Q: My husband and I just moved to another state so he could get his MBA. Last night, he told me that he's been having an affair for a few months. He says he doesn't love me any longer, but feels obligated to stay with me. I don't have anyone here to talk with and I don't have any support, so I'm at a loss as to what I should do. Do I try to work it out with him? Should I move back home? There are so many emotions in my head, and I don't feel stable enough to make any life-changing decisions. All I have left is my faith. Please help!
Jim: We're very sorry to learn of your heartbreaking situation. At a time like this, you absolutely need a support network in place. Even though you're new in the area, we urge you to seek out a pastor or a women's church group with whom you can share your struggles.
In addition, you should enlist the help of a qualified marriage counselor. If your husband is willing to attend counseling with you, encourage him to do so. But even if he isn't, you need the input and assistance of a third party. Contact Focus on the Family (focusonthefamily.com) for a free consultation with a member of our counseling team and for a referral to a counselor in your area.
One thing is for certain: Continuing the affair (even if your husband technically stays married to you out of "obligation") should not be an option. You need to force a crisis and give him an ultimatum. If he wants to continue the affair, he's going to have to find someplace else to live. He has to understand that his adulterous behavior will not be allowed to continue under any circumstances. If separation is what it takes to open his eyes and stimulate some self-examination on his part, then so be it. May God grant you strength and wisdom during this difficult time.
Q: What do you think about a woman who is dating a younger man? I'm in my 30s and he is in his 20s. Do these types of marriages typically work?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There is surprisingly little research in this area. However, one study by the U.K. Office for National Statistics found that there is not a strong association between marital age difference and the likelihood of divorce.
Research aside, I think what you're really asking is, "Can this relationship work?" In my years of counseling, I have encountered many married couples who have built strong relationships despite what might be considered a significant age difference. You say you're in your 30s and he's in his 20s, but that doesn't tell me much. The difference between 28 and 31, for example, is likely to be much less significant than the difference between 39 and 21.
In the end, though, age is just a number. Some 23-year-olds have a much greater degree of maturity and character than their 40-something counterparts. If your relationship progresses and marriage enters the picture, you'll want to consider the same things with a younger man that you would with one who is similarly aged. Are you compatible in terms of beliefs, maturity and so on? Is he trustworthy?
I'd recommend that you and your boyfriend take Focus on the Family's Couple Checkup at www.family.org/couplecheckup. It's a practical, in-depth way to test your compatibility and strengthen your relationship. There are versions of the Couple Checkup for dating, engaged and married couples.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program.