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Carolyn Hax: True love worth having better circumstances

Fri., Feb. 27, 2009

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend is married to another woman. You can’t imagine the scolding I’ve endured from my close friends over this. Some of it is beginning to sink in, and I’m doubting whether he will ever end his marriage for me. In your opinion, if I am deeply in love with this man, is it worth the wait? In other words, do you believe the philosophy that he will cheat on me, too, because he’s cheating on her? – Philadelphia

I see those as two separate questions: Should you wait, and, if he ever becomes eligible, should you trust him?

The first is the easiest call you’ll ever have to make: No. You don’t “wait.” For one thing, you don’t want him to end his marriage “for me.” You want him to end it only if, and only when, it’s the right outcome for that marriage. Being the reason a marriage ends might look purty on the pages of escapist fiction, but in real life it means you took someone else’s candy just because you wanted it. Not exactly epitaph material.

And no, “The marriage was already in trouble” doesn’t count, not if you’re there to help it collapse.

Meanwhile, when you “wait,” you fall for another bit of fiction. Continuing to see him is not the only way to keep him, stay in love, or whatever else you hope to accomplish. In this case, the reverse is true: If you love him and love yourself, then you will walk away. No calls, texts – nothing. That’s because a love worth your attention not only will survive the wait for better circumstances – but also deserves better circumstances.

Of course, decisions can be easy to make and hell to execute. You’ll feel devastated, you’ll have cravings, you’ll jump when your phone rings, you’ll be terrified that the secrecy was the substance, that you’ll feel like a fool.

However, whenever your resolve weakens, remind yourself that your show of willpower will help answer the trickier question (assuming, with distance and time to reflect, you still want him): Should you trust him?

Why people cheat and whether they’ll cheat again are case-by-case questions. Right now, by being available to him on the side, you’re enabling the worst case: that he feels entitled to something on the side. If you’re available to him only when he’s available to you, then you starve the worst case of oxygen. Choose best case or nothing at all.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at

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