Send your relationship questions via this form, please – or email [email protected]. They don't have to be as dramatic as this one. Are you dating and exhausted? Trying to read mixed signals? Coupled and concerned? I'm here to read.
About two years ago, my almost 20-year marriage fell apart. My ex worked out of state and was gone a lot. I felt neglected and was left to deal with the house and raise the kids alone. We had two teenagers at the time, and I work full time.
We went on a trip for his 40th birthday. We were partying in a bar when I noticed his attention on every other woman but me. Then a group of young men approached us and started hanging out at our table. One of the young men was very flirtatious, and my ex-husband encouraged me to give him my number so we could stay in touch. I found out a few weeks later that this was because he had been having an emotional affair and thought he had feelings for another woman. So we separated at the height of the COVID-19 quarantine. The young man I had built a friendship with invited me to quarantine with him for a few weeks to help get my mind off of things. I fell for him quickly; he is 15 years younger.
During this time I had filed for divorce from my ex and this young man proposed to me. I accepted at first but then got scared and ran back to my then husband. His relationship with the woman he had the emotional affair with wasn't what he thought it would be. We called off the divorce and tried to rekindle our relationship. But he refused to go to marriage counseling and our fighting became worse than ever.
The young man I had built a relationship with was still trying to get me to come back to him, so finally, after finding out lie after lie my ex had told me, I left him again and went through with my divorce. I ran off and married this younger man. This was a year ago. Since then my emotions have been all over the place. I have to coparent with my ex-husband. I still feel like I’m very much in love with him. And the age difference with my new husband is really becoming an issue for me. I text my ex from time to time and he has sincerely apologized multiple times for how things ended. He regrets the decisions he made and just wants another chance. I am so afraid to leave my new husband. I think, for the most part, I don’t want to have another failed marriage. My husband knows I have had doubts this entire time and he just begs me to keep giving him a chance to prove he will be a great husband. But I am not happy. I honestly don't know what to do.
– All over the place
"I think, for the most part, I don't want to have another failed marriage."
I don't like it when people say "failed marriage." Marriages tend to end, not fail. When something doesn't work out, it's usually because someone has learned something important.
So … what have you learned?
* You know you've returned to your ex-husband before and that the problems don't magically disappear. You know that you love him but that you've never been able to go back to what you had when it was good. Also, he hasn't been willing to go to therapy with you.
* You've learned that running to someone new and going all in isn't the answer. Your younger husband can't fix what went wrong in your last relationship. He offered you emotional security, but you have to find some of that from within.
*You don't know what you want at the moment. Depending on your financial situation, that might mean finding a place that gives you space from both of these men so you have time to think. It might mean reaching out to non-partners (who else is in your community?) so your world looks bigger than two people. If you can't live on your own right now because it's too expensive, maybe there's a way to think of your first home as a co-parenting space. Returning to that residence doesn't have to mean getting back together with your ex.
It seems you know you want to leave the marriage you're in. That's a start – and a fair place to be. You can commit to focusing on yourself and your kids ... and finding clarity. Figure out the best way to do that and give yourself time to see beyond one man or the other.
Readers? Next steps for this letter writer?