Advice: Is he stringing me along?

Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013

She's 19, he's in his 40s - and married. She wants to continue seeing him, but feels bad about his family. What should she do?

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A few months ago I met some who I was really interested in.

He had, after a long enough pause, stated that he was technically married, for one reason or another, but not together with his wife. (This is when some close male friends of mine would snigger and remark how this is a common and over-used lie.)

After a few nights getting to know each other and expressing our desire to continue the relationship on a physical level, we did just that.

Fast forward a little to now, and very recently, he mentioned something along the lines of wanting to "stay the night", or so to speak. He also talked about his children. Shortly after, through the grapevine, I heard that he was going away on holiday. With his wife and kids.

I'd rather not read into the situation, but there is the possibility that this is going to erupt in an undesirable and detrimental way. We have only briefly talked about our morals, in which I lied when I said that I was not uncomfortable with the situation, as I did not wish to scare him off after he insisted that he did not feel any guilt with what he intended, at that stage, to do with me.

Now, I feel uncomfortable with the situation. Not only as I feel that I may be deceived by him, but I do not know how to work with this situation. I admit, I am not at all proud of what I have done, nor am I proud of the hurt this would cause his family situation if he is, in fact, still in a perfectly functional relationship with his wife and is lying to me.

Recently, my parents caught wind of the situation and are even more worried than I, although not without reason, I must say. The age gap between us is probably around 30 years (I am 19, and he claims to be in his 40s). I have never had another "relationship" before in my life, and I lost my virginity to him.

Some people who have seen us together have commented that it is a very peculiar sight to see. Others have tried to "diagnose" Daddy issues, which I assure you, that I do not have. Nor do I consider the age difference anything meaningful at all, just coincidental, and not that bothersome to me.

What does worry me is how to approach this situation to minimise harm done to his family and yet, if possible, maintain the relationship. Can you help?

In a tight spot

There is a lot to learn in the world of relationships, and you have started your 'love life' story in a big way.

It will have been very exciting for you to explore your attraction to a goodlooking older man, and to find that he was attracted to you in return. This is all a new journey for you, and it was a great move to enquire early on about his relationships status, especially if you had a feeling that you wanted to go further with him. You are like all of us when it comes to journeys, the only way to grow in our understanding of any journey is to travel it and to learn as we go. 

For someone more travelled, a red flag would come up around any 'technicalities of marriage'. It seems that he initially misrepresented and diminished the nature of his relationship with his wife to you, misleading you - a second big red  flag. You say that you feel uncomfortable with the situation - and this is a third major red flag.

Any hope that you have for a real and lasting intimate relationship needs to be built on the foundation of honesty. The nature of the way we form our emotional connections with one another means that infidelity and a lack of honesty about what our relationship status is will inevitably lead to hurt, and will inevitably need to be addressed. Coming to really know this, not as an abstract principle, but as a real heart-tearing fact, is a part of the learning on the journey. It's hard that you are getting this lesson so soon in your relationship journey, on the other hand it is a good lesson to learn early on in your relationship life, and once learned it will stand you in good stead.

If you are thinking about continuing something with him, you need to get the cards out on the table - is he in a relationship with his wife or not? If so what is the nature of that relationship? Can he be clear and honest with you about this? Or does he hedge around telling you the truth? Does his wife know about his relationship with you? At least then you will know clearly what you are dealing with. Even if he is unable to be direct with you, you have a strong sense that things are not right. You must listen to this. It is this sense that will guide you and protect you as you move forward. You need to know what your bottom lines are and be prepared to end the relationship if they are not met.

A further thing to consider is  your age difference. Yes there is a kind of love that can transcend a difference in age. There is another kind of love that is aware of the implications of age -  the differences in developmental perspective, the differences in life stage, the differences in levels of experience, and the power differential. This kind of love is wiser to the world and is respectful of the significance that these differences make in living a life. It is hard to imagine that he is holding you with this kind of love, and you have yet to come to understand it. It is more likely that he is taking advantage of this difference in ways you will only later come to really understand.

You risk getting split between a hurt heart and positive sexual feelings in this situation. Many people try to resolve this split by disconnecting from one or the other to stay with what they have got. This is selling yourself short. You deserve to be treated with respect, honesty, love and to enjoy a full sexual life. All of this is possible, but probably not in this relationship. Make sure that for any sexual contact you do have that you are using contraception that you are in control of. You are too young in your relationship journey, and he is not in a good position for you to become pregnant.

Finally, you wonder how to approach the situation to minimise harm to his family and maintain the relationship with him  physically. While this might look like an attractive solution for you, it is not a possible one. At this stage of the situation there is going to be some hurt involved, this is unavoidable. Make concrete plans to start to deal with your sense that things aren't right, and work out who you can call upon to support you with them.

You are enjoying the new sexual experiences you are having, it is great that you have a positive relationship with your own sexual feelings. Protect them well by keeping your head and you heart connected as you move forward and by acting with integrity. If you look after them in this way, they can continue to flourish in your life, even if this relationship doesn't.

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

- Stuff

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