Should i wait for a married guy?
August 2, 2006 3:20 PM   Subscribe

If you're in love with a married man, and he says he would leave his wife, would you stay? Whilst i love him very much, i am not sure if i should believe him as surely if he really was going to leave her he would have done this by now. Is it possible to love two people at the same time?
posted by rainbow_2006 to Human Relations (88 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

It is possible to love two people at the same time. As for the rest of it, he may leave his wife & he may not. If you really want him, give him a deadline to leave and be with you, and then stick to it: you'll find out how serious he is pretty quick. But there are easier ways to get men.
posted by dame at 3:23 PM on August 2, 2006

I suspect plenty of judgement is on its way in this thread, so I'll leave that to the pros. But the short answer to your first question, without specific details, is no. You shouldn't believe him. And if he leaves his poor wife, that should give you a pretty good clue how he'll treat you when he falls "in love" with someone else down the road.

Can a guy love two people at the same time? Yes, sort of. Can a guy just be a two-timing jerk? Absolutely. I know this from the experience of having been one.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:24 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's possible to love two people at the same time. It's impossible to say whether or not he will leave her, but if he does he will be more likely to leave you later on in the future if he falls in love with someone else.
posted by Paris Hilton at 3:25 PM on August 2, 2006

How long have you been seeing him? I think that the longer it has been the less likely he will ever actually leave.

Off topic but something to think about-- do you trust someone who was cheating when you met him to be faithful in the future? (Assuming that's important to you.)
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:28 PM on August 2, 2006

He may very much love you and may be more than willing to leave his wife. But in my experience, once a cheater, always a cheater. I would look down the road and see if this is really right for you.
posted by meerkatty at 3:28 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think though he means it when he says he is not happy at home, but surely then he would just leave? I think this is what i find confusing.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 3:29 PM on August 2, 2006

Do yourself a favor: stop waiting for him to leave and move on to someone else. If you give him a deadline, you're helping to break up a marriage. If you stick with him without the spouse knowing, you're helping him lie to his partner. Both aren't good for your relationship with him.

If he loves and wants you more than his current spouse, he'll leave and come looking for you. If he doesn't leave, he's stringing you along and avoiding confrontation, no matter what he says. Stop the relationship now and wait to see what happens.
posted by mediareport at 3:30 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, you can love people at the same time.

The person with the most knowledge of his motivations is always going to be you, so you need to run through a detailed analysis of the factors involved in the guy's decision.

Get a pen and three piece of paper.

On the first, make a list of reasons that he has (not says, HAS) to leave his wife. On the second, make a list of reasons that he has to have a relationship with you. On the third, make a list of reasons that he has to stay with his wife.

On each, consider practical reasons as well as emotional ones. Think of all that you know about him and his situation, before and during your relationship.

Now read them over and see which reasons are more important to him, and why. See where the reasons reinforce and contradict each other.

Hopefully this should give you a few insights.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:31 PM on August 2, 2006

Is it possible to love two people at once? Sure, but do you want to always be his second best? Look, if he was going to leave, he would have already. This is one of the oldest stories, and it usually ends the same way. You deserve someone who will always put you first. (And so does his wife.)
posted by sugarfish at 3:35 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: What scares me is the fact that i could be walking away from something great, but at the same time i could be giving up however long for something which is never going to happen. Where do you draw the line? It is a lot harder than you would think when emotions are involved.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2006

I had written a long post and then decided to edit it to come across less judgmental, as that wasn't my intent.

Your two questions are very different. Yes, I believe you can love two people at the same time. Yet, I don't think you can love two people for all the same reasons at the same time. Someone is always getting shorted.

You asked whether other people would "stay" if they were in your shoes. I think that's a tough question to answer, particularly for those who wouldn't make a go of a relationship with a married person in the first place. Whether you should stick around depends entirely on your goals in the relationship. Is it casual/sexual only? Then sure, why not? But if your goal is to ultimately achieve a monogamous, committed relationship with this man (and that is my guess, if only because you're concerned with him actually leaving his wife), I'd have to say I don't think that's highly likely. I'm not going to say cheaters can never change. I just don't think they often do. And when cheaters do change, I think it's most often by coming to terms with their own character flaws and recommitting to their spouse -- not just moving on to bigger and better. I know there are plenty of examples out there of people who cheated on a spouse and found true love with the other person. But I believe that is the exception, not the rule, and you're likely to end up in a similar position to his current wife down the road.

P.S. Why hasn't he left his wife already regardless of whether you'll be there to be with him?
posted by justonegirl at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2006

Are you expecting a monogamous relationship? If so, you're out of luck in my experience. He's already shown he's not so into that.

...if you're NOT expecting a monogamous relationship from him, then why does it matter whether or not he leaves his wife? Is it just the societal aspect?

I'm serious, I think it would be helpful to know.
posted by aramaic at 3:40 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: We have a great time together, we have never argued and i think the world of him. The situation with his wife did not grind on me so much until lately, but then it is only lately my feelings have deepened. What also really upsets me, is that i am encouraging the behavior which i use to so strongly disagree with.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 3:41 PM on August 2, 2006

It's not technically possible to love two people at the same time. However if you rapidly alternate between loving one person and loving the other, you can create the illusion of simultaneous love, and nobody will be able to tell the difference without very specialized (and expensive!) equipment.
posted by aubilenon at 3:43 PM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

I assume he's told you he loves you, and I assume he's told his wife the same thing. What kind of love are you willing to settle for? A love where your partner thinks it's fine to lie to one woman, and shortchange another? I'd rather be alone than with a man like that.
posted by b33j at 3:44 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: Is there anyone on here who has honestly said they would leave their partner and has done? Was it a easy decision when you knew you loved that other person?
posted by rainbow_2006 at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2006

No, you cannot love two people at the same time.

If love were nothing more than a feeling, like feeling sick, or feeling scared, then sure you could. But that kind of love is amateur-hour. Intransitory. Here-today, gone-tomorrow, just like the flu. Real love demands commitment, thus it is, by definition, exclusive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:47 PM on August 2, 2006 [3 favorites]

I've been in the married one in this type of situation. I was firmly convinced I was in love and would eventually leave my marriage for this other person. But when I was honest with myself, one of the reasons a relationship outside my marriage was attractive was because I had all of the fun and none of the responsibilities. (As it happened, I was dumped before I could act on my newfound honesty.)

So, can I say I would definitely leave if I was in your shoes? No. I would probably wait around for a while longer, because I am a masochist that way, for one, and I also know that sometimes the married person who cheats really has the best interests of everybody involved at heart, but hasn't yet figured out a way to act on those interests.

P.S. If he has children, you better know right now that even if he left his wife tomorrow and moved in with you, he will always, always have a connection to her. Do you want that baggage?

Good luck.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:48 PM on August 2, 2006

It is possible to love more than one person at the same time.

No, you shouldn't stay. Anyone who gets involved (and stays involved) with another person's marriage/long-term-relationship needs to evaluate their morals. WTF did she ever do to you?

If their marriage is going to dissolve, it needs to for internal reasons without temptation/disruption from a third party.
posted by D.C. at 3:48 PM on August 2, 2006

posted by splitpeasoup at 3:49 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: There are no children involved so i guess that is something!! It probably sounds stupid but i have never felt so torn between my head and my heart.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 3:53 PM on August 2, 2006

I disagree with everyone who has said "if he diesn't love her, why is he still with her".

Isn't it possible that he started off loving her, x years ago, and the love slowly faded to where it is today? And if so, isn't it possible that he never actually found it bad enough to want to leave the relationship? It could have been something on his mind, but not serious enough to get a divorce, and then you come along and suddenly he has a very good reason for a divorce (from his point of view).

So no, I don't think if he was going to leave her he definitely would have done so by now.

And yes, you can love two people at the same time, and it tears your heart apart because you can only ever completely, devotedly love one of them. Someone always gets second-place.

If his relationship with his wife is definitely in its last stages, and you think you could have something wonderful with him, then it's possible for him to have a divorce and be with you and for that to work. I wouldn't rush the divorce though. The last thing you want is for him to end the marriage, but have it end so badly (due to rushing, due to pressure from you) that he's forever unhappy about it.
posted by twirlypen at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2006

I think it's possible to love more than one person at a time, feeling different kinds of love for each.

But you better be sure that you are "the one," and that the previous marriage was just a mistake. Are you offering him something very special and distinctive from what his wife offers him? Might someone else come along that he will crave when your novelty wears off? Depending on your answers to these questions, you may never feel secure --- as above commenters have said, what's to keep him from doing the exact same thing to you?

By leaving his wife to be with you, he's proving that he is the sort of guy who would leave his wife for a woman he cheated with. That creates a sort of rebuttable presumption that he's a cheating piece of shit. (Rebuttable, of course, by information that his wife is a cheater, an abuser, a nag, etc.).
posted by jayder at 4:00 PM on August 2, 2006

Es mejor pedir perdon que permiso, which translates to "it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission", but sounds much better in the original.
posted by signal at 4:01 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thankyou with that last one - i guess that could be true. I just can't handle it at the moment. Affairs are so complicated, i would never enter into another one knowing what i do now.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 4:01 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: I have not met his wife properly, and from what he has told me of her, she sounds nice. I mean everyone has their faults.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 4:03 PM on August 2, 2006

Part of your confusion may be because you think that if he loves you and says he's unhappy with his marriage, then the only logical conclusion is for him to leave her and be with you. Unfortunately, this situation is anything but logical and rational, and the longer you stick around waiting for him to make sense, the more hurt you're going to be.

As D.C. said, his marriage should end of its own accord, not because of you -- particularly in this case, where he claims to be still "in love" with his wife. If his marriage was already over in all but name when you came along, that'd be a different story (maybe).
posted by footnote at 4:03 PM on August 2, 2006

What are his reasons for staying with his wife?
posted by k8t at 4:04 PM on August 2, 2006

The man's a liar. Leave him. Even if he leaves his wife, who wants to spend their life with someone who lies to people they supposedly love?
posted by dobbs at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rainbow - about 12 years ago, I left a long term relationship (4 years) for a "girl on the side," who I thought I loved. The truth of the matter was I wasn't enough of a man to end a bad relationship, and I was looking for an excuse and an instant rebound all in one, to dull the pain of being alone. The new relationship crumbled soon after it began. Trust me, you don't want to be that person.

There's no way to make this not sound condescending so I'll just say it: A lesson I wished I had learned by my 20s, but didn't until I was in my 30s, is that there really are, just like your mom said, plenty of fish in the sea.

In my 20s, I believed every relationship was destiny, the end-all-be-all, etc. I made many dumb choices driven by immature emotions, and made a lot of people sad, which I regret. Do any of those people, some of whom I thought I was supposed to be with for the rest of my life, have any bearing on it now? Of course not.

Think carefully about this fellow. He might look all sparkly now, and of course you're getting along great, etc. etc. etc., but there will be plenty more just like him in the future.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It is possible for him to love two people at once. Plenty of men have left their wives for other women (and plenty of women have left their husbands for other men). But how long have you been with him? If we are talking weeks, a month maybe two, ok, he could still be working up the courage to leave his wife. If this has been going on for several months or longer, I'm afraid he isn't going to leave his wife, no matter how much he loves you. Or, at least, if it leaves his wife, it isn't going to be for you. But that's ok. You don't want him to leave his wife for you, anyway. If he does, isn't there the possibility that he'll leave you for another woman?

If he leaves his wife because he is honestly unhappy, not because he wants to be with you, and then you and he work out, that is probably the only way you'll find happiness with him anyway.

I'm guessing that because you know he is married and because you have stayed with him, you have made yourself too convenient for him. He has no reason to commit to this relationship and make the hard changes in his life, because he know's you'll stick around. Like SuperSquirrel says, you are all the fun and none of the responsibility.

As hard as it will be, move on. If only for the time being. Let him deal with his relationship with his wife. Also, knowing your SO is in love with someone else is a painful, painful thing (I know this first hand), step back and let her have the peace of knowing that her marriage is ending because it wasn't working, not because someone got in the way (even if he was unhappy before you were in the scene, that isn't going to be the way it feels to her). If you two were meant to be together, he'll find his way back to you.

Good luck, I'm sure this is a very painful situation.
posted by necessitas at 4:08 PM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That is what i try to keep telling myself that i will meet someone who deserves me, etc etc and i will love just as much. It's hard though to think like that thought when your in love with someone else.....
posted by rainbow_2006 at 4:09 PM on August 2, 2006

I missed the part where you enquired as to what the wife wants. Have either of you checked in with her regarding her preferences? Is she ok with the current arrangement or would she maybe prefer some alternate future such as say either monogamy or divorce? Maybe things aren't clear because you've failed to include her in the decision-making process?
posted by scheptech at 4:10 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Is there anyone on here who has honestly said they would leave their partner and has done? Was it a easy decision when you knew you loved that other person?

I did; I left almost immediately, before I even really became involved with the other person. I don't think I'm typical, though.

I don't really understand your "love" question, though. A quick glance through history or literature tells us it's quite possible to love both a wife and a lover, or even multiple wives, but so what? Do you want to be one of two or more women that he loves?
posted by timeistight at 4:11 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: No i don't want to be one of two people he loves. And to answer a earlier comment, please don't think i don't feel bad about his wife, if i was in her situation then i don't know what i would do. I don't even know if she suspects anything is going on. But like i said, my head is saying "wtf are you doing, get out now", and my heart is telling me that i love this person so much i don't want to give that up.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 4:15 PM on August 2, 2006

A lot hinges on why he's with you now and what's wrong (or right) with his marriage.

My ex left me for a married guy who left his wife. As far as I know, they're happy together and I have no reason to expect them to split up or for her current husband to run off. So, it can be done.


The marriage I was in was probably best described as a colossal fuckup, entered into (from both our sides) out of misguided fear that nobody else would ever love us if we let go. It took us a while to recognize / admit that it had never been a good match and we'd have split up anyway without the torrid hijinks that actually ensued. Neither of us had been happy in our marriage for a long time, but both of us clung to it anyway out of fear and inertia.

I dunno what the other marriage is like, and whether it's basically the walking dead or whether it has some life in it. Think about how he talks about his current marriage, and how he looks when you ask about his wife, and so on. You (and people who know you both) are the only ones in a position to judge whether he's likely to actually leave her for you, because he's really unhappy in his marriage, or whether he's just nailing you on the side because he likes fucking women and you let him without cramping his style.

You also should consider that even if he does leave her for you, he still has to get divorced. This is not small potatoes. It is lengthy, stressful, and can change people, almost always for the worse. At best you come out the same person, but wounded; at worst you grow vast new capabilities for bitterness, anger, and slow loathing. More so if the current wife decides to be nasty about it. Anyhow, be aware you will not end up with the man you see now.

More to the point: yes, it's possible, but I would be wary.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:18 PM on August 2, 2006 [4 favorites]

I forgot to add, I do know of someone who cheated on his wife, left his wife, and is happy and still in love with the other woman 20 years later. Like still-on-his-honeymoon-20-years-later happy. When you see them, you think "ok, he was a bastard to cheat, but I guess everyone deserves happiness and he did find that." He never cheated before this other woman, and he's never cheated since.

I know (knew) someone else who cheated on his wife, then married the woman with whom he was having an affair. A couple years later he died. He had an accident while on a tropical vacation with ANOTHER woman . . . while he was supposed to be on a business trip.

No two situations are the same, no two men are the same. If he has cheated on his wife before you, that is probably a pretty good indication that this isn't a man who is ever going to be happy with what he has.

Btw, for some inspiration, watch When Harry Met Sally.
posted by necessitas at 4:23 PM on August 2, 2006

I suspect that you are asking the question in full knowledge of the answer. The head asks, but really you've made the judgement, one way or another, in some other anatomical feature.

Good luck, though, whatever you decide. "If love's a sweet passion..."
posted by athenian at 4:27 PM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thankyou everyone for the advice. I guess one thing i have learnt from this is not to put yourself into situation where you or others can get hurt. I am not a bad lass and i try my hardest to do the right by people, but this one has really fucked my head up.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 4:33 PM on August 2, 2006

One note...

If he's willing to cheat on her...

One day, he may be willing to cheat on you.

Can you feel comfortable with someone who can go to his marital bed and lie to his wife so well?
posted by filmgeek at 4:41 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just remember this; he is lying to his wife every day. He probably still tells her he loves her and shares the same bed with her. Then he sneaks out with you. Cheating is a character flaw.
posted by TorontoSandy at 5:03 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, someone can love more than one person at the same time. I have done it.

That said, someone can also lie to more than one person at the same time.

Also, marriage is stupid.
posted by poweredbybeard at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

surely if he really was going to leave her he would have done this by now

Good instincts.

Also, marriage is stupid.

Stupid like a fox!
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:14 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

He might divorce his wife, marry you and the two of you might have a wonderful, lasting relationship.

He might divorce his wife, cheat on you, make your life a living hell and then move on.

He might never divorce his wife.

None of us knows the situation or can predict the outcome. I have seen all 3 things happen. The one thing I do advise is what someone else said: You want a marriage and a real life - possibly kids. Give him a time limit and stick to it. Decide what you can live with. A month? A year? A decade?

Don't cheat on yourself. Once you've made your decision, however long that is, abide by it.
posted by clarkstonian at 5:15 PM on August 2, 2006

What if you told him no sex until he and the wife are separately domiciled? Do you think he agree with that and take the necessary steps or are you afraid to find out? Your answer might be in that.

But whatever you do, don't beat yourself up if he declines. You'd only be about the billionth woman to be taken up by an emotion the guy isn't really feeling. And besides as mentioned divorce costs serious money, a lot of guys decide to keep things simple and more prosperous by staying with the wife when faced with the reality of divorce thinking they can more easily switch girlfriends than wives. Which is true.
posted by scheptech at 5:28 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

No, and yes, respectively. See polyamory.

99% of the time, they don't leave. Why would you, when you can have your pussy and eat it too?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2006

scheptech's no sex approach might even be advantageous to him in that he might not be sued for divorce for cheating; if he does start divorce proceedings you should probably cut him off just to help him avoid perjuring himself. If he's still there afterwards (or after the deadline others recommend), then he's probably serious about you.
posted by kimota at 6:03 PM on August 2, 2006

Even if a man falls in love with a new woman, it's hard to leave a marriage if there are children involved. But since you say there are no children, well, I'm afraid he's just not that into you.
posted by iconjack at 6:24 PM on August 2, 2006

What scares me is the fact that i could be walking away from something great, but at the same time i could be giving up however long for something which is never going to happen.

This is the story of every relationship in the entire world up until both people are thoroughly committed to it, though most people don't really start worrying about the unsealed nature of the deal until a year or two in (and by two years, it's usually time to fish or cut bait, though there's always exceptions). If he were single, I'd tell you to be patient, explore your options, and treat the relationship like a part of garden you nourish rather than a term paper or office project with deadline.

But... he's married. That means he's already committed somewhere else, and until he withdraws that commitment entirely, he can't give it to you. That means even if it becomes something great, it won't be something you can keep. And what's more likely is that it will not become something great.

Walk away. Don't look back until he makes the choices he needs to make. Almost all of the good paths that can come out of this situation will start with that.
posted by namespan at 6:58 PM on August 2, 2006

If he leaves her, might he not later leave you?
posted by caddis at 7:08 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

If this has been going on for several months or longer, I'm afraid he isn't going to leave his wife, no matter how much he loves you.

There are many reasons why people stay together. "Love" and "happiness" are only two, possibly two minor ones. There are many issues with extricating onesself from a marriage which could take more than a few months. "Months" sounds like a long time but love is not the sole issue here. There are finances to consider, the sale of a house, the litigation of a divorce, division of property, telling family and friends, etc etc. Going through all that takes a lot of emotional readiness and once the process is begun it consumes a lot of time and attention.

I agree if he's seeing someone he should move the fuck on with his life, but I'm just disagreeing with a 3-month line as some kind of event horizon past which the marriage will definitely endure forever. No way.

Unfortunately, Rainbow, it might take a very long time indeed. You might get sick of waiting a week from now or 6 months from now. And then, two years later, his marriage still might end.
posted by scarabic at 7:09 PM on August 2, 2006

I definitely agree with the deadline idea. Set a deadline (six months or so), and accept no excuses. These things can go on forever if you don't, he can have his cake and eat it too and you end up being the side dish for years. This can be an ego-destroying waste of time and you need to be aware of how quickly time can fly. You're not helping to break up a marriage regardless, it's not your marriage to break, it's his. If he still has good feelings for his wife and still has a real relationship with her, it's likely that you're just an exciting diversion (and there are definitely more fish in the sea). But if he's simply trapped by inertia (as many of us can be, especially when the act of leaving involves pain, hassle and money), then a deadline will at least show you where you stand.

Married people do leave their spouses for other people, and often have quite happy, lasting relationships with the other people. I don't buy the sweeping generalisations that get bandied about regarding this, we are all individuals and every situation is different. That said, before you go setting deadlines, you need to carefully examine whether or not you actually have the makings of a serious long-term relationship with this man, it's very different to be in an affair than it is to be in a committed relationship, and it's often the case when people DO leave their marriages for their bit on the side that it ends up that most of the magic with the bit on the side was to do with the affair rather than the person (it's very easy to be on your best, kindest, most lovable behaviour when you only see someone occasionally, it's harder to do so when you live together).
posted by biscotti at 7:17 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

There has been such good advice here (and a lot of judgmental crap, to be sure), but I just wanted to add -

No two situations are exactly alike and no two people are. I happen not to believe that "once a cheater, always a cheater." I believe that people FUCK UP - they do stupid shit and make mistakes and even sometimes do things that hurt others.

The question is - is this this guy's "one time", or is this a constant pattern? I truly think there's a difference.

Everyone fucks up at least once - fuckups fuck up all the time.
posted by tristeza at 7:42 PM on August 2, 2006 [3 favorites]

I found the most wisdom in the comments by twirlypen, clarkstonian, and biscotti. It's completely possible that this guy could be a cad, and without knowing more, it seems more likely to be the case than with the average partner -- assuming, as I do, that most people don't cheat on someone with whom they've made a serious commitment like marriage. But do we know he will never leave his wife? No, people do in fact divorce. Do we know that if he does, he will cheat again? No, though while it seems possible (and, again, more likely than average), his present behavior may be a function of his present relationship and his feelings for the woman posting, and he may in fact be learning through the pain of this experience (though it is possible, as some report with near certainty, that he is simply "getting it for free" and without regret). Is there another fish out there for you that's free of this liability? Sure, though whether he has his own downsides, and whether and when you find him, is harder to say. I think it's a matter of assessing the individual in question, and avoiding becoming a victim -- either by perpetuating this affair unwisely or winding up with a divorced dud -- while at the same time not doing too much harm to others, such as his wife. This doesn't admit of easy answers, and I wish you the best.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:45 PM on August 2, 2006

That is true tristeza. When I was six, my best friend's mother had an affair with a married man. They both left their spouses and got married to each other. That was decades ago and they are still happily married. Of course, it frequently does not work out so well.
posted by caddis at 7:48 PM on August 2, 2006

I agree if he's seeing someone he should move the fuck on with his life, but I'm just disagreeing with a 3-month line as some kind of event horizon past which the marriage will definitely endure forever. No way.

Sure there are other things to consider, but after several months, if the guy is in a relationship with another woman, not talking tawdry sex with the hot secretary relationship, but one involving love and actual relating, and he hasn't at least taken some strides toward discussing the possibility of separating with his wife, he probably has realized that he can have his cake and eat it to.

I am sure it is probably easier for him to remain an unhappy marriage if his emotional/physical needs are being met elsewhere.

It is usually the first few months of a relationship (yes, longer if you are lucky) that you have that mad burning passion, the I need to be with this person every day and every night feeling. Obviously, if he hasn't ditched his wife for her (yes, I know it isn't that simple), it doesn't mean he doesn't love her. It just means that he is probably a selfish jerk who is getting comfortable with the double life. The longer they are together, the easier it will be for him to continue stringing her along. I am sure there are some instances where this isn't the case, but most men leave their wives in the earlier stages of an affair. They don't leave their wives for the woman they've been seeing on the side for a year.

Like I said this isn't always the case. Though it isn't the exact same situation, I just ended a relationship with someone who remained in love with his exgirlfriend for the entire 4 years we were together. Throughout that time they had an "emotional affair" of sorts via constant email and phone calls behind my back. The first thing he did when I moved out, seriously one week later, he got on a plane to re-establish his relationship with her. So, yeah, 3 months isn't always the key marker.
posted by necessitas at 7:56 PM on August 2, 2006

I've been the husband in this scene.

There's a lot of judgement here by folks that have no insight into the truth of the situation. I would encourage you to sift out the judgemental stuff as you make this decision.

I'm not willing to disclose all of the details of my situation here on the meta, since there are others involved. But, my e/mail is in my profile, feel free if you want further insights..
posted by HuronBob at 8:10 PM on August 2, 2006

"Heav'n has no rage like love to hatred turn'd
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd.
- The Mourning Bride by William Congreve

See, that's old wisdom, from 1697. Stuff like that hangs around for 400 years, because it's often, too often, true.

Scorned women can get incredibly hateful, and you should be thinking about that, rainbow_2006. What goes 'round not only comes 'round, honey, sometimes it's brought 'round.

S'pose, just for instance, that your boy's wife decides she's not gonna lose this catfight. She doesn't particularly care about your boy any more, she just doesn't like the thought of losing him to you. So, she forgets to take her birth control pills for a month or two, and boom, your boy's a daddy-to-be. Where are you then? Where is he? "Happens" all. the. time.

S'pose the little wife isn't that resolute, but she isn't stupid, either. So she hires a private detective, who snaps enough pictures to name you as the correspondent in a divorce suit she files. You get named as a correspondent, and in some jurisdictions, you still can't be legally married to the person in whose divorce you were named correspondent.

Or maybe, she just gets jealous, and caps your ass.

Look, I don't bring this stuff up to be mean or judgemental, but nobody else has, so far.

Sweet dreams.
posted by paulsc at 8:16 PM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Yes you can love two people at the same time.

Apparently the key is keeping very good records.
posted by lilboo at 9:07 PM on August 2, 2006

Someone I admire once had a hot sexual affair with a very successful (and very married) man. It was all great times, fabulous food, nice hotel rooms, hot sex in cars, elevators and closets. This continued for over a year, off and on, in a fairly casual way, to their mutual satisfaction.

One night, after some particulary great sex, he informed her that he had broken things off with his wife and would like to marry her.

She laughed and told him she'd never marry him - he screws around.

Seriously, some people are wired for monogamy and some aren't. If the guy has a history of infidelity (ie: you're not the first girl he's cheated on his wife with or she's not the first woman he's cheated on), then he's probably not going to be monogamous with you. Is that important to you?
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:41 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can tell if someone is motivated to do something by whether they're doing it or not. Otherwise, they're not motivated.

Is he making any effort to leave his wife or plan for a life with you? Physically, emotionally, otherwise? That is how you can tell if he is at least intending to leave.

I don't think there's anything you can do to influence him one way or the other. He has to want it and be motivated to do it. Protect yourself and cut it off if you're not getting what you need.

This doesn't mean he doesn't love you and you're not worth having a real relationship with. As others have said, you will be loved and "worth it" to someone else. But you have to start dating others to find someone else. If he's really motivated to leave his wife, your seeing other people won't stop him. Just tell him "I really love you and would like to be with you in a monogamous relationship once you're out of this one, but I don't see any future for that in our current situation, so I'm going to start looking elsewhere." Then start dating other people or focus your attention on something else. He can't expect you to be exclusive when he clearly is not.

You don't have any control over what he does. You only have control of yourself. Look out for your own needs. Staying in a situation where they're not getting met just indicates to him that you're okay with that, and this method will not result in any change. So keep looking. Either he'll come around or he won't. Don't hold your breath. Don't expect him to have your best interests in mind. If you feel like you can't or don't want to be with anyone else because you're so crazy about him, it's time to cut bait and force yourself to detach.

We all know the heart has a will of its own, but learning how to look out for yourself and make better choices for yourself is something we all have to learn, often the hard way. Good luck. You will get through this.
posted by Marnie at 5:55 AM on August 3, 2006

I don't think you can. You certainly can't be committed to two people at once.

Further, anyone who doesn't honor commitments should be avoided. Then the lie about it? Wow. Run away.

It is possible to love someone who is essentially a bad person.

Lastly, no one is wired for monogamy. Some people just don't practice self control.
posted by ewkpates at 5:55 AM on August 3, 2006

paulsc has trotted this bullshit out before, but don't place any stock in it. He's not a lawyer, and apparently he read it somewhere on the web. It's complete bullshit. Amatory torts, and associated penalties for alienation of affection, are a thing of the past. You can marry whomever you want, regardless of your relationship with them while they were married to someone else.

If paulsc's bugaboo laws are still on the books, they're like those wacky laws that say Communists cannot be elected to office; unconstitutional and unenforced.
posted by jayder at 6:21 AM on August 3, 2006

ewkpates: I don't think you can. You certainly can't be committed to two people at once.

Well, you can, and quite a few people have managed to do it over long periods of time. However, it requires quite a bit of understanding, increased complexity, and very likely a much higher tolerance for drama. I'd say most people are not cut out for committed nonmonogamy. I know I'm not.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:40 AM on August 3, 2006

Kirk this is exactly the point that I put poorly or you missed:

You can't have lunch exclusively with two people at the same time.

You can all three have lunch, or one person misses out.

Love is actualized emotion. If someone is in two relationships, then they are actualizing, but not all for one person... they don't love either one.

Attraction, interest, attachment, these are all possible with multiple people. But love is more than this, it is actualized commitment at the highest level... can't be done.

If you can only save one (other) person on the planet, who would it be? This question gets at the key importance of who you love... if you can't decide, then your feelings for someone aren't love, they are affection unactualized...
posted by ewkpates at 7:06 AM on August 3, 2006

i know more than one person left his wife (and children) for someone else, and married that someone else, and is still with that someone else. will YOU still want him after he's left his wife and is fulltime dependent on you for love affection support (even sock-washing depending on how you do things)?
posted by londongeezer at 7:34 AM on August 3, 2006

However, it requires quite a bit of understanding, increased complexity,

And in this case habitual lying.

He's a man, hardwired for promiscuity and lying for sex. As a man, trust me, having sex with you proves nothing about love. It's entirely unecessary for a man to have any affection whatsoever at any level with a woman to have sex with her.

But, if your really want to figure it out, you need to separate the two and see if there is any relationship without sex. Cut him off until he moves out.

Meanwhile to answer the latter orignal question - no. It's possible to have multiple relationships, it's not possible to actively love two women at once in the largest sense of the word. You can't both be the most important thing in his life.

There are only three possibilities in terms of what's most important to him:
a - his wife
b - you
c - neither of you

Option d- both of you, doesn't exist.
posted by scheptech at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2006

ewkpates: You can't have lunch exclusively with two people at the same time...

Love is actualized emotion. If someone is in two relationships, then they are actualizing, but not all for one person... they don't love either one.

I suppose it depends on how you define love. It is not necessarily the case that love must be exclusive. I love my father, I love my mother, and I love my partner. I also love multiple friends. The kinds of commitments I make to all of them are different.

But love is more than this, it is actualized commitment at the highest level... can't be done.

If you want to define love in such a way, you are welcome to it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:10 AM on August 3, 2006

Look, you know what you should do, you just don't want to do it. Stop making us cajole you into doing what you know is right.
posted by klangklangston at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Affection can be had for many people and things, but Love, Romantic Love, isn't just affection.

Just as Confucius is said to have said, it begins and ends with the definition of the thing.

I want to define Romantic Love in a way that is true and valid... I don't see any way to do that other than actualization of feeling.

Love must be exclusive because you have to order your priorities. You should base your priorities on the intensity of your actualized commitment. Who's more important, your parent or your partner?

Who is more important, his wife or his lover?
posted by ewkpates at 8:25 AM on August 3, 2006

You have received some great advice here. I suggest you forget about the deadline and just break off all contact, as hard as that may be.

You could possibly be the rebound person. He isn't "in love" with his wife, or they have an unsatisfying marriage (for whatever reason) and so he has taken up with you, having an emotional as well as an intimate relationship. He wants to get out of the marriage, but doesn't know how to do so gracefully.

However, if it does come out about the affair and they divorce, you could end up the loser. He may decide to start all over with someone else.

How would you feel then?

Emotional affairs are much harder to get over, imho.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
posted by cass at 8:33 AM on August 3, 2006

ewkpates: I want to define Romantic Love in a way that is true and valid...

You do know that "romantic love" was invented in the rennaissance, and was all about the trubador pining for the married woman that he just couln't have?

Your definition of "Romantic Love" is neither obviously true, nor obviously valid. And other people don't share this same definition.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:55 AM on August 3, 2006

There can't be two most importants, two people to whom one is devoted.

Anyone placing all lovers at an equal level hasn't promoted them all to top spot, they've demoted them all below something else such as themselves, sex itself, money, or a career. They're not devoted to anybody. Something else is at the top of the list. In my definition of love for the purposes of this thread anyway.

But, how does the original poster define love?
posted by scheptech at 9:02 AM on August 3, 2006

Response by poster: I can't define it, as how can you quantify love. But i know what i feel right now, but how i feel love to the next person is always going to be different.
posted by rainbow_2006 at 9:28 AM on August 3, 2006

I like what namespan said and I want to go back to what the orginal poster said...

What scares me is the fact that i could be walking away from something great, but at the same time i could be giving up however long for something which is never going to happen.

The way I look at it is: what is GREAT? Is it love that he puts you in this position? Is it love if someone asks you to go against your moral code? I would urge you to look beyond the rush that you get when you are with him and think about how a relationship is a manifestation of love. Romantic love is a pretty selfish thing. When it begins to transcend selfishness, when you care intensely for the happinesss and well being of the other person --- then it is great.

Based on what you have said here, rainbow, I'm not getting the sense that this is such a great relationship. Take a hard look, how is this guy manifesting his caring about you? How often does he put you in an awkward position - are you able to call him when you need him? Is he there to hold you at night? Does he act as a helpmate in your daily life? Is he able to spend the time to be nurturing and warm? Or are you alone and lonely alot, wondering where he is, with intense highs and lows? Cause, if you are, that is not great.
posted by zia at 9:33 AM on August 3, 2006 [3 favorites]

scheptech: There can't be two most importants, two people to whom one is devoted.

Well, there is the rub. Some people just want to define "love" in regards to some arbitrary "most important." I find this to be naive, foolish, and unauthentic to my experiences, and the experiences of many others.

The reason why the love triangle has been one of the most powerful literary plot devices in history is because it is entirely possible for a person to have intense and actuallzed emotional attraction and intimacy with more than one person, leading to intense conflicts of interest.

For a very simple definition of "love" ask yourself, "Would I mourn the absence of this person from my life?" When I've found myself involved in love traingles, the resolution was messy and painful not just because of the conflicts involved, but because I had to mourn the absence of a person that I deeply cared for.

rainbow: It is quite possible for him to love both wife and mistress. In which case, if he does leave, you will likely have to deal with someone who is mourning an ex. The ex may become the greener grass or the lost opportunity if the relationship should go south. So you should consider if you want an ex with a high volume of unprocessed baggage. You might become the rebound relationship. You might allready be the rebound relationship.

If it was me, knowing what I know now, I'd take the bitter pill myself and break it off. But my tolerance for getting involved in big ugly messes and realtionship drama has declined over the years.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:50 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you can love two people at the same time. (And not the way you love your two kids, or you love your two parents.) A lot of the world is polygamous - are they all wrong? But I think it's rare, and I highly doubt it's the case in your situation. He's probably staying because he's afraid to leave, and worried about all the other junk inherent in ending a marriage.

As for your relationship, I recommend that you leave, and right now. If it is really something wonderful, he needs to realize that, end the relationship with his wife, and convince you to get back with him. Otherwise, i'ts not wonderful and it never will be.

As for the heart/mind thing, I've been in that type of conundrum (heart won't believe what the mind is telling it) a time or two, and I can promise you that you will find love again, and it will be a hell of a lot better than this excuse for a relationship. And then you will look back on this time, and think, "why did I waste so much time in that relationship, when I could have been in this one?" Your situation is terrible for your heart, terrible for your psyche, terrible for your pride. You stumbled into this situation, but for your own self it's imperative that you get out. The love you feel now is not unique. And when you find a new love, you will be overwhelmed by how wonderful it really is to be enveloped in the love of someone who loves you, full time.

Good luck.
posted by Amizu at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2006

Trust me, these situations can drag on for years. My advice would be to get the pain over with sooner rather than later.

Tell him how much you love him and explain how good you think your life might be together. Listen to what he tells you and understand how difficult his position may be.

But you need to tell him how long you will wait for him to act and what you will do if he won't take that step. You need to convince him that you mean this....

Good luck !
posted by funboytree at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2006

Kirk, may want to go back and read the Greeks. Romantic love has been around a long time.

Further, your appeal to your own experience doesn't speak well of your experience, nor of your ability to recognize that there may be something important, essential, to strive for beyond what you have experienced so far.

Rainbow is right, there can't be two most importants.
posted by ewkpates at 11:05 AM on August 3, 2006

When it comes down to it and all is revealed, he'll be forced to make some kind of choice, and the situation for you will change for either the better or worse depending on his prioritization of you vs the wife. There won't be any stable three way relationship going on.

You know very well when the wife finds out things are gonna be different. You're living now in a sort of honeymoon period between the time you met and the time she finds out, or he becomes afraid she's going to find out.

Is it possible to form stable long-term relatonships with multiple partners? Sure, but only when everyone is more or less clued in and agrees. That's just not your situation.
posted by scheptech at 11:11 AM on August 3, 2006

I am going to follow with PaulSC's angle on the wife's feelings. What you know for sure is that the wife does not know or condone the relationship hence, "your" man's deception. The man knows if she finds out there will be consequences the minimum being hurt feelings and potentially, the over the top physical damage to you, him or her.

Your response of not wanting to lose him 'cause: "What scares me is the fact that i could be walking away from something great, but at the same time i could be giving up however long for something which is never going to happen. Where do you draw the line? It is a lot harder than you would think when emotions are involved."

What's so great about the second woman, waiting around for something to die (in this case, a marriage)?

Look, I am not trying to be harsh to you, but if the man can't live honestly with you or the wife there are problems. Also, because you feel that you have compromised your principles and your sense for the emotions you are caught in a depressing cycle of waiting, hoping, wishing and wasting for something that may never come nor in the end, what you want.

Also, for those polygamists out there -- it's not usual to be having happy times amongst the women (much intrigue and resentment); I know because I've seen it and have family experience with it including mistress living with family. Yeah, fun times.
posted by jadepearl at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

ewkapates: Romantic love has been around a long time.

Of course you can play linguistic games and redefine romantic love in such a way that it includes whatever you want, and excludes whatever you want. You can even ignore the rather sordid history of our current conception of romantic love from the rennaissance to the present day.

Further, your appeal to your own experience doesn't speak well of your experience, nor of your ability to recognize that there may be something important, essential, to strive for beyond what you have experienced so far.

A great rule I've heard, lately. The first to stoop to insult looses. Some people define love your way. Others don't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:27 AM on August 3, 2006

It's not an insult, it's an observation. Your experience is limited.

Rainbow is trying to understand what to do... you've advised her based on your experience.

I'm suggesting that a) your experience is limited; b) your experience hasn't been one of either making someone else your highest priority or being theirs; and therefore c) rainbow should consider your "experienced based" perspective in this case as limited and not useful.

You've settled for second place. You say that second place is all there is. Go back and read Symposium. Being honestly, seriously committed to the meanings of words is not a game. Stop pretending that there are not real things to be defined in real actual terms. Don't talk about the "sordid history" of love until you've read a little more.

Read Symposium. Read the Iliad and the Odyssey. Read a book! Jeesh.
posted by ewkpates at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2006

Just go with how you feel and what you want, but be brave and prepared for the worst case scenerio. Also, see a therapist or someone you can talk to about all of this.

Things happen in life and the decision is sometimes just made by the heart. You can't count on statistics because of the intervening variables that you might not take notice of in your case.

So, basically, do what you want and try to make yourself strong if it should go wrong.
posted by onepapertiger at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2006

"paulsc has trotted this bullshit out before, but don't place any stock in it. He's not a lawyer, and apparently he read it somewhere on the web. ..."
posted by jayder at 9:21 AM EST on August 3

jayder is right, IANAL. I've never pretended I was, or had the least desire to do so. I am kind of disgusted by any implication I might have ever wanted to be a lawyer, and will state here that frankly, I'm constitutionally unfit to be one, as there are all kinds of things I won't do for money...:-)

But let's excuse jayder here, on professional terms; he may be a lawyer, but he's not your lawyer, etc., etc.

I read a lot of things on the Internet, some of which I link where it seems relevant. Joanna Grossman over on FindLaw has some thoughts from 2003 that seem relevant to a layman flailing around the Internets. Kim Steffan is apparently an attorney in North Carolina who has some thoughts on ALIENATION OF AFFECTION AND CRIMINAL CONVERSATION statutes there, as of 2003 (see her article as titled about 1/2 way down the linked page).

Now, if jayder wants to argue with his learned colleagues, let him; there's a bunch out there, since, according to the folks I've linked, about a third of the states in U.S. still have "heart balm" torts on the books, that are occasionally still filed as actions, and I'm only a random Internet guy, who doesn't see a profit in digging up and posting here the hundreds of citations on these things that can be dug up by search engines. That's the whole point of 'em, as far as I can see, to be additional ammunition in cases where people feel hurts to their hearts sufficient to warrant redress. And that's why I mentioned 'em, in line with my take on the "woman scorned" theme.

But the U.S. is not the world, and I don't make the mistake of assuming the OP is a U.S. citizen. If she's not, the norms of U.S. culture and law won't be binding on her. What she gets from answers posted here to her questions are only starting points for her own research and decision making. If that points her to seeking professional assistance in her own jurisdiction, which will be responsible to her for knowing the situation in her locale, so much the better.
posted by paulsc at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2006

Response by poster: OK, i am completely confused by the last posy by paulsc, but thanks!!!
posted by rainbow_2006 at 10:55 AM on August 4, 2006

There is one point I wanted to make here, that I know has been bandied above, but got awfully clouded.

Is it possible to love two people at the same time?

Course it is; people do it all the time.

"Is it possible for more than two people to be involved in a relationship?" seems more like the topic people were debating above, but there's lots of empirical evidence that that's possible, too, if you're motivated enough.

Those who bandy the term "polygamist" above are, I think, either insufficiently informed, or being purposefully provocative. If any of them want to call me out on this, though; let's go to MeTa.
posted by baylink at 4:32 PM on August 4, 2006

OK, i am completely confused by the last posy by paulsc, but thanks!!!
posted by rainbow_2006

You need to go back and read his next-to-last post and the ensuing upbraiding by jayder. Then paulsc's post will probably make more sense.

I believe the gist of what he's saying is this: You should realize that by seeing another woman's husband, in her eyes you are screwing her too. She will likely hate you, and paulsc was just letting you know that in some states she might be able to get back at you via the legal system. People are often irrational when they've been fucked over. She might even kill you or have you killed. It happens.
posted by iconjack at 8:24 PM on August 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

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