Dear Wendy: “I Saw My Boyfriend With His Wife!”

About four months ago, I began seeing an old high school friend. We hadn’t seen each other in years and had reconnected online. In the 10 years since high school, he had married and had a child. When we began seeing each other he made it VERY clear that he was separated and had been for close to a year. The separation was not exactly amicable. He had his own house and I even met his 3-year-old daughter on the weekends. In the beginning, he said we should keep things sort of quiet until his pending divorce was final. I was OK with this because we had a small group of mutual friends who were aware of the relationship. Last weekend, I was out with some girlfriends at my local bar and my boyfriend walked in with his ex. He saw me and bolted. (We’d had sex two days prior.) About a minute later, I received a text that just said “working things out.” Of course, my friends consoled me and all agreed that I should tell his wife. Our mutual friends (most of whom are guys) agree that he’s a d-bag but think I should keep quiet. They also said they are as blindsided as I am because they thought we were doing so well together. I have texted and emailed several times with no response. I believe I’m owed an explanation at the very least. I have some very incriminating emails and texts that I have contemplated sending to his wife. I haven’t yet because I realize there’s a child involved in all of this. On the other hand, I feel he’s lying to his wife also. I’m feeling very used and depressed and just can’t decide what’s right or wrong. — Feeling Used

It’s understandable that you’d feel used, depressed and angry and want an explanation. But the fact is, you may not get one. You may not ever hear from this guy again. So, you may have to fill in some blanks yourself. What do you think happened? Without knowing all the details, it seems like if he and his estranged wife were living separately and he saw his daughter on weekends, he was indeed separated from his wife and not lying about that. Whether part of their separation agreement meant they were both allowed to see other people, we don’t really know for sure. Typically, separated couples do see other people as they use the period to “test out” being divorced. So far, it doesn’t seem like he was doing anything “wrong” by dating you. But again, we’re speculating a little bit.

But, let’s assume he and his wife had an agreement that they could see other people during their separation and perhaps he wanted to keep things with you on the down low so there wouldn’t be any complications with custody and divorce proceedings. And maybe toward the end of their separation they began talking and realized maybe there were still enough feelings between them — and, lets not forget, a shared daughter — to try to work things out. Probably, these talks overlapped with his seeing you. Again, this isn’t necessarily atypical in cases of separation, nor is it necessarily “wrong.” You knew the man was married. You knew his divorce wasn’t yet finalized. Surely, there must have been some part of you that realized he might not be completely “finished” with his wife yet. If he were, he would have been divorced already.

So, he’s been talking with his wife and they decide there’s enough invested in their union to see if they can work things out before they call it quits for good. Maybe the separation and seeing other people gave them perspective they didn’t have before. That’s kind of what a separation period is for. Unfortunately, you were caught in the middle of it, and your boyfriend didn’t have the decency to alert you that things weren’t exactly over with his wife after all. But maybe he and his wife had only just talked that week about working things out and perhaps that night they showed up at your local bar was one of their first outings together. It’s possible that your boyfriend had even told his wife about you. Don’t you think he had to have some explanation for her as to why he bolted out of the bar that night? Do you think he just told her he saw a ghost?

My point is, FU, that it’s quite possible your boyfriend’s wife already knows about you, even if you didn’t know the status of her relationship with him. She probably doesn’t know all the details of your relationship with her husband, nor is it likely she wants to know, but there’s a good possibility she knows of your existence. And in that case, what would you accomplish by reaching out to her? It might be cathartic to you, but remember, this is a family we’re talking about. A family with a 3-year-old daughter. There’s a chance that little girl’s parents might get back together and she won’t have to spend the rest of her childhood being shuttled back and forth between them. And right now that chance is probably a tenuous one — a tiny thread of possibility and hope. And those “incriminating” emails and texts you have could probably rip that thread in half. What good would that do? Sure, it may hurt the man who hurt you, but it’s going to hurt two other people in the process. Is that really going to make you feel better?

The flip side to all this, of course, is that his wife didn’t know about you. And perhaps they didn’t have an agreement that they could see each other while they were separated. And maybe they started “working things out” weeks or even months before you saw them together that night. It makes you wonder when he was planning to tell you about her — how long he was going to keep sleeping with you and seeing his wife behind your back. But again, it’s not like this was a happy, solid marriage in which the husband stepped out and blindsided his wife with an extramarital affair. They were separated after all. I doubt his wife would exactly be shocked that in the year-plus that they lived separately, he dated someone. And to be honest, I’m not sure you should be all that shocked that the married man you were seeing for four months decided he might want to try to work things out with his wife and mother of his 3-year-old daughter before officially calling it quits. You had to know you weren’t entering into a situation that wasn’t without some complications. Your boyfriend didn’t hide that from you, even if he wasn’t completely forthcoming about every detail.

Look, you have a right to be angry and hurt, but if I were you, I’d sit on those feelings for a little bit before using them to hurt people who haven’t done anything to hurt you. Your boyfriend knows you’re pissed and he probably does feel bad, but right now he has more important things to deal with than your hurt feelings — he has a family he’s trying to put back together. Give him a few weeks and if you don’t hear anything from him, write one more final email in which you get it all out. And then? Wash your hands of him. Be glad you only spent four months with the guy instead of four years. Be glad it wasn’t you he was married to. And be glad you took the high road and gave that family a chance to “work things out.”

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