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Can a married man love his wife and mistress at the same time?

Tagged as: Cheating<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (11 July 2013) 21 Answers - (Newest, 16 July 2013)
A female United Kingdom age 41-50, anonymous writes:

Can a married man love his wife and mistress at the same time?

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A female reader, So_Very_Confused United States + , writes (16 July 2013):

So_Very_Confused agony auntI was a swinger in my last marriage.

I loved my husband. I met a man who I liked a lot and wanted to "play" with. So here I am with two men that I love wanting BOTH of them. Sadly polyamory was NOT going to work for them and my then husband left the marriage (looking for a way out to be honest)

Did I love both of them? YES. Was I willing to make a choice? Yes. Had I not had to make a choice could I have managed to keep both? yes if things had been different I could manage to love both.

But when push came to shove and someone insists on a choice... well a choice gets made and in my book the person insisting on the choice ALWAYS loses.

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A female reader, eyeswideopen United States +, writes (16 July 2013):

eyeswideopen agony auntSo OP, which one are you?

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy + , writes (16 July 2013):

CindyCares agony auntUhm. I guess it depends what a person means by " love ".

Of course people can love two different siblings the same, or their diffrent sons and daughters, or two different friends, and nobody finds that strange. So why the notion of loving two different women automatically rises doubts and suspicions.. ?

Because, at leat in our society, love has means exclusiveness and choice. YOU choose a person to invest on them 100%of your emotional and erotic interest- totally andgenerously, without calculating if the investment is proportionate to the exact services or benefits you may get back.

So, if you start making distinctions, and assigning quotes of love... I love X 50% because she makes me happy exually. but I love Y 50% because she is the mother of my kids and we have a shared past, etc.etc., in all the possible variations,... you sort of deny the inclusive, totalizing idea of choosing ONE person to give your love and build your happiness with, and it becomes more like ,love in change of emotional, sexual, psychological and social services offered. So it is not realy about loving another person as a person, as a human being, but just for what you can get out of them, what needs and wants they are abke to fulfill best, what conveninces they offer etc. A man who loves two women... all in all, basically only loves himself and what suits his lifestyle and habits.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (16 July 2013):

Well as the endless stories here on DC show, it is very possible to be in a marriage (even one that has gone on for decades) and feel no love for one's spouse and no happiness from the marriage. therefore, I wouldn't assume that just because a man won't leave his wife, means that he even loves her. They can stay in the marriage for selfish reasons or because they're too coward to get a divorce.

Staying married has been made into a virtue, and getting divorced has been made into a sin (both figuratively and literally depending on whether we're talking about religious or secular views). Most people want to see themselves as inherently "good people" and being the one to ask for divorce threatens their self-image so they won't do it, they just can't bring themselves to do it. But they can carry on an affair (in some cases it's the only thing that is meeting their emotional and physical needs for intimacy) because it's secret, so if no one knows it exists then no one judges them thus their self-image is not threatened. The cheating husband thus is able to both get his needs met which his marriage wasn't providing, yet without having to pay the cost of admitting that their marriage (of which he's a part) is fatally flawed and thereby incurring the judgment of society who looks down on people who can't keep their marriages together.

I'm not saying I'm advocating for divorce. I'm advocating for honest and authentic marriages. I think an honest divorce is far more ethical than a dishonest marriage, and I think that as a society we have failed to recognize this, instead choosing to emphasize the importance of staying married at all costs. Well, this is what we get - which is people faking in their marriage because they've been told that the most important thing is to not get divorced. in societies where divorce is even more frowned upon or even illegal, affairs are even more common to the point they are almost a fixture in society that people turn a blind eye to. I think that when people choose dishonest marriages over divorce, it's due to a complex interplay of social pressure that demands that marriages be preserved at all cost just for the sake of putting on a show to the outside world that one is still a 'good person' because one did not get divorced. Yet in spite of marriage, people, being human, still have needs for emotional and physical intimacy, hence affairs happen.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 July 2013):

A commenter below wrote: "He keeps the mistress for the services she provides; but he maintains a wife; because it is more likely he loves "her." "

Actually I think it's more the other way round: he keeps the wife for the services SHE provides, such as raising the kids, doing his laundry, cooking his dinner, planning the vacations... and if the mistress is a long-term mistress not just a one-night stand (some affairs last for years and years), it's likely he does love the mistress as there's a years-long emotional bond between them. Affairs are always voluntary, whereas marriage is voluntarily entered into but once in, it is often forced to continue. So if an affair has been going on for awhile, it is because there is a strong emotional bond between the man and mistress. But if the marriage has been going on for awhile, it does not mean there's a strong bond between the man and his wife, more likely the marriage continued due to external pressure like the need to keep the family unit under the same roof for financial or social reasons.

many such men stay married because what it boils down to is they have entrenched themselves in a certain life and involved a lot of people in it (their wife, their kids, their in-laws and extended families, their friends who see them as a couple), and they fear the consequences of divorce to that life that would bring all of this down. Divorce for men means losing things: losing your house, losing your money, losing your kids, losing some of your friends (like those who only knew you as a couple). It also means losing your social status since other people will either pity you or think you must be a bad person for walking out or causing the other to leave you. It can also mean losing your relationship to your kids since the ex-wife may likely get custody and bad-mouth you to the kids. Many men are simply not emotionally strong enough to face all these consequences so they avoid them by avoiding divorce. People are more motivated to avoid loss than to seek gains.

Ironically, the social and legal institution of marriage has been designed to do exactly all the above - to make it hard or punitive for married people to leave the marriage. So is it any wonder that people would simply choose to stay married even if they now love someone else?

I think these issues are what keeps cheating men from divorcing their wives. It's certainly not LOVE for their wives that keeps them from divorcing - if they loved their wives why would they be OK with hurting them by cheating?

Then again, do they love their mistresses? Maybe they do, if the mistress is similarly unavailable (like if she is also married!). Then the relationship between the man and mistress is an equal one. Both people just being together part time and in secret, they compartmentalize their lives and each fits into the other's life in a limited role. But if the mistress is available for more and wants to have a real relationship with him, then he is doing her a disservice by continuing their affair yet without divorcing his wife. Then one can't say that he loves his mistress, because again if you truly love someone you would not be OK with continually hurting them by refusing to denying more of yourself to them.

maybe in the end these men DO love their wives and mistresses equally. Just that in absolute terms it's not very much for either of them. Maybe a more accurate term is that the man is "fond of" them both.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (13 July 2013):

The anon female below Doug has it right in my opinion. I am ashamed to say I have been there, and while I would not say I loved my mistress wholly while I was with my wife, I did love both of them in different ways.

Many people here describe love as being some kind of pillar of absolute. It is not. Love CAN be absolute, but it takes many shapes, many forms and many levels of intensity. It does not require vows to be legitimate. It does not always conquer all. It's like saying because scarlet red and fire engine red are different, one isn't red.

So yes, it is possible to love 2 women at the same time. But the love for each will be different. I will say from experience that my love for my wife was stronger and deeper than my mistress at the time...I just didn't see it because, perhaps, it was not the "shade" of color I was looking for. Is that selfish? Probably. But at the time I was in a failing marriage. We had been disconnected for years, but trying to make it work. Along came a woman who mad me truly happy. I married her and years later I can say it was the best decision. And you know what? My ex agrees, because she is happier too and we actually have a better relationship.

So before you judge, ask yourself this: When you marry, you vow to respect and honor. Does it honor God or your spouse or yourself to stay in a bad relationship, merely to preserve this pillar of perfection so many of you aspire to? I don't believe it does. And that is NOT an excuse to break hearts, families and vows. But it is a reason to look for true happiness...because that is what truly honors God.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 July 2013):

You can love someone without being "in love with" them. I think a lot of men who cheat have grown to feel this way about their wives. The spark is gone, but when all is said and done she's still the woman they built a life and possibly raised kids with and chances are they're comfortable around each other.

Some men cheat purely for sex, but for those that find an actual emotional connection with their mistresses, I think it's more a case of loving the wife and falling in love with the mistress.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

If the essence of your question is wanting to know if he can love them equally, I would still say no.

A mistress is a woman a man has taken to supplement his marriage. He turns to her only because he refuses to give up his married life for a number of reasons. He is forced to tell either of his "female property" he loves them; because he could lose one or both.

He loves himself. Most men of this type are narcissists. They only love themselves. They are incapable of loving anyone else. They pretend they do. The are award-winning actors.

I've read many answers speaking of multiple love. That is in the inclusive sense. Like family and friends.

The writer of this post is asking if a man loves both wife and mistress at the same time.

He keeps the mistress for the services she provides; but he maintains a wife; because it is more likely he loves "her." Ultimately, he fears going through a divorce. Losing his children and/or property. Losing his wife. So the scale tips to the wife.

He is selfish. So how can he feel real love for anyone else?

His cheating is a crime against his marriage, and he is using the mistress for sex. A mistress is a convenience, and narcissistic supply to his humungous ego. He feels he deserves it all. It doesn't matter how wrong it is, or how unfair it is. It doesn't matter if either woman gets hurt.

Both the wife and mistress are losers. They are involved with a selfish man who tells them what they want to hear.

They are both living in his lie.

I still say no. It is a situation of convenience, and just a means of satisfying his selfishness. He has convinced himself he is right and he has a huge sense of entitlement.

There is no love involved. It's all about him.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (12 July 2013):

People who get tangled up with other people who are in committed relationships or are married, or people who cheat on their partners do not really know or respect what love is. Love is not selfish or self-centered when it comes to loving someone else.

When you *really* love someone, there is nobody else. Your devotion, energy and work to make a relationship work is all focused on that one person, not a mistress on the side too.

Try as you might, there are no justifications for stepping out on your partner if that committement has been made, whether its marriage or not. And there are no justifications or excuses for anyone to think it's perfectly fine to get involved with someone else's partner/spouse. People who cheat will say anything to get what they want for themselves. There is no care or genuine concern for anyone else and it certainly is not love.

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A male reader, dougbcoll United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

dougbcoll agony aunt you will get different view points from people you ask. the same as the question is ask about " can a man love his wife and mistress at the same time?" my answer will be more directed to the heart of the man you are asking about.

if he needs to cheat on his wife to have a mistress, he is thinking of his self more than anybody. cheating on his wife is not "forsaking all others" and going to a mistress. he is thinking of him self more than anybody.

he is more than likely loving one and holding on to the other. if a man goes to another woman for a relationship "sex with a mistress, affair,or whore" he is not loving his wife like he should. he is wanting to have his cake and eating it both.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (12 July 2013):

Yes he can love both women at the same time!

People are forgetting a mistress is not always about sex. Sometimes a man is already married, and then meets a women where they have a connection, that if it was a different time and place, things would have been different. They feel a connection, and wish they could be together.

When it's a man with morals, principles, God fearing - he will keep his Vow to his wife, and his boundaries, and he won't let it go anywhere. He will respect himself, his wife and the other woman by not letting it go anywhere.

When it's a man who is weak, or has been married a long time, or faced with mortality like an emergency where he may have died and he feels he has nothing left to lose, why not, then they act on it and the other woman he met and has a connection with, becomes the mistress - whom he does love. Whether only through emotion, or physically if they take it that far.

The problem is, nobody can keep that triangle going, someone always loses, and it is a mess. Hearts get broken, families broken all because people didn't respect their vows, for whatever reason.

So the short answer is, YES they can love two women at the same time, doesn't make it right, but it is possible.

If the OP is the other woman, get out. You are in a vicious circle that has no end and you will only be left hurt and with scraps of time - don't accept second best, get your own man.

If you're the wife, don't accept it. Get couples counselling, find out what was missing, what changed, what can be done, and work together to find what you had.

Good Luck!

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A female reader, mystiquek United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

mystiquek agony auntWhen a man is cheating on his wife, he obviously doesn't love her enough to keep his vows. He may love her as a friend or the mother of his children, but he doesn't love her in the way that will keep him faithful. He may love the mistress, but if he does, then why doesn't he leave his wife, get a divorce and marry the mistress? The person he loves the most in this situation is himself. He's lying to his wife, he's cheating on her, and he's lying to the mistress telling her what she wants to hear to keep her around. Neither women is getting what they really want. The man is selfish and taking what he can get from both women. I wouldn't call that love.

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A female reader, sugarplum786 South Africa + , writes (12 July 2013):

sugarplum786 agony auntIt possible to love two people. But if the relationship is all about sex, ie if you stopped offering him sex, would he still be around, if the answer is yes, then he does love you and his wife. Why would you settle and always be the woman on the side. No man is worth and it is not impossible to get over this guy. You just need to make decision and be strong.

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A female reader, llifton United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

llifton agony auntin my opinion, no. it's just being selfish; dividing your love between two people and dragging them BOTH along - while love, by definition, to me, means being selfless. quite the opposite. for me, love, in the relationship sense, means complete and utter devotion, commitment and dedication to one person. if you're cheating, you're not giving any of those things to either partner.

in the case of wife/mistress, the wife usually doesn't know she's being cheated on, which is pure deceit on the other spouses part. and with love comes honesty, not deception. and cheating is the ultimate deception. and the mistress usually always knows about the wife, but the married man/woman doesn't choose them over their spouse, constantly placing them second, and therefore continuing to perpetually hurt them over and over. and when you love someone, you don't do things to continue to hurt them.

that's my two cents.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway + , writes (12 July 2013):

chigirl agony auntYes.

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A female reader, YouWish United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

YouWish agony auntIf a married man has a wife and a mistress, he can love neither of them. Love doesn't betray a wife and be okay with it. Love can't also use a mistress as easy and cheap sex on the side. The only one he's loving is himself, getting domesticity from his wife and the sexual ego boost from the mistress.

Trust me, when everything hits the fan, and the wife finds out and the big blowup happens, no one's going to be loving anyone, and this "mistress" all of a sudden will become a "mistake", "she didn't mean anything", "it was just sex", "she wanted more, but I love you", and a host of other things. The wife, on the other hand, if the guy is just horrible, might hear all of his justifications and blaming her for his straying, adding insult to her grave emotional injury.

If he's saying he loves both, he's lying. He loves what HE gets out of both. If he truly loved both, love being selfless, he'd work out the relationship honorably with his wife. He wouldn't mess with someone else unless his marriage was irreconcilable, and divorce has been finalized. He wouldn't have been sneaking behind her back.

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A female reader, kellyO United Kingdom +, writes (12 July 2013):

kellyO agony aunti dont think so.

Love is when you trust the other with your life and when you would do anything for each other. When you love someone you want nothing more than for them to be truly happy no matter what it takes because that's how much you care about them and because their needs come before your own.

The last line above says it all.

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A male reader, The Realist Canada +, writes (12 July 2013):

The Realist agony auntYou can love multiple people at the same time with no love lost to anyone. The thing to consider here is not whether you are able to show love to two women but how they will feel about the situation. Even if you can give them both all that they want it will not cushion the pain felt by the situation.

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A male reader, DV1 United States +, writes (12 July 2013):

DV1 agony auntIt's possible to love two people. What's sad is that both women are with a person who's really selfish and really ugly inside.

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A female reader, Brokenv Canada + , writes (12 July 2013):

Gosh that is a hard answer.....but if he is married and with you, I think the only person is loves is himself right now.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (12 July 2013):

No.

He can have meaningless recreational sex on the side with one, and hang on to the other for convenience. While telling them both he loves them.

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