Q: I'm in love with a married woman who I used to be very good friends with. She has had a troubled life, getting stuck in a first marriage where the love quickly disappeared along with anything resembling a marriage. Her current husband (who was also married at the time) quickly picked her up on the rebound, but now she is miserable. For the last year we've been seeing each other and I love her very much. She is everything I could possibly ask for and more but refuses to take the next step. She says "I'm not ready." Her and her husband don't even sleep in the same bed. All her spare time is spent with me or talking to me and she's thrown many obvious hints that she loves me as well but can't say it out loud. I've moved closer to her and given up a couple career opportunities for her. It's been a year now and this masquerade is doing a number on my mental health. Is an ultimatum the right thing to do? -- Andrew, 26
Dr. Susan: The right thing to do is to stop having an affair with a married woman. I don't know why she doesn't leave him before getting in any deeper with you. She reminds me of all those cads who say to their mistresses, "I'm not ready. I'll marry you when I leave my wife, but I can't do it yet. Be patient." There are always a hundred reasons given for delays that can go on for years and years. And it hardly ever works out the way the mistress was hoping. In your case, I think you're going to get your heart broken as well as your brain scrambled by all this subterfuge and weirdness. Your lady friend hasn't made good choices in the past, and she isn't making them now. An ultimatum is probably your sanest option right now. But be clear before you do it, because it's too easy to go back and forth and tie yourself into even more tangled knots. If she won't make a solid move in your direction (by legally splitting with her husband, now), you'll need to be strong and not be there for her anymore. Right now, she's having it both ways and you're having it neither way.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.