rot in his bed at the hospital.
We have three teenage and preteen children, and right now they are all feeling sorry for their dad.
Do I tell my kids what is going on? Or do I put on a fake smile and pretend all is good — at least until he gets out of the hospital, which may take years? I'm really not sure what I will do. If I do not do anything right now, I feel I will forgive him and go on as if it never happened. — Frustrated and Lost
Dear Frustrated: Don't tell your kids what's going on; it would only hurt them. But don't just put on a smile and pretend things are good, either. If you want to stick this out and try making the marriage work, you and your husband will need to see a marriage counselor. There are counselors who make house calls, so to speak, and in this case could meet with you and your husband right in his hospital room.
Your situation is obviously complicated, and I'm sure you're experiencing a wide range of emotions all at once. So I would also recommend that you go by yourself to another therapist, someone who can provide you with tools for processing your feelings and practicing self-care during this tumultuous time.
Dear Annie: I'm writing in response to the letter from "Weak and on Bended Knee," who feels stuck in a bad relationship. I was there once, and it took me years — long after he was gone — to finally understand why I had stayed. It's an obsession to protect the ego from the truth. When intelligent people allow themselves to get into a situation such as the one "Weak" described, they can't leave because their ego would have to admit the bad choices that were made. And the ego is a mighty strong force. The ego keeps saying, "It's love." It isn't. It's just too ugly for us to admit what it really is. But it's when people can admit to themselves that they stooped below their personal standards that the obsession ends and they finally can be free.
Of course, you still shudder down to your bones every time you remember how badly you behaved in the past. But otherwise, it's over. I don't think a lot of people actually understand that admitting you were below yourself is the true path to freedom. Please pass it on. It may help others get free faster than I did. — K.R.
Dear K.R.: It's true; the longer we stay in bad relationships the more invested our egos become in maintaining the status quo, no matter how bad it is. Being radically honest with oneself is the first step. But I take issue with your comment about how you behaved badly. If you were in a neglectful or abusive relationship, your perspective was warped, and you should not feel ashamed for what happened. Be gentle. Show yourself as much compassion as you would a friend.
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