After eighteen years of marriage, I decided to begin the process of separation from my wife. I do not feel fulfilled, and our marriage has been rough.

During this time, I met another woman with whom I have developed a relationship. Even though she knows my marital status, she doesn’t foresee taking our relationship to another level.

That makes me worried and disillusioned. Having four children makes it difficult for me to end my marriage, but I don’t want to end my relationship with the other woman either, even though I know that it can’t ever develop into anything more than it is.

Dear Friend,

We’re glad you’re seeking advice regarding your relationships. As often happens, you have become confused by your emotions and feelings. Those feelings are preventing you from being able to accurately recognize what is wise and what is foolish.

To be clear, you say that you don’t “feel” fulfilled in your marriage. You “feel” worried and disillusioned about your future, and specifically about your future with the other woman.

Our feelings are legitimate and worth paying attention to. It is always good to recognize our emotions and to acknowledge that they exist. However, we set ourselves up for a great deal of trouble when we allow them to take control of our decision making. As we have said many times, feelings cannot be trusted.

Through your description of your situation, you imply that your marriage is over and that you consequently believe that you have reason to be considering a future with another woman. However, you say that you “decided” to initiate the separation process, but not that you have actually taken any “action” to carry out that decision. And then you say that you are finding it difficult to end your marriage because of your four children. These statements, when taken together, lead us to believe that you are still living with your wife and children, but that you are testing another relationship to find out whether it might bring you more fulfillment.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you are willing to break the vows that you made to your wife, as well as abandon the home that you made for your children, in order to seek that feeling of “fulfillment.” Yet you realize that your children will not feel more “fulfilled” living without a father in the home. Nor will they feel more “fulfilled” when you and your wife bicker over financial responsibility and moral responsibility for them. And whether you realize it or not, they will most likely suffer the economic hardships that most children of divorce suffer when one parent decides to abandon them for greener pastures.

The wise teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible lists all the things that he tried in order to feel fulfilled. He tells about his quest for fulfillment through riches, in sexual relationships, and by obtaining every possession that he could desire. However, at the end of it all, he didn’t find fulfillment. Instead, he describes it all as smoke, something you see until it just vanishes.

Fulfillment comes when we make commitments and then put all our energy into keeping those commitments. You made a commitment to your wife on your wedding day, and you made unspoken commitments to your children when you caused your wife to become pregnant each time. Abandoning your commitments now will never bring you the fulfillment that you seek.

We wish you well,