DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: About 12 months ago I met a man. I instantly had a crush on him but I didn’t know why. It didn’t make sense. Whenever he was in the office, I was excited to see him. I would express this, thinking that this was just a friendship thing.
About 6 months ago we were walking away from the office together. He pointed at the hiking shoes I was wearing, and asked me to go hiking with him. I thought that it was a little odd, given that he was married. But I was pretty depressed at the time. I was just happy to have a day not thinking about how alone I felt. So I said yes.
And then all of a sudden we were inseparable. We found any excuse to spend time together. I told myself this was innocent and we were just friends. I told myself it was only me that had feelings. Then one evening, as he was driving me home, his wife called. This was a real wake-up call. She sounded hurt. She asked him when he was coming home. So I decided to confront him. I told him we were crossing a line. I asked him why he had the emotional space to do so. He asked me to come for a walk with him the next day and we would talk about it.
The next day we sat down under a tree together, admiring the view. He opened up about his wife. He said that around 10 years ago she got depression. He supported her through it but she had become a completely different person. They didn’t really have a relationship to speak of. He didn’t enjoy her company anymore. Being around me made him feel like he was alive again. I asked him why, if the relationship was so bad, he didn’t just leave her. He was afraid of being alone. He said that we should just enjoy each others company. Have a nice time together. That we both needed some light in our lives, and that we could give that to each other. It felt wrong at the time but it felt like just what I needed. Nothing happened that day. When I went home, I realised how crazy this was and broke it off.
But then he asked me for one last dinner. Before I left. I was moving interstate the next week so one last dinner couldn’t hurt. I figured I was leaving anyway, so that would be ok. One last dinner to say goodbye. He picked me up, I got nice and dressed up, and we went to a really nice restaurant. He lavished me with attention. He spent the whole evening looking me in the eye. It felt like he was looking inside of me. He listened to all of my stories and told some of his own. It was the nicest “date” I’d had in years. Or ever, really. That night we kissed for the first time. I was instantly drawn to him. The sexual energy was amazing.
The next few days before I left, we were inseparable again. We had the most amazing sexual chemistry, and that was just the beginning. We spent the next 6 weeks on the phone daily. He even visited me once. I’d asked him to not talk about his wife too much. But one thing he did say was that he hadn’t seen his family more than one day a year since he was married to her. Because the fallout from him seeing them was too much to handle. She didn’t like it. So I encouraged him to visit them. I taught him to be selfish in bed. He didn’t know how to ask for what he wanted, and wanted to make it all about me. I taught him to speak up for what he wanted outside of the bedroom as well. I taught him that his feelings mattered.
I would often ask him how he could have an affair. Why he didn’t feel bad about it. He said he needed to be sure about me before leaving her. I made the point that he couldn’t be sure it was over with her, because he hadn’t left her. And if he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave her, he shouldn’t be with me. His thoughts should be about whether he wanted to leave her, rather than whether he wanted to leave her for me. And then he finally made the decision to leave her. He was coming to be with me. It was a glorious morning. I was so relieved it was over. And then it wasn’t.
He had told her about the affair, he had told her about leaving her, and he had left her. But then she’d realised what she was missing and promised she would change. I spent the next 6 weeks having half a relationship with him. He was attentive, kind, exciting and interesting when he was with me. But then he would go back to stay with his parents, and nothing. He said he needed some time to figure things out. I spent 2 hours every morning trying to drag myself out of bed. Trying to stop crying. Trying to do some work. I got at most 4 hours of work done every day. This was a really critical part of my career too. And it really really didn’t go well. I tried breaking it off with him around once a week. I tried explaining how much my work was suffering. I had to break it off to save my job. And every time. He would wait, and then ask me if I was sure. Or he’d text me, or call me, and just chat with me. And I wasn’t. It was impossible for me to get away from him.
And then I lost my job. And he left me. He went back to his wife. But wait. There’s more. We still kept talking. We were communicating daily. For hours. And then one day he went cold. He told me that day he was driving with his wife. I wasn’t sure for how long, but around 8pm I called him. I thought he would have finished driving by then. But apparently he hadn’t. His wife got angry (understandably) and told him he wasn’t allowed to be friends with me. So we had minimal contact for 2 weeks, and then all of a sudden we were back on. Talking. Every day during the week.
By now I’ve given up trying to break it off with him. I know it’s impossible. I’ve tried so many times. He’s tried. We’re in separate states, so nothing physical can happen. But I’m just so devastated. I’m still depressed all the time. He’s been so selfish. He’s only thought about himself. He’s hurt us both. He’s just kept on being selfish about this. Not considered my feelings. How much he’s hurting me. Or her. I feel like I’m in some kind of jail that keeps shrinking down outside of me. And I don’t know how to get out.
I’ve given him another month. If he hasn’t left her in a month, we’re over for good. But I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I have it in me to leave him. I need help.
The icing on the cake is this. I’ve had some sexual desires that have gone unexpressed for my entire life. So has he. We’ve discovered that we have the same desires. It feels like I’ve finally discovered my sexual preference. I’ve finally made a sexual connection with someone. I’ve spent my whole life wondering whether I was straight, gay, bisexual, because I would just get so bored with men. I liked women, but not their genitals. I didn’t know what was going on. But with him, I finally discovered that I like being a sub, and he likes being a dom. And this is not just vanilla “we can play with this for a bit”. This is full blown I need to completely submit my body to him. I have so many needs that I thought were just fantasy. I can’t go back to what my sex life used to be. It’s so hard finding someone who is both highly intelligent, sexually compatible, and who I can laugh and be silly with. We talk for hours. We love arguing about the world and life and politics. And we love telling each other our stories. I’ve never found anything that comes close to this. So I feel like it’s my fate to love a man who may or may not be with me. Who may or may not leave his wife. He talks about it as if it’s inevitable. As if we will be together soon. As if he’s leaving his wife. But if it was inevitable, and if he was so sure, he would have already left her. So obviously, there’s some doubt.
I’ve always found it easy to break up with people. To the point where I actually enjoy it. I enjoy how free I feel after breaking up. This has never happened to me. I just don’t know how to get out of this. Or whether I want to. But I’m depressed.
The Other Woman
DEAR THE OTHER WOMAN: Alright TOW, let’s get this out of the way up front. At the risk of sounding like every dating advice (and romcom and Hallmark movie) cliche ever: he’s not going to leave her. He was never going to leave his wife. He’s never going to leave her.
Here’s the thing: falling in love with someone who’s already married isn’t always destined to end in heartbreak. There are lots of different ways this sort of scenario could play out that wouldn’t be as heartrending for you. Sometimes an affair is a way of forcing yourself into taking the step you know you need to take, by burning the bridges behind you. Your beau could have realized, via his attraction to you, that it was past time to do the kindest thing and end his relationship so that he and his wife could be with folks who are right for them. He could have transitioned their relationship into an ethically non-monogamous one. He could have actually started divorce proceedings when he realized that his relationship with his wife had functionally ended.
He didn’t. Instead, he did what so many men do: he put on the top hat and tails and gave you the old song and dance about how his wife didn’t understand him, his relationship was passionless and unfulfilling and it just didn’t work any more. And lo and behold here you are, with your obvious crush on him; an attractive young woman who suddenly makes him feel alive again! And you had so much to offer, you unlocked so many things for him and look at how special this makes you to him… but he still can’t leave his wife.
And let’s be real: this is bulls--t. I can understand, say, being afraid to leave someone with a chronic condition because it can make you look like an asshole. I can understand not wanting to leave because one’s partner is dependent on them, medically or financially or in other ways, and leaving would be ruinous to them. But he’s telling you that he hasn’t left “because he’s afraid to be alone” while you and he are having an affair. There you are, making it clear that you are the crash pad for him to land on after he makes the leap, knowing that he would be leaping from one relationship to another with no lag time in between… and he still can’t leave his wife.
Except it’s not can’t. It’s won’t. And, tellingly, he won’t let you leave either. Every time you tried to break things off, he’d give you just a little time and then do exactly what it took to haul you back in. He would let those initial pangs of missing him and regret set in and then he’d reach back out and oh look, the whole thing started over again and you’re right back to having an affair with a married man who — once again — is not going to leave his wife. And even if I were to buy that he thinks you are so special that he just can’t stay away, you’re apparently not so special that he could just stop f--king cheating and hurting his wife.
And look, I’m pretty firmly on the record that infidelity isn’t the worst thing you can do in a relationship. I don’t think cheating is an automatic relationship extinction level event. But not all affairs are equal and there is a vast, vast difference between “had too much to drink and failed a Wisdom saving throw” and “regularly and routinely breaks their partner’s heart”. And, s--t, even if it were a case where she had unilaterally ended their sex life and wouldn’t open up the marriage and there was some reason he couldn’t leave her… there’s a difference between “getting one’s needs met discreetly so that you can stay married” and flagrantly having an affair that would inevitably get back to his wife.
He is not a good guy. You know this. If he were a good guy, he wouldn’t be doing this — not to you and not to his wife. You wouldn’t be tortured over this. He’s keeping you dangling on a string and enjoying watching you spin because he knows damn good and well that you’re not going anywhere. He’s hurting you. He’s hurting his wife. He doesn’t seem to give a s--t about either.
You, on the other hand, really need to take a long and hard look over exactly what it is you’re getting from this guy, because you know as well as I do that this is an untenable situation. And I realize that he’s giving you that good f--king you haven’t had in a while but I am here from the future to tell you that there are other doms out there who aren’t cheating s--tbags. There are other guys out there who’ve got their dick game down, who are just as ready to give you the bed-rocking, roof-shaking, tie-me-up-tie-me-down f--king you’ve realized you need. Those same guys can also talk about politics and tell stories and make you laugh and make you feel like you hung the moon without treating their wives like s--t in the process.
Because just between you and me, TOW? It’s not impossible to leave him. You just haven’t been willing to do what needs to be done. You have always, always left the door open so he could draw you back in. What you need to do is cut him off, entirely. You need to take the Nuclear Option and excise this dude out of your life like the tumor he is. That means cutting all ties. You need to block his number, his emails and every social media account he has — Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, LinkedIn, everything. It can’t just be “mute him” or “set a filter so all his emails and texts are silenced”, it’s cut off all forms of access like he doesn’t exist. It’s clear that as long as the option exists for him to reach you, or for you to reach him, then you’re going to be tempted back. Even just having access to anything he sends — his texts going to “unknown senders” filters, his emails going to a “do not open these” folder, anything — is his way back in. So if you’re serious about breaking it off, then you have to break it. It can’t be half-assed. If it’s not a complete and full break, then you may as well not even pretend you’re trying.
Because here’s a harsh truth: as long as you are in a relationship with him, you are complicit in his harming his wife. This isn’t an area where you can plead ignorance. You know it’s happening. You know she exists, you know she’s hurt by this, you know he’s continuing to do this despite how much it hurts her. You are no longer an accessory in this, you are a full and equal partner in the pain he is causing.
I don’t think that’s who you want to be. I think you’re a better person than that and that you want to be a better person than that. But right now… you’re not. You’re hoping that if you hold out long enough, this situation will resolve itself and you’ll no longer be the person who’s helping to harm a stranger who’s done no harm to you. But it won’t, and you won’t, not until you cut him out of your life. It doesn’t matter if you give him one month, five months, a year… nothing is going to change. Once more, with feeling: HE. IS. NOT. GOING. TO. LEAVE. HIS. WIFE. He’s had ten years to do so and he hasn’t. He has had all his time with you to motivate him to do so. He hasn’t. And he’s not going to.
YOU. ARE. BETTER. THAN. THIS.
You can’t change or do anything about him. You can do something about you. Dump him so hard that that his grandparents divorce retroactively, take off and nuke the relationship from orbit and then spend a month or so on the couch with a blanket and snacks so you can feel the f--k out of your feels while you mourn what could’ve been. And then after you’ve cried out the sads, let yourself be pissed at how this guy used you as the hammer to his wife’s heart, set up a profile on FetLife, go to some munches and meet the doms and subs in your area. You can get tied up, get spanked black and blue or indulge in any kink you may discover you have with a dude who a) will also f--k you like a champion and b) won’t be hurting his wife by blatantly cheating on her.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com