Should I Choose My Old Flame Over My Safe Boyfriend?

Should I Choose My Old Flame Over My Safe Boyfriend?

Evan, I’ve been involved with Ken for two years. I met him through friends. He isn’t exactly who I envisioned and we’ve had some tough challenges along the way. I think he’s handsome, and I know he’s ethical, devoted and loves me totally. I love him too but my physical attraction to him has never been strong.

I took a break from him when my Mom died and went back to my hometown. I was praying to my Mom and God to help me to know the way. And then standing at the foot of the lake I met Jim from my High School. It was instant attraction for both of us. We have much in common and there is a sense of joy I’ve not known before. Here’s the catch. Jim had a long affair while he was married which he told me without prompting.

I got scared and Ken kept working to win me back. What I have with Ken is very good. He’s a great friend, I like him and we have things in common too. But I still think of Jim and I know he thinks of me.

I don’t want to throw something away with Ken and have regret. Jim feels we’re meant for each other and his family and friends do too. How do I come to what’s best for everyone?

I would love your insight very much. It’s been thrilling to see your success.

Warm Regards,

Dear Patty,

My heart breaks for you, darling.

You lost your Mom and your head is reeling.

You’re praying to God for dating advice.

You’re thinking of giving up your ethical devoted boyfriend for a man who is a proven cheater.

And if that wasn’t enough, you’re asking to “come to what’s best for everyone.”

The only person who decides what’s best for you is YOU. Got it?

Really, you’re making this way harder on yourself than you have to.

Let’s work backwards.

His family and friends think it’s best if you’re with High School Cheater Jim. Fuck them. They don’t have a vote.

Neither does High School Cheater Jim or Devoted Ken. They want what’s best for them, not what’s best for you.

The only person who decides what’s best for you is YOU. Got it?

Everyone else’s opinions are irrelevant. Yes, including my own.

But that’s not gonna stop me, of course.

Now, let’s understand that there are exceptions to every rule and aphorism out there. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t truth to be found in: “When someone shows you who he is, believe him.” And “One in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Jim has shown you who he is. He’s an admitted cheater and borderline homewrecker who is trying to leverage the weight of his family and friends to convince you to leave your relationship.

You want to willfully ignore all this because you feel more attraction towards him.


You HAVE a man who is husband-worthy. How do I know this when I’ve never even met him? It’s because you’ve chosen to date him for two years — and most women aren’t big on wasting time on men who don’t have husband potential. You’ve described him as “handsome, ethical, devoted and loves me totally.” And you wrote: “What I have with Ken is very good. He’s a great friend, I like him and we have things in common too.”

And you’re willing to throw that all away for the wild-card that is Jim.

I know: the heart wants what the heart wants.

But does the heart really know what it’s doing? And is it actually the heart that’s making your decisions for you? I’m betting it’s not.

Barry Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice”, spoke to Lori Gottlieb when she was writing “Marry Him” .

He put things in a very plainspoken way that I’d like to paraphrase for you, Patty.

I know: the heart wants what the heart wants. But does the heart really know what it’s doing? And is it actually the heart that’s making your decisions for you?

Basically, he said, we have to make choices with tradeoffs. When you find an amazing guy, like Ken, who may be an 8 on a 1-10 scale, you think of him as marriage material. But then, after a few years, you get accustomed to him. You see his flaws. He becomes more predictable and less exciting. Suddenly, your feelings drop from an 8 to a 6.

You start telling yourself that you could do better. And along comes a guy like Jim. Your attraction to him makes him feel like a 10.

You make your decision. You’re going to toss out your 8 (who turned into a 6) for an exciting, passionate 10.


What you haven’t calculated is this:

Your “10” is going to have his own set of issues, which you may or may not be able to deal with on a daily basis. Attraction is not a solid foundation for a long-term relationship. Good communication and shared values is a much better predictor of success.

So you may be thrilled to get that extra rush of dopamine that comes from your initial attraction to Ken, but one day, that feeling is going to subside — for both of you.

Alas, your 10 will magically morph into a 6 as well. You may be able to put up with his issues (anger, jealousy, bossy, stubborn, busy?) but Jim may decide that, after a few years of marriage to you, that he’d like to find a 10 that he’s more passionate about.

That’s right. Even if your feelings for Jim stay strong, there will always be an undercurrent of fear in your relationship.

It would be like being in the witness protection program; all you can do is hope that the status quo continues to hold. You pray that the cheater has really retired from cheating, even though you have no control over his actions.

So, to bring it on home, when thinking of building a 40-year relationship, you’d better ask who is the safer bet.

Is it the ethical, devoted guy? Or the cheater?

I don’t judge you for choosing the cheater.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if I got another email from you in 5 years either.

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  1. 41

    I’ve been a Patty before, and I left my Ken, after that it’s all downhill dating. That’s why I’m on Evan’s site looking for advice. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what advice Patty hears, she will not appreciate what she has until she loses it completely. I’ve been there and sometimes I regret my decision, sometimes I don’t. If there’s one good that came out from it, is that I will cherish what I have and start looking for happiness from within, and not always attribute my unhappiness to the person I’m with. Passion fades, character is what sustains.

  2. 42

    I agree with both Hope and Nathan and would like to add that if  OP doesn’t feel as strongly for Ken as she needs to after two years, but continues to date him without him knowing how she truly feels, then she is basically using him. Holding onto someone that you really do not feel strongly about just because he is a good man is selfish and unfair to that person–especially if she is contemplating dumping the person for someone else. She cannot force herself to feel something that she doesn’t truly feel. The honorable thing to do would be to let him go so that he can find someone who will love him the way in which he deserves to be loved.

  3. 44

    At any point has anybody considered what ken might want in this clusterfuck of a situation. It appears to about HER feelings towards both men, HER attraction to both, HER moral dilemma, HER recreation of times gone past, HER choosing bad-boy over good stable provider, HER needs, quite frankly she doesnt deserve either and sounds like a truly selfish person

    1. 44.1

      I posted my comment before I read yours. On the money. Except I think she deserves cheater guy because they both value the superficial. Seriously considering cheater guy means she’s not devoted to reliable guy.

  4. 45
    Karl R

    onme asked: (#45)
    “At any point has anybody considered what ken might want in this clusterfuck of a situation.”
    Of course, but Ken’s not asking for advice. It’s unlikely that he’s even reading this blog. There’s no point in advising him.
    Furthermore, I suspect that what Ken wants (Patty) is different than what’s best for him.

  5. 46

    i’m crying so bad because this happened to me…   but i cheated on my wonderful boyfriend of 2 years with my ex with whom i had crazy atraction and now my ex is blackmailling me. he as no proves but still…

  6. 47

    I will admit, I haven’t read all of the comments above, but I have been in a situation where I have been the cheater. I know its not right. I was in a relationship where my partner didn’t want to be intimate with me. Over the years it got to me. I loved him, but was feeling like I deserved more for my life. I wanted passion, I wanted life. After so many conversations of how to try and increase his sex drive, I got fatigued. I questioned why I had to have this conversation. Why should this be hard? During this, I was in touch with an ex-boyfriend (our past relationship – we had ended quickly and swiftly due to my own (and his) need for growth and experience). We had reconnected through social media. We met up, had dates and he made me feel like a woman. It was a slow start and he was very gentlemanly, but he believed we were meant to be together, and collateral damage was an unfortunate outcome). He was so giving and loving, and honest (and because I had known him for more than six years, I had known this to be true). He was like freshly baked bread, untainted and soul-filling. So as our affair went on (1 year later) I left my partner. As soon as I left him, it felt wrong to be with my new love. I waited for two months for the dust to settle, but still it wasn’t what my inner compass was telling me to pursue. I am as baffled as everyone else to this. To turn down someone so pure of heart who will love me for the rest of my life and call me their ‘sweetheart’, its the stuff dreams are made of. I am continuing my journey with my first partner. He is where my heart lead me. I don’t know why. I am continually dealing with the sadness and hollow space left from my other love, but I know it is the way things must go. If you don’t follow your intuition, you will never realize your full potential. Here’s to preserving the love we shared in my heart.

  7. 48

    For what it’s worth, I feel if you’re hemming and hawing about the “perfect” boyfriend then it’s a signal that you have to evaluate that relationship, or your expectations about it. I tried to date “nice” men that I wasn’t attracted to, and they ended up often being more disastrous than the bad-prospect exciting ones. So don’t force yourself to be somewhere just because it seems to make sense.   Really the best relationship advice for anyone in any situation is to work on yourself–really question why you want certain things. Is it because that person  really complements you? Or are you trying to make up for some kind of void and are looking for someone else to fill it for you?

    And as for cheating–well, we all make mistakes. I know what men are capable of and I think if cheating is the worst thing to ever happen to you in a relationship, you’re lucky. I think most people have been guilty of indiscretion and if you are willing to admit to wrongdoing and commit to doing better, then you are a better person for having learned from it. I never force people to be faithful–it has to be a choice from the heart, not an obligation. It’s when people feel trapped and unable to communicate their feelings that they stray.

  8. 49
    Russell sandra

    thank you for your story awesome  

  9. 50

    Evan’s advice is BRILLIANT.

    He get’s it.  He’s right.

    When I was young, there was so much I didn’t understand. Chemistry led me astray more than once. Now I understand about creating love – not hoping to fall into it!

  10. 51

    This is another example–as are many of the questions here–of FOMO.
    I’ll paraphrase:
    “My current guy is amazing, but I wish he were a little better-looking. So I’ve met this other guy, who’s gorgeous. What if he’s my soul mate, and we’re meant to be??? I’ll gladly sacrifice everything my current guy provides for the thrill of Mr. Handsome.”
    I disagree w/ Evan that she thinks the first guy is husband material. If she did, she wouldn’t have to “take a break” from him during a difficult time; she would have wanted his support. And most likely he would’ve been there for her. I think he’s her “safety net.”

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