Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Should I Keep Seeing My Married Ex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am writing to you because I don’t think you’ll be judgmental, just straight forward.

I’m a 66 year old woman who was married for 43 years, then divorced. A year ago, I married a guy who treats me very well and we seem to get along, even tho he is 13 years my junior. I love him, but have never been IN love with him.

Here’s the catch. About 6 years ago, I went to a class reunion and got reacquainted with my first ”love”. He is now married, as am I, but we stay in constant contact daily. Our spouses don’t know this.

He recently agreed that after 50 years, the magic is still there between the two of us, and we probably should have been together all along. We live 200 miles apart. Recently he made a trip back to our home town, (about an hour away from me) without his wife, to visit relatives who still live there. He invited me to join him at his hotel just for drinks, and to catch up on the last 50 years. I was all ready to go, then chickened out at the last minute. Part of me wanted to go, but part of me also felt like this was already cheating and I didn’t know if I could handle the resulting guilt if something were to happen. 

I’m also insecure about it, because after all, even though I’m still considered attractive for my age, I’m not 16 anymore. But then again, neither is he. He said we will plan it again in the future. Should I go just out of curiosity to find out if he’s truly the one who got away? Or should I not go, and just be content with what I have, never knowing what could have been?

Your objective advice would be appreciated.

Torn Between Two Lovers

DEAR TORN BETWEEN TWO LOVERS: My objective advice is that this is a bad idea. A very VERY bad idea.

Now to be clear: I’m pretty on the record on the fact that my feelings about cheating and infidelity are nuanced. I don’t think cheating is automatically the worst thing you can do in a relationship or an immediate relationship extinction-level event. But there’s a world of difference between “oops, I had too much to drink and failed my wisdom saving throw in a situation that is likely never going to happen again” and deliberately putting yourself into the position where cheating is more or less inevitable. Because just between you, me and the rest of the Internet, TBTL: that’s exactly where this is going. Let’s be real here: it wasn’t a question of IF something was going to happen, it was just a question of “how quickly”.

It’s not just a wacky coincidence that your first love was near by and without his wife in tow; it was by design. This was as much of a perfect setup for the two of you cheating on your spouses as you could want and it was done so deliberately. I mean, hell, he’s more or less told you that this is exactly what he’s doing; he’s even told you he’s going to set it up again. That’s no longer “oh hey, what strange happenstance,” that’s premeditation. The only difference between this and just planning on meeting up it a hotel room somewhere is that this set up has the fig leaf of plausible deniability; you weren’t “planning” on anything (except you both were), it “just happened”.

But honestly I don’t think anyone is going to buy that. Least of all your husband and his wife. He may not be ASKING people to burgle his house, but he’s making a LOT of noise about being gone for the weekend, leaving the key in the lock and a whole lot of “LOOK AT ALL THE EXPENSIVE S

T I’VE GOT” signs in the front yard.

Here’s my advice: think in terms of orders of operation. You need to decide exactly what it is that you want and work outwards from there. Clearly, part of what you want is chemistry, that sense of desire and excitement… something that you’re not getting from your current husband. That means the first thing you need to do is sort things out with your current husband and the relationship you have and want to have with him going forward. That may mean ultimately deciding to end things. It may mean negotiating a companionate marriage, where your relationship is based around companionship and friendship but not necessarily sexual chemistry. That in turn, may mean negotiating a certain amount of openness, whether it’s permission to go see your first lover, for the two of you to both seek sex outside of the relationship or even a polyamorous situation.

At the same time, your first love needs to sort things out with his wife. Because right now, what he’s doing ain’t cool. Being in contact with an ex, even on the daily, is fine. The fact that she doesn’t know is also fine; relationships aren’t depositions and partners don’t need an accounting of every single thing you do. You’re allowed to have friends and contact with other people that your partner doesn’t know about. But what he’s doing isn’t just having friends outside of his relationship, it’s deliberately inviting trouble into it. If he sincerely believes that the two of you should take another swing at a relationship together, then he needs to be coming to this from a place of honesty and integrity. And that means squaring things with his wife. As with you and your husband, this may mean divorce, it may mean getting permission or it may mean renegotiating their relationship entirely. But going out of his way to set up circumstances where an affair “just happens” ain’t it. It’s disrespectful to you and it’s needlessly harmful to both of your spouses.

When and only when the two of you have resolved that part of the equation can things progress with your other guy. Otherwise you both risk blowing up three relationships in needlessly messy and painful ways.

I’m not saying that you can’t be with him, nor that you (or he or both) have to get divorced. But the way you’re both approaching this now is going to cause unnecessary harm to two people who don’t deserve it.

Think things through, decide what you want and find the best way for the two of you to make this happen… without causing more hurt than is absolutely necessary.

Good luck.

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