Social Question

drdoombot's avatar

Who would you choose: wife or love of your life?

Asked by drdoombot (8140points) August 11th, 2009

My best friend got married relatively young to a great girl: pretty, attractive, good mother to their children, good wife and homemaker, etc. He married her because she fit his picture of what a “perfect wife” should be.

A few years before he married her, he was in love for the first and only time in his life. For some reason or other, things didn’t work out with his sweetheart and he broke up with her. A few months before his wedding, he went to his ex and asked her if he should call off the wedding and give their relationship another chance. She said no (she was about to get engaged to someone else).

Fast forward about 6 years. He ran into his ex again. They became friends and their families started hanging out together (dinners, birthday parties, etc). Their friendship grew stronger; they called each other every day, chatted online, etc. At first, my friend was content with friendship. After some time, his feelings for his ex came back. Now, they are stronger than ever.

My friend confides in me that his secret hope is for his ex to divorce her husband, so that he can leave his wife for her. He’s too responsible a person to just have an affair or anything like that, but he’s constantly carrying a heartache over not being with his sweetheart. I try to point out that he made his decision years ago, that he has to live with it now. He agrees, but adds that, “the heart wants what it wants, no matter what the brain says.”

The sweetheart obviously has some feelings too. The two constantly cycle between being the best of friends to fighting and promising never to speak to each other again. The cycle appear to repeat every 3–6 weeks. I think their attraction to each other is causing the frustration.

So, what’s more important: love or duty? Is it better to go your whole life suffering without your true love and stick with the woman that you love but aren’t in love with? Or is life too short to be unhappy?

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57 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Fortunately I don’t have to choose as I married the love of my life.
Now, can I get a little ahhhh?

nikipedia's avatar

If this dude’s wife is not the love of his life, he is not doing her any favors by staying with her.

Jack79's avatar


I know you’d expect me to go for “love” but I’ll go for “wife” especially in your friend’s case. Nobody forced him to marry that girl, and he shouldn’t be anywhere near that ex, let alone chat online and hope for her to divorce. This whole thing will end in disaster one way or another, and he’ll probably get what he wished for. She’ll divorce, he’ll divorce, they’ll get together and then realise how they can’t stand each other’s guts and be miserable for the rest of their lives.
Love and marriage are two different things. You can be madly in love with someone you are not compatible with, and could never stand as a spouce. Similarly, this guy’s obviously happy with his wife, even though she was not the love of his life. Perhaps he should have married the other girl, but now it’s too late for that. Unfortunately it’s his life, and there’s nothing anyone can do to change his mind, but I certainly feel sorry for his current wife (and for everyone else concerned in a way).

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

If your wife isn’t the love of your life, there are some fundamental problems with the marriage.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Ick, love shouldn’t feel like a duty. Children and responsibilities aside, he admits to wanting to leave his wife for his sweetheart so obviously he is not in love with his wife. How real his love for his sweetheart is separate from the issues that made for a breach of emotion with his wife, who knows.

I wanted to add that most kids will tell everyone but their parents that they are very much aware of troubles between the couple and most would prefer their folks to split up and get on with life, saving everyone the false going through the motions “for the family”. Kids see through BS really well.

AstroChuck's avatar

Hehe. You said doody duty.

drdoombot's avatar

One thing I’d like to add (which my friend adds every time) is that he shares a certain rapport with his sweetie. They can understand each other at a glance, they have in-jokes no one gets and can read other’s minds. They have the wittiest of conversations (I imagine it to be like a tennis match between evenly matched players). In a sense that I don’t fully understand, she is on the same wavelength as him, especially in a social situation. Being a full-on extrovert, I’m guessing social situations are very important to him (on an emotional level, even).

His wife is dull in comparison (according to him), but only in that sense. She’s great in every other way.

Judi's avatar

Love is a decision.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

I agree with @Judi on that. He can choose to love the woman he should be loving, or he can just blow his marriage to bits. Are there kids involved, pray tell?

noodle_poodle's avatar

pick love…personally i dont think i believe in it but i have herd that if you love someone there isnt even a choice…also…speaking as a child of divorce..if you have kids the best thing for them is to see their parents happy staying together in a relationship that dosnt work does them no good at all.

whatthefluther's avatar

First, we don’t know why he broke up with “the love of his life,” his sweetheart, in the first place. It had to be something fucking important. And then, he held out one more opportunity before he married and they both agreed that it best they go in their separate directions, right?

Then why the fuck is he even in contact with her? I agree with @Jack79, the guy shouldn’t be anywhere near his previous sweetheart. Of course the lust will always be there. Only distance can contain the fires of passion. The guy is an asshole and he is going to end up hurting everyone.

He forsake his love when he initially broke up and they forsake their love on the second opportunity. If you can find that reason, smash him between the eyes with it repeatedly. It was an important enough reason at least once and should still be valid. The jerk is ignoring that reason and is dreaming and fantasizing. If she were the end-all, they would still be together, but she is not. His actions and thoughts are reprehensible and he is an ass. Sorry about the harsh words, but honestly, this entire situation disgusts me and I very seriously doubt I could consider this guy a friend.

debris_of_seven's avatar

Ah, the famous “grass is always greener on the other side” dilema… :-)

Well, let me guess your “friend” is either you, or you are “love of his life”.... :-)

Be that as it may…....

I never got married, yet am true monogamist. That means that I will either get married well or not at all. So I just want to share my oppinion, from my perspective:

It is important to realise the purpose of marriage. People make stupid decisions all the time – that is common. Your “friend” made stupid mistake long before he developed feelings for his ex. First mistake is marriage (wich only make sense if he was in love at the time), the second is his proximity to his ex. Now….. As responsible adult they have to think of the consequences.

To tell you the truth: you only have one life, and should live it, but you must take some responsibilities.

My sugestion is: Drop the marriage as soon as possible. It is tainted. You are still both young to have a second try. Make a JUMP towards the “love of your life”. Risk it all. DO NOT by any circumstances CHEAT. That will only make the things worse. You can devorce your wife, but not your children. Be their father and raise them properly (don’t miss their soccer practise or whatever). Share the responsability with your wife over the children, so she can have a chance to date and relax and start fresh (it is harder for mothers to start fresh). You are not doing any favors to either of you, if you are in love with someone else and stay married. The sooner you end this sharade, the sooner your wife will have a chance to meet someone who thinks she is special (since you don’t thinks so anymore). You already hurt your wife by abandoning her emotionaly. Be responsible to all: yourself and your love, your wife, your children…..


…be true to yourself and others, and that is the only way to have happy life….

…that is the oppinion I have to offer, feel free to disagree….

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@debris_of_seven I disagree with that, actually. If his wife doesn’t even know about what’s happening, it’ll be incredibly cruel to just drop a divorce bombshell on her like that. At the very least, she should be in on this. Honesty is crucial to any relationship. He should try to build what he doesn’t have with her

Plus, it’s @drdoombot‘s friend, not him. Just thought I should point that out.

basp's avatar

Sometimes it is hard to appreciate what you got. Sounds to me like he is living in a fantasy world. Fantisizing about what life would be like with this ‘love of his life’ distorts his perception as well as his judgement.

Aethelwine's avatar

I have a feeling things would be different if your friend hadn’t involved his ex in his life. You said “after some time, his feelings for his ex came back”. I think his “friendship” is tainting his feelings towards his wife. He needs to step away from the ex and concentrate on his wife. Like others have said, the fantasy is almost always better than the real deal. He loves his wife, he needs to give her a chance without the ex being in the way.

debris_of_seven's avatar

Saturated_Brain, Maybe he should try to build something, but you must build your marriage on love but mostly on respect… And i am not deep into this case, but his wife is presented like an obsticle and introduced like side-character, wich indicates that he does not respect her. Cases may vary, but this problem may be part of global issue of people being treated as products.

jonsblond, i was in the similar situation with my ex girlfriend. Let’s just say that she had many admirers, but my hands were tied. I knew that any comment or complaint that i would have made would push me away, and label me as paranoid an jealous. But the first moment my ex ex contacted me I was literaly banned from seeing her by my ex. So it is the matter of respect: I never gave my exgirlfriend reason to doubt me, yet she did. She might have not cheated me with those guys, but our relationship suffered, and was constantly measured trough her “friendship” with those people. In short, she did not trust me becaouse she did not respect me, she had many “opportunities” and thougt that i owed her more. That is 80% reason of why relationships die. People get bored, stop respecting etc. However i am glad, that I broke up with her (it wasn’t easy), becaouse I realised that i do not have future with someone who does not respect me even dough she maybe loves me .

In this particular case, I realy do not have einough info, so my advice was a proposal of mediation between feelings and obligations.

I am glad, however, that there are still people that belive in marriage.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

His wife does not deserve to have her heart broken over a ‘maybe’. It is not a certainty that the ‘love’ will last, and it is not worth destroying a marriage because he got married before he was ready.

debris_of_seven's avatar

…indeed, but firs he must realize what he truly desires, and is it worth it….

…maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, only he will know…

…it is sad however…

ubersiren's avatar

If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with!

casheroo's avatar

This guy is going to end up alone. His ex wwill not leave her husband, and his wife will hate him for treating her this way. I think men or women deserve to be alone when they act foolish like this.
As much as I hate divorce, I think it’s better than cheating or harboring feelings for others. I have a friend whos husband recently started an affair with his business partner, of course my friend figured it out and filed for divorce. If you want out, and want to cheat…leave. You do no good by staying.

Aethelwine's avatar

@debris_of_seven Respect is the key word. If you don’t respect your partner, there isn’t much of a relationship. There was a time in my marriage when I felt that my husband didn’t respect me. I almost let a “fantasy” ruin my marriage because of this. This was 8 years ago, 10 years into our marriage. I can look back at the situation now and realize what a fool I was. Fantasies are just that. They are not real. The relationship that I have with my husband is real and I’m glad that we were able to work things out. I would be very lonely right now if I didn’t have him by my side.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@jonsblond And we wouldn’t have two great people here on Fluther if it didn’t work out (and you can’t forget the cute display pics!)

@debris_of_seven Global case? A bit hasty to draw a generalisation like that don’t you think? And I agree with you that the wife is presented almost as a bystander in this situation, which is exactly why he should start treating her like a human being and let her in on this situation!

SuperMouse's avatar

This fellow needs to stop a second and remember what the ex said to him when he asked whether he should leave before he got married. She told him that he should not. If they truly were two wings of one bird, truly the loves of each other’s lives, this would not have been her answer. His heart may want her heart, but if her heart wanted his, she would have grabbed it up all those years ago. She is getting her little self-confidence fix and feeling sexy because this guy is giving her attention and they have their little secrets and inside jokes.

I agree with @nikipedia, if he doesn’t love his wife he’s not doing her any favors staying with her, but I’m not convinced he should leave her for this broad.

stratman37's avatar

if your wife’s not the love of your life, you already have your answer!

Sariperana's avatar

Sounds like they both already made thier choice a few years ago when they married different people – If they felt that strongly about each other – there would never have even been the choice…

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

more proof that people are still getitng married for all the wrong reasons, and too many people are so into instant gratification that they have forgotten that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

I married the love of my life, and we got married when I was 29. Late you say? Well, I wanted to be sure, as I don’t think divorce is an option. We just celebrated 20 years of marriage last April. Too many people divorce the people they shouldn’t have married in the first goddamn place.

This question is no truer result of my personal mantra than any I’ve seen so far.

Life is about choices, you results may vary.

hug_of_war's avatar

This is the classic situation off idealizing a former flame, then leaving your spouse and finding out that there was a good fucking reason you didn’t marry this former flame. Your friend should figure out iff he really loves this woman, and love goes beyond initial attraction, comfortability with each other, or a good rapport.

galileogirl's avatar

Sorry guys, the one love of your life is just as @jonsblond said, a fantasy. Feelings change over time. The ‘hotter than a pepper sprout’ period either ends in a permanent break up or can morph into something deeper and richer as you access feelings beyond sex.

‘Friend’ and lohl parted and didn;t get back together for good reasons and I am sure if they decide to break up two families, those reasons will reappear and they will soon be off on new adventures. If I were the unwitting spouse, I would prefer ‘friend’ came clean so I could move on to a relationship with somebody who could appreciate me.

trailsillustrated's avatar

the wife. they have kids for gods sake. there’s probably alot more people out there than you think that wish they could be with the love of their life, but that for whatever reason, they married someone else. he should stay in the marriage and make the best of it, like lots do. he has no idea of the dynamics that will change if he marries the love and then has to deal with child support, visatation, and an ex-wife. then, later, teen-age kids who will ask him.what happened? really?

tramnineteen's avatar

I’m going to throw out there that he shouldn’t have kept contact with the sweetheart once he got married because of the risk of this kind of situation arising.

Supacase's avatar

Oh god, give me a break with this whole love thing. Love is great, but when did it become the ruling force of our lives? What about integrity? Are you saying he doesn’t love his wife at all or he doesn’t love his wife in the tingly butterfly way? What if the love of his life was an abusive alcoholic? Is that still the choice to make? Love is not the ultimate decision maker for every situation in a responsible person’s life.

There are many kinds of love and all marriages do not have to be “love of their lives” situations. People marry for security, companionship, comfort, respect, compatibility, common interests, intellectual stimulation. There is nothing wrong with that and people who do marry for those reasons may very well love their spouses deeply.

He was an idiot to stay in contact with her again, let alone bring her family into his. He’s also an idiot if he thinks his wife doesn’t realize something is going. He needs to stop mooning over this woman like a 15 year old and focus on his marriage instead planning what he would do in the off chance that she actually does leave her husband.

sorry to be such a bitch

drdoombot's avatar

Well, the responses here have been… illuminating. Since people seem to be interested, I thought I’d add some more details and clarify a few things.

First of all, my best friend is not me. I’m the romantic type that falls in love, whereas he was the guy who had lots of girls but never loved any of them (except for the one who seemed to be able to manipulate him).

Concerning the original breakup: my friend and his sweetheart come from traditional families with very old school values. Her sister disliked him for some reason, which convinced the parents to dislike him as well. Being a nice, family-oriented girl, she started to lose her feelings for him under the barrage of family discontent. He felt the loss of love from her side and broke it off (after seesawing with her for quite a bit). I guess he didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t love him anymore…

Ironically enough, the sweetie’s current husband was and is very much disliked by her family, but he pledged to fight for her forever, and ended up marrying him and having two kids with him.

As for my best friend’s wife, he loves her. They are compatible with each other; he is one of those strong personalities who makes all the decisions and she defers to him. They both like it that way. She supports him in everything he does and runs an efficient household. He’s delighted with her in every respect but that she doesn’t stimulate him intellectually and emotionally, or at least not the same level as the other girl. She’s not dumb by any means; she’s talked to me about whether I thought it was okay for her husband to be such good friends with an ex (believe me, that was awkward). I think it boils down to him loving his wife, but not being in love with her. In any case, they don’t have a bad marriage and their home-life is relatively peaceful, though maybe he finds it slightly unfulfilling from his side.

He would never consider cheating, because he is a religious man. He, laughably perhaps, hopes for amicable divorces all around so he and his sweetie can be legit. Love clouds the reasoning centers of the brain, does it not?

Judi's avatar

I wonder if he’s the guy who broke my heart when I was 16 because his parents thought I was from the wrong side of the tracks. About 5 years ago (nearly 30 years later) he looked me up and asked me to leave my husband.
Of course I never would, but what I learned after talking with him for several hours is that the Rolling Stones were right.
“You don’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.”
It never would have worked out between us, and what I ended up with was so much better.

whatthefluther's avatar

If she succumbed to family pressures, she did not truly love him to begin with. If he breaks up his marriage for his ex, it will not last long and he’ll be the big loser. But, that will serve him right.

What an awful position for the wife to ask your opinion of the ex being in their lives. I trust you told her that it, at least, could be trouble?

Hatsumiko's avatar

Life is too short for that. I’d undoubtedly choose the love of my life. If I’m lucky, they’ll be my husband too.

ru2bz46's avatar

I’m a little late to this discussion, so I’ll just relate my own experience here.

My wife was contacted by her ex six years ago. She was weak and chose to be with him. She quickly realized that he was still the piece of shit she broke up with eight years previous. I forgave her and took her back.

Last year, she was contacted by another ex. Again, she was weak. Now, she is alone.

amoreno06's avatar

@ru2bz46 sorry it had to end that way, but glad you got out while you could.

ru2bz46's avatar

Thanks @amoreno06. However, I’m still paying for her mistakes. California is a community property state. :-\

tramnineteen's avatar

(If my previous answer wasn’t clear) Duty.

cak's avatar

Given all the details, he still is not this saint doing anyone, any favors. He loves his wife, but hopes his ex will divorce her husband and then he could amicably divorce his wife so he can run off and live happily ever after in La-La Land? Nope. He has a bit of a problem, the least of which is his love life. He needs to figure out what exactly he wants in life and deal with it.

This guy wants all these things to happen – not considering the path of destruction it would leave.

Part of me really hopes his wife wises up to what his true wishes are, it really says something about the person he really is.

drdoombot's avatar

His wife is madly in love with him.

chyna's avatar

I’m late for the question also, but wanted to relate a story. A friend of mine who was married for 25 years started having an affair with a co-worker who knew him in high school and said he was the love of her life, she had a crush on him since high school and basically made him feel better about himself. After 25 years of marriage his wife didn’t “appreciate” him enough. I guarantee he didn’t appreciate her enough either. Anyway, they fell in love and decided to divorce their respective partners and my friend got divorced first. There were kids involved on both sides. The woman dangled him along for over a year and finally told him she wasn’t getting a divorce. He was going to tell her husband, thinking that would get her to divorce him (I know, very flawed thinking on his part) but she told on herself and her husband forgave her. So he lost everything, including the respect of his kids and she lost nothing.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t agree with @Saturated_Brain that you can just choose to love someone – if it ain’t there it ain’t there…now I’m biased because obviously I left my husband for the one I loved, really loved so my answer was always clear and yes a child was involved…however, to me, it doesn’t sound like he should be with either of them, to be honest…

Malcrony's avatar

The boy is in love… what can you do?

Make sure he finds out how real these feelings are, considering if it’s just a fling, there’s nothing to worry about. But if it’s serious like it’s going to stay not just for a little reunion spark, then That’s the moment where you as a friend sit him down and ask him to way the pros and cons on this. it should help to clear his head why he’s been with his wife so long if he doesn’t even love her.

As a personal experience my friend loves his wife, and also loved his ex. turns out he wanted to stay with both of them because they both had something special to offer him. He didn’t have kids so he was alright. but I asked him that same thing and he’s still with his wife. Although I also asked him if he left his wife, would he mind if I dated her… I was joking… he knew that… but I think that made him think the most.

Good luck buddy. Hope your friend does the right thing.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Sound like to me he’s in love with the drama more than he’s in love with this ex of his. really. cycles of closeness then fight and back again? Feh. How old is he? And he’s not over this? Right. There’s other stuff going on inside him that he’s using this other woman and their drama to ignore. A person who really loved wouldn’t have either kind of relationship that he’s having right now.

debris_of_seven's avatar

….my apologies to drdoombot, twas a wild guess…. :-) sorry…..

nebule's avatar

love of your life!

wundayatta's avatar

The wife.

Exes are exes for a reason. Sure, the temptations of nostalgia for the past, when your responsibilities were few and you were free and wild—those are strong tempations. But he has kids and he loves his wife! What on earth could make you break up your life for a fantasy?

Now, I’ll admit that fantasies can be extremely powerful. But they are almost always a symptom of a problem—a fixable problem—especially if you love your spouse.

Love requires work. The high of romantic love is like crack. It is so addictive and it has such a short life. What is a year or two compared to forty or fifty years of a solid relationship? I love romantic love. But I’ve learned the hard way that trying to fix your marriage by getting excitement on the side ties you up in knots inside and makes you crazy. And I don’t believe that marrying your “true love” turns out very well, all that often. The statistics lend support to my belief. Second marriages end in divorce at a much higher rate than first marriages do.

More than that, I believe that “one true love” is just a fairy tale. There are many people you have the potential to call your “one true love” in this world. One true loves come about because of a combination of circumstances—meeting, talking, the energy between you, the commonalities, the differences, the excitement, the sex. Humans are built to generate that feeling. It’s what pushes us to procreate.

True Love does not a marriage make, however. True Love can be converted into a love that will make a marriage last. But that requires a lot of work. Having good feelings about your spouse are a very important part of that work, but it can be a struggle to maintain those good feelings. Especially if communication breaks down. Especially if your needs are not being met.

But communication and needs are fixable things. All it takes is a little will. If you have a family and all the accoutrements, then you should have a lot of motivation to fix things. People need to learn to listen. They need to learn to stop holding grudges. They need to learn that finding and assigning fault is not really helpful to a relationship. Acceptance and support are.

All of these things can be built, practically between any two people, so long as cultural differences are not too wide. Arranged marriages have been the most common form of relationship for centuries. Marriages from romantic love are relatively new things. You can learn to love someone if you are willing.

Romantic love is a real high. Stable love can’t really compete over the short term. But adults should have learned to think about the long term. If they work at communicating and at giving each other what they need, then, with a little love, the relationship can be strengthened. If pride and other differences—real differences having to do with what kind of person the spouse is, and not just annoyances of the moment—get in the way, then divorce is probably inevitable.

Kindness and good will and forgiveness are your allies in rebuilding a marriage. If you don’t have those, then it’s almost impossible. But in this case, there is love. Your friend should go into counseling with his wife and bring that beautiful bloom that love is back. The ex is just a symptom of something missing. Something that can be nurtured back into existence.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@daloon I love your answers on relationships. GA all the way.

Malcrony's avatar

@daloon I think you’ve said it all totally agree.

whateveritis's avatar

This type of attraction is very powerful and also dangerous. Your friend must bear in mind that attraction comes and goes, while lasting love doesn’t base on attraction but commitment, mutual respect and giving your love to your spouse. If your friend allows the attraction continues to grow, it is a recipe of disaster and devastation. There will be two broken families, hurting spouses and children. Ask your friend to read this article “How do affairs begin?” from, I know someone who had a strong feeling towards her colleague, whom she admired and enjoyed talking to, but she was able to pull herself out after reading articles from this website.

jho1188's avatar

Wow. I’ve always wondered what I’d do in the same situation. I’ll tell you the storybook answer of what I think – it’s unfortunate he wasn’t able to be with the love of his life, but he made a commitment to his wife and he should honor that commitment. However, the heart is a strong and ominous patch. He will only want for some long before he decides to reveal all.

alex_85's avatar

wow! i don’t know for some reason i can totally relate to this! my god? in all of your statements somehow relates to my present life.if i may ask, does this friend of yours lives together with his wife and kids anyway? and howmany kids do they have? i feel really pity for the wife. she doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. she has done all there is to make their relationship work. sometimes communication is the key for solving this delimma.

Iclamae's avatar

Why did he marry her in the first place? That is where he went wrong. You don’t marry someone and have kids with them for the sake of having that “perfect life.” It inevitably leads to this exact situation.
Now that’s he’s having issues, if he feels absolutely nothing for his wife, he should leave her, work on making himself a presence in the children’s lives, and move the hell out.
If he cares for his wife even a little bit, he should try to salvage his marriage and cut off contact with that other woman and get over her. They are going to ruin at least 4 people’s lives (theirs included) by staying in marriages where they pine for another.

Iclamae's avatar

Oh, sorry to have been so angry.
I just finished reading your other comments too. This is a very frustrating situation. But I stand by my above comments. He needs to do something and stick to it or everyone will be miserable.

spiritualwell's avatar

Love is your choice, but Marriages are made in heaven, there is a reason why Love didn’t cultivate in your marriage, it wasn’t strong enough to win your first love in the first place. If you can take your wife for granted, there will come a time when you will take your first love for granted. Stick with the wife.

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