Being the ‘Other Woman’
Dear Dr. V,
I've been in a long-distance relationship
with a married man for five years. Lately, I’ve been doubting his love for me.
His wife has known about us since the beginning. He says his marriage is over,
but why then is he still living with her? He says his wife is going to file for
divorce, but I don't believe him. I want to give up on the relationship, but it
is too heartbreaking. What should I do?
– Genie T.
Pure common sense says you should break this relationship off. He lives far away, he’s married and he is willing to cheat on his wife. What’s to say if you married him, he wouldn’t do the same to you? Honestly, I wouldn’t trust this man. Cheating men often lie about their situations to get what they want. If he told you his wife knows about the affair, he was probably lying.
Even though you can’t trust this man, you can trust yourself. If there is even a little voice inside your head telling you to end this relationship, listen to it!
If you're not sure what your gut is telling you, I would suggest you ask it. Take about an hour, sit down with some paper and a couple of different pens, and do a Q&A session with yourself. Use one color for the questions and the other color for the answers. Ask yourself the following:
· How do I feel about this relationship? Why do I feel this way?
· What are my expectations regarding this relationship? Do I want Mr. X to marry me?
· Do I think these expectations will be met?
· If I’m not in a relationship with Mr. X, how will I get my emotional needs taken care of?
You should also seriously consider why you're involved in a long-distance relationship with a married man in the first place
Are you afraid of intimacy with someone who is available and in front of you? Do you feel unworthy of real love? If you’re having intimacy issues in general, I suggest you find a therapist who can help you tackle this larger problem.
That being said, answering the other questions will probably make it easier for you to decide how to proceed. If you decide to stay with him, make sure you have really good reasons for doing so. And keep me posted on what they are… because I can’t think of any.
Related Online Dating Links:
Dear Dr. V,
My live-in boyfriend suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder, and I’ve become more of a mother and a babysitter than a girlfriend. Seven months ago he accepted a voluntary job layoff and hasn’t worked since. Now he barely leaves the house. I work and attend graduate school full time. I pay all of the bills. And I do all the housework even though my boyfriend sits home all day. I’ve tried to convince him to go therapy, but he refuses. I’m not sure if I still love him or just feel sorry for him. I can’t live this way anymore, but I’m afraid to move out. My boyfriend has always talked about suicide, and I don’t want to be the reason that pushes him over the edge. What can I do to help him?
– Desiree F.
Before we get into what you can do for your boyfriend, some words of comfort for you: I think you are right to reevaluate your living arrangements with your boyfriend. Moving back into your own place will help you sort out your needs, desires and options. It will also give you a neutral space to go to if the situation with your boyfriend worsens. Better yet, stepping back may encourage him to do what he needs to do to get well.
We are all interconnected and need
care from others, but there are situations where the actual “caring”
complicates the crisis. Currently you’re doing all the caring, creating a sense
of learned helplessness in your boyfriend. Why should your boyfriend get a job
when he has you to pay the bills? Why should he take care of himself if he has
you to do it for him?
It sounds as though your boyfriend suffers from clinical depression – a disease that affects the emotions, activity level and libido of the afflicted person.
Sadly, it’s not just the person with depression who feels the effects. Caring for a depressed person can be stressful and even depressing. And your self-image is already suffering. The dynamic being created is not healthy for either of you.
That said, the transition you are both facing is not an easy one. I would encourage you to get in touch with your boyfriend’s friends and family, and ask them to contact him frequently. This will help him recognize he has a support network and will also allow you to fade as your boyfriend’s primary means of support.
You will need to make
your boundaries clear to him. Decide when and where you are willing to see him,
and stick to these limits regardless of how much he may plead, threaten or
whine. Make good use of “I” phrases, such as “I need my space right now.”
If he does threaten suicide, do not go see him. This will only encourage him to continue threatening harm to himself in order to get your attention. Instead, get in touch with one of his family members and call 911 to have an ambulance pick him up. This will get your boyfriend the help he needs, yet keep you out of it. And whatever you do, please be kind to yourself as well.