*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Being in love with someone who's married brings a new type of challenge, and waiting for them to turn you into their priority while seeing they won't let their family and kids go can be very upsetting.
Is it worth being together no matter how hard it is to be on your own when your partner goes away with their family, or should you move on even if you get along great and feel like you won't meet someone else quite like them?
My friend Julia has been dating Robert, her boyfriend, for almost two years. They met while she was picking up her niece from school in Dallas, Texas. Robert was there for his two sons, and they got to talking while they were waiting because they were both early.
"Those first 20 minutes we spent talking about the kids made such a difference. I realized there were people who could change your whole day with simple words, and Robert was one of them. He kept smiling and complimenting me, and I forgot how sad I had felt up until then because I couldn't find a good job," Julia recalls.
He told her his wife had passed away, and he was looking after his sons while his parents were helping him.
Robert also asked for her phone number, and they texted each other. He kept encouraging her while she applied for different jobs, and he asked her to go out to celebrate when she got hired.
"It was a friendly thing, but it felt a bit like a date too. He told me he was happy for me and wanted to share more about my life. He brought me a little gift too and flowers. It was special, and he had no other expectations, so I didn't feel nervous or stressed about getting to know him more," Julia recalls.
After that first meeting, they decided to keep seeing each other, but Robert warned her he had a very busy schedule, so they had to plan ahead to make it work.
"That was fine; I had long work hours too. And I didn't mind that he wanted to be successful. I looked up to him and felt it was great to be close to someone who wanted to improve themselves and have a good life while being able to afford the things they wanted," Julia said.
They went out three times each week, and Robert told her he was away on work trips most of the weekends. In the beginning, she had no issues with this arrangement, but eventually, she felt like something was missing because he couldn't come to family parties or birthdays at the end of the week. And she felt there could be more to it than just work.
"I began to wonder what he was doing every weekend. Could he really be that busy that he never found time, at least on a Sunday? My friends warned me I should check because most men saying that were married," Julia said.
She thought about driving after him and seeing what he was doing, but she decided trust mattered more. So, she called him and asked him to come over for a talk.
"I wasn't going to follow him around and get upset by what I found out. If there was something wrong, I would give him a chance to tell me himself and avoid all that," Julia said.
Once he got to her home, she asked him about his weekends and whether he was constantly working or married. Robert denied it in the beginning, but after a few explanations that didn't make sense, he admitted he had a wife and that he hadn't told her the truth the day they met.
"It wasn't just him and his sons. He'd been living with his wife the whole time while telling me he was getting tired from so much work," Julia said. She got upset because he hadn't been open with her, and she couldn't choose whether she wanted to be in a relationship with a married man. He agreed to give her a few days to think things over and decide if she still wanted to see him.
"I felt like I should let him go, but I couldn't. I cared about him too much, and I still wanted to be a part of his life. I called him after four days, and we went out like usual. He brought me flowers and said sorry, and I decided to forget about his wife and not feel sad anymore," Julia said.
Robert didn't promise to get a divorce for her, and she won't pressure him to leave his kids. He did say he's not in love with his wife and that they're only roommates, so that made Julia feel better.
Two weeks ago, they planned a weekend trip while Robert's wife was visiting relatives with their sons.
"It was the first time we went somewhere, just the two of us. Not just on a date, but to spend three days together. It was so nice, and it made me want to be with him for longer than usual," Julia said.
Unfortunately, things went back to normal once they came back. And more than that, Robert went on a second trip, a longer one, with his wife and kids. Julia felt disappointed when he didn't mind going somewhere else so soon after their trip.
"We had a weekend together; then he left for a week with his kids and family. That was harsh. He didn't call me at all while he was away, not even a text or a picture. I felt alone, and I missed him a lot," Julia said.
As soon as he got back, Robert came to see her and brought her presents, but she felt something was different. She asked why he couldn't find the time to send her a message for a week, and he told her he'd been too busy with his sons and trying to make sure they had a nice trip.
"It didn't feel right. I mean, his kids would be asleep quite early, but he didn't text me even late at night. So, I asked him if he was close to his wife, and he said he was trying to comfort her because she'd been sad about her mom and dad getting divorced. When I pressed him to explain what that meant, he didn't give any details. Was it just hugs or more?" Julia said.
She's doubtful about where she stands with Robert, and she can't find a reason to go on being happy with him. At the same time, she doesn't want to let their relationship go because of the time she spent with him.
How do you think this situation should be handled? Should Robert avoid going away with his family for too long or at least find a way to keep in touch with Julia? Is it better for Julia to realize he won't give up on his family for her and that their affair could end at any time?
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