Original "Tell Me About It" columns will appear in Sunday Source while Carolyn is on maternity leave. The following are excerpts from spring 2003 live discussions on washingtonpost.com.
I suspect my husband is cheating or on the verge of cheating, but have little or no proof. A therapist told me not to worry about trying to "catch" him or confront him, but focus instead on being so irresistible that he'd be a fool to leave me. I've been doing this, and he seems appreciative, but my unconfirmed suspicions are still getting the best of me (no sleep, stress-related illness, can't concentrate at work, etc.). If ignorance is bliss, why do I feel so damn lousy?
I never subscribed to the ignorance-is-bliss thing. Too often ignorance is just the calm before the blindsiding.
I hesitate to say this, though, because it sounds like you don't need any more reasons to be paranoid. You say you have no proof, but do you have legitimate, even gut-level grounds for suspicion? If you do, I'd say talk to your husband about them. If not, then I'm in a similar camp to your therapist's -- that you're the one you have to work on.
I'm not entirely in the same camp, though -- at least, not with your interpretation of her advice. I don't think it's fair for you to have to bust your butt to keep your husband's attention. No spouse should ever have to work beyond normal marital warmth and attentiveness. The burden of his fidelity is on him, not you.
What I think -- and what I hope your therapist is really trying to say -- is that you should focus on why you're an attractive wife to have. Believe that of yourself, and you'll feel less threatened by other women. You will also, even if he does cheat, recognize that infidelity isn't necessarily about you or your shortcomings.
Last thing -- if your worst fear is that he is cheating, embrace that fear. Tell yourself, Yes, he is cheating. Then walk yourself through what that would mean.
I have a feeling that, though devastating, the actual consequences wouldn't be as daunting as the ones you imagine right now.
Help. I'm a 34-year-old woman feeling hopeless about my work life. Currently I'm in a sweatshop-like production department sharing a room with four people who haven't spoken to me in six months.
I worked my way out of the "administrative ghetto" to obtain this position and find this is dead-end and soul-sucking in a whole new way. I'm embarrassed that in the 13 years since graduating college I haven't been able to wrap my head around this part of my life.
New York, N.Y.
Shake the age thing and the embarrassment and the path you took to this job and all the other extraneous details, and concentrate on the only thing that matters: job hunt. Or, expand it to a career hunt. Get creative and consider a combination of schooling/training and part-time work that can get you in a more forgiving line of work by this time next year.
There's a lot out there; I think you're just too busy looking behind you to see it.
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