#Love & Sex
by The 4-Way Panel
Our panel of relationship experts gives advice to one reader after her boyfriend’s former spouse suddenly came back into the picture.
I met a guy about two months ago who was just getting out of a marriage and had only been separated for about four months. He assured me that he had worked through his feelings over his failed marriage, so we charged forward. We moved very fast and were inseparable up until about two weeks ago … when his wife decided she wanted him back. I was blown away; I’d seen this coming and totally ignored it. My heart is in shreds and my nerves are shot. He can’t make up his mind, but he still wants to see me. But this woman left him after jerking him around for two years—what’s to go back to? He says he hasn’t been physical with her, but since he’s not been completely honest with me lately, I’m not really sure. In fact, I don’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth, but I want to hold onto him for reasons I’m not entirely sure I understand. Please help.—NS, San Francisco, California
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
I’m so glad to hear you say that you don’t understand why you want to hold onto this situation. Let’s help give you some clarity. First, you can’t control what this guy does or if he is being truthful. It’s pretty important that you get this, so repeat after me: “His actions are out of my control. I cannot change him.”
What are you in control of, NS? You’ve got it—yourself. You have to ask yourself some key questions in order to understand why you want to hang onto a situation in which you can only lose. Are you often attracted to men who are unavailable? I realize that it seemed at first like he might have been available, but you saw rather quickly that he has a lot to work out. Yet you stayed, honey. You stayed. Perhaps you want to rescue him from his ex. Have you found yourself in the rescuer position before? Perhaps you love drama in your life and it feels like his back and forth actions give you a sense of purpose?
Do something for me. Take five slow, deep breaths and feel your feet on the ground. Now repeat after me, “I will have a wonderfully fulfilling life with a man who can truly walk with me.” This guy isn’t it. Walk away, my dear, and create the life you truly want.
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Take the guy and his wife out of the situation. Are you getting what you think you deserve out of this relationship? If not, suck it up and move on, already! For the love of God, it’s only been a few months and you’re already riddled with drama here. This is supposed to be the “getting to know you” phase of the relationship. Be happy that you’re starting to know better than to date this one.
Here’s the thing, muffin, you say he can’t make up his mind, but he still wants to see you. OF COURSE HE DOES! What man wouldn’t? Does his ex wife know that he still wants to see you? I’ll go out on a limb and say HELL NO SHE DOESN’T! As I always say, your gut doesn’t lie. If you think he isn’t being completely honest with you lately, then you’re probably right. You even went as far as to say you “don’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth.” The only reason you want to hang onto this one is because you haven’t found your other side of the pillow yet. And you won’t as long as you’re hung up on this loser. Sorry to be so harsh on the tough love here, but come on, you know what’s right and what’s not. You need to tell him bluntly that you don’t think this is going to work out because he’s clearly not worked through the feelings he has for his ex wife. Then walk away, don’t look back, and rest easy that you made the right decision. Life is short. The dating pool is deep. Dive in, already!
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Marriage or no marriage, I think we’ve all been had by someone we thought was on the same relationship page as us, and I know it hurts. I’m so sorry. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people who are married but awaiting divorce are not dateable material. No matter how much they tell you that their marriage is over, that their spouse is crazy, or that they mentally ended their marriage years ago, marriage is a lifestyle, a habit, and shifting gears without any drama is nearly impossible.
For example, let’s say you decide you want to be a vegetarian, even though you regularly enjoy the meaty deliciousness of bacon. And lo!—you discover a sexy little thing called Fakin’ Bacon and you think, “Now this, oh yes, this might work! It will be all the good of bacon and none of the bad!” And you buy Whole Foods’ entire stock of Fakin’ Bacon and immediately begin slapping it next to every pancake you can find. You give it a good solid try with Fakin’, but one day you wake up to one of two startling realizations: 1) You miss bacon. Maybe you just didn’t try hard enough and maybe you should just give it one more try. Or 2) You don’t need bacon or Fakin’. No, what you need is freedom from the confines of all breakfast meat choices! In fact, maybe you’ll just skip breakfast altogether and fast for a while.
The point is, making a major life change is hard business; it’s confusing and sometimes you think you’re ready to move on when what you really need is some time to process. Your man needs time to process; he may think he doesn’t but trust me—he does. (Spoken like a seasoned divorcee.) That aside, you need to think hard about why you want someone who isn’t sure if he wants you. I hate to get all Dr. Phil on you, but sometimes we hang on to unavailable people because we’re too afraid of failing with the available ones. Take some time to think about all the wonderful things about you. Keep a journal or a list of those things and read them every day until you truly believe that you are bacon (hear you sizzle!)—not Fakin’—and deserve to be treated as such.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
You want to hold onto him because he’s someone special to you. He’s in a complicated situation. As you said, you probably saw it coming but ignored it, hoping it would go away. You knew what you were getting into when you started—this man was on the rebound. I’m sorry to say I agree that you don’t have much control over what decision—or rather indecision—HE has before him right now. You’ve expressed you want to keep dating him. He knows this and is still considering going back to his wife.
Here’s your game plan: don’t let this rebound bounce around anymore. Grab the ball and take a shot. The clock is running out. It’s ultimatum time: you or the wife. Be prepared to break up with him if he wavers and wants more time. Tell him to go work it out with his wife. Not an easy thing, but there are no easy things in this predicament anyway. Let him go back to his wife. If he works it out, chalk one up for the marriage team. If he doesn’t, then he can KNOW that you’re someone special who won’t be “dribbled around,” and he can be sincere in wanting to win you back.
If you’re still available when he realizes this, you’ll have a man who’s ready to play ball and give you the full effort you deserve. Be strong, sometimes a good defense is the best offense.