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Revenge may be sweet, but it’s not advisable

A cheat’s wife fantasizes about telling all to the husband of her spouse’s lover. Be careful, says Dr. Gail Saltz, things could backfire.

Q: Not long ago, I found out that my husband had a long-standing affair with a married woman we both know through work. I was devastated. My husband acknowledged the affair only when I unearthed some e-mails that proved my suspicions. He promised to end all contact with her. We are seeing a counselor and working hard to mend the damage to our relationship.

I wrote this woman, and she agreed to end all contact with my husband IF I would not tell her husband. I agreed. But now I want her husband to know that she is not the great, wonderful, loving wife he believes her to be.

Should I tell him? Why should I forever be in the position of protecting her?

A: It’s understandable that you want revenge, but telling her husband is not advisable. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

It’s normal to feel angry when someone has been a rival in such a profoundly hurtful way, and to want this woman to suffer as she has made you suffer.

But taking glee in a revenge fantasy is different from making it a reality.

If it makes you feel better, dream about telling her husband. But what if you really do tell? You will likely enrage this woman. You might destroy her marriage, leading her to seek revenge of her own.

How might she do this? By showing up on your and your husband’s doorstep. And this time, she will be fully available. This is the last thing you want.

What’s more, it’s possible that you are displacing your anger at your husband onto this woman. After all, it's much easier to be angry at this interloper than at the man you love. But staying obsessed with thoughts of revenge toward her keeps you locked in pain and hinders you from moving on, because you are not dealing with your feelings toward him. If this is the case, discussing your hurt and anger with your husband, and possibly with a professional, can help you heal.

In addition, it’s unlikely you are protecting this woman. It’s almost certain you wouldn’t be telling her husband something he doesn’t already know. If he appears not to know about her betrayal, he is probably just keeping up appearances or has his own reasons for denial.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If you go for revenge, you could wind up hurting yourself along with someone else.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.