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

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 Answer

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.