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Contacting ‘the other woman’ not a good idea

Rarely will your husband's mistress lead you to the answers you seek, and the exchange could do more harm than good, TODAY contributing psychiatrist Gail Saltz says.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Q. My husband confided to me that he had a "girlfriend" 15 years ago. He has not been forthcoming with information when I ask him about what happened. He did tell me that the sex was great, and that point has really been bothering me.

I always thought that our sex life was pretty good. I enjoy trying new things. He says the affair lasted as long as it did because the sex was great. He says he didn't love her and that it was just sex.

I'm having a hard time accepting this. I keep feeling that I would like to contact her to get her side of the story. How do you feel about contacting the "other woman"?

A. I advise you not to contact her. You have nothing real to gain by doing so.Your husband says he had this affair just for sex. For many women, love and sex go together. Without love, they couldn’t even have good sex, so they don’t understand how men could.But for many men, love and sex are easier to separate. In fact, they often consider affairs to be less complicated if they don’t love their mistress. For your husband, sex with another woman was likely new, different, secret, forbidden — and therefore exciting and “great.” This has nothing to do with whether the other woman was a skilled lover or whether your husband had loving feelings for her.Your husband, in confessing this affair, is insisting that it consisted only of sex, so you should not feel hurt and betrayed. That might be true for him, though it is obviously untrue for you. It would help you tremendously if he were to apologize and acknowledge his betrayal of you, instead of dismissing your feelings by insisting the affair was meaningless.The other woman will never be able to give you the information you seek. Contacting her will not yield some deeper insight or another side of the story that will fill in the gaps and put this issue to rest. Any information she would give you is necessarily filtered through the prism of her own perception, needs, memories or agenda. Furthermore, there is no reason this woman would welcome your inquiries or reveal any information, let alone any truthful information.Contacting her will merely stir the pot and make things messier. It’s hard to know what you envision as a benefit. Do you imagine she will say the sex was bad and your husband is lying? That the sex was great but he still loved you more? That he promised to leave you for her? That he never even mentioned you? She cannot possibly know what their affair, or their sex life, meant to your husband. Occasionally there are reasons to contact the other woman — for example, if she had your husband’s child and was therefore remaining a permanent part of his life.But in this case, any information to put your mind at ease must come from your husband, not from the other woman.Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If you find your husband has had an affair, contacting the “other woman” is not a good idea.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .