Ask Pennwell.

Today we have a delicate submission to which I want to respond with compassion and empathy that is void of judgment. For any of us who have been in long-term relationships, we can certainly understand the many seasons of the heart. No matter how blissful it can be, there are challenges, roadblocks and obstacles. Some we can face, confront and overcome while others, we may not be able to. The latter is usually because of differences in core values, morals and beliefs or the sad realization that the two of you do not share the same long term vision as a couple. Some wants and needs can be met through compromise while some cannot and the decision must be made to part ways.

For the sake of anonymity, names are changed.

Mary submitted her dilemma, struggling with the potential temptation to cheat on her 10-year beau, John. How John acted in the early years and how he acts now are like two different men. Mary recognizes the fact that sometimes people become lazy in long-term relationships, unconsciously taking each other for granted and no longer paying attention to the small things – which typically become the biggest fights of all. She has addressed this, made efforts to reignite the flame as well as the relationship rituals that used to mean so much to both of them. But she’s at a loss. Mary wonders if John is spending his time and focusing his attention on someone else. She cannot understand why a man who believed these things to be as important to their relationship as she did has done a 360 and not only seemed to have checked out, but has made no attempt to work with her to address it. Mary feels slighted, ignored, pacified and alone.

In comes Joe. Joe is a work associate who shares Mary’s zest for life, introspection and humor. They had grown close before COVID-19, but the global pandemic has undeniably strengthened that bond and actually brought them closer, while apart. Joe is in a supposed unhappy marriage. His wife no longer pays attention to him and only focuses on their children. He feels lonely, abandoned and longs for the same things Mary does.

Stop. Take a breath. Evaluate. Before either one of you make a decision to betray your long-term beau and his spouse, is there anything more you can do to repair and salvage your relationships? The 12-step program has a proven check-point: H.A.L.T. which equates to are you hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Lonely we know to be true for you and Joe. Angry, I think it is safe to say that is true, too.

But Mary, have you been as candid as you think? Have you dropped hints of what you need – or blatantly said hey, I need this from you for our relationship to continue? Have you asked what may be happening in John’s daily world that you may be able to help with? Is there a possible reason that your significant other has retreated, isolated and stopped engaging? Have you examined your own actions critically? Had this work associate become front and center in your mind, unconsciously changing you and your engagement with John? Have you been romanticizing what could be with this other lonely, unhappy soul – who may quite possibly be a child at heart who is unconsciously competing with his own children for his wife’s attention? I do have to bite my tongue here.

Mary, I’ve been here. If I had a penny for every man who was unhappy with his wife, lonely and seeking companionship while he found himself as well as what he needed – I’d have retired many years ago. And I’m not saying Joe is like these men, but I would step back, break away and sort through the countless feelings, emotions and thoughts you are having.

If John has sincerely checked out or sadly betrayed you, then it may be time to move on. But if you find it possible that your preoccupation and focus on Joe, who joined you in the lonely hearts club commiserating about how lost each of you are, you may need to look within.

No one deserves to be cheated on – yet it happens everyday for more ‘reasons’ than I can count. Please be fair to John, Joe and, most importantly – yourself. Reach deep inside, focus on your emotions and take the time to process what you’re feeling before you act.

COVID-19 has impacted us all and my own long-term relationship unraveled – though I don’t blame or attribute it to COVID-19, there were so many other variables that resulted in our parting. Though it was the right decision, it doesn’t ease the pain or disappointment – as I said above, focus on the emotions and take the time to process what you’re feeling before you act.

And I only hope that what I’ve shared here may help you.

Author: E.M. Murphy

A voracious writer, lifetime learner and eternal seeker who aims to open minds and hearts. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a NASM Certified Behavior Change Specialist, humanity and humor is at the heart of my writing, reminding us that the key to success will always start with a genuine concern for others while making sure to be true to our authentic selves.

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