But recently, without even knowing exactly what he wants to do next, he’s told me that when it’s time for him to go on to the next thing, he would like to start fresh without me. Until then he wants to continue our relationship exactly as we have been, just with the understanding that we will go our separate ways in another year or so.
I thought I could handle this, but I am in constant pain. I’m always thinking about how much I’m going to miss him when he’s gone and feeling sad about all of the things we won’t do together. Shouldn’t I be able to live in the moment and enjoy this while it lasts? He continues to be the wonderful person that he is, and he hasn’t ceased doing any of the nice things for me that he’s always done. He has reassured me that there is nothing wrong with me but that he simply wants to have other experiences in his life. Am I crazy for having a really hard time with this?
I read all of this advice that says things like, “He’s not worth your time, find someone better.” But I think a decent guy like my boyfriend is a rare and precious find, and I’m reluctant to cut short what has been a really good thing. Maybe I still have a lot to gain from this relationship; maybe he will even change his mind!
Is this a classic case of a guy who won’t commit, and the obvious answer is to cut him off and look for someone who loves me enough to want to stay? It doesn’t feel that simple. He isn’t pulling away from me right now; if anything, he’s pulling closer. I don’t like either of my options: cut him off now and miss out on more time with someone I really love, or carry on, but with the pain of knowing that this won’t last. Is there a way to make either option less painful? — Heartbroken Either Way
The path of less pain isn’t necessarily always the best path, but having said that, the answer to your question is, yes, there is a way to make one of your options less painful. As you said, you have two options: Cut your boyfriend off now and miss out on more time with someone you really love, or carry on, but with the pain of knowing that this won’t last. It would seem that carrying on carries the biggest risk of pain.
Knowing that your boyfriend is likely going to end things when the relationship is no longer convenient for you tinges the whole scope of your relationship from here on out with pain. And then there’s all that learning to live without. You’re going to have to learn to live without eventually, so my advice is to skip the drawn-out pain of getting to that part and just get to that part.
I know what you’re thinking: But what if he changes his mind? Well, I promise if there’s any chance of that possibility, losing you now without his consent is going to affect him more deeply than losing you later by his own doing.
That’s not to say that you should end things as a manipulative tool to convince him that he can’t live without you. Ending things now would simply spare you the pain of a long, drawn-out, almost certain foregone conclusion and allow you to not skip the pain but to move much further ahead in the grieving of the relationship and your own healing process. I think it will also spare you a lot of the anger you would likely feel toward him if you stay with him another year hoping he’ll change his mind, only to be disappointed when he does as promised and leaves you for a “fresh new experience.” I mean, ouch.
Look, there’s going to be heartbreak either way, as you say in your sign-off. But I think there will be a less intense — and surely shorter — heartbreak if you end things now. Take the lessons you’ve learned from this relationship and your boyfriend — namely, that, yeah, is IS possible to find a man that possesses the qualities you’re looking for and that, oh, actually there’s one more quality you seek that this man doesn’t have and that’s the desire to stay with you.
A year ago you didn’t think you’d find a man who was caring, patient, thoughtful, mature, communicative, and supportive, and, yet, you did. There’s no reason you can’t find that again, and with someone who wants the same things you want, and at the same time, and with no one else but you. (And the sooner you make yourself available to that person, the sooner you will find him.)
P.S. I know how hard it is to leave someone you love, but when you do it because you know you need and deserve more than that person is willing or interested in giving you, it’s a very empowering thing. I’ve also found that the universe often rewards that kind of courage.
I am a divorced father of three. My family life seemed to be ideal to me and most outsiders. My wife, on the other hand, was having an affair for the last two years of our 16-year marriage. I was completely blindsided when I found out. After I confronted her and she admitted to the affair, I was still in a state of shock. A few years have passed and I am in a great place. I am more than happy I found out. My marriage was a lie; well, the last two years of it at least. The truth freed me and I am grateful for that.
About a year ago I was out to dinner with my colleagues. “Bryan,” a man I know through working with his non-profit, walked in with a young woman who was not his wife. I didn’t think much of it at first. I assumed he was with a family member or colleague catching up while he was in town. I noticed rounds of shots were being taken and the body language between them became more intimate — smiling, touching, giggling…very inappropriate for a married man out with a woman who is not his wife.
I left that night and never told anyone about it. I didn’t have facts and didn’t want to stir the pot.
Recently, I overheard a very similar scenario about Bryan and what seemed to be the same woman. The stories being talked about took place over the past year at a bar in town and after closing if you know what I mean. The way these men were talking about it so casually did not sit well with me. It was clear that his wife didn’t know, but also that they were also not making it seem like it was a secret.
I do not know Bryan’s wife, but I feel compelled to do something. If she knows of the affair and wants a divorce, that can be her choice. If she knows and wants to stay, that can also be her choice. She should not be the last to know like I was. I believe knowledge is power and she is in the dark.
Do I tell the wife now that the affair has been confirmed? Do I confront Bryan and give him a chance to come clean? I know she will be deeply hurt, but I truly stand by the idea that she needs to know. — Happily ever divorced
You really don’t know Bryan or his wife and you don’t know their marriage, what goes on in it, what goes on outside of it, who this other woman is, or what Bryan’s wife is privy to. And, frankly, it’s none of your business! You live in a “gossipy” town where people are probably starved for shit to stir up; the class-act men so casually discussing Bryan and this woman at a bar “after hours” — and, no, I don’t actually “know what that means” — offer no confirmation about anything at all except that I guess they, too, hang in bars “after hours,” whatever that means. Wait! Are THEY having an affair? That might be more exciting gossip for your town to mull over than whether Bryan is sleeping around behind his wife’s back.
Anyway, it would be wholly inappropriate for you to take it upon yourself to confront Bryan’s wife. Not only would it be socially and ethically inappropriate, but it would be putting your career at risk, too. Didn’t you say your connection with Bryan is through work? God, no. Come on, what are you thinking?
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you could save someone else the shock and horror of being blindsided the way you were when you found out about your wife’s affair. But you couldn’t. Even if there was 100% confirmation that Bryan was having an affair, and 100% confirmation that his wife didn’t know about it, do you really think learning about it from a stranger would somehow soften the blow?! It wouldn’t.
And just because you are happier now having been freed from a marriage you think was a lie (at least the last two years of it anyway), doesn’t mean this woman would feel the same. She is not you. Her life is not yours. Her husband is not your wife. Her situation is not yours. You can’t re-write your own narrative by interfering in these people’s lives. You won’t be anyone’s hero — not your own, and certainly not Bryan’s wife.
Honestly, if it’s been a year since you saw Bryan out with this woman who isn’t his wife, smiling, touching, and giggling with her, and you are still haunted by the image of it all, I question whether you truly ARE as happy as you claim to be. I suspect you might be haunted by more than just the sight of a man you hardly know giggling with a woman he isn’t married to. It might be time to seek some therapy if you haven’t yet, to help you process the end of your marriage and really move on, once and for all.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.