Thursday 23 November 2017

Dear Patricia: My husband died and now my lover wants to end our affair

Patricia Redlich

I HAVE had an on/off affair for the past 12 years. We were both in unhappy marriages, but neither of us was ever going to leave. I am mad about him, and he says he's mad about me. We get on really well, and not just in bed. We have the same interests and are pretty well matched.

Then my husband died two years ago and my lover was there for me. Recently, however, he has said that he wants us to be just friends. I am devastated. To my way of looking at things, there is a safe haven in my house. I've said this to him, but he says he's not able anymore to constantly look over his shoulder, on tenterhooks all the time.

I know there is nothing I can do about this, as my world collapses around me. How can we be just friends? It's not as if we can go to the cinema or on holidays together. I've told him this, I mean that I can't see us being friends.

He says he hopes I will change my mind. I won't because I would always be hoping that we'd become lovers again.

Even though my children, who have all left home, are the number-one relationship in my life, and are my pride and joy, my lover has given me so much and would have kept me going through the hard times -- which are still here, by the way. Why does he want to be just friends now? Did he ever have feelings for me at all? I feel so lost.

Patricia replies:

AFFAIRS require stability. In your case, the stability consisted of two lovers who were married. That created boundaries within which both of you felt safe. Neither of you was going to leave your unhappy marriages. The limits of the affair were clear-cut. And then your husband died.

Yes, your lover was there for you initially. He's not a monster. And of course he had feelings for you. Now, however, he's worried -- and undoubtedly has been for some time. Even if you don't expect any more than you did when your husband was alive, it's different. You are free, he is not. The balance has shifted. Secrecy, limited time, limited options, lies, deceit -- all were once enacted for both your sake as well as his. Now it's solely for him.

He can't offer you the same safe haven on his turf. He's the one who has to go, because he has marital commitments. He's the one who has to say "no" because his time is limited. Maybe you don't mind. He does. Because now he's forced to look at the double life he's leading and take responsibility for it. He's the only one who is cheating now -- well, there's two of you in it, but you know what I mean. He's betraying his own wife, a different emotional exercise to your betrayal of her. By definition, the whole affair has taken on a different hue.

He's also scared of what might come down the line. You may be making no demands now, but who knows? Your very availability has to be a threat. And he does not want to leave his wife. So he has pre-empted all that by saying goodbye to a sexual relationship. And of course you are right. He's actually saying goodbye to you. Of course you can't be friends. There is nothing -- or very little -- you can do together. He's just taken a ridiculously silly and formulaic way out.

I'm sorry. Yes, you feel lost. But you are also now free of a hugely restrictive relationship. This affair was born of an unhappy marriage. Isn't it perhaps best that it dies with that unhappy marriage? So maybe your lover is not just scared, or selfish. Maybe he's being wise.

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