Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Married Man Seduced

So, here we have a man who is about to make what seems to be a major life mistake. He believes that he can only find his true self by leaving his pregnant wife and marrying a comely co-worker.

Why does he think this? First, because he has been seduced by his co-worker. Second, because he has bought the ambient therapy culture blather about his true self. Third, because he has no moral character.

And yet, he is besotted. He has fallen under the influence of the other woman. He is writing to therapist Lori Gottlieb, but clearly she sees that he is not about to take advice from anyone. Therefore, she senses that she must go slowly. It is no small task, in the space of an advice column, to bring him to his senses.

He does not understand how he will suffer reputational damage for leaving his pregnant wife. He does not understand that the unmarried co-worker is up to no good. After all, as Gottlieb notes, is it a sign of good character to come on to a married man whose wife is currently expecting their second child?

Gottlieb understands well that this is a potential disaster, but she is too tactful to tell him that he is being played, is being seduced, is being ensorcelled. Since he is a stranger she has never met, she rightly takes it slowly and does not embarrass him too much. 

On this blog we are writing words that the man is highly unlikely to read, so we take a more straightforward approach.

Here is Andrew’s plaint:

Months ago, on a business trip, a female co-worker and I attempted to meet up with others for drinks, but when everyone else bailed, we decided to still go out. After multiple rounds of drinks, barhopping, and great conversation, I realized we had an intense connection. We had all the same interests, the same sense of humor, and we both really enjoyed the other’s company and quirkiness. It was like meeting the other half of me that I didn’t even know had been missing.

After the business trip, we continued to talk and meet up for drinks. The feelings got stronger and I shared information with her that I had never told anyone. I felt I could be my genuine self with her, which is a feeling that I have not had in a long time. The way she looks at me still gives me chills as I write this.

Great, right? Well, yes, but I’m married. With a daughter. And another baby on the way. 

(My co-worker is single with no kids.)

So, the co-worker is more charming than his wife. Perhaps she is more alluring than his pregnant wife. And yet, it does not take too much perspicacity to glean the fact that she, being unmarried and childless, is looking for a husband and for a man who can father her children.

And, she is so ruthless that she does not care who gets hurt in the process. We will note, as Gottlieb suggests, that she is conniving and calculating. Andrew is too naive to understand what is happening to him. He is not the only man in that class. 

Andrew does not say whether he is already engaging in intimate relations with his co-worker, but we expect that he is. He does explain that his wife, upon hearing the news, still wants to save their marriage. He seems to think that his marriage was never very good, but was that thought planted by his mistress or is it something he has always thought?  He does not say whether pregnancy extinguished their spark, but clearly, we sympathize with a woman who is expecting a child fathered by a man who has been seduced by the office Jezebel. His wife has done nothing to deserve the way he is treating her.

As though things were not bad enough, Andrew and his wife went to couples counseling. There he learned that he needed to be open and honest about his feelings for the other woman. It was very bad advice. Among the things his pregnant wife does not want to hear, high on the list is how much he loves his new mistress.

Andrew continues:

Eventually, my wife found out about this, but she still wants to work on our marriage. For me, there’s a comfort in staying in the marriage. It’s just that I have difficulty being my true self with my wife. That, combined with the lack of intimacy in our relationship, makes me wonder if I would be happier with a divorce. I still love my wife, but I am just not in love with her. There is no more spark.

We’ve tried marriage counseling, but I think it has actually made things worse, because I have learned to express my feelings more, and my wife doesn’t like that I oppose her ideas or express that something she says upsets or hurts me. I feel much better when I am actually heard, but the resulting fights are frustrating because they are fruitless.

So I am left wondering: Do I stay in a mediocre marriage for the kids, or do I leave for my own interest? When I look down either road, I can see only fear and regret. Any advice?


At the least, couples counseling has failed him. And Gottlieb understands it quite well. As noted, she is treading softly:

I mention hard work because as you’ve seen in your marriage counseling, getting in the trenches with someone you love (and you say you do love your wife) can be challenging, especially when so much is at stake—your shared history, your affection for each other, your general contentment, and the stability of the entire family. There’s a world of difference between the emotional risks you’re taking in opening up to your pregnant wife with whom you share a child and the ones you’re taking in opening up to the object of your flirtation over drinks at a bar. And they, in turn, will have different responses to what you reveal of your “true self.” Saying, for example, that you feel stifled in your marriage, that you love but aren’t in love with your wife, and that you get chills when your co-worker looks at you might be easy for your co-worker to hear but terribly upsetting to your wife.

And she notes the salient point, that Jezebel is not a very good woman. Good women do not engage in affairs with married men whose wives are expecting. If the mistress does not care about the well being of the new baby or the man's daughter... surely that does not excuse the man himself from ignoring his responsibilities.

Yet, Andrew is wearing moral blinders, so he does not see the point. Nor does he see the reality that confronts him if he decides to have a second family. He is floundering in considerations about his true self and his genuine feelings and ignores the practical consequences.

Gottlieb tries to show him his possible future:

I say “in the moment” because right now you’re in a mind-set where your whole focus is on comparing the two situations—staying with your wife or leaving her for your co-worker, someone who is choosing to have a relationship (emotional or otherwise) with a married man who has a baby on the way. But the problem with this is that they simply aren’t comparable. If you were to leave now, you would be the single father of a young child and a newborn, with a girlfriend who may not have an interest in raising these children with you—changing diapers, waking up several times a night, spending time at baby birthday parties and the pediatrician and the park. (If you think you can keep the “father” part of your life separate from the “dating” part, you’ll soon see that it won’t be easy.) Moreover, if you two eventually have children together, you may find yourself five or 10 years from now wondering how you ended up in the same situation once again: content, but with decreased intimacy, increased tension, and a nagging sense that Mocha Almond Fudge is an even better flavor of ice cream than Rocky Road.

The issue is whether or not he will hear this advice. I consider it well presented. Gottlieb refrains from calling Andrew out on his dereliction and tries to appeal to his reason. And she is trying some mild shaming.

She might also have mentioned the opprobrium that will befall him, among friends, family, colleagues and co-workers… but that is certainly part of the equation. If he thinks that love will conquer all, he is very far gone, indeed.


trigger warning said...

"We’ve tried marriage counseling, but I think it has actually made things worse..."

"Surprise, surprise."
--- Gomer Pyle

UbuMaccabee said...

what a trainwreck. This reminds me of why I rarely go out in public anymore. I don't want to know any of these people, or their problems. It's every man for himself until the great bugaloo and beyond.

JPL17 said...

This is why we have the Pence Rule, hit songs like Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line", and wildly popular films like "Fatal Attraction". Too bad he didn't pay attention.