Hi, Carolyn: A year ago (and a year after my wedding) I found out that during the wedding planning, my spouse had an affair. Since we had been married a year and I loved him, I wanted to stay and work on the relationship.
Recently I found out that he had been talking to some other woman and told her he was divorced and living with his ex-wife in separate bedrooms. At that point I packed my car and drove home from Colorado to Virginia, where I’m from.
He says he’s sorry, that he’s been in counseling, that he’s never giving up. We have no kids, no mortgage, no shared assets — I’m 25 and he’s 27, and my entire relationship with him has been about him, not who I want to be.
Part of me feels like I got a do-over to live my life the way I want to, but am I giving up too easily? I’m not sure I can look past the hurtful things he’s done, but I don’t want to leave without trying everything. — Anonymous
As it happens, I just referred in a recent column to the importance of doing all you can to save a marriage. But that advice rested on a presumption that there was intimacy in their relationship once, and therefore the goal was to restore it.
In your case, your two revelations — the affair while planning your wedding and the lie-infused extracurriculars while you were supposedly working on your marriage — suggest there was never any intimacy to begin with. Instead, they suggest there was only the illusion of it, the illusion of a marriage, while your husband devoted his attention to serving his own needs on the side.
Given all you know now, does that sound about right?
Maybe it doesn’t, or maybe you have your own reasons for “trying everything,” be it your conscience or your respect for the institution of marriage or your desire for a vaccine against future regrets. No one should talk you out of those.
Maybe, too, your husband is the rare exception who isn’t groveling just because he got caught and because he now stands to lose his sturdy platform from which to indulge himself, and instead he really is doing the hard work to get well from the treatable ailment that happens to be the sole cause of his taking shameless advantage of you.
By all means, wrestle with these possibilities.
However, anyone who has been betrayed and insulted as you have also has earned the right to skip “trying everything” on a marriage that, pardon the grim analogy, is plainly DOA.
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Dear Carolyn: I am a civil servant. My sister, who has had guvmint assistance at times in her adult life, has gotten some attention Twitter-wise for being a funny, right-wing anarchist.
So the government shuts down. I am working on an IOU and she is posting “funny” things on Facebook, like, “National Parks Closed. Because the government has to help you take a walk in the woods.”
Here I could not restrain myself, knowing that if the government of Teddy-[stinkin]-Roosevelt hadn’t taken action, the Grand Canyon would today be surrounded by condos, and so responded with that fact. I didn’t cuss or directly insult anyone’s intelligence.
I love my sister dearly but I don’t think our online personas mesh very well. Any advice on how I should be discussing this stuff with her so that we don’t get to a point we can’t speak to each other? — L.
I’m going with (d) Not at all. As in, no discussions between civil-servant and anarchist siblings of “this stuff” — politics, social media, the merits of and obligations conferred by accepting “guvmint assistance,” or any other grit in your oysters. Why? Because you love your sister dearly, and if that’s your priority, then act on it by choosing to set aside your desire to be heard.
It’s also okay to make a priority of being heard, of course, as long as you’re willing to pay the emotional price.
Obviously families have had to navigate political differences for as long as there have been families and politics, and so yours isn’t a novel choice. However, if you do opt for love and limits, then I strongly advise you to stop following her on any social media and invest more time with her in person. Your online personas clash not just because your views do, but because your espousal of them online is stripped of all the filters people use in person when they’re making an effort to get along. So, interact with your sister only in filter-friendly environments.
If this feels like a kind of denial, that’s because it is. We’re also all more attractive under soft, layered light than under harsh fluorescents — and what purists light their parties under an office-overhead glare?