Married With Children

Dr. Hurd: I’m at a crossroads and could use your perspective. I’ve fallen in love with my best friend. We’ve known each other for years. She’s the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. The catch: She’s married with kids and very dedicated to her family. I want to be with her (I’m not entirely sure of the depth of her feelings for me), but I also have no interest in being a homewrecker. She’s been a bit of a curse as one way or another I’m sure I’ve compared my previous lovers to her. I can’t imagine not having her in my life, but these feelings have become a little overwhelming. I’d appreciate your thoughts. 

Dr. Hurd’s reply: Does your best friend

love you back — meaning love you back that way, romantically? If so, then you don’t have to rule anything out. But she has to emotionally finish her marital relationship on her own terms. It has to be her decision, totally initiated by her and of her own free will. No pressure whatsoever can come from you. There’s nothing for her with you, or anyone else, until she’s decisively done with her husband. This includes telling him, not necessarily about you, but about her desire to end the marriage. I call this the litmus test of responsibility for proving willingness and ability to move on. As the old Spanish proverb says, ‘Take what you want — but pay for it.’

If she can honestly tell you — and more importantly, herself — that she would leave her husband anyway, because she’s unhappy with him — that you’re merely a fantastic bonus — then there’s no reason not to pursue a romantic relationship with her. Homewrecker? What does that term mean? It’s a term used by people against others, or themselves, to intimidate and create unearned guilt. If her marriage was over anyway, then you did not wreck it; it was wrecked by other factors — not by you. Don’t assign blame where none exists!

Even if you pursued a secret affair with her, one involving deception of her husband, this would be her choice and betrayal — not yours. I would argue that it’s wrong and against your own self-interest to pursue such an illicit affair, but not that it’s a betrayal of this woman’s husband by you. That bond is hers to break, not yours. If he’s a personal friend or associate of yours, that’s a different matter, but in any event you shouldn’t take part in deception.

I have no idea whether your best friend still loves her husband. Most likely, she’s confused. It’s up to her to work out that confusion for herself, if she can. If she ultimately decides that despite her children and the difficulties associated with separation, that the divorce is worth it — then that’s fine, so long as it’s her own decision.

I strongly advise no pursuit of a romantic relationship with her unless or until that day comes. For one thing, any affair you have now would almost certainly involve deception of her husband. Think about the implications of this. Your new relationship with her would be started on a lie. In the future you’d want to trust her, but how can you trust her knowing that she could engage in such a lie? And why would she trust you, knowing that you condoned and participated in it? For another thing, starting a romantic relationship with her before she has made up her mind about her husband risks your friendship. As painful as it might be to never pursue a relationship with her and always wonder what might have been, it would be even more painful (I’m guessing) to pursue a relationship with her, and then have it end with her staying with her husband after all.

Affairs with married people are nearly always disasters, most of all for the person who ends up being the third wheel. The reasons for this should be obvious. The only affairs that end well are the ones in which the married person was already decisively out of love with the existing spouse. In such cases, the participants in the affair stand a chance of moving on and establishing permanent, happy relationships. Even so, most affairs (in my experience) are transitional relationships, not permanent ones.

Remember that divorce is always a financial and economic matter as well as an emotional one. There’s no escaping this fact. Make sure you see evidence that she has considered the economic consequences of separating on her daily life, and is at peace with them, before you pursue anything romantic with her. The same applies to her relationship with her children. If she divorces her husband, her relationship with her children will be affected. Has she thought that out and is that worth it to her, and is she willing to make that decision on behalf of her children? It’s imperative she think this out. Otherwise, it will come back to bite her (and yourself) in any future relationship.

In these situations, confusion most often rules. It’s important not to let confusion and indecision spin out of control. The best and most rational way to end any confusion is for your friend to end her relationship with her husband, face the music, and then take her risk pursuing a relationship with you or anyone of her choosing, for that matter. If she’s unwilling or unable to do this, then simply accept that friendship will have to be all you’ll ever have. Try to find more available women and stop spending your energy on someone who simply isn’t an option.

Life involves risks, and sometimes we’re presented with dilemmas of circumstance in which we don’t like either choice. We don’t like either choice because each one involves a potential loss. But with potential loss there exists the potential for gain, growth and advancement as well.