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Misplaced Allegiance

Direct Answers 'Column for the week of June 23, 2003

I am male, 30, married for seven years. I have two small children. The past several years of married life have been trying. My wife and I fight a lot, always about money, work, or sex.

We used to be very passionate, in a shy sort of way, but that has all but vanished. My wife attributes it to my work ethic. If I was home more, she says, she would be more romantic. I am not sure I agree. It seems the more I am around the more bored I become with her. I still love her, but there is a giant void.

Now the bigger problem. I hired a recent college grad at work, a smart beautiful 23-year-old woman. She sparked something in me that has been missing. There was an obvious physical attraction on my part from the first day. I work long hours, and she worked alongside me.

We spent many evenings talking to each other and just hanging out. She knows I am married and unhappy. I found myself thinking of this girl constantly on the weekends, and at night while being intimate with my wife. Unfortunately, she recently turned in her resignation. Over lunch she explained she is leaving for legitimate career reasons.

She was very emotional about her career change. I was devastated. We went out with co-workers the next night to drink, have fun, and say farewell. We spent most of the night in each other's arms, dancing closely and whispering into each other's ear. When we left, we started with a hug, moved to a peck on the lips, and ended in a deep passionate kiss.

This girl left on a trip for three weeks overseas, but when she gets back we need to talk things out. I have been thinking of separation or even divorce for over a year, but my biggest fear is my kids. I don't want them to be without a father, nor do I want to be unhappy anymore. I am so torn I don't know what to do.


Oscar, one of the most common letters we receive starts with a litany of problems in the marriage and ends with a new person coming into the writer's life. In these letters there are two questions, independent of each other, but the letter writer invariably sees it as a single question.

The first question is, Should I leave my wife because I don't love her and don't want to continue the marriage? The second question is, Will my relationship with my new love work out?

If your marriage is bad enough to end, it should be bad enough to end without another person coming into your life. A year ago talks with your wife might have led to separation and both of you feeling your way back into the world while adjusting to the fact of divorce.

Now your wife will feel there weren't issues between the two of you. It was another woman. Your wife will feel you have your next fish on the line, and she doesn't even have a line in the water. Your wife will be hurt, angry, and contentious.

You, on the other hand, will know your new love is a woman who can become involved with a married man. How much cleaner and more honest it would have been to have separated from your wife a year ago. For you, your wife, and this new woman, everything would have been less complicated.

We hear your concern for your children and the other woman, but not for your wife. Don't firm up the new relationship before talking with your wife. Talking with your wife, not the other woman, is the most important thing now.

The first question to resolve is whether you and your wife love each other and want to remain married.

Wayne and Tamara

About the Author
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at

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