I Am In Love With a Man Who Wants Me To Stay With Him While He Dates Another Woman.

Dear Evan,

I guarantee my question has never been asked before.

I threw myself into my career for 25 years and didn’t date until I was 48 when I met a wonderful man that I fell deeply in love with. We had a wonderful 2½ year committed relationship and then he cheated on me. I found out because the woman kept calling the house at all hours of the day and night. When I found out, I was crushed and walked out the door.

He begged me to stay and told me he wanted to see both of us. I waited so long to meet him I couldn’t give him up. I had made a lot of mistakes in the relationship having never dated before. I love him so much. We have been in this love triangle for 7 months now.

He keeps her a secret from family and friends, and has sex with both of us. I continue to entertain, and am having his family for the holidays. He does spend more time with her now than with me. She has taken over most domestic duties for him that I used to do but does not live with him, nor do I. He claims he wants me to focus on my small business that is causing me financial problems.

My support group says that he views me as a friend now and has moved on with her. I would start to believe my friends, except that if he really loved her, why has he kept her a secret for so long? I have tried to leave him 5 times, including writing him a letter telling him I can’t do this, and he has begged me not to give up on us yet.

We were having relationship issues, and he was vulnerable. The woman is extremely manipulative – she totally stroked his ego among other things. Still, I know he is to blame for his choices.

Is there hope for us to be back to just the two of us again? I hate what he did to us, but love how he treated me for those 2 1/2 years.

Thank you,

Terri

You need a few gallons of self-esteem.

Dear Terri,

I don’t know how much I have to say that isn’t plainly obvious to everyone but you.

So I’ll say it succinctly and without judgment.

No. There is no hope for the two of you.

You need to leave the relationship.

You need to let go of him.

You need to get therapy.

You need a serious reality check.

You need a few gallons of self-esteem.

I acknowledge that it’s much easier to say this than it is for it is for you to live it, but the first step is in taking stock of your own decision-making. And, to an objective observer, you’ve put yourself in one unusual position.

What’s particularly unusual about it is how deeply in denial you are about what’s going on. Now, denial is not unusual among women – if it were, He’s Just Not That Into You wouldn’t have made a blip on the radar. But given that most people indulge themselves in some sort of wishful thinking, your refusal to look at the facts of this situation is staggering.

Here they are, restated to you from another point of view. It may be hard to hear, but, well, I don’t know how else to do it:

Your boyfriend was cheating on you. He may have been cheating on you for 2 ½ years, but you didn’t find out until one of the women spoke up and ratted him out. Paging Tiger Woods.

Naturally, he begged you to stay. He wouldn’t want to lose anyone as blindly devoted as you. You bought this, as if this was a sign of his love for you. Nope. It was just a sign of his selfishness, and your cluelessness about his real intentions: to have his cake and eat it, too.

He may have been cheating on you for 2 ½ years, but you didn’t find out until one of the women spoke up and ratted him out. Paging Tiger Woods.

Your “love triangle” as you call it is really about as close to bigamy as it gets. Except your boyfriend is smarter than the average Mormon. He didn’t have to marry either of you! He gets to set the terms of both relationships and see you both when he wants. She has “taken over domestic duties?” You entertain him for the holidays? You both sleep with him? This guy must be charismatic enough to be a cult leader.

Somehow, Terri, you’ve remained willfully blind to the fact that any man who would cheat on you behind your back, ask you to accept it to your face, and keep you as his booty call for 7 months after finding a new girlfriend… is probably not the best choice of partners for you.

And that’s to put it mildly.

He’s kept her a secret because everyone he knows will think he’s a scumbag for doing what he’s doing. Everyone, apparently, except you.

At this point, my dear, your predicament is no longer your boyfriend’s fault, nor is it the “manipulative” other woman’s fault. It’s entirely, 100%, no-questions-asked YOUR fault.

This insanity will only end when you have the courage to walk away.

Otherwise, your amazing boyfriend will continue to be the property of someone else – namely, his girlfriend.

Please take care of yourself and ditch this loser today.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Kathryn Shanley

    I have a very close friend in exactly the same situation as Terri and she just doesn’t get it! We’ve talked to her, offered suggestions, even the name of some good therapists but….no go. She has to want the help. It’s really frustrating to watch.

  2. 2
    Melissa

    LOL….. This is a shining example of why I love ya to death Evan!

    No one could have said it better!

  3. 4
    Jane

    This woman has an amazing capacity to minimize reprehensible behavior. Even the title show it— dating? He is doing a lot more than dating.
    I am 100% aligned with Evan’s advice. If she is going to minimize something, she should minimize her notion that she is losing someone worth keeping. No matter how charming he is— he is not worth the ultimate toll this will take on this woman.
    I second the therapy idea particularly linked with the need for gallons of self esteem. This smacks of drama addiction.
    yowsa! Very sad.

  4. 5
    marc

    Dumping the douche is just step 1. You need to ge A LOT more dating experience under your belt as well, so you realize how much more there is out there for you.

  5. 6
    Steve

    Terri;
    The only way you are going to be happy is to leave this guy.. It isn’t that you “can’t” leave this guy. It is that you don’t <i>want</i> the discomfort of leaving him. That discomfort will be unpleasant, but it <b>will</b> dissipate with time. The discomfort will fade faster if you get therapy and throw yourself into having an active social life.
    You are never going to have the relationship you want with this guy.
    He is screwing you over.
    You are letting him.

  6. 7
    Michelle

    You can’t find true love until you truly love YOURSELF! It’s sad that this woman has such low self-esteem and low expectations. People so often blame their situations on others. We bring drama and unhealthy people into our own lives by ALLOWING them in.
    I’ve adopted a “no drama” rule in my life when it comes to friends and also men. I treat others with love, kindness and respect and expect the same. As a result, I’ve never been more peaceful and happy.
    Thank you for being so honest, direct and giving (as always) exceptional advice! You totally rock!

  7. 8
    mE

    ay yi yi! what a creep. i totally understand her unwillingness to accept reality. this is her first ‘relationship’ which hurts enough when it ends, and to top it off finding out the man you’re dating was a complete waste of your love and energy really sucks. she has been deep into denial mode. but i hope she takes this truth for what it is. this creep doesn’t love either one of them, never has or will and is truly getting away with murder. it is no reflection on her as a person that he cannot value her. let the other woman be the clueless idiot and forget him NOW. agh, it makes me want to cry! i know it’s hard to do but this is ridiculous. he is taking advantage of her lack of love for herself.

  8. 9
    Honey

    Yeah, this is pretty much EXACTLY what my first college boyfriend did to me, and you are reacting pretty much exactly how I reacted. In some ways it’s got to be even harder to let this go since you were a bit older when you met and fell in love with him. On the other hand, you have the TREMENDOUS emotional strength that you must have gained being a happily single, successful businesswoman supporting yourself for 25 years. So draw on that, and tell this guy to take a hike.

  9. 10
    Janet

    To the OP: Most people have careers AND relationships–I don’t understand why you suggest that the career got in the way of dating. I suspect we don’t have the full story here, but I’m not going to analyze you from my armchair. Good luck to you! There are other fish in the sea, and we’ve all gotten our share of smelly ones.

  10. 11
    Janet

    While we’re on the topic of career gals–here’s a copy of the Pew study that made headlines yesterday. Didn’t agree with the way the study was covered (again, negatively–sugar mamas (NPR) and a boyfriend dumping his “smarter” girlfriend (NYT) ). But it’s worth noting that successful women ARE getting married and that men AREN’T being scared off by female success in the world. I hope this also means that men are learning how to pick up the slack in domestic work. :)

    http://media.npr.org/assets/news/2010/01/19/pewmarriage.doc

  11. 12
    Evan Marc Katz

    For what it’s worth, Janet, no one said that successful women aren’t getting married. I merely point out some of the friction that such women experience when wanting to date men who are more successful than they are. Thanks for the study.

  12. 13
    Jennifer

    I like the way steve #6 put it.
    It doesn’t seem like it now but once you leave (for real) and get past the initial pain you will eventually feel better; that intense pain doesn’t last forever (hasn’t that held true for other painful events from your past?)

    In the meantime, please don’t spend so much time in this relationship that you begin to believe it’s normal, or the way things are, or the best you can do. It’s not.

  13. 14
    HRGoddess

    This posting gave me the shivers. I hope the poster can find the strength to love herself more then her horrible excuse for a boyfriend/relationship and walk away.

  14. 15
    Honey

    I have to say that while the LW is correct in that I don’t think the details of her situation match any other letters that we have seen from people, when you distill her letter down, she is basically saying,

    “There is someone I am madly in love with who refuses to commit to me in any meaningful way and has purposely done things that s/he knew would devastate me on numerous occasions, despite me pointing those occasions out and asking him/her to stop. How do I change him/her?”

    The answer, of course, is that you can’t change someone else. So if you can’t be happy in the current situation (and who could?), you have to leave. It is easy to feel stupid in these situations, because one of the reasons you are hurt is that you don’t want to believe that you are capable of misjudging someone so completely. There is also the “if we break up now, I’ve lost the last ___ years” justification.

    But it is not a bad thing to trust people who may turn out not to deserve it – dating doesn’t work unless you are willing to take the leap before all the evidence is in (though I would argue you have to wait for most of the evidence to roll in before you agree to get married). However, it IS a bad thing to convince yourself that someone who has repeatedly proven that he doesn’t care about you at all, and never could because he is probably a sociopath, is someone that you have any chance of ever being happy with. And the only time you should regard as “lost” is every minute you spend with him once you have made that realization.

  15. 16
    Kenley

    Terri,

    I think that you are confused by what his begging you to stay means. I am sure you were flattered that he begged you to stay. When a guy begged me to stay I was flattered too… until I realized what was really going on. He didn’t want me to stay so that he could love me. He wanted me to stay so that I would continue to love him. Like me, you want to believe that his begging you to stay means that he cares for you. Based on how he has treated you, what his begging really means is that he wants you to continuing doing things for HIM; being there for HIM; loving HIM; having sex with HIM (I hope, by the way, you are making him wear condoms cause you don’t really know how many women he is actually “dating.”) What has he done lately just for you…to make you feel loved and happy? I willing to bet not much if anything at all.

    Your relationship will never go back to being the two of you — provided it ever was. If you want a one man/one woman relationship, you need to move on. There may have been a time when this guy was wonderful. He isn’t wonderful now because what he is asking you to do hurts you. He knows it. You know it. Be good to yourself; nuture yourself, honor yourself, and leave. Cut off ALL contact with him cold turkey. Change your phone numbers and your email address. If he has a key to your place, change the locks. If you have his key, mail it back. Don’t give yourself ANY excuse to interact with him. Delete old emails and throw away anything he ever gave you. Why I am suggesting you take such drastic actions? Because to you, he is like a drug and you can’t handle just a little taste here and there. He has to be cleaned out of your life and head completely. You lived without him before. You can live without him now. Good luck.

  16. 17
    Selena

    Terri, if this man loved you he would have broken it off with the other woman. Instead, as the months roll on he’s spending more time with her and less with you. Breakups are painful, but isn’t knowing he’s spending his time, etc. with someone else terribly painful to you day after day?

    Sometimes people in cheating relationships choose to “look the other way”. They weigh what they would lose if they ended the relationship -their house, lifestyle, financial security, seeing their children everyday, as examples – against the cost of staying and knowing what’s going on. What would you lose by ending it with this guy beyond your hopes for a future? You don’t live together. You don’t have children together. You are not financially entwined with him. And a future with him would be a future with someone you could never really quite trust, correct?

    At this point, you can’t even really say he’s cheating on you. He’s made it clear he has someone else and you have been going along with it for 7 months. You are not his girlfriend anymore Terri, you are his friend with the occasional benefits. Is that enough to look the other way? For another 7 months? How about 7 years?

    It doesn’t matter who you thought this guy was for 2 years – he’s made it clear that this is who he is NOW – and since youv’e been so understanding (mostly) and accomodating why should he change it? He won’t.

    Gotta wonder about the other girlfriend, why is she going along with this arrangement? Ever ask her? Half a man is better than none? Sheesh this is sad.

  17. 18
    zann

    Dear letter writer: I think what upsets me most is that I recognize a little of my younger self in you, AND I recognize a little of my older self in you, too; because the older I get, the more acutely I feel the passing of time, the value of every moment, and the pain of realizing a man I’ve loved and invested my valuable time in is not the one who will be sticking by me to the end. In fact, as in your case, he’s a self-involved creep. Basically, it sucks. But my belief is we’re not here to find the perfect mate; we’re here to treat others well and, just as importantly, to make sure others treat us in kind. To allow someone to use you and disrespect you is just bad for the soul. I think Kenley’s sound advice (#16) pretty much sums it all up, especially about how we misinterpret the “begging me to stay” scenario. Save yourself. And when you’re out there in the world, believe that you did the right thing to preserve your dignity and self-respect, and no relationship with a man should ever jeopardize that. Take care and good luck.

  18. 19
    Diana

    Terri, I am sorry for your pain. The truth is that it will never be just the two of you again as your life with him used to be, which I know is what you are hoping for. At some point, you have to love yourself more than what you feel for him, even though it will be a very painful, but ultimately healthy, healing and growing process for you when you leave him once and for all!

    If relationship issues made him vulnerable to another woman’s charm, then what does that say about him and his character and judgment, and not the relationship? I speak from experience when I ask this. There are several other avenues he could have taken to try and work through the relationship issues besides bedding someone else. And if all other avenues failed, he could have done the right and honorable thing which would have been to break up with you first. Instead, he allowed only his selfishness to guide him. Why would he give you up, when he can have both of you, and seemingly at his beck and call, too?!

    If he is professing that he still loves you, let me make something crystal clear ~ he does NOT love you. He loves what you have to give that makes his life easier and appeases his guilt. He may even think he really does love you, but he is wrong. Real love is revealed through action ~ not empty words. As my mother told me, “Love doesn’t do this,” and she was right.

    I know what it feels like to never want to let go of a wonderful and loving past with someone. What I have done is compartmentalize by separating the two worlds ~ cherishing, but locking away my past, and acknowledging head on the ugly present and the difficult, but necessary and honest acknowledgment of having lived with a lying, deceitful, betraying chameleon.

    You cannot live a whole and happy life based on a falsehood. Is that really what you want? You may think that if he leaves her, you’ll be able to have him again as you were, but you will never have him again. He is no longer the person that you fell in love with.

    Let the truth set you free.

  19. 20
    Diana

    And always remember, Terri, you are worthy of someone who will love and appreciate you in the same way that you will for them. Get the help and support you need to find the inner strength and the courage to leave him.

  20. 21
    Rachelle

    Reading this made my heart hurt as your situation hits home.

    I totally agree with #16 Kenley. He’s keeping you around for purely selfish reasons. I, too, was very flattered when he kept coming back to me thinking that he had feelings for me, but yet he continued to date other women. This on & off relationship went on for 1 1/2 years. I had a guy friend put it plainly to me and saying that the guy just wanted a full roster.

    There comes a time, when enough is enough and believe me, I KNOW it’s easier said then done. Just do it. You will feel so much better leaving him and this drama behind you.

  21. 22
    Joe

    That’s a good scam he has going. He isn’t even lying to her and she’s going along. wonder how that works. personally i couldnt do it, but i just wonder how he does it.

  22. 23
    Michael

    This is far from a story that hasn’t been told before. Something like this (or worse) happens every time a woman with low self-esteem meets a guy who knows how to manipulate.
    This is psychological abuse. He may be able to spend hours justifying his actions and fake-apologizing, but in reality he cares about no one but himself. He knows Terri feels like she may not be able to find another guy (which is ridiculous) and he knows that by planting a strategic “I love you” or “we have something special” he can get away with a vast quantity of garbage.
    And it isn’t the other woman’s fault at all. Of course he blames her for putting him in some kind of mojo spell. Of course he has half a mind to leave her at any moment. Standard Operating Procedure.
    Run, Terri. Run fast. Take comfort in your friends. No man at all is a better option than a man who abuses your insecurities, your emotions and your trust. It’s abuse.

  23. 24
    lorihaah4

    Oy Vay. In my (humble) opinion, Evan was actually too easy on her….. Cut the cord Terry. He’s treating you like dirt because your letting him.

  24. 25
    Nans

    I do agree with Evan’s remarks – right on target. We women tend to be so blind when it comes to relationships. It is a red flag when you start to question the dynamics of the relationships and close friends are telling you what you don’t want/refuse to hear. There are so many good men out there. Don’t waste your time on someone who will only bring you down.

    P.S. Mormons are NOT bigamists/polygamists. They are often confused with Fundamentalists who are polygamists.

  25. 26
    A Reader

    Terri is being played. The guy is a jerk. But I have to disagree with Evan that this other woman is his girlfriend. I don’t care why he’s keeping her secret, the fact is, he IS keeping her secret and has been for months. I don’t think she’s getting such a great deal either.
    I hope I am never so desperate that I put up with nonsense like this just to say I “have a man.” Ain’t no man worth all this. None.

  26. 27
    anette

    I suspect your need to believe you are loved, is causing you to ignore pretty much every warning sign ever given to you. As such, you may want to take the advice Evan has given you and submit yourself to some therapy. Not for your relationship but for you.

    The fact that you write this letter, is an awesome step in the right direction. There is a problem, you know it and hopefully you will at least slowly start to extricate yourself from this situation.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all make mistakes and it can actually take some time to learn to believe in yourself enough to walk away.

    As a woman that has actually been in that same situation(almost), I understand that walking away is extremely difficult. So rather than walk away immediately, take small steps to become more independant. Start refusing to see him when he wishes, and make other plans. Start telling yourself you deserve more and behave as though you do, even if you don’t feel it in your heart.

    Slowly as you do the things that are better for you, you will feel better about yourself and hopefully will eventually find the strength to walk away.

    I can’t tell you what you want to hear and you won’t change this man. So recognize what other’s are saying to you, as they probably have your best interests at heart. Women can be very emotionally vulnerable, and it’s a shame so many of us have had to “toughen” up as a result of people that have taken advantage of us. Just try one step at a time to improve your own life and view of yourself. You will leave when you are ready.

    And yes, you will be strong enough to handle it :)

  27. 28
    Helen

    Oh god. This is so painful to read because I’ve been in your shoes before (in college), Terri, and understand exactly the struggles you’re going through.

    You’re thinking that having someone is better than having no one at all. You’re thinking how lonely you’ll be without a man who occasionally gives you affection. You know that if you left, you would have some painful nights alone, crying and regretting everything. You know that even if you break things off completely, you’ll be tempted to contact him again, begging to come back.

    What can we say to give you faith that if you break things off completely, it WILL get better despite the initial pain? You will fill your life in affirming and wonderful ways. You will make friends if you want, pursue hobbies if you want, even enjoy your time alone in your home. After a few weeks (or even less) alone, you will wonder how the he** you ever put up with him in the first place. You will be angry, but you will be so relieved to be free.

    You can have a wonderful life, Terri, if you have the courage to cut him off completely. It will be much better than what you have now, I guarantee it. You WILL be happier in the end.

  28. 29
    Ruby

    There’s nothing wrong with not dating, but it sounds like Terri needs to find out what self-esteem issues kept her from dating until she was 48. Unfortunately, the first guy she chose is not a winner. The relationship may have been wonderful for over 2 years, but that’s exactly at the point where things would be most likely to lead to marriage, and it was at this point that her boyfriend bailed.

    His new girlfriend may be a secret for now, but eventually she won’t be, and Terri will likely be out of the picture. He is in the process of phasing Terri out once he makes sure that the new relationship can last and he can go public without looking like a total sh-t.

    This man might seem extra-special because she waited so long to meet him, but he is not. Just because she’s older and had little dating experience is no reason to settle for such an insensitive jerk. Move on.

  29. 30
    Ruby

    I also want to say that manipulative men are the worst! They are masters of knowing just what to say and do to keep a woman hooked. But you’ve got to look at their actions, not their words, since they will always tell you what they think you want to hear.

    1. 30.1
      Morgan

      I know I’m going to sound harsh but I think we forget that we are responsible for every situation we are in. Period. Men can be manipulative yes. Women can be manipulative yes. The issue here is the OP is allowing this behavior and there is no one else to blame. Therapy is needed. It’s not impossible to build a self esteem at age 48. Do it! You deserve it!

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