Carolyn Hax: Lover’s limbo shouldn’t be yours

Dear Carolyn: I’m divorced (seven years). I’ve been in a “relationship” for five years with a married man who is separated from his wife, but not divorced.

I’ll call him Jack. Jack tells me he is working on that. He says he is committed to me and wants an exclusive relationship, but he travels extensively for his job, and in the last 18 months I’ve only seen him about twice a month.

Meanwhile, I’ve been lonely. I’ve gone online to dating sites and met some men. I’ve gone on some dates and slept with one guy. I’ve been honest with Jack about everything but the sex. Do you see this as a “committed relationship”?

I do not because he is not divorced, but he does. He wants me to sit home alone and not interact with other men when he is not here. I won’t do it. How do you see this relationship? – M.

I see it as committing a “relationship” – one I’d rather see you commit while I have a bag of popcorn in my lap.

Setting aside the possibility that Jack isn’t in fact separated and his “extensive travels” are to his marital home – I do hope you have enough trust and access at least to rule this out – you’re still left in relationship limbo with a man in relationship limbo with somebody else. And you have a divorce in your past to remind you how important it is to take good care of yourself even while loving somebody else.

You can’t end Jack’s limbo, but you can end your own. If you continue to see Jack, then make it clear you’re doing so as a single woman, with all that entails – dating, sex, future potential.

Note the opening “if.” Since Jack seems to bring you little besides angst with strings attached, consider detaching from him entirely. You already know these are your choices; you just need the backbone to choose.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacific time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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