TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 51 and 53, draw on their 20 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
I need some advice. Maybe I am looking for approval. I am 63. My wife is 77 and we have been married for 25 years. She has early stage dementia.
She can wash, cook, clean, shop and drive a car, but her short-term memory is shot to hell and I miss the woman I fell in love with.
I am officially her carer and, with her permission, I go on holiday twice a year — and I have forged a secret, long-distance relationship with a woman I met abroad.
Recently, I sneaked an extra weekend away to be with her.
I have made it clear to the other woman that my wife comes first and she seems to accept this.
But I feel so bad, having two women. I want to tell my wife.
Maybe she would accept the situation, but then, of course, she might be so hurt.
She knows that she has memory problems and encourages me to go away for several weeks. I come back, batteries recharged and ready to look after her.
She has lost her sex drive and encourages me to ‘have fun, but don’t tell me about it’.
What should I do?
I’ve spent three days thinking of how to reply to your letter.
I found it hard to read and I wanted to be sure of how I felt before I wrote back to you. But I keep coming back to the same thing — ‘till death us do part’.
You seem to want our permission, but I think you already know you’re not going to get it. You know your behaviour is not appropriate.
Of course I don’t think you should tell her and of course I think you shouldn’t be seeing someone else. It is simply not on.
However, while I absolutely do not condone your behaviour, I understand that it must be heartbreaking to feel you are losing the woman you fell in love with.
But remember, your wife is still that same woman.
Deep down you know that and I wonder whether your actions are, in fact, your grief talking. It might be that you are trying to escape from your pain with this affair.
I’d urge you to consider whether this is the case and, if so, to stop doing it.
You are in a very, very difficult place at the moment, but I strongly suggest that you face your pain, for your wife’s sake — and for your own peace of mind.
There will, sadly, be time to mourn your marriage in the future, but the time is not now.
And there will be time to move on and find a new life for yourself, but that time is not now.
My advice to you is to throw yourself into supporting and caring for your wife.
I appreciate how hard it is to care for a loved one who is unable to care for themselves — I really do — and I understand you wanting to run away sometimes, but I’m afraid it’s just not something you get to do.
This is all incredibly tough. It must be almost impossible to watch the person you love disintegrate, but for your own emotional and mental wellbeing — now and in the future — end the affair and pour all your care and attention on to your wife.
Ensure that she spends the rest of her life feeling loved.
At the moment, she can still tell you that everything’s OK and not to worry.
At the moment, you get to be forgiven for the mistakes she knows about, but she won’t always be able to do that and, when it’s just you, I think you’ll find that knowing you did absolutely everything you could to make your wife feel as loved and cared for as she possibly could will help you heal.
Take control of her care now and I believe it will help you take control of your own pain in the future.
DOM SAYS: First, let me thank you for writing to us. It probably took a great deal of courage to do so. I’m terribly sorry to hear about your wife’s declining health.
It’s never easy for a lover to become a carer. It makes the relationship difficult in all manner of ways.
However, it seems to me that you’re looking to us for affirmation that you’re doing the right thing.
And I’m not sure that you’re going to want to hear what I have to say, because I’m afraid I can’t try and make you feel better by telling you that what you’re doing is OK. I simply don’t think it is.
I fear that when your wife tells you to ‘have some fun’, she does so because she’s feeling insecure. She may well be terrified you’re going to leave her.
I’m sure she wants to believe that everything is OK, even if it’s not, and it’s your responsibility to makes sure that, as far as it’s within your capacity to make it so, it is.
You absolutely must not tell your wife about this other woman — in fact, you should get rid of her. Now.
Then I would urge you to cast your mind back to your wedding day and think on your vows.
That day, you pledged to love your wife — and she you — in sickness and in health.
You say you’ve been married for 25 years and, I assume, happily. So . . .you’ve enjoyed the health and now, very sadly, you must endure the sickness.
But you must do so without causing your wife any more distress than she is already suffering.
No more long-distance relationship, secret or otherwise.