“Hi Rori, I have what to me seems a strange situation and yet I wonder if it’s becoming more common.
My husband of 23 years came to me one day and asked if it would be ok if he and a co-worker (someone I had had over to dinner a few times and was friendly with) could be more than friends and become intimate. At the same time, he assured me that they hadn’t done anything yet and that he didn’t want to lose me.
Also, he said that our relationship is still first priority to him (really?) and he loves me very much, yet feels that he is capable of loving two women at the same time and is polyamorous. And she is fine with this arrangement (being second). In anger I told them both that they could do what they like (discreetly for the sake of me and our kids) as I wanted out as soon as I could.
Now I wasn’t happy with our relationship for a few years before, as I felt him being less and less a part of our family and I know that I was going between telling him that I needed more (he said earlier that he felt there was no problem) and pulling away myself.
When this happened I was angry and scared to death as I was just 51 with two kids nearing college and had been a stay at home mom for the last 18 years.
At the same time I was dealing with issues with my oldest child and the sickness and death of a close family member I was caring for, so I just wanted as close to status quo as I could get. My hope was also that he would change his mind. We stayed in the same house but have separate bedrooms.
A couple of times we did talk about going back to our “normal” marriage yet he told me he was worried about her feelings and that he wanted me to “tell” him to leave (like I’m his mom???). I told him he had to be a man and decide for himself. It felt as if he wanted a guarantee with me before he would end it with her.
Though I still feel love for him and wish that we could stay together as a family, I feel distrustful of getting back with him and rebuilding our relationship when he hasn’t ended it with her yet and is asking me to tell him to do so. Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else as well? Thanks for your help!”
KC – This is a powerful situation – and if I was to talk with you personally, I would be amazed that you even care that he wants to have a sexually intimate relationship with another women – when he doesn’t have one with you, and it seems you don’t want that.
And, I may get booed for this – but going just from your letter, in my book – he gets super gold stars for bringing the situation to you rather than just cheating and lying.
What, exactly, to you, is your “normal” marriage?
The quality of intimacy in a relationship, with a man who’s still in the room, is, I’m straight-out going to say, largely in the hands of the woman.
No one says we have to be married. No one says we have to be in a relationship.
Certainly no one says we have to be in a relationship with a man.
AND if that’s what we want – then romance and sex is part of the deal.
Otherwise, you’re just in a friendship – and that seems rocky, too, in your situation.
Have you seen the film Hope Springs, with Meryl Streep? I found it to be quite powerful.
Please, please don’t shut him down.
Please work with the ebook and Modern Siren.
Please rethink what you want in this life, right now.
Do you want to have a threesome?
Do you want polyamory?
Do you want a man at all?
Do you want to be alone?
Do you have meaningful work you can do?
Are you prepared to change your life around 100%?
You can fix this – and it’s going to take a huge leap and some new skills, a willingness to walk away, and a willingness to embark on something new.
If this other woman is too embedded in his mind and heart to let go of…then your options are limited.
To reverse the situation in the post - what if your husband spent his emotional energy taking care of others (child and relative), abandoned the idea of romance in your marriage, opted for separate bedrooms, and stopped having sex with you.
Would you be happy to live like this for the rest of your life? As roommates?
Would you assume, that because you’d been married for 23 years, that you were supposed to stay in this marriage – as is?
This is how I see KC’s experience. It sounds as though she really couldn’t have cared less if the romance and sex and emotional intimacy went out the window.
Yes – it takes work to apply energy to a relationship when there are so many other things that take our energy away.
And – would you accept that answer from your husband, as a reason why he isn’t interested in creating depth in your marriage? Not me.
If my man just lost interest in the marriage (as KC clearly did, here, for many years before this other woman even came into the conversation) – I’d be all over it.
I’d be in pole dancing class, I’d read every book on sex and Tantra I could, I’d buy every program of mine and every other relationship “guru” on the web, I’d get counseling, I’d Circular Date. I’d CARE. I’d want to FIX it. I’d TALK to my husband. I’d find out what HIS needs are that weren’t being met before I’d EVER let an extreme change like separate bedrooms happen.
AND – KC’s husband didn’t know what to do. He did nothing. He just let it happen. Almost ALL men would do exactly the same thing. That’s why it’s up to the woman to “go first.”
She has to start the conversation. She has to locate where things have broken down.
She has to get creative – because women hold the sexual intimacy of a relationship, and the emotional intimacy of a relationship in their hands. Men are not built emotionally to be the leader where emotions are concerned. Vulnerability is in the hands of the woman. And Vulnerability is what makes love possible.
The only reason to be in a marriage day after day is because we make each other happy. On ALL levels. We CARE about all levels.
If someone doesn’t care – and the other partner DOES – then the partner that cares has to start the work.
Her husband started the work by telling his wife.
KC then threw it out the window by telling him “whatever” and emotionally leaving.
There’s no one and nothing to blame, here.
All I can see here is that KC doesn’t care, she hasn’t for years, that’s what her husband picked up on long ago, and that coaching is the way to go here if she wants to reverse that.
More, With Help From The Community:
This post I wrote caused a huge stir, as I thought it might. Here are my answers to the questions…
To Feminine Woman: Thank you so much for putting my comment into clarity!
Saying – “women must emotionally lead” is perhaps not the clearest way I could have said this. FW – you made it clear. The “leading” I meant is not in “initiating ACTION!!!”
The “leading” I meant here is “going FIRST.” Meaning being the first one willing to open up. The first one to step into the UNKNOWN of what’s going to happen next.
The first one to forgo blame and open to a solution. The first one willing to HEAR the other. The first one willing to forgo REACTING from feeling angry and offended and upset, and DROP ALL defenses.
You can’t heal anything, yes, if you can’t walk away. But why walk away as a response when a man has made the first move by speaking first?
Syreena – I hear your upset and passion about this story, and I feel it, too, that’s why I keep writing.
And I’m totally open to your disagreeing with me about anything. And yet, I’m wondering about some of your questions about what I mean by certain things, so – I need to ask – have you worked with the ebook?
It would, I hope, clarify all your questions. It’s very hard to piece together my “methodology” and philosophy from the blog – there are so many various ways I come at things.
To clarify further – “Going First” emotionally is NOT “Rowing the Boat.” It’s the opposite. It’s opening up so much, speaking so honestly and without judgment, that you’re willing to HEAR the other person.
Even if what he wants and needs feels terrible to you – It’s about using Feeling Messages, and not running scared. It’s about staying with what’s going on, and taking responsibility for at least your 50% of it.
And about KC – I can see how you might have picked up “judgment” from the post – and yet, here’s what I see: There’s nothing WRONG with not wanting to be married to somebody!
And it seems to me that KC put out her agreement to NOT have what she herself calls a “normal” marriage. And her husband agreed to it too. So there’s nothing for me to be judgmental about! I simply see a choice here on KC’s part, and I wanted to point a light at it.
In KC’s marriage, the talking needed to start long ago. This other woman is just a symptom of that moment when they could have saved the spark of the marriage – or moved to separate bedrooms. At that point, KC made her decision about what was important to her. When things are hard, we all run to other places. Emergencies happen – and often we make emergencies to avoid dealing with painful situations.
And we can’t have it all.
We ALL have choices in life. If you don’t have time to give to your child fully, 100% as best you can, then parenting is not a good idea for you (though so many people have children when they don’t have the time and energy).
And if you don’t have the will to be present with and attentive to your husband or romantic life partner (we’re not talking about a few rough months that you work together to get through – we’re talking about something that goes on for years and kills the romance in a marriage) – then you’re not making room in your life for relationship.
So many women tell me they want love and relationship more than anything – and yet they choose long workdays, gym classes, nights with girfriends and family – and leave no space whatsoever to cultivate themselves as women and meet available men – much less have time and energy for them once they’re dating.
When we’re in crisis – family, children, health – there’s often no time for romance. This is what happens to marriages.
And that’s why an utter commitment to relationship is needed. For many women – it’s too much trouble.
I know you believe a man needs to pick up the slack – and in the beginning of a relationship – that’s especially true. But a man cannot put out energy to a woman who he feels doesn’t really want him. And that happens all the time. That’s what I heard in the letter – and I still stand by Hope Springs as a terrific example of a woman “going first” in a VERY feminine way. Meryl Streeps character is powerfully vulnerable. She puts it all on the line.
Relationships take attention. It’s a requirement. Otherwise, they fade and die.
Men deserve to be happy and loved, just like we do. Some are capricious, but most are genuinely just looking for happiness and a way out of loneliness. We need to respect that, just as we respect our own deserving of happiness.