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Dear Christine, Comfortable in Chelsea

  • Posted on May 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

Dear Christine,

I’ve had a secret that I’ve kept for more than 20 years and for the past 10 years I’ve been leading a bit of a double life. 20 years ago I started a physical relationship with a married woman I met through work. I fell hard. We both did. She refused to come out or to leave her husband. She also had 2 children and parents who were very catholic who she didn’t want to disappoint.

We have kept up the affair but in the meantime I met and made a commitment to the woman I’ve been living with for 10 years.

Here’s the dilemma I’m now faced with.   I love them both but my true heart lies with my first love. Her husband has left her, her parents are dead and her children are grown and married.  She has decided finally that she can and wants to be with me and now I’m the one putting on the brakes. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I’ve gotten used to the way life has been.  I just don’t know what to do. Is there any advice you can offer?

Signed, Comfortable in Chelsea

Dear Comfortable,

Oh, dear! You put yourself in a real bind here, and I don’t see a way out that doesn’t have you hurt as a component.  There’s consequences to every choice, and sometimes we don’t have to live with those consequences until much later.  You chose to have an physical affair with married woman.  It might have been enough for you for the first 10 years, but then you met someone who was available.  So you made your life with her.  And kept the affair on the side.  I’m assuming that your partner doesn’t know about the 20 year affair. I’m not sure you’d be comfortable with how things have been for these past 10 years if she knew.

You have new choices to make. Your true love of 20 years is now available and willing.  What do you do?  How do you make this choice?  How do you tell each of them (does the affair know about your 10 year partner?) about the other?  You many not want to hurt anyone, but keeping secrets hurt when the truth comes out.  Delaying it doesn’t make it less painful.

You have to decide who you are at your core and then make choices based on who you are. Are you a truthful, honest person or do you hold back some details.  If you tell your 10 year partner that you want to leave, she’s going to want to know why.  What do you say?  How much do you say?  If you don’t give her an answer that has a lot of truth at the core, she’s going to feel that you are hiding something.  And she will hurt, that you are hiding something, that you won’t be honest.  And she may start digging to find out what the truth is, and discovering the truth from someone other than you is really going to hurt.  If you haven’t told your 20 year love that you are in a committed relationship, she also needs to know that, too.

It’s very hard to have an intimate relationship with someone when you aren’t being honest with each other. Being honest often hurts.  But seeking truth in intimacy builds trust, allowing vulnerability and closeness to mend the hurts.  Decide who you are.  Then decide who you want to be with.  Then tell both of them your decision.  They are both adults and they will let you know their decision about their continued relationship or friendship with you, once they know your truth.  Good luck.

Christine Cantrell, PhD


Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

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