Sage Advice: Hallmark Romance Is Pretty Heavy

By Amy Dickinson | May 28th, 2019

Can you spot the difference between love and lust?


Cheating Spouse Image

Dear Amy: I have found the man of my dreams. He is my true love.

I know you are thinking that lots of people fall in love, but Amy, our love is one in a billion – the kind of love little girls dream of and that Hallmark card writers write about.

We are deeply connected and compatible in every imaginable way. We have been together long enough to know that our love is real and lasting.

Here’s the challenge: We are both in long-term marriages that have been dead for a very long time.

For years we have both put off leaving our marriages to limit the impact on our kids, who are now well-adjusted teenagers. Before we met, we had each planned to separate/divorce when our kids were in college. But now things have changed forever.

We are so happy together and it’s very painful when we’re apart. We can’t imagine waiting years (until our kids go to college) to live our life together.

We always want to do what’s best for them and are struggling with how best to balance our kids’ well-being and our own.

Should we follow our hearts, leave our marriages, show our kids what real love is, and do our best to help them deal with the situation? Or should we patiently and secretly love each other and wait until they are off to college, despite the emptiness we feel when apart?

– In Love and Confused

Dear Confused: Please, little girls deserve better dreams than this. Somehow, even the misty-eyed writers of Hallmark cards seem to have missed the beautiful and romantic literary potential of two married adults having extramarital affairs and jonesing to ditch their spouses and kids in order to be together.

In short, you and your lover are inhabiting a tired cliché. The least – the very, very least – you can do is to own it.

Your children will not care one whit about your one-in-a-billion love affair. Leaving them – and their other parent – is NOT the way to “show them what love is.”

That having been said, because you are both determined to leave your marriages, I do not believe it is wisest to wait several years. The less time your well-adjusted children spend in a household fraught with unhappiness and tinged with lies and infidelity – the better. Please, spare them your romantic notions and overall arrogance.

You should pursue couples counseling in order to find a way to amicably “uncouple.” Many couples wait so long to pursue marriage counseling that it essentially becomes divorce mediation. And this can help both of you to express your frustration and heartache. Just don’t pretend that your decision will be welcomed by anyone else. Assume it will be hard for everyone, and take responsibility for being the catalyst for the challenge these two families are about to face.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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