How can I motivate my lover to stop dragging his feet and leave his wife? I'm eager to start a new life with him, but as long as he's tied to her I'm relegated to playing second fiddle. I know this isn't an easy step for him to take, even though she has treated him like dirt the whole time they've been married. But it's been frustrating and disappointing waiting for him to break free so that we can pursue our own happy lives together. What should I do?
We want to begin by letting you know how much we appreciate the confidence you've expressed in our ministry by turning to us with this question. Your interest in our perspective is welcome, and we're happy to have this opportunity to be of assistance to you.
Your feelings are understandable in light of your eagerness to get started on a new life. It's clear that you believe you're in love with this man and that you see your relationship with him as your ticket to a brighter future. We'd be the last to make light of your emotions. But at the same time, we can't help thinking that it might be a good idea to take a step backward and try to gain some objectivity. It's possible that your feelings are distorting your viewpoint.
Before you do anything else, stop and picture yourself looking into this situation from the outside. Give some thought to the meaning of marriage and the level of commitment it's supposed to entail. Then put yourself in the place of your lover's wife. How do you think you'd feel if you were walking in her shoes? After that, try to see things from your lover's perspective. What would you do if you were in his position? Why do you think he's "dragging his feet"? Finally, take an honest, objective look at yourself. What's motivating you to pursue this relationship so intently in spite of all the obstacles? What deep personal needs are you expecting to satisfy by making a new start with this man?
From where we sit, it looks as if this relationship is lacking something in the way of mutuality. In other words, we think it's possible that your lover's feelings for you are not as strong as you suppose. By your own account, he's proven reluctant to leave his marriage – perhaps even stubbornly so. He's content to let you go on "playing second fiddle" despite your insistence that he make a clean break and come away with you. It's plain that he doesn't share your sense of urgency and desperation. What do you think that means?
Hard as it may be to bend your mind in this direction, you also need to give some serious consideration to the importance of commitments. Here at Focus on the Family we are strong believers in the sacredness, inviolability, and permanence of the marital relationship. Apparently this man attaches a certain weight to the vows he made to his wife at the time of their marriage. He's finding it difficult to snap those bonds and relegate those promises to the dust bin. As we see it, that says something positive about his character. After all, would you really want to take a chance on a man who doesn't honor his commitments? Wouldn't you be plagued by fears that he might someday repeat the pattern by breaking his pledge to you? Past behavior is usually the best predictor of future behavior.
This last thought leads to another. How much do you value yourself? How healthy is your sense of personal worth? How long are you willing to go on "playing second fiddle"? These questions are well worth asking. If in the end your lover chooses not to leave his wife, you're going to have to decide who you really are and how you can go on living without him.
We'd advise you to think long and hard about this. Take some time to revisit your personal value system. Ask yourself a few probing questions about your larger framework and worldview. Do you have any idea where you came from, where you're going, and what your life is all about? Do you sense some kind of deficit in your life? If so, are you aware of anything – something larger than you or your lover – that might be able to fill the gap? That's a subject we'd love to discuss with you if you'd be willing to give us a chance.
If you think it might be helpful to talk these issues over at greater length, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.