I’m a married woman and have gone to lunch with a man 12 years younger for the past few days. He calls me his “big sis,” and we talk a lot about religion, sports, etc., but there’s nothing physical. Is this cheating? Disrespectful? My husband shouldn’t have a say, considering an affair he had in 2011. Am I wrong here? —C.N.
Yes. After many years of hearing from readers about their dating and relationship dilemmas—and, to be fair, making my own bad decisions—I’ve learned that if you have to ask whether your interactions with the opposite sex are crossing the line, then they probably are. And if you don’t want to tell your partner about what you’re up to, then yes, you’re definitely wrong. Frankly, it sounds as if you might be toying with the idea of an affair—an emotional one for now—as a way to get back at your husband. So you know you’re playing a dangerous game here, and while it might be fun right now, you’re going to lose in the long run.
Since you didn’t say, I’m curious about where you met this young man more than a decade your junior, and how you and he were able to keep in contact after that initial meeting. Is he a new co-worker? Someone you met online?
Also, although you only recently began breaking bread with him, it seems like you may have had an ongoing interaction of some sort if he’s comfortable calling you his “big sis.” That doesn’t happen after two lunches. So it’s not that you’ve seen him only twice and you haven’t told your husband. It’s that you and the young man have been contacting each other in some capacity over a longer duration of time, and it’s escalated from texting-talking-emailing to face-to-face interactions. I’m also curious about what, exactly, is so important that you two must dine together two days in a row. You’ve said that you don’t really talk about anything of any depth, so …
Let’s not pretend with each other. You’re grown, and so am I. And so is the younger man you’re hanging out with now, who I’d bet is attractive and you have great chemistry with—and who, despite calling you “big sis,” probably looks at you the way your husband hasn’t in years. You like the attention, and the novelty of a new face with a new perspective does it for you, too. So you’re justifying what is essentially dating someone other than your husband because you’re still upset about the affair he had three years ago.
You’re still married, so, yes, your husband gets a say-so in your lunch date. And yes, he gets a say-so even if he cheated on you three years ago. You haven’t told your husband about the boy toy because you know he’s not going to be OK with this relationship, whatever the nature of it is. And you certainly wouldn’t want him taking a woman 12 years younger to lunch.
When your husband cheated, you forgave him and decided to stay in the marriage. That doesn’t give you a pass to do the same thing. You’re trying to play this tit-for-tat game all this time later because you’re still hurt. If you want to remain married, address the hurt you’ve been holding on to all these years, instead of distracting yourself with a younger man or seeking revenge.
Call the younger man and tell him, “We can’t be friends anymore” because it is inappropriate and disrespectful to your marriage to carry on with him. And when you get home, tell your husband that you still haven’t resolved your feelings about his affair and you want to go to couples therapy to hash out your feelings and save this marriage.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.