Bring it to Barb Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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Dear Barb,

I am seeing someone who is married. I am smitten by him and we are very compatible. He claims he has been unhappy in his marriage and is planning to end his marriage of 20 years. He doesn’t want to hurt his wife or his kids, but financially this will be difficult. Many weekends I don’t hear from him and I feel alone. Am I being naïve to believe him? What are the chances for a successful separation and divorce? I know he feels hopeless and wants to make a change. 

Signed, Not Desperate but Lonely

Dear Not Desperate but Lonely,

It’s reasonable to assume that his wife of 20 years is most likely not happy in the marriage either. Many marriages remain together merely for convenience. The sole reason to remain together can be financially driven. A departing partner can feel an intense guilt about abandonment of a spouse. This emotional turmoil is overwhelming, causing an intense sense of hopelessness and a need for reassurance and approval from someone who is caring. That someone is you and your sympathetic ear, which can easily become romantic with genuine intentions.

Here are some statistics to consider. Ten percent of extramarital affairs last more than one day, but less than a month, 50 percent last more than a month but less than a year, but 40 percent last two years or more. Very few extramarital affairs last more than four years. A lesser-known fact is that those who divorce rarely marry the person with whom they are having the affair.

A man may realize the negative impact on his wife, family and himself, but still continue an affair. This is due to feeling unwanted, undervalued and/or taken for granted in his marital relationship. A man’s personal needs of being wanted, valued and appreciated will win out every time. It’s just how men are wired.

If you are willing to be a sounding board or simply a distraction from his painful, unsatisfying marriage, he will allow you to accommodate him. 

Anyone who is emotionally invested in another person has likely checked out of the marriage. But if it’s just sex, it’s less about attachment and more about a hurtful mistake and the affair may soon fizzle out.

People spend a long time thinking about divorce before acting on it. They don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to divorce. Contrary to the popular belief that people shed a marriage as easily as last year’s coat, acting on one’s decision to divorce is difficult, especially in the case of a long-term marriage or when there are children involved. 

Energy goes where attention flows! How much extra energy do you have? Be careful! You may later regret spending so much attention and time accommodating his schedule in anticipation of a future that he may never be able to provide to you. He has all the obstacles and you have none. Running on a track from point A to point B takes a lot longer when you’re dodging around and jumping over obstacles versus just a straight line, but it’s your race. Run your own race! 

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