Purely based on the title of this blog post, you are probably thinking two things: 1. Jackie got divorced because her husband was having an affair, and 2. Jackie is extremely judgmental when it comes to those having an affair, and has an inability to be open-minded in this regard.
So first of all, NEITHER of these things is true. So why would I choose a title that sounds like I’m bitter or judgmental towards those having an affair?” Because there are some big negatives that go along with having an affair, not for the person who is being cheated on, but for “the other woman” as well.
A good example is this reader, who is the other woman:
We had an affair for 3.5 years. He finally got a divorce that was just finalized about six weeks ago after a year of separation. Of course I thought things would just fall right into place and we would live happily ever after. Wrong! I’ve never been married before and do not have children. He has a young daughter and has joint custody of her.
Since the divorce, we have been spending less time together and he seems more distant than ever. But when we do hang out, things are just as great as they ever were and we have the best time together, most recently an out of town trip to see a concert last weekend. He tells me he does not want any obligations, needs some time to focus on taking care of himself and his daughter, and does not want to refer to me as his girlfriend (even though he treats me like one when we are together). How can I find the balance of giving him time and space that he needs to heal from the divorce with my need of reassurance that this is actually going somewhere? I absolutely want a future with him, but I don’t want to waste any more time.
Many, many thoughts went through my mind reading this. The first is, when married people have affairs, it isn’t usually because they met someone and fell head-over-heels and just couldn’t resist the person that is their soul mate. When married people have affairs, in my opinion, one of two things is going on:
1. There is something not working in the marriage. There is resentment or boredom, or their spouse has some issue that has changed the relationship. Maybe the spouse is sick or is an alcoholic, or is depressed or cheated. Maybe the couple has grown apart-one person is very active and seemingly young and wants to travel, while the other has let him or herself go and is just on a different page. Maybe the couple never used to argue and now disagree on everything. Maybe there was some tragedy the couple faced and the two people handled it very differently. Maybe there are financial issues. Maybe they parent differently. Maybe one spouse gave all the attention to the kids and the other feels ignored/taken for granted. Or maybe the person having the affair has lost interest or respect for the spouse. Maybe one or both feels unappreciated, unloved, no longer cherished. For whatever reason, not being happy in a marriage will cause someone to seek love from someone else (or multiple people.) Those who are happy and committed in a marriage don’t usually have affairs, in my opinion.
2. The person having the affair is unhappy in their own life. He or she might have an addiction or an unresolved issue from the past or from childhood. Maybe the person is unhappy at work or is facing some bad times in another aspect of life—a family member or parent, perhaps. Maybe he/she felt like they couldn’t turn to the spouse for support and can’t communicate so they seek attention/love in someone else’s arms. I’m not taking sides. Maybe the spouse has turned off and is cold and distant and non-communicative. Not that that justifies having an affair, but my point is that it could be a reason why it happened. On the other hand, maybe the person having the affair never gave the spouse a chance to help him or her. Maybe that person shut him or her out and chose to cheat instead of lean on the spouse.
So, what I want to say to this reader is that it doesn’t sound like her boyfriend had the affair because he wanted HER. That’s not to say he doesn’t care for her, but obviously, he got divorced because he was unhappy for other reasons—which have nothing to do with her.
So now, being extremely naïve, this woman thought that she would move right in and they would live happily ever after. What she doesn’t realize is, this man is in a lot of pain, that could be stemming from years of unhappiness. He might feel very guilty for the affair, he might feel sad for his daughter for the divorce, he might not like himself because he cheated, and now that he is “free” to date his girlfriend—she no longer has to be a secret, he might feel kind of yucky about the whole thing. Maybe he doesn’t have respect for the girl because she has been sleeping with a married man for 3 ½ years. I’m not saying any of these things are true, I’m just speculating.
The thing about affairs is, when a relationship begins with secrecy and lies and cheating and betrayal (even if the marriage was really bad and the wife didn’t really care who he was with), it just has a bad foundation right from the start. I mean where can it really go from here? If they got married, would they look back and say, “Remember when we first met? Remember our first kiss? Remember the first time you cried to me? Remember how we couldn’t get enough of each other?” All these questions would be clouded with unsaid truths involving a wife and daughter who didn’t know where he was, how he came home and had dinner with his family after spending the afternoon with his girlfriend, how he lied to them every time he and his girlfriend had a date. The relationship is tainted. That’s the bottom line.
I’m not even saying that no relationship can work out if it starts out as an affair. I’m sure some do. In fact I can think of a few right now. But I know that for myself (and maybe this guy feels the same way) I wouldn’t want that history with someone. I want a beautiful beginning with someone I marry. Maybe that doesn’t matter to some people, but I have to believe that looking in the mirror and facing the truth isn’t rosy with an affair. It’s really something to think about.
What I want to say to this woman is, (and I feel badly if this post upsets her-I’m just trying to help) is that she might be wise to walk away. If after 3 ½ years this guy won’t call her his girlfriend, how happy in the relationship can she be? Not very.
She is most likely unhappy most of the time in the relationship, and it probably feels empty, lonely, frustrating and disappointing. These are not things that are desirable in a romantic relationship, are they? I hope she realizes that she deserves better. She deserves to date a man who respects her, adores her, is proud to walk down the street with her, introduces her to his friends, and loves her like she needs to be loved-not half the time.
As far as the divorced guy, he needs to be in therapy, to find out why he cheated, and to begin to heal from his divorce. He is correct that he needs to take care of himself and his daughter. But, he also needs to be kind to his girlfriend and think of her, too. He doesn’t want to let her go because he is having fun on his terms, when HE wants it to be fun. He is being selfish in this regard and it makes me kind of mad.
My reader writes “I absolutely want a future with him, but I don’t want to waste any more time.” My advice is: You are wasting your time. Let him go for now. You deserve better than what he is offering. Let him figure things out. As for you, you have no baggage, other than spending 3 ½ years as a secret, as the other woman. That is not good for self-esteem. YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think this is doing that for you.
Like this post? Check out, “A Cheating Spouse Doesn’t Automatically Mean Divorce.”