DEAR CAROLYN: I’m 38 and involved with a same-age man. We are in love and it’s the kind of relationship that has shown me everything that was missing from prior relationships. We’ve been dating for just shy of six months and are starting to discuss living together, which would also be a first.
The catch is that he’s been separated from his wife for the last four years. I had nothing to do with their marriage ending so I don’t feel guilty about my involvement with him. However she has been dragging her feet on actually filing for divorce. There is no chance of a reconciliation. Perhaps it’s financial or that’s she Catholic, but she has been insistent on filing yet she’s moving like a turtle.
Should I let the fact that he is separated stop me from continuing or growing the relationship? Would I be a fool to move in with him? At what point do I give him an ultimatum?
Goes without saying that I would like to own a house and get married and have a child, all of which I’ve been very transparent about. He tells me he sees all of that with me. I don’t doubt he loves me.
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DEAR A.: You’d be a fool to move in with him, yes, and you’d whomp up a fool layer cake if you also relied on an ultimatum; believed that any desire “goes without saying”; and treated “no chance of a reconciliation” as an assurance of anything.
The wisest thing you’ve done is to be transparent about house, marriage, kids. Don’t screw that up now by taking actions that directly undermine what matters to you. Specifically:
• Giving him an “or else.” That forces his hand on something you want him to embrace willingly.
• Assuming he knows what you’re thinking. Even after being transparent, assuming leaves room for you two to make joint decisions with different outcomes in mind.
• Dismissing their failure to divorce when their long separation means it’s a stinkin' pen stroke away. That opens you to being blindsided by the real reason this last tie remains uncut.
• And, moving in with him before he finalizes his divorce. Yikes. Our own stalemates are bad enough – you’d be joining someone else’s, on purpose, knowingly against your own interests.
A response to this situation that makes sense for you is breathtakingly simple: “I’d love to become a more permanent part of your life, but until you’re divorced, that’s premature.” Followed by, as needed: “I’m nuts about you. I’m also not budging on this.”
Because you can’t budge. I doubt you'll want to – not because you’re 38, but because his response to the line you draw will likely tell you right away how serious he is about “see(ing) all of that with me.”