Q: Do you have any advice for a single woman who's in love and romantically involved with a married man? I know the decision to go down this path was foolish, but there's nothing I want more than to begin a new life with this man. He wants the same, but he's dragging his feet and seems unable to leave his wife, even though his marriage is a mess.
Jim: Your feelings are understandable in light of your eagerness to get started on a new life. You believe you're in love with this man, and I'd be the last person to discount your emotions. At the same time, I'd encourage you to take a step backward and try to gain some objectivity. It's possible that your feelings are distorting your viewpoint.
Before you do anything else, stop and picture yourself looking into this situation from the outside. Put yourself in the place of your lover's wife and children. How do you think you'd feel if you were walking in their shoes? I'd offer the strongest caution against pursuing your own happiness at the expense of their home and family.
After that, try to see things from your lover's perspective. What would you do if you were in his position? Why do you think he's "dragging his feet"?
Finally, take an honest, objective look at yourself. What's motivating you to pursue this relationship so intently in spite of all the obstacles? What deep personal needs are you expecting to satisfy by making a new start with this man?
From where I sit, it looks as if this relationship is lacking something in the way of mutuality. In other words, it's very likely that your lover's feelings for you aren't as strong as you suppose. By your own account, he's proven reluctant to leave his marriage. He's content to keep you on the sidelines instead of making a clean break. It's plain that he doesn't share your sense of urgency and desperation. What do you think that means?
Hard as it may be to bend your mind in this direction, you also need to give some serious consideration to the importance of commitments. I'm still a strong believer in the sacredness, inviolability and permanence of the marital relationship. As I see it, the weight a man attaches to the vows he's made to his wife suggests something about his character. After all, would you really want to take a chance on a man who doesn't honor his commitments? Wouldn't you be plagued by fears that he might someday repeat the pattern by breaking his pledge to you? Past behavior is usually the best predictor of future behavior.
This last thought leads to another. How much do you value yourself? How healthy is your sense of personal worth? These questions are well worth asking. If in the end your lover chooses not to leave his wife, you're going to have to decide who you really are and how you can go on living without him.
I'd encourage you to give some honest thought to this. Take some time to revisit your personal values system. Ask yourself a few probing questions about your larger framework and worldview. Do you have any idea where you came from, where you're going and what your life is all about? Do you sense some kind of deficit in your life? If so, are you aware of anything -- something larger than you or your lover -- that might be able to fill the gap? That's a subject we'd love to discuss with you, if you'd be willing to give us a chance. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at (800) A-FAMILY.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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