Dear Dr. Romance,
I am going through a break-up this week and pretty broken hearted. My boyfriend and I dated for the last year and nine months and it ended this week. He is my age, mid thirties but when he was in his early to mid twenties he had an affair with a much, much older woman who was (and still is) his boss. She is twenty years older and married with three children. The affair went on for five years and then for five years there after, they would still have a sexual encounter here and there, the last time this occurred was a year before we began dating.
I had problems with this relationship: not only the cheating, but I was not comfortable that he still worked for her. He said he had physically and emotionally moved on, but I always felt it was so wrong that he was there. My father cheated on my mother, and I’ve been cheated on, too. It’s wrong, and it hurts people. I find this woman to be incredibly selfish and I think much of her need for him has always been for her own ego. She is still married and her husband has no idea that this affair took place. To make matters worse, the job is in her home, and she and my boyfriend are very close which also made me loath the situation.
I argued all the time to my boyfriend that it was so wrong that he still worked there and he should totally be done with it and move on. I thought it was hypocritical of both of them to sit there acting like an affair never transpired. She said her husband worked a lot and didn’t pay much attention to her and used the excuse that she was no longer in love with him and only there for the kids. They are wealthy beyond belief and her husband is a wonderful man and provider.
My boyfriend tried to leave and start his own thing to save our relationship but barely put any effort into it. As I anticipated, he failed and she gave him his job back. She could have let him work from our home, but she had him work with her and paid him very well.
My question is this: do you think it’s appropriate for him to still have her in his life and work there? The hardest part about this is he took his job back full time on the same week he broke up with me (via text message) he’s made attempts to reach me but I feel strongly that it’s wrong he’s there and he feels opposite.
I’m so sorry to hear of your breakup. I know how painful that can be. You said the problem in your relationship was his past, but that’s not really true. What really went wrong in your relationship? Was it because you were so angry with his paramour that you couldn’t enjoy your time together? You know, Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die,” wrote Kahlil Gibran. “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.”
Your ex has been bought. However, he seems to like it, and he does have a choice. The husband probably knows—but doesn’t want to know. He’s busy looking the other way. He must get something out of the relationship, maybe being a dad to his kids, or maybe just not having to give his wife whatever he’d have to in a divorce. I think this guy was a bad match for you. Whatever his problem is, he’ll have to deal with it. You need to deal with your own. Accept that you made a bad choice of partner, grieve and move on. You may be repeating a pattern based on the infidelity of your father and past relationships.
Let your ex figure out his own life, without you in it. Read Learning Forgiveness to help you let go; and Comforting the Little Orphan Girl to help you learn to heal your own wounds; and The Nail in the Fence to learn how to get over relationship problems. The leftovers from childhood and past relationships will take a little time, but you can heal them to. It Ends with You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction takes you through all the exercises and information I use with clients who need to get past old experiences that are holding them back.