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Dear John: Ending An Affair Much Harder Than Starting It

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,

I am in the middle of a hell of a mess (of my own making) and the facts of the matter make it impossible for me to discuss it with anyone. They are simple: I am a married man, and for over a year I have been having an affair with a woman who, together with her husband, are our closest friends. It’s the same old story – it was exciting at first, but as I was starting to think about finding a way out of it, my wife started talking about having kids, which is something I’ve wanted but she had not been ready for. (Neither couple has any kids at this point.) That really seemed to put an end to it in my mind, but when I brought up the possibility of moving on for both of us, she went nuts on me. She is now saying she wants us to both to leave our spouses to be together, but that’s out of the question as far as I’m concerned. So now she’s threatening to expose the whole affair. I honestly thought she would be as fine ending it as I was. It seemed like it had just run its course. I am sick with anxiety over the whole thing and my wife knows something is wrong (but has no idea what) just because I’ve been so upset since this blew up on me. It was such a stupid, stupid thing to do and now I don’t know how to get out of it without two marriages crashing down around us. I’m desperate.



Dear Wretched,

Of course you don’t know how to get out of it without two marriages crashing down around you. That’s simply because no avenue that offers that kind of guarantee is available to you right now. There’s only one thing for you to do, but the repercussions of it are unpredictable: you have to tell your wife what you’ve done, explain that it was all a colossal and selfish mistake, ask her for forgiveness, and then give her time and space to process this news. It will undoubtedly be ugly, but, as you say, you’ve made a hell of a mess. (I should add that you owe this woman’s husband – one of your “best friends” – a similar unburdening, but right now, your priority has to be your wife and your marriage.)

Anything short of complete honesty is not sufficient. As you know, there’s an excellent chance your marriage may not survive what you’ve inflicted on it, but what little chance it has depends on your being entirely honest from here on out.

And whatever you do, please respect your wife enough to realize that how she handles this news is entirely up to her. She may ask you to move out for a while; she may want to go to couples therapy (which seems pretty much essential if there’s anything left to save); she may feel so betrayed that she wants nothing more to do with you ever. You have to understand that any of these responses is reasonable. You had control over this process up to this point, now it’s her turn.

But the bottom line is, you’ve lied enough. It’s time for the truth and for you to accept the consequences of what you’ve done.

Dear John,

Here’s my situation. I have been casually dating a guy and he wants it to enter the “serious” stage. I think he’s great and I’m open to that except for one thing I don’t have a lot of experience with: he is a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in two years and I really like to drink a little now and then. A couple of glasses of wine with dinner, that type of thing. I don’t have any problem with drinking and he is not the kind of guy who’s on a mission to convince me that I do. As he puts it, I drink like a person is supposed to and he literally can’t do that, simple as that. This has been fine so far, but I feel like it might be an obstacle to taking our relationship to the next level. Is it a bad idea, asking for trouble, maybe, to take this step with a recovering alcoholic if I am not interested in giving up drinking altogether myself? Is it a better idea for him to be with someone who doesn’t drink at all for whatever reason and me to be with someone who drinks socially like I do? Other than this (major) issue, I think we’re very compatible, but I really don’t want to take this lightly. From what he’s told me, when he drank, he was nothing like the guy I know now.


Glass Half Full

Dear Glass Half Full,

I think whether this can work depends entirely on the individuals involved. Some alcoholics resent non-alcoholics’ ability to drink in moderation; others see their partners doing so and use that as an excuse to tell themselves they can do that, too, if they really try. It doesn’t sound like your boyfriend fits either of these types, but you’d know that better than I would. What do you think?

I think the best thing you could do is to talk about your concerns with him. Does he have someone he respects (another recovering alcoholic, perhaps) who has guided him through his recovery? If so, it would be helpful to get his or her perspective on this as well.

To answer your question, though, there are no rules as to whether recovering alcoholics are better off with partners who are in recovery, too. As I said, it depends entirely on the individuals involved. I would be very interested in hearing from any readers who have personal experience with a situation like this.

Dear John,

At our company’s holiday party, I made out with this guy I liked for a while. There was nothing wrong with it – we’re about the same age, at the same level in the company, no SOs, etc. We were both a little drunk and it was fun. Then our company was on a little holiday break and I didn’t see him for a while, and now that we’re back at work, it’s been kind of awkward. He seems like he’s avoiding me if he can, not in a hostile way, but just because he’s really shy and doesn’t know what to do now. I sure don’t want it to stay like this, so I guess it’s going to be up to me to talk to him. I do like him and I’m not sorry for what we did and I’d like to go out on a proper date with him. I’m not quite sure how to break the ice, though…what to say. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty shy myself. I think that’s what attracted me to him in the first place. So…?


Second Move

Dear Second Move,

I don’t think it’s a good idea for co-workers to date, so I think you should say something like, “You seem a little uncomfortable around me now after what happened at the holiday party, but we both had a little too much to drink and it was a silly mistake. Let’s just forget about it, okay?” But if you’re intent on seeing where this goes, then you could say, “You seem a little uncomfortable around me now after what happened at the holiday party, and I know you’re a little shy, so that’s understandable. But what would you think of going out to lunch tomorrow and getting to know each other a little better so we can see if either of us wants something like that to happen again?” The important thing about these kinds of situations isn’t necessarily saying the perfect thing, it’s just saying something – anything – to, as you say, break the ice. Once you’re talking, just say what’s on your mind. I will say to you, though, that most workplace relationships end regrettably. If you pursue this one, I hope yours is the exception to the rule.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].


Related Slideshow: 25 Olympians from Rhode Island

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Castelli and Shnapir have also won two U.S. national championships (2013 & 2014). In fact, the duo won their second national championship earlier this month at the TD Garden, which earned them a spot in the 2014 Olympics.

Castelli currently studies at the Community College of Rhode Island.

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Brown, known as “Deerfoot” among his native Narragansett tribe, was a popular and highly-accomplished distance runner during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Brown competed in the marathon in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and would have competed in the 1940 Olympics in Helsinki were it not cancelled due to World War II. But his greatest exploits were during the Boston Marathon. In the 1936 marathon, Brown took off so fast that the press chose instead to follow the number two runner, John Kelley. Eventually the two ended up neck-in-neck, but Brown “broke Kelley’s heart” to take the final lead on the last hill in Newton, inspiring reporter Jerry Nason to coin the term “heartbreak hill.”

Brown was raised in poverty on a Narragansett reservation in Charlestown. He worked as a stonemason and shell fisherman until he was run over and killed by a van in 1975. There is a road race named after him in Mystic, Connecticut.   

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Doris Brennan (Weir)

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A native of Providence, Brennan dominated the swimming scene in the late 1930’s and 1940’s, holding twenty national and world records. Unfortunately, though, she would never get to realize her Olympic dream. After just missing the U.S. team in 1936, she earned a spot to compete in the Helsinki Olympics in 1940, but they were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

Brennan graduated from Boston University’s Sargent College in 1942, later earning a spot in the University’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

After college, she went on to work with multiple youth clubs, and was instrumental in the construction of swimming facilities in Warwick.

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Michael Barrowman

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Although he was born in Paraguay, Barrowman began his swim career as a youngster at the Cumberland-Lincoln Boys Club. For Olympic fans, he will always be remembered for his gold medal winning performance at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games in the 200-meter breaststroke. In fact, Barrowman set the world record in that event and was named American and World Swimmer of the Year in 1989.

In addition to learning to swim in RI, Barrowman set numerous state and New England records as a youth. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Aquatic Hall of Fame in 2000.

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A native of Saunderstown, Beisel is a two-time Olympian competing in both the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2012 Games in London. Beidel did not medal in 2008, but she managed to earn a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley and a bronze in the 200-meter backstroke in 2012.

Beisel currently swims for the University of Florida in Gainsville, Florida. As a Gator, she has received nine All-American honors and earned first-team Academic All-America recognition. Beisel was honored as SEC Female Swimmer of the Year in 2012. She is currently in her senior year.

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Henry Dreyer

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David C. Hall

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After graduating from Brown University in 1901, Hall earned a doctorate in medicine at the University of Chicago, going on to teach as a professor at the University of Washington. He would interrupt his teaching career to serve as Lt. Colonel in World War I, where he was highly decorated by the nation of Italy for his service. Hall died in Seattle in 1972, at the age of 97.

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Amazingly, Riggin continued was an avid swimming into her 90s. In fact, she swam three miles per week in the ocean off Honolulu where she lived. At the age of 85, she broke six world swimming records in the worlds masters championships.

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During her professional career, Craybas won one WTA title and four ITF titles. She achieved her highest professional ranking of No. 39 in the world in 2006. Upon retiring in 2013, Craybas had won approximately $2.5 million in prize money.

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Keith Carney

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As a college athlete, Carney was named to the NCAA East First All-Star Team for the 1990-1991 season and the NCAA East Second All-American Team for the 1989-1990 season.

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Martha Rockwell

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Born in Providence, Rockwell would later coach women’s skiing at Dartmouth. Rockwell, and her partner Laurie Levenger, were one of the first gay couple to marry in Vermont after civil unions were approved in 2000.

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Geoffrey Mason

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Mason was the personnel manager for the Newman Crosby Steel Company of Pawtucket for many years.  He was a volunteer for the Rhode Island Institute for the Blind where he made many audio cassettes of books.  He passed away in1987 at the age of eighty-four.

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Sara DeCosta

Women’s Hockey

Born in Warwick, DeCosta won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a silver at the 2002 Winter Games. A graduate of Toll Gate High School and Providence College, DeCosta posted impressive statistics in the ’98 Olympics recording a 1.59 goals against average and a .875 save percentage as goaltender.

Decosta was named the USA Hockey Women’s Player of the Year in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, she was named a Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport. DeCosta currently lives in Warwick with her husband and three children.


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