Advice: The crucial decision about your marriage is whether it’s worth sticking with
PROBLEM: I’ve been married for nearly 16 years. During this time, I have had affairs. One of them was particularly long-term and passionate, and we were seeing each other for nearly three years.
He is handsome, bright and amazing in bed. Tellingly, he is a womaniser. I knew about it and at no moment had I any presumptions I was the only woman in his life and I was okay with this. As time passed, we started to see each other more often. We had a no-strings agreement, so when he said during sex that he loved me I thought it was just the heat of the moment. But then he started to say this more and texting me in the middle of the night. At first, I didn’t know what to think of it, but then I started seeing him for what he is, a person with feelings, not just the party guy. From this on, it was clear he had feelings for me, and I realised he could be a great person to be around. It was about the time I started falling for him too.
We had arguments, mostly because he thought I wouldn’t take him seriously. He was right about it – I could be in love but I wouldn’t leave my husband for him. He was narcissistic and uncommitted, and I couldn’t live with that, I knew this well. Shortly after, we stopped seeing each other. He got into a serious relationship and I returned to my married happy life. It was a relief not to be constantly worried about texts or calls during the night. No more lies – I was tired of living a double life.
I got on with my life. We occasionally emailed each other, and everything was fine, until one day we bumped into each other in a grocery store. When I saw him my heart raced. His face was flushed, and he was visibly nervous. We chatted for a while and laughed a lot. We started talking again over text and now he wants us to reconnect. He still the same charming man and he is really alluring. I like his companionship and the sex – but I just don’t feel like starting all over again.
For some reason, I feel guilty about cheating now, a feeling that didn’t exist before. Some days, it is very clear to me that I won’t let the old flame burn again, but some days I’m very close to accept his invitation for a glass of wine at his.
This doubt is killing me.
ADVICE: The one person missing from this narrative is your husband, writes Trish Murphy. I wonder if he knows of your affairs and decides to ignore them or if he would be hurt by your passion for someone else. Clearly, if he is aware and accepting, you are in a completely different situation than if he is in the dark.
The other question is whether your affairs are a factor of your marriage, ie that you are not finding the intimacy and connection you desire in your marriage and are supplementing it elsewhere. It sounds as though, initially, your connection with this man was about sex and the thrill of the illicit, but it did turn into a choice between him and your husband and it seems that at the time you did not consider leaving your husband. It is hugely alluring to be the source of a grand passion but like most things that burn brightly, they can also engulf you and take control. You seem to be in a position of choosing between a man who is loyal but not passionate or a man who is enthralling but not trustworthy.
You did manage to have both in your life for a while, but as you discovered this came at a cost and you felt relief when you became free from the double life. You have prior knowledge and experience of this situation and therefore are able to make an informed decision and like all adults you have to take the consequences of that decision. Trying to be single and married at the same time is summed up in the saying “having your cake and eating it”. Making a decision and abiding by it is one of the most adult things we do; for example, we agree to turn up for work and we do not then remake that decision every day for the duration of our working lives.
You are facing a crucial decision about your marriage: is it worth challenging and sticking with?
In one choice, you have a marriage that needs revitalising or seriously addressing and in the other choice, you begin a relationship with someone where both of you have a history of deception and this would have to be accounted for in the new relationship.
In either case, some action is required from you and now is the time to be an adult and stand over your choices.