(The Root) —
"I'm married. He's married. We haven't done anything physically, but we are so connected, to the point that we are both willing to leave our respective spouses. Is there a right way of doing this? Am I wrong? I haven't touched him out of respect for his wife, but I still feel bad." —J.D.
You should feel bad, and if your partner-in-adultery has any conscience, so should he. It sounds like you're having an emotional affair, and there's no way around it: It's just plain wrong. I appreciate that you've kept this illicit relationship from getting physical so far, but it's troubling that your motivation is respect for your sort-of-boyfriend's wife, but not respect for your husband, your marriage or even yourself. That tells me a lot about your union, this secondary relationship you've pursued and your self-esteem. You're in way over your head, and whether or not you know it, you're about to sink. I'm not so sure that your partner — the other man, not your husband — will go down with you.
The scenario you've described reminds me of that ill-fated and eventually very public relationship between former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his married, mother-of-two mistress, Christine Beatty. They had a deep connection, too, one that stemmed back to their teen years. During their affair, they exchanged thousands of text messages in which they frequently confided how much they loved each other, how intimate their emotional connection was and how they had always belonged together. So deep!
In 2003 Beatty left her husband, hoping that Kilpatrick would eventually leave his wife as well. "I can't see living this way with us being a 'secret' forever. I love you so much and I want to tell somebody, some day!" she wrote. Kilpatrick responded: "Please know with all our hearts and soul that I love you. And you will never, never be alone."
Sounds good, right? But things didn't turn out as planned or wished: Kilpatrick never left his wife. When rumors of the affair came to light, he denied any involvement with Beatty (of course), even under oath. And when the affair was confirmed, he sat in a church with Mrs. Kilpatrick beside him, apologizing for cheating and lying about it "specifically" to "the four people I love most in this world" — his wife and his sons. Notably, Beatty's name didn't make the list. The last time we heard from her, in 2010, she had "lost everything," was depressed and moving to Georgia, according to her lawyer.
If you've honestly exhausted all efforts to make your marriage work and you and your husband still can't make things right, then it may be time for you to go. But running into the arms of the man with whom you've been emotionally cheating isn't the move you want to make. Is a man whose own wife shouldn't trust him really the kind of man you want to call your own?
I need you to understand a couple of important things about what you're doing, and with whom you are doing it. Sure, there's a chance that this side hustle could pan out into something meaningful and long-term, but relationships that start from affairs survive only 5 percent of the time, according to psychologist and talk-show host Dr. Phil.
There's good reason for that. The foundation of your side relationship is built on lies, deception and dishonesty. If you're cheating — whether it's emotional or physical — you're already demonstrating a lack of the fundamental skills that make relationships most likely to work, the biggest of which is integrity. You and the man with whom you're cheating aren't demonstrating a healthy dose of it.
Both of you stood up before God, your beloved relatives and loyal friends and pledged vows to honor, respect and be faithful to your respective spouses. And by the deception you two have been carrying on, it's clear that neither of you can be trusted, not by your actual partners and not by each other.
Since you have the same traits, I'm not surprised that you've found a strong connection, and some might say that you actually deserve each other and whatever epic-level drama is coming from this. It may be fitting, but I'd like you to do better.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to 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. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.