Editor’s note: Neil Rosenthal is off for the week. This is from “The Best of Neil Rosenthal.”
Dear Neil: I am an avid reader of your column. I would like for you to address the flip side of infidelity — and discuss the “other” woman. She is not always an evil harlot looking for fun. I can speak from experience, since I have been on both sides. I was married and cheated on, and presently I am madly in love with a married man.
We have been friends and lovers for three years. My time with this man is so awesome and so very special. I know that what we are doing is wrong — and that someday, someone will get hurt. But how can I give up my best friend and the best thing that has ever happened in my life? Every moment and phone call is precious. We normally see each other at least three times a week and he calls four times plus a day. He swears the loves me, tells me I am the best thing that has every happened to him, there is nothing between them, etc. You may be asking: “Why doesn’t he leave his wife then?” When I broach this topic, he answers that he can’t afford the settlement, and that she will destroy him.
So please do not always criticize the “other” woman. We are not necessarily sluts or anything of the sort. We are women who have emotions, families and jobs. There is a difference in doing this for thrills or doing this because one is in love. There are very strong emotional reasons that keep me tied to him. I also truly believe that he loves me.
Could you offer advice as to what I should do and what you think about this? I have considered contacting his wife because I am willing to go to battle for him. Should I give it up, continue to hope that he will eventually leave her, or fight for him?
— In Love With a Married Man in Denver
Dear In Love: There are some unanswered questions in the choice that you’re considering. Does the man you’re in love with have a history of infidelity or deceit, or is the first time he’s been in this situation? Could he be deceiving you about his marriage and his feelings about his wife? If he were to leave her and choose you, what makes you so sure he wouldn’t do the same thing to you once you’re his? If he isn’t acting trustworthy to his wife now, what makes you so sure this behavior would change?
I do not buy that the reason he is staying with his wife is because he can’t afford to leave her — that does not sound like an entirely honest answer to me. It is also expensive to stay with her and live a double life as he is doing. He indeed may be afraid of her, but what would you guess her reaction will be when she finds out — as she inevitably will — that he is emotionally and sexually involved with another woman? You’ve heard the expression “Hell hath no fury…”
The problem with being in this position is that you’re always in second place, and he’s never actually yours. My advice to you is to offer this man a choice: Suffer the consequences and divorce his wife so he can have you — or lose you and keep his wife. I do not recommend you continue the relationship the way things are, because you’re the one likely to be most hurt in this story, and it does not sound as if he is going to leave his wife voluntarily.
If you confront the wife about your affair with her husband, she is likely to have one of two responses. She will either fight for him with everything she’s got, or she’ll throw him out. But people have been know to get homicidal in such circumstances, so you want to be very, very careful. Also, we cannot reasonably predict what his response would be if you forced his hand and put him in an embarrassing situation, but this might not work in your favor as he could reasonably feel betrayed by you.
The best indication of how he feels is about how he behaves. Force him to align his behavior with his words — or get out of this for your own sanity.
And if you do wind up leaving, find someone available and unencumbered next time. It’s way less messy that way, and an available man just might be able and willing to be yours.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder, Colorado. His column is in it’s 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at (303)758-8777, or email him through his website: www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.