Is it wrong to be involved with a man who has an invalid wife in a nursing home?

26 answers | Last updated: Sep 13, 2016
Be the other woman asked...

I was married to a cheating man for 34 years. I hated the other "women" in his life, and could never understand how they could do what they did knowing he was married. I divorced him and was so happy. I am still happy but have recently become involved with a married man (go figure) who has a wife in a nursing home. She has had repeated strokes and is not in the best shape in the world. It took him a few years to get me to cross the step to become involved with him. He is a GREAT guy and I care for him so much.... but he is still married. He has begged me not to let anything happen to what we have. But exactly what do we have? He can't take me places he wants to because he is afraid it will get back to his wife. We do go places and I enjoy spending time with him, but it goes agains't everything I use to be believe in. Lokking for some advise (friendly) advise, please.


Expert Answers

Linda Adler is the director of Pathfinders Medical in Palo Alto, California. She has dedicated her professional life to helping patients and their families find optimal ways to deal with medical challenges. She has worked in all facets of the medical establishment, including primary care, research, and policy settings at UCSF, Stanford, and Kaiser Permanente. Her current focus at Pathfinders includes crisis management, mediation, and advocacy.

What a good question. I can appreciate what a difficult situation this must be for everyone involved.

First, I'd like to suggest that you change the way you are thinking about this situation: it's different than the one you experienced with your unfaithful husband. You are dealing with someone who has lost the companionship of long time spouse, and is probably working through the grief of that loss and the challenges of caring for her as she declines

It's important to get a better understanding of all the factors involved: is your friend's wife still mentally competent? How rapid is her decline? Does your friend still visit her regularly, and is she aware of his presence when he is there? Is there any chance of recovery? How do each of your religious beliefs affect this situation? Are there children involved, and how might your relationship affect them?

What I'm suggesting is that you start to think of this situation in less black and white terms, (is this right or wrong) and look into all the variables involved. I think a deeper understanding of what's at stake and how this relationship might impact others might help you to take the correct action.

Finally, remember that you're not alone. Unfortunately, many people face challenges like these when a spouse is seriously ill. Perhaps you can find others who have walked in your shoes? I hope your friend can find a local caregivers group so he can share his challenges with others who understand; they may have some valuable advice to share with him.

This sounds like a very difficult situation; I wish you all the best of luck.


Community Answers

Ann cason answered...

There is an old saying that you can't help another unless you have walked in his moccasins. Your life experiences are leading you to growth in understanding that could be helpful to others. It is always good when you can pause before judging yourself or another. The task will be to expand your mind beyond the tendency to judge yourself.

It is the tenderness of your relationship with another human being who suffers from deep needs that is touching. You may need support to help you to explore ways of taking this connection to another level of friendship. There are so many couples that go through long years of illness with a husband or wife. This often necessitates the inclusion within the marriage of other interests, friends, caregivers, and professionals. Each has a different role, the person who suffers the sickness, the mate, the friends, the caregivers, the grown children and sometimes even the consort if that consideration is permitted.

With love and communication the often frozen dynamic that often comes with long illness can be be infused with energy and love and move forward to the benefit of all.

Explore your own heart, then find out more about the situation with your friend's wife and more about suffering from stroke in general. Become a genuine friend instead of someone suffering a less than satisfactory arrangement.


Brenda avadian answered...

What deeply thoughtful considerate responses to the other woman's question re: being involved with a married man.

This is a common question among caregivers that is often met with harsh judgment by those who choose to take a narrow view.

Life is anything but black and white; rather, it is complex, sometimes messy and sometimes reaches into depths that require the right kind of illumination to see and understand.

Ann Cason and Linda Adler cast light upon one of LIFE's complex situations.


Be the other woman answered...

From the other woman: He visits her weekly and make sure she has whatever she needs. He has a son and we get along great. He said he was glad to see his dad happy again. She will never get better and cannot talk, walk or take care of herself. In ending, it is not easy being "the other woman" but am learning to think things differently. He is a wonderful person and we are very happy. Thanks for responding to me.


Linda adler, mph, ma answered...

Thanks so much for your update. One question: is she coherent and able to communicate in any way? If so, I wonder if your friend has ever asked her her feelings about how she'd like him to live his life. In many cases, those who are failing want their spouses to go out and live a full life; if she falls into this category, this could make an enormous difference to everyone.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Perhaps this is a judgement... Whatever happen to "for better or for worse"? I do not know the condition of this wife, but even if she can't speak, it doesn't mean she doesn't understand there is a betrayal going on. How sad to know her dear husband could not be there 100% for her in her greatest time of need. I was the main caregiver for my deceased dad and now for my mother. Any time away from them - for work obligations - gave me tremendous guilt. A different scenario, but it seems to me inconceivable to leave someone you love for pleasure when they are suffering. If this woman ever winds up with this man, I hope she realizes what he'll do if she's ever in this situation. So much, for black and white, when are we going to understand right from wrong. God help us all,


A fellow caregiver answered...

Go to the Bible for your answer. One marries for life unless one or the other commits adultry. God does not permit this and I would prefer to obey Him than to be involved with a married man.
Put yourself in this woman's place


Chapmrs answered...

Wow, anonymous. I'm thinking of another Christian text, Roman 2:1 --do not judge. I have been guilty of acting out of fear and obligation rather than love. The other woman is not the other woman, necessarily. She might be the loving presence that strengthens the caregiver to give more to his wife, not less, to love his wife out of an abundance rather than stick with her because of a long-ago vow. If I put myself in the wife's shoes...wanting to deprive my husband of physical touch and companionship would be selfish (yet understandable)! And I would not want to be loved because God does not permit otherwise. I want to be loved out of the freedom God gave my husband.


Mimulusman answered...

I have only questions. It is so hard to live a life you know is incomplete, when it seems that it will be complete with another person. But: 1. How would you feel if you were the wife in the nursing home? (She might even give her blessing to a person who could help make her beloved husband happy if it didn't mean he was abandoning her!) 2. No matter how attractive he is to you, and you to him, and how hard it is nowadays to find a soulmate, there must be others who can give your life meaning and pleasure, as the other woman's husband does, without so many burdens and difficulties. All best wishes for the three of you - and any children involved!


Chapmrs answered...

Dear Anonymous, My wording was very poor. I'm sorry it offended you. Selfish was not what I meant to say. I meant that his wife is called to selfless love as much as the husband is--and the "other woman." Actually, as a chaplain, I see more dying people embrace selfless love than many of us "healthy" folks do...I hope I offered some comfort to "Be the Other Woman." I suspect you have a story, Anonymous, and I am sorry for however you were caused pain.


A fellow caregiver answered...

(from Abdolita)You already answered your own question. The quotes below are copied and pasted from your own words. Do the right thing. OBVIOUSLY you do not feel comfortable with this or you would not have written. " I hated the other "women" in his life, and could never understand how they could do what they did knowing he was married." What has changed???? "He can't take me places he wants to because he is afraid it will get back to his wife." Hmmmmmmmm, sneaking around just like your ex that YOU divorced!! "He is a GREAT guy and I care for him so much.... but he is still married." What makes this cheater so great?? Cheating is cheating, no matter what the reason! "but it goes agains't everything I use to be believe in" It goes against everything you "used" to believe in?? Has it changed because now YOU are the "other woman" and your reasons for cheating are OK?

YOU ARE THE OTHER WOMAN AND THIS MAN IS CHEATING ON HIS WIFE!!! DO THE RIGHT THING!!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I have seen similar delimmas discussed on this blog in the past, and I am always saddened when I read the critical comments and harsh judgemental responses which appear when someone addresses a concern such as yours. I realize this is an open forum and people can and should express their views. However, I also feel compassion for the person who reaches out to this community for strength and support. My prayers and thoughts are with you.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm not judging anyone, the Bible is the word of God and it is HE that judges. I'm sorry for the gentleman but he chose his wife for better or worse


A fellow caregiver answered...

If this man is cheating in his wife, what makes this woman think he isn't going to do the same to her. That is, if he marries her.


Caringdenise answered...

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A fellow caregiver answered...

"Other woman" implies she defines herself by who he is. Sex. Sigh, always sex. As long as they don't touch physically, it's not adultery. I don't believe in purity codes: don't touch and it's OK. I believe if you resent, repress, deny, and "fake love" someone out of "duty," you miss the point of fidelity. My Church teaches marriage is indissoluable, beyond the grave, no divorce ever. Yet when someone is widowed, she or he can remarry. Contradiction? You bet. Some situations (such as a life alone) are too much to bear. I'll leave that call to the man AND his wife whose opinion, desires, BELIEFS ABOUT FIDELITY none of us know. They made vows, yes, but to each other and maybe God, but not to us and our personal moral judgmental judgments.


A fellow caregiver answered...

The man and his wife made a vow to God and to each other not to us, true. So be it. The other women asked the question so it was answered by all of us. What kind if relation is this, where the man cannot be seen with her? It's because he feels guilty! The Bible states to love your wife as Christ loved his Church and gave his life for it. God didn't say love your wife until she is in a nursing home, not able to walk, talk or see.


A fellow caregiver answered...

The compassionate professional advice was spot on--honesty and communication are called for, not assumptions and judgment. The other woman asked us to respond after she admitted she is afraid she is a hypocrite and doing wrong. And we answered her with what "the Bible says" and with what "God says." Her question wasn't answered from our hearts, but from authorities we repeated. I heard NO ONE be as vulnerable as the other woman. I heard NO ONE say, "I'm afraid someone will break a vow to me when I'm sick and abandon me." I heard a lot of anger. Women are so hard on other women. (Some male responses?) Here's the truth about where I am coming from. I am totally faithful to my partner of almost 20 years and she to me. Honesty is our only absolute rule. We talk about the attractive people we meet, the fears, the insecurities--all of it. If I told her that I was drawn to someone else, she'd love me through that process. And because of that nonpossessive love, I don't have the slightest desire for anyone else. She is faithful because she freely chooses to be--no shame, no coercion, no threats, no societal judgment. So I pray if she needs a companion if ever I am sick--for years!--, I'll put her needs above mine. I'm sure I will fail, but I hope God will strengthen me to do my best. Not everyone can do with a dog or support group for companionship. Some can caregive chastely for decades. We don't know the heart of the ill woman, so let's please stop being angry on her behalf and be honest about the source of our feelings.


A fellow caregiver answered...

We live in a very liberal society. Even some of our leaders are immoral And chose to go out on their wives even if they are well and healthy.
I do feel for the other woman. I'm sure it is difficult for her and for him but we need to search our conscience and rely on what God tells us.
I hve a relative whose husband has Alltzheimer. She suffers so much to see him so I'll. She changes him several times a day because he as soiled hs underwear. HE is mean and violent at times but she continues to care for him. She is a strong individual and her reward will be great. She not once has mentioned she is interested in another man or would just like to go out for even a cup of coffee.. There are very few women like her.. I admire her for the love she has for God and her husband


Abdolita answered...

I was HONEST with my answer. No mention of God in my answer. She called herself the "other woman" and is feeling very guilty or else she would not have reached out with her quest to do the right thing. She knows the right thing to do. I quoted her thoughts from her questions. Her answer is in her own words. Let's hope she stays healthy, but with all the guilt and stress from the turmoil of being the other woman, how healthy can she be? Stress is not good. If she does end up with this man, will he honor her by sticking by her side????


Future homewrecker answered...

I'm almost in her same situation. There is a deacon at our church whose wife has MS. When they brought her to church one time, I was stunned at how incapacitated she was. I do not know how he makes it from day to day. Recently he has started being very friendly with me, although he has not actually asked me out. And I will say that he hasn't done anything improper.... yet. How far do you take this? I would like to offer my friendship, but how do you be "friends" to a man without going further? It puts me in a bad position because I am torn between compassion and guilt. I can't freely have an open relationship with him. Yet I can see why he feels the way he does.


Future homewrecker answered...

There are two things about this that have really bothered me. One, if she was dead and he was truly free to pick me, would he still do that, or would instead he be interested in other ladies. Two, I cannot admire myself for "shooting a fish in a barrel". She can't fight for her marriage. If she could, I might get my backside kicked.


Special lover answered...

Looks like the answers are all over the place. So the real answer is with the individual person and how she or he feels about their relationship. Does the relationship make them happier and do they enjoy making the other person happy? If so then the stress should be much less. After all God spreads his love to all, why can't we love those we choose to?


A fellow caregiver answered...

I am in the same boat as the husband. I visit my wife twice a day and pay ladies to sit with her at the evening meal for company. Spouse cannot speak and is paralyzed on one side, but is alert. I have a friend and we have a relationship. I do not say I am right bu I am loyal and in terms of my visits, faithful. It has been ten years.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My wife is in assited care with advanced parkinsons disease. It is so difficult to be by myself. I visit several times a week. Sometimes she either won,'t wake up or if she does , gets VERY nasty. I would like female companionship, even if it,s just friends. Knowing myself, I would probably want more ? Am I horrible ?


Toomanylosses answered...

The above post is mine I wanted to add I am 71. She is 73. Not youngster. There is much more to say about It. about 15 yrs ago she had am emotional affair with a man . She admitted that ,but denied anything more ever happened. There was strong evidence to the contrary. Still I feel bad about going out with another woman