I'm a 38-year-old bi woman who has been sleeping with a married male coworker for the last eight months. We're a walking cliché: I'm a nurse, he's a doctor, and one night he ended up spilling a lot of personal information about his marriage to me (sexless, non-romantic, she might be a lesbian) before asking if he could kiss me. I declined. Three months and many text messages later, I met him for drinks. The next thing I know we are falling in love and spending as much time together as we can manage. Even though he is married and has kids, this has been one of the best relationships of my adult life. He loves me in ways I never thought possible. (He even savors my Covid-19 curves.) I find myself becoming increasingly jealous of the time he spends with his wife and his inability to spend more time with me. My question is this: How do I have this conversation with him without it seeming like an ultimatum? I love that I finally found someone who treats me so well when we are together but my heart is breaking because our love exists in the shadows. What should I do?
—Outside The Home Exists Romance
What are you willing to settle for, OTHER?
If you can't live without Dr. Married and you can only have him on his terms—terms he set at the start, terms designed to keep his wife in the dark—then you'll have to accept his terms. Terms can be renegotiated, but unless you're willing to issue an ultimatum, OTHER, Dr. Married has no incentive to renegotiate the terms of your relationship.
To get what you want, OTHER, you're gonna have to man up: feel entitled, act entitled, make demands. And you gotta be willing to walk. Dr. Married needs to understand that if his circumstances don't change—if he doesn't change them—then he's going to lose you.
There's a middle ground between divorce and things staying exactly as they are. Dr. Married's wife is surely aware that her marriage is sexless and non-romantic and if his wife's actually a lesbian, well, perhaps she'd like the freedom to date other women, too. If they want to stay together for the kids, if they have a constructive, functional, low-conflict loving partnership, and it would be possible to daylight you without anyone having to get divorced, maybe you could settle for those terms.