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Dating a guy who's still married

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  November 9, 2011 08:33 AM

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Hi. Here's a link for today's chat.

Q: Meredith,

I have been in a long-term, long-distance relationship with someone that I care for deeply. We are both mid-50s, have already had our families, have each had substantial therapy, and now have a loving relationship based on sincere open and honest communication.

The long-distance is not a problem -- we actually like it -- but he's still married after many years and that has become a problem for me. I got my divorce finalized a few years ago and am so relieved to have it over. He has not moved on his divorce, claiming he didn't want "to rock the boat" when he moved out. Now, years later, his not-yet-ex has calmed down but is still a loose cannon. He says being technically married doesn't or shouldn't matter. He feels guilty about hurting her feelings. I think he is intimidated by her and afraid for how she might take it out on their children, plus, he doesn’t want to pay for a divorce lawyer. If he is waiting for her to make the first move, she has no motivation. It's never going to happen. She has the big house and all the trappings of a suburban housewife without letting on to the rest of the world what is really happening.

Despite our pride in our honest, open relationship, he has had a brick wall about this subject until I made an issue of it recently. We have no plans to get married; we don't even plan to move to one coast or the other. I truly do not think he would ever go back to his wife. Every day when he tells me he loves me, in the back of my head I think, "... but not enough to get divorced." And every day when I tell him that I love him, in the back of my mind I think, "... but I can't completely because he's not really available."

I don't know if I'm off base here. My usual reaction would be to cut and run, but everything else is so good with him. In the spirit of our openness, I kept talking and did not give up and neither did he. He finally realized that he had to explain himself to me and at least told me of the guilt factor. If the guilt is so strong, why doesn't he make amends?

Am I making this into too big a deal? Does it matter? Is this a deal breaker? Or is it ill-fated? I'm tired of dating a married man.

– Limbo Lady, Boston

A: This is a big deal, LL. You're dating a married man and you don't like it. Your comfort should mean more to him than his fear of causing trouble with his ex.

I do think that it's a deal-breaker. If he wants you, he can't be with her -- not in real life, not on paper.

Demand the divorce. Tell him that if he doesn't know how to start the process, he should head back to his therapist (and yes, pay for a lawyer).

And ... let me throw just one more thing out there, if you don't mind. You say that the distance doesn’t bother you, but ... doesn't it? Just a little bit?

I'm all for personal space, and I condone long-distance relationships that are either short-term or in neighboring cities, but for the most part, it's best to be physically close to the one you love. This distance is allowing him to avoid his responsibilities and to lie to his ex. It's certainly allowing him to remain stagnant with you. I want you to ask yourself: What is the plan for the future? How should this relationship look in two years? Does the distance really work?

Be honest. You're allowed to ask for everything you want.

Readers? Should she demand the divorce? Why isn't he getting divorced? Is age relevant here? Should she walk? Does the divorce paperwork really matter? What about the distance? Help.

– 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.
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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.

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