Dear Prudence,

Three months ago, the woman who was having an affair with my husband died suddenly from an accident. I found out about the affair only two days after her funeral. I thought she was simply a coworker and I was wondering why my husband was so disturbed and emotional. He quit his job, saying it was too traumatic to go to work. She was in the early weeks of pregnancy when she died and my husband doesn’t know whether he or her husband was the father. So, on top of everything, he’s also grieving for a baby that may or may not have been his.

I find it extremely difficult to be emotionally supportive when he wakes up at 3 a.m. crying and trembling — yet I don’t have the heart to yell at him like I want to. He says she’s dead, so there’s no reason for me to feel jealous or threatened, and asks for my understanding as he grieves. We’ve barely talked these last weeks because I don’t know how to respond to my husband when he cries and says he misses her and wishes she were here, then also how much he loves me and that he never intended to leave me. I asked him to visit a marriage therapist together and he said he’s “not ready” to work on our marriage, and thinks he needs to see a grief therapist instead. Do I need to give him time to mourn the loss of his mistress? Or should I demand he focus on our marriage?

— Just the Wife

Dear Wife,

You cannot impose a schedule on someone else’s grief. So I think you should let your husband fully experience his — alone. If you are being asked to be an understanding source of solace while he mourns the loss of his mistress, a woman who was possibly the mother of his child, then that is an emotional burden that’s simply outside the bounds of what one spouse can ask of another. He’s told you flat out he can’t work on his marriage because he’s too torn up about the death of the woman he loved. So I think you should tell him to move out while you each figure out what you want out of your marriage and life.

In addition, I hope he is independently wealthy, or has fantastically in-demand professional skills, because quitting his job over her death indicates he’s gone off the deep end. I can’t imagine how he’s going to explain that departure to potential employers. Of course you’re reeling over these events, so if he won’t see a counselor with you, consider going alone. And you’ve left us all wondering: Does the grieving widower have any idea what his wife was up to?

— Prudence

Dear Prudence,

I have three sons in their late 20s and early 30s. The oldest is married with a young child and my youngest is engaged. Since it has been quite some time since I went through these rituals, I expected them to change. I just didn’t expect them to change quite this much. What used to be nice, simple ceremonies have turned into much longer events. My son and daughter-in-law had professional engagement photos taken, numerous bridal showers, a wedding followed by a reception, professional maternity photos taken, a “gender revealing party,” a baptism, professional family portraits and a first birthday party.

Frankly, I think this is celebration overload and, in its own way, detracts from the seriousness of these events. I miss the days of one bridal shower, a ceremony in a church, and cake in the church basement. I know how delicate the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship can be, so I have not said a word about these events and attended them all graciously. But the thought of going through this number of events for two more kids is exhausting. Is this just the trend of celebrations now and I should go along with it? How do I graciously be a part of their lives while inwardly cringing at another over-the-top celebration?

— Celebration Overload

Dear Celebration,

Your answer is contained in your question. You just graciously celebrate while inwardly cringing. I agree with you, Mom, that a return to contained and modest celebrations is to be much hoped for. This is the second letter I’ve gotten about the amazing development of the awful gender-reveal party. As I previously asked, what’s next, the baby-making party? You have to accept that the days of the DIY wedding are gone. But I agree that turning marriage into the Normandy invasion (actually, that took less time to plan and launch than most weddings) is an absurd waste of time and money. Let’s face it, usually the bride/mother is the driver behind these events, so as a mother of sons, you want to preserve your relationship with your offspring and their wives. So slap on a smile and be grateful to be included.

— Prudence

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