What I am about to tell you is, of course, only one side of this marital mess I am in, but here goes.

I married my wife out of obligation. She talked me into buying a house before we were married. We had a son before we were married, and I was a new father-figure in her three children’s lives.

Even though I had known a deeper love with two other women before exchanging vows with my wife, and knowing I may never have similar feelings for her, I felt I was letting down too many people not taking that leap. Sixteen years later, I regret it very much.

I love my wife. Am I in love? I don’t feel so. Do I need to be? That I don’t know. Do I want to be…yes. So the question is, why am I now finally seeing things this way?

I’ve led a double life. On one hand, I have participated in this marriage with seemingly little discomfort. The in-laws had no idea I was lonely, nor did my wife or kids. I would simply put more of myself into my work when I needed a break from marital loneliness and lack of passion.

I told myself when the youngest child graduates, I would be in a position to find my true love, and that I wouldn’t grow old with a loneliness so fierce I daydream of getting a disease, dying and being out of the relationship.

This summer I felt a deep love for the first time in 20 years. I have no plans to be with this woman. She isn’t in a position to change her life for another man, and if she did, I doubt we would succeed in the long run. But the feelings are still vivid and powerful.

It’s as if she entered my life by fate, placed here to remind me that the real thing is within reach if I want it enough.

I moved out five months ago. My wife threw my clothes out of the house. She sensed I was emotionally disconnected (absolutely) and was choosing other interests over her (yes). She gave me a choice. I chose to leave.

As obvious as it may seem to others, I still don’t know if I am doing the right thing by considering divorce. Our relationship was not a total disaster, only in the ways that matter to a hopeless romantic like me. I feel selfish at times. I feel terrible for leading my wife down this long road only to reveal my truth so many years later.

I am seeing a counselor but would love your thoughts on this.

~ Tom

Tom, your inner turmoil is a measure of your goodness. You feel bad for the effect you will have on other people. But you know you weren’t the sole cause of this—you should have put the brakes on—but you know you weren’t the sole cause.

She was looking for a daddy for three children she already had. Birth control? She had three kids. She knew, “We are not married. I probably shouldn’t get pregnant.” And pushing for a house before marriage? She had everything but a ring through your nose.

Guys have a hard time saying no to a determined woman. What she did wouldn’t have worked on a bad guy. It could only work on a good guy.

You’ve done your part. You raised her kids and now you know, “With what time I have left, I must have a life of my own.”

You don’t need therapy as much as you need a good divorce attorney, so the settlement is as fair as it can be. Then don’t marry again until you have the love it takes to last a lifetime.

If love weren’t required in a marriage, anyone could marry anyone for any reason.

But that’s not how this works.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of February 23, 2015

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