love letters

Living with his ex, in love with someone new

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Q. I’m a first-time reader but have enjoyed seeing the advice given here, even if it’s brutally honest. I’m a man in my late 30s, married for 10 years. No children, but we share pets that are like kids.

We began having problems years ago, when she had a half-affair. I say “half-affair” because I found out intimacy happened, but wasn’t able to be sure about sex. That part was denied by both, but my gut tells me it happened. Nevertheless, an affair doesn’t require sex. The marriage was rocky from that point forward.

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We decided to give it another shot and moved to the country where she’s from. For the first two years, it was OK. Third year rolls around and it got weird again, and I had a bad feeling. I discovered she was, and still is, having a different affair, for over a year. I’ve not confronted her with the proof, though I’ve outright asked her, and she denied it. Now we live like roommates, even separate beds, and actually got divorced six months ago.

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Recently, I’ve met someone who is amazing, makes me feel wonderful, and truly cares about me in every way. There’s been no sex yet, though it has gotten very close. We stopped because we didn’t want to take the chance of ruining it by just jumping in bed. I’m sure you’re wondering: “What’s this guy’s problem? He’s divorced.” True, but just before I met this woman, my ex-wife said she’d like to work on things again. I agreed, reluctantly. I believe she is still cheating.

The issue: I’m in a foreign country. Living on my own here would be financially difficult. My ex and I have the shared pets. Admittedly, I’ve also grown to accept the lifestyle. Her cheating actually doesn’t bother me anymore. The cold distance has become normal, as has the stress and general uneasiness. If I take the chance on my own here, perhaps I won’t make it and will end up going back to my country (though I would do my best). And that would be OK if not for the woman I’ve been seeing.

I still have some love and concern for the ex, however, the in-love feelings are long gone. I’m not sure they’d ever come back, especially given what’s happened. Is it worth it to take a risk with this other woman? I’ve fallen deeply for her.

I realize the answer should be simple, and also realize that it’s difficult to offer advice because only I know how I’m feeling, but I thought I’d open up and see what comes my way.

FALLING

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A. Start by having an honest conversation with your ex. She deserves to know that you have no real interest in working on this relationship.

Also talk to her about the recent cheating, and share your proof. She should have all of the information — because the truth will help her make some good decisions for herself.

Once that news is out, discuss the strategy for disconnecting your lives. Maybe if you find a place nearby, you can visit the pets or share custody. Also, if this is her hometown, maybe she has friends of friends who need a roommate. Really, it’s time to work together on a practical plan. Your ex might not like it, but if she knows there’s no chance of reconciliation, she might want to set up a new life, too.

As for this new woman, it would be nice to give yourself some space before coupling up again, but ... it doesn’t sound like you want to stop this train. If that’s the case, just stay honest with her — and don’t move in with her. That might seem like a tempting/perfect solution, but I promise, it isn’t.

Another question to consider: Is therapy available to you where you live? Or can you get some over the phone, from back home? You’ve dealt with betrayals, jealousy, self-doubt, and the tension of living with an ex-partner. If you can find a way to process that with a professional, this new relationship might have a better shot.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

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Find a roommate who is not your ex. Go for it and don’t hold back with your new love.

LUCILLEVANPELT

“If I take the chance on my own here, perhaps I won’t make it and will end up going back to my country (though I would do my best).” This part of the letter is very telling. You are afraid of the unknown, and are allowing yourself to be used in exchange for shelter and a feeling of safety. Make a clean break with your ex-wife, her country, and everything having to do with her. Get therapy if you need it to help you get on your own two feet.

MFORDINNER

DO move in with the new lady. Then you won’t have to pay rent, which should stabilize your finances.

HARRISBLACKWOODSTONE

I think he would benefit from some space. Last thing he needs is for it not to work out and be stuck again.

WENDY

Honestly, the guy should read his own letter. Which person does he want to pursue a relationship with? Someone who makes him feel wonderful with or someone who kept cheating on him to the point where they got divorced?

ASH

I wonder what kind of pets would make somebody stay in a situation like this. Like, a really expensive pet that does work? Maybe a pet elephant? I have a dog, and if my wife cheats on me twice, she can grab the dog and get the [explective] out.

PMCD101

Seriously, I can’t imagine worse advice Mere than telling him to arrange his life to stay close to the pets.

MFORDINNER

I hope that the pet that you are staying in this -shitty relationship for is something like a really lovable dog. you’d better not be with this woman for just a guinea pig.

PUTSTHEFUNINFUNERAL

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.