Relationship Connection: Is it wrong to date a married man who is separated from his wife?

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Question

I’m in my early twenties and I’m dating a married guy who has been separated from his wife for almost a year. He is trying to get divorced, but she’s delaying it. We live in different cities, so we mostly talk by text and phone. I know it looks bad from the outside, but we have never been physical with each other and I know he’s the kind of guy I would love to be married to.

I’ve dated other guys before and this guy has the qualities I most admire. I’ve told my parents about it and they are all encouraging me to break it off just because he’s still married. Yes, on paper he’s married, but he would be divorced if she would just cooperate. I’m confused by everyone’s reactions. It feels right, especially because we’re respecting physical boundaries.

Is this really something I should break off?

Answer

Your parents aren’t overreacting to your decision to date a married man. They’re looking out for your emotional and relational welfare. Please trust their counsel, even though it doesn’t make sense to you right now. I’ll share some thoughts on why I support their position.

First of all, if marriage means something to you, then it needs to mean something to this guy, even if the timing seems inconvenient. He made a commitment to his wife and children that he needs to resolve before he moves on and starts making other commitments. My guess is his wife has no idea that he’s dating. He can tell himself (and you) that it’s just a technicality that he’s still married, but that kind of rationalization should be a red flag as you evaluate his integrity. It’s a really bad idea to begin a marriage with someone who is breaking the rules about the very security and commitment you will depend on for the rest of your life.

After almost twenty years of counseling with individuals and couples, I have heard just about every rationalization for stepping out of marriage to have an affair. In the end, they’re all just excuses to justify selfishness. People who get caught up in emotional and physical affairs believe they are special and that they’re exception to the rule. They believe their feelings are unique and that no one else could possibly understand. These delusions lead to outcomes that are difficult to reverse and only create more pain and disappointment.

I recognize he’s telling you that he’s not interested in staying married and that he will likely be divorced. However, it’s possible there is more going on with his marriage that you don’t understand. He not only needs to finish his process, but he’ll also need some time to adjust to post-divorce life. If he has children, it’s a bad idea for him to immediately introduce you into his life as soon as the papers are signed. If you’re in a hurry to be married, this guy may take longer than you want to be ready for remarriage.

Also, please consider that the long-distance is likely working for him because he can keep you from being discovered. However, the problem is that while you’re on the hook to be in this relationship, you can’t get to know him better in his own environment. You can’t meet his friends, his children, or his family. You’ll continue to remain a mystery to each other under these conditions.

You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who can publicly profess his love and interest for you. As it stands, he’s hiding you from others and, consequently, you have agreed to stay in hiding so it doesn’t reveal his secret. A healthy relationship doesn’t need to be hidden from others.

You don’t want to go into a marriage with regrets or excuses. I strongly recommend you cut off contact with him until he’s not married anymore and ready to begin dating openly. You don’t want to begin a relationship with a lie.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • ladybugavenger May 31, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Holy cow lady! Get away from married men! To answer your question: yes, it is wrong. Leave him alone.

  • Hataalii May 31, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Amen to what both Geoff and LBA said! Even if what this man is telling you is 100% true, (which it probably isn’t,) at this time, he is just trouble. And he may not even realize it!
    When someone is leaving a marriage, or long term relationship, it takes time for them to readjust to life.
    Back off, and give both you and him a year or so, to figure out what you really want and need! If, by then he actually is divorced, and you both want to start the relationship again, then it’s a different story.

  • Rob83 May 31, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Geoff knows what he is talking about, he helped my family in the past. I dated a married guy once and he seemed super special too, that’s because he really didn’t give a crap about me and broke up with me to stay with his wife. I found out later of course the truth, take my advice too, respect a marriage period, if you want the same respect when you are married. It’s not impossible to file a divorce and if he was serious about you, he’d take every step towards the divorce. He cant be forced to stay married because she wants to make his life hard, unless he has a lot to lose and he is not ready for that.

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