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Featured in Personal Transformation magazine,
Anniversary 2000, Issue 38
Marilyn Barrick recommends processes to help sort
through marriage and affair
Marilyn Barrick has more than 39 years experience as a clinical psychologist and relationship counselor,
specializing in transformational work.
"Caught in a Tangled Web"
QUESTION: I don't know what to do. I'm a 47-year-old successful businessman with a wife and two kids who are now in college. I've lived by spiritual principles and tried to be a good man. I've been faithful to my wife until this last year when I fell in love with a beautiful younger woman. My business partner has distanced himself from me; my wife doesn't know and I can't bear to hurt her. I don't want to destroy my family life yet I can't give up this relationship and the love I feel for this woman. How do I sort this out?
MARILYN BARRICK: It is difficult to be in love with two women at once, especially when you know that whatever decision you make is going to hurt someone. Let's try a sorting-out process to guide you toward a decision.
First, tune into your thoughts and feelings in three possible scenarios. One: Do nothing and keep living a double life. Two: Leave your wife and try to make a go of it with the younger woman. Three: Stay with your wife and let go of the other woman. Imagine one scene at a time as though it were already a done deal. Probe your deepest thoughts and feelings and answer these questions: Am I in sync with my spiritual principles? Do I still think of myself as a good man? What are my good and not-so-good feelings in this scenario? Am I at peace with my decision? If not, why not?
Second, take an inventory of both relationships. Start with your wife. Your phrase, "I can't bear to hurt her," tells me you still have feelings for her. Think back to when you first fell in love and remember the good times you had as a couple and as a family over the years. Write down your thoughts and feelings as they were at the beginning of the relationship and as you have weathered the years together. Write down the pluses and minuses of the relationship with your wife.
Now think about the relationship with your new love. Reflect on the way you feel about her now, and how the relationship might be 20 years from now. Ask yourself, "How is she going to look at me when I am 67 and she is (?) How will I feel as she begins to age?" Write down your thoughts and feelings in the now, and in the projected future. Write down the pluses and minuses of this relationship now and 20 years hence.
Ask some tough questions: Scenario one: How will I feel about myself if I keep living a double life and my wife or children find out? What if their reactions are so intense that the younger woman can't cope with it? Am I being fair to her by continuing a relationship that has no future if I don't leavemy wife? How will I handle it if end up losing both relationships?
Scenario two: How will my wife take the break-up and divorce if I leave her? How will I feel knowing how much I am hurting her? How will our children react? How about my business partner, since he's already distancing himself? What will be the financial impact after property settlement, alimony and whatever it takes to help our children finish college?
Scenario three: How will my new love take the break-up if I leave her? How will I feel knowing I am hurting her? Will there be complications if she gets angry with me? What if she tells my wife and children we have been involved? How will I handle that? What if she tires of me over time and ends up leaving me for a younger man? How would I feel then?
Realistically, it isn't likely you can keep both situations going. In
my 35 years as a psychotherapist, I haven't seen it work except in the
movies. In real life, people get hurt. They experience the anguish of loss
if nothing else, the loss of the dream of what might have been.
You have free will to choose, and no one can make this choice for
you. However, let's consider other factors. There really is such a thing
as "mid-life crisis," for men as well as women. Some of it is hormonal;
much is psychological. We feel somehow younger and more virile
when we are involved with younger people. All of us want to hold onto
the springtime of youth and love.
In reality, we grow older and love changes as relationships move
through time. I think of enduring relationships as Elizabeth Barrett
Browning poetically described, "Grow old with me, the best is yet
to come, the last for which the first was made." Growing pains in marriage can produce golden years of togetherness where we relax into being ourselves rather than the person someone else expects us to be. We learn to love the essence of one another and to put up with each other's flaws, which creates the blessed experience of being loved for who we really are.
Research indicates that couples who enjoy loving, satisfying marriages make a lifetime commitment to marriage; nurture their love and devotion; respect, trust and support one another; communicate openly; and encourage each other's individuality. Happy couples share values,
time, and interests as well as sexual fulfillment and/or companionate
love, the affection people feel for those with whom their lives are
deeply entwined even when physical attraction wanes.
Whatever choice you make, strive to be true to self and Spirit.
Pray for right discrimination, inner strength and the highest levels of
compassion for everyone concerned as you make your decision
and follow through. Take each step with prayerful, loving concern for
Dr. Marilyn Barrick specializes in spiritual-transformational work for the healing of soul and spirit.
Her illumining books, Sacred Psychology of Love, Sacred Psychology of Change, DREAMS: Exploring the Secrets of Your Soul, EMOTIONS: Transforming Anger, Fear and Pain, SOUL REFLECTIONS: Many Lives, Many Journeys,
A Spiritual Approach to Parenting: Secrets of Raising the 21st Century Child, and Everything Is Energy: New Ways to Heal Your Body, Mind & Spirit are available in fine bookstores.
To order direct, call 1-800-245-5445 or 406-848-9500 outside the U.S.A.