I am a 28 years old woman living and working in Pakistan. I have a very practical approach towards life and am not the sort who believes in fairy tales.
My dilemma is that I am in love with and want to marry a man who is 47 years old and is already married. He lives in USA and has his two kids living with him. He is working in one of the top universities of Texas.
His first wife lives in his native village in Pakistan. He is looking for an educated, qualified and a compatible wife. If I go ahead and marry him, I will be his second wife. His first wife knows that he wants to marry me and she is fine with that. She has lived in Pakistan all her life and has never been to USA. Thus she is not registered as his wife in USA. After marriage, he will be filing for my American visa as his wife. I am fine with him having a first wife and I don’t mind meeting her too.
I have always admired men much older than me and I believe I will be quite happy with him. The age difference between us is not an issue for me. This will be my first marriage. I have never been married, engaged or dated.
He wants to marry me, buy a house, settle down and have kids with me. His two kids from his first wife will also live with us. I am fine with that too and am willing to raise his kids as mine. I also plan to study further in USA and pursue my career.
The problem is that the people around me, my family and friends, are not happy with this decision of mine. They believe it’s a wrong decision and are against this marriage. They believe I will be putting myself in an unnecessarily complicated situation. But I don’t see it that way. I admit it’s not something that is common but at the same time I don’t believe it is something wrong or impossible.
What do you suggest? Do you think I am wrong in wanting to marry him? Do you believe I will be making a mistake if I get into this marriage?
Would-Be Second Wife
Dear Would-Be Second Wife,
No, you are not wrong in wanting to marry him. Neither is it a mistake to get into a marriage were the age difference is significant, in your case, of nineteen years. It’s actually quite normal to be attracted to a person who might be much older than us.
However, choosing the person you want to marry or commit to forever is serious business, and it demands a lot of forethought, responsibility, and honesty. May-September relationships (where the man is significantly older than the woman, usually by at least a generation) have their special challenges.
It would be helpful for you if you were to do some unbiased thinking and look deep within you to try to figure out why you want to be with a guy who’s much older than you. Do you have an emotional reason for wanting to be with him? For example, some women choose older men because they had an unhappy or non-existent relationship with their father, and are trying to fill that hole they feel in their lives. Other women prefer much older men because they are attracted to the knowledge, experience and/or wisdom that comes with those years. Still other women have a caretaker instinct that draws them to older men who genuinely care and appreciate their kindness.
It would also be helpful if you know the full details and the reasons why his first marriage is the way it is. Being married for so many years, why has his first wife never travelled to and lived with him in USA? How did she (a mother to his kids) allow her children to be with him and herself chose to stay behind in Pakistan? What is the true nature of their relationship? And how big an influence will she be in his life after you marry him? I believe you should have access to all the facts – as many as you can – and then decide whether to marry him or not. The impression that I am getting right now is that in order to marry him, you are willing to ignore many details. This can lead to a relationship which later on could turn out to be an unfulfilling and an unhappy one.
Tip: Talk to him about his first wife. You should talk about the first wife’s role in his and his children’s life. You should also be honest about your discomfort and feelings. This conversation can help both of you find a good way to approach the first wife situation.
Understand that relationships with an ex (in this case his ex is not his ex but is actually still his wife) in the picture are often complicated, especially if there are children from the previous relationship. This is especially true if there are disagreements concerning the upbringing of the children.
Note: Complicated does not necessarily mean unhappy, however, some people make the mistake of thinking true love means no complications, but this is an unfortunate myth. You can be happy with a person with complex and even difficult relationships with others, but it will take patience and understanding.
As he is still married to his first wife and they have kids together, chances are your husband might need to communicate with her on a regular basis. How do you feel about that? Would you be fine knowing that for some of the matters in his life, he still needs his first wife?
Tip: In situations like this, it is quite normal to feel jealous. Just remember that your husband has a previous life that is not connected to you.
Though you might be fine with his kids and won’t mind having them in the same home, please do understand that the kids (his kids) might not be so accepting of you. Remember that the children will be loyal to their mother and feel betrayed by this marriage at first. Keep in mind that children view marital breakups differently than adults. If the children are old enough, let them know that you are not there to replace their biological parent.
Ask Asad: How do I accept the fact that my marriage is over?
Tip 1: Let your spouse be the primary parent. Often, it is difficult for children to accept a new adult telling them what to do. Allow him to set the rules, expectations, and consequences while you reinforce them consistently. When problems arise, involve him and present a united front to the children. Over time, and as the children get used to the consistency between you and him, he will no longer need to be the primary parent.
Tip 2: Allow time to develop a relationship with the children. Treat his kids with love and respect, even if they don’t treat you this way. However, don’t try to act like the biological parent. They will develop a relationship with you if given time and space. Let the children set the pace.
Tip 3: You should understand that when you share your life with him, you accept all of his baggage as well. This includes the time and money he must be spending on his children and his first wife.
You will need to have a big heart and forego many things. If you want your relationship to work then don’t dwell on his past, neither nag him about it or bring it up during arguments. His past is his past. Instead of ignoring the past, accept it. If you believe you can’t cope with it then don’t get in this relationship. If you do, then don’t keep on looking at his past. Leave the past behind you. Focus on forming a more positively-oriented future belonging to both of you.
Think about the future. If you are in a May-September relationship then you need to prepare for the very real possibility that you will outlive your partner while you are still young or early middle-aged. Be sure end-of-life concerns are taken care of for your partner, and that you are emotionally ready for the stress: both during the relationship and after.
In the end, if you two really do love each other for the right reasons, most people will eventually accept your relationship especially those who can’t see past their prejudices or don’t care about your happiness. As long as you both really love each other and are ready to overcome all obstacles together then you should be fine.
All the best!
Asad is a counsellor, life coach, inspirational speaker and a personal-development expert. He advises on social, personal and emotional issues. You can send him your questions for this weekly column at [email protected] with “Ask Asad” mentioned in the subject line and provide as many details as possible.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Express Tribune.