Do I Have to Stay Married?
Q: I'm married for 23 years, but about seven years ago I met a man and had a brief affair with him. We found each other again a couple of years ago and have talked every day since then. We both declare our love for each other daily also. I don't feel the love I should with my husband. My question is . . . do I need to stay in a marriage that everyone approves of even though I'm not happy? I have a very comfortable life, it's just not a happy one. Or should I leave and pursue this other man that I know loves me? His home life isn't as comfortable as he lives with his mom and helps her out. I'm at the end of my rope. -- Mary, 45
Dr. Susan: The key to your quandary is that you think you're supposed to feel a certain way about your husband. Which just happens to be the way you feel about your affair partner. Such an old story! If you were to marry your affair partner, the odds are that you would feel the same way again -- comfy but not driven wild by lust -- after a couple of years. That's the way the world (and our body chemistry) works.
This is not about what "everyone approves of." Just don't forget your husband who has stuck with you through quite a lot, no doubt, over 23 years of marriage. You've been cheating on him for a long time. Keeping this complicated secret has added to the excitement you feel. Of course, in a few years, menopause will hit and you may be feeling a bit differently. Keep in mind that what you and your affair partner believe is love, isn't necessarily so. And happiness is not necessarily what you get by switching mates. First, though, fess up to your husband and ask for a divorce. Then it's up to you: take your chances that you won't find yourself in the same place a few years from now. Especially if caretaking your new guy's mom is part of the schedule.
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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.