Miss Information: I’m trying to stop being the other woman, but I can’t get over the married guy I’m sleeping with.

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I'm trying to stop being the other woman, but I can't get over the married guy I'm sleeping with.

Have a question? Email Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

My boyfriend and I have been together for about five years. During our time together, our relationship has mostly been long-distance. We live eight hours away from each other, but we do spend the occasional weekend together. The distance has become less of a problem for us over the years. We have a very secure and trusting relationship.

As it is to be expected in any long-term relationship, the excitement has faded with time. Sex has become a little routine. The conversation, however, is still great, and we both love each other very much. I have had realistic expectations for our relationship, and I am not angry or upset that we have hit a rut. These things happen. I am just wondering what we can do to help us get back into the swing of things.

Long-Term Lovin'

Dear Long Term Lovin',

Likely the problem here is the very small window that you guys have to be together; your interactions are bound to be more "goal oriented" than they might otherwise be. ("Great to see you! Now get those pants off, and we should be done in time for the 8:15 showing of Battle: Los Angeles.") In remedying that, you can go the "direct" route (i.e. going to burlesque shows, renting porn, going sex-toy shopping) or the more "holistic" (see below). I'm of the mind that it'll take some combination of the two. Focusing strictly on sex, while initially thrilling, will likely flame out faster. At the same time, I don't think all-day lectures at your local library will get anyone laid, either.

In general, anything that shakes up the status quo is a good idea — maybe try planning a small vacation for you both, or even surprising him on a weekend he doesn't expect to see you. When he's on your turf, work hard at making that time special. Make a reservation at that restaurant he's been talking endlessly about, find that underground skateboard shop he went to all the time as a kid, get tickets to a talk by that author you know he loves. Excitement about one thing has a way of spilling over into everything; break one part of your day out of doldrums, and the rest will follow.

Even if you're stuck doing boring clerical things during his visit, you can work with that. There's something to be said for the power of furtive glances, hardcore flirtation, and tension-building. "Running stupid errands" can turn into "building insane anticipation" if you squint right, and nothing turns a boring dinner party into a sexual pressure-cooker faster than the phrase, "I'm not wearing underwear."

So think big. Sexual electricity doesn't start and end in the bedroom. Find things that excite you both, and I think you'll find that your sex life follows suit.

Dear Miss Information,

I'm in such a deep mess, and I'm not sure how to cope. Three years ago I became friends with a man who volunteers at the non-profit where I work. We were flirtatious, but after several months of platonic dinners and correspondence, I learned through a third party that he was (or had been) married. With kids. I was confused. At that stage, I didn't know what to think or do. We were "just friends," so I reasoned he'd had no prompt to bring up his marriage. Our friendship was still pretty casual.

A couple months after that he made his move, and I confess — I went with it. I was completely taken with this man. It was naive, but I didn't think he was someone that would "do that." I was a silly girl; I know that now. Eventually, I liked him too much to even face what I was doing. I blame myself from that point.

I recently ended the relationship after two years. I did so abruptly, without asking for any explanation or answers from him. He must have panicked, as he then began to open up about his feelings for me (more directly than he ever had) and sent me reeling all over again. Though I want to believe him, my defenses question his sincerity. We've shared a lot, and I feel we are close, but reading about married men who do this fills my head with all sorts of awful thoughts about him. And myself.

In my head I know he has no intention of leaving his family, but I cannot get a grip on my heart. I can't break off all connections due to our working relationship. (Did I mention that my boss knows his wife? Quadruple mess!) I find myself one moment hating him for "playing" me and the next moment feeling sympathetic, wanting to believe his intentions were true, and that we're in this together. (Note: he assumed I knew he was married when we'd first started flirting.) I'm a smart and generally confident thirty-one-year-old gal with a lot of things going for her, but this has completely shaken my foundation.

How do I move forward? How am I to handle our professional relationship? Things haven't broken cleanly yet, and we're supposed to see each other again soon. What can I reasonably expect of him after a three-year friendship? Do his feelings matter? How can I forgive myself for letting it happen? Worst of all, why do I still want him so badly?

Silly Girl

Dear Silly Girl,

Your chosen pen name — plus your consistent self-blame — hurts a little. Even the phrase "silly girl" gives me the icks; unless you're a cartoon rabbit who covets cereal, you're not "silly," and as a professional adult, you're leagues beyond "girl." I am sure this situation has done a number on your self-worth, but disentangle now and stabilize yourself. This relationship is a dead-end, but I think it's your self-esteem that needs the most care.

As for the guy? He has a wife. And kids. Case closed. His whole, "baby, don't leave! I have so many feelings!" is classic cheater behavior: he recognized (rightly) that he was losing you, and started grasping at straws. And his excuse of, "I assumed you knew I was married!" is putting the responsibility on you, rather than on him, the cheater. Bzzz, referee calls foul.

More than anything, though, look at how often you defend his behavior and/or undermine yourself in your letter. You've thought yourself into a corner here, and he's more than happy to help: as long as you're confused, you're not breaking things off. And if you're not breaking things off, then he still gets to see you, and that's what he wants. Point: cheater.

So he is at best a deeply confused individual, and at worst a weaselly scumbucket. But he's not the important one here.

You obviously know it needs to end — you said you already broke up with him. Now stick to your guns. Ignore his calls, texts, and emails. Be polite but distant when you see him in the halls. Above all, give him no leverage. He will likely beg, plead, and manipulate to get you back — expect it and ignore it. As long as you stay confused, he keeps the upper hand. And no, his feelings don't matter right now. He ceded the right to input once he started playing fast and loose with everyone else's feelings — his wife's, his children's, and yours.

Whether to stay with him is a pretty open-and-shut case, but rebuilding your life is where the real work is. Look to friends, family, hobbies: anything to shift your self-identification away from "silly girl" and closer to "smart and confident woman." Ultimately, toxic relationships happen to everyone, no matter how smart — but the real test of emotional intelligence and maturity is knowing how, and when, to get out.