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My awesome boyfriend is married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  November 25, 2009 09:53 AM

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I imagine that only about half of you are reading today. The rest of you are sitting in traffic.

I’m going to post one letter tomorrow that will carry us through the weekend. I’ll also be posting an update from our friend who hooked up with the bartender. Please comment on both through Sunday night. I don’t want tomorrow’s letter writer to be ignored simply because it’s a holiday.

We’ll still chat at 1 p.m. today.

Here we go with today’s letter:

Q: Dear Meredith,

As a loyal reader of your column, I've hoped that I wouldn't have to write in to seek your valuable insight. Lately, I've been hoping that perhaps someone with a similar problem will write in, and I can glean what to do from your advice to that person. It seems that my problem may be unique--or perhaps there may be more folks who are waiting for someone to finally get the guts to write to you. Well, here I am!

About six months ago, I moved in with my boyfriend. He is the love of my life. Though it's been over a year, we're still on that "honeymoon" period. The sex is wonderful and we get along very well. When we fight, we try to focus more on communication and leaving our emotional reactions aside, in order to get to the real problems. I can't say we're always successful, but we try. He has three children and I adore them. They spend a few nights a week with us, plus every other weekend.

It is a nearly perfect life. The problem? He's still married.

Please keep in mind--he and his wife have been separated (though they do not have a legal separation agreement) for two years now. He's had his own place for that amount of time, only about twenty minutes from his wife and kids. And, to be clear: He was not living with her when we started dating. Our relationship happened well after he moved out. He was honest with me about it, and said that he and his wife were planning on filing for divorce soon. That was over a year ago.

His wife has also moved on and has been dating another guy pretty regularly. My boyfriend and she only really speak on the subject of schedules, how the kids are doing, what bills need to be paid, etc. He is completely honest with me about their relationship. He's even gone so far as to tell me that both his computer and his phone are an open book--I can look at them at any time. For the record, I trust him too much to take him up on that offer. I trust him completely.

The problem is that while I do not question his faithfulness or commitment, it really does bother me that neither he nor his wife have taken steps toward divorce. They've not filed any paperwork. They've not even met to discuss filing paperwork. It seems like they're both comfortable staying married but leading completely separate lives. His wife knows about me -- we've even met a few times and discussed the role I'll play in the lives of the kids.

My boyfriend talks about divorcing. He's just never really done anything about it. It's been put off and put off and put off again, for various reasons. It's clear he wants to, but he's never actually gotten around to doing it.

I did once bring up the fact that it bothers me that he's not taken steps to divorcing and he got angry. It was an ugly and irrational conversation, and it was clear that he felt it wasn't really any of my business -- his relationship with her was completely outside his relationship with me. I disagree, though I’m not sure why. What he says makes a lot of sense -- he's made a commitment to me in every way possible in our situation. Heck, he’s even switched his life insurance policy to be paid to me if (God forbid) anything should happen. But still, the fact that he’s still married continues to bother me.

I’d appreciate your advice on this, Meredith. Do I have the right to demand anything about his former relationship, which has, for all intents and purposes, ended? Why does the formality of a piece of paper matter so much to me? And, perhaps more importantly: If my feelings are valid, how do I go about bringing this up? How do I ensure the conversation goes smoothly? I love him and don't want to lose him, but am also...

– Tired of Being a Mistress, Boston

A: TOBAM, you’re dating someone else’s husband. Your feelings are totally legitimate.

I don’t know whether the issue is money, religion, or laziness. It sort of doesn’t matter. He’s been great to you – and that’s wonderful – but his marital status is very much your business. You have every right to tell him that you want the paperwork done. The whole thing is making you feel bad, and I just can’t see how he can argue that it’s worth putting off any longer.

Explain to him that you think he's a wonderful partner. This isn’t about how he treats you on a day-to-day basis. This is about the fact that you’re technically with a married man and you can’t figure out why. Tell him it’s tainting something that’s otherwise pretty perfect. You’ve gone so far as to talk to his ex about how to be involved with his children. You’ve done the uncomfortable stuff. If he wants you around, it’s his turn.

Also, practically speaking, the more serious you get, the more stuff you’ll own together. It’s fair and wise to want to share things with someone who’s not legally bound to someone else. The life insurance policy thing is all fine and good, but this stuff gets complicated, even between two single people.

As for how to make the conversation go smoothly … use your calm voice. Shower him with love. Tell him how happy you are and that there’s no reason to get angry. But tell him it’s time to admit that this is a legitimate concern. You're not crazy. He knows that. He just needs to talk it through. It might be that he hasn't admitted his concerns to himself, so be patient. Just remain assertive. You're in the right.

Readers? Thoughts.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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