couples

"My husband told me of his affair the night before I had my reproductive organs removed."

The first time I heard from May*, it was when her name hit one of Mamamia’s inboxes.

She had a left a note of sorts. It was in response to a story we had written, one about affairs and infidelity, and one that was as much a part of her narrative as it was the author’s.

“Hello,” she wrote. “My husband chose to tell me about his affair the night before I went into hospital to have all my reproductive organs removed.”

The details came in like punches. They had been married many years before they realised she was unable to have children. She worked a lot, was distracted, he said, and so he went off without her.

She was hours from being robbed of her ability – that last glimmer of hope – to ever have children, pulled like a rug from underneath, and her husband decided to pull it a little bit faster. In the space of 24 hours, May lost her reproductive organs, and perhaps her husband, too.

She kept writing.

“However, we did work through it and more than four decades later, we’re still married. We adopted a wonderful son and he’s given us three divine grandchildren, so, although it was hell on earth at the time, I’m glad I hung in there.”

Image: Getty.

At 71, May has seen a lot of the very best and the very worst of the world, our relationships and our decisions-making. She rebuilt her marriage, she rebuilt her confidence, and she re-arranged the foundations at which her marriage sat on.

And so I replied to her, and said, Hey May, what's your very best relationship advice for those at breaking point?

If you are annoyed about something, don't nag

May is certain that there are two key reasons her relationship survived an affair. Firstly, she considers herself a "committed optimist", and secondly, she tried not to keep bringing it up all the time.

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"Make a time, or several times if necessary and talk about what's going wrong. It's imperative that if one party's wrong, they apologise and mean it," she told me. "Then, set a time period over which they discuss the issue. Two weeks is reasonable. Set aside several periods over this time to bring up other points or questions they may have thought of.

"Once they agree they've had all their questions answered and they've expressed all their hurt and feel as though they've been listened to, then LET IT GO! This of course won't work if both don't feel listened to or don't communicate their feelings. Even if this is the case though, throwing things in your partner's face every time you argue solves nothing and generates further division between you."

Put your partner first

"The parents form the foundation of the family. If that foundation isn't strong and working together to hold the family solidly in place, then it becomes a weak unit. That means nobody's happy, the kids know they can play their parents off against each other and, as a result of having no set boundaries, they're confused and likely to go off the tracks. If mum and dad show that they're united and strong, the kids are secure and the family unit is strong.

"I just really want women to realise the incredible power they have when it comes to the family. They are usually the ones who can get people together, talk together, solve problems together. Strong, healthy family units, however they are made up, are the very foundation of society and women are can be the chief driving force behind healthy, loving families."

Osher Gunsberg's love advice. Post continues.

Be resilient

"Every time a bad thing happens to me, I look at it like this: it's happened, I can't change it and I now have two choices. I can let this ruin my life, weep and wail until everyone's sick of me or, I can put it firmly in the past where it belongs and move on. I'm not responsible for the bad behaviour of others so why would I let their bad behaviour ruin my life? I'm not saying I never look back and wish things had been different but I don't dwell on it.

"I would say that the reason I've survived so much grief in our marriage and come out the other side still smiling, is because of my optimism. I'm not religious but I try always to live a good life. I try to see both sides of any problem and, most of all, I don't get bogged down in emotion. I have my initial emotional reaction, then I look at the problem logically and try to find a fair solution. I guess it comes down to acknowledging the rights and feelings of others as well as yourself."

With nearly 50 years of marriage under their belt, May says her husband is "an absolute joy to be married to".

"I now have arachnoiditis and have almost constant severe pain. My husband cares for me as though I was a baby. I'm so glad I hung in," she says.

And so are we, because it's advice and lived experiences like May's the world needs to hear more of.

*Names have been changed.

Tags: love , marriage , relationships-tag
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