Monday 19 March 2018

Dear Patricia: I'm attracted to my friend but I want to protect my husband

Patricia Redlich

I'm 48 years old, married 24 years with three happy, healthy children and a good job which I love. My childhood was one of a lack of love from two controlling parents which contributed to low self-esteem on my part. I had several relationships before I met and fell in love with my husband.

Our first 10 years were good even though he was often grumpy and angry and always needing to get his own way. The following 10 years involved poor communication, but a good sex life and the fact of being busy with the children seemed to be redeeming features. At times I wondered if there ever was any real love, even though he frequently told me he loved me. His mood swings hurt, but all in all he was a good father. I did feel a lack of excitement in the marriage.

About three years ago I became infatuated with a separated friend I knew through work and we met a couple of times a week. We listened to each other bashing marriage and he also made me laugh. He was having lots of short-term relationships as he was determined never to commit again after his bad marriage. If the children were older and more independent, I might have left my husband or at least had a few secret nights with him. I was becoming unhappier at home but never discussed things with my husband. I fantasised about my friend and our meetings and phone-calls became the excitement of my week.

My husband found out and I admitted to my unhappiness, and the pleasure I found in this other man's company. My husband was devastated and took most of the blame for driving me away. We have stayed together mainly because I did not wish to hurt the children, but also because I saw how my husband changed into a much calmer and caring partner and father.

However, I still meet my friend, but less frequently. He still likes to have intimate chats and I suppose, to be honest, I enjoy that. He still wants to sleep with me and encourages me to organise a night away together, something I have resisted so far. I do love my husband and would hate to hurt him. At the same time I do not want to lose my friendship with this other man. Some days I feel lucky to have a husband who loves and cares for me. Other times I wish I was free with no commitment to anyone.

Can I stay in a stable relationship with my husband and yet maintain a friendship with this other man? Am I "cheating" on my husband by hiding all communication with my friend? Sometimes I think that sleeping with my friend is just something I need to do out of curiosity and perhaps then I will lose the desire!

Patricia replies:

You haven't got a friendship with this man. He is not your friend. He is someone who wants to seduce you. He isn't offering love, commitment or any kind of emotional security. Just a fling. And he isn't remotely interested in taking any kind of responsibility for the fall-out. You may lose husband, children, home. He doesn't care. He will never see it as his problem. And in fairness, he has made all this very clear. Having had a failed marriage, he doesn't want a relationship. He's told you that.

If you step back for a second you'll see that he's immoral too. Because he's playing on your vulnerability. He's exploiting your weakness. I understand that your marriage left you very lonely. I understand that you may find it hard to forgive your husband. I do believe you're also still very angry with him. Yes, he took responsibility. Yes, he changed. Yes, he loves you. But your heart hardened during the sad years. It hasn't softened yet. And yes, apart from any of that, the fizz went out of your marriage. It does unless you work at it. But when people are unhappy, dodging difficulties, immersing themselves in other tasks like rearing the children, there is neither energy nor enthusiasm for working on that flame that keeps a couple close.

Your so-called friend doesn't care about any of that. Indeed, he may be pursuing you out of a perverse desire to put your marriage down.

You say you enjoy bantering with him about bad marriages. But you're not in the same place on the marriage front. His is over. Yours is very much alive. A good friend would be happy for you, would help you see that it's worth protecting, would encourage you to handle your sense of unrest.

Don't you see? This man isn't doing any of that. He's pushing you towards destabilising your marriage instead.

You are being unfaithful. You are also being disloyal. And you're being dishonest, lying by omission rather than deed when you hide the sexy emails or texts or whatever means of communication you have with this man.

Most importantly of all, you're letting yourself down. He is not a nice person. Why would you have anything to do with him? You had a childhood which left you with low self-esteem. Why would you perpetuate that sad legacy by allowing yourself to be involved with a man who is so careless of you?

Couldn't you achieve a new sense of self-worth from the fact that your husband changed, for your sake.

How many husbands, or wives, actually do that? Doesn't that give you a seriously meaningful framework for building a more self-confident you?

Sunday Independent

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