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updated 11/16/2006 12:04:54 PM ET 2006-11-16T17:04:54

I often get e-mails disputing my advice and opinion. But I got no such mail about my column “Will My Lover Ever Leave His Wife,” where I said it is virtually certain he would not. I received no notes saying “I am thrilled to be the other woman, the situation worked out wonderfully, and everyone is so happy about it.”

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Instead, my responses were from people who learned firsthand the painful lesson that married men do not leave their wives for their mistresses. Because there are doubtless many women still in this situation wondering what to do, I decided to share some of these letters here:

From Arizona:
A few years ago I was in the same position. I was 22 and took up with an older married co-worker. We were deeply in love and the sex was fantastic. He made me feel appreciated and worthwhile, something nobody I dated had ever done.

The only problem was he wouldn't leave his wife. He didn't have kids but still found plenty of reasons to avoid making a commitment to me (he disliked his wife but didn't want to destroy her, the division of property would be a pain, etc.). This went on for a year and a half.

People found out. He and I became a laughingstock at work. I left my job because the taunting drove me away. I thought that if I were a better person then maybe he would leave his wife, and I spent time beating myself up over what I could do to make him leave.

Let Young Lover know that she's wasting her time and ruining her life. He's never going to leave, because he has everything he needs right now — her for sex and emotional attachment, and his wife for security. Why should he leave? He has the best of both worlds!

It took me years of therapy to get away from my idiotic mistake. It also took a lot of observation of other couples to realize how horribly dysfunctional the relationship I thought was perfect really was.

Does his wife really deserve all the pain you are giving her? You may think she does, but put yourself in her shoes, or imagine if it was YOUR husband having an affair. Leave while you still have some of your self-esteem. Otherwise, it's a long and slippery slope, and it only leads down.

From Kentucky:
I’ve been in an on-off relationship with a married man for five years. When we met, he and his wife were separated, but about three weeks into the relationship some unforeseen things took place. We were in a car accident together. Because he shared insurance with his wife, he moved back home because of the money situation — or so I was told.

Five years later, he is still there and I am still the mistress. We've both tried to end the relationship over the years, but somehow our attraction for each other has made it hard to let go. I've even dated someone else who  knows about this married man — they used to be good friends. They are not friends any more because of me.

I know this relationship has hurt many people, but I can't seem to get past the attraction I have for this man. We have so many things in common that he and his wife don't. I used to let his unkept promises get to me and it used to cause me much pain.

But now I've accepted the fact he is never going to leave his wife and it's really not a problem for me any longer. And I know he loves her. But why does he keep pursuing me? The passion we share when we make love is unbelievable. No one has ever made me feel so good.

I’m not sure I even want him to leave her, because if he is cheating on his wife he would cheat on me, too. Do I love this man? I can say that a part of me always will, but not the way I once did. I just really wish I could get past this situation and have a normal relationship that would last.From Ohio:
Thank you for your advice about being with a married man. I, too, am in that situation. I am 25 and put aside everything in my life, including my goals after college, in hopes that he would make the decision to be with me. It has now been two years and nothing has changed.

For me, it has never been about the excitement of being the "other woman.” In fact, it makes me sick to think I am. I know that I am worth so much more than that. It has been a very dark place for me over the past two years because everything is kept secret. I am heartbroken and devastated that I let myself be lured into an imaginary world where I thought this situation could be changed. At times I feel so angry and tempted to tell his wife what he has done to both her and me.

I know there are countless other women who have the same feelings of loneliness and lack of self worth. I just hope I can gain courage in the future to put my words into actions and say goodbye to this unrealistic dream I have.

From Tennessee:
I wasted five years on a man who kept telling me that "when the time was right" he would leave his wife. His wife found out about us and moved out. But in the end he wanted the stable life he had. I was just something new.

He talked his wife into moving back in with him. And then he had the nerve to tell me things could go back to normal with us! Men don't leave. They just want it all. Quit wasting your time and life on someone who can't be the man you want.

From a man in Michigan:
Please keep in mind that life is very complicated. My current wife and I started out in an affair while I was married. I was with a very controlling spouse for a very long time. The affair woke me up to how miserable I really was. After lots of counseling, personal as well as marital, I gave up on the miserable marriage.

My current wife and I then went into couples counseling, to deal with the feelings left over from the affair and to start on solid ground. Neither of us is overcome with guilt. It would have been nice if the affair never happened and if I gave up on the marriage on my own. But life does not always work out quite so neatly.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.

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