I’m currently in a seven-month relationship with a married man who is separated from his wife (it’ll be a year this October). They don’t live together but are co-parenting a child. I’ve met the baby, wife, immediate family as well as close friends. Also, he took me on a trip out of the country for a wedding that he and his wife were initially invited to. While I love how things are going, entering a new season (mid-20s), I am reassessing this. Should I back up because his marital status isn’t “divorced”? Let me mention that he wants one and his wife doesn’t. Or should I give it more time (two years) to see what happens? —Anonymous
The man you are dating is married. Period. He might be separated from his wife, but he is still married to her. “Separated” does not mean “single.” You’re right to reassess this one in your new season because this is a bad situation.
You don’t realize it, but you are a rebound from his marriage. If you’ve been in a relationship with him for seven months, that means you likely met him when he’d been out of his marital home for a few months. This other woman’s husband didn’t take hardly any time to process separating from his wife before he took up with you.
Maybe he was deeply unhappy in his marriage and knows for certain that he wants out. I can fully understand that. But he still has to take the time to process the end of his marriage and assess what went wrong and the role he may have played. (It does take two.) Unless he does that, it’s impossible for him not to bring the baggage from his relationship with his wife into the relationship with you. He needs to “do his work.” You’re a distraction from that.
Also, they are still in a relationship. This isn’t like dating, where you say “It’s over,” move out and, just like that, the relationship is over. It has to be legally dissolved. Many states require a legal separation of a full year before couples can even begin divorce proceedings. There’s a reason for that. The hope is that if spouses take the time to consider their situation thoughtfully and with clear heads, they can work out their issues and reunite.
He says he wants out. His wife says otherwise, which makes this situation very messy. They have history, memories and a child together. And while the marriage is rocky, it isn’t over. He has unfinished business with his family.
It’s also not just another random woman who wants him; it’s his wife. That holds more weight than you seem to give it. At any moment, he could decide that he acted too rashly, wants to give his family another shot, and return where his wife and child are waiting with open arms. If you told me he’d been separated for years, I’d wonder what the holdup was, but I’d think that a reunion was less likely to happen (even though I know of couples who have been separated for years and worked things out). But a guy who got in a serious relationship three months after he moved out? Anything’s possible at this point.
I’m wondering why, in your mid-20s, you’re willing to take on the complications of a married man with a wife and child. What is so compelling and urgent about this relationship that you can’t wait for his divorce papers? Is there some sort of ego boost, knowing that he has a wife but he’s choosing you over her? Do you feel that he’s giving you the wife treatment because he’s taking you to events that he planned to attend with her?
You seem to see it as a sign that this relationship means something because he took you overseas to a wedding. I’m not impressed with grand gestures in general (consistency over time matters far more). I hear that story and think, “How awkward and messy!” He RSVP’d with his wife and then showed up with another woman. Most of his friends who attended know his wife, know they’re still married and wondered, “What is he doing?” I would also think of how easily he’s able to move on from something as huge as marriage.
You also seem to think that meeting his family, including his wife, means something. Do understand, his family is his. They might not agree with his actions (or, hell, they may), but their loyalty is to him, not you. And his wife? She knows you exist; she’s met you and doesn’t care. She still wants her husband back. Why have you put yourself in this situation where you’re engaged in a battle with another woman’s husband to have her man?
Furthermore, why would you consider engaging in this for two years? Let me tell you how this plays out if this couple actually finalizes the divorce: He’ll continue to use you as his emotional rock in hard times; then, when he feels better, he will go off to sow his oats to make up for lost time. He’s not going to want to be committed to another person. He’ll want to enjoy his newfound freedom.
Hon, you’re wasting your pretty. And “pretty” doesn’t just mean looks. It means time, energy, emotions and effort, too. Thank this man for the memories shared, but tell him in your new season that you’ve decided you want to be with a single man. Add that if he ever becomes one, he’s welcome to give you a call.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “My Jewish Boyfriend Claims He Loves Me, but He’s Keeping Our Relationship a Secret From His Family”