Two men, two problems

All Woman

Dear Counsellor,

I am now 40 years old. When I was at secondary school I had a wonderful relationship with a guy. We loved each other, but we had financial challenges. Sometimes I could not attend school because my fees were not being paid, and my boyfriend was also facing similar hardships.

I then met this rich married man and I started dating him in order to meet my financial needs. Whenever I got money, I'd share it with my boyfriend.

He always questioned me about the source of the money and I always lied to him. I knew he was not comfortable with the situation, but he had no choice. I finished school and got a small job, but I kept seeing that rich man because my salary still could not take care of all my needs. Slowly I started enjoying his company more than that of my boyfriend, and eventually I agreed to become his mistress. My young sweetheart was devastated.

After 14 years with this married man, I still feel guilty. I now have three children for him. As if this was not enough, he is now planning to take on another girlfriend. I want to make peace with God but I don't want to be separated from my kids, and their father insists that his children will not grow up without him. What should I do?

I am still communicating with my ex, but we just talk as friends. He's still not married. I've come to realise that I still have feelings for him and I know he does too, but we've not said anything about it. My question is, if he should want me back in his life, is it OK for me to accept? I'm willing to walk away from this complicated situation after realising my mistakes.

Your reason for entering this relationship is no different from some women whose desire for financial stability is their main motivation. You found yourself in a desperate situation for financial assistance and you were even kind enough to treat your boyfriend to some of the proceeds from your well-to-do man.

Even though financial stability is important in a relationship, it is no guarantee for emotional contentment. In other words, loving someone for what he/she possesses does not equate to loving him/her for who he/she is. So although your man provided for you financially, you still had a yearning for the emotional attachment which your ex-boyfriend could provide.

I can almost hear some women saying that love and affection cannot buy food in the supermarket, and so they would rather be lacking in love than money. Others, however, can testify about the financial struggles they had with their not so well-off but loving partners, yet were able to make it through the storm.

The ideal situation for you would be to have a relationship in which you were financially and emotionally secure, but sadly this is not the case. You now have to consider the effects of the decision you made when you became involved with this married man.

So now you are contemplating walking away from your provider, but the challenge is that you will have to leave your children behind. You need to sit down and consider whether you are prepared to abandon them in order to satisfy your emotional needs at the expense of damaging their psychological development. I would venture to say that the children need you more than the ex-boyfriend does at this time. You may need to postpone your personal gratification just to ensure that the children receive the motherly love and attention that they deserve.

Consider also that your ex must realise that taking you away from your children would not be in either yours or his best interest, as he would not get your full attention if they are not with you.

Given your present situation, it may be best for you both to maintain a platonic relationship, always observing the necessary boundaries.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to agapemft@gmail.com; check out his work overseas on www.seekingshalom.org, e-mail powellw@seekingshalom.org.

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