Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about whether it’s wrong for a guy to still go on vacations with his ex and their kids even though he claims he is separated from his wife. In my response, I provide insight into this question, what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate, and how she can get clear on the status of her own relationship with him.
The guy that I’m seeing can never fully answer if we’re together or not. He claims he’s been separated from his wife for four years and only staying in the marriage until his youngest child gets older. He claims to live a physically separate life but I’ve never seen anything because I live two hours away from him.
We’ve been dating for two years. I have never met his kids or family and he still includes his wife on family trips. I feel it’s wrong or he’s not being totally honest about his separation.
Things are not adding up for me and I don’t want to feel dumb and gullible.
-Crazy in Dallas
Dear Crazy in Dallas,
There isn’t actually a question here, but I will do my best to figure out how I can best help you. 🙂
I know it can be really frustrating when you’re wondering whether or not you’re really together.
And I also hear that you are frustrated with the pace of the relationship and worry that you’re being played.
And you’re concerned that he’s not being honest about where he really is in his separation.
Is It Wrong That He Goes on Vacation with His Wife with Whom He Says He’s Separated?
It’s not unusual that separated parents of young children will spend time together to co-parent their kids, especially if their kids are very young.
If their children are very young, upholding stability and normalcy is important for the sense of security and well-being of the kids.
For example, I’ve seen situations where families, if they are early in their divorce process, still go as a family to take their kids to see grandma but maybe mom stays at grandma’s house while dad stays in a hotel room.
Or one parent will take the kids to see grandma and the other parent will come to visit, but stay in a separate hotel room while he/she visits.
So they’re not actually traveling together at the same time, but they still spend some time together as a family.
So is it inappropriate?
Here’s my honest take: It depends. It depends on the context of the trip and how they’re behaving towards each other.
But generally, if he says he is separated, but he’s still ACTING like her husband (like if they’re still sleeping together, if he is still catering to his wife’s needs and doing things for her, etc.), then they’re not really separated.
And if they’re not really separated, then going on vacations together as husband and wife is entirely appropriate.
But I hear you.
It feels wrong.
It feels wrong to you because he’s not being forthright about the status of his separation AND he’s trying to keep you as a girlfriend while he’s still being a husband to his wife.
It feels wrong because you’re feeling like you’re the “other woman,” and not like a real girlfriend.
Are You Together?
If he’s keeping you in the dark while he’s still acting like a husband and there’s no CLEAR boundary of SEPARATION between him and his wife (like separate residences and co-parenting agreements, etc.), if it’s not clear that their marriage is over, then you’re probably not dating — you’re having an affair.
And I can see why that would feel wrong to you.
If he’s not really separated, then he’s giving the false impression that he’s available, when in reality, he’s not.
For your own awareness, I would encourage you to get clear on what does “being together” mean to you?
You mentioned that you’re in a relationship, you’re dating, but you’re also wondering whether you’re “together.”
If you’ve been dating for two years, I would think that you’re together.
But “together” means different things to different people.
So it’s important for you to know what “together” really means to you and what does “together” look like in action.
And then find out what his definition of “together” means and determine whether you’re both are on the same page about the status of your relationship.
Because if you’re not on the same page about what kind of relationship you have, then it’s likely you’re not “together.” (See my article on What is Commitment in Dating and Relationships as it goes further into why it is important to be on the same page about the status of the relationship).
I would also recommend you explore some of these questions to consider when dating a separated, divorced or divorcing man. Such as…
How “separated” is he?
Has he moved out of the marital household?
Are their assets divided and she just needs to sign on the dotted line?
It’s important that you try to get the information that you need to make informed choices about your relationship (choices like whether to stay in the relationship or whether to move on).
The Red Flag When Dating a Separated Man
If he’s not being forthcoming about those answers, or is reluctant when it comes to being truthful to you, consider that a red flag.
If you feel like “things aren’t adding up,” they very well might not be.
If you are experiencing an issue in your relationship, like feeling like you’re being left in the dark about some things, issues point to unmet needs.
I would encourage you to take a look at what particular need or needs are not being met in your relationship, and is he willing and able to meet your needs if you make your needs known to him.
The fact that he said he’s been separated for four years with no meaningful progress toward a divorce (unless he is a huge estate that he is trying to dissolve) is a red flag for me.
Some states in the United States require a period of separation, such as 12 months, before filing for divorce.
However, if he’s been separated for four years, this makes me wonder why his separation is so long.
Could he and his wife not be intending to get a divorce for some reason?
Or are they hoping to reconcile at some point?
Is there a lot of drama and contention in their relationship that it is making it very difficult to finalize a divorce (for example, is one spouse dragging it out, making threats, etc.)?
Or are they both extremely wealthy or have a complicated estate where it’s taking a long time to divide assets?
Is he dragging his feet because he doesn’t really want to divorce?
Or maybe he doesn’t know what he really wants but the status quo feels comfortable and he’s just doing what feels good in the moment without really thinking about what makes sense long-term.
The bottom line is: If he’s not treating you the way that you want to be treated and he’s still acting like he’s married (even though he says he’s separated) then you’re not his girlfriend, you’re the “other woman.”
And if that’s not the vision for the kind of relationship that you really want, if you don’t want to be the side woman, and he’s not making meaningful strides to change the situation so that you can have the relationship that you really want together, then you’re wasting your time.
Because who knows how long you’ll be waiting around for the situation to change.
You could be putting your life on hold indefinitely.
And how unfair is that?
He’s getting his needs met by his wife AND girlfriend.
And you’re getting lies and leftovers.
You deserve better.
I know this is a lot of think about but I hope this provides you with some guidance.
Thanks again for reaching out.
To your success in love,
Have a burning relationship question? Send me your question here.