Eight years ago, my husband befriended a female co-worker, and we began socializing frequently with her, her husband and their sons. Everything was great until her husband left her and the kids for another woman six months ago. My husband felt sorry for “Susan” and began spending more time with her, sometimes taking her to dinner or a movie. At this point, he sees her one evening a week. They always bring at least one of the kids along. (I have been married for 20 years. We have five children, ages 7 through 13.) Even though I am sure there is nothing sexual between them, I am uncomfortable—and ashamed of myself for not being more sympathetic to Susan. Now he wants Susan and her sons to accompany us on vacation this summer. Am I being selfish to want time with just my family?
No. It would be selfish to demand a family-only vacation if your only interest was to cut Susan out. But a heartfelt desire to enjoy the company of those you love deeply is not selfish; it’s self-care. The purpose of a vacation is to leave the normal stressors in life and be immersed in recreation. Delighting in playtime inspires us to re-create our understanding of who we are and why we are on the planet. It may be difficult to relax on holiday if your husband is consoling Susan while you watch the kids.
Don’t deny your intuition about the nature of your husband’s relationship with Susan just so you can feed your need to be nice. Don’t waste creative energy imagining something that doesn’t exist, either. Be realistic: Your husband is comforting a woman who was abandoned by her husband. A profound intimacy can develop in these situations because the abandoned person has an intense need to be reassured that he or she is desirable, loveable and attractive. Anyone who has been abandoned in marriage needs a qualified therapist to assist in the process of healing. Friends want us to feel better, so they won’t point out the defects in our personality that contributed to the end of the marriage. As a result, the abandoned person remains in neediness, grasping at anything to fill it.
What does your husband receive from his relationship with Susan? Is it something that he does not receive from you? Marriage partners do not fulfill every need for each other, nor should they. But people leave marriages because their needs are not met. So, be honest about whether your husband’s relationship with Susan affects your marriage or you. If you would prefer that he spend less time with her, but he refuses or worries about abandoning her after her marital abandonment, see a marriage counselor. Their relationship may be innocent, but your marriage must have priority.
My girlfriend’s three cats are like children to her. They rule the house. Whenever I spend the night, they take over the pillows, and I breathe cat hair all night. They also run wild about 4 a.m., and I end up exhausted for work. Any suggestions?
Me-me-me-ow! If she thinks of the cats as her children and allows them to do as they please, she’s permissive (a very bad form of parenting). But it sounds like cats are her companions, a status that allows them free rein in the house. The only sure way to have a say in where the cats sleep is to get married. Then you have 50 percent of the decision-making power about how the household operates.
P.S. How could anyone not love cuddling with cats?