Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Married Boyfriend Won’t Leave His Wife For Me”

I feel so desperate, depressed and lost. For a few years I have been in a relationship with a married man, who was initially my advisor at the university. I don’t excuse myself and I know most people would judge me very harshly, and I do too. The guilt that I feel has brought me to dark places I never imagined existed in me. I know the way things happened is wrong, no matter how much love there is. I felt powerless, drowning into something much bigger than me, that was already destroying my self worth. Being in this situation has crushed my self-esteem and sense of worth. I’m drowning, this is all I can think of during the day and is affecting my whole life.

For a part of the year he doesn’t live with his wife and we video chat for hours and I travel to see him whenever I can and we live like we were married. I’m extremely attached and in love with him and I drop anything to just talk to him. I know we have an incredible bond and that he loves me, but he has been unable to separate. He’s afraid of hurting his wife even more, there’s the effect this might have on his kids and the financial burden of a divorce. I try to be understanding but living in this situation has been heart breaking for me too.

I love him deeply but I am also worried about how our future would be. There are moments when he gets emotionally abusive and angry and that devastates me, he crushes me. He’s very possessive and I feel like I have to be careful with everything that I talk to him about. He’s more much older than I am and I worry he’ll get even more possessive as time passes. The fact that we still have work projects together makes everything so much more complicated. Our relationship already had a big impact on my professional life, which is just starting, and I’m worried how things will affect it even more. I can’t focus on anything, let alone work and he is uncomfortable with me working with other people. I feel like I depend on him so much and that he could destroy my life if he wanted.

Most people would say I’m a pretty, intelligent young woman, and there are plenty of guys who want to date me, but I can’t bring myself to end things with him (at least until he sorts out what he wants to do). I think I’m worried he’d be so afraid of such a big change in his life at his age that he’d stay married, no matter how terrible his marriage is. I’ve been thinking of replying to a letter his wife sent me and actually trying to talk and face the situation, but I fear his anger. I’m really lost, I’m in desperate need of some advice. — In Love with a Married Man

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

51 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Muffy December 3, 2014, 8:19 am

    /i think this guy gets off on the feeling of control and power – maybe he can’t control his wife anymore but he can control you. He doesn’t like you working with other people? Don’t tie yourself to this guy. Even if he were an actual boyfriend (not married) I would think there are problems with him – he wants you to limit yourself so you can be more at his disposal. A real loving partner would not want you to limit yourself like that – they would encourage you. This is just a bad bad road you are going down – if he leaves his wife and dates you exclusively then you’ve still lost. I’m sure there will be someone else you love out there.

    Reply Link
  • Lyra

    Lyra December 3, 2014, 8:35 am

    This is a bad situation. Do you realize what you’re asking him to do by divorcing his wife? You’re asking him to basically split up his family, and he’s been pretty clear that he’s unwilling to do that. It’s not all on you though, HE’S the one who is cheating on his wife.
    .
    Even if this were a conventional relationship he sounds horrible. You mention how you have low self esteem because of this relationship and how you basically can’t do anything or think of anyone but him. That is INCREDIBLY unhealthy. Not to mention he is trying to control you which is never a healthy dynamic.
    .
    Cut ties with him completely. Move on. This man is not good for you at all.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover December 3, 2014, 8:40 am

      I agree, I was thinking the exact same thing. Leave the wife and the cheating out of it, and just read what you wrote about him. He sounds like an abuser, frankly. I feel sorry for his wife that she apparently knows about his cheating and is still staying with him. He’s probably abusing her the same way he’s attempting to do with you.
      .
      I think you need to break it off, not because he won’t leave his wife, but because you’re apparently terrified of him. NO ONE should be in a relationship with someone they’re so scared of.

      Reply Link
  • SixtyFour

    SixtyFour December 3, 2014, 8:37 am

    Move away. Transfer schools. Get another job. Do whatever you have to do to get out, because honey, it’s never going to get any better where you are now. This guy is bringing down your life, and you need to get far away from him.
    Weird example, but It’s like when I know I’m going to go out and get drunk with my friends, I’ll put a glass of water and a Tylenol by the bed before I leave. Because Sober Me knows that Drunk Me will not be able to look out for my best interests (avoiding a hangover). Logical and Strong You knows that you can’t be around this man without drowning, so that part of you has to protect yourself from the Emotuonal side. If you can’t trust yourself to be around him, if you know it will only bring you down, then do whatever it takes and find a way to never let yourself be around him.
    Once you are free of his presence in your life, you will be able to move on.

    Reply Link
  • niki

    niki December 3, 2014, 8:39 am

    Repeat after me, He Will Not Leave His Wife For Me. If he wanted to leave his wife, he would do it. It’s not going to happen. And frankly, that’s the good news. It sounds like he has taken advantage of you and treats you like dirt. I think it would be in your best interest to talk to a different advisor at your school about finding a way to complete your projects without this man’s involvement. Make a clean break. It will be incredibly difficult for you, because you sound borderline obsessed with this man, but it’s what needs to be done. Do NOT answer the letter from his wife. Stay out of his marriage from now on. Enough damage has been done already. If your school has counseling services you should look into them. You need someone to talk to about this and to get your self-esteem issues worked out.

    Reply Link
  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray December 3, 2014, 8:50 am

    Random stream of thoughts: man it would be cool to read Wendy’s advice on this one. Whoa, the wife wrote you a letter? What did she say? What does she know and does her husband know? This relationship is or will cause WAY too many problems for tons of people including you and your personal and professional life. I’d transfer schools/move away and do some soul searching as to why you’d seek out an older married man who’s controlling and possessive and no good!

    Reply Link
    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki December 3, 2014, 10:13 am

      I feel like that “wife wrote me a letter” thing was thrown in at the end and we need much more information on that specifically.

      Reply Link
  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo December 3, 2014, 8:52 am

    First off- you are not afraid of his anger if you reply to his wife; you are afraid that he’ll leave you. You are afraid that if you tell the wife, “Yes, wife, your suspicions are correct. I’ve been having an affair with your husband for YEARS”, she’ll divorce him. Because if she divorces him, all his little “logical” excuses about you not being able to be together “for real” go away, and deep down you know that if that happened, he still wouldn’t be with you.
    .
    Stop being shitty to the wife, and stop being shitty to yourself. This guy is trash. He’s blindingly selfish- he’s cheating on his wife AND stringing you along. He’s not a winner, and I bet you that he zeroed in on some sort of insecurity you have (I’m getting this from your statement “I feel like I depend on him so much and that he could destroy my life if he wanted.”) He’s banking on the fact that you won’t leave him. THAT SHOULD PISS YOU OFF, LW. It should piss you off that this asshole is banking on the logic that no matter how shitty he treats you OR his wife, that you won’t leave him.
    .
    PS- He has a lot more to lose by revealing the fact that he had an affair with a student he was advising, than he would gain by ruining your career/grad work. So unless he’s as vindictively stupid as he is selfish and awful, I think you should be fine.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      SasLinna December 3, 2014, 9:16 am

      I totally agree with most of what you’re saying, but unfortunately (at least in my academic discipline) professors can get away with a lot and it is possible for them to affect someone’s reputation without it being officially uncovered that they were having an affair. Doesn’t mean he’ll try to smear her reputation though, as at least some people will frown on that and it might not be worth the hassle for him. Still, if this is happening in academia, the LW has no interest in the affair ever being discovered, since her reputation will suffer at least as much as his.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    SasLinna December 3, 2014, 9:11 am

    OK, practical advice. Was this guy your PhD advisor and now you’re still in academia but at another university than he is? Or is it still the same university? In both cases, you should try to strengthen your ties with other people in the profession in order to lessen your dependence on him. It’s true that he could negatively affect your career, if he hasn’t already, but you’re not 100% at his mercy.
    Assuming that you have some accomplishments of your own, which I’m sure you do, you can start by building on those. I’m thinking of things like applying to other universities, getting in touch with other people in your field etc. If necessary, keep this a secret from him for the time being, because he IS an abuser. Don’t let yourself be isolated.
    And look, he can certainly try to affect other people’s opinions of you, but it might also reflect badly on him to do that and people do not always take such statements seriously, ESPECIALLY if they’ve heard that there was an affair (not sure that they have).
    I think you’ve somehow started to believe that you’re in the position of a victim who can’t do anything about her situations (whether professional or personal), but you do have some options. You can cut your ties with this guy, even if it’ll take some time to get there. Just start taking baby steps in removing yourself from this situation so that you can gain back some confidence that you’ll be just fine on your own.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      LW December 3, 2014, 9:36 am

      First of all, thank you everybody for all the input, this is helping me immensely and I truly, truly appreciate you writing. I need as much advice as possible – this has brought me to a very dark and scary place and it’s been so hard to get out… Please keep writing, I am extremely grateful for your advice.

      You are spot on, SasLinn, (also thank you so much for your advice, it is immensely appreciated) he was my PhD advisor (I eventually switched advisors so that he wouldn’t have to write a letter of recommendation for me to find a job or be involved in my thesis committee). I am still in academia, working in another university, though close to where he is most of the year. I still feel extremely dependent on him – my main projects are still with him, he knows everybody on the field and he keeps reminding me that all my accomplishments only happened because he was there to help me. I rationally know this isn’t true, but hearing this day in and day out from someone you love makes it hard not to feel it must be a bit true… Those moments are very hard and I feel so helpless and depressed.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        SasLinna December 3, 2014, 9:50 am

        Academia can create a lot of ‘crazy thinking’ even if you’re not in a relationship with your former supervisor. I can see how you would feel like you depend on him and it’s true that you’ll have to face the possibility of him talking about you to others in the field if you end the relationship. However, you’ve already landed a job at a different university (apparently not with a letter from him, so there’s one accomplishment already that he hasn’t helped you with – good). Presumably that means you have a new network there that you can build on.
        How long are your projects with him still going to last and how important are they to your career? What would the damage to you be if you backed out of them now? Is there any way to complete these projects but without interacting with him too much? It obviously matters if this is an almost finished book with a prestigious publisher or something much less significant. In any case, you shouldn’t be afraid to think strategically about this – he’s taken advantage of you to such a degree already that you shouldn’t feel bad about that.
        It’s really anger-inducing to me how an older professor can destroy a younger woman’s confidence as a researcher. Seriously, you owe it to yourself to regain that self-confidence.

        Link
      • avatar

        Kate December 3, 2014, 9:50 am

        I agree with most everything people are saying. I would just add that, you know, this isn’t love, it’s a toxic stew of obsession, control, lies, and danger. The only non life-destroying option is to get out. AND 100% DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT REPLYING TO THAT LETTER.

        Link
      • avatar

        Taylor December 3, 2014, 11:48 am

        LW! I’m a professor at a university, in the sciences, and have worked with students for over a decade. Getting involved with you when he was your adviser was illegal and immoral on his part! Your PhD adviser is in a position of authority over you, and it is against university policy to get involved with your students – it’s abusive by nature because it’s manipulating someone under you in the power structure. This —>>>> “he keeps reminding me that all my accomplishments only happened because he was there to help me” <<<— is horrifying to me. You're an adult, and have made some choices, but this man has taken advantage of you as well. I would turn in a colleague for this behavior in a hot second. Look into your university resources ( ombudsmen etc.) so you have backup if he tries to fuck with your career. And get thee to a counselor.

        Link
      • avatar

        memboard December 3, 2014, 12:14 pm

        Remember that as a PhD student the job description is to stand at the abyss of knowledge and stare at a black hole of ignorance with no safety net. There can be few rewards in that situation and the blues or feeling depressed about it wouldn’t be news and you wouldn’t be the first grad student feeling despair at a life that seems to go nowhere and offers no rewards.
        .
        Hang in there, graduate and then hold you head up high in the achievement (even if it never leads to a Nobel Prize). The degree is it’s own accomplishment.

        Link
      • avatar

        Bumblebee December 3, 2014, 12:18 pm

        Hey LW. I was in a similar situation a few years ago. At my first job, I fell in love with and had an affair with my much older married mentor. It caused me terrible anxiety and shame. I felt stuck for a long time and like I had no power to escape. While in my case, the guy was not abusive with our work environment nor possessive of me, so some of it may not relate. But anyway, If you’d like to talk to someone who has been through something similar and is now on the other side of it and so much happier, I could pass along my email address to you.

        Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 4:36 pm

        Thank you for writing, Bumblebee, I’d be happy to talk to you.

        Link
  • avatar

    londonlin6 December 3, 2014, 9:44 am

    This sounds like the plot to a terrible lifetime movie. Lady you have GOT to get it together. This man is TOXIC and you deserve better. MOVE AWAY start your life OVER get out and cut all contact with this man. Unless you are studying something like Medieval Italian Poetry, you should be able to find some Uni across the country from him, and start OVER. Or leave the academic field. anything to get away from this man and the spell he has over you. YOU CAN AND WILL DO BETTER. I’m sure being in close proximity to him whenever he comes a calling is not easy, so REMOVE yourself from the situation. Stop letting him be the puppet master of your life. If you decide to respond to the wife’s letter, I hope its to tell her that she should divorce him, so that you both can be free of this wretched man who does not respect either of you at all. I know love is blind, but yikes.

    Reply Link
  • Miel

    Miel December 3, 2014, 9:51 am

    Why would you want to marry a guy who is emotionally abusive ? Why would you want to marry a guy who is controlling and doesn’t even trust you to choose good work partners ? Why would you want to marry a man who crushed your self-esteem and made you feel powerless ? Why would you want to marry a man who had an affair for years during his first marriage ? Why would you marry a man who scares you ? Why would you marry a man if you constantly fear his anger ?
    .
    Marriage is not really about love. You say you love this man, but that is not an argument in favor of marriage. Marriage is about finding a life partner. Such a partner makes you become a better version of yourself. Such a partner stands by your side so you can be stronger in everything life throws your way. You should feel safe at all time with a life partner. You should feel respect and trust at all time between the two of you.
    .
    This guy is not a good life partner for you. He is destructive to you, instead of allowing you to grow into the best person you can be. So why would you want him to leave his wife ? I’m telling you, even if he left his wife, even if he wanted to marry you, you should not want to marry him. Even if he were single right now, you shouldn’t want to marry him. I think you need to realize that before starting to plan how to escape his grip.

    Reply Link
  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy December 3, 2014, 10:20 am

    So, I made this a Your Turn column because I knew we would all have the same advice and it was what the LW needed to hear from multiple sources, in different ways, but shared together for maximum impact.

    LW, you have to leave this guy. You have to end this relationship. He will never ever leave his wife for you. Even if he ever decided to separate, it won’t be for you. It will be much later, after you’ve already moved on and found happiness on your own. You will never find happiness with him. He emotionally abuses you and has stripped you of your self-confidence. The only way you’ll get back to the core of yourself and feel strong again is to step away. Cut off contact with him. Delete and block him from all the ways he could contact you. Don’t linger any longer. Just MOA. And start picking up the pieces with the help of people who love you and work and ambitions that motivate you to focus elsewhere.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Taylor December 3, 2014, 11:51 am

      Yep! And from a professional perspective, CYA! Network, branch out, figure out how your university resources can help you. I can’t stress enough what a tool your adviser was to get involved with a student in the first place. It’s not ok. And it’s certainly not ok to threaten your career. So angry!

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      LW December 3, 2014, 12:03 pm

      Thank you so much for your comments, everyone, this really is so helpful, I am extremely grateful.

      SasLinna, I have a new job and a new project with other people, but this project hasn’t been going so well so far, so the project I still have with him is still the main part of my career, and I’m afraid it will be extremely important for me to find a next job (I have done most of it, but his name is on it too). Unfortunately I don’t think it’d be possible to work on it without interacting with him. I think about half of the project will be done pretty soon, but the other half will still take a while to be finished. I am considering not working on the 2nd part – this has removed all the peace and happiness from my life, so even if he was just with me, it’d be better not to work with him… Being in academia is crushing and I already had lots of self-doubts, but this situation has really made me feel extremely vulnerable and insecure professionally, and it has made me consider leaving academia altogether – is this worth it the anguish I’ve been feeling? It’s a great idea for me to try to make more contacts with other people in my area so I can feel stronger and more independent, and maybe this can help me take steps into being able to stand up for myself…

      Wendy, thank you so much for your advice. Somehow I am so terrified of his reactions that this paralyzes me and I end up accepting things he does and says that I know I should never accept, even though it’s from someone I love so much. I haven’t found the strength to tell him I won’t take that, this has been so difficult for me. I know I shouldn’t justify his actions and that deep down, I just need to find a way to cut contact with him – he has issues to work on, besides the fact that he is married and is also with me. I know you are right, and I hope I can find it in myself to be strong.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        SasLinna December 3, 2014, 2:33 pm

        Only you can make this call and your mental health should always take priority. But IMO it’s totally morally justified for you to ‘play nice’ until you got the first part of this project published or in press. After that, he can’t take it away from you anymore. You don’t have to sacrifice your career on top of all this.
        Then you might want to bow out of the 2nd part and find an alternative project. If you need to get away from this tool temporarily, maybe you could accept a visiting fellowship somewhere far away?

        Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 4:35 pm

        Thank you for the suggestion, SasLinna, I am trying to be as stable as I can right now and just finish the first part of the project. I am going to travel for the holidays, and maybe the distance can help – I will be with my family which I hope will bring me strength.

        Link
  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja December 3, 2014, 10:21 am

    this is going to sound horrible, but you’re having an affair, with a married man that you can’t have fully, and it doesn’t even sound like you’re happy or having fun. Get out. Get out now. See what Miel said above – even if he was single, he is not a good choice.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    JudgeSheryl December 3, 2014, 10:34 am

    Absolutely you need to end things and get away from this guy. He is no good and will not change for the better. Seriously, bad news.

    Since you say he could ‘ruin’ you, I think you need to be smart about this. He was the advisor in a power position and he took advantage of you, and continues to hold this over your head. So, you need to gather this evidence against HIM. I expect all universities now have policies against relationships like this. You may not actually have to use it, and I’m not saying you should if he lets you go peacefully, but if he threatens anything when you do break it off, you have some ammunition in your camp to fire back if needed. I hope this could limit professional backlash.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      SasLinna December 3, 2014, 11:05 am

      What he did wasn’t ethical (especially when he was still her advisor, now there are probably no official rules against a relationship between them), but it’s very difficult to get universities to take disciplinary action against a professor. There are many cases of clear sexual harassment where nothing at all happens, it would be even harder with a consensual affair. IMO she has nothing to gain from pursuing any action against him, or even threatening such action. It’s best not to escalate this. It’s infuriating to think about, but I believe it’s safer if she makes no accusations against him. She can tell him she’s ending things because she wants to move on.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 11:27 am

        I don’t want to take any action against him – I am afraid of his reaction if he thought I even considered this, but besides that, even though it was certainly not an ethical situation and he has hurt me a lot, he didn’t force me into this situation. It’s been a huge mess and it was even worse when he was my advisor, but I don’t want to excuse myself.

        Link
      • avatar

        Taylor December 3, 2014, 11:54 am

        Most universities have a policy that professors can’t get involved with their students! You don’t have to take action, LW, but find out what the policy was, and how the university can help you in case shit hits the fan. Having that in your pocket may help you feel better. It was an ethical breach to get involved with you when you were his student. He was in a position of power! He may not have “forced” you, but the position of power is a form of coercion. Not ok!

        Link
  • avatar

    Laura Hope December 3, 2014, 10:46 am

    I know everyone is telling you to just leave but I hear you when you say you’re in a really really dark place. You need professional help. I get that you may not be able to just walk away and even if you could, your depression is overwhelming. You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you and it can be wonderful. So take the time now to get the help you need. Maybe there’s a psychologist on campus who can point you in the right direction.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Eagle Eye December 3, 2014, 10:47 am

    Honestly, as an academic, I would leave everything – him and your PhD – sadly you’ve salted the fields so to speak and your reputation is probably already ruined (because if I know academia, then everyone already knows about this).

    I would leave your PhD, do something else for a few years, let this all blow over and find yourself, a PhD regularly causes people to have depression – even those you are in solid relationships with themselves, their partners and their mental health.

    So, leave, run, get away, and then come back once you’re really truly healthy again – there will be enough scandals between now and then that everyone will have politely forgotten and you can once again be judged for your intellectual merits, not some sordid past.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      SasLinna December 3, 2014, 10:58 am

      Actually we don’t know how much damage has been done to her reputation at this point. I mean the situation is obviously not great, but at least she switched advisors early on and she is not at the same university anymore. If she leaves academia now, it will likely be forever. There’s usually no way of coming back. There will be no chance for her to be ‘judged on her merits’ anymore. Should she have to throw in the towel because she had an affair with a professor? I don’t think so. I’m not denying that there could be repercussions for her, but leaving her career is kind of a nuclear option.
      Plus, I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that she has salted the fields. Yes, affairs with professors are dumb, but it’s mainly him who is to blame. It’s easy for professors to impress young graduate students and make them dependent on them. It’s unfair that an affair means that a woman’s credentials won’t be taken into account anymore, while for men it’s barely a blip on the radar. T

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Eagle Eye December 3, 2014, 11:31 am

        I think that it depends if she’s in the liberal arts versus the sciences – in the liberal arts, everyone knows – small world and gossip travels like wildfire, if she’s in the sciences, in a larger field where everyone doesn’t necessarily know everyone then she’s safe. That said, in the liberal arts you CAN return, I have friends who left with just a Masters only to return to academia a few years later for far less exciting reasons than this.
        *
        That said, a PhD requires A LOT of mental fortitude, and, at the very least, taking some time off isn’t such a bad idea to get her mental health back on track.
        *
        Also, that said, I know of at least one case where someone dropped out of his PhD for family reasons but left in good enough standing that he could return when/if he wanted to.

        Link
      • avatar

        SasLinna December 3, 2014, 11:37 am

        I think she’s already got her PhD (though maybe I misunderstood). That’s why I said it would be hard to leave and then come back.

        Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 12:04 pm

        Yes, I already got my PhD.

        Link
      • avatar

        memboard December 3, 2014, 12:04 pm

        I think she is better off finishing her PhD than leave part way and have a hole in your life you can’t explain well and no degrees to show for it.
        .
        Even if she ends up not getting a career in her fields of study having the degree will at least show your intellectual strength and ability to accomplish the task. A much better message to prospective employer than being a (PhD admittedly) dropout.

        Link
    • avatar

      Taylor December 3, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Gotta say, I completely disagree with this. Salted the earth, really?? What century is this? People have affairs. Honestly, it isn’t the business of your coworkers to judge you for it.
      Why should she leave the work and time she’s invested in her career? I have known so many professors with truly shitty personal lives, and a few who have been atrocious human beings, but when they are good at their jobs, it doesn’t seem to matter. LW, if you’re good at what you do, and you want to keep on doing it, then do. The gossip will die down. You aren’t (and shouldn’t be) a pariah. There’s lots of gossip to go around. At my current place of work, I know of a grad student/prof combo who got pregnant/married/divorced, and now coparent quite happily. A year later, and it’s no longer gossip, and they’re both still here.

      Work on the being healthy for sure, but this doesn’t have to define you.

      Reply Link
      • Kate B.

        Kate B. December 3, 2014, 2:54 pm

        This seems like a good place to put my comment. LW, you have more power than you think you do. Controlling people are frightened people. They beat you down so you won’t see what a terrible, shriveled-up little nothing they really are. This guy has a lot more to lose than you do. If this got out his career would be over. Sure, there may be some kickback to you, but it would be a lot easier for you to start over than for him. But I don’t think you’ll have to. There is very little tolerance for this these days. Anyone would see that he clearly abused his position of power and that is wrong. Follow the advice you’re getting about going to the university and getting some ammunition to fight back. Also, please get counseling to get your self-esteem back and figure out why you were even attracted to this guy in the first place. This is a pattern you don’t want to repeat.

        Link
    • avatar

      Sara December 3, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Also in academia. Like SasLinna, I do not think you should quit the PhD – unless you really don’t want to do one anymore apart from this drama. It is difficult to get back in unless you have your Masters. In many cases, you can stay enrolled in a program while taking a semester off, and this might be an option for you. Your grad school’s guidelines should outline this option, if it’s available.
      .
      So, don’t quit… but cut ties with this guy. He’s not a healthy person to work with. Beyond that, he’s (probably) going to belittle your participation in the project – since he belittles you and says he does everything. If he tells people that you are riding his coattails, that’s not good for your career, either. Does your new advisor have a project you can work on? Can you get funding for your own project? Talk to your new advisor about your research program. You don’t have to say why you don’t want to work with this person anymore – just that you feel you could grow more as a scholar if you went a different direction.
      .
      Finally, this guy sounds terrible… and it’s likely he already has a reputation in the field. Likely, you being a part of his story will not be as big of a deal as it is right now. And, if he already has a reputation you won’t look as bad.
      .
      TLDR: Talk to a professional. Look into taking a semester off while maintaining status. Cut ties – personal and research – with this man. You’ll be OK, LW.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 12:19 pm

        SasLinna, Taylor and Sara, thank you so much for what you wrote. Reading your points of view has been a light in my day, more than you can imagine. I know this situation was not completely my responsibility but many times I still feel like the worst person in the world and I really needed to remind myself this is not all my fault, that I might still find a way to have a career and that he has also done wrong.

        Eagle Eye, memboard thank you for advice too. Thankfully I managed to finish my PhD in the middle of all of this.

        Link
      • avatar

        Taylor December 3, 2014, 4:09 pm

        Good for you! If you got your PhD under that kind of stress, you can get through this too!

        Link
      • avatar

        Sara December 3, 2014, 4:13 pm

        First, congrats on finishing your PhD in the middle of all this – that’s AMAZING. Only a smart, capable person could do that. Second, Impostor Syndrome (I have it, too). I literally open up my CV and look at it to make myself feel a little better – “I can accomplish *some* things, at least,” I think to myself. And I read about successful academic females who feel this way, too (a favorite: .

        Link
      • avatar

        LW December 3, 2014, 4:27 pm

        Thank you so much, Taylor and Sara!
        Sara, the article really spoke to me – I am in a field with almost no women and my situation certainly hasn’t helped me feel like I belong or that I am qualified enough to be here. I really appreciate it!

        Link
      • avatar

        Taylor December 3, 2014, 5:03 pm

        Totally! My PhD adviser has hundreds of publications, was department chair for years, and kicks ass in every quantifiable and qualifiable way…and has imposter syndrome. It’s linked in with comparing everything that can be done by what we (as individuals) can actually do.

        Link
  • norabb

    norabb December 3, 2014, 11:07 am

    If I’ve learned anything about relationships on my years of good, great, horrible and abusive unions, its that it is not worth it if you are so unhappy. You sound like to are in the throes of depression. I don’t care if he’s married, no one should ever make you feel so awful about yourself. This isn’t love, its torture. Why put yourself through that? Is he really worth your sanity? Don’t you want to feel like a whole person who is loved? You deserve to be loved and taken care of by someone who wants you and only you. You’re putting yourself through this, please take responsibility and leave him. No one is with your health and happiness. It breaks my heart when people put themselves through hell because they think they can’t find anyone else. I’ve done this before. I know. Please get out. Believe that you deserve love. Unconditional love. From yourself and from others. But yourself first.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Laura Hope December 3, 2014, 12:30 pm

    If my daughter came to me with this problem, my primary concern would be her lack of self-esteem, the frankly, scary depression she is describing and getting her professional help immediately. The way I see it, breaking off the relationship is actually secondary to the underlying issues that got her here.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Eve December 3, 2014, 12:32 pm

    One of these topics when you really don’t have anything to add because all the advice people before you have given is bang on and totally covers everything that could possibly be said. 😉

    Stop being this guy’s doormat and primary way of boosting his own self-confidence and sense of power. Because it seems like this is what you really are to him. Stop caring about what you are feeling, and start using the brains I know you have. Whatever love/obsession/dependence you feel, forget about it, drop it, ignore it and put on your thinking hat. After FIRST taking some practical considerations which the others have already advised you on, cut ALL contact with him and do not let him find you and manipulate you into coming back to him! He seems to be he type of man who will do anything to get his power back on you because it makes him feel good about himself and this will diminish his sense of power. So do NOT go on telling him that “We have to talk. I think we should …. ” because in these situations this NEVER works and I know that from personal experience. He WILL try to manipulate you by guilt tripping, emotional blackmail etc, so don’t give him the opportunity to do this. How? Just seize all contact. This person doesn’t exist anymore. He is dead to you and should stay this way. Ignore what you feel, do use your brains.
    Close your eyes and imagine yourself with a lovely, kind (single) guy your own age. Someone who doesn’t make you go into these dark places you talk about, a relationship which doesn’t make you feel soooo guilty for being in it, someone with whom you can say how you feel and do what you feel is good for you without being emotionally abused every step of the way. How does this sound? You deserve this and you will find someone just like this1 Why don’t you start working on getting there ?

    Reply Link
  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny December 3, 2014, 1:50 pm

    I 100% agree with everyone else here! I just want to jump in to say one thing though.
    You (lw) keep repeating how you’re scared and such, and I totally get that. It’s probably totally paralyzing to imagine what to do or where to go to get out of this situation (because, as much as you think you love him, he is TOXIC and will do you no good). But really, you have to start empowering yourself. This situation isn’t something that just happened to you- you let it happen and were an active participant, and now you are in a mess with an abusive man who holds authority over you. He is not going to leave his wife. He could make things difficult for you in academia. What’s important to you? Your current/future career? All of the possibilities ahead? Or maintaining an unhealthy relationship that isn’t going to go anywhere? Start taking active steps NOW to get out of this. It’s totally possible, and you may need to enlist help from your allies (advisors, your network, a counselor), but get going and get out of this NOW. You will feel so much stronger and better for it when you are on the other side and can look back and see how far you have come.

    Reply Link
  • Astronomer

    Astronomer December 3, 2014, 2:10 pm

    No “career” is worth all this.

    Seriously, you’re just starting out. If all your projects disappeared tomorrow, you could apply for other post-doc positions elsewhere or find a corporate research job or apply to community college teaching jobs or do something else entirely. Right now, you have a PhD and minimal work experience in your field. Get out of this affair and deal with whatever fallout comes your way now, before you build this model of a career into your life permanently.

    Reply Link
  • muchachaenlaventana

    muchachaenlaventana December 3, 2014, 3:12 pm

    I don’t really get why the focus of your letter or the end goal is that he won’t leave his wife for you…like if he would do this all of the other shitty things about him/the relationship would just disappear? No that would just add an entire separate layer of shittiness and confusion to this situation. He also has clearly demonstrated that he will not in any way leave his wife for you. So just let that idea go. Secondly I agree with MoneyPenny–take some action in your own life, empower yourself to get out of this situation. I know he has taken advantage of you, or caught you in this web of thinking he has all of this control over your career but you need to get to therapy and see how you can regain some of your self-confidence and more importantly end this relationship. It is hurting you, it is hurting this man’s wife, and if it continues it will probably ruin the lives of his children. You didn’t just end up here, you did actively choose to get in to this relationship, and now you need to do the hard thing and choose to get out of it. You are already at another university which is a huge step to loosening his hold. Cut off ALL contact with him that is not purely academic and necessary—if he pressures you, or tries to bring things to another level, remind him that it is unwanted and inappropriate and needs to stop. You need to draw a boundary with him, especially if you are not willing to cut all of your academic ties to him (which I would recommend if you think you can feasibly do this and maintain your career).

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    lovelygirl December 3, 2014, 8:38 pm

    It’s taking a lot out of me to admit this, but I’ve been in very similar shoes. I dated a married man I worked with but who acted as a mentor to me during several years of training. He was possessive, old fashioned, 15 years older, and I had to be very careful about what I said to him. I tried to break it off 3 times before I finally succeeded. He wouldn’t accept it and we were both in a dark place. The only difference was that he was ready to leave his wife for me. I couldn’t do it. I had a vision of the future that I couldn’t live with….always a topic of conversation, a huge mess with his family, a lack of respect from everyone I knew, and most important to be a huge disappointment to my own family. No holiday would be joyous, everyday at work would have been so much more stressful, and who knows if it would have worked out. His possessiveness was suffocating. Please walk away from your boyfriend. This is not the future you want. Because I walked away, I was able to repair myself with some therapy and support from friends and family. 8 months after I walked away, I met the man I married. I’m so happy now and have learned so much, like that possessiveness is extremely toxic to my wellbeing. I left the department that we both worked in and now I rarely see the ex. It is possible to move on and it is possible to find happiness again.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment