Dear Mary: I am torn between my wife and my lover and it breaks my heart

I need help. I have a self-inflicted broken heart. I have been married for 21 years and have three grown children; two in college and one almost there. I have never been happy. Never. I had fleeting moments. Especially with my children, whom I adore and to whom I am devoted.

On four years ago i joined a dating site. It wasn’t for the sex as that was never an issue in our marriage – it was always good. It was for a friend and to meet someone, just for me away from everything in my world. I met someone, Anna*.

We talked for months without meeting. We fell in love immediately and had the best four years together despite not being able to give her the time and attention she deserves. We are best friends and she is the first person I think of in every situation.

I was disloyal to both of them. My wife, who was a wonderful and loving mother, and Anna who doesn’t know the whole truth about my life.

I tried to pull away from Anna but my broken heart brings me back to her. I know that by leaving my wife, I will lose the respect of my children, and the way they look at me is everything to me. But if I stay, I’ll be heartbroken. I know Anna is the person I’m supposed to be with, but how do I break my wife’s heart?

I’m lost and broke up with Anna now; I’m not doing well with all of this. I don’t know what to do and I have absolutely no one to talk to. Please help.

Mary responds: You definitely need help because you have so many conflicting thoughts. So, let’s try to figure out what’s going on for you. You have a wonderful wife and children, now adults, but in all your life you have never felt happiness. Not before meeting Anna. And that’s what I don’t quite understand.

You went to a dating site not to meet someone to have sex with, but out of friendship. Someone who could take you away from it all. It was a weird thing to do, because when people look for new friends or get an interest outside of home and work, they usually join a club, take up a new hobby or sport. With these new things in their life, they form new friendships with like-minded people. You report a good sex life with your wife, who should also be your best friend, so I wonder why you had to go somewhere else for friendship.

Why are you able to have sexual intimacy but not emotional intimacy with her? On the dating site, you met Anna, who was presumably looking for love. She has become the center of your life outside the home and when you met you fell in love with her.

And yet, after four years old, she still doesn’t know all the details of your life, although I don’t know what you actually told her. You have now broken up with her but are twice as unhappy as before. And you still have no one to talk to. So, the very first thing is that you need to find someone you can confide in, and it should be a professional. This will give you the space, once a week, to focus fully on yourself when, with the help of the therapist, you can try to find out where all this unhappiness is coming from.

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Even if you were to leave your wife for Anna, you would still be unhappy because you know it would change your children’s perception of you.

You know how unfair you are to your wife and Anna, and to yourself. So it’s time to try to figure out what’s causing all your unhappiness, and then make firm decisions about what to do with the rest of your life.

To visit which is the website of the Psychological Society of Ireland to find a psychologist in your area.

You should also speak to your GP as they may feel that you are clinically depressed.

*not his real name

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or by emailing her at [email protected] or by writing to c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be dealt with confidential manner. Mary O’Conor regrets that she cannot answer any questions in private.

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