Tell Me About It: My married lover also has a younger, single woman

Tell Me About It: My married lover also has a younger, single woman
Irish Times 11th March 2014 – Kate Holmquist

It was heaven for a while, until recently, when I discovered he was in love with someone else (much younger and single)

Q I am broken-hearted. I fell madly in love with a married man recently. (I too am married but the love is long dead ). He lives with his wife but I know there is not much love there either. We got on brilliantly, and he asked me to trust him and “give myself to him”, which I did.
It was a relationship where we would meet up every other month or so and contact each other by email. It was heaven for a while, until recently, when I discovered he was in love with someone else (much younger and single). He met this girl many years ago.
If he loved her so much why did he bother with me, as they were together before he met me ? She knows he was being unfaithful and knows also he is married. I hope that she has the sense to get rid of him.
I just can’t cope with this. Is there any advice you can give me to help me move on?
I know I don’t deserve help as what I did disgusts me now in hindsight, especially as I realise he just used me for sex . My self-esteem is at rock bottom.

A You do deserve help, and so much more – empathy, intimacy, sex and feeling loved. You’re afraid to seek help from people you know because you think they will judge you as harshly as you’re judging yourself. I’m glad you wrote to me, if only to hear that no one should judge you for being human. Many of us have been fooled by an illusion of love, so please be kind to yourself.
After years in a loveless marriage, you were craving intimacy and closeness. This man offered it, but meeting once every couple of months and exchanging emails isn’t a relationship, no matter how exciting it may have been. You believed your lover was being honest when you gave yourself to him, so no wonder you are devastated.
Psychotherapist Trish Murphy says: “This is an issue that can and does happen – and the idea that the woman was being used for sex may not be entirely true, but devastating nonetheless . . . It feels like total betrayal to discover that the lover was not being honest and indeed was loving someone else at the time they were supposed to be devoted to you.”
Your judgement was compromised by desire and hope, so you may feel you’ve lost your ability to judge what’s real and true and that it’s impossible to trust anyone or anything. You ask why he bothered with you. It’s possible that this man is so practised in self-deception, believing himself to be “in love” with whomever he is with, that he cannot see what he is doing, Murphy suggests.
“When found out, he may be ashamed but unable to face this and takes comfort in repeating a pattern where a lover sees him as a wonderful person, better than he really is,” says Murphy.
Heartbreak can feel like grief. First comes the shock, then anger when you learn that you weren’t the only woman in his repertoire – plus she’s younger. No wonder your self-esteem is at rock bottom. Anger turned inwards becomes depression. Direct your anger where it belongs: that callous womaniser.
It will take time for you to recover your confidence, but when you are ready, “you have to have the courage to tackle the reality of the marriage – either face separation or work on the relationship. It is an opportunity to look at your life and take the time to investigate what direction you want to take. This is hard to do when you are feeling so lonely and betrayed and it may need some short-term professional help,” Murphy advises.
You may be grieving the loss of the sensual, sexual part of yourself that you suppress to stay married. The affair was a fleeting taste of being a full woman once again, making your marriage – the real issue – even more painful.
Your husband, though, deserves the same love and happiness you do. When you’ve built yourself up again, you two need to talk with the help of a relationships counsellor and find a way towards a more satisfying future for both of you, whatever that may be.