I’ve had a crush on Eva since we met in junior high. That was 1982, and we’re now in our mid-forties. We attended high school together and stayed in touch periodically in college. Then a long period of time passed until we reconnected through Facebook. We were each married to other people with families of our own.
Shortly after reconnecting online, a mutual friend flew both Eva and me out to his city for his 40th birthday. This was the first time we’d seen each other in person for 15 years! On the last night of this week-long trip, I entered her bedroom and sat next to her and flirted and massaged her, and sparks began to fly. We didn’t do anything sexual then, but we continued to see each other once we’d returned to our normal lives, and soon enough we were having an affair.
As the affair and our feelings for each other deepened, my marriage was slipping away. On four separate occasions, Eva and I “broke up, ” but each time, we would come right back. I divorced, moved out, settling parenting responsibilities with my ex-wife, and finally accepted that I’d fallen in love with Eva. We’ve been together now going on five years. We tell each other that we love each other. It’s very passionate, caring and understanding. She is my true love, the love of my life.
But herein lies the dilemma: Eva remains married to her spouse. I give her all of things that are lacking in her lifeless marriage. Her husband discovered our affair and still will not divorce her. He insists on marriage counseling. She is not filing for divorce either.
She lists the reasons for remaining married:
1. Worried about being able to take care of the kids
2. Worried about child support/custody/alimony or lack of
3. She is diabetic and relies on the spousal health insurance to sustain her medication
Yet the facts remain: She has already broken her vows … over and over. She continually lies to her husband to find weekend getaways with me. She sleeps in my shirt every night. She now sleeps in another bed separate from her husband (but she claims that it’s because of her back and she needs a different bed). When she does have sex with her husband, she feels guilty about cheating on me (yes, she says this).
A typical day for us goes like this: She comes over to my place early in the morning after she gets the kids ready for school. We kiss, snuggle and exchange I love you’s and then it’s off to work. We talk over the phone or text each other. We meet for lunch, usually at her house, and that’s an hour of passionate sex. Then she does dinner for her kids, and then her husband gets home. As soon as he gets home, she leaves to run errands where we meet again. Sometimes I shop with her and sometimes she just comes to my place to cuddle and share time together. When she finally gets back home, her husband says great, now it’s my turn and he goes over to a buddy’s house. At that point, Eva and I talk on the phone until it’s time to go to sleep.
She spends more time with me, than with him. He doesn’t seem to really care. And she feels torn, and some guilt, and struggles with this whole stressful situation.
I have volumes of love letters and poems. She professes her love to me daily. We are very compatible. It is a perfect match of two people who love each other. But obviously, it is not perfect. She remains married. I am not pushing for her to divorce. I have never requested her to do so. And right now, it doesn’t seem to be urgent to do so. I have a feeling that there will come a day that the urgency inside of me will rise. But I know that this is not my decision to make. It is entirely up to her what she wants to do. Do I just let it go on, or should I demand all of Eva now?
This situation seems untenable in the long term. However, taking Eva at her word, her practical concerns may understandably outweigh her desire to be with you in a more stable relationship.
When you love someone and want to build a relationship together, decision making becomes a joint activity. Your attitude that “It is entirely up to her what she wants to do,” may be holding your relationship back. Instead, you need to open a serious discussion about how to legitimize your relationship. Just loving someone is not enough to build a relationship. It requires mutual effort, mutual support and mutual commitment to long-term thoughts and actions that honor and prioritize the relationship. Whether you love Eva or not, you shouldn’t be willing to remain in relationship limbo for her and she shouldn’t expect you to do so either. You’ve made the decision to be in a primary relationship with her, but she has not made the same decision. You’re not together until she starts acting like you are.
You need to ask Eva to make a decision, but not alone. Your state has no-fault divorce, so there is no obstacle to her obtaining one if she wants to. From what you say in your letter, it doesn’t sound like there’d be any obstacle to joint-custody either. Child-support is a legal requirement, and alimony, while not guaranteed is common. Both you and your girlfriend have jobs, so it doesn’t seem as if she would be in dire straits if she divorced. Health care is now available to just about everyone (thank you Obama!), so even if Eva can’t get health insurance through her own job to cover her health problem, she can purchase it independently. If she marries you, you may also be able to cover her through your insurance. If you love her as much as you say, you need to propose to her, so that she can make a decision that isn’t based solely on financial fear.
You should lay out two options: either she commits to a life with you, in which you will marry her, help her raise her children and share your finances with her, or she sticks with her current marriage and ends her relationship with you. It sounds like she and her husband seem to have worked out an agreement in which neither is particularly happy, but both get something they want. They have a more or less stable home for their children, financial needs are met, and each has the option of physical intimacy with someone else on the side. You, however, are not getting what you want. It is clear from your letter that you desire a more traditional relationship, but haven’t asked for fear of rejection. It’s time for you to be more honest and more forthcoming with what you can actually offer her in a real relationship if that’s what she chooses. Good luck!
I agree with everything Sally has said. Eva has a pretty sweet situation worked out for herself: she has the hot sex and emotional intimacy she needs with you, she has a husband who turns a blind eye to her sexual affairs as long as he can have time with friends, they are both around to parent and provide stability for the children, and they don’t need to rearrange their finances or health care. It seems like things are working very well for them, and I don’t see why Eva would want to change that.
If she leaves her husband for you, she is going to upend everything. He’s being agreeable with her now, but what if he fights for custody of the kids and uses her affair with you against her?
The biggest thing missing from here is the conversation about life-long commitment between the two of you. Would or could you commit to her as a husband or partner? If you were married, would that provide her with the insurance she needs for her diabetes? Is she interested in marrying or committing you, or does the current situation work best for her?
The next biggest thing missing from here is the kids. You already have two of your own. Can you be a father to your own children and Eva’s? Is she capable, if you two were committed and together, of being a stepmother to yours?
These questions don’t have easy answers. Eva and her husband are probably doing the right thing by their daughters by keeping the family together for now, and you play a special role in letting that happen, which is a gift to all four of them. I think Eva probably should go to counseling with her husband—not necessarily the “let’s force our marriage back together” kind of counseling, but perhaps that “let’s make sure we’re finding the best possible solution for both of us” kind of counseling. That will take time. Maybe, since he’s already letting this happen, Eva’s husband would be willing to let her have more time with you—sleepovers, weekends, vacations—in exchange for having the space to get what he needs.
Meanwhile, the final question you should consider is this: Do you get enough out of your current relationship with Eva to continue seeing her this way until her children are grown up and she can more easily end things with her husband? What else, exactly, do you need from her?
Eva very well may be making the best decision for herself. One might see this as selfish—and our instinct would be to do so if the genders were reversed—though it sounds like she has been completely forthright with you. She gets to have the best of both worlds by continuing her affair without having to shake up her domestic life. She has a lot to lose by breaking with her husband, and she’s already got everything else she needs.
Let’s look at how this affects the others. As far as you’ve shown her, you’re obviously willing to go along with Eva for years and years, as is her legally married man. Perhaps her husband is actually fine the way things are, since he doesn’t want divorce. And who knows what he’s doing when he’s out with his “friends”? Moreover, her children can live in ignorant bliss about their parents’ relationship, as they probably should. No one in Eva’s family has to face the tumult, confusion, and complication that your family undoubtedly went through when you divorced.
The only person who really seems unhappy is you, though you haven’t done anything about it yet. It would be easiest if you and Eva could have swapped partners years ago, but the universe rarely works that fortuitously. Your choice now is to accept things as they are or demand more. You aren’t in a great position to expect Eva to meet your demands, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve even presented her with what you can need and what you’re willing to offer her. The downside is that, once you make demands, you’ll have to be prepared to either continue as things are or lose the relationship altogether if Eva can’t give you everything you want. If you need all of her or none of her, it’s time to figure out which of the two it will be.