Q: A few years ago my husband and I were separated for six months. We both felt like our marriage was ending -- we were living far from family and friends and we had no resources (like counseling) available to help us deal with it. The situation was miserable but we resolved to maintain a friendly co-parenting relationship. I moved back to Boston for work with our two small children -- absolutely the toughest months of my life. After a few more months, he landed a job here and moved.
Well, many of our older problems started to seem kind of trivial and we discovered that there were some very strong parts of our 10-year relationship that had survived. It seemed natural to start spending all our free time together, and after a few months he moved back in. He still tells me every day how much he loves me and how grateful he is for this second chance. We're making plans for buying a house. We're talking about having more children (we had both always dreamed of a big family). We have great friends and family who are happy to see us back together. And thankfully our children barely remember the time we were separated. Sometimes it seems like a bad dream -- although we both learned a lot about ourselves during that time and hopefully came out of it wiser.
Our relationship had several issues that led to the separation. We were married young and after 10 years, there were still issues both of us needed to resolve. But the immediate trigger was (of course!) another woman. She was quite a bit younger and she believed whatever he told her -- that he already planning to leave me, that he was sleeping on the couch, that he was staying around for the kids, etc. Now that we're back together, she still holds onto the idea that he's just sticking it out with me until our children grow older and will then be "free" again. She still e-mails him and tries to make plans with him occasionally. He answers her e-mails but hasn't seen her in person -- mostly he just tells her he's busy.
I would like him to set the record straight with her and explain that he was not quite so "finished" with his marriage as he made it appear. He doesn't think it's right to burden her with the knowledge that he lied and says she'll eventually figure out that he's serious about staying in our marriage and growing old with me. He says she's naive and a bit silly but genuinely a nice person and he doesn't want to hurt her feelings. What do you think? Would it be kinder for him to tell her the truth? It would certainly make me feel better, but then again, he hasn't done anything in these few years to give me a reason to worry and I don't want to be paranoid about this.
– The Other Woman Won't Give Up, Boston
A: You're right and your husband's wrong, TOWWGU.
There are only two reasons for your husband to be vague about his marital status with this other woman. Reason 1) He wants to know that she'll be waiting for him, just in case. Reason 2) He's behaving like a big-time coward because he feels ridiculous about leading her on for so long.
It's probably 2. It's usually 2. But 2 is still pretty bad. Yes, this woman should take the hint and stop waiting around for a guy who's living with his wife, but your husband is giving her reason to be confused.
He has to tell her for her sanity. He has to tell her for your sanity. He has to tell her because marital do-overs take courage. Your husband needs to prove he has some.
Your gut is right. By not being the bad guy, he's being the bad guy. It's sort of inexcusable.
Send him a link to this. Because I think everyone's going to agree with me (and you).
Readers? Is he really scared to hurt this other woman's feelings? Does he have to be cruel to be kind? Does he want this other woman around as a back-up plan? How can the letter writer make her husband understand why this is cowardly? Talk.
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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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.