Is all fair in love?

Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m at a crossroads. I’ve fallen in love with my best friend whom I have known for years. The catch? She’s married with kids and dedicated to her family. I’m not entirely sure of the depth of her feelings for me, and I don’t want to be a homewrecker. I can’t imagine not having her in my life, but these feelings have become overwhelming. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Dear Reader,
Does she love you back? If so, then you shouldn’t rule anything out. But she has to emotionally finish her current marital relationship — on her own terms. It has to be her decision with no pressure from you, including the decision to tell her husband. This will be the litmus test for proving her willingness to move on. If you really want something, you first have to pay for it.

If she can honestly tell you — and herself — that she would leave her husband anyway, and that

you’re just a bonus, then there’s no reason not to pursue a relationship with her.

Beware of the term ‘homewrecker.’ It’s often used to intimidate and create unearned guilt. If the marriage was truly over anyway, then you didn’t wreck it. It was already wrecked. Don’t assign blame where none exists.

I also believe that it’s wrong and against your self-interest for you to pursue an affair that involves deceiving her husband. That bond is hers to break, not yours. No matter what your relationship is with him, you shouldn’t take part in deception.

You didn’t tell me whether your best friend still loves her husband. Most likely she’s confused. It’s up to her to work that out for herself. If she ultimately decides that despite the difficulties, the divorce is worth it, then that’s fine. But again, it has to be her decision, and I strongly advise that you gently back off until that day comes. Any attempt to deceive her husband will start your new relationship based on a lie. You want to trust her in the future, but how can you do that knowing she’s capable of that sort of dishonesty? Conversely, why should she trust you, knowing that you condoned and participated in it?

Moreover, starting a relationship with her before she has made up her mind about her husband risks your friendship with her. As painful as it might be to never have a romance with her, it would most probably be more painful to pursue a relationship with her and have it end with her choosing her husband over you. So much for the friendship.

Affairs with married people are nearly always disasters. The ones that end well are the ones in which the married person was already decisively out of love with the current spouse. In those cases, the participants stand a chance of moving on and establishing permanent relationships. Even so, in my experience most affairs end up being transitional, not permanent.

Remember that divorce is as much a financial matter as it is an emotional one. All factors must be considered, and she must be at peace with them before you pursue anything with her. The same applies to the children. If she divorces her husband, her relationship with them will certainly be affected. Is this something she can handle? And is she willing to make that decision on their behalf? Unless she carefully thinks this out, it will come back to haunt you both.

It’s important not to let the initial confusion and indecision spin out of control. The best and most rational way to end any confusion is for her to first end the marriage with her husband, face the music, and then (and only then) take the risk of pursuing another relationship. If she’s unable to do this, then common sense suggests that a friendship with her is the most you’ll ever have. You’ll then need to get out there and find a woman who’s more available, and stop wasting your energy on someone who isn’t.

Life involves risks. Sometimes we’re presented with dilemmas where we don’t particularly like either choice because each involves a potential loss. But potential loss can also bring the potential for gain, growth and advancement. So, is it worth it?