Held to ransom over my affair



20:43 GMT, 20 May 2012

Three years ago, I had a stupid fling with a builder.

My feeble excuse is that my husband was working in Germany, my children had left home and I felt neglected and past my prime. I would gladly pretend the whole thing never happened, were it not for the fact my husband’s business partner saw us hand-in-hand at the cinema.

Since then, when we meet, he makes some kind of innuendo or suggests a drink. I don’t know how to stop him. What should I do

One reader is still tormented by a fling she had with a builder three years ago

One reader is still tormented by a fling she had with a builder three years ago

Pretending bad behaviour never happened is a strategy when you’re five, but not when you hit your 50s. You should know ‘stupid’ flings invariably have equally stupid repercussions. If the worst thing that’s happened is that one associate has become a little creepy, you’ve got off lightly. You could have had the builder sobbing on your doorstep on your husband’s return.

Instead, you are suffering the most common side-effect of being unfaithful: the fact any sleazebag who’s aware of your infidelity suddenly thinks you play for their team.

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You can’t take the moral high ground with this man when you have deceived your spouse. He does sound loathsome, but I bet he has his own excuses for his behaviour. Perhaps he thinks his wife ‘doesn’t understand him’ or maybe, like you, he’s feeling needy, lonely and middle-aged.

I’m just pointing out that most people who stray plead special circumstances. It’s also the case that a surprising number of men have no qualms about hitting on a friend’s wife — just look at all those football sex scandals.

The main reason this man discomfits you is because he knows something you’ve kept hidden from your husband. Acquiring other people’s secrets is a power that manipulative people relish. The quickest way to break this man’s hold would be to tell your husband about the cinema trip.

If your peace of mind were the only thing at stake, I’d advocate honesty at all costs. However, your husband’s happiness is the main issue. I can’t see what benefit it would bring him to know of your deception.

A sin of omission is not the same thing as an outright lie. Certain things are not discussed because neither partner has any desire to rake over hazardous ground. Perhaps his own behaviour in Germany wouldn’t withstand close scrutiny.

There’s also the fact that a confession could significantly harm your husband’s business. So, the most responsible thing to do would be to address the businessman yourself. Take him aside and say you were foolish to go the cinema with the builder and that you regret it.

Make it clear you and your husband are very happy and say nicely, but firmly, that you have no desire to go for drinks a deux with anyone ever again. That should nip his advances in the bud. You can only live with your actions when you learn to take full responsibility for them.