Dating at Midlife/Why married men?


Dear Dr. Belove,

I recently read your blog and really liked it.

So here is what my situation...

I have been divorced for over 10 years, and was with my husband dating/married for six years. Prior to meeting him as well as now, I have only dated married men for what now must be 20 years. This includes knowing they are married, not knowing they are married, in the process of divorce, and separated. My husband was married when I met him. He left his first wife for me. He and I divorced because he had an affair and I had no desire to fight for our relationship. I have no children.

My x-husband is now married to the woman with which he had the affair. She tends to check up on me via the internet. I use privacy settings on key social sites, but have a public profile on a professional networking site. Last week, I asked her to respect that this makes me uncomfortable and to stop. I have always refused all invites from her or him. Her response to me is that she doesn't respect me and she will do what she wants.

This really stung. I couldn't wrap my head around what I could have done to deserve her comment. And yet, currently, I can see how this hit home with me!

I am trying to end a four month affair with another married man. Someone who I knew from my past and always have had fond memories of -- no hurtful drama, always friends, dating off and on over five years. He was my go to guy between serious boyfriends.

We last saw each other about 24 years ago until four months ago. And we live in different states. We had a chance to get together after connecting on a site, surprisingly, two years ago. It was an unplanned meeting - both just happening to be in the same city at the same time and he asking me if I wanted to meet for a drink. When we sat down together it was like fire, the talking and the attraction. It escalated from there.

He and I connect really well sexually (he has a strong sex drive and so do I) and intellectually, but emotionally we have two very different styles. I am very expressive and he doesn't like sentiment or romantic anything. He is pragmatic, he says. He has always been this way. I told him my biggest problem when we dated decades ago is that he was always emotionally unavailable. I asked him to tell me that I am now special to him, and his response was he doesn't even tell his 'kids' that they are special. Apparently this is okay with his wife. She seems to let him do what he wants, with a very long leash. He claims this is his first affair. I believe him, but I also know he has "paid to play" at least with phone sex, while married, too.

BUT the bottom line is He is married. So why bother to even work on the relationship? So I ended it. And it's so hard to not want to talk with him, be with him, think about him all the time.

I truly like him as a friend, and at times wish we were both men so we could be buddies, and not have our strong sexual desires/compatibility get in the way. And it would too be unusual for him to hang out with a single woman, even if we are old friends. And I am not sure I would be able to control myself. He is up for anything and wouldn't bother to hold back if I open the door.

I would ultimately want to be with him, but he does not want to leave his wife. I believe she is able to satisfy him intellectually and emotionally,and financially (he is very pragmatic about money, too), but he needs more sexually, so here I am.  

I also could not take another man leaving his wife for me. It was awful the last time and I don't want to go through that again. And I don't believe he would.

I also don't want to see my friend go through the horribleness of it either. I think he is a bit naive about how easy it is to get caught.

I also can't bare to think he would stay with his wife telling her our relationship didn't mean anything, it was just for sex. I feel more than that and I don't want to be rejected by him in this way to save his marriage.

In the big picture, I know it must be me that I continue this pattern of married men. I don't understand why, or how to change without resolving to be alone. I have a strong sex drive, which I address on my own, but it's not the same. For a while I denied it completely, and I gained an enormous amount of weight. I am now on the path to losing it, and actually having the affair helped motivate me, I believe (31 pounds dropped).

My parents have been married for over 50 years. They have a very close relationship. Prioritizing their relationship over us kids when we were little, in my opinion. I have struggled in my relationship with my father since I was a child (fighting etc.). So some neglect and abandonment issues, probably.   

I am confused, afraid, lonely and want to desperately find a "best friend" with whom I can achieve the tri-fecta of intellectual, sexual and emotional connection, as well as build a life and future together.

Whew! That's a lot and I am not sure it all makes sense. Any insights will be really appreciated.

Thank you.

Hi Anonymous,

First, let me apologize for the delay in responding. I'm traveling right now.

Second, let me thank you for this letter and this question.  For the past several months I've been interviewing people who are involved, one way or another, in extra marital affairs.  So your question is timely. My plan is to write a book about it and I'm collecting stories, real stories, real people, and so on.  I'm trying to get outside the usual framework for talking  about this stuff, to find a larger perspective.  As you might imagine, there are lots of ways people think about this stuff.

Your question is worthy of a fairly long conversation, but you'll have to decide to take a big step actually talk about it.

My main thought is that everyone really does find his or her own path.  You are being unconventional.  You'll have to find a way to make it work.

I'd recommend a couple of books, if you want to do your own research.

Take a look at a book called Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan.  That might give you some perspective.

You can find that friend you want.  I think you need to have a better sense of who you are what you're about. It might be that you are looking for an open relationship.  I can tell you stories about those, too.  Some of them really work.

The trouble with affairs, for the most part, is the secrecy. Various people have different reasons for why they do this, why then need secrecy.  Some are like your friend and are closed emotionally.  Others are secret because they have given up on their spouses but don't want to divorce or hurt the spouse. Others are secret because they just cheat, period.

Others like affairs because it's a way of getting very close and also being able to leave. It's a way of protecting a kind of autonomy.

And, as you'll see from the Ryan book, monogamy isn't all that natural anyway. His book is an argument for multiple lovers.  Still others have multiple lovers as a kind of self exploration. Then, after at time, they say, "okay, now I know what that's about," and then they settle down.

Some folks are lifetime monogamous because they aren't that sexually curious and they have more important things  to do than experiment. They are busy raising a family, building a career and so on.

There is no one right answer.

Again, give thought to actually having a conversation.

I'm not all that satisfied with what I've written you. Please follow up with another question.
I hope some of this is helpful.

You can write me directly, too.


Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.  

Dating at Midlife

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Philip Belove, Ed.D.


Hi. I`m Philip Belove (that is my name, really). I`m 71 and I`ve been a psychologist all my midlife, the past 35 years. My specialty has been counseling and coaching other midlife adults.  I think we all figure things out as we go along, but even more so at midlife. Being between 40-ish and 60-ish and single is like being a stranger in a strange land. I`ve learned which questions help people find their own way. I created this category, I publish a blog at and I write articles for various web sites. My commitment is to help people 1) understand and improve how they deal with others, 2) understand the forces that rule the relationships they are in, and 3) make the decisions which will shape, or create, or end those relationships  so they achieve the goal of midlife development  to finally live with personal satisfaction. I`ve been divorced twice myself. I`m in a satisfying relationship with a fine person. I`m very interested in learning about your challenges and in offering what I can.


Professionally: Licensed Psychologist. Marriage and Family Therapist. Coach.Author. University Lecturer. Personally: I'm 71. I've probably made all the big mistakes, er, learned the big lessons.I've forgiven myself and made many apologies and I've made it into a good, stable, sweet relationship. I now have a perspective on midlife.

Please check out my book, Rabbis in Love, at Also my blog at The Rabbi book was done as part of a research project. My collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I wanted to interview couples with very successful marriage and also we wanted to talk to people who cared as much about their spirituality as love. Maybe being able to love and be spiritual were one and same, we thought. So we found a rabbi couple and the interview was so astounding that we interviewed nine more rabbi couples. One dropped. They'd revealed too much. It's a fascinating book and, Jewish or not, religious or not, these couples do a lot of things right and there is a lot to learn from them.

Masters in Counseling Psychology, Alfred Adler Institute Doctorate in Consulting Psychology, focus on family therapy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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