Like the 13,432,176 other people out there on the street, I desperately need your advice.

I am a married woman with three small kids who lives in a suburb. I got married when I was 25 to someone significantly older than me after experiencing a traumatic event as my first sexual experience. I am no longer in love with my husband, who hasn't exactly treated me fairly either. In fact we've kept separate bedrooms for the last five years. We tolerate each other as housemates, and divorce is not an option for many reasons including keeping our children happy (one has special needs). I have spent most of the past five years in a daze until my neighbor across the street expressed interest in me sexually last spring. We ended up hooking up and have been on and off ever since. I have tried hard not to like him but I like him now more than ever.

He has been on and off with a girlfriend that whole time, and I've learned to swallow my jealousy and deal with it. This past fall I met someone new and tried very hard to get into that relationship but it didn't work out. I made the mistake of telling him about this other man, in an attempt to play the game and make him jealous, but I really didn't like the other guy. I'm crazy about my neighbor. I think about him all the time, and I am totally smitten, and I think in love. He has told me he loved me, although I don't know if it was to get me out of my underwear. Now he has broken up with his old GF and met a new one online and I can't contain my jealousy anymore. I know that I am not entitled to feel this sad and jealous being the (unhappily) married woman, but I am so heartbroken.

I don't know if he even knows how I truly care about him and I am afraid to say something. Please tell me what I should do. I feel to in sync and complete with him. I don't want to get hurt and I don't feel entitled to claim him when I'm tied up in a rotten marriage that isn't going to change anytime soon. Should I tell him my true feelings and risk ruining this friendship-with-benefits? Should I accept what I have and be miserable? Or do I throw it all away and tell him that I can't be his back-up girl anymore? I can't end my marriage because even though my husband and I are no longer in love, Dan, we have the kids, animals and financial ties.

I know that this is too long and crazy to print, but you don't know how much it helps to ask you all this. I can't tell my therapist pretty much because I really need the prozac that she dispenses, and I don't want to rock that boat either. Thx for reading, I appreciate it. You are a God.

An Unhappily Married Woman

My response after the jump...


It's time for a little radical honesty, AUMW.

Your husband must know—your husband is no doubt painfully aware—that his marriage, such as it is, is no longer a romantic partnership, and hasn't been for quite some time. You don't have to tell him you've been banging a neighbor, AUMW, but he deserves the same license that you've already given yourself.

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Have an honest conversation with your husband about what your marriage is, what it isn't, and why you want to stay in it. Tell him what he already knows: you are parents and partners, not lovers. Then tell him you would like to be better friends. And finally tell him that you don't expect him to be faithful to you sexually—not anymore—but you would like him to remain faithful to his family, and you promise to do the same.

Then go tell your neighbor what you're really feeling: you're in love with him, you don't want to be his back-up girl anymore, but you're married to another man and you don't intend to leave your husband. If the neighbor wants to see you on those terms—be with you and no one else—tell him you can make an exclusive commitment to him... an exclusive sexual commitment. You can't marry him, or live with him, but you can commit to being physically intimate with him and only with him. If he doesn't want what are able to offer him, then you'll have to break up, grieve, and get over him.

Whatever your neighbor decides to do, AUMW, here's hoping that you and your husband, in time, can relax and grow more secure in the most underrated and overlooked of marital arrangements: the companionate marriage. You'll certainly come to resent each other less if being and staying married—for the kids' sake—doesn't mean going without physical intimacy for the rest of your lives or having to sneak around to get it. The day may even come when you'll be able to introduce your boyfriend to your husband (even if it's not this boyfriend), and your husband will be able to introduce his girlfriend to you.