I have been married for 10 years to a functional alcoholic. We have two younger kids. For the last 7 years I have been having an emotional affair with an ex. This man and I have always had a connection that never really went away. He is also married with a young child. He means the world to me. With him I feel so authentic, so safe and most of all accepted. I loved him so much and was heartbroken when we broke up so many years ago. I am torn between being drawn into this man and trying to remain committed to the marriage I am in. I try to convince myself that this isn’t a real connection. I remind myself that it is ridiculous to think that this person is any better than my current husband or any other man, so why would I ruin an OK marriage for a jumble of inflated feelings that likely aren’t real, except I am terrified that I am wrong. There has never been a person in my life that i have felt the same way I have with this other man, it’s the same now as it was almost 18 years ago. The feelings are actually, to me, deeper and more mature than back when I was 19. I need a professional to help remind me that this situation is crazy and a complete fantasy.
Most marriages end because of an affair. Not only are affairs the leading cause of marriage deaths, but they are a disease that lessens and weakens the marriage before it actually kills the marriage. Like most diseases, if stopped early, it need not lead to death.
As in your case, an affair is often a sign that there is something wrong with the marriage. When people are truly happy in a marriage or relationship, they are almost always immune to interference by a third party. In other words, if you are really happy with your partner you are simply uninterested in the overtures of another individual. If your partner meets your needs, you need no other.
Affairs often seem pleasant, fun, light, exciting and much better than the regular, every day, bill-paying, life that you lead with your spouse. Affairs are by their very nature an escape from the mundane existence of real life. Having an affair is like going to the movies. When the movie ends you go home to the house that could use a grass cutting, a new coat of paint and a general tidying up. However, it is “your” home.
Work on your marriage. If the man you are married to is not good enough, improve him. If he cannot be improved, after you have done everything that is possible, then you must move on. Things don’t have to be perfect to be good.
Is it too clichéd to say “the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence?” Would it be better to say “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush?” Your relationship with your ex-boyfriend has already ended one time. It didn’t work. Sure, there were good things but there was enough bad, to end the relationship. Maybe he ended it. Maybe you ended it. Maybe it was mutual, but it did end. Your relationship with your husband has endured.
Not always pretty, not always perfect, but there was enough there to keep it together. Speaking of ending, you must end your current relationship with your ex-boyfriend. It is not optional. Believing that you can be emotionally involved with an ex-boyfriend without believing that you are cheating is ridiculous. Don’t lie to yourself.
Perhaps it’s time to consider marriage counseling or individual counseling for him or you or both. Maybe it is time to end your marriage but it would be foolhardy to do so without the objective analysis that you would receive in counseling. I am not for a moment, suggesting that you should “do” what your counselor decides is right. You should only consider the advice of the counselor. You must, after thorough and due consideration, make your own decision. Good luck and get to work.
Dr. Kristina Randle