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Quarter-Life Crisis Leads to Open Marriage & New Relationship which Turns into a Painful Affair

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I don’t know how to get past this quarter-life crisis; it has been over a year. It started with a look of desire from a stranger and then all of a sudden after a decade of content marriage I felt withdrawn from my husband and confused about everything. For 3 months I tortured myself analyzing and questioning my life. I concluded I was resentful of my husband, who is a good man, for two reasons: his drinking problem that monopolized my twenties, and the lack of sex in our marriage (less than once annually). Previously neither of these were an issue for me but after the “look” I started feeling that I had missed out on my best years.

I talked with my husband and we decided to try an open marriage. He found a new partner the next day… he was probably having an affair previously but the concerning thing is I don’t care. I am more relieved to have the freedom to explore a new relationship of my own.

Things get trickier — a few months later I moved for work. We now live in different cities. A colleague, Ben, started perusing me immediately. I told Ben about my open marriage and he shared that he was separated. We dated for four months and I thought fell in love. Then his wife moved back. Now it has turned into an affair. I’ve tried to end it but have been too weak. Ben has indirectly made it clear that he has chosen her, but he can’t let me go and right now neither can I. I need to end it but I am in love with him and it is not the type of situation where I can end all contact. I have to remain professional and carry on a social life with him — not by choice.

Even more difficult, I do not have a support system here, although I do maintain open lines of communication with my husband who has been very supportive… In the past year I have withdrawn from my family and friends as well. I’ve admittedly been extremely self-centered – I feel like I’m juggling so many of my own personal issues that I don’t have the energy or desire to listen to theirs. That sounds so awful but I don’t know what to do or how to get back to a happy place.

Quarter-Life Crisis Leads to Open Marriage & New Relationship which Turns into a Painful Affair

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Without the ability to talk to you directly and to ask you the questions that I would need to ask, I can only answer this question generally with open recognition of the fact that I simply do not know enough about your personal life to ensure the accuracy of my response.

Perhaps the most important thing to focus on is the absolute necessity for all of us to be right in our ideas, concepts, assumptions and choices. For most of us, and it also appears for you in this situation, the outcomes of our choices have affected our lot in life. There are many things that are beyond our control, that have nothing to do with our choices, that affect our lot in life.

If a meteor streaks through the Earth’s atmosphere, smashes through your roof and kills you in bed, this is not of your making. This outcome had nothing to do with any choice you made in life. Being stopped at a red light and then being hit by a drunken driver, has nothing to do with the correctness of your thoughts.

There are many bad things that can happen to you in life, that are not of your making. Having said that, for most people, the bad things in life that happened to them are of their making. This may sound like a bad thing, but in reality if the bad things that are occurring to you in life are due to, your choices, your ideas, your faulty thought process, then these things are all correctable. This means that the bad things that happen to you in life, can be eliminated or greatly minimized and thus vastly improving the quality of your life.

Forgive me if I am wrong but from the limited information that I have, the information that you have provided me, it would appear to me that you are quite mistaken about relationships. The lack of sex with your husband, would either indicate that the two of you have a low sex drive or it would indicate that you have a normal sex drive but are simply not sexually attracted to one another. Having little or no sexual contact between the two of you is in itself not a problem. Are you content and is he content with your sex life? If you are, then there is absolutely no problem.

You wrote that you believe he had been having a sexual affair preceding your decision to have an open marriage. You also wrote that you didn’t care that he had had this affair. You wrote that a glance from another man awakened a host of new feelings. You wrote that you did not care about your husband’s relationships and that the important thing to you was your new or was to be your new relationships with other men.

All of these things, expressed to me that you have been wrong in your understanding of relationships. It may be that you were wrong when you decided to marry your husband. Perhaps the two of you were never meant to be together. I believe that you were wrong to think that dating other people would somehow improve your relationship with your husband. You are certainly wrong to continue to date your new boyfriend when he has made it very clear to you that he chooses his wife over you. You never, never, want to be second in a relationship.

I understand how difficult it is to end the relationship when you love someone and find happiness with them, even if it is not enough happiness and the love is not fully returned.

The good news is everything can be corrected. It will take work and commitment and a good therapist. Try a few. You will know when you have found a good one.

Many people love their family doctor because he or she is so understanding, so nice, so supportive and truly seems to care. This same thing can be said of a good therapist. They will be professionals while honestly caring about your well-being and your future, just as your family doctor may be but in a completely different way. If it has to do with the body, your family doctor is the way to go. If it has to do with the mind, your feelings, then the therapist is the way to go.

As I have said numerous times throughout this answer, I don’t know you well enough to address your situation with any degree of certainty. I have spoken generally and what I have said to you is true for all people. If you were my client, I would gather the information to address your problem specifically. I cannot be your therapist over the Internet, and I cannot function as a therapist over the Internet. No one can. You need to find a therapist that is close to you and can become a convenient part of your life.

I hope you will take my advice and I hope you will find the happiness in life that is presently eluding you.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Quarter-Life Crisis Leads to Open Marriage & New Relationship which Turns into a Painful Affair

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Quarter-Life Crisis Leads to Open Marriage & New Relationship which Turns into a Painful Affair. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 2 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.