Tell Me About It:I love him and dream of a fantastic future but he needs to face his responsibilities
I am a 51-year-old divorced lady. Six months ago I met a fantastic man in a bar. We met several times for casual coffees, drinks and dinners before forming a relationship. We now meet up most nights from Monday to Friday and really enjoy each other’s company. He goes to another part of the country at every weekend. I was a bit suspicious that he might be married and when I asked him last week, he was very forthcoming and admitted that whilst he is unmarried, he has been in a long-term relationship with someone for the past 18 years.
He apologised for his deceit and explained that this partner has a debilitating illness and that they have been virtually estranged for years and have not had a sexual relationship for almost a decade. He said that he does not love her anymore, but feels responsible for her, she lives in a house that he inherited and that he is concerned that she will have rights over the property. I love him and I dream of a fantastic future with him. But I believe that he needs to face up to his responsibilities and be accountable for the situation he has found himself in. My first marriage ended very badly and it took a lot of courage to get involved in a relationship again and I feel I need to thread carefully for fear of losing him. Any advice would be welcome.
At the age of 50, you have another 30 to 40 years to look forward to, should you stay physically well and so your current situation deserves careful consideration. At mid-life, we all come with history and baggage so it is not surprising that both of you have had previous relationships and difficulties. However, your relationship is now at a decision point and you cannot proceed in ignorance as you did before. It seems your partner has been struggling to stay loyal to someone who is now very ill and while this is admirable, there is an 18 year history where he (or the partner) did not commit to solidifying the relationship; therefore I wonder if he is capable of again entering into a long-term relationship where there is not full commitment. The choice is yours: you now know the full truth of his wish to spend five days a week in a lovely relationship with you and the weekends tending to his other partner. Is this something you can cope with and if so, how will you integrate this into your life.
You dream of a “fantastic” future so my guess is that you want the whole package: family and friends involved, holidays and shared lives. Can you accept a furtive relationship where you cannot be completely open? You say that you want your partner to be accountable and responsible and yet part of his reason for not concluding his relationship is that his partner might have rights to his property – surely after 18 years she is entitled to her share of their lives. She is also entitled to the dignity of knowing the truth. However that issue belongs to the two of them and you cannot demand it. If you chose to accept the relationship on these terms, it means that you have done so in full knowledge and you accept the resultant conditions. The challenge is to be happy with the limitations of what you have and to curtail your desire to have more.
And yet, there is also a moment of opportunity here. Being in love offers a period where we can be stretched beyond our normal capacities and so your partner may have both an opportunity and a motivation to have the courage to challenge his life and decisions. When we are in love, we are often more generous, more outgoing, more full of hope and idealism and we can use this time to propel ourselves into being bigger and better people. The truth is that this does not last and while we get a glimpse of what we can be like, usually we then have to do the hard work of challenging our habits and behaviours, but with the on-going support of our loved one. Your partner may be more open now to challenge and expansion than at any past or future time in his life and you might consider using your influence in this moment.
The risk you take with pushing your partner into decision-making is that he may decide to leave your relationship and you will then suffer the grief and loss of something that had such huge possibility. The alternative is having an intimate relationship where there is a third party who is being affected by your behaviour. Do what you wish your partner to do: take responsibility for your decision and be strong enough to follow it through.