He wants me, but he also wants to have affairs

by Orsolya Frank PhD
(Budapest)

The Question


Hi Noel,

I am a woman whose loved one is, I believe, experiencing a midlife crisis. I am so glad you exist and are willing to read and answer my question. If there is a sliver of a chance to save my relationship with my partner I don't want to miss it.

The story is complicated but I shall try to make it as brief as possible. Six years ago his marriage of 23 years broke up. I had been a family friend for some months and he approached me and a relationship began.

The sex was a wonder throughout, for both of us, but I am earnest and monogamous and did not understand his desire to 'try out' other, lighter affairs on the side. I am 13 years younger than him, attractive and sexy. We share everything in terms of intellect, sense of humour, value system, life style etc. For four years we were happy but then I had a very tough year, with my ex-husband dying, my kids in grief, I was tense, no joy to be with and he broke away.

He had an affair which is now over, and our relationship has improved really tremendously since then and has the makings of a lovely, deep, good second relationship, BUT he is still ravenous for other affairs.

For months he has made every effort to keep me close by as a friend. I made an emphatic declaration that I know what he is involved in, I know it is tense and difficult and I know he must go through with it. I do not wish to know the 'gory details' and I want him to lie about it or keep it hidden to spare me pain.

Every time we meet we seem closer but he is nowhere near COMMITTING to me. My life is unspeakable pain, we really were made for each other, I cannot let go, yet I tell myself every day to leave because it is damaging to live with so much pain.

I don't mind hurting - but please, if you know of anything I can do, you seeing it from a man's side, let me know. He is a rational, level-headed, sensitive, honest, warm guy of 55 but he will not stand his freedom being limited. He very clearly doesn't want to lose me, and it seems to me I have two choices - go away, which is impossibly painful, or stay close by knowing I might lose him any day and crave in vain for commitment, which is incredibly painful.

What shall I do? I really look forward to hearing from you.

Noel's answer

Please read over my answers to the other women who have asked similar questions.

I do not know what you should do, but I do suggest that with HIV and AIDS being realities these days, having sex with him will become increasingly dangerous as his affairs go on. Before sleeping with him again, you might want to insist he get an AIDS test.

You might also want to decide what you want to do with your life with or without him in it, and go ahead and live it that way. There is no predicting what he will finally do, and chances are the waiting is more painful than simply letting him go and moving on.

His insistence on having affairs suggests to me that he is looking outside for something can only be found inside. I have a book coming out in a few weeks called "A Harley or my Wife", and one chapter deals with this kind of searching in men.

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