Q: My partner is wonderful and I love him very much. The problem is, he’s married and has been for almost 20 years. He and his wife have three teenage children. I met him at work five years ago and he invited me for a drink after work. We got along really well and started dating.
He asked that it be kept quiet as he didn’t want anyone at work to find out if people saw us differently or we got into trouble. After going no further than hotels or coming to my house for almost a year, he finally confessed that he was married. He said he didn’t want to be in a relationship but he had developed feelings for me. His wife doesn’t know about us, he says, because he usually works long hours.
He has said before that he will leave her once the kids are 18 and in college, but I don’t know if I can wait that long. I love him but I’m just not sure we have a future. It’s been almost six years now – and I feel like something needs to change. How do I persuade him to leave his wife early?
dr West answers: The short answer is – you can’t. You shouldn’t have to convince anyone that you’re worth being with. This is a man who lied to you for almost five years, kept you as his side for years and also lied to his wife for just as long. No matter how good your relationship is, it’s built on solid, consistent lying to multiple people. That’s not the basis for a healthy relationship.
Such people leave their marriage once their children turn 18? Sometimes, but mostly not. This is a way of keeping you hooked, using hope like a carrot on a stick to keep you close. It’s cruel and he knows it’s not true.
When the kids turn 18 there will be another reason why he can’t go. In the meantime, you will have given up more years of your life to wait in the shadow of his life. You may not even be the first person he’s had an affair with and made those promises to. He’s fully aware that you could be hurt by these lies – let alone his wife and children – and yet he wants to move on. His actions are not those of a kind, compassionate person who truly appreciates you.
You have to look within yourself and see what needs this man is filling. You are aware that you are not this man’s priority; You are something he squeezes into his life when he can. Is there a part of you that’s afraid of committing to a full-time relationship?
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Having an affair means you can keep him as far away as he can keep you out of his life. You may know deep down that there is no future, but this affair is a way of building some kind of relationship without being afraid to open yourself up to a fully committed and mindful relationship. Or maybe you don’t feel worthy of a real relationship, in which case you need to gently but honestly work on your self-esteem and relationship patterns.
Past trauma and negative experiences can damage our self-esteem, and we may be vulnerable to people like this who only use us to get their needs met.
These crumbs are not enough and will never nourish you. Staying with this man will keep you in limbo waiting to be worthy of being voted his number one priority. It’s a future that could happen, but you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to wait years for that possibility. Your other option is to detach from that person, learn the lessons of why a clingy man was approaching you, and use that knowledge to grow. You deserve to be someone’s first choice; a willing partner who presents you to family and friends, does not lie to you and does not keep you out of his life.
Ask yourself what life would be like without this person. They started this relationship before the pandemic when many people felt fear and normal life was disrupted. It might have been easy to hide an affair if people split their lives and didn’t see friends and family.
However, there’s a whole new dating pool out there to explore, and many people have changed their way of dating after self-reflection during the pandemic. What do you see in your future – is it marriage, children, living together, holidays abroad?
If you hang around on the fringes of this man’s life, you’ll get nothing, just stolen moments from his schedule. Imagine a future where you put yourself first and have a relationship without lies and limitations. A relationship where you are equal, can be spontaneous, and don’t have to keep the relationship a secret from family and friends. You are worthy of it and it is possible.
You gave this man five years of your life. Take the energy you put into him and pour it into yourself. Nourish yourself and focus on making your life so satisfying.
It’s okay to grieve any thoughts of a future with this man, but you have to accept that it’s very, very unlikely that you’ll have the future you want with him. He may promise the world to keep teasing you, but false promises should put up with the past while you focus on the future. Be kind to yourself and break out of life in Limbo. Seize this moment to thrive on your own terms and you will find true happiness on your own.
dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to email@example.com. dr West regrets that she cannot answer questions privately
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/asking-for-a-friend-my-married-partner-has-promised-to-leave-his-wife-when-their-children-turn-18-but-im-not-sure-i-can-wait-can-i-force-him-to-do-it-sooner-41503730.html Asking for a Friend: My spouse has promised to leave his wife when their kids turn 18 — but I’m not sure I can wait. Can I force him to do it earlier?