Summary: Being married to someone who is terminally ill is extremely difficult, particularly if the illness drags on, but it is no reason to abandon your spouse. While it is understandable that a person may develop more intimate friendships in the meantime, but it is still best to wait before formally dating. Below is the case of a woman who likes a married man and I advise her to wait for his spouse to pass away before taking the relationship to the next level.
Ashley writes, “I am 34, divorced mother of two. I have been friends with a family for 10 years. We all lived in the same area and hung out at the local tavern. One of the sons is married and I did not meet him until 7 years ago. Over the years this married man has started to come out more and more. For the past 2 years he has been coming to the bar regularly on Saturday nights. During this time we have became really close friends. I go to the bar every other Saturday night. We laugh, dance, talk for hours and have a great time. He is 59 and acts about 45. His wife is ill and is not expected to recover. For the past 6 months our friendship has become more of an emotional attachment and we miss each other during the two weeks apart. He recently has told me that he is madly in love with me but would never leave his wife nor cheat on her. In the same respect, I would never have a relationship with a married man or ever consider his leaving his ill wife of 40 years. I would feel terrible guilt. He does talk about a future with me. He has adopted his grandson who is just a year older than my oldest daughter. He makes frequent comments about how our children would get along and how much his grandson would love me. He makes other comments about the future as well. He is always asking about my goals, dreams, etc. I am very comfortable with him and love his company. If he were not married, I would be his girl in a heartbeat. I suppose I am writing because I am fearful of letting things develop too far; maybe they already have. I refuse to see him outside the bar. He does not even have my phone number. However, I am there every other Saturday night no matter what. I would not want to go an entire month without seeing him. All of his family knows how we feel about each other. They often tell me how happy they are that I make their brother happy. My main concern is how difficult it is going to be when his wife passes away. I wonder if maybe I should spend less time with him and be more distant until after that happens? On the other hand.. what if something happens to him? He could have a heart attack next month and I would regret not spending as much time as I could have with him? Am I kidding myself? Are we already so far that he is cheating on his wife even though we do not have a physical relationship? I have never had feelings for a married man and never had a relationship with a man more than 15 years my senior. I am at a loss as to how to react to this situation. Please help.”
A man needs supportive friends during difficult times
Your case reminds me of what happened to a family friend of ours. Arnold and Dora were two retirees whom we had known through a church group. Things were fine until Dora was diagnosed with terminal cancer and before you know it, she passed away. It took Arnold a lot of time to recover from the tragedy because he was suddenly alone to live the rest of his life when he had made so many plans for life after retirement. Little by little, he started to get back to a normal life and one of things he did was to follow a passion that he and his wife had: golf. When he went back, an old girl-friend of his wife and their occasional golf partner started to spend more time with him just as a tribute to her girl-friend. She had been single almost her whole life after becoming a widow raising three daughters when her husband passed away when she was in her 30s. The next thing you know, the two developed feelings for each other and got married. They are doing really well and the life that he could not have with his wife, he is having it with a new woman, who is very respectful of his deceased wife.
A loving wife would want her husband to be happy after her death
In your situation, I would say that you have handled this really well and till his wife dies, you should not change a thing. As tragic as it is, we all know death is a certainty, and if his family knows about you, chances are that his wife does too, and is happy for him. I am sure that she realizes that she will die and it might be helpful for her to know that her husband will not be miserable after she is gone. That is why she has not done a thing to stop him and the family has been encouraging you rather than calling you a home-wrecker.
I am expecting that when people know the terminal illness of a family member they are better prepared to handle the death. What causes a lot more pain is unexpected death, especially when it happens at a youthful age. Obviously, you want him to have the privacy to mourn after she dies, but you also want him to know that you are still there for him. And maybe after a year or so has passed after the death, you can give him your home number and start dating formally.
I know a lot of people have very loose definitions of cheating, but in my opinion, you are just two friends with strong feelings for each other. We are human beings and it is naive to pretend that somehow one cannot have feelings for a married man or woman or that a married man or woman cannot have feelings for someone else, while continuing to be faithful to his/her spouse. He still is a good husband and has done nothing wrong by enjoying the company of a friend in a bar occasionally. He is a human being and if I were his wife I would not expect him to cry all day seeing me die.