Dear John, I Love Jane

I have never left a partner for someone else.

I don’t now if this is unusual or not, but despite a good mix of long-term, short-term and half hour-long encounters, I have never ended one relationship to start another – no overlaps, no angst-ridden dilemmas, never even anyone else waiting quietly in the wings.

I’d like to say this is because I’ve always been smart enough to end a relationship when I knew it wasn’t working, before it fell apart enough for me to fall for someone else, but anyone who knows me will be snorting derisively at that idea, so that isn’t it. What can I say? I’m not good at endings.

I’d like to believe that most of the time when one partner leaves another it is because of some underlying problem in the relationship, that looking for love elsewhere is a symptom rather than a cause of a relationship breakdown, but what about if you don’t go looking? Can you be perfectly happy in one relationship and yet fall in love with someone else?

In some relationships of course, the cause of the disharmony is something more fundamental. Dear John, I Love Jane, is a collection of fascinating stories from women who have left their husbands and partners, not just for other people, but specifically for other women.

If you’re thinking ‘but I know I’m straight, that would never happen to me,’ then don’t be so sure. Although many of the women write about having understood their sexuality all along, never really being happy in their heterosexual relationships, for others, falling in love with a woman comes seemingly out of the blue.

Erin really wasn’t looking elsewhere when she fell in love with a woman at 39. It takes her completely by surprise, and yet she is powerless to control it. “I was shocked,” she writes, “and I was immediately absolute. I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life…what was happening was so unexpected, so crazy, so senseless, so selfish, that I didn’t even know how to articulate it. “I just love her,” I said.”

Crystal too fell in love with another woman while seemingly perfectly happy in her marriage. “I was a stable, married, 29-year-old mother when I fell in love with a female co-worker,” Crystal writes. “I loved my husband dearly…we were best friends who could share everything. I believed I had chosen the right companion, and would never have married if I thought otherwise. So I lived out my perfect suburban life with my husband, while I fell in love with Zoe in silence.”

If we take Crystal and Erin’s experiences as examples, you can see why in previous posts I might have seemed a tad scared and possibly a little cynical about the idea of everlasting love. What stories like these demonstrate for me is that love can’t make any promises. Love is out of our hands. We might like to think we’re in charge, but we’re not.

This post is part of a blog tour exploring the themes and issues raised by ‘Dear John, I Love Jane’, edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre (pictured).

Tomorrow, you can read more thoughts on the book from Joan Price, American writer and author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty.



  1. 24 January, 2011 / 11:36 am

    I’m sorry if this sounds ranty but I get incredibly narked with people who are married and who justify walking out on their spouse and all the promises they made by saying, “I’m sorry, we fell in love, I couldn’t help it”.

    Rubbish, of course you can help it. You can stop spending time with that person (whether they’re male or female), you can control your thought life and not let those fantasies play out and flame the feelings, you can look at why your feelings have been stirred in the first place and work at regenerating anything that’s lacking in your current relationship. And that’s just a start!

    Marriage is a commitment, and sometimes there are periods when it’s led by the mind rather than the heart – you choose to commit, it’s an act of will. That’s not to say you have to stay in an abusive or dangerous relationship, or that you shouldn’t aim to have strong emotional feelings in a marriage – of course you should – but hopping across to the other side (and I don’t mean that in terms of sexuality!) just because you “fell in love” with the grass is no excuse. If you didn’t want to commit forever, then you shouldn’t have gotten married.

    There, rant over, I shall resume sweetness and light once more :)

    • MB
      24 January, 2011 / 2:59 pm

      It is not the same… Forever is an illusion when you are gay and don’t know it. Everything is an illusion if you don’t live authentically. When I married at 22, I thought I would be married all my life, that is what I thought. But I was wrong. By 32 with three children, I grew up emotionally and physically in one fell swoop. I was gay. Everything I ever knew changed when another woman kissed me. My whole life flashed before my eyes and that me died then and there. And all I ever throught I knew disappeared. Yes I left my husband, and it saved my life. Heterosexual norms don’t apply, and forever is an illusion created by people who need to be reassured that change does not happen, well it does and nothing is for certain, it takes some getting used to, but ultimately it is very freeing.

    • KDH
      25 January, 2011 / 10:21 am

      I guess you have never been there. If you had, you would understand. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to hurt my family and with that, I mean my husband and my kids. But when I fell in love, it hit suddenly. There was NO warning. My girl and I had only spent a few short months together before we realized we could not possibly live without one another. Initially, we spent time together as friends. We met at a community meeting and began working on projects as volunteers. We began having coffee together a couple of days each week and then for an occassional late night dinner or drink to discuss future plans for our cause. Within three months – were were BOTH in love with all our heart and soul….truly. When we realized our feelings, we tried to end it again and again. I even attempted to move to another state 1900 miles away. We were both so miserable it was unbearable. That’s when I learned it is important to be true to one’s self overall. Now, nearly 9 years later, our families have adjusted and we – two girls – are living happily ever after. <3

      • 25 January, 2011 / 6:16 pm

        Thanks for sharing your experiences KDH. I think most of the women in the book would be with you in that they never set out to break up their existing families, and that upsetting other people was the very last thing they ever wanted to do, but I think there comes a point at which you have to think of yourself first – like you say, be true to one’s self.

        And nine years on do you still feel that overwhelming ‘heart and soul’ type love?

        • KDH
          26 January, 2011 / 1:58 am

          jomiddleton: Although it’s been a while since we have passionatley attacked one another in an elevator between floors, I think it’s safe to say we both feel the same ‘heart and soul’ type love. Our life together is filled with truth, comfort, romance, humor, cooperation, respect and consideration. I am not sure exactly how to measure the depth of our love, except to say…she still makes me smile often every day, at times I catch myself just smitten at the thought of how I feel when we’re together. So, the answer is YES….that once in a lifetime feeling is still there. :-) I cannot imagine it will ever go away.

    • 25 January, 2011 / 6:12 pm

      I sort of half agree with some bits of what you say and not with others…

      If you fall in love with someone, are you helpless? Well, maybe not. I can think of a time when I have been in love with someone and had to fall OUT of love with them. It is bloody hard – it took me a long, long time to feel like I wouldn’t just collapse at their feet if I ever saw them again – but I did do it. That example is slightly different though as I was single at the time. I don’t know how I would have dealt with it had I not been.

      On the idea though of staying with someone regardless, I just don’t agree with that. People change, feelings change, and I don’t believe it’s a case of just sticking at it. I’m not saying I don’t believe in commitment, but I’m yet to be convinced that a commitment has to be for life. I do think you can fall out of love with somebody. If you’re saying we should basically choose someone and stick with them we may as well just choose partners out of a hat. I don’t think you can make yourself love someone, and if the basic love isn’t there you get all kinds of other problems of resentment, lack of respect etc…

  2. Your Sisters Boyfriend
    24 January, 2011 / 8:54 pm

    Interestingly Cervantes deals with the issues of love and its power. it also outlines our fallibility in the face of it albeit in a slightly out of date fashion in the The Impertinent Curiosity, a story-within-the-story in Don Quixote. It also seems to be one of the earliest mentions of a Lothario in the context of being a womaniser although this credit is actually given to Nicholas Rowe for his character in The Fair Penitent almost a century later!

    • 25 January, 2011 / 6:14 pm

      Gosh you do sound clever! And there was me reading it and just laughing at the funny bits :-)

      I clearly need to pay more attention…

  3. 25 January, 2011 / 5:31 pm

    [Can you be perfectly happy in one relationship and yet fall in love with someone else?]
    It baffles me that people cannot understand that it IS possible to fall in love/be in love with two people. Everyone is different, has different attributes, feeling, outlook on life. Everyone has something that someone can fall in love with – If his wife/her husband fell for them then why shouldn’t someone else be similarly attracted and fall in love.
    The difficulty starts when feelings are acted upon – c’est la vie!

    • 25 January, 2011 / 6:21 pm

      I did pose the question, but personally I believe absolutely that you can be in love with more than one person, just like we have different friends and family members that we love in different ways and for different reasons. I don’t believe we have a limited supply.

      I used to have this argument a lot with a male friend, recently married, who was convinced it wasn’t possible. He would argue over and over that you just couldn’t physically be in love with more than one person, that even if you THOUGHT you were in love with someone else, at any one moment in time it could only ever be one or the other. And then he fell in love with someone else. His feelings for his wife hadn’t changed, he just loved this other person too. Needless to say he was fairly confused by the whole situation. (And I couldn’t help but take a small amount of pleasure in being proved right…)

      • 25 January, 2011 / 6:47 pm

        I’m with Jo on this one. Being in love is not necessarily as simple as just one man and one woman (or one woman and one woman etc). You can love different people simultaneously and to different levels and in differing ways. I myself have been in the situation of being in love with more than one woman, but DESPITE this I am unlikely to leave my wife if it happens at any time, now or in the future, because I believe in the “till death us do part” bit; which comes from my religious background and upbringing.

        I accept that love luuuuuuuuuuuurve type love with a member of the opposite sex can and does happen (although I think female same sex love is less “repulsive” and more “natural”, but accept this is a male prejudice) and have no issues with it as long as nobody tries to impose the idea on me that such a lifestyle is acceptable or “normal” for me personally. I find the way that some gay partners flaunt their sexuality, as if they have some sort of “gay agenda” to convert the world. Like socialists, if you want to be one fine, just don’t try and convince it’s an option for me ….

        On another note I presume that men have left a marriage for another man ? I don’t know any, but I’m guessing it’s happened ?

        Back to the opposite sex aspect. Being in love isn’t objective (nothing is anything else mind you), therefore from a pragmatic perspective it is entirely possible for any individual to be in love with more than one person. I know someone who claims to be in love with me, from my perspective I don’t consider it to be so, but it doubtless seems so to her and whilst I certainly don’t encourage her I don’t “hate” her either and to some degree love her dearly, it can’t be easy for her if she indeed does love me as she claims.

        Another comment, somewhat off topic. Have you ever noticed the person you end up loving tends to “sneak up on you” (not literally !) and suddenly wham you feel it ? That’s what happened for me over the years, I’ve never actually gone for the ones I am necessarily attracted to at the beginning. Perhaps I’m just not shallow in that respect, and I’ve come to love many women, after knowing them in another capacity initially. Which in my opinion rather knocks the concept of dating on the head …. It also suggests that given the right circumstances we could almost fall in love with just about ANYONE.

        Lastly, I wish you all in your relationships :)

        • 25 January, 2011 / 6:49 pm

          Must be having a senile moment, the bracketed section in paragraph 4 should say:

          (nothing else is mind you)

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