As promised today we have my advice to “Lost in Portland,” a woman limping along in a lifeless marriage and tempted by a CFP (Cock From the Past). Apologies for yesterday but my Comcast internet was down. Again.
In case you didn’t get all the details yesterday in our preamble, please click here: Is My Marriage Dead or in a Coma? Part 1.
The reason I’m handling this question in two parts is because her problem is both very complex (as you can see by all the detail in Monday’s post) but also horrifyingly simple and ordinary.
How do I know it’s ordinary? Because I get letters like this all the time, and I suppose it’s the ordinariness of the whole thing that gives me pause and makes me wonder whether a long-term monogamous marriage is a real possibility for the majority of human beings.
But I digress. Let’s get back to Lost, shall we? I sent her four follow up questions you didn’t see in Monday’s blog, her responses are in italics and my responses to her responses are in (parentheses):
1. Are you happier or unhappier at home when your husband is around? I don’t mean “happier” because he’s helping you with things around the house, I mean happy to be in his presence.
Honestly, I’m ambivalent about his presence. We are very much in our own worlds, and really only communicate about things that are superficial. For instance, when I was away on business for the past 5 days, he had no comments on what he did or how things went. I had to basically cross-examine him.
(Perhaps he had no comment because he has been enjoying a dalliance with a Pussy From the Past, or PFP. Either way, a superficial communication norm is not normal in a marriage. Wait, I take that back: it may be normal, but it’s not healthy. This blog is making me cynical lately.)
2. Are you still talking to the ex, and have you shared with him your marital strife?
Yes, I still talk to the ex. We see each other for coffee or a quick lunch about 1x every 6 weeks or so.
(Yeah, I thought so. You said he was on the back burner but he clearly is not. You are having a sexless affair, which is the most boring kind of all. Stop fooling yourself.)
3. If so, is he encouraging you one way or the other?
The ex says that it would be obvious to him that we would be together if I wasn’t married. However, he understands my desire to put my children first. As a child of divorce, he is very sympathetic to them and he says he won’t put his wants ahead of them. In the meantime, he accepts our occasional meetings and friendship.
(No offense, but he’s bullshitting you. He reminds me of a column last week in which a woman slept with a married man and suddenly came down with a case of the Morals. To refresh your recollection of that DesCamp Masterpiece, please click here: Used and Confused.
I could be wrong but ask Mr. Patience and Understanding – that NEVER happens. I predict if you hook up with him in the future he will break your heart. Upon said breakage please send me $37.50 because that’s what I’m charging for AskDesCamp Crystal Ball advice these days. The rest of it is still free and worth every penny!)
4. This is a tough one but answer honestly and quickly: If you were home safe with the kids and a sheriff came to your door with the news your husband was killed in a (painless) car accident, which would be your immediate visceral reaction:
a) relief combined with sadness;
b) grief; or
c) anger that the car crash wasn’t a fiery one in which he slowly burned to death?
It’s so hard to admit this — but I would be sad and relieved. Of course I would feel badly, but ultimately I would be relieved. That was really difficult question.
(This is my go-to question because if the inquiry leads to the answer “a” or obviously “c” we have a prima facie case of a marriage broken beyond repair. Case closed; please proceed immediately to the courthouse.)
Dear Lost in Portland:
Your letter yesterday asked me which choice you should make: stay in an unhappy marriage or chase a crazy dream with your CFP.
The answer is neither.
We’ve seen this before, haven’t we? Remember this young woman who was engaged but also torn between two men? Should I Call Off My Engagement?
I understand why you are drawn to your CFP but that doesn’t mean he is the answer to your problems. I’m not going to agree with your assessment of yourself as a “horrible person” who is “going to hell” because you slept with your CFP once last year, and I agree with your therapist that it’s time to stop with the self-flagellation.
Do you wear a hair shirt too? Itchy…
Your instincts to leave CFP on the sidelines for now are good and yet when I asked you if you are still communicating with him you admitted that you are. He is also keenly aware of your marital problems, making him more in the loop on the status of your marriage than your own husband is.
Until you’ve made some decisions about your marriage you should put the Wondershaft from Yesteryear on a much further back back burner than you have thus far. Your continuing connection with him is interference that will jam the signal between you and your husband as you search for the answers regarding your corpse of a marriage.
Yeah, that’s more bad news. Sorry.
I’m not sure if your marriage is clinically dead, but if it’s not it’s playing possum well enough to land in a coffin and get itself buried on accident.
I give you about one more year coasting on this road of indifference and passive-aggressive nitpicking before the marriage blows up in your face (along with CFP if you are into that). Remember this quote from you?
“I joke and tell him ‘I’ll see you a half-hour past I-don’t-care.’”
That’s not a joke and you do care, but not for the right reasons.
You don’t really want him at home (for Christ’s sake, you want him dead but not going out with his buddies?) but you want to make him feel bad for being absent, giving you the prime real estate of the much-sought-after moral high ground. You’re probably doing that to assuage your guilt over the infidelity with your CFP.
Monday I mentioned that almost two years of writing this blog has taught me this: both men and women cheat, but they do it very differently and for different reasons.
Caveat to the readers: this is my opinion based upon experience from people who write to me and from observing human behavior. Obviously individual results may vary so please forgive the generalizations below.
Men usually cheat because they are horny due to the closure by their wife of the Fun Center either for long stretches of time or indefinitely. These men are so desperate to dip their wick in something wet that they’d have an affair with a watermelon, as seedy as that sounds.
Women are more prone to cheat because they feel abandoned, unloved, or neglected by their spouse and rather than fixing problems early in a relationship they let them fester until they finally voice their needs.
I think we gals follow a pattern sometimes that has us doing everything for everyone and doing it all really well. We like that our partners and our children depend upon us utterly and completely, don’t we? Those poor bastards would be lost without us.
Look at me! I’m Wonder Woman/SuperMom/Fantabulous Career Lady and Sexy Wife!
And yet at some point we stop and say:
What the fuck?
Who is taking care of me? When do I get to be cooked for and loved and soothed and stroked? Who is going to kiss my boo-boos and why am I always the nurturing one?
So we suddenly make these new demands and sometimes if we’re lucky the dudes even try to cooperate. The problem is by that time, as you have discovered post-counseling with your hapless husband, it’s too late.
You and your presently-held (though not very often) man-child were raised in vastly different homes and thus developed very different expectations for marriage. When you described your parents’ loving and long-term wedded bliss I was deeply moved and impressed.
When you described your husband’s parents’ marriage, I was deeply moved as well because the mundane and distant commonness of it was so depressing.
What happened to the lessons your parents taught you about love and relationships? Why did you let them slip away, when clearly you admire their marriage so much?
Lost in Portland, you aren’t lost because at the very least you are searching. Too many people are truly lost: content to live within a loveless marriage “for the sake of the kids” and accepting their unhappy fate as if it were ordained by God.
Oh Yeah, About Those Kids:
Those who choose to stay tethered to the albatross of a dead marriage while using the kids as an excuse are conveniently avoiding deep internal digging and taking action that is bold and dangerous and likely lead to happiness. Therefore, they get all the happiness they deserve.
Harsh? Maybe. But I believe in personal responsibility and you owe it to yourself and your kids to live the fullest and most joyful life possible.
Children are smarter and more perceptive than you think. You are creating the same normalcy of of a despair-ridden marriage as your husband’s parents did for him while at the same time probably raising them in a tension-filed home.
You aren’t doing them any favors, my friend, and are probably hurting them in your efforts to spare them pain.
1. Leave your CFP in the past where he belongs, at least for now. Any dating you do post-separation isn’t likely to go anywhere for the long term…that’s why we call these people “jump offs.” If you have a future together you will surely torpedo it by making your ex-boyfriend your next boyfriend.
2. Have a detailed discussion with your husband and your therapist about a separation if your continued efforts to repair your relationship are fruitless. If you do separate and divorce, make sure you do it right.
By then, my new book How to Get Divorced Without Losing Your Kids, Your Money and Your Mind: a Holistic and Practical Guide to Marital Dissolution and Family Reorganization will be available and you can follow it step-by-step.
I’ll even send you a free copy.