"I Discovered My Dying Husband Was A Serial Adulterer"



You have reason to believe your husband is having an affair, and you have the password to his inbox. He gave it to you after a malignant tumour the size of a golf ball was found inside his brain. Tomorrow, you’ll take him home from the hospital. Tonight is your last chance. What would you do? I did the obvious – drank an entire bottle of wine until I was reckless enough to press enter. Just a quick peek, to make sure it was all in my head, stupid paranoid thoughts. But it wasn’t. Everything I’d feared was there in his inbox. And more. I learned he’d been unfaithful since our wedding day, only a few years earlier.

There was a stylish widow who spoke three languages, a schoolteacher from Rome, a busty hairdresser…I stopped counting. My head was spinning, and my heart was shattered into a thousand spiky shards. Ours was a passionate late-life love affair, a second marriage for both of us. I was a 43-year-old childless, lonely workaholic, married to an academic career in Italian Studies that took more than it gave. Gianni was a charming, whip-smart Italian forensic psychiatrist 13 years my senior, with a penchant for clothes in bright, clashing colours.

We met at the Italian Institute of Culture in Sydney in 2006, where I’d given a talk about my research. Gianni was intrigued by this German ‘smarty pants’, who dared to address an Italian audience in their own language. He directed his bottle green eyes at me and invited me on a ride on his Harley. Gianni had retired early to live life to the fullest, as he proudly declared, which meant month-long motorbike rides, far-flung international travel and a jam-packed social life. My social life, meanwhile, was practically non-existent; travel was a neglected passion, and I rarely gave myself permission to live life to the fullest. The attraction was immediate.

We met for our first date two weeks later, and Gianni instantly turned my life, our lives, into a champagne–coloured fairy tale, every day making  me feel like the lead in a steamy, perimenopausal rom com. And just like that, it happened. “Do you want to be my wife?” A life-altering question.

In that moment, it felt as if the world was our oyster... But things soon began to unravel. The GFC forced the cancellation of the next semester of the floating university. Our plans for a new life quashed, we came up with an even better plan, an adult gap year that would allow us to keep travelling just for fun. When on the eve of departure Gianni discovered a lump behind his right ear, I wasn’t alarmed at first; I knew my husband was a hypochondriac of the first order. But when a specialist said what nobody dared to think — cancer, metastatic melanoma — all our plans evaporated.

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