By Virginia Gilbert, MFT
You didn’t mean for it to happen. And it’s not just about sex. The emotional connection between you is potent, the kind of intimacy you’ve been craving your entire life. The only thing coming between you and your soul mate is that someone else thinks he’s her soul mate, too — his wife.
He assures you he’s leaving her. He’s just waiting for the right time. He needs to deal with some financial matters, or get his youngest into college, or see her through her father’s illness.
You were patient at first, but the longer he stays with her, the harder it is to ignore that niggling feeling that he’ll never leave. When you bring it up, he gets evasive and you get hostile. You don’t want to argue, and run the risk of ruining your relationship — the same relationship that will ruin his marriage. So you find yourself chronically tied up in knots, wondering day after day: will he ever leave his wife?
How Affairs Serve A Selfish Purpose
Some affairs do evolve into successful, long-term relationships. The marriage is basically over and one person is looking for a way out. But more often the cheater is never going to leave. He uses the affair partner as a way to diffuse tension between himself and his wife. When he’s with you, he can have all the “good stuff” of a relationship without the hum-drum of married life. He gets a vacation from the seemingly unresolvable issues he has at home. Being with you isn’t really about you — it’s actually a way to tolerate his marriage.
Why Does He Say He’s Going To Leave When He Isn’t?
He may believe what he’s telling you. But he’s reacting to a fantasy: this exciting, sexually charged relationship he imagines would continue if he really did leave his wife. He will likely not end his marriage because he is more invested in the fantasy of being with you than in the harsh reality of divorce: dividing assets, a potential custody battle, losing friends. This is why he backpedals when you confront him about his promises. And when the conversation leads to arguments, he finds himself facing the same problem he has at home: unresolved conflict.
The Intimacy You Think You Have Isn’t Really Intimacy
The intense feelings you have when you’re with him feel like a genuine connection, but they’re anything but. Genuine intimacy is not about being fused to another person, it’s about showing up as you are. This requires the ability to tolerate differences and space from the other person. It also has nothing to do with the “high” of an emotionally and sexually charged experience, which is fleeting.
What You Should Do
The first thing to do is to stop trying to figure out what he’s going to do. Instead, ask yourself why, out of all the people in the world, you have chosen Mr. Unavailable. Do you have a pattern of ending relationships once the high evolves into the reality of a long-term partnership? Are you dissatisfied with your life and looking for an escape, someone or something to give your existence meaning? If so, you have your own intimacy issues and you need to resolve those if you genuinely do want a relationship that will go the distance.
Should You End The Affair?
There are two scenarios. One, you waste time — possibly years — waiting for someone who will never be available. You may wait so long that you miss your window for having children, if having a family is what you want. Two, he really does leave his life and you then have to deal with the fall-out, made far worse if he has children: a messy and expensive divorce, a potential custody battle, and kids who will mostly likely not be fond of you. How will these consequences impact your relationship? And what if, one day, he leaves you for someone else?
Instead of wringing your hands wondering if your married man will ever be free to marry you, focus on your own ability to be available. Then find someone who’s genuinely available — to you.