Do you have questions about creating intimacy or developing mindful relationships? Confusing questions? Awkward ones? Deep, dark scary ones? I want them. Email your questions to: [email protected].
All relephant questions will be answered with loving kindness. (Yes. Every one.) Authors remain anonymous.
No judgments, just soulful answers.
Q: About a year ago, I was swept off my feet by a smile my coworker and I shared in an Emergency Department after I’d got hurt on the job.
I’d never had that movie style romantic moment before then and clearly he felt something too because he asked me to dinner that night. We talked, laughed, and listened to Tin Pan Alley music in his car while I stalled at the end of the night not wanting it to end.
It was all very innocent and friendly but in the weeks that followed we entered into a relationship, I felt myself falling hard, fast. So I asked him what he was wanting out of a relationship to set boundaries. He said he wasn’t really wanting anything serious, so I proceeded with caution. Because of work we discussed that we’d have to keep things on the down low.
Fast forward a few months. We are deep in conversation one evening and he confesses to me that he is married with two children. He’s been separated from his wife for three years and they are living in separate cities.
I was devastated. It all of the sudden made sense why he’d pressed so hard to keep the relationship on the DL from work since our bosses had his tax information and knew he was married. I felt like a complete fool. I asked him why don’t you get a divorce? The answer was the children, his parents, and religion.
I wanted to end things but he explained that she was in her last semester of graduate school and when she graduated she had a job lined up already and then he’d feel comfortable divorcing her. I kept a relationship going with him expecting that in the summer he’d start the divorce process. He gave me some more excuses as to why nothing had changed or progressed which caused me to give him an ultimatum. That led to him telling me that he’d talk to her and his parents in August, and file the papers by the end of October. Both are insisting on counseling and neither want him to get divorced. I spoke with him last weekend and asked if he was going to make his deadline, he said no.
I guess this leads to my question. It has been a year he seems to be serious about leaving his wife, he is committed to me and a relationship with me going into the future but is dragging his feet. How long do I wait?
This is probably a stupid question I should have probably left him as soon as he told me he was married. But I love this man more than I’ve ever loved anyone. We have so much in common, we get each other on a deeper level more than just a physical one. I know he harbors no feelings for his wife. I do believe he’s clinging to a lost cause for his children and for religious stigmas. And I’d probably be okay with everything if we could be open about our relationship together but I’m exhausted loving in limbo.
A. “Loving in limbo.” I’m not sure if that was a typo and you meant you were living in limbo, but I’m going to call it a gorgeous Freudian slip and applaud you for it.
You are, indeed, loving in limbo. And you deserve better.
As you negotiate your relationship with this man, there are two things you need to keep in your mind at all times:
- You are not responsible for another adult’s choices.
- You are in control of your life at all times.
You are not responsible for the choices this man makes concerning his relationship with you, with his wife, with his children, with his parents, or with his higher power.
You colleague sounds like a loving, caring man who is himself in deep turmoil over how to handle the situation he’s gotten himself into. He clearly cares about you, yet he has obligations to his family and his religion. These are all very powerful forces, pulling him in different directions! Give him the space to make his decisions.
Have you ever tried to think clearly when there’s noise all around you? Maybe you’re trying to remember that one thing you wanted to add to your shopping list, but the TV is screeching about some must-have cleaning product, a phone service truck is beep-beep-beeping as it backs into your neighbors drive, and the phone starts ringing. Hard to even remember what you were trying to think about, right? That’s how it is when we relate with others. Sometimes, even if we are invested in the relationship, it’s best to back off and let one of those noises in our partner’s head fade away so he can better hear his internal voice. Lord knows, he’ll have enough of a cacophony as it is.
Chances are, he’s paralyzed by expectations and responsibilities he feels. There is a great unknown facing him and he may or may not have the strength to choose at all, never mind choose you. This is his journey, not yours. You have your own life to lead.
You are in control of your life.
While he sorts out his life, you owe it to yourself to preserve your own. I’m not saying don’t state your case. It seems you already have, which is an excellent and empowered thing to do. He gets it. He knows what you want and what it will take to keep you. You’ve done your bit, now let him do his.
Here’s the hard and fast truth: When we find true love, we do whatever it takes to nurture it.
For him, he needs to step forward. If this man truly honors the gift of your love, he will extricate himself from the tangles of his previous life in order to share his with you.
For you, you need to step back. What is important is that you have acted with integrity by making it clear what you need from him, which in this case is for him to a) not be married to another woman, and b) stop hiding your relationship.
So, how long do you wait for him? You don’t. Where do you go from here? Anywhere. Only make sure you’re not looking over your shoulder to see if he’s with you.
Be prepared, though, that even if he does divorce his wife, there will be fallout. You and he will have to negotiate the rough waters of transition. That could include depression, doubt, separation anxiety, pseudohostility—getting pissed off about something that has nothing to do with the deeper issue (e.g., freaking out that the dishes aren’t done when you’re actually upset that he spent an hour on the phone with his ex)—and a very necessary period of mourning. Not to mention you’ll likely have an emotionally wounded ex-wife on the other end of your blossoming relationship.
I know this advice is blunt, but it is honest. If you and he are to proceed as a couple, you’ll need a boatload of love and support of one another.
If it seems that he may be heading in the direction of stepping into a life with you, you can help him along the way. I suggest you both consider brief couples therapy to help you work through your relationship together. If that seems too close too soon, I’d still recommend individual therapy for you both.
For him, it may help him to define and prioritize his responsibilities. It will also help him to make peace with his choices. For you, a good therapist will help you to find the place of strength within you to move on with your life, whether this man is a part of it or not.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Janice Waltzer/Flickr