*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Falling in love when you're already married and have kids is harder to keep up, and in between dates that no one has to know about, you can find yourself having two homes and two people you care about.
How do you make the decision to move forward with just one of them, and how complicated can things get if your new partner's also married and has a family?
Is it ok for you to take the initiative and make sure their marriage ends, or would they resent you so much for that and forget about you?
My friend Mandy has been married to her husband Tim for ten years. They have four kids together, two daughters and two sons, and Mandy is a full-time mom.
"We both wanted a big family, so it was exciting to be parents right after the wedding. I was pregnant throughout our engagement, and I needed a bigger wedding gown, but other than that, the ceremony and the party were great and exactly the way I wanted everything to be," Mandy said.
She and Tim mostly focused on looking after their kids and covering bills, but slowly his long working hours started to bother her. It wasn't because she didn't know they needed the money, but she missed spending time together and being reminded she was a wife, not just a mom.
"I felt he was increasingly seeing me as someone who co-parented with him. I'm more than a cleaner and a babysitter. I'm his wife, and he used to be in love with me. In the beginning, we always went out on a date every week no matter how busy we were; after our fourth child was born, dates were taken off the schedule completely," Mandy said.
She talked about it with her husband, and he promised he would try to make more time to go out and have fun as a couple. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, and his work projects got longer each month.
"I wasn't sure what it was all about, and I even thought he was doing it on purpose. To show his work mattered more because he earned money for it. Even so, I couldn't go on like that. I wanted to feel I mattered too," Mandy said.
She started going out to friends' parties in Dallas, Texas, and asking her parents to look after the kids on those evenings. And once she began dancing and meeting new people, she felt a lot better. She also doubted her husband still loved her since he never found time to come with her.
Six months ago, she went to her sister's party and met Anthony. They talked for the whole night and walked home together since they both lived close by.
"He was nice and was great to talk to. He didn't just give me compliments; he actually listened to what I said, and he'd read my favorite books. I felt we connected in so many ways," Mandy said.
They exchanged phone numbers before leaving home, and they kept texting each other over the next few weeks. After one month of messages, they decided to move to calls. And they talked over the phone every day while Mandy's husband was at work.
"Anthony told me he was married too, and he had one daughter. So, we agreed on the best times to talk without interfering with each other's families. We just wanted to be close any way we could," Mandy said.
While they started out as friends, things changed fast after they talked for hours and found out more about each other's personalities and goals.
Mandy was upset her husband didn't pay any attention to her because of work, and Anthony was annoyed with his wife because she was always traveling for different projects. They both felt neglected and wanted someone to love and be close to every day.
"We found each other, and that meant something. And I didn't want to lose him too," Mandy said.
She asked him to go out on a date after one month and a half of texting and calling. Anthony agreed, and they went out for dinner at a restaurant none of their families was likely to go to.
"We had to be cautious, but I wanted to try dating. I had a feeling he might be better than Tim, more attentive and dedicated," Mandy said.
That first date went well, and they managed to go out at least three times a week during the following three months. Mandy was happy with the way things were going and had already thought about a life with Anthony, but he wasn't that sure he wanted to give up on his wife and daughter.
"He told me we had to think carefully about what we were doing and that a divorce would be hard for him, but I knew I could fix things for both of us," Mandy said.
And last month, she began doing just that. She had a talk with Tim and let him know she'd found someone else and wanted to separate. She still expected to receive a weekly allowance from him because she would go on looking after the kids.
"It was only fair. Why would I do the work for free if we're not in love anymore? He was surprised and began shouting at me, but I ended that fast. He thought I would apologize, but I said divorce would be fine. Then he got calm and said we shouldn't rush and that I could give him another chance for our kids. I told him I'd pack my stuff and be gone in three days," Mandy said.
She took her things and went to stay with a friend, waiting for Anthony to do what she'd done. But the days passed, and there was no indication of him letting his wife know about his relationship with Mandy.
"I called him, and we had lunch a few times. He couldn't go out for dinner because he had his in-laws visiting. I told him he needed to tell her everything. And soon. But he wasn't doing anything, and I began doubting. What if I'd left my family and he wanted to keep his? That wouldn't work for me," Mandy said.
After one week, she decided to take things further and went to Anthony's house while he was away.
"I knew his work schedule, so it was easy to talk to his wife without him being there. I told her about us and how long we'd seen each other. I also pointed out he wanted to be with me and didn't care about her or their daughter. She was sad and upset, but that was the truth. I left soon after I was done. She didn't argue with me; she just stood there with no reply," Mandy said.
That evening Anthony called her and reproached her for having done that to his family. Mandy assured him it was just so they could be together permanently, but he ended the call. He hasn't texted her since.
It's been eight days, and Mandy is wondering what could be happening and why he hasn't gotten in touch with her yet.
"I gave up on my husband and kids, and I told his wife; he won't text me. I did him a favor; he didn't have the courage to do it. So it had to be me. And now he's avoiding me. I don't get it," Mandy said.
In the meantime, Tim came to see her four times and asked her to come back and try and work on their relationship so they could stay married.
Mandy is undecided and still wants an answer from Anthony.
What do you think about this situation? Was it fair for Mandy to take the decision for Anthony and tell his wife about their affair, or should she have waited until he was ready? Is there any chance Anthony still wants to be with her, or is it more likely he's trying to convince his wife to forgive him?
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