Dear Patricia: I had college life all planned, until my affair with older man
Published 07/11/2010 | 05:00
Q I AM in quite a predicament and don't know who to turn to. I am 18 and have just started college. This involved moving to the city. I got the subject I wanted and I have had my life planned out for some time now. At least, I had it all planned out until I met this guy. He's 34 and married to a close friend.
We started seeing each other quite frequently. I know it was wrong, but I had never felt the way he made me feel before.
Anyway, things got pretty serious pretty quickly, so I had to stop seeing him. I missed him a lot, but I was OK. Then, a couple of months later, I rang him and we met up again, and this time it got more serious more quickly.
Now I've moved to the city, quite far from my home town, and I know it's best for everyone if I end the relationship, and get on with my life and studies. But I can't bring myself to end it. I still see him at weekends when I go home. I know he doesn't want things to end either, so there's no point in me waiting it out to see if he will put a stop to things. He won't.
His wife has no idea what is going on and I feel badly that he and I have to lie just so we can be together.
I cannot tell my friends because they would not understand and I am afraid they'd disapprove of me. I am stuck because I know it should end, but I can't bring myself to do it, and then be hurt. Any advice?
A YOU are asking me how to become a better person. Or as I would prefer to put it, you are asking how you can become a kinder and more loving human being. It's not that you lack conscience, or goodness, or concern for others. You just can't quite put it into action. In failing to do so, you are, above all, failing yourself.
The first step is to see things clearly. You wouldn't hurt yourself by ending it. Certainly, you'd miss this man terribly, feel huge emotional pain, but that's different.
The truth is, you're hurting yourself by being with him. You are offending your own sense of decency, not least by cheating on a woman friend, and you are allowing yourself to be treated really badly.
Having a sordid, little secret affair kills all self-esteem. By treating you this way, your lover is showing such terrible disrespect, displaying how little he thinks of you; using you, in short, for the sake of his own pathetic ego. Where's the joy, or happiness, or dignity in that? Don't you see? He doesn't care.
Secondly, you are seriously isolating yourself. Look at what you tell me. You can't confide in your friends because yes, of course, they would disapprove of you. There is nothing in this situation anyone can approve of. You don't even approve of it.
Your isolation goes further. You also have to lie to those around you, telling them you are somewhere else, or doing something else, when you go to meet him. Those kinds of lies leave us terribly lonely. Apart from anything else, they invalidate our friendships, our relationships with family.
Keeping a secret which necessitates deceit makes us inauthentic, sort of invisible, a kind of fraud, outside the world we live in. That does savage things to the mind and heart and spirit.
Thirdly, most affairs are found out. Trust me, it's true. You or your lover become careless. His wife gets suspicious. You get unlucky. Or one of you unconsciously wants to go public and does something silly. The world will then judge you. The pain you feel at the thought of not seeing him will grow pale in comparison to the isolation you will then experience. His wife, your friend, will feel even more pain, hurt beyond anything you can imagine.
And yes, I understand. Deep down, you may dream that one day the two of you will end up together, by some magical means. But will you?
Is that what you're both working towards? Is it what you want, at 18, and just starting off on the college course of your dreams?
And if that is true, is this the way to go about it? Wouldn't it be more self-affirming, more dignified, more kind and loving to yourself and others to leave him now, allow him sort out his marriage and, when he has something to offer you, then come back to you?
You have a good heart. Do it justice.