Ask Charles: "I'm in love with a married man..."


Dear Charles: 

I am a complete mess and don't know where to turn. I have been having a 16 month affair with a married man. He told me he loved me "equally" to his wife and we were seeing each other three or four times a week and speaking or texting every day. He had stressed how much he intended keeping me. His wife found out and he has cut me off completely. They lost a child four years ago and two of their three kids have health problems. I feel selfish, self centred and horrible but I miss him and love him so much. Please help me find direction out of this misery.





Dear S.

Yikes… I’m very sorry for your experiences. Married men (and women) who have long-term affairs usually won’t leave the marriage for someone else. The sad truth is: They are already getting their emotional and physical needs met without leaving their marriage.

What it means to him: I can understand why you feel selfish. It's because that's precisely what you are being, and so is he. He has put his personal wants and needs above everything else in his life... and you are joining him in that endeavor. You've described a very stressful life for him—losing a child, other kids with health problems, and pressure at home. I would venture that he found a slice of happiness and escape in his time with you. Not that he didn't care about you... but there was no way he was going to leave his wife. 

What this means for you:  You, unfortunately, gave your heart to someone who is already in a relationship. And I get it. He made promises… the two of you had plans. But here’s the harsh truth: He’s still married. The only way you would have ever have a shot with him is if he left his marriage completely. Right now, there is no way to have a relationship with him. And please allow me to be perfectly straight with you: There is no way you are in love. I can hear what you are feeling in your letter: the rush, emotional connection, wanting, you are describing a man who has tapped into some key things you want in a relationship. But that's not real "love". REAL love is different. 

Let me define it for you:


REAL love is the connection you feel when someone sees the YOU of you—your imperfections, your challenges, your issues, your peccadillos. And they not only accept you for who you are—without judgement or attempts to make you fit some preconceived mold—they inspire you to become even more… to grow into a better version of yourself. You don’t want to grow and become more *for* them, you simply want to be better so you can share your better self *with* them.

They don’t feel the need to keep or control you, because they recognize that they not only don’t want to… they shouldn’t need to, so they don’t. They don’t project their past experiences on you because—although they might have experienced relationship challenges with others in the past—they realize that you are your own unique person… and you are not their past; you are their future.

They respect that you are in charge of yourself, and they trust you because they trust themselves.

You would never intentionally hurt them, lie to them, or belittle them because they are a part of you… a part of your experience in life… and by treating them poorly, you would essentially be hurting, lying, or belittling yourself.

Someone in real love is to know how to give love *and* how to receive it… because you are valuable and deserve it. And not only do they also know it, they want YOU to know it… from them… because they also feel that connection and want to show you how you matter for no other reason than you… are you and they just want to be close to the way you see and experience the world.



There's no way you would ever know if you actually love this man... because he isn't yours; you are just borrowing him and allowing him to escape the pressures of his current life and marriage. My advice: Leave him alone. That’s someone’s husband. If and when he choses not to be someone else’s husband, you can see where things are at that time. Until then, cut all contact.


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