By Tom Blake
One of the most difficult and controversial senior relationship topics that readers bring up is dating when the spouse of one of the two people has Alzheimer’s.
A Southern California woman wrote, “I am dating a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s and is very well cared for in an expensive facility. He visits her daily, sometimes as much as three times a day. They had a 35-year marriage in which he raised her children, and he considers them equally his own.
“Here is my dilemma. I don’t doubt that he loved his wife, and still does as much as he can. But on his dating profile (how I met him) he said he has more love to give than his wife can accept. That is kind of awkward wording, but I knew what he was trying to say.
“I do not think he is morally bad for seeking companionship since his wife has been going downhill for five years, and has been in this facility for the past three years. But his children do not like the idea of their father going out with other women. They know that he is, but they have told him, ‘We don’t want to hear about it.’
“That puts me in the ‘other woman’ category. I feel ‘back door’ and it doesn’t feel good. I have never asked to go with him to visit his wife. I find myself feeling resentful about the position this puts me in. I know he is happy with me as he has told me he loves me and often speaks of our future together.
“But I also know that he will always be in touch with his children, who will probably ask at some point if I was ‘dating’ their father while their mother was still alive. I don’t want to be a pariah when the day comes when his wife passes away.
“Would it be reasonable or fair of me to tell him that unless I can be part of his life now, i.e. visit his wife in the facility and not be hidden from his children, I cannot go on this way?
“If I cannot go to the facility, then perhaps his wife is not really ‘that far along after all.’ Maybe she has another three or four years to go. I am nearly 71 and he will be 76 in two months. I don’t want to be ‘back door Dora’ for the next four years. Please help me understand my situation better.”
My take on the situation: The man went on a dating site, likely because he is lonely. He did not try to hide that he is married and his wife has Alzheimer’s. What he did may not be right, but it is somewhat understandable.
The woman entered this relationship knowing the situation. She should have known she was walking into a minefield. Now, she wants to go visit the wife to see how sick she really is. That is totally wrong and disrespectful. She has no business going there.
Next, she worries about how his stepchildren view her. She’s not going to be able to change that either, probably ever. After all, the ill woman is their mother.
So, either she accepts the situation the way it is, stays in the background, and stops worrying so much about herself, or she needs to exit the relationship. I find her motives and dilemma to be her problem.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. His latest book can be found online at www.smashwords.com/books/view/574810. See his website at www.findingloveafter60.com (Yes, after 60, time rolls on). To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.