Marry His Affair Partner?

Q: I've been with my girlfriend for almost a year now and I'm thinking about popping the question. My only problem is that she has two kids and their father is around and is always trying to get her back. She was with him for eight years and has the habit of calling him baby. She stresses to me that I'm the only one for her and she wants me to stop being a punk and ask already. We met when she was with him and she cheated on him with me. I cheated on my girlfriend at the time, we fell in love and have been inseparable since. I treat her kids better than their real father, and I treat her better than he did. He used to beat her and I was her comfort zone. Will she do the same to me that she did to him? Do you think our love could last a lifetime? Because I only want to do this once. What do I have to do to make it last? -- Jack, 28

Dr. Susan: The majority of marriages that begin in affairs don't last. Since both of you betrayed someone to get where you are, you're right to be concerned. Don't let your girlfriend push you into making a decision too soon. Certainly she shouldn't consider going back to the man who beat her, and she should get OUT of the habit of calling him baby. That surely gives him a mixed message about the possibility of her returning to him. She needs to be utterly clear about their relationship, which has to continue because of the children they share. But their conversations ought not to go beyond making arrangements for the kids. Otherwise it's confusing for everyone.

Some couples do beat the odds and last a lifetime. To give your relationship a chance to last, both of you MUST talk about how to make it happen. Don't ignore the way your affair began, but rather get it into the open and figure out ways to avoid making the same mistakes you each made before. For instance, if either of you even senses the hint of a problem in the relationship, it needs to be discussed and not allowed to fester. In your particular case, there are several strikes against an easy future. Not only the cheating way the relationship began, but the fact that there's an ex who's very present, and two kids for you to stepfather. Never easy! To lessen the stresses and strains on your future with this women, read a book about the stepfathering experience, and talk with her about all your concerns. Remember: Trust takes time to develop.

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