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HOW TO SURVIVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A MARRIED MAN
Gunjan Shah leads me through a wedding album — hers. The couple is happy and beaming. The only thing is, Gunjan isn’t married. In fact, neighbours, friends and relatives often enquire why the attractive 43-year-old is still single.
Her late mother, she tells me, was, however, privy to her secret. “She didn’t approve,” admits Gunjan, “but she understood.” There are a few others in the images too, others who witnessed the clandestine ceremony in which Gunjan wed… a married man. Now, unbuttoning her collar, Gunjan reveals a mangalsutra she has sported for close to six years. “He’s trapped in a loveless marriage,” she explains, assuring us that the Gujarati businessman is not sneaking around behind his wife’s back. “They were forced to get married. But his wife knows about us, and she accepts it.” Gunjan claims her husband’s wife, and mother of his two children, consented to his relationship with Gunjan “as long as the status quo is maintained publicly”. Gunjan, on the other hand, is so in love that this is all she needs.
But doesn’t she want more? Walking hand in hand with your partner on the beach shouldn’t be a luxury. Can this covert relation really be enough? And if so, for how long, and what’s next? Gunjan says these things don’t matter.
They do to Niharika Dubey, though. Niharika, 24, has been seeing a married man for two years. His wife is a friend of hers and Niharika says the guilt is sometimes unbearable. “I’ve wanted to break things off in the past, but I couldn’t. He needs me, and I can’t hurt him.” Still, Niharika says she won’t wait forever. She has given him till the end of the year. The only thing is, she doesn’t know how rigid she’ll be about that deadline. “He’s my soulmate,” she says. “I know we’re meant to be together.”
Filling a void
According to clinical psychologist Sadia Raval, “People in such relationships find different excuses to stay in them, different ways to justify their actions to both, themselves and those around them. These aren’t lies, they’re simply an attempt to deal with the situation.” Offering an example, Raval says, “A woman who has been rejected in the past may feel the acceptance here is hard to let go of, and she may justify it by saying that it’s true love or that he’s in a loveless marriage. While sometimes these are women who’ve never found love, some are trying to fill a psychological void and still others enjoy the ego boost that comes from believing they are chosen above someone else.”
- Look into your heart and answer these questions. What is it about this relationship that appeals to you? Is it to fulfil an emptiness that has deeper psychological roots? Is it for financial reasons? Then, truthfully consider the idea of letting go. What would it take for you to move on?
- Realise that even if he’s genuinely unhappy in his marriage, the pressures on him are so immense he may never be able to move on. Can you live with that? If not, there’s no time like now to move on.
- Face the truth about your own dependence on the relationship. If you want to get out, you can. Be honest with yourself and see a therapist if you need to, to confront and tackle psychological blocks.