Dear Margo: Picking Up the Pieces

My wife has been playing me for a fool and now I have to tell our kids. Margo Howard’s advice

Picking Up the Pieces

Dear Margo: I just found out that my wife of 32 years has been playing me for a fool all this time. It started when we were dating. On rare occasions, my girlfriend (now wife) would initiate sex and insisted we didn’t need protection. I didn’t complain, maybe because she had a very low sex drive. This began in college and continued after we married up until she had her tubes tied after the birth of our third child. This would happen every six months during school and every year after we were married.

Now, 32 years later, I find out that the motivation for her increased libido was that she would have unprotected sex with some other guy and wanted to ensure that if she was pregnant I would think it was mine. On top of that, one of our kids was conceived right after one of her “lapses,” and everyone, including his brothers, knows I’m not the father.

It’s time to file for divorce. The other kids are all adults. What do I tell them? You can bet I’m going to tell her sisters and everyone she knows, if only because she has always acted like Little Miss Perfect. I feel like such a fool. Why did I marry this woman? — Burned Up

Dear Burn: I really have no idea why you married this woman, just as I have no idea why a woman with a low sex drive was stepping out on you, how everyone knew of her lapses, not to mention how it became common knowledge that one of the boys was not sired by you.

However … your immediate question seems to be what to tell your children. Try this: “Your mother and I have decided to divorce.” Take the high road. My hunch is that they will intuit the reason. As for feeling like a fool, I hope you can lay that burden down. It happens to many people and for many different reasons. As Stella Adler told her acting students, “Don’t go back, go on.” — Margo, restoratively

17 Is Too Young for Final Decisions

Dear Margo: I am 17 years old and have been dating my boyfriend (19) for 10 months. Prior to the relationship, we were friends for three years. We know each other very well, and he’s probably the only person I can tell everything.

Last year, he moved to the United States. I live in Belize, and although I don’t really have a problem with the long-distance relationship, it gets hard at times. I have many male friends. The problem is that I find myself having feelings for one friend in particular. We see each other a lot at school. (We’re both in junior college.) We talk and hang out and have become pretty close. This friend also has a girlfriend who ironically lives in the same area as my boyfriend.

I love my boyfriend, but sometimes I have sexual thoughts about this friend. He’s one of the few people who can understand my situation (the long-distance relationship). Is this a sign of emotional cheating? — Confused

Dear Con: Time and distance at your age equals the chance to gain more experience. At 17, you should date different people, if only for the purpose of making comparisons. I hope, before you settle on a partner, you will have dated lots of people.

If you have an agreement with your boyfriend who’s moved to the States, tell him, given the circumstances, you think the two of you should have the freedom to date other people. (He may even feel as you do.) I guess I don’t think someone your age should even be thinking about “emotional cheating,” because you are too young to have made the commitment of exclusivity in the first place. — Margo, historically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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13 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Janice Haines says:

    LW 1-I bet the ‘low libido’ was only with him, and she never saw him as anything but a meal ticket.   If the kids already know about the brother, then they already know everything they need to.    I hope LW can move on, and find happiness with someone who will really care about him in a mature, honest relationship.    

  2. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: If what you relate is true, you’ve every right to be angry and resentful. But I’d be careful how much I go about as “the scorned husband.” Sometimes the least said is the most powerful. You’d certainly be within your rights, imo, to definitely “out” her as “She was committing adultery all along. She’s a cheater. We’re through.” That alone would say it all. And chances are others haven’t mistaken her for “Little Ms. Perfect.” They probably know her as a jerk in other ways.

    L #2: I agree with Margo. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      P.S. to L #1: I hope you won’t take out your anger/frustration on the child who isn’t your biological child. Your wife’s infidelity is not the child’s fault. If you’ve built up a fatherly relationship with that child, keep it. Do NOT punish that child.

  3. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: No one likes to feel duped. Betrayal is humiliating on several fronts, and your feelings are understandable. But since you say everyone knows anyway, then you can stand tall, keep your dignity, and, as Margo reommends … move on. 

  4. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Dude, you’re a little slow on the uptake, and 32 years is a tad late for wanting such dramatic revenge. Something similar happened with my uncle, and it actually turned out that he was so in love that he was unwilling to admit that his child didn’t look like him, and that his wife’s regular and unexplained disappearances weren’t worthy of suspicion. 

    It’s going to be hard to shame someone who has no sense of shame to begin with—and her family probably already knows. Watch “Death Becomes Her,” and imitate Bruce Willis’s character at the end of the movie. You’ll be a better person for it.

  5. avatar A R says:

    LW1: I”m going to agree that you don’t want to make a huge dramatic story out of this. You are of course free to tell anyone who asks that she was unfaithful, but that’s all I’d tell. There’s no way I’d humiliate myself (admit to being cuckolded for 32 years??) just to make her look worse. Nope.
    LW2: Too far, baby. Time to take a break from the relationship. Be facebook pals.

  6. avatar Jean B says:

    LW1:  The best revenge in the world is to go on to live a happy life in spite of what she did. Her seeing you happy, healthy, and (maybe someday) with someone else who does truly make you happy will be the only thing that would ever get under her skin, if anything will at all. As David Bolton said “It’s going to be hard to shame someone who has no sense of shame to begin with”, and this was actually my first thought. Some people have no shame, no morals, no code of any kind, and do not care how what they do affects anyone else.
    To tell your children what their mother did will only harm the children, regardless of their ages. It will not hurt her one bit. If you love your children, keep the reason for your divorce from them. At least don’t be the one to bash their mother; it’s not fair to them. And just because she was a lousy wife to you doesn’t mean she is a lousy mother to them. Don’t drag the kids or anyone else in to the middle of this, keep it between you and your (soon-to-be-ex) wife where it belongs.
    And always remember Karma is a b*t*h. What goes around, comes around, and she will “get hers” one day.

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    Nine whole responses? Did rapture happen?

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Letters with such obvious answers that enough was said in the first, and only comments.
      I’d know if it was the Rapture. We’d have hoards of really disappointed people wandering the streets and occasionally shaking their fists at the sky, wondering what went wrong while the cruel and capricious gods sniggered and tossed worms from on high.

  8. avatar mjd4 says:

    I’m a little confused.  You say that everybody including your children already knows about her cheating, so what is it you want to tell?