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My friend is involved with a married man

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WAYNE A POWELL MA Counselling Psychology Relationship Counsellor

Monday, July 02, 2012    

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Dear Counsellor

I have a friend who is involved with a married man. She knows it's wrong and has tried everything she knows to end it, but every time she ends up back with him.

He's a good man who is the complete opposite of her husband. She went through a very devastating separation and he was there for her as a good friend helping her through it all. He has helped her to revalue herself and regain self-confidence. Because of his support she'll be pursuing a degree in medicine. She really wants to stop seeing him but it's the hardest thing to do. What advice can I give her?

When someone is going through a challenging time emotionally he/she will gravitate to the individual who provided psychological support throughout the period. Sometimes the attachment becomes so intense that it crosses the boundary from a caring and "in your corner" connection to a romantic relationship. Most times these associations are not planned and both parties are even unaware of the development.

In some cases, however, the man takes advantage of the woman's vulnerability and poses as this concerned and compassionate friend when in truth and in fact he has ulterior motives.

Some women enter a rebound relationship just after a break-up and find out later that the relationship was built on an emotional platform only. "He was there for me," they will say.

Your friend is obviously caught up in a similar scenario and feels a sense of gratitude to this gentleman who stood by her through the rough times. However, the gratitude has transcended to expressions of appreciation which are grounded in emotional attachment. She is now facing the dilemma of negotiating a romantic relationship with the "caring friend" who happens to be a married man.

Whereas some women have no problem with such an arrangement, your friend is uncomfortable and is also experiencing a moral dilemma as well.

She will now need to let her head rule her heart and that is where you come in.

You have to help her to refocus and get past the emotional high and place her feet firmly on the ground. Certainly she would not want to put another woman through the trauma she has been through with her separation, and so should not only be sensitive but sensible in how she handles the situation.

It is important that she have a serious talk with 'Mr Mention', indicating to him that she is grateful for his emotional support during her time of distress but that she would prefer to move on without him. If he really cares about her he will want to release her. She will then have to develop inner strength and be less dependent on him for emotional strength. As it were, she will need to wean herself from this man.

Of course this will not be easy, but if she is resolved to make the change then with the passage of time she will indeed move on. She may need to physically stay away from him and even avoid any form of contact for a while. This is to give her enough time and space to rebuild self-confidence and emotional resilience.

She needs to focus on her studies and occupy her mind and body with things that will boost self-esteem. It may mean that she has to go on some solo moves from time to time or link with girlfriends for a girls' night out. She needs to know that personal happiness is paramount and that this can be achieved with or without a partner.

After a break-up it is always useful to do a post-mortem of the relationship and identify areas that need to be worked on. This is critical as one closes a chapter and seeks to re-open another with someone else.

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