Secret (married) lovers in a quandary


With Wayne Powell MA Counselling Psychology Relationship Counsellor

Thursday, July 03, 2014

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Dear Counsellor,

I have been married for four years and my wife loves me very much. We are expecting our second baby. I am currently having an affair with my ex, who has been married for four years. Her husband also loves her very much. We both long for one another, but as Christians we can't divorce our spouses. The truth is, our spouses are wonderful and loving people, and it would be devastating for both of them if they found out about our affair. What do we do?

Can you recall on your wedding day how you responded to these very important questions put to you by the officiating marriage officer: 'Do you take [Bride's name] to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honour and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?'

I am 100 per cent sure you responded in the affirmative. The part about "forsaking all others and being faithful only to her" is the portion I want to remind you of. So very often married people don't consider the imperatives present in the marriage vows. They are treated as empty words which have no binding significance; words you are expected to repeat or questions you are supposed to respond to in the affirmative.

Having said all of that, the truth is, married people don't live in a vacuum and wear blinkers, and will relate to other people outside of the marital circle. Some they may even be attracted to, including ex-partners. The challenge, then, is maintaining a non-sexual connection with such persons.

In your case, you and your ex have decided to engage in a 'stealing love on the side' scenario. This secret, as you know, will come to light one day, as sooner or later your marital relationships will be negatively impacted. Your wife or your ex's husband will observe certain changes in behaviour and will become suspicious and make certain allegations. This could well be the beginning of the breakdown of both marriages. How would that development help or hinder your private affair?

You claim that your wife loves you dearly and that your ex's husband loves her just as much, but you have not declared your love for your wife or your ex's love for her husband. Is it that after four years of marriage both of you have fallen out of love with your respective spouses? Did you both ever love your spouses at all? Did you both move into rebound relationships soon after the break-up? It is obvious that there was no closure on the relationship between you and your ex, and so the passion was easily reignited. Your desire for each other, as indicated in your statement, 'We both long for one another', is seemingly driven by passion and not commitment and will dissipate once the intrigue of obtaining the forbidden fruit wears off.

You have correctly mentioned that the discovery of the affair would devastate both your wife and your ex-girlfriend's husband, and it would no doubt destroy both marriages. Is it worth it to throw away four years of marriage and to be responsible for breaking up another?

Now to the matter of the children. You certainly have enough to keep you occupied at home. Your wife at this time needs your undivided attention and support, and any distraction can result in a dereliction of your responsibility as a husband and father.

As much as marriage is a very important decision, divorce is just as critical and must not be taken without much thought and deliberation. On what grounds would you divorce your wife? Loss of interest?

You have not reported any acts of unfaithfulness or any improper behaviour by your wife that would justify your own actions, except that you want to legitimise your illicit affair with your ex but you are restrained by the tenets of your faith.

As much as personal happiness is critical to a successful marriage, every effort must be made by both partners to develop the relationship, ensuring that all elements — passion, intimacy and commitment — are adequately served. If there is a lack in one or more elements, then you must sit with your wife and discuss the issues, and your ex should do the same with her husband. In other words, going externally to deal with an internal problem will not necessarily solve the problem; it may only complicate and compound the issues.

Weigh your options carefully and decide what is more important to you; the integrity of your marriage and the stability of your family, or your desire to be with someone who is not available. If it's the former, then it would make sense for you terminate the relationship with your ex post-haste. If it's the latter, then be prepared to deal with the consequences of your actions.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to




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