Q. I’m single, 32-years-old, and I’ve been seeing a man I met through work (he doesn’t work in my office) for almost six months. I’ve dated a lot of men, but I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love until now. The problem—and it’s a big one—is that he’s been married for almost 14 years. He says he’s been very unhappy at home and thinks about leaving his wife all the time. However, he doesn’t want to leave his two children and is afraid of making a mistake. He’s told me he’s falling in love with me though, and I definitely have fallen hard for him. I know it’s wrong to have let this happen, but I just couldn’t resist him. He’s romantic, funny, and treats me so well when we are together, but I can tell he is nervous whenever we are out in public and it puts a dark cloud over our time together. I understand that his kids have to come first, so I don’t know if he’ll have the courage to leave. I’ve thought about whether I’d keep seeing him even if he doesn’t, and considering my options, I’m leaning toward staying with him no matter what. I believe he’s the love of my life, so how can I give him up when he makes me so happy? What is your advice?
A. You are right about one thing. Dating a married man is a big problem, not only for you and for him, but for his wife and his children even though they may not know it yet. I don’t believe infidelity is ever okay because it means someone is being deceived and betrayed. For the record, many, many people maintain healthy and happy relationships with their children after divorce, so I’m not from the “stay in it for the kids” school of thought, and don’t accept that as an excuse for cheating on his wife. (An unhappy parental relationship is not a good example for children to witness anyway.)
No matter how you feel, step back and think of the big picture here. If this man is truly the love of your life, then you should be the love of his life, too. If you are, then he needs to man-up and find the courage to divorce his wife before continuing on with your romance. This would show his emotional maturity, good faith, and his ability to honor you as a partner. If he thinks it is okay to offer you less than a healthy, open, and monogamous relationship, then he may not think as highly of you as you imagined, and neither do you! This could be a sign that you need to work on your self-esteem. You are only 32 years old, yet you seem to believe you are out of other options, hopes, and possibilities. I’d venture to say your perspective is skewed due to your present feelings about this man.
My advice is to have a heart to heart with him and tell him that as much as you care for him, you don’t want a relationship based on deceit where you have to skulk around while out in public. If a man sees you setting appropriate boundaries, and standing up for yourself and what you deserve, he will have much more respect for you no matter his decision. Right now, as well as you think he treats you, he is not honoring you. He needs to have the audacity to do the right thing, and the fortitude to accept the consequences. If he cannot, or will not, then maybe he isn’t as unhappy at home as you think. If you stay with him anyway, expect to always play second, third, or fourth fiddle in his life. How long do you really think your happiness will last then?
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