Dear Dategirl,I found out last Monday that my husband of almost 20 years has been sexting and exchanging suggestive photos with two women he works with over a secret e-mail account. After some digging, I found out he'd had a physical affair with one of them.I can't believe this is happening—again! We went through all this back in Feb. '06, and he swore he'd never do it again. I'm not sure of the exact timeline, but I can tell that this has been going on at least two years. Once again, he's swearing it'll never happen again, and he keeps crying.I'm a stay-at-home mom of three small children. I feel trapped because I rely on him to support us. I know that this isn't all his fault—I haven't been taking the best care of myself. I gained some weight, and after spending the day with three young ones (the oldest is 5), I don't always make an effort to look sexy in the bedroom.I would like things to work out, and can see that maybe if I were in his shoes, I might look outside the marriage too. But how can I trust him again?—Bereft in Ballard
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You're sort of right that both partners share responsibility for keeping a relationship in good working order. But just because you put on a couple pounds and wear a T-shirt instead of a teddy to bed doesn't give him license to break your marriage vows. I mean, 20 years in, does he look exactly like the man you married? I'm guessing not.If the other person has a problem—annoyed that you're too tired for sex, or a size 8 instead of your usual 4—it's up to him to talk to you about it. It's not going to be a pleasant conversation, but it's certainly more constructive than banging a co-worker.Who even knows what these other bitches look like? Maybe they're thinner and prettier, but more than likely not. People rarely "cheat up," and no woman with any self-respect is going to be some married guy's second string. I know a lovely guy whose wife left him for an unemployable dud(e) with an arrest record full of spousal-battery charges. Men's tastes are just as suspect—check out the Tiger Woods Collection.What the other person provides is escape. They're free of boring constraints like cleaning up after dinner, potty-training, and paying the mortgage. Instead, everything is new, and doubly exciting since it's on the sly. Having an affair can be intoxicating, and, like other addictive behaviors, hard to kick.Personally, I'd like to see you give this douchebag the heave-ho, but I realize that with three kids and no job, that's easier said than done. So if he's serious about staying together, he needs to do a few things:• Get a new job.• Write both (!!) side pieces a letter saying that their only contact can be work-related, and that he's fully committed to getting his marriage back together.• Commit to couples counseling and complete transparency—you get all his e-mail passwords, cell-phone records, and anything else you need to verify his truthfulness.• Get some child care so you can get a job, or training so you're more employable. Financial independence will eliminate that trapped feeling.• Have a lawyer draw up a post-nup, stipulating any financial conditions you feel are fair if he strays again. Because with his record, he likely firstname.lastname@example.org