Q: My husband has just turned 40, and I believe he is experiencing as mid-life crisis. In February of this year (after an indecisive two years), he took off his wedding ring, said he didn't want to be married any more and moved into his own apartment. He further elaborated that a woman friend that he'd known for many years (lunch, etc.) and with whom he'd been having an affair for some time said she had never loved anyone as much as she loved him. He said he wanted to investigate this relationship further and wanted to find himself etc., etc., etc.
After several weeks, we mutually agreed to see a marriage counselor (a psychologist) separately and then eventually together. We also see each other once a week with our child, age 11.
The question: He wants to resume sexual relations without any commitment. The only form of commitment he has made is that he left for various reasons, one being he couldn't live with me anymore and another is he found out with the other woman what he wanted to find out (whatever that means). He says he wants to continue the counseling on a weekly basis to negotiate a truce, and he wants to try to make it together again.
What is correct? If my husband is having a sexual relationship with another woman or women, should I, as his legal wife, also have sexual relations with him? Separation, that is a legal separation, has not occurred. My husband has implied that I'm being a prude by not having sexual relations with him and am seeking an eye for an eye, etc. He says he wants to move back in with us (me and our daughter) after we have negotiated the truce. The counselor says the decision is up to me.
I feel we should be married again, before we resume our sexual relations or before he moves in again. My husband has not said in so many words that he is sorry he caused me pain or that he has totally cut off all relations with the other woman. I feel he wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
Since we are not legally separated, I am not dating. How would you handle this situation -- confusing as it is -- correctly?
A: You have come at last to the right person. It is kind of the marriage counselor to say that the decision is up to you, but whom else should it be up to, pray? You have obviously been too long among people who use sympathetic terms for your husband's behavior and prejorative ones for yours, thus disguising the fact that (1) you were the injured party and (2) your are now in the position of strength.
Thus, when he cuts off intimacy with you, it is called experiencing a crisis and investigating relationship, and when you cut off intimacy with him, it is called prudery and eye-for-an-eye revenge.
The only valid metaphor in use here is the one of a "truce." Let us look at this in terms of diplomacy.
He deserted. He now wants to resume the privileges of citizenship. You have the right to readmit him or to refuse to do so, on the grounds that he has forfeited his rights.
What is up to you, therefore, is not only making the decision, but setting the terms under which you are willing to live. And while Miss Manners does not ordinarily tell people when or when not to engage in love-making, she will say that no diplomat in his right mind would confer privileges before obligations.