Q. I’m finding myself in a situation I never thought I would be in: I’m dating a married man. But my question is not about how to deal with it or how to get out of it. My question is really about why I am in this situation and how I got here.
In 10 years I’ve only had two, now three boyfriends, and I seem to keep picking men with whom the relationship is terminal. My first serious boyfriend when I was in college was way too old for me . . . like twice my age. It was also sort of a long-distance situation where he lived a few hours away by car. Ultimately it failed for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I came to my senses on the age difference. It was too big and it meant we were in very different phases of life. Secondly, I was a young adult, still figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do, and still changing a lot. He was not really evolving the way I was, and I evolved right out of the relationship.
My second serious relationship was a few years later, while I was in graduate school, with a wonderful guy, totally age-appropriate for me. But when we started dating, we lived a plane flight away from each other. We were together for about 2½ years, I felt like I was totally in love with him, and I was convinced for a while that I would marry him. The long-distance was really tough, and for a while I assumed that at some point we’d decide where we both wanted to live together. When I finished school, I wanted to move back to the East Coast where my family was. But he decided to go to continue school in California, despite all of the fantastic schools in New England. I told myself, “If he can’t move to the East Coast for me, why should I move to the West Coast for him?” And that was that.
After him, it took me a long time to get out there again — over two years. But finally last winter I started dating again. I had a two very short relationships (1-2 months) with guys who ended things with me. And then I met my current guy at the beginning of the summer. I had no intention of getting involved with him because I knew what his marital status was, but there was so much attraction and interest on both of our parts, and we both caved in. There is so much wrong with this, starting with the fact that he is married. I know that the likelihood of this working out for us is one to a million, and I know that the likelihood of a lot of hurt is very high, for me, for him, and for the third party in this. I’d happily hear opinions on this, preferably free of judgment. I’m judging myself pretty harshly already. But this is not why I’m writing.
I am writing because I’m seeing a pattern here: terminal relationships. I seem to keep putting myself into situations where there is a low chance of long-term success. What is my problem?
Trying to Figure it Out,
A.I see only one problem relationship here, and that’s the one you’re in right now. The other relationships sound about right. You were young and in school, long-distance, or experimenting. It makes sense that you dated those men until it was time to break up.
But your current situation is not OK. Based on how you framed this letter, I assume that this guy is 100 percent married, not out of the house and waiting on his divorce papers. I understand that there’s attraction on both sides, but that doesn’t justify the behavior.
My guess is that you feel entitled to pursue this man because you believe that your relationship history hasn’t been that great. I must tell you that you are not entitled to anything. And I don’t see a pattern here — because really, all relationships have a low chance of long-term success. You went into your second relationship hoping for marriage. You weren’t looking for “terminal.” Your love life was very acceptable up until this point.
Accept that there’s no pattern and then deal with your present. You’ve extracted yourself from undesirable situations before. Please do that again.
The “third party” is his WIFE! You are not judging yourself nearly as harshly as we will.
I didn’t read your whole letter yet. I will. I stopped with your question about how you got to the point of dating a married man. The answer is simple: you said yes. This is in your control. Walk away.
Seriously. All your other relationships were just normal growing pains of life. This is the first time that your breaking the “pattern” and just flat out doing something wrong. You’re going to get fried today. Best idea would be the end the relationship
I disagree with Meredith. You have the same problem I did: pursuing folks who were unavailable and relying exclusively on physical attraction. Confine your looking to those who are emotionally available: Look for a nice, single guy within a five mile radius. I promise they’re there.
Welp, you put yourself in this situation. Find a way out. I don’t pity you at all. Like Meredith said, you’re not entitled to be with this man simply because your past relationships didn’t pan out.
I love how you pretend you just accidentally wound up in this situation. Here’s a thought . . . when you meet a man who is married, don’t ever begin to size him up as somebody you could date.
Fear of intimacy. You like unavailable men. I feel you as I’m kind of programmed this way myself; however, that is very lonely, so I’m doing stuff to change that. You need therapy, girl. It’ll help you out with your self-esteem issues that are manifesting themself in your relationships.
Google the term boundaries and values. You don’t seem to have either right now.
SHERIDESABEEMERColumn and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.