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I am truly at a loss here….

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  • #410528
    LJS
    Participant

    I am currently struggling to deal with a complicated relationship. About 8 months ago I started dating a man that I’ve known since I was in junior high school who lives in my small town. He was married for 17 years and had been separated for a year and divorced for a month when we started dating. My family has known him and his family for years. My parents think very highly of him. He is a public figure in our small town and is very well liked and respected by the community.

    About 5 months into our absolutely fabulous (seriously, we clicked in all the ways) relationship it came out that he had an affair with a friend he works with at his part time job. They have been friends for over five years, but started an emotional affair about 2 years before his divorce was final. About a year before the divorce was final it became physical. He ended it with her when his divorce became final because he knew it wasn’t right to continue the affair.

    The reason the affair came out is because he started communicating with her outside of work about a month prior to being caught. Her husband saw the messages and went public right away. The man I was dating was extremely ashamed of himself and was committed to making thing right with his ex wife, kids, family, and even me and my kids. However, we broke up at that time so he could sort out what he needed to do. About a week after this break up he approached me and said that he wanted to be with me. He agreed that he needed to find a new part time job, which he did, and cut off communication with the other woman. And most likely seek counseling. He communicated openly with me about his struggles and how he just wanted to do whatever it took to make it work with us.

    We were together for about a month after that when I found out that she was still texting him to check in. He said he didn’t want to be with her and he chose me, but he is always going to care about her and respond if she reaches out. I decided to give him some time to decide if he wanted to be with me, or continue an active friendship with her. I am not angry at her and understand that they are both equally guilty in all of this. But, I just don’t think they can be “just friends” at this point. Maybe in the distant future, but certainly not now. After a few days he decided that he cannot be with me while she is still in his head. He is starting therapy (today, actually) and says that he needs to figure out why he still hangs on to that relationship.

    In the meantime, he says he does not reach out to either of us. He will talk to us if we reach out to him. He is very remorseful and seems to genuinely want to figure things out. He will tell me that he knows I am the “best, smartest, easiest choice” (If there is such a thing) because there will be no conflict or drama with kids or exes if he chooses me. And that I make him happy. But, he says that he never got to be with her “for real” and is afraid he will always wonder “what if”. He has a genuine desire to be with each of us and can’t figure out how to sort it out on his own without doing serious damage to either me or her.

    I am seeking counseling now to try to sort out my feelings, but my ultimate questions is…. Am I unreasonable for thinking that the man deserves the chance to work this out? The relationship developed with her before I even existed in his life, so I feel like he is genuinely confused and should be given the grace to figure it out. He has even said that he was perfectly happy with every aspect of our relationship before they started communicating again. That he just felt drawn to her still because she had been there for him during the most difficult time in his life. Most people I discuss this with think that I shouldn’t give him the opportunity, that I should just walk away, make a clean break, and heal myself so I can move on with my life. I try to think that way and it just does not feel right in my heart. I have been divorced for 13 years and have only had one intensely serious relationship that involved blending families since then. And that was 10 years ago. I know it seems like 8 months isn’t a long enough time together to think about dealing with all this, but I genuinely want to. HELP!!

    #410534
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lindsay:

    I will retell your story in chronological order, best I can, using quotes, because it helps me understand better: this man, who is a public figure in the small town where you live, a man who enjoyed a good reputation (“very well-liked and respected by the community“), was married for about 12 years when he became friends with a married co-worker in his part-time job. The two started an emotional affair about 16 years into his marriage, and a physical affair about the time he separated from his wife, 17 years into the marriage.

    He ended the physical affair about a year after it started because he was caught and his good public reputation suffered (“he started communicating with her outside of work about a month prior to being caught. Her husband saw the messages and went public right away“)

    At about the same time that he ended the affair, he started dating you. The two of you dated for 5 months when you found out about the past affair and the two of you broke up. A week later, he told you that he wanted to be with you and he agreed that he needed to find a new part-time job. You got back together, he indeed found a new part-time job, but a month into the reunion, you found out that he was still communicating with the married woman via text.

    “He said he didn’t want to be with her and he chose me, but he is always going to care about her and respond if she reaches out…  she is still in his head…. says that he needs to figure out why he still hangs on to that relationship…  He will tell me that he knows I am the ‘best, smartest, easiest choice’.. because there will be no conflict or drama with kids or exes… But, he says that he never got to be with her ‘for real’ and is afraid he will always wonder ‘what if’. He has a genuine desire to be with each of us and can’t figure out how to sort it out on his own without doing serious damage to either me or her”-

    -wait, isn’t the married woman still married, and isn’t he concerned about doing some serious damage to her husband or to her children, if she has any?

    anita

    #410543
    LJS
    Participant

    So, that is an almost completely accurate summation. The only thing I didn’t communicate well was that he ended the affair a month before he started dating me. 4-5 months  into his relationship with me they began texting outside of work again. That is when her husband caught her. They are no longer together and are currently getting divorced.

    #410546
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lindsay:

    So he ended the affair 5-6 months before the incident you mentioned, the one where her husband discovered the texting. I wonder if the incident you mentioned was a 2nd time (or 3rd) time her husband discovered their communication/ affair. I wonder if he ended the affair after being caught the first time. Obviously, I am suspicious that his concern for his public reputation supersedes his moral values and that he has been giving you partial, selective information.

    What strikes me as odd, or a matter of concern, on the first reading, was that after he ended the affair with her and while in a relationship with you, he told you that if she reaches out to him, he will respond, presenting it as a non-negotiable item. And then “he says he does not reach out to either of us“, meaning he will not reach out to her, but he will respond and communicate with her if she reaches out to him? This sounds like a technicality, somewhat dishonest: what does it matter who contacts whom if the result is that there is a to-and-from ongoing communication between them?

    anita

    #410548
    LJS
    Participant

    The husband did not know about the affair before seeing the messages in her phone a month or so ago. My guy ended the affair with her once his divorce was final because he believed it was wrong for them to continue the affair. She didn’t want to end it, but agreed that it was for the best if its what he wanted.

    The guy I’m in a relationship with says that he wasn’t reaching out to her after we got back together, but that he wouldn’t ignore her if she reached out to him for support. I was not ok with that, as i think it would be too easy to slip back into old patterns and would make it difficult for him to move on from the relationship.

    The reason, he says, that he is not reaching out to either of us now is because I think he wants us, she and I, to have control over the communication. He says he feels guilty for not knowing which of us he wants to be with, so he is trying to be supportive of us both, but not lean on either of us for any kind of support for himself. He is completely open about the fact that he knows it’s a messed up deal, and just wants to get it figured out through counseling.

    #410553
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lindsay:

    The lyrics of the song Torn Between Two Lovers comes to my mind.

    She is going through a divorce, so I can see why he would want to support her, since she was his friend (before being more than a friend) while he had marriage problems. I can also understand somewhat his torn-between-two-lovers quandary: It can happen to a decent person. But it can’t possibly be convenient for you, therefore, I feel badly about you being in this situation.

    You asked in your original post: “My ultimate questions is, Am I unreasonable for thinking that the man deserves the chance to work this out?“- no, I don’t think that you are unreasonable. But it will take some heavy duty strength on your part, depending how long his indecision will last, to endure this… and that’s my concern: I wouldn’t like you to end up drained and a mess waiting for him to decide. You and your children need you to be strong!

    anita

    #410558
    LJS
    Participant

    Anita,

    I am hoping that, in therapy, I can work on setting (and maintaining) healthy boundaries and healthy coping mechanisms to help me through this situation regardless of how it plays out. I think that is so important for my well being and the well being of my kids. I want to set a good example for them, and sometimes that means facing a difficult situation. Whether it works out or not. Thank you so much for your feedback!

    #410563
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lindsay:

    You are very welcome. What I gather from reading your posts is that your thinking is reasonable and balanced, you are aware of the different angles of the situation, you see the bigger picture and your values are admirable: you care about  the well-being of your kids and you want to set a good example for them! I too hope that therapy will be helpful for you and that you re-evaluate the situation over time and events.

    anita

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