I’m a working mother of two boys, married for 12 years. My husband has always been supportive and loving. But recently, he’s been going out a lot, buying clothes and working out. I checked his e-mail and discovered he had an affair with a young woman from work. He apologized and seemed truly sorry, saying the affair gave him a feeling of “escape.” Soon afterward, though, he began receiving messages from another single co-worker. I told him it made me uncomfortable but he seemed unapologetic and said there was nothing inappropriate about their relationship. I suggested counselling but he wasn't interested. I know he feels stifled by the demands, drudgery and routine of our lives, but I suffer too and am responsible for more of the household duties. How do I keep the man I love happy? I believe this is a midlife crisis.
There are so many red flags here I scarcely know where to begin.
Of course it’d be easy to say: “Have a bailiff serve him his Bachelor Papers immediately.”
But I’ve seen marriages survive affairs, heal, and go on to be as loving and happy as ever – if not stronger, even.
We’re all only human, down here, after all – and a fun party trick I like to do is tell my married male friends that my wife, Pam, has declared she would be able to get over it if I slipped up one night and had sex with someone else.
Eyes bugging out, jaws on the floor, they go: “You have a pass for a one-night stand?”
“Brothers,” I say, all Rico Suave-ly, “there is no such thing as a ‘pass.’ It’s a myth, like the Yeti or Ogopogo. Even if it existed I wouldn’t use it. I wouldn’t want her thinking she had her own tit-for-tat pass.
“But yes, she has said: If I were to have a one-night stand she would forgive me, if not forget about it, as long as I was genuinely sorry, there was no question of repetition and I never saw the girl again.”
Of course, being men, all they hear is “there is … such a thing as a pass … Pam has said … if I were to have a one-night stand … she would forgive me … blah blah … fuhgeddaboudit.”
But the details, asterisks and subtexts are the important bits in the so-called “pass.” Let me attempt to unpack some of it for alla y’all:
1) Husband must seem genuinely sorry afterward. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m not sure your husband fits the bill re: this particular criterion. Sure, he seemed sorry for a while, but now is curiously unrepentant and even a tad belligerent. Not a “healing” attitude.
2) Husband must be at a low risk to reoffend. Your husband has “single-curious” written all over him. With kibble on his breath, flowers in one forepaw, smartphone in the other, your husband the hound is texting office hotties. What more do you need – him coming home covered in lipstick, his shirt on backward? Time for a firm tug on his leash.
3) Husband must work hard to repair relationship. I don’t get the feeling that’s going to happen. Seems to me you’re doing all the work. “How do I keep the man I love happy?” What is this, 1953? What’s he doing to make you happy? A lotta nada, sounds like to moi.
And while we’re on the topic of work, what’s all this about domestic “demands, drudgery and routine” as a justification for his narcissistic, duplicitous, adulterous behaviour?
He has an affair but it’s okay because there are too many dirty dishes in the sink?
Geez. If it weren’t for “demands, drudgery and routine,” my days would be empty indeed. It’s called being a grown-up. Buy the ticket, take the ride, buddy. “Wah-wah-wah, I’m so stressed out by the dishes, I had to shag that chick.” You buy this? Don’t.
This guy in general sounds full of it. Buying clothes and “going out a lot”? I’m afraid that all these red flags will inevitably lead to a checkered flag for your marriage.
Bottom line: Tell this callow cad to start treating you a) honestly and b) respectfully, or he’s going to be out on his sorry-yet-unapologetic keister, and your lawyer is going to fill his life with so much in the way of “demands, drudgery and routine” trying to keep up with alimony/support payments that he will pray for the sweet release of death.
Mean it, and hold him to it.
You deserve better. If he doesn’t pull up his socks – well, it might be a sad and rocky road for a while, but God willing you’ll come out stronger and happier, with better self-esteem and a menschier dude. That I’ve seen, too – many, many more times than I’ve seen it go the other way, to be honest.
Good luck. Oh, and “midlife crisis”? There’s no such thing. It’s yet another Yeti-type myth we dudes made up to justify our naughty behaviour.
David Eddie is the author of Damage Control, the book.
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