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Dear John: Ending An Affair Much Harder Than Starting It

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

 

What’s your problem? Write to John at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.

Dear John,

I am in the middle of a hell of a mess (of my own making) and the facts of the matter make it impossible for me to discuss it with anyone. They are simple: I am a married man, and for over a year I have been having an affair with a woman who, together with her husband, are our closest friends. It’s the same old story – it was exciting at first, but as I was starting to think about finding a way out of it, my wife started talking about having kids, which is something I’ve wanted but she had not been ready for. (Neither couple has any kids at this point.) That really seemed to put an end to it in my mind, but when I brought up the possibility of moving on for both of us, she went nuts on me. She is now saying she wants us to both to leave our spouses to be together, but that’s out of the question as far as I’m concerned. So now she’s threatening to expose the whole affair. I honestly thought she would be as fine ending it as I was. It seemed like it had just run its course. I am sick with anxiety over the whole thing and my wife knows something is wrong (but has no idea what) just because I’ve been so upset since this blew up on me. It was such a stupid, stupid thing to do and now I don’t know how to get out of it without two marriages crashing down around us. I’m desperate.

Signed,

Wretched

Dear Wretched,

Of course you don’t know how to get out of it without two marriages crashing down around you. That’s simply because no avenue that offers that kind of guarantee is available to you right now. There’s only one thing for you to do, but the repercussions of it are unpredictable: you have to tell your wife what you’ve done, explain that it was all a colossal and selfish mistake, ask her for forgiveness, and then give her time and space to process this news. It will undoubtedly be ugly, but, as you say, you’ve made a hell of a mess. (I should add that you owe this woman’s husband – one of your “best friends” – a similar unburdening, but right now, your priority has to be your wife and your marriage.)

Anything short of complete honesty is not sufficient. As you know, there’s an excellent chance your marriage may not survive what you’ve inflicted on it, but what little chance it has depends on your being entirely honest from here on out.

And whatever you do, please respect your wife enough to realize that how she handles this news is entirely up to her. She may ask you to move out for a while; she may want to go to couples therapy (which seems pretty much essential if there’s anything left to save); she may feel so betrayed that she wants nothing more to do with you ever. You have to understand that any of these responses is reasonable. You had control over this process up to this point, now it’s her turn.

But the bottom line is, you’ve lied enough. It’s time for the truth and for you to accept the consequences of what you’ve done.

Dear John,

Here’s my situation. I have been casually dating a guy and he wants it to enter the “serious” stage. I think he’s great and I’m open to that except for one thing I don’t have a lot of experience with: he is a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in two years and I really like to drink a little now and then. A couple of glasses of wine with dinner, that type of thing. I don’t have any problem with drinking and he is not the kind of guy who’s on a mission to convince me that I do. As he puts it, I drink like a person is supposed to and he literally can’t do that, simple as that. This has been fine so far, but I feel like it might be an obstacle to taking our relationship to the next level. Is it a bad idea, asking for trouble, maybe, to take this step with a recovering alcoholic if I am not interested in giving up drinking altogether myself? Is it a better idea for him to be with someone who doesn’t drink at all for whatever reason and me to be with someone who drinks socially like I do? Other than this (major) issue, I think we’re very compatible, but I really don’t want to take this lightly. From what he’s told me, when he drank, he was nothing like the guy I know now.

Sincerely,

Glass Half Full

Dear Glass Half Full,

I think whether this can work depends entirely on the individuals involved. Some alcoholics resent non-alcoholics’ ability to drink in moderation; others see their partners doing so and use that as an excuse to tell themselves they can do that, too, if they really try. It doesn’t sound like your boyfriend fits either of these types, but you’d know that better than I would. What do you think?

I think the best thing you could do is to talk about your concerns with him. Does he have someone he respects (another recovering alcoholic, perhaps) who has guided him through his recovery? If so, it would be helpful to get his or her perspective on this as well.

To answer your question, though, there are no rules as to whether recovering alcoholics are better off with partners who are in recovery, too. As I said, it depends entirely on the individuals involved. I would be very interested in hearing from any readers who have personal experience with a situation like this.

Dear John,

At our company’s holiday party, I made out with this guy I liked for a while. There was nothing wrong with it – we’re about the same age, at the same level in the company, no SOs, etc. We were both a little drunk and it was fun. Then our company was on a little holiday break and I didn’t see him for a while, and now that we’re back at work, it’s been kind of awkward. He seems like he’s avoiding me if he can, not in a hostile way, but just because he’s really shy and doesn’t know what to do now. I sure don’t want it to stay like this, so I guess it’s going to be up to me to talk to him. I do like him and I’m not sorry for what we did and I’d like to go out on a proper date with him. I’m not quite sure how to break the ice, though…what to say. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty shy myself. I think that’s what attracted me to him in the first place. So…?

Signed,

Second Move

Dear Second Move,

I don’t think it’s a good idea for co-workers to date, so I think you should say something like, “You seem a little uncomfortable around me now after what happened at the holiday party, but we both had a little too much to drink and it was a silly mistake. Let’s just forget about it, okay?” But if you’re intent on seeing where this goes, then you could say, “You seem a little uncomfortable around me now after what happened at the holiday party, and I know you’re a little shy, so that’s understandable. But what would you think of going out to lunch tomorrow and getting to know each other a little better so we can see if either of us wants something like that to happen again?” The important thing about these kinds of situations isn’t necessarily saying the perfect thing, it’s just saying something – anything – to, as you say, break the ice. Once you’re talking, just say what’s on your mind. I will say to you, though, that most workplace relationships end regrettably. If you pursue this one, I hope yours is the exception to the rule.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at dearjohn@golocalprov.com.

 

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