Till Dud Do Us Part
Two years ago, my husband had an affair. He apologized profusely, but since he ended it, he's been on his worst behavior. He quit his job, saying that working for someone is beneath him. Fine, but he went back to school, then quit mid-semester to go on a solo camping trip, leaving me to shoulder our financial obligations. He's forgotten our anniversary these past two years, and while I've never missed one of his music gigs, he skipped my first photography show, saying, "You know I'm not into that. I'm staying home." He's now on a weeklong road trip to a friend's ... down the road from his affair partner ... and I'm supposed to "learn to deal with things one can't control." I've given him numerous chances to prove he cares beyond showing up to watch TV at night. Am I just not communicating right? I love him and want to keep him in my life.
-- Frustrated Wife
Are you just not communicating right? I sure can't figure you out. I e-mailed you back and asked you for 10 reasons why you're still there. Or five. Or two. You sent me thousands of words -- and still failed to give me one reasonable explanation. A few highlights:
People change over time. I've changed, he's changed. Perhaps the next change will be for the better.
Some people do change, but most people just change their underwear. In this case, I'd say the likelihood he'll walk in the door all loving, giving, and gainfully employed, and stay that way, is up there with Larry King being chosen as the next Victoria's Secret cover model.
In a committed relationship, there should be room for growth and mistakes, forgiveness and support.
In this relationship, he grows increasingly neglectful, disrespectful, and sponge-like, and you make the mistake of forgiving and supporting him.
At one time, the love and support he offered gave me the strength to overcome my insecurities.
Somebody once opened a door for me in Cleveland. I'm not still trying to repay them. Remember all his music gigs you attended? He might not be "into" photography, but if he were into you, don't you think he'd find a way to brave two hours of cheap wine, cheese cubes, and gallery snots to cheer you on at your first show?
I believe he can do amazing things.
Keeping you in his life is the most amazing thing he's done yet. Of course, there's still time for him to come home and announce, "Darling, this is Becky. She'll be staying over tonight. Mind sleeping on the couch?"
I'm compassionate to strangers, so my loyalty runs pretty deep when it comes to someone like him.
Your loyalty is to avoiding reality. You're with him because of stuff that's missing in you, not qualities that are present in him. Ah, but it's easier to make him your project than to address flaws in yourself, right? And easier to do that if you hone an image of yourself as this noble, self-sacrificing person by spouting these group-huggy, drive-by zen excuses for staying with him.
Most worrisome of all, however, was your last reason for sticking around.
I see him being the father of my children.
Which takes only sperm with nice strong tails. I can hear him now: "Sorry, kid, can't drive you to school, I'm off to the wilderness to find myself. And, hey, should I bump into any old girlfriends ...! Tell your mom I'll be home after she pays for your college."
Love At First Site
I've seen people find love in college, in circles of friends, at bars, at work, and online, to name a few examples. Which places do you think are most likely to produce healthy and long-lasting relationships?
You could try to get held hostage by bank robbers. Studies suggest that shared danger revs up neurochemicals that draw people to each other, or, in the words of psychology professor Elaine Hatfield, it seems "adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder." But, in general, "healthy and long-lasting relationships" have less to do with the meeting place than the participants. Figure out who you are and what you want. This should narrow down who you're looking for, and where you're most likely to find them. Of course, you can sometimes meet extraordinary people in ordinary places. In other words, it helps to leave the house. Or not. When I lived in Manhattan, I once called a wrong number, kept talking, and dated him for six months. OK, it wasn't "long-lasting," but it was a lot of fun and easier on the ankles than standing around bank lobbies waiting for men in ski masks to duct-tape me to my future husband.