I’m in love with an older, married woman but we have different needs
PROBLEM: I’m a 25-year-old woman and I’m in love with a 45-year-old married woman. The feelings are mutual and we are having a wonderful time together. If circumstances were right I would probably want this to continue forever. My partner is, I think, going through a midlife crisis and is looking at an entire evaluation of her life.
Her marriage is dead but there has been no official separation yet. I know she wants to leave her husband, and it is telling that he has not even noticed that she is so emotionally gone from him. They have no children, and so the possibility of us living as a couple is a very real option. We are both professionals with good jobs and we have fallen head over heels for each other.
My concern is that, even though we are having a great time, it is all going to end in tears. I feel that I am a young woman and I have so much to do in my life before I want to settle down. I want to travel the world, have romances in other countries and see what the world has to offer me. I am worried about hurting my partner and I feel it is inevitable that I will cause her pain. I know that my partner wants the permanent things: to buy a house, settle down and create a home together. However, I am not sure I ever want any of these things and I’m definite I don’t want them now.
You have written very clearly that, although you are in love and having a wonderful time, you are very conscious that for you this is not the beginning of a lifetime commitment.
As you are 25, you feel that your life needs to expand outwards before you choose where and with whom to live, and the timing of this relationship is not quite right for you.
However, your partner, who is in a very different time in her life to you, might find it hard to hear that you are planning an exit when she is planning commitment. Perhaps you are right, and she is at a time in her life that requires evaluation and discernment, and you are providing an experience that gives her optimism and hope. But she has responsibilities that she has to face, and these are hers to deal with.
Her husband might be oblivious to her love affair, but that does not mean that it can be assumed he does not care or that he does not want to fight for his marriage. While these are your partner’s issues, you must take them into account as you participate in this relationship.
Have you been clear in speaking about your life plans? Perhaps you have said that you intend to travel alone, but it is also a possibility that your partner only partly heard this or perhaps told herself that you will come to recognise that this relationship is too good to lose.
In relationships, we are often told something and somehow manage to disregard this in favour of our own interpretation of the future. At this moment, as you are both enjoying the relationship so much, it is important that you are truthful about the future. This might cause a dint in the overall happiness of the relationship, but your partner needs all the information so that she can make a good decision for herself.
The other possibility is that you don’t speak honestly because you do not want to burden your partner further, as she already has a lot on her plate. We often have a fear of causing upset, but this is a concern for ourselves disguised as concern for our loved ones. Your partner needs to be given the honour of the full picture so that she can weigh up her future.
Perhaps it is necessary to flag a serious conversation and not just slip your future plans into an ordinary exchange. This would mean that there is no room for doubt about the reality facing your partner, so she could begin to get support for herself in order to come to terms with the crossroads in her life.
It seems that most of the attention in the relationship needs to go in her direction, and you might find that she is thrown into grief as she faces future loss. She might be angry and hurt, and you need to listen fully to her as she copes with rejection. This is demanding of you but there is a responsibility on your side to support her through the loss that is coming. However, you must follow your own dreams. Now is the time to articulate them and give them substance.