[Two Pronged] I'm separated and he's married
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I’m separated and now with a partner younger than me by 4 years. He's married and I knew it from the start but I still didn’t mind. We’ve been together 4 years now and still getting better and growing together. Do you think I'm stupid to continue this? Is this really love or just a companionship? We are in our mid-40s now. Sometimes I feel insecure – is it normal? But then he always says that we just live life to the fullest and he doesn't want me to feel jealous.
You have given us the most parsimonious account (a miserly 87 words) of your situation and then asked 3 questions which go to the very heart of your relationship and are obviously of serious concern to you:
- Do you think I’m stupid to continue this?
- Is this really love or just a companionship?
- Sometimes I feel insecure – is it normal?
I think that the answers lie in your expectations for this relationship, expectations which you have singularly failed to share.
Of course there are an infinite number of scenarios. At the most positive end of the spectrum, you and your husband have separated amicably and he has gone off to have a new life, expressing no interest in how yours develops. Your current partner (let’s call him Ramon) has also parted company with his wife, with whom he has no children, on similar terms and so you are able to live together without interference from outside sources.
In these circumstances you are equals, the relationship is not “stupid” and it has every chance to flourish. Love rather than companionship might then be a reasonable aspiration.
At the other end of the spectrum, your husband is vengeful while Ramon is still very close to his wife and children, keeping his relationship with you a secret. Any relationship you try to develop with Ramon will be subject to the endless demands of this secrecy, trying to find time to be together etc. In this case you are effectively Ramon’s mistress, not his equal, and any expectation that the relationship will grow will probably be illusory.
Admittedly, mistresses can occasionally get promoted to the status of wives but, as James Goldsmith famously remarked, “When you marry your mistress you create a vacancy."
Where you fit in this spectrum only you know. You give the impression that it is closer to the first scenario than the second but your final sentence (“he always says that we just live life to the fullest and he doesn’t want me to feel jealous”) is at odds with any sense of middle-aged bliss. This sounds as though he wants to play the field, to have his cake and eat it, and will cast you aside as and when he tires of you. If this is a correct understanding, then you have every right to feel insecure.
Hopefully the above will give you a framework within which to find where you stand and what your options are. Please write again if you wish to share more details.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. The answers I give to your 3 questions will be different from Mr Baer’s, but that is because, being a former banker loathe to give false hope to clients hoping for a loan, he answers seemingly theoretical questions with theoretical answers which can be damn frustrating, but can also give you a clear picture of how far you are from the ideal.
1. Do you think I’m stupid to continue this? Many would say yes, but that is only if you hope this relationship will continue the way it is forever. Like beauty, stupidity is in the eye of the beholder and if you are getting what you want from this relationship right here and right now, who is to say you are stupid? One caveat: If what you want is reassurance of a long term future together, then yes, it would be unrealistic (and therefore stupid) to continue this as is.
2. Is this really love or just a companionship? Because what may be love to you may only be companionship to him. Let us focus only on your feelings, okay? It sounds like it could be your idea of love, since you have been with him for 4 years despite no encouragement on his part that your discomfort – keeping this a secret, not being with him in the open etc – will turn into something better for you in the future.
3. Sometimes I feel insecure – is it normal? Yes. It is normal and it would, in fact, be quite fanciful for you NOT to feel insecure. Insecure because of the actual situation you are in, but also because of what he keeps telling you, which mirrors what he feels in the relationship:
He says to you "just live life to the fullest." Is this because this is all he can give and/or this is the best you both can have?
He also says “(I) don't want you to feel jealous.”Does he add because there is no reason to be? You are the one Iove? Or is it possible he is hoping you connect the dots "because this is as much as I can give you?"
In my clinical experience, many mistresses say or actually want to leave, but see no other viable option, consoling themselves that half a loaf is better than none...which, of course, leads to many depressive thoughts.
And yet, maybe there are far more options between half or no loaf? The best is not needing a partner for validation. Right now, you may have convinced yourself you are not that brave but oftentimes it is society or one’s upbringing that has encouraged such defeatist thoughts.
Can you change from being a mistress worrying what will become of you to a woman discovering all the other options available to her? This will take effort and humility. This will take being brave enough to ignore the naysayers who have not matured from what your religion and education taught you many years ago, but you can do it.
As Einstein says: You cannot solve your problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.