Bad Affair With Family Friend
Q: I've been married for 12 years, since I was 19, and we have 4 kids together. One day I had an affair with a long-time family friend, a guy I'd had no special feelings for before this sudden change. I left my family and got an apartment with him. For three months I paid all the bills, bought his food and sometimes his alcohol. He got drunk every night at the bars. Even after I called it quits, I found myself running to him every time he called, and sometimes we were intimate. I never felt this way about anyone, and I don't know if it's because I never felt love before, or if I got married too young and never got to experience relationships. I moved back home with my kids, and my husband moved out. I still think about my lover a lot and when I try to meet other men nobody seems to compare to him. He is an alcoholic bum so what is it that I love so much? My husband wants to work it out but I don't love him and I am NOT attracted to him at all. I am truly sorry for hurting him and I never meant for this to happen and if I could take it back I would. And although he wants to work it out, he gets real mean to me and rubs my mistake in my face every day. I can't bear that. I desperately need advice. -- Pat, 31
Dr. Susan: Before you mess up your life any further, along with the lives of your husband and children, please stop trying to meet other men, and think seriously about how to make up for the sorrow you've already caused. It's good that you realize the affair and leaving your family were huge mistakes, but do you at all understand what happened? It's true you married young, but that has nothing to do with running off with a jerk and not being able to get him out of your mind. Let's put it simply: You fell for a bad guy. He held a triple attraction for you: He was forbidden because he was a family friend, he was a highly unsuitable partner due to his leeching off you and drinking in bars every night, and he was new to you, so he offered sexual thrills that had gotten cool over the 12 years of your marriage. So what do you do about his continued appeal for you? You just say no. Unless you want to end up in the gutter with him, with your kids hating you, just say no. The lust will wear off with time.
Now, how do you at least try to fix your marriage? Consider marriage counseling. Your husband can learn how to express his hurt feelings without rubbing your mistakes in your face. Be aware, of course, that he must have a chance to express his anger and misery for a while before he can let them go. And your job is to accept that. It won't go on forever if you are receptive to hearing what he has to say. And his job is to focus on his feelings and not call you names. By the way, there's no way you're going to be able to feel attracted to him until your misguided feelings about this other guy are totally gone. I hope you can both be patient.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.