Perhaps the best advice you can give someone about having a relationship with a married man is telling her not to even start. However, that may not be practical for all women. As my friend Jenna* told me, “You can’t help who you fall in love with. The love of your life just might be a married man.”
Being part of any couple can be challenging and unpredictable, as we all know. But when the man with whom you’re involved is part of another couple, someone else’s husband, then the challenge and unpredictability can make your life a messy, unhappy waiting game that you will rarely win.
The woman who is in love with a married man lives a life that, for the most part, is shrouded in secrecy. Her close circle of friends might know about her affair, but she really cannot let anyone else, such as colleagues or her family, know. She is alone most of the time and spends it waiting: waiting for her married lover to call, to come meet her, to share some precious time together. She is not his wife, she is not mother to his children, she is not his parents’ daughter-in-law. Her chance for happiness hinges on a future that is highly uncertain, to say the least.
Your own survival is crucial, and if you do happen to fall in love with a married man, there are several hard truths you need to know.
1. The needs of the many (namely, his family) will always outweigh your needs.
His family will always come first, and that includes his wife. Simply because he talks in a negative way about his marriage doesn’t mean that his obligations to his wife are any less important to him. Whether or not they have children is a moot point; he will always feel as if he has to be a husband to her and take care of the marriage, whether he truly loves her or not. Their life together includes friendships and a social network that is shared and comfortable for him. He won’t risk losing that.
2. His life with you is secret and always will be.
No matter how much you may want to walk in the sunshine with him and have him openly acknowledge his love for you, it won’t happen. While he is more than willing to be your lover and to bring you gifts, he is not about to have you meet his friends and risk having his family find out about you.
3. No matter how nice a guy he is, you are a temporary diversion for him.
This is not an easy statement to comprehend. It’s emotionally painful. Unfortunately it is true. The beginning of an affair is romantic and naughty at the same time. Planning to be together becomes a fascinating game and is thrilling to say the least. Stealing hours from work or home to have sex is exciting, and you may mistake his libido-driven passion for undying love. Don’t. The game soon becomes a chore for him, and romantic interludes are just one more thing he “has to do.”
4. He will not leave his wife.
Less than 5 percent of men leave their wives for the woman with whom they are having an affair. Whether it is because of all the legal and financial problems attached to divorce, religious beliefs or the fact that they have become comfortable with their marriage the way it is — or even because they still have a certain affection for their wives, men rarely end up with the other woman. Even Katharine Hepburn knew, and accepted, this fact during her long affair with Spencer Tracy. And don’t ever kid yourself on this important point: He is still having sex with his wife, no matter what you may want to believe.
5. Legally, financially and emotionally, you have no claim.
You may realize that you have no claim legally or financially, but you would think there’d be an emotional attachment or bond between you and your lover. In fact there usually isn’t after the affair is over. Here’s why. Even though he has a deep feeling of love for you, he is able to process it in an unemotional way. He’s not a bad guy, he may be a wonderfully kind person, but he is also a practical one. He knows that holding on to emotions that can only cause problems for his family is something he cannot and will not do. When it’s over, he will move on.
To safeguard yourself from too much emotional pain, you need to understand that he can only be a small part of your life and will never be more than that no matter how many promises are made. You need to have a life that works and that is full enough to withstand the pain of the eventual breakup. He has one and you need one, too.
A solid circle of friends and a social life separate from your hidden life with him is a necessity. Let your friends know that you still want to go out with them regularly. Don’t always be so ready to cancel plans you have made with others to accommodate him. Casual dating with male friends helps, too. It allows you to see yourself through the eyes of another man who finds you interesting and attractive. It is up to you where it might lead. It helps to remember that the man with whom you are intimately involved in “your other life” is not living as a monk with his wife.
Being involved in an affair with someone else’s husband is an almost surefire trip from ecstatic highs at the beginning to a depressing abyss at the end. Understand the basics of exactly what you are getting into, and what your status is.
You need to step back and identify the priorities — your priorities — in a relationship with a married man. Think with your head and not with your heart. Ensuring you have a life distinct from his that is your safe haven can make being the other woman, if not a secure, permanent position, at least one that is a bit more tolerable.
© 2019 copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved