I've started having an affair...now what?

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Dear Sex Counselor,

I have been married for 16 years, and I’m 36 years old. I have three little ones now in school. We want nicer home, so my husband wanted me to go to work in a factory. This was my first time out into the working world. I met a very sexy man, and three weeks ago we started having sex during "lunch hour" on the night shift. He’s very exciting and handsome, and tells me how pretty I am and does "different" things during sex, like oral.

The problem is, I don’t know whether I love this man or my husband more. I don’t know if he loves me or just wants sex from me. He has a reputation for that. My friends tell me to "go for it". However, my lover will NOT talk about tomorrows, only today. Should I tell my husband about this or wait until I know which way I want to go? Do I love both of them? I know sex with the new man terrific, but "tomorrows" are important too.

I read your advice regularly and value your common-sense approach. This is my first affair, and I don’t know what to do! I’m very scared, and feel like I’m playing with dynamite. I need advice, please!


Take a deep breath. You are in the middle of what is called "limerance" with this new person, a very exciting - but not permanent - state of lust. It would be a mistake to make any decisions about your future right now. This very exciting situation will not last forever, especially if you decide to leave your husband.

I suspect much of the appeal for your lover is that you are married, and therefore do not pose a threat to his independence. His unwillingness to consider anything but the immediate moment tells me that. That is a big warning bell, and you are wise to listen to it. Also, the fact that your lover has the reputation for wild affairs without commitment tells me that he will not choose to be with you if you leave your husband. You probably need to accept the temporary nature of your love affair.

The harder question is what to do about your husband. I happen to believe it is possible to love more than one person at a time, so I encourage you to consider that this is not necessarily a situation where you have to choose between one or the other. I do have a couple of questions for you, however. First, are you using condoms? If not, start using them now. You could be getting a sexually transmitted infection from your lover, and then you could pass that on to your husband. You should also consider what your husband is going to think about this affair before talking to him about it. Is he likely to understand, or will he decide that this is grounds for divorce? While I don’t support secrecy in relationships, it is important to time this revelation carefully.

Next, I want to encourage you to separate this affair from deciding whether you want to stay married to your husband. This affair is not necessarily an indication that you don’t love your husband or don’t want to be married. Or it could be a way to let yourself know that you need to carefully look at your marriage to be sure it is working for you, and is the right place for you to be right now. This will take some soul-searching, and maybe the help of a therapist. In order to have your mind clear, you might want to consider ending your affair and carefully exploring your feelings about your marriage without the draw of the other man.

These are just suggestions - there may be other options as well. I’m afraid friends don’t always have the ability to be detached enough to help you really decide what you want. Your friends are good support for you, but aren’t necessarily the best way to get problem-solving help.

You’ll need to decide what’s most important to you in this situation. It may be that this situation is telling you that you and your husband need to do some work to make your relationship more alive and enjoyable for you. All relationships get in ruts, and yours might be in one. You might want to talk with your husband to see if he feels like you two are in a rut as well. Again, this is a great area in your life that could be helped by working with a therapist or counselor for a short time. If you can’t afford a therapist, consider a pastoral counselor or one of the counseling services that adjust their fees to what clients can afford. You deserve some unbiased help in figuring this out for yourself.

In the meantime, please play safely with your lover. You don’t want to come away from this experience with the lasting memory of a sexually transmitted infection. Be true to yourself and trust your instinct on this situation. If you want to be on your own, you’ll need to tell your husband that. Don’t use the affair as an excuse to leave, if you can help it. Leave if you really want that, or stay and find ways to make it the relationship you really want to have.

The Sex Counselor