Feeling guilty about the affair

No chat today. But we will chat next week.

Dear Meredith,

I spent the last few months in an intimate relationship with a married man who I work with and have known for many years. We've always gotten along great, and I must admit that I was taken by surprise by his sudden interest in me. I did not see it coming and I reciprocated after some hesitation.

Things then took off. I heard all of the stories about the problems at home. Some I believed and some I didn't. I even caught him in a few lies. Given the circumstances, I was not surprised. It's obvious he lies ...

I am ashamed to admit that I just went along with it despite my initial objections. My thought then was that if he were truly on his way out of the marriage, it would be OK to spend time together, no strings attached. Besides, at that time I felt like I did not want a relationship. I only wanted a part-time companion.

Now, months later, I feel differently. Spending time with him has made me realize that I am truly ready to be in a "real" relationship. I want to be able to freely go places with a guy without hiding and being worried about being seen.

I don't want him to leave his wife for many reasons, including the fact that I don't feel like going public would be a good thing for either one of our jobs and I honestly don't feel like I am in love with him.

He is a nice guy. We have had a lot of good times together, but I don't know why I feel so guilty breaking it off with someone I know I could never have.
By the way, I know it isn't good enough, but I have apologized to his wife in my head about a million times....

– Overwhelmed by Guilt, Boston

You're not overwhelmed by guilt, OWG. At least not about the affair.

Your letter suggests that you feel guilty because you're ending this relationship for selfish reasons, not because it's the right thing to do.

If you liked this man more, would you continue the affair? (I fear the answer is yes.) If you believed that he might be a good long-term companion, would you have serious concerns about him leaving his wife? (I assume the answer is no.) Everything you say in this letter is about what's best for you. You feel bad about leaving him because you're still serving yourself first.

You compartmentalized so many decisions to make this affair seem acceptable that you've lost all perspective. It's time to get back to reality.

My advice is to drop this guy (obviously) and then spend some time asking yourself how you really feel. Talk to friends about your choices. Consider bouncing it off a professional. Write it down -- because sometimes it helps to see it all on paper.

It's time to remove yourself from the situation and let the accountability rush in. That's what's missing here.

Readers? Is she guilty about breaking up with him or about all that they've done? Has she compartmentalized the affair? What should she do now? Help.

– Meredith