Q: Help, I'm no spring chicken -- age 62 and really new to relationships. Was formerly married for 35 years, but divorced five years ago, dated a number of times since. Met a very interesting, never-been-married woman about four months ago. Instant attraction, nothing I've ever experienced. She is 55 had a 20 year relationship, but never married and has dated many people since. Intimacy with her is great, great, great.
I am looking for a long-term committed relationship. She was unsure about commitment, but we decided to take it one day at a time. She asked me not to fall in love with her, but as the weeks progressed she fell in love with me. My problem: she has a lot of exes, at least six that she still talks with on the telephone and goes to visit. She is in sales and travels periodically, meeting her exes. Four of her exes are married. They were when she became involved with them and she sees them either out of town or when their wives are away.
She sees one ex at her house weekly where he helps with household projects and he leaves her money to help her with household expenses. He has expected intimacy, and she has complied, but doesn't like it. I didn't know she was seeing him during the day and me at night. She recently traveled 250 miles to meet one of her married guys for a mid-week rendezvous. I was shocked, but our relationship was progressing very nicely and she has been totally honest about her relationships.
She tells me I am the best thing that has happened to her ever and wants a long-term committed relationship, but she is afraid if she dumps all the "losers" in her life, I will dump her. She has told almost all of the guys that she has met someone special. Two dumped her because they wanted her to be exclusive. Two have told her there has never been any long-term future and if she finds someone special she should take advantage. All of these relationships have been going on for six, eight, or 10 years, but she has confessed to a number of traveling affairs lasting weeks. I have no idea how many. Since I am the new guy, I didn't feel it right to demand she stop seeing her "friends," that I should be patient and let our relationship develop or crash and burn.
Her longest relationship has returned after eight months of being away. I told her if she went back with him, our time was over, and she told me she was going to end it. The week he was to return he called to report that he is ill. Now she feels obligated to be there for him during his surgery and recuperation. Nobody knows what this means because they won't know the extent of the damage until surgery, which is still weeks away. I think this means all summer at a minimum, maybe longer. Making matters more complicated is he has no one else and no money, she's on a tight budget also, but because she hasn't told him about the other guys in her life she feels guilty and needs to be there for him.
Should I run quicker than ever or should I stay and let her relationship with this man play itself out? I have told her she needs to be honest with me and him, but she can't with him because of the situation. She said she wants a future with me. I think the only reason I've stayed this long is because we are very good together and she has been totally and painfully honest with me. Part of me feels that she is addicted to intimacy without commitment and that is part of the problem.
I feel like I should say, "I need to leave, I can't deal with the emotional strain and only seeing you part-time for the next few months. When you get your life in order, call me, maybe we can get together at that time."
– Should I Run?, Vermont
A: Wow. I wish I could get a visual on this woman.
I sort of understand how this happened, SIR. She's like a drug with highs, lows, and terrible side-effects. It's not shocking that you got caught up in the excitement. It is shocking that this ridiculousness has lasted this long.
I don't object to her helping the sick ex. That's the one thing that doesn't bother me. It wouldn't bother you either if all the other stuff wasn't happening -- if she wasn't hooking up with guys who leave her money, if she wasn't traveling for dates and telling you about it, and if she wasn't constantly going on "sales calls." If these four months had been more about you, you wouldn't object to her helping someone in need. And for the record, she gets no points for honesty. It's great that she tells you everything, but what she's telling you is pretty awful. It's not any less awful because you haven't been lied to.
I'd run. I'm just not convinced she can give you the long-term relationship you say you want. You suspect that she might be into you because you've been open to a no-strings-attached relationship. I suspect that you're only into her because she's the greatest, sexiest challenge you've ever known. That gets old after a while.
There are a lot of women out there who are super sexy and manage to survive on their own without maintaining six boyfriends at once. I'd look around for one of those. This is the life this woman has chosen. I'm just not convinced she wants to have it any other way.
Readers? Have any empathy for this guy? Is he addicted to the excitement? Should she get any credit for being so honest with him? Is it wrong for her to help her sick ex? Discuss.
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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.