The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Conflicting Values

I love two men.





































Conflicting Values

I love two men 


(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner: Here's an email from a woman who is in love with two men and you may have been in that situation where you've been in love with two different individuals and you don't know what to do. You can't be in love with two people. I mean, you can be in love with them, but you can't live with them and share day-to-day life with two different individuals. People try that, but they have to do double bookkeeping in their mind. It's very difficult.


Hi Dr. Kenner. I've fallen in love with two men. I'm married to one of them, my husband John. I've been under a lot of stress with John for the past two years. He's had nine brain surgeries. John cheated on me just prior to his brain surgeries and we never had a chance to work on our marriage prior to his illness. A close guy friend, Morris, has supported me through thick and thin. Both of us were angry with the way John treated me when he cheated. Now Morris helps me take care of my husband. He also helps me take care of my handicapped brother and my mother, who had a stroke. (Dr. K aside: That's a tough life, to have three people that you have to be a caretaker to!) I am a good girl and I don't fool around with Morris, but I'm deeply in love with him. Morris says he will wait forever. He tells me that I'm down to earth and loving. He's not interested in anyone else, although he lives with my girlfriend in a financial arrangement. They're not in love. I have had to lie to her, because I don't want her to know how connected Morris and I have become. 


Morris tells me that many women have hurt him and I don't want to hurt him. If my husband passes on, I will marry Morris. I feel sorry for my husband, John. I don't want to hurt him either. I can't hurt anybody. I help a lot of people and always have. I am torn and very anxious. I can't stop loving John and Morris. And I don't want to hurt them. I'm also very insecure. When either man talks to another woman, I feel they may cheat on me. Please advise. Julia.


Julia, you're not happy with your life right now. I mean, you've got these two men in your life but it sounds like you're really angry with your husband, that you're trapped. You met another guy and he's giving you the visibility that you want. You feel valued and cared for and important. He's not going out and cheating on you. You're also feeling insecure from the affair. I mean, John did have an affair. You guys never had a chance to be able to talk about that, and now it feels like you're having a semi-affair, even if it's not a sexual affair. It's definitely an emotional affair. My guess is part of you feels justified and part of you feels guilty. That's why you're hiding it from your friend. 


So, I think you need to be truthful with yourself to really sit down and to look at what you're doing. You're holding in a lot of pain from being cheated on. There's a book, After the Affair, how to rebuild trust when a partner has been unfaithful. I wouldn't recommend that so much for rebuilding trust with John since it sounds like he may not have the facilities to be able to do that if he's had all these brain surgeries and may be going back in and his life is heading in that direction. If you really truly value John and decide he's the love of your life, and it was a one-night stand he had - not a long-term affair and he can repair it - then you've got that book. It's on my website, But right now, it sounds like he's very dependent on you.



Here's where I see your main problem - you view yourself as a caretaker. That's what you see as a good person. You're taking care of your handicapped brother, your mom who had a stroke, and your husband who has had nine brain surgeries. You're furious with him. You see that that's what's good. And you also don't want to hurt anybody. You've got these standing orders in your mind. I'm a person who cares for others. I don't want to hurt anybody. It sounds very sweet, very nice on the surface, Julia, but you are hurting somebody. You're hurting yourself. That's why you're anxious. That's why you're paranoid. You've got so many negative feelings. You've got the guilt, the jealousy, the anger, the anxiety, the insecurity. And you don't want to continue sitting on the fence. I would challenge that policy. Instead of saying, "I don't want to hurt anyone," you don't want to say, "I want to hurt everyone or I don't give a damn about anyone." You want to be able to say, "I want to be fair to myself. I want to look at my values and my happiness long range and see what makes the most sense for me."



You also need to challenge the other thought of, "I'm a person who cares for others." If that's all you do with your life, I will guarantee you, you will be embittered. If you have a life of your own, if you have hobbies or leisure activities that you enjoy or a career that you might enjoy - although it sounds like you're doing caretaking full-time - if you have other interests in your life, then you're going to feel more fulfilled and happier and you won't feel as insecure.


Here's what I recommend doing: sit down and write down on paper what you're feeling. You can put this paper through a shredder later so Morris and John don't find it, but look at the caretaker role and be able to challenge that and be able to say the number one person you want to be a caretaker to is yourself. You can still love the other people in your life, but maybe not be overindulgent. Maybe look for some outside help for yourself. Maybe from some agencies that can come in and help your brother or your mother, or even John. Then it sounds like you need some clarity with John. You need to be able to talk with him and tell him how hurt and angry you are feeling. Just because he may be hurt that you're addressing this while he's got brain surgery, he's still accountable for his actions. Assuming he hasn't just come out of the operating room, assuming he's been home for a while and had time to recoup a little, you need to be able to vent a little and let him know how hurt and how upset you are. If you read that book, After the Affair, it may help him if you share some parts of it with him have some empathy with you.


With Morris, you haven't really lived with Morris full-time. You're in the dating stage, and when I say dating I'm not saying you've slept with him, but you're definitely together all the time and considering marrying him. Be careful there. Look at him closely. Because you're so eager for any attention or affection or for self-nurturing that Morris may be the ideal man and he may not be. Why have all these other women loved him? Is he an alcoholic? Are there parts of his personality that haven't come out, given the fact that you haven't been living under the same roof, and you only know him in a dating context? People put their best foot forward there.