Dear Annie

Bombshell confession

Dear Annie: If anyone could ever die of a broken heart, it would be me at 77. I have been a faithful, loyal wife for 60 years. My husband, whom I’ve always thought was wonderful, and I have always been godly people. We’ve gone to church and helped our neighbors often.

He had chest pains earlier this year, and while in the hospital, he revealed that he’d been having sexual affairs our whole marriage. He said he’d cheated on me with 50 women. I went into shock and ended up in the hospital myself for a week. I am so devastated. I’m sick to my stomach. I am underweight, nervous and heartsick.

He is in a nursing home and says he has done no wrong. He just says, “I am sorry you’re hurting.” I can’t undo any of this. I want to forget, but I don’t know how.

— No Name

Dear No Name: Your husband’s revelation was so out of the blue and his callousness so out of character that I’m concerned about the possibility that he’s suffering from cognitive decline and not really aware of what he’s saying. Talk to his health care providers about having him evaluated for dementia. Whatever the case may be, you’re experiencing a tremendous deal of stress. I implore you to seek the help of a licensed therapist.

Dear Annie: I was surprised and delighted to see that you printed my letter (I am “Exhausted by the Guilt Trips.”) Thank you so much for the validation and encouragement. There is so much more I could have written about the situation with my mother, but your straightforward response arrived at a much-needed time, and I truly appreciate it. I am quite sure I am not alone in saying that you are excellent at what you do, and you truly make a difference to many people, with many issues.

— Trying to Be Less Exhausted

Dear Trying to Be Less Exhausted: I’m so glad my words provided some reassurance. I heard from dozens of readers with whom your letter resonated. I’m printing a few responses to give you further confirmation that it’s not you; it’s your mom.

Dear Annie: I had to write you after reading the letter from “Exhausted by the Guilt Trips.” I struggled for years with my mother’s doing exactly the same thing. I finally said to her that I would never be able to please her and that I would stop trying — and I did stop! What a load off my shoulders, and though she remained demanding and complaining, I ignored it and left her to her own devices. I felt relieved. Her several elderly siblings said I did the right thing, as she could never be satisfied.

— Been There, Done That

Dear Been There, Done That: Good for you. You might enjoy the following reader’s book recommendation.

Dear Annie: I would highly recommend that you tell “Exhausted by the Guilt Trips” to read the book “Stop Walking on Eggshells,” by Paul Mason. I was in a very similar situation with my husband, and the book changed my life. After I read the book, I found a support group for me, and I learned how to deal with a family member who has a mental illness. Setting boundaries is the key to living a healthy life.

— L.N.

Dear L.N.: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for the book recommendation.

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