Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I met my dream man on Bumble during Christmas. After talking for a few weeks obsessively, we met in early January 2020 and within a couple of hours got naked. There was intense attraction and sexual connection. He’s separated from his wife of over 20 years and said the relationship was irretrievable. More deep communication and exciting dates followed until Covid changed everything. He welcomed his sons and mother in law (!) into his house while his ex remained tucked away at her apartment and new life. We’ve been meeting weekly and generally always have sex—the connection is strong and fun—but he recently told me that he’s still in love with his wife (the divorce does seem stalled) and even recently went on a Bumble date with another person because the need to keep meeting new people is important. I entered into this situation knowing full well he was still married and have gone with the Covid flow. I know the process of unraveling a marriage takes time but I’m starting to feel really foolish for developing such strong feelings for him. Help?!

Ms. Helpless

Dear Ms. Helpless,

I don’t think you’re foolish for developing strong feelings for a man you had an intense connection with and told you his marriage was donezo. He’s the one who chose to get into the dating scene. You did what most sane and normal daters would do. You went on great dates, got intimate with someone, and caught feelings for them. In no way, shape, or form are you foolish.

Just because the dynamics between you two have shifted from Covid, doesn’t mean you can dial down your feelings for him. Heck, if that were the case, dating would be a whole lot easier. Besides, it sounds like your relationship was great for a while. I’m sure those memories only stoke the flames of your intense feelings for him.

I’ll be honest about the rest of this situation: it's tough.

First, you have a man who’s freshly separated from his wife. He’s not only removing the crappy parts of his marriage from his life; he’s removing the parts he loved, too. He’s mourning the life he thought he would have; all the special moments they shared and reasons he fell in love with her.

That’s never an easy process. No matter how sure that person is that they want a divorce.

Add on top the fact that they have kids? Well, that’s even more shattering to his world. Divorce isn’t ever clean-cut, even more so when kids are involved. There are a number of reasons things could be stalled; I could sit here and speculate with you for days.

But that’s all we’d be doing, is speculating.

When I first read your question, I noticed an overarching theme in everything you said. Actually, you essentially said it yourself.

You’re going with the "flow", COVID, or not. You’re letting this guy call the shots; you’re simply at the mercy of whatever he decides.

Why aren't you creating boundaries? Why haven't you asked him more questions? And why in the world are you saying you’re okay with him dating other people if you’re not?

I can type out a 2,000-word essay on why it’s a red flag that this man keeps you in the dark about the divorce, wants to keep dating other people, and told you he’s still in love with his wife.

But I feel like you know this already.

What I’m more concerned about is your lack of boundaries with this guy. It sounds like you know how you deserve to be treated. It sounds like you know you have strong feelings for this guy and want to date him. It sounds like you have all these burning questions about how he’s feeling and what’s going on, yet, you haven’t asked him questions to clarify things.

You need to talk to this guy. Tell him what you expect from the relationship. Let him know if you want to be exclusive instead of dating other people. Ask him questions about the divorce and his mother-in-law coming to stay with him. And have the courage to walk away if any of his answers aren’t up to par with what you want.

I know creating boundaries is hard. I struggled with them for years. But you have to look out for your own feelings over this guy’s comfort. Chances are, this won’t be a relationship that lasts long. He might get back together with his wife. Or he might not want something serious after being married for 20 years.

All you can control is the prioritization of your own needs and self-respect. Have a conversation with him. Then choose if you want to wait around for things to change or move on to a relationship that doesn’t feel so complicated.

Because I promise, relationships aren't usually this complicated.

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