How do you choose between your lover and your family?
That’s this week’s question that relational therapist Rika Ponnet will help us to answer. What do you do when you’re besotted by your girlfriend, but at the same time love your wife? Do you follow the intense feelings linked to a new relationship or do you decide to stay in the safe haven that is your family? Rika warns: “People often wish to escape from the shortcomings of an existing relationship, but the excitement of new loves soon wanes!”
The quandary was one a VRT listener put to relational therapist Rika Ponnet on the “Nieuwe Feiten” (New Facts) radio show. Listener Kurt wrote: “I have an open relationship and in addition to my permanent partner I’m now also seeing another woman. Initially, my first partner was in agreement, but now she wants me to choose. I feel torn to bits and am facing feelings of guilt. What should I do?”
“Geena and I have been together for over two decades” writes Kurt. “We have a 6-year-old daughter and form a good, stable team”.
Ten years ago their relationship nearly hit the rocks when Geena had an affair. “I was a broken man, but Geena convinced me I was her true love. Despite this she kept on seeing the other man and sexual relations continued”.
After a child was born, the relationship ended, but Kurt started seeing Marjolein, who was 10 years his junior. “That was fine with Geena to start off with, but today we love each other. It’s become a relationship and I’m head over heels in love. Geena wants me to choose and I think she is right, but how do you choose between a long relationship that has its frictions and a fresh new love with so much potential?”
Rika, who is very used to such questions, answers: “To me it looks like the decision has already been made! I try to get people to look at the ramifications, the fun side, but also the challenges. People often wish to escape from the shortcomings of an existing relationship, but nobody will fulfil your desires, dreams and expectations of life and love 100%”.
A second relationship is often labelled a satellite relationship. People say it can be managed, when there are clear rules, but Rika disagrees! “There is always an emotional logic and emotional story that is beyond your control. When you are intimate with somebody and that continues, then you build attachment. This bond makes it very difficult to return to your familiar relationship”.
In Kurt’s case, the injury he suffered as a result of Geena’s adultery hasn’t yet completely healed: “You shouldn’t brush infidelity under the carpet, because it will continue to slumber and damage basic confidence”.
“The excitement attached to a new relationship is fun but is time-limited. If you choose the new person, one day you will see them getting up with unkempt hair. The excitement will wane”.
Rika believes Kurt has already made his choice: “It’s an emotional decision. Weighing up pros and cons don’t really work. Is fear of loss greater than the wish for a new beginning laced with feelings of guilt?”
Still, Rika won’t rule anything out: “Everything remains possible. People make choices and afterwards tell themselves they made the right choice”.