I would also encourage her to not wait for him and be open to outside relationships. Even if he does leave his wife in 4 years, that is still a long time to put your life on hold. Enjoy it while it lasts, hope for the best & expect the worst, and don't let other opportunities pass you by.
Thirty-eight isn't exactly "old." But I wouldn't waste at least four more years hoping for something to change when, in fact, the odds of that happening aren't exactly good. If you're happy with that, then, as others have said, far out.
CPOS (Cheating Pieces of Shit) types are ALWAYS in loveless, sexless marriages... unless you ask their spouses. (This has nothing to do with sex - could be male or female.)

If I had $.05 for every time a married guy told me he was in a "loveless, sexless marriage", I'd be on the beach in Tahiti instead of shivering in Chicago.

You beat me to it.

I don't put much stock in castigating the other woman or man for participating in an affair (they weren't the ones who made a commitment), but the fact that this guy claims he's in a loveless, sexless marriage doesn't make it true.

And his 14-year-old youngest can't deal with a divorce? Please. Odds are this guy doesn't want out of the marriage for reasons other than his kid's welfare.
It's supposed to warm up on Friday.
@3: And if I had a dime for every man or woman stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage for the sake of his/her kids, I'd be right there with you on the beach in Tahiti offering to buy you a drink.

@4: Umm, 12-14 is arguably the worst age range to get a divorce. I'd say divorcing at any point while the kids are still at home will likely fuck up their world, especially if its a contentious divorce.

You often make me smile and sometimes you make my heart hurt. I always wish you joy, an evolving form of joy.

Best wishes to you and your's.
She does say: "he'll leave if and when he's good and ready," and so I'm willing to assume that she means the "IF" part of that statement, which indicates she recognizes (and is okay with) the possibility that he may never leave his wife.

She didn't say anything one way or another about precluding the idea/chance for another relationship, but I hope that whatever happens, she can continue getting her emotional and sexual needs met.
@7: Thank you, Kim. Your strength and kindness blow me away.
I have a prejudice against married people having affairs. To me, whatever their excuse is, they are violating a trust and breaking a contract. I wouldn't want them around me.
I'm not in favor of cheating in general, but as Dan says, it's true that in some cases it might be the least of two evils. Here's my take on it as another 30 something lady who regrets ever getting involved with a married man: She should continue dating (not necessarily having sex at first) outside this "relationship". She shouldn't be waiting out the ride to see if it goes anywhere, because most likely it won't. It's ok to be friends and care about him, but she needs to keep her options open and keep looking for someone who is truly available to her. Think of him as friends with benefits and sex only. She can joke about being a spinster at 38, but she might not find it so funny at 48. Especially if she banks the last years of her youthful looks on a guy who isn't ever going to commit to her. She could wind up filled with resentment and alone when it ends if she doesn't date other, more available men.
This is kind of a side issue, but....I always wonder how many people advocating "staying together for the kids" have actually experienced what it is like to have divorced parents. Because having divorced parents didn't fuck up my world at all. Granted, it wasn't a particularly nasty divorce, but it wasn't super rosy either--probably about middle of the road as far as divorces go. But in the end, my parents' separation was completely beneficial for me. It even gave me space to build an almost-decent relationship with my extremely fucked up mother, as I didn't have to live with her all the time. No way that would have happened had my parents stayed together in the same house---everyone would have been miserable.

It wasn't perfect--money was definitely very tight--but my dad found a roommate with kids to get us through the first year or two, and it was an instant slumber party for my brother and me. I remember it mostly as being fun.

When my dad remarried several years later, that was a little more difficult at first, but because he did it while I was still at home (at 13, no less), I actually built an incredibly close relationship with my stepmother and my stepsiblings--we're all just regular family to each other now, and it's fun to spend holidays together. What is far worse is trying to spend vacations with my mother and her husband, whom she married after I'd moved away to college and who has remained, basically, an awkward stranger.

From my perspective, it seems useful to have the chance to build these lasting familial relationships when one is young and there's still a hope that people can bond. I don't know--I just don't think divorce has to be such a completely shattering experience in a child's life. It was kind of a non-event for us. I think mostly because my parents just didn't treat it as something that was guaranteed to destroy our world.

You know, I really really don't get the whole "staying together for the kids" thing. My parents divorced when I was 6, my younger brother was 4. I don't remember it being that hard, in fact, what I do remember, is the peace that seemed to come down over the house. My parents used to yell, scream and throw shit at each other. After my dad moved out, all of that stopped. Fuck, my parents even became friends!
Looking back, I know this was hard for them. My dad had to move back in with his parents for awhile, my mom had to rent a house and share a bedroom with my aunt; but at the time, I had absolutely no idea that anything was wrong.
Both my parents are now happily remarried, and I have two awesome younger siblings who never would have existed if they had've "stuck it out for the kids". This entire line of reasoning baffles me. Your kids will be happy and leading full lives if YOU are happy and leading a full life; end of story.
Can someone (the letter-writer, perhaps?) explain to me why his wife can't know about this? Because she'd get a divorce? Then why doesn't she get that choice?

Sounds like he wants his two women, and is perfectly happy to lie to both of them (yes, I assume like most married cheaters that he's having sex with both of the women, and lying to both of them). Why the letter-writer is putting up with it is beyond me.

WANWAN we must stay togetha for the KIDZZZZZ.
I survived my parents divorce. My parents are happier without each other.
90% of my friends' parents are divorced. I'm from the generation where it's more the norm to have divorced parents than happily married. Kids are tough, and it's not a social taboo anymore. Staying together for the kids is one of the worst things you can do for them.

my heart breaks for you. An apartment is not the end of the world. Time being sane and happy and living with someone you love is much better than living with someone you hate.
A) They have no self esteem or self respect and don't think they deserve to experience a love relationship between equals B) They are terrified of intimacy and commitment, and so choose someone whom they KNOW they can never be fully close to C) they get a charge off the whole taboo idea of affairs D) they get an ego stroke thinking THEY are fulfilling the man's needs and if he was "free" he'd choose them E) they are martyr-saviors who sacrifice their own wants to "save" the poor ol' beat up husband F) all of the above.

I'll reserve a special letter G) Because they KNOW, for a fact, their married partner has been given the blessing to seek satisfaction outside the marriage.

I like G. People who do it for reason G deserve my support and thanks. If I ever lose my capacity for sexual enjoyment or, heaven forbid, become unable to follow through due to disability, I would happily write out a permission slip for my husband to show potential FWBs so he can keep his sanity and I can keep my marriage.

My spider sense with this letter, though, is telling me it's not Option G in her case.
I think kids are a good reason to go to a marriage councilor and try to work things out but not a reason to stay together if things are irreparably broken.

That said, I think Dan is right that he may never leave his wife even after the kid has grown and left. It's not uncommon for couples to get closer again after the kids have grown up and moved out. The LW shouldn't pin her hopes on him leaving his wife for her and go out and date other people and have her own relationships. If he does follow through, that's great, if not she hasn't wasted years waiting for him.
@15: Staying together for the kids is one of the worst things you can do for them.

Unfortunately, it's just not that simple. Depends on the family and how unstable the kids' lives are AFTER the divorce. Awesome if your parents handle it well. Sucks for you big time if they don't.

A couple of abstracts I found after a quick search online:

In general, the accumulated research suggests that marital dissolution has the potential to create considerable turmoil in people's lives. But people vary greatly in their reactions. Divorce benefits some individuals, leads others to experience temporary decrements in well-being, and forces others on a downward trajectory from which they might never recover fully.

The analyses indicate that compared with peers who grow up in stable postdivorce families, children of divorce who experience additional family transitions during late adolescence make less progress in their math and social studies performance over time. Furthermore, family resource differences before and during late adolescence either partially or completely account for the less positive performance trajectories in two types of divorced families. Finally, daughters in unstable postdivorce families appear to make less academic progress over time than sons.
The 14-year-old knows about it.

His wife knows about it.

His wife knows he'll never leave.

The 38-year-old "spinster" (that word hasn't been used for about 60 years until she used it) will feel a lot more spinster-ish in about 5 years, when the husband has moved on to a much younger mistress.
Hmmm. Your words sound like the right words, letter writer, but yeah - use of the word "spinster" makes me wonder what your real expectations of the situation are - the long-term ones. I'd totally bet you aren't seeing other guys, & you should. Part of the recent the GGG sex is so good here is that there's no other commitments, no other parts of the relationship. Make sure this married guy remains just sex for you, & get brave & go meet some new men. Classes, book clubs - whatever - just make sure your life is full & well-rounded, so when this guy doesn't leave his wife - like @ 11 says -it won't devastate.

& yeah, the loveless sexless marriage thing..I'd be on the beach w/ samanthaf63 & seandr if I had just a nickel for every time that got trotted out in my presence. I used to tend bar, so - I've heard it. One of the oldest lines out there.
@20, like everyone else, I'm familiar with the "loveless and sexless" line. And I've met men who "still love their wives," but claim not to have sex with them anymore.

Anyone ever meet a guy who said he was in a loveless but not sexless marriage? ("We still fuck pretty often, but I don't love her anymore?")

I have no respect for mistresses or cheaters. Cheating lacks class or respect! I think if you want out or a relationship... then get out. If for some bizarre reason, you don't want to leave (I don't believe anyone is forced to stay in a relationship) then the person should have the balls to tell their primary partner that they would like to explore options outside their relationship. If the primary partner is cool with that, then congratulations to all involved but that is NOT cheating, what I described is opening the relationship and that opening should go both ways.

I've been cheated on and that relationship was not sexless and from my half it was also not loveless. The guy made the choice for me, and in the end it hurt more than if he had just broken up with me. It made me feel worthless, cheap and that my life was a lie. I have no respect for him or the girl he cheated on me with. She knew that he had a girlfriend (a long term one) and didn't care. It blows my mind how little concern the "other woman" feels for the girlfriend/fiancee/wife. No-one asks to be cheated on and that kind of hurt is incredible. The funny thing is, years later I ran into a friend of his in a bar and the guy told me that my then boyfriend had no intention to leave me for her. I think that if someone chooses to cheat, then the other person deserves the choice to leave with dignity.

I'm curious how our letter writer will feel years down the road, if he doesn't leave his wife. She has no rights to him or what happens to him. If he gets hurt or dies she has no say in what happens. She would not be welcome at family Christmases, his kids' weddings, or ultimately funerals. She has no right to the joy or grief in his life. I really hope that GGG sex is good because that's all this relationship is. Its a half relationship, and that's it. If I were her (and thankfully I'm not) I would tell the lover that he doesn't have to leave his wife but he does need to tell her!
One more thing, LW... you say you have no kids. If that is a choice you've made and you have no interest in being a mother, then that's good. But if there is ANY chance that you want kids of your own, dump him right now. I don't care how many celebs you see having children in their 40's. They are doing it with incredibly expensive, top-notch medical help. For the rest of us, 38 is quickly approaching the far end of easy fertility. If you are harbouring hopes that he MAY leave his wife in 4 years and then you MAY get together with him and start a family of your own, you are deluded.
@15. "Staying together for the kids is one of the worst things you can do for them."

I know. I never liked being used as an excuse for enforced unhappiness.
Firstly, I would like to add that I went through two divorces in my childhood, once when I was very young and once when I was 14. I also have 4 brothers, 2 from the second marriage, or various ages who also dealt with this. We are all fine and successful and, as far as I know happy. Everyones parents fuck them up a little bit, and I think that a properly handled divorce is fine. I think that this retrospective, the person has problems must have been the divorce, is the same logic that lead people to believe that MMR vaccinations gave you autism (maybe this is an england specific example?)…

I think that really it is a weak excuse, especially when the child is 14, he is old enough to deal with this. I don't think the guy wants to leave, I am sure his home has many other comforts, and conveniences. And that is fine, just don't be delusional about him ever leaving.
Secondly, this advice is in stark contrast to the advice given about the same subject not long ago. From the sounds of it he does not fit into the non-CPOS category, having not even tried to open his relationship up. This is if he is even telling the truth. For me this just shows that the logic from the last advice doesn't work. At the end of the day you can not check all the facts and he could well be lying. This is why I think the person not in the marriage has very little responsibility over the reality, and monogamy, of the marriage.
I think if you followed the rule set last time you should also call this person a CPOS. As you can tell I disagree with this, but I do think he is a CPOS.
I have a friend whose parents "stayed together for the kids" until her younger brother was out of the house. When they got divorced, it was still tough on the kids - especially tough because they realized then that their parents' marriage was really a sham the whole time.

I'm thinking that guy will never leave his wife, too.
Adding another voice to those saying staying together for the kids is a BAD MOVE. The youngest is 14? You think he can't tell his parents are unhappy? I could tell at 4. Two happy homes are infinitely better than one nuclear fuckwad. Also, I love how everyone saying "it isn't always that cut and dry, finances, blah blah" are merely citing vague studies and are not, in fact, children of divorce. One or the other of my parents would have offed themselves if they had not had the options of getting out. Tell me how fucked up I'd be after a suicide.
And just when no woman bought 'my wife doesn't understand me' anymore all the married scumbags in the world got another lame excuse.
I'm NOT a child of divorce, but I wish I was. My poor, silly, miserable parents. Things could have been so much better for them. They STILL refuse to get a divorce, though, even though we're all grown and out of the house. At least the misery is comfortable, I guess.
My parents (finally) divorced a couple of years ago. I still don't know why they didn't do it 10 years back.... I think they both wasted a lot of potential happiness!
@12: Ditto. Shitty relationships between parents are WAY worse than no relationships, unless they're fucking flawless actors, in which case I expect them to be on the Oscar nomination list. Of course, we also need to hear from the people whose parents got divorced right after they left the house, as their parents were obviously staying together for the kids, in order to evaluate the frequency of toxic home situations when that's the case. I don't recall hearing from anyone like that ever, though maybe it's just a selective memory bias so I can confirm my presupposed belief.

@21: Not marriages, no, but plenty of long-term relationships where one party is just hanging around for the sex in an otherwise miserable borderline/actually emotionally abusive relationship. It's usually because the person is super hung-up on having a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" as part of hir identity or for personal validation, or it's because the person feels like sie "needs" partnered sex to the same extent that one needs food, air, etc.
Just want to add another child-of-divorce experience to the list we've got going here. My parents got divorced when I was 17, at which point my life became IMMENSELY better. The house had been a chaotic environment full of stress and tension until they finally split up and started focusing more attention on my younger siblings and I instead of fighting with each other. My husband's parents just divorced last year. He believes they should have done it much, much sooner.
1) he's never going to leave her. he's happier at home than he's pretending to be.

2) divorce doesn't have to be devastating to children - there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it.
p.s. and of course the condition of the marriage before the divorce matters at least as much as the nature of the divorce process itself. if everything appeared rosy to the kids then a divorce will be devastating, at least until they are old enough to figure it all out. but if things were terrible before, then a divorce may very well be the best outcome.
I don't know about y'all, but whenever I hear about women sleeping with married men, I always think of Carrie Fisher's character in "When Harry Met Sally".
I'd just like to add that a catholic viewpoint toward sex would in fact be a no boundaries, everything goes POV. A Catholic viewpoint on sex would be decidedly more limited, which I think what she means. But catholic is an adjective meaning universal, and Catholic refers to the Roman church.
I actually had a really shitty time during my parent's divorce. you know what though, I still had food on my table and a roof over my head, I wasn't beaten or sexually assaulted. Oh noes, I had to take a year off school!! It made me a stronger person. If you have to go to years and years of therapy because your parents divorced, you need to suck it up. At least your parents did the healthy thing and ended an unhappy relationship, something you should do in your life as well.

I've never seen parents who are 'keeping it together for the kids' actually ever 'keep it together'. They lived in separate parts of the house, snarked at each other and bitched to their kids about the other parent. My friends family was like having divorced people in the same house, totally fucking awful.

Stay together if you can stand to live with the other person and treat them civilly, and so can your spouse. Leave if you can't.
I grew up in a family where the parents were "staying together for the kids." In fact, my mother told me that the only reason she was with my father at all was that she had accidentally gotten pregenant with me. Otherwise, she would have divorced him earlier. I always felt like she blamed me for their marriage issues, which were numerous. I was emotionally and sometimes physically abused, and everybody in that house was absolutely miserable. Once I finally got out and went to college it took me years to adjust to living in a place where people didn't irrationally scream at each other over at the drop of a pin. I honestly wish my parents had divorced ages ago. They screwed up a lot of lives along the way, including their own.

Also, if you're in an unhappy relationship (and you don't have some super special circumstance, like a special needs kid or something) do everyone a favor and talk it out. If you talk it out and neither of you can be happy in that relationship, end it. I think anyone invested in a relationship at least deserves honesty and a chance to end a relationship they wouldn't be comfortable with (such as one where the other person is sleeping around).
She's not "approaching" the end of easy fertility. She's arrived. Fertility begins to decline at 30, sometimes precipitously. I'm an egg donor, and the women who use egg donors are often under 40. Also, age is not the only cause of infertility. Many women have had undiagnosed pelvic infections/stis that totally wreak havoc on their reproductive ability, and never find out until it's rather too late to fix. And btw, fertility services are in the 10's of thousands. Try $50k. Turns out we actually can't have it all.

And I totally smell CPOS. How do you know he's in a "loveless, sexless" marriage? Oh yeah, because he said so. And he has absolutely no reason to lie, right? Except for the fact that you would have "never given this man a second thought" had it not been for the supposed ethical cheating Dan approves of, which you THINK you're part of. When attempting to sniff out a lie - if you're actually interested in doing so - a good rule to follow is figuring out who loses and who benefits from this "fact". Eg, you, her - losing, him - benefiting.
Despite common belief, teenage kids are not fragile little porcelain dolls. I can guarantee you that they already have a friend whose parents are divorced, and another friend whose parents are "staying together for the kids" but clearly despise each other.

I grew up in a small, Christian conservative town where divorce was frowned upon. The MAJORITY of my friends had married parents who hated each other. Every time I came over or called them, I'd be able to see/hear their parents screaming and swearing at each other, sometimes even becoming physically abusive. They'd fight about their children while the children were in the room, and basically guilt trip their children for "making" them stay together.

Kids are not stupid. They KNOW when their parents have an unhappy marriage. Even if their parents get along, the kids will be able to tell if there is something wrong. No one is a skilled enough actor to pretend 24/7 that they still love their partners, when in fact that love faded or died long ago. It cannot be done, unless your kids are just extremely unobservant, which is very rare.

Every single person I know whose parents got divorced, regardless of how old they were when it happened, were HAPPY and RELIEVED. They were glad that their parents could finally be happy, and that the yelling/guilt trips/etc. would be over. I'd say about 75% of my friends have divorced parents. Guess how many were traumatized by the divorce? NONE. They have ALL gone on to be happy, successful people, with much closer relationships with their parents now that their parents don't have to pretend that they love each other and want to stay together.
Any kid who is traumatized by the divorce itself (and not by the way his/her parents treat each other anyway) has other problems besides the divorce. The divorce is a catalyst for the trauma, not the CAUSE. If not for the divorce, the trauma would have surfaced via some other major event.

100% of kids out there are hurt FAR more by their parents "staying together even though they hate each other" than by divorce. Kids pick up on unhapiness. Their parents, despite their best intentions, will slip up. The kids will know that they are miserable, and they will blame themselves for "making" their parents stay in an unhappy marriage.

In many ways, waiting until after the kids grow up is far worse for everyone involved. The parents will have wasted many extra years living in misery, and the kids will know that most of their lives were a farce. A lot of blame and hurt will go around, and no one will be happy. It's so much better to just get out of a loveless relationship if at all possible.

I can't think why someone would say that unhappy spouses getting a divorce will traumatize their children. They must think that children are either extremely fragile, or very stupid (to not have picked up on the fact that his/her parents are unhappy). Neither of these things are true.
My ex-boyfriend went sort of nuts when his parents divorced (While he was in his early teens, I think), but he was fairly nuts to begin with.

I WISH my parents would divorce each other. I've wanted to them to since I was in elementary school. It would have saved a lot of anguish and hurt--for everyone, not just them. They're the most miserable, unhappy, unhealthy and ANGRY people I know. All they do is bicker, my dad constantly picks on my mom, they both bitch to my sister and I about the other, my mom is annoyingly passive aggressive. I'm in my twenties now, but they're just the same as it was when I was younger--if not worse. I think they might be staying together because they know this, and suddenly being "alone" sounds worse, but Jesus H. Christ. If I *ever* hear them say they stayed together for us, I'll have to have someone restrain me from punching them.

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