TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 56, draw on their 23 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
Q: Out of the blue during lockdown, an ex-boyfriend got in touch.
We were together from the age of 20 to 26, when he went off to America and met someone else. I begged him to come back and made a fool of myself.
Now I’ve done it all over again. I’m married with one 18-year-old son; he is back in England, newly divorced. As soon as restrictions were lifted, we met up and ended up in bed.
The thing is, I do love my husband very much. He is a good man who has loved me for a quarter of a century. I am racked with guilt, I can hardly bear to look in the mirror.
How could I have done something so reckless and stupid? I can’t stop thinking about how weak and silly I’ve been.
What would you advise me to do? Should I tell my husband? How can I learn to live with what I’ve done?
An anonymous woman sought advice from Steph and Dom after she slept with her ex and didn’t know whether she should tell her husband (stock image)
I can hear the utter desperation in your words and, I have to say, your letter rocked Dom and I quite hard. Fidelity has been the cornerstone of our marriage from day one.
But it is not my place to judge or reprimand you. You have asked for help to get through this, so I will try.
Make an effort to break down the motivation for your actions into little pieces, like a jigsaw, to gain a clearer picture of why you behaved as you did.
First love is an unrepeatable experience, involving searing emotions. With luck, you learn from it what you really like and don’t like, and that helps you the next time love appears.
But your first love, the man you thought was The One, rejected you harshly when he disappeared all those years ago.
Perhaps you still clung to a romantic image of him, though — and when he reappeared and looked at you, now a fifty-something mother of a teenager, as he used to look at you all those years ago, you couldn’t resist — and now you loathe yourself for your weakness.
When he reappeared, you were suddenly back to being the broken-hearted girl of years ago — except that this time, he did choose you. That is a very seductive thought: that he finally regrets having discarded you.
But it is highly arrogant of him to assume that, although you are married to someone else, you are still available to him.
So what now? Well, you must realise you are not that girl any more and move forward. Choose to turn your back on this man and go back to your husband. And although it goes against my instinct to say this — Dom and I have an unbreakable rule never to lie to one another — I advise you to say nothing about this to your husband.
Steph (left) said that the woman shouldn’t tell her husband and should instead draw a line under the whole thing
This is not because it is a dirty secret but because what happened was the result of deeply wounded feelings that had lain long buried.
This thing with your ex is not a love match — if it were, I would counsel you to be true to your heart. But it’s not.
This experience has cleansed you of believing a lie, so now you are more whole and true to yourself. Yes, what you did was morally wrong but you were not trying to hurt your husband — and now you must heal yourself.
It might do irreparable damage if you tell him what you did now, for the wrong reasons.
It is your choice, but I fear a confession might seal your fate. Instead, show your husband how much you love him and how lucky you are to have come to your senses. Draw a line underneath this whole sorry mess.
What an extremely difficult situation to have got yourself into. You have been very foolish indeed and made a huge mistake — and I’m afraid I am not about to make you feel any better about it.
Rekindling an old love is never a good idea. We all have exes with whom we thought we were in love at the time, but the sensible among us remember that relationships go wrong for very good reasons.
The key point to remember is that if it didn’t work then, it is not going to work now. And let’s not forget the specifics of your case — he left you, moved abroad and fell in love with someone else!
And then you got married and had a family.
Frankly, your behaviour has been nothing short of deluded.
As for your poor husband, you say you love him and yet you behave like this.
Dom (pictured) advised that honesty is the best policy and that the woman should tell her husband what happened
He is the man who stood by you through thick and thin all these years, don’t forget, and the father of your son.
You have treated him very shabbily indeed. If this were to happen to me, I would be utterly destroyed. It would kill me. So — cards on table — if you don’t handle this carefully, you are going to wind up on your own.
There would have been nothing wrong with reconnecting with this chap and catching up, if it had been done with your husband’s knowledge and if it had been done as friends.
But the way you behaved, like a giddy, easily-led teenager, should make you feel ashamed. I’m afraid you are right, you have risked your marriage.
So what to do now? Well, first you must immediately cut all contact with your ex. Have nothing whatsoever to do with him. Instead, focus all your attention on the man to whom you declared love when you got married.
You say you don’t want to leave him. You are tormented and full of guilt. But you are going to have to live with the guilt one way or another.
You also say you love your husband — but I want you to ask yourself whether that is true. Search your deepest feelings. If it is true, you must act to clear up the mess.
I am a firm believer that honesty is the best policy. So yes, I think you should clear your conscience and tell him what has happened. But do so knowing how much it will devastate him.
My advice is to get it off your chest, get this other man out of your mind and hope your husband is able to forgive you.