Let me think about your problems so you don't have to. What's going on with your love life right now? Send your own relationship/dating questions/problems to [email protected] or fill out this form, please.
The four of us were close friends for 40 years. Two couples who took vacations together, had frequent dinners together, attended each other's children’s weddings, went to each other's 50th wedding anniversary parties. You get the idea.
Then both of our spouses died a few months apart. We live about two hours from each other, but eight months later we got together for dinner to share our grief. Much to both of our surprise, we fell in love – a deep passionate love. Quite a shock to my 80-year-old self who had been immersed in a deep sadness and resigned to a life without romantic love. This guy is urbane, handsome, intelligent, interesting, kind, thoughtful and fun. And I really believe he loves me very much. So what kind of a question could I possibly have?
Well, he is also in love with another woman, a woman who comforted him right after his wife’s death when he was totally bereft. She was his wife's best friend. Theirs is not a sexual relationship, but he is committed to her and spends almost all his time with her when he is not with me. He has told me that she feels he is her whole reason for living. He told me about her a few months after we fell in love, and I broke things off immediately. But he talked me back. I began dating other men for a year or so but I was already hopelessly in love with him and finally gave up dating. Is being so very happy when I am with him enough? Some friends think I should never have put up with this. Have I no pride? What do you think?
There are all sorts of relationship arrangements. Couples are never quite what we think behind closed doors. Many pairs make love work despite having other people – other romantic connections – in their lives.
Then again, some are happy with one partner and exclusivity.
That's why I have to throw the question back to you. Did you write this letter because you're unhappy or because this setup seems wrong? Are you getting enough time and support from your partner? Do you get the sense he visits this other woman because he's still in love or because he's worried about her?
Also, do you spend any time with her? What is your relationship to her at this point?
Think about all of this and ask him where things stand with her. Relationships evolve. If he loves her as a human and wants to be there to support her, it's might be possible to reframe what this is.
Of course, if you feel miserable all the time, and you think the status quo means you have no pride – if you've spent years waiting for him to come home from someone else's life – the time you share together might not be enough. But ... if this is about what other people think, or about not knowing how he really feels about her at this point, I'd talk to him.
Write down what you want to know, and if you have any specific asks (requests for more time, etc.), make them clear.
Readers? What questions would you ask? Is it possible this arrangement works as is?