It all started out innocent. I knew from the start that he was married. We also promised each other that it won’t go too far, but it did. It all started in November 2006. I wanted to quit on this relationship hundreds of times before, but I couldn’t. I really loved him. His wife soon after that found out about our relationship when she checked his telephone account. He told me that one of the women in his life had to go, and that it should be me. He still loves me, but he would really like to give his marriage another chance for the sake of his children. I agreed. The very next day, he phoned me to tell me that she can’t let go of what happened, but he will still go on trying. My question: Is it really worthwhile to work at a marriage when the other partner refuses to cooperate? Is it really worthwhile to let your soul die just to live up to society’s standards? Is it really worthwhile to live a lie in order to save your marriage for the sake of your kids when you’re miserable, unhappy and sad most of the time? Is it really worthwhile to make such a big sacrifice, knowing you love another but still trying to make things right in your marriage? Suzie, I might sound selfish now, but I’ve also been hurt, much more than anyone knows because I still love him. I’ve lost about 7 kgs after we split up. It is absolutely killing me to see him so unhappy. I am not saying what we did was right. I’m only saying that we both made a big sacrifice, and it seems like it’s not going to reap any fruit. Must I just let him be and wait for a miracle to save their situation, or should I do something? It is painful to see someone you love so unhappy when it could have been so different.
Dear Mow, Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I feel your pain. I understand your hurt. You could no more stop yourself from falling in love, than you could stop yourself from blinking.
It’s an unfortunate position to be in.
This isn’t the way the dream is supposed to turn out. You’re not supposed to kiss the frog and have him turn into a married man. There are no fairy tales where Cinderella goes to the ball and falls in love with the married King (instead of the single prince), only to have the queen chase her out of the castle with a butcher knife.
On one hand, you’re in love. Love in and of itself causes no harm.
On the other hand, the person you’re in love with isn’t available, and the relationship you’re involved in has its foundation in deception… now, those two things WILL cause harm. So, it’s not love that causes harm — it’s your situation.
Keeping that in mind, let’s go over your questions one at a time.
You wrote: Is it really worthwhile to work at a marriage when the other partner refuses to cooperate?
Answer: It only takes one person to save a marriage. If one partner is willing to go through the fire, take the necessary steps, and make the necessary adjustments, it can bring forth a “turning point” for both partners. It happens this way all the time. Is this the easiest way to do it? Nope. But can it work? Yes. It’s like rowing a boat — one person can row the boat (or steer the relationship) out of rough waters.
But a better question to ask is this:
Can one person sustain a marriage? The answer to that is no. While it only takes one person to save a marriage, it takes both partners to sustain it. It seems to me that this individual is trying to save his marriage. That in itself is a noble effort and one that’s worthy of our respect. With so much history between them — shared children, shared moments, shared memories — it would be unwise to write them off simply because one partner is hurt and is refusing to cooperate.
No marriage is over until the ink is dry.
The fact is, if she’s still there, she’s still in it. If they’re still living together, then they ARE together. And if they’re still together, it’s because something in them is keeping them together. It would be a mistake to assume the fires of love have completely gone out between two married people. Sometimes, a flame is just buried under years of conflict and stress, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead.
From his wife’s point of view…
Betrayal is a very difficult thing for any woman to deal with. She must be hurting. When people are hurting, they don’t always “act” loving. Sometimes they just need to curl up in a ball for a while, sometimes they come out swinging because for her, this isn’t just the loss of a love, it would mean the loss of dreams, plans, and countless other things too many to mention here. So, YES… it IS worthwhile to try to save a marriage.
And I know you don’t want to think of this, but what if it works?
What if they manage to turn things turn around? What if they do stick together in the “bad times” as well as the “good times”… just like they promised in their marriage vows?
You’ve got to consider the possibility that there’s more to this story than what you know because when it comes to husband and wife business, it’s never as clear and as cut and dry as you think. Nothing is black and white in a marriage. There are lots of emotions, a long shared history, shared laughs, shared plans, shared dreams. In other words, there are many things operating under the surface.
If after all this, his marriage survives, then we will have to honor those two people, because they would have pulled off one of the hardest things for couples to do — recover and rebuild after infidelity. It’s like rebuilding a home in the same spot after a devastating earthquake hit. It takes a lot to do that.
You wrote: Is it really worthwhile to let your soul die just to live up to society’s standards?
Answer: Be mindful of the word “sacrifice”. It will make you feel like somehow, you’re the victim in this situation. And the fact is, you’re not the victim here because when you get entangled with people who are otherwise committed, there’s no security and no guarantees in that.
Here’s some sobering statistics:
Only about 3% of men marry the woman with whom they have an affair. And of those second marriages, a whopping 75% fail. Why is this? Here’s my theory: because following your heart, without the guidance of conscience and intuition, often leads to impetuous choices that collapse under the weight, stress and pressures of the real world.
So, back to your question…
Is it really worthwhile to let your soul die just to live up to society’s standards?
Of course not (but then, you knew that when you wrote that question). So, we’re in agreement here. However, it’s unwise to believe that any human being has the capacity to let their soul die, in any situation, no matter what they tell you.
Here’s the wake-up call:
Nobody makes decisions they believe will ultimately lead them to unhappiness. The only reason he made the decision he made is because in the midnight of his soul, he believes it will lead him to happiness. Even if it now appears to be leading him through hell, somewhere deep inside, he firmly believes it will eventually lead him to heaven. You can’t argue with a man for that.
Now I’m not making a judgment on whether his choices are right or wrong. I’m only pointing out that human beings are only capable of making the choices they believe will lead them to happiness — and only time will reveal whether those choices are correct.
So, his soul isn’t dying.
There is no suicide of the soul. In his mind, it’s the exact opposite — he just might be doing exactly what he needs to do, in order to redeem it.
You wrote: Is it really worthwhile to live a lie in order to save your marriage for the sake of your kids when you’re miserable, unhappy and sad most of the time?
Answer: It seems to me that your question has two parts:
- Can a lie be used to create something good?
- Is it worth sacrificing your happiness for the sake of your kids?
Let’s begin with the first one.
Lying to create something good is very common in our society. It’s known as a “white lie,” and like “white magic,” it’s supposed to be used only to do good. In a perfect world, it would be easy to say “you shouldn’t lie, no matter what”, and yet as idealistic as that sounds, it’s just not the way it works in the real world.
Here’s what I can tell you:
Lies don’t destroy marriages; it’s the people who tell lies that do. (Just like guns don’t commit murder; people who fire guns do.) So don’t make the mistake of believing that lying only goes in one direction or applies to one situation. You have to consider that if he’s lying to her to save his marriage, he could very well be lying to you to spare your feelings. There’s a good chance that if he’s lying to one person, he’s lying to another.
Second question: Is it worth sacrificing your happiness for the sake of your kids?
Many people stay together for the sake of their kids. And I believe it would be a mistake to term this a “sacrifice.” If you truly love someone, then the things you do for them, and in consideration of them, are not sacrifices, rather, they are acts of love. The fact that he remains unwilling to walk away from his responsibilities as a father isn’t something to condemn him for — it’s something to compliment him for.
Maybe he knows…
That he’s the glue that holds that family together. Maybe he’s aware that his presence is a stabilizing force in that house. Maybe he realizes how much he anchors that family in ways that cannot be removed lightly. And as much as his heart might be at war with his conscience, maybe his intuition has kicked in — warning him that any decision he makes today will not only affect his life but the lives of his children, as well as his children’s children. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not willing to pay that price.
Now, you might be wondering…
Am I saying that people should stay together for their children regardless of how miserable they are?
No, that’s not what I’m saying.
It’s my opinion couples should stay together for the “love” of staying together. If staying together is creating a toxic atmosphere that’s destructive to all concerned, then no, it doesn’t make sense.
Now, I want to get to the core of this issue.
I believe that underneath it all, the question you’re really asking is: is he making the right choice? And that, my dear, is something neither you nor I have the capacity to determine at this point.
Seriously, who knows? Without a crystal ball, we can’t tell. So, we must assume that whatever choices he makes, he makes them with the best intention. And if his best intention tells him to put his kids first, then good for him.
You asked: Must I just let him be and wait for a miracle to save their situation, or should I do something? It is painful to see someone you love so unhappy when it could have been so different.
Answer: You keep mentioning HIM as being unhappy, as if you would be rescuing him from his unhappy life, and as if you could guarantee that a life with you would make him happier. Again, I would caution you against these ideas. It certainly paints a very romantic picture. To imagine that the relationship you two would create would rescue him from unhappiness and lead you both to greater heights of happiness.
I’m not saying it wouldn’t; maybe it would. I don’t know.
But I do know this: if you marry a man that cheats on his wife, you will be married to a man that cheats on his wife. This brings up a whole arena of complications. For example, your relationship would have the disadvantage of beginning in deception. Also, trust issues will have to be addressed. And remember those white lies he told her? Well, those would have to be addressed as well, so he doesn’t use the same strategy on you. And remember that “winner’s guilt” — the kind that comes up when you win at the expense of others — often brings with it a tremendous amount of pressure and discomfort (such as angry step-kids, an angry ex-wife, judgmental people, etc.)
What I’m saying is, relationships are never easy — even under the best of circumstances. But when you add things like deception, betrayal, abandonment, and so on, things get even more weighted down. So, be careful what you wish for.
You asked: Is it really worthwhile to make such a big sacrifice, knowing you love another, but still trying to make things right in your marriage?
Answer: Now, I would like to address the word “worthwhile”.
When you think of something as “worthwhile”, what you’re really asking is if it’s worth investing your time, effort, energy and will to get some type of satisfying results for having made the effort.
So, putting it in that context, let’s reframe your question like this: if a person’s marriage is on the rocks, is it still worthy to invest all the time, attention, effort, and energy that it’s going to take to save it? When you ask the question in the correct context, the answer becomes clear… of course it is!
So, now that you’ve asked me several questions, Mow, I’d like to leave you with a few of my own:
- Is it worthwhile to put your life on pause while you wait for something that was never promised to you?
- What if your true soul mate is waiting for you while you stay home waiting for someone else’s soul mate?
- Can you move on? Knowing that what is rightly yours cannot be withheld from you?
- Can you be okay with knowing that you have loved and lost? Rather than needing to win at the expense of others?
- Can you LOVE yourself first? And therefore accept nothing less for yourself?
I have an intuition about you. I believe that you’re going to be okay.
Good luck, and good wishes.