Can My Love For A Married Woman Grow?

Recently a man asked me, do you think it is possible for a relationship with a married woman to have a ‘happy ending?’ And if so, how can that be achieved?

I want to spell out the steps that need to be taken for those of you who are struggling in love with a married woman. This is what I told him.

In my experience you might get to a ‘happy ending’ if each of the following five (5) things happen: #1 First the ‘chemistry’ of love (not just sex) has to be strong between the two of you. This means you and your married lover have a very special intimacy that goes beyond the bedroom and into a loving and intimate friendship.

You care deeply about your lover and know in your heart of hearts that if she were not married at this very moment you would run away with her. You get the idea. What the two of you have is no ordinary relationship. The only problem is, she is attached (married) to a man she is not ‘in love’ with.

The point is, you and she are not just in it for the sex and a distraction from marital problems. You are in love with her, she is in love with you, and you both love each other as people.

#2 For the potential future relationship with your married lover, both of you end the relationship you now have. Now this might seem contradictory to you because of your need for her, but I want you to think about her need for a moment. She has to do something about her marriage. If not, her marriage will always be in your way.

The real reason she set up this ‘triangle’ between you, she, and her husband is because she running away from her marital problem. She has to go back to her marriage and make a decision to leave, or stay and work on the relationship with her husband. You have to appreciate the fact that there will never be a ‘happy ending’ if you stay in a triangle with her and her husband.

So ending the relationship, hopefully with a mutual understanding that you and she are doing it for the future relationship you both want to have. Triangles are inherently limited and unhealthy. You have to fix this before you can possibly move on.

#3 Your lover has to divorce her husband. This is mandatory. Why? Because nothing short of divorce is really leaving him. Otherwise, you’ll remain in an emotional triangle (still a triangle) and be unable to really move beyond it with your lover. Emotional triangles which include you, she, and an absent (ghost) separated husband are just as limiting and (haunting) as any other type of triangle.

The trick is to get the word ‘married’ out of the phrase, ‘married lover.’ Remember, if your love for each other is real it will last. If step 3 takes a little time, think of it as time spent healing the loss of her marriage, good or bad, healthy or not. When a person lets go of something he or she has clung to, whether or not it was healthy, it will be experienced as a loss. This is something she needs to do.

#4 She sets up an independent existence as a divorced woman apart from her divorced spouse. She can’t be living with him or depending upon him in any way after the divorce, and that includes financially. She has to avoid ‘rebound.’ Rebound is the psychological problem that occurs when you don’t adequately grieve and let go of a previous relationship before you jump into the next one.

Rebound involves old unresolved feelings toward the first guy (good or bad) invading your relationship with your lover. In other words, feelings she still has about him get transferred to you or the relationship in some way. In fact, the absence of rebound is an indicator of emotional availability. The past is resolved and now you are ready for the next relationship.

You don’t want two love relationships overlapping. By the way, nowadays independence usually involves having your own apartment and living a healthy life for a while as a single person in that apartment. How long it will take to establish a feeling of real independence depends upon the person. Some people do it relatively quickly. You get to be her ‘friend’ during this time without interfering in what she is trying to do for herself. Again you are thinking about her needs and not just your own.

#5 if you are still ‘available’ after all of these changes on her part, the two of you will have an opportunity to set up a ‘non-triangulated’ love relationship (the usual kind) and see where it takes you. Now you might think this is a lot to wait for and try to figure out some kind of ‘shortcut.’ But I assure you, the steps are necessary because you are trying to help your lover become emotionally available so that you and she can test out your love for each other like unmarried people do. The hard part of course is waiting.

One observation that may be of use to you, true love has a wonderful ability to last over time. Especially when you know the person you are in love with is in the world and trying to get free of something for you. In some cases, two people going through these changes might even see other people while secretly waiting for these changes to happen. I say secretly because sometimes we can even hide this kind of thing from ourselves.

I should know, I waited six (6) years for my wife, before she was my wife. She wasn’t married but she was in relationships with other men during this time. The truth is, I was not ready emotionally at earlier points in that six year period to start a serious love commitment.

Looking back, I know that I loved her from the moment I met her and had every intention of finding her when the time was right. I am thankful she was available when I got around to doing so. Yet something tells me, she like me, had every intention of being available and coming for me as well.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan



Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.


  1. LB on December 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I posted a comment on one of your other blogs, “I’m in love with a married woman,” a few months back. I’ve been invlvoed in a roller coaster ride with this expereince for a while now, about a year. I had written that when I tried to pull away from the affair, and move on, I thought about dating other women, and they just couldn’t measure up. So after I had tried to call things off, she came back to me and said she had spoken with her husband about divorce, and they agreed they should separate. The problem is, no one has made any moves in 2 months. Not even talking to a lawyer. And of course, I have allowed myself to get right back into the same situation. I am constatnly feeling that disconnect and emptiness that goes with being in that triangle. I express my feelings, and what is hard for me is that someone can say they want something so bad (to have that meaningful, fulfilling relationship with me), yet they just don’t do anything about it. Especially if it has been talked about, and both her and her husband have agreed to split. I understand there is alot that connects them, and there are still things that are just naturally dependent on in the relationship. These things she still goes to. I see it that way, and she doesn’t seem to. She claims it is a timing thing, and that she needs to wait for the timing to be right. I’ve realized that by me pushing the issue, all I am doing is getting in the way of her doing what’s right for her marriage (it’s my opinion and not what’s best for them). I don’t understand how someone who claims to be so unhappy, and has no connection with someone, can continue on like that without taking any action whatsoever. I tell her I don’t understand, and she says I never will. After reading this, I am at a point, again where I am trying to let her go, and I explain the things you noted above. I think the worst thing I couldve done, when I came back into this situation was tell her that I thoguht about dating other women. Becasue she can’t understand why I thought about that or how I could even entertain that idea if I was so in lvoe with her. I tried to explain that I was hurting so much and wanted so badly to get away from the situation, and it had nothing to do with feelings for anyone else. Now she thinks I just want to go date other people if we split again. That’s actually not the case, and I think she believes me about 75%. I’ve realized I need to heal with what has happened emotionally to me, and I can only do that myself. I can not love anyone else how I love her, nor feel that same attraction. I do want to be with her, and hope we can. I’ve told her that but she is skeptical. I hope she takes care of what she needs to, sooner rather than later, and we do end up together. Just looking for some advice, and maybe some thoguhts on how to handle this, how to be at peace with myself, and make srue I am careful, cautious and do the right thing with respect to handling her eomtions as well.

    • Dr. Tom Jordan on December 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks LB for your e-mail. Sorry you are hurting. Triangles are hard on the heart for sure. It is common to go back and forth on this kind of thing. The question is, are you at the point now where you realize that the same thing is going to happen over and over again? If you are, then change is possible. Of course, she is stuck too. Only she needs to not only make a decision about her marriage but take ‘action.’ If you see no action nothing different has happened. The hard part for you is to realize that you need to ‘separate’ from her in order to find out whether or not your relationship has a future. It’s only when she believes she will lose you that she can take a true action to keep the relationship (by really leaving her husband) or let you go (by staying with her husband). Either way, you get ‘unstuck.’ If you just hang around in the triangle nothing changes, it doesn’t have to change. Again the important thing for you to decide is whether or not you are really ready to get out of the triangle. Remember, she is not going to help you with this. She needs to know you are serious and that your seriousness requires her to really make a choice about her marriage. Good luck my friend. Thanks for using my blog. Dr. J.

      • sue on January 13, 2013 at 8:35 am

        I have been married for 33 years, about a year ago I reconected with someone,we are definetly soulmates,best friends and very much in love. We want to be together but I so afraid of what people will say. What is the right thing to do? I love my husband but not in love. I know this man is right for me.We just can’t function on a daily basis without talking.

        • Dr. Tom Jordan on January 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm

          Hi Sue, thank you for your comment and interest in my blog. Without knowing more about your situation, I would say that what other people will say about your love-life choices should be the least of your worries. In matters of the heart, it is best to go with what you need and want rather than what other people think is best for you. Otherwise, you are sure to be unhappy. The fact that you’ve been married for 33 years and ‘love’ your husband (as opposed to being ‘in love’ with him) I’d say requires some ‘soul-searching’ and ‘sensitive handling’ on your part. If your heart tells you that your marriage is over, you could hire a marital counselor for the purpose of helping you and your husband ‘end’ your relationship in the most constructive way possible. That way you have closure and can move on with your love-life without guilt or unresolved feelings. If your husband is not interested in this, you have the difficult but never impossible task of telling him that you are no longer ‘in love’ with him. It is best when ending a long-term relationship to take a little time for yourself to ‘clear your heart’ so to speak. If your new (old) love is truly in love with you he will understand this need and be patient. Remember, a ‘soulmate’ is someone whose love for you endures a lifetime. Letting you end one relationship before jumping into another is not a lot to ask. You want to avoid an impulsive rebound that brings a lot of residual unfinished business with your husband into your next relationship. In summary, you need to talk to both of these men. Your husband needs to hear about what you are feeling or not feeling about your marriage, and your soulmate needs to hear your request for patience as you bring your marriage to an end. Thanks again for your interest in my blog, and check out the workshops we’re offering in the near future. Good luck Sue. Dr.J.

  2. Rgl on February 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I got involved with a woman who I have know for about 8 years, she has been married for the last 5.5 years. We became involved last October, so about four months ago. I have always felt a connection to her, since the first time we met. At that time I was married and she was dating. My marriage ended (unrelated to her) and through dealing with that I have not seen her much in the last few years other than Facebook etc. until October. I never gave the connection much thought, mostly because I believed it was one sided (me) until she told me in October how she felt about me, the same connection etc that I have felt for her. From my own experience of being married and ending a marriage, I told her that she had to deal with her own marriage before there was any chance for the two of us, which after reading your post here, I feel good about doing.that was about three weeks ago. About four weeks ago she began seeing a councilor on her own, without her husband. He is aware that she is unhappy in their marriage, but until last week when he thought she was going to truly leave, maintained that all their problems were her fault. ( this obviously from her point of view to me) My contact with her the last several weeks has been limited, by mutual agreement, me hoping she would deal with her issues in her marriage, one way or the other. We communicated several nights ago via text. She told me that things had been better for her at home, because her husband had taken responsibility for many of their issues and was willing to do whatever he had to do to save what they had. She said that she felt that she felt she had to do at least as much to figure out if what they had was meant to last. She said all she had been thinking about up until last week was me and starting over . It is worth mentioning that her husband has no idea about us, or her being unfaithful, or if he does he has not let her know it or is unwilling to admit it to himself. I understand that her involvement me me has a great deal to do with some needs not being met for her in her own marriage now. I know that my feelings for her are genuine, I care about her a great deal, we’ll past just a physical relationship etc. and I believe her feelings are for me as well. I have never been involved with anything like this before, I have had the chance, but there was never a chance that I would, but she is different, there was no chance I could not. I have so many questions, I do not even know where to begin. Any advice or insight is greatly appreciated.

    • Dr. Jordan on February 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you Rgl for your e-mail. You are on the right path. You are a courageous man. The reason I say that is, your heart is telling you one thing and your head another, and you have been able to choose what is healthiest for both of you. That in and of itself is a great act of love. It may not feel so to you or her, but I see the importance of this. She is ambivalent. Most people in her position would be. She feels strongly for you but is attached to her husband at the same time. This is the essence of the problem. In that state of emotional ambivalence, your heart will suffer unless you take care of yourself. Deciding to take care of yourself by sending her back to her marriage to ‘figure out’ whether or not the marriage is viable, is the only way out of this cycle of painful feelings. Let her have her time. Even if it hurts to stay away. The alternative is worse. In the meantime, recognize that you are a ‘lover.’ By that I mean your capacity to love deeply is a great virtue. I can feel it through your words. When I meet someone who can love another by saying no to himself, I acknowledge your strength. Now it’s time to take care of yourself. While she figures out whether or not to preserve and improve her marriage, your task is to strengthen further your ability to be alone comfortably. Do what you need to do to accomplish that. Think about your own needs. Make them first. Choose activities that strengthen the bonds in your friendships. Meet people. If she decides to separate and divorce by becoming a single woman again, be her ‘best friend’ while she goes through that process. Make sure it’s not just her words, but real actions she is taking to separate and divorce (leaving, setting up an apartment, seeing a lawyer, etc.). Whenever an attachment is severed, no matter how limited, there is usually a period of loss and grief. This feeling cleanses the heart and prepares it for the next significant love. Be patient. Date and move back into a relationship after she has established herself as a single woman. If the love is true for you, nothing will be lost. If she chooses not to leave her marriage, stay away. Grieve the loss and learn. Triangles are no place for a man of your emotional ability. Hope this has been useful to you. I also hope that you continue to use my blog in the future. Dr.J.

      If you are interested in getting a little more help figuring this out, I do telephone consultations. You can register for one at my website. Here’s the link:

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