Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Am I Too Old To Leave a Cheating Boyfriend?”

Eighteen months ago my partner and I moved to another country for work. We have both been separated from our respective spouses for many years. When we moved, we had been together twelve years, and for the last two years before the move we were living together in my home. At 53 he is ten years younger than I am, but he claims that this was never an issue for him: He loves me, he finds me sexy, and I do look younger than my years. A bit more about him: My partner did not have many experiences before we met. He married young, he stayed faithful to his wife for fifteen years, then, after two to three very short relationships, we met. He has kind of missed out on everything his friends were doing when they were in college or as young adults; he was the serious, introverted one.

Anyway, this is the man I was dreaming to grow old with. Not only because I loved him unconditionally and felt (still feel) that we are perfectly matched in every way, but also because he was the most stable, honest, monogamous man I had ever met, or so I thought.

Three months after we moved to our new place abroad, I accidentally found out that, back in our home country for the previous two years (this started about the same time he moved into my home), he had been seeing another woman, around his age. She is married, and I am convinced that the only reason he stayed on under our common roof was that she couldn’t leave her husband. He claims that this was not the only reason, that all this time he still loved me and he couldn’t make himself leave me.

So he was living with me, his behavior appeared normal, I suspected nothing, everything was going on as usual (including all house bills paid by me), but he was constantly communicating with her and seeing her whenever she could get away. I had the painful opportunity to read some of their messages: He was telling her that she was the love of his life, that he had never felt like this with any other woman. (He has accepted that those were words fueled by an infatuation, without anything solid to back them up, since they would only meet for sex and nothing else.)

By reading his emails, I discovered also that, during the first three months that we were still settling in in our new country, he had flown secretly back home twice to see the “love of his life” and incidentally have sex with another woman who had happened to catch his fancy right around the time we were preparing to relocate. Talk about wanting to catch up on missed experiences!

So, after I discovered the devastating truth that he was in love with another woman, and while I was packing my things to leave, he was crying uncontrollably, saying that he still loved me and that he didn’t want to lose me. The next day I flew back home, but two days later he told me that he had broken up over the phone with her, and I returned to him soon after.

We entered a renewed phase in our relationship: closer than ever, with amazing sex like we had had in the early years, and he swore that he would never hurt me like this again. He also swore that all communication with the other woman had stopped.

But, no surprise here, I found out that it hadn’t stopped. He only stayed away for a few weeks, and then he went back to exchanging passionate messages and attempting to see her whenever possible, which admittedly was almost never, as we have traveled back home only three times during the past twelve months, for very short visits and always together. Still, from many telltale signs, I am certain that he managed to see her. The daily communication has stopped, of this I am sure, but I can’t know how often they communicate or how they keep in touch, if they do.

I know your usual take on this: MOA! But would you say this to a woman of my age, about a partner who is in every other way perfect? He is sweet, easy-going, tender, and loving, his behavior has become even better since I discovered his infidelity, and I am sure that he loves me. But so many questions keep me awake at night: What will he do if the other woman suddenly becomes available? Will I ever relax and stop suspecting him, or will I still be monitoring his every move ten years from now?

So, would you advise me to become a lonely old woman going on online dates to find a man I can love again as much as I loved this one? Or is it better for an older woman/man to accept the fact that they don’t have their whole life in front of them and that many happy long-living relationships are based on “don’t ask, don’t tell”? Would you tell your own mother to MOA and leave her 13-year partner who is making her mostly happy and to look for love elsewhere? — MOA or Not?

You want to know what I would tell my own mother if she were in a relationship with a man for thirteen years who lied to her, cheated on her repeatedly, was apparently being financially supported by her, and was still legally married to someone else? If she told me she was up at night worrying about what he might do if the other woman became available, she was worrying about whether she would ever be able to relax again and stop monitoring him, she worried that, as a “lonely old woman,” she might never find someone to love as much as she loves him, I’d tell her that there is no age limit to needing trust and respect in a relationship. And I’ll tell you: At 63 you are far too young to give up on finding someone to love who is fully available to you — someone who is all the things you say your partner is except for the lying, cheating part.

You may have a year or two of feeling lonely and worrying that you’ll never find someone again. But in that time you can also focus on developing hobbies and interests that can help take your mind off being lonely and which could open your world to new opportunities (and people!). You may find that life as someone who gardens, volunteers, travels, cooks, takes dance classes, practices photography, goes to art museums, etc. is more fulfilling than a life spent worrying about whether your partner is professing his love today to the other woman/women he’s screwing behind your back. (And for the record: Marrying young and not sleeping with many people before committing to a spouse is no excuse for cheating. There are plenty of people who manage to stay monogamous even without a period of sowing oats. Your partner just doesn’t happen to be one of them.)

You don’t have to do online dating if you don’t want to. You think that’s the only way for a 63-year-old woman to meet someone? It’s not. Lots of people your age are single — either through divorce or widowhood — and looking for a partner. When you’re ready, you can tell friends and colleagues you’re on the market and ask if they know someone who might be a match. You can join a singles group. Take classes. Mine your social network — both online and off — for acquaintances and friends of friends who might be single and of interest to you. Might you go on some bad dates? Maybe! Will you have nights you just want a companion instead of an empty bed? Sure! But I really, really think these moments of loneliness — even months of loneliness — will be easier to tolerate in the short-term than years and years of dealing with infidelity and a slowly breaking heart. And if you never find someone again — which, yes, is a possibility, but I think a smallish one — I still think you will be better off than being in a relationship that keeps you awake at night worrying. You’re not going to continue looking younger than your age when you’re losing sleep like that. And more importantly: You will not be happy being in a relationship with someone you cannot trust, whom you believe would leave you for another woman if she were available.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

22 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Leslie Joan August 29, 2017, 9:31 am

    His behavior has become better? Maybe it appears to have, on the surface – but what strikes me about your letter is that you are paying all the bills. So, he’s a kept man, and the reason he’s looking like he’s stepping up his game is that he doesn’t want to be tossed out on his ear. It’s a slam dunk that his married partner isn’t going to support him, and his other fling sure isn’t. So, that leaves you – and you’ve already talked yourself into believing that his repeatedly lying and cheating is just fine, because he’s lying better now, and the sex is great, and because reasons!

    Look, he’s repeatedly shown you who he is. I understand that the prospect of dating again is not fun, but if you respect yourself, and cut through the excuses you are telling yourself out of fear of loneliness and fear of change, you will see that this guy is using you. If you want to keep driving the gravy train, and keep lying to yourself just the way he is lying to you, go ahead. But if you respect yourself, you will see truth and dump his rearend.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino August 29, 2017, 9:32 am

    Oh my God, yes, dump him. PS – He’s more than likely exposed you to some STDs/STIs. Get tested.

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  • avatar

    Ale August 29, 2017, 9:53 am

    You’re never too old to know what you deserve.

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  • avatar

    Dalben August 29, 2017, 9:54 am

    I agree with what everyone else said. Also, what makes you think he’ll actually stay with you when it becomes inconvenient for him? He’s already shown he’s untrustworthy and perfectly happy to move on to other women. There’s no reason to think he would actually stay to grow old with you even if you overlooked his cheating..

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  • avatar

    Miss MJ August 29, 2017, 10:23 am

    LW, if his cheating didn’t bother you, your suspicions didn’t eat at you and your self-esteem weren’t taking a huge hit because of his behavior, and he weren’t using you for your bill paying, I might consider telling you to stay because the situation, while not ideal, didn’t make you unhappy. And relationships don’t have to follow one model.

    But you ARE unhappy and it’s directly because of this guy! Life’s too short to spend it with someone who actively doesn’t make you happy. Who chooses to sleep with a married woman over making the woman he claims to “love” happy. He doesn’t love you; not really. He loves not being alone and having financial stability. And, when she (or another woman, for that matter) is available or you have a life situation that makes you need him for more than he’s willing to give, he’s going to split. With this guy, you’re not going to grow old with a man who loves and respects you. That sucks, but it’s the reality.

    The good news is, you’re afraid of leaving because you fear growing old alone. Since, with this guy, that is almost inevitably what the outcome would be, then there’s nothing to be afraid of by leaving now. Do it. Do it now before he wears you down emotionally to the point where it’ll take years to get back to a place where you even dare hope, much less expect, better behavior from a man. You deserve better than this, and you can find it. Hell, in a few weeks or so (maybe less!) you’ll feel better just sleeping peacefully at night and not having to second guess everything this guy says. But you won’t feel better while you’re with this guy because he’s not going to change to be what you want him to be. MOA!

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  • avatar

    Northern Star August 29, 2017, 11:09 am

    I wouldn’t want my mother to feel used and unhappy. And that’s how you feel. Loneliness is horrible, and I’ve been there—but I also have seen how soul-destroying it is when your partner isn’t trustworthy.

    I’d pick being single.

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  • avatar

    TheOtherOtherMe August 29, 2017, 11:29 am

    Honey, this guy is trying to have his cake and eat it too. You don’t need this stress in your life. Dump him. And when he begs you to take him back, RESIST! You can do it! Repeat this mantra to yourself: just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you should be with them. Also, you are really off-base about the possibility of finding love again as a 60-something woman. I am so tired of this stereotype that no one wants us old folks because we are a little wrinkly. Unless you are hideously ugly or have some severe personality defect, you will find someone. (And even then you will probably find someone!) Every single friend or family member of mine that is over 50 and divorced (or otherwise ended a relationship) and wanted another partner found one within a couple of years, even though many thought it was impossible.

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    • avatar

      Scarlet A August 29, 2017, 12:58 pm

      I mean, even if she never has a partner again, that would still be better than this. LW, dying alone is preferable to this nightmare partner. (But you won’t die alone.)

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  • avatar

    Scarlet A August 29, 2017, 12:57 pm

    AIM HIGHER GIRL.

    Also, I seriously doubt he was faithful to his wife of 15 years given this information. That might be (probably is) a beneficial lie he tells about himself. People don’t suddenly throw themselves into cheating with wild abandon after being devoted spouses for 15 full years.

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    • avatar

      carolann August 29, 2017, 1:40 pm

      Wasn’t he technically cheating on his wife with LW? Aren’t they both still married? I am confused. I wish she gave us more info. Did I miss something?

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  • avatar

    carolann August 29, 2017, 1:38 pm

    My Mom is 63 (she had me very young) there is NO WAY she would put up with this crap and you have put up with it for way too long! He is using and manipulating you and you are putting up with it simply because he is nice about it.
    And why are you both still married? Did I understand that right?
    One of my closest friends died not very long ago. He had been separated from his wife for over 10 years. He hadn’t divorced her because he didn’t want to give her any money (he worked for a major financial firm, obviously that didn’t teach him anything) He ended up having a heart attack and dying and she got everything including his apartment in Manhattan.
    I would be leaving the boyfriend to find another sugar Mama to mooch off of.
    I would rather be alone.
    Go get a life…without leaches.

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    • avatar

      carolann August 29, 2017, 1:43 pm

      *LEECHES!

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny August 29, 2017, 4:15 pm

    Dude, you are never too old. Just no. If you are not ok with his cheating, just know that at 53 he will probably never change. You deserve better.

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  • avatar

    Lucy August 29, 2017, 9:14 pm

    If ye weren’t sponging off you financially, I might say, consider what monogamy is actually worth to you. But no. This guy is a user, plain and simple. You can and will do better even if you’re alone.

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  • avatar

    Letter Writer August 30, 2017, 2:26 am

    Hello to all.
    I am the letter writer, and I want to thank you for all your comments which have provided some insight to what I should be able to do in the future.
    I want to make something clearer though: For the two years where I was paying all the bills, we lived in my home, but he kept his own apartment although he didn’t spend any time there, and he was paying off heavy loans he had taken for his child’s studies. Right now, in the new home we have made abroad, he pays all the house bills, and I contribute by paying for our food and extras. So, I don’t think that the weight of his wrongdoing should fall on the financial aspect, although I was indeed very hurt to discover that at the time I was spending freely for both of us, he was telling another woman “I love you, and if you were free, I would marry you on the spot”.
    I must also make clear that I am not unhappy all the time, because if I was, I would have left of course. And if the deceit hadn’t continued, I could even have put all this behind me already, and moved forward from this. And, yes, I believe that he was sincere when he promised that he would break from her, although he proved incapable of keeping away. I am not making excuses for him, I’m just stating my first-hand impression from his behavior.

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  • avatar

    Silje August 30, 2017, 6:40 am

    Hi, Letter Writer, good to hear from you.
    About the financial aspect, make sure that you contribute equally or at least some part to the house bills, if you have bought the house together. If you will split later, you will have your share in the house to take with you when you go.

    You say you are not unhappy all the time, and of course that is great to hear, but how happy can you really be with a cheating partner? If he is not cheating physically, he is cheating emotionally, spending his time and efforts on someone who is not you or his child. And yes, probably he was sincere when he told you he would “quit” her, but has he also been sincere about his incapability to keep away? I mean.. It is not so hard to not answer calls, to not text, to not meet someone in secret. You can’t trust him. If he quits this one, he can find someone else to cheat with. I am absolutely sure that you can find someone else too, someone who has your best interests at heart, and wants to stay with you and only you.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo August 30, 2017, 11:13 am

    Hi LW, I haven’t been commenting much lately, but this one deserved a horny male perspective. The horny male would be me. I didn’t sow many wild oats when I was younger. I had been with a very small number of different women before I met my wife at age 22. Fewer than five. I am now 51 and my wife is between my age and yours. I know I am wired to notice how beautiful and sexy so so many women are. I know I’ll never stop noticing them as long as I live. But I don’t ever do anything about that beyond the occasional brief glance and lustful thought – sorry ladies, can’t turn that off no matter what. Monday was my 24th wedding anniversary, and I have been faithful to my best friend and only lover for well over 28 years. I’ve had a few clear-cut offers over the years.
    When you actually love someone (as opposed to just saying it), you don’t want to actually BE WITH the other attractive sexy women in the world, because you would never hurt or dishonour the woman you love. When a man says he loves you but sleeps with other women, he is a lying asshole. Wendy is right – you won’t be all that likely to end up alone if you don’t want to be, but alone is better than allowing yourself to be victimized by a man you know is no good. Good luck,sincerely.

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  • avatar

    carolann August 30, 2017, 1:32 pm

    Diablo pretty much summed it up!
    Why am I the only one wondering why LW didn’t address the fact that they are both separated from other people. Are they divorced? And if so, why didn’t she clarify? Enquiring minds want to know. The fact that they both may still be legally married to other people makes them BOTH seem a little sketchy to me.

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  • avatar

    Leslie Joan August 30, 2017, 4:06 pm

    LW, it doesn’t really matter that you think he probably pretty much meant it at the time he promised to make the “permanent” break. What matters is that you’ve learned he actually didn’t do it, and you fundamentally don’t trust him, or you wouldn’t be feeling the need to check up on him. To my way of thinking, trust is an essential part of a relationship, and once it’s gone, so is the relationship. Maybe your tolerance for lies is higher than mine; maybe you don’t mind acting as someone’s jailer – or at least maybe you don’t mind keeping company with them until they find a better deal and run away with their true love which ain’t you. For my own self, at age 63 I value myself higher than that and would find it utterly demeaning to put up with such a guy, but you’ll have to make up your own mind. I consider myself too old to put up with fear and lies and bullshit, but everybody’s different. Good luck to you.

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  • avatar

    Letter Writer August 31, 2017, 1:05 am

    A clarification about our marital statuses: both our separations have been friendly. Nobody wanted to marry again, nobody decided to deal with the legal details, there is no property to divide, our kids are grown up, we just know that the divorce will be easy when we need to get it.

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    • avatar

      Ron August 31, 2017, 10:34 am

      Then get off your asses and get the divorces now, because circumstances change. One of your partners may not be so willing to divorce in the future. One of you may somehow come into some money or rack up a lot of debt. Don’t know where you live but in most states, you are responsible for a spouse’s debt, regardless of whether or not your are amicably split up and everywhere you still share a credit score. Why would you want to stay financially lashed to a person you are no longer romantically or domestically with?

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  • avatar

    Rava September 1, 2017, 3:59 am

    Something tells me LW is going to find an excuse for everything. When I read Lucy’s response (“If he weren’t sponging off you financially, I might say, consider what monogamy is actually worth to you. But no. This guy is a user”), I immediately thought of how the LW’s receiving this. Probably something along the lines of: “oh no, he’s not using me, he’s paying his share; so what you’re saying is, I should stay? Right?”

    I’m not trying to be mean LW. But I really get the feeling that now that you are being confronted with the truth, you’re backing out. Your question was: Am I too old for leaving my boyfriend? The answer is No.
    If you want to leave him, leave him.

    If you don’t want to leave him, if you decide to stay – that’s okay, it’s your life and only you can decide what defines happiness for you. But please take it, if not from us, then from his own words, that even though you might truly choose a life with him, HE will leave YOU in a heartbeat.

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