You love your wife and kids (but you’re not certain that you’re IN love) and you have a passionate connection with another woman.
How do you make the right decision? Especially as someone is going to get hurt: your wife, your girlfriend and most probably yourself.
I have thirty years experience helping men who arrive at my counselling office saying: “I’m torn between my wife and girlfriend”. In this post, there’s a video and my four best pieces of advice to find a way forward:
1. Be Honest and Transparent
I know you want to keep everybody happy but the only way to do that is to be economical with the truth – and that only works for a fleeting moment. Your wife or your girlfriend or both WILL find out that you were lying and it will make them even angrier. Even worse, you end up lying to yourself too and how can you possibly know what you want if you’re not honest with yourself?
So take the momentary upset when, for example, you tell your wife ‘I need to make a call to her’ rather than the fury when she discovers that you’ve weren’t ‘at the gym’ but having a long heart-to-heart behind her back.
2. Keep talking
You’re in pain. In fact, everybody is hurting. You want this resolved as quickly as possible but that’s what makes you take snap choices – rather than properly thought out decisions. In fact, you risk making everything worse by being a yo-yo lover i.e. one minute you’re ‘working on your marriage’ and the next ‘you can’t give up your girlfriend’ and then back again.
It took a long time to reach the point that you were so unhappy that you were tempted into having an affair, so it will take time to extract yourself from this mess. The only way forward is to keep talking and then talk some more.
3. Don’t confuse distress with anger
You’re a nice guy and you don’t want to make people unhappy. See my video about how you got into this mess and then I’ll explain more about mistaking distress for anger.
Nobody likes anger but your upbringing has made you go out of your way to avoid it. However, in the meantime, you’ve become so sensitive to anger that your alarm goes off at any strong feelings (that you perceive to be negative).
So your wife is distressed because you’re not back home when you said you would be. Of course, there is a small amount of anger somewhere in her complex bundle of feelings but the overriding one is probably fear (that you’re with her, that you love her more, you’re going to leave etc).
She is also tired and generally overwhelmed. However, all you hear is anger (which makes you run) rather than distress (which might illicit your sympathy). So step back and ask her: Are you angry with me?
4. What if I don’t fancy my wife any more?
Most men in your situation are surprised by the strength of their wife’s reaction to their infidelity. Many told themselves she’s stopped caring about me or even ‘she’s so fed with me, that she’ll be pleased to see the back of me’.
If your wife wants the opportunity to work on your marriage and try again, you will probably be tempted but have a huge anxiety: What if I don’t feel passionate about my wife? If you’re truly ‘torn between my wife and girlfriend’, I have these thoughts:
- I would be surprised if you did fancy your wife, you’re probably angry with her about a thousand and one buried things. Anger is a big turn off!
- To sleep with another woman, you had to detach yourself from your marriage. In other words, you found lots of problems and issues to build a wall between the two of you. Without challenging those bricks in the wall (and finding out if they are true or not), and dismantling the barrier between the two of you, it will be hard to ‘see’ your wife – let alone fancy her. So don’t expect too much, too soon.
- Men think it is all their responsibility to initiate sex and build passion into the marriage but I see it as a joint responsibility. Your wife could seduce you and be an equal passionate partner (rather than expecting you to make all the running).
- How do you know your girlfriend will always be so passionate? Affair sex is really easy, forbidden fruit is sweeter and when your girlfriend is saying ‘choose me’ she is far more likely to be ‘up for it’. But what happens once the honeymoon phase is over?
I hope that I’ve given you some food for thought. I’ve also some books that will help. In particular, I’d like you to read What Is Love? 50 Questions About How to Find, Keep and Rediscover It.
Please post your experiences below, so you can share your dilemmas with other men and feel less alone. I would also like to hear from the wives and girlfriends too because no part of this triangle is easy.