So guilt-ridden, or simply selfish?

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    I’ve been reading on TinyBuddha for a while, getting a lot of support from the many wise comments so willingly shared. Heart-warming to see all this kindness. Now I hope for some input on my own relationship challenge:

    I’m in my early 40’s, he’s in his early 50’s. We are both long-term singles with a history of avoiding emotional vulnerability. Introverts, but with different social habits. I am very open, and have a need to share and reciprocate support with others. He has a very strong need to maintain control, and is amazed by the level of openess he has felt with me. We have known each other for 12 years, meeting work-related a few times a years. Always having a special connection. 1,5 years ago I acted on this, we became “lovers” and bonded strongly.

    Problem is, he has another woman in his life, which he was completely upfront about from the very beginning. They have been friends for almost 20 years, and intimate friends (also sexually) for about 10 years. They have never been a couple, though she wants to. The intimacy started when she lost her husband in an accident, being pregnant at the time. My guy helped her through it, and also feel a paternal responsibility for her child. So he is stuck with this woman. Not without pleasure of course. She lives abroad, and they visit each other in the three main vacations of the year. He enjoys his trip to her country, and is very fond of both her and her child. However, they do crash in personality, he says.

    Well, now he is not only stuck with her, but stuck between two women! Initially he wanted to explore “us” before hurting her without reason. I was happy about that, because I am fearful of getting hurt myself, so I wanted to take it slow. “Unfortunately” he has got strong feelings for me, and now is completely aware that he has to make a choice. He is so guilt-ridden, for going behind her back (though they have a mutual agreement to see others, he really should have told her by now) and for not being fair to me.

    While we speak very openly, he shuts down when it comes to this particular issue. I have not given him an ultimatum or nagged at it at all, and he says I am too accepting. It makes me wonder if he is only waiting for me to end his dilemma, or if he wants me to force him to tell his other woman. Well, only he can tell. I have kind of asked already, and he is very clear that he does not want to loose me. Regarding her, he answers more vaguely, and I get the impression that he does not want to loose her friendship (and the child), but telling her about me will make her quitting all contact.

    What do you think? Is it possibly to hang on to two women out of guilt, and if so, for how long? Or do you think he’s just a player?


    this can be a very emotionally painful, and difficult situation to navigate.. having had an extremely similiar situation in my past i sympathize with the predicament you are in and am sending you loving thoughts, courage, and healing.

    i was once in a situation with a man who felt he couldn’t choose between me and another other woman he had a long history & open relationship with. ultimately he decided he wanted to be with both us rather than make a choice. his lack of commitment to me and the mere fact that he felt he had to choose led me to believe we weren’t on the same page, no matter what my feelings were and so i had to leave. i would have been miserable and i couldn’t have been true to myself and my needs if i had stayed.

    i say this only because as this was going on there were many things i had failed to ask myself, and what i hope i can pass on to you are all the questions i forgot: how can i be compassionate to myself? what do i want out of this relationship? can he give this to me? could i be with a man who’s still holding on to another woman, could i ever be comfortable in this relationship?

    in constantly questioning if i was being compassionate enough to this man who couldn’t make up his mind, i forgot all about having any compassion for myself.

    things i’d asked myself which i wish i hadn’t: am i not enough, that he can’t let go of this other woman? if i love him more, if i am understanding and don’t pressure him, is it possible he’ll come around and make a decision/commit?

    we cannot change other people, but we can be honest with ourselves and set clear boundaries in order to protect our relationship with ourselves.

    what i would say to you is in your love for this man, please don’t lose the love and compassion you have for yourself. you sound like you care deeply for him, and that’s a beautiful thing, but don’t let your love and commitment to yourself waiver due to his current struggles and indecision.

    ask yourself for what you want and need, and ask him what he wants and needs. see where there is room for compromise, and see where there is none.

    as far as where he is at i hope he can find the strength to be honest – honest from his heart, with this woman and with you. how can he be fully emotionally present and available to either of you in this state? it is not fair to all three of you in this way.

    whatever you decide, the love you have for yourself and honesty you uphold within yourself will always carry you through <3


    Thank you very much for your wise words, and for sharing your own experience. So far the relationship has given me far more happiness than it has taken, but I feel this is about to change. He has made no alterations to his relationship with the other woman, while I have been rejected quite hurtfully a few times lately. Of course hurtful priorization is invitable in such a three-some. Because I am the one who knows about it all, he can be honest with me, but not her. For example, he felt too stressed in his mind to see me in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, which is one of his annual vacations to her. He always wants to limit our visits (we live far apart as well) to 2-3 days, but his visits to her last for 2-3 weeks. I believe he is genuine when he says this is because he is himself with me, but have to “act a little” with her. But it doesn’t take away the glaring truth that his feelings for me is not strong enough to risk anything.

    And like you say, I have to be compassionate about my own needs. Of course the “I am not enough” thoughts are lurking in my mind, and that’s bad for me. But the alternative (leaving him) will also make me very miserable. I will eventually deal with the sorrow of loosing him. But loving myself is not enough, I want a special someone to share my happy and sorrows with. And I am bound to go back into my self-protective “no love” modus, where I have been almost all my adult life, rather than greeting life and letting love happen by its own. I had actually not been in a relationship for 15 years when I dared to get involved with him. What I want right now, is to have less feelings for him, and go back to enjoying the relationship for what it is.

    Sorry for the messy posting, it likely mirrors the mess in my mind right now.

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