Saturday, November 24, 2018

Cuckolded, and He Doesn't Know What To Do

This time Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax gets it right. I suspect that you, upon reading reading this letter, will also know what the bereft male letter writer should do about his cheating wife.

Without further ado, here’s the letter:

My wife is having an affair, and I know all about it. In fact, I knew about it before it even started, as she came to me telling me she was interested in a physical relationship with someone she had just met.

Ever since then I have been faced with the choice between telling my wife to stop, or allowing it to continue to its conclusion.

What I really want is for her to want to stop on her own and, more importantly, to want me in the same physical and emotional sense that she wants her fling. Though my wife denies it, I have always felt like a "check-box husband" — the kind who has all the qualities she would write down on a piece of paper when thinking of her ideal husband (though I'm far from perfect). But rarely has she demonstrated the passion or desire for me that I would hope for from my wife.

The flaw in his reasoning is clear enough: he only sees two options. To tell her to stop and to let it go on. It is not obvious that she would stop if he tells her to stop. Evidently, his approach exposes a basic weakness that has probably contributed to his wife’s affair.

I will note in passing that we do not know how old the couple is, whether there are children involved or anything about their financial condition. Since as you think that he should walk out on her-- an option that he does not consider-- we cannot know why he does not without knowing more about their life.

As for his wish, that his wife show the same passion for him as she does for her lover, what would be wrong if he wife shows him some loyalty. Does he have any right to expect that his wife will be true to her vows. Having a wife with good character might be better than defining your marriage on the basis of intense passion. One might even say that passionate desire is more intense in adulterous affairs-- but I will leave that one for another day.

Anyway, Hax offers the man some other alternatives. Quite correctly she sees that he has limited his options unnecessarily:

You actually have other choices besides this, but you don’t mention them. Maybe you aren’t even thinking about them . . . and I suspect it’s because these are the only two that allow you your happy ending, where your wife returns passionately to your marriage. Right?...

So I urge you to start thinking of options that reality says are possible.
Those include: your ending the marriage, of course; or your staying in the marriage as is, knowing you’re right about the check box despite her denials and adjusting your expectations of her accordingly; or staying in the marriage but doing so as she does — with no compunction about getting your needs met on the side when the marriage itself doesn’t meet them. Just tell her, as she told you, when you’re interested in someone else.

That seems to limit the options available. Importantly, it is good know that there are other options.

She continues, with a salient point:

It’s not a great lineup of choices, I’ll grant you that. However, each of them involves doing something different, whereas now you are waiting for something different, without any sign that anything is going to change. That’s torture. Whatever you choose, please don’t choose to put yourself through that.

Yes, indeed. Importantly, Hax does not recommend that this man get in touch with his feelings. She does not recommend that he feel his feelings. She is not, after all, an idiot.

Being more intelligent than many advice columnists, she recommends that he do something, not just sit their and wait. An important point. While he is ruminating and feelings sorry for himself, he is doing nothing. Then, nothing really changes. He needs to gain some sense of agency in the situation. He needs to be a player and not a spectator. For that he will need to take action. We are naturally not going to tell him which action to take, but he should certainly do something.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Passivity does not make changes. The man must make choices. MAKE them.