Q: About 2½ years after breaking up, my ex and I started sleeping together. Trouble is, I remarried quickly and have a child with my current wife. I don’t want to create the same problem for my new daughter as with the first two children so I don’t want to divorce, but my heart really belongs to my first wife. To add to the problem, my older kids (8 and 10) figured it out. I explained to them that what I was doing is wrong, but from there I don’t know what to do.
A: You’re a married man trying to justify your behavior by saying it’s OK because you were once married to wife No. 1. It doesn’t matter. You are married to someone else now, and if you’re sleeping with someone other than your current wife, you are being unfaithful. To complicate the situation, your children know about your infidelity — and you have admitted what you are doing is wrong. That must be doubly confusing for them because basically you told them it’s wrong for their mother and father to be together. It is doubtful any child will understand why. They may need help from a professional in dealing with all this, especially if you have sworn them to secrecy. The guilt they may harbor could severely affect their emotional and psychological development.
The primary rule for good ex-etiquette for parents is: “Put the children first.” You are not. This is all about you. You’ve got your first wife thinking that your allegiance is to her and your current wife believing she is your true love. Many who break up have second thoughts, but when you commit to another, you have made your decision.
You appear to be asking for direction, so here goes: You can’t have both. Because you are legally married and said you do not want a divorce, stop sleeping with your ex. Under any other circumstance I would suggest that you never see her again because it appears the temptation is too great. However, since you have children together you may want to reduce your interaction to “only peaceful contact regarding the children.” This means communicate via e-mail or text and only contact each other in an emergency or change in schedule.
Next, I would suggest your run, not walk, to a qualified therapist to help you figure out why you want it all and would risk the welfare of your children to get it. No one will emerge unscathed from all this — most of all your children. Sounds like your best bet might be to be alone for a while and figure this all out. Then, when you enter a relationship, you might actually want to stay there.