I’m in a 10-year, lackluster marriage for two reasons: My husband and I are afraid to be apart, and our children need a structured union. We are not unhappy, just equally unfulfilled. Last week, I posted a personal ad on Craigslist. Within 24 hours, I connected with someone that I knew 15 years ago who is in the same marital predicament. Given the odds, should I believe we are meant to be? I do not condone infidelity, but I understand why it happens after being with one person for over a decade. Any advice?
Yes, take a hit of truth serum. Right now, you’re lying to yourself (and to me) by saying that you don’t believe in infidelity. Actually, you invested in betrayal when you wrote and posted your personal ad. You’re also deceiving your husband (how would you feel if he did this to you?) and your children about who you really are. Plus, you’re teaching your children that it’s OK to lie if it gets you what you want. Oh, and you’re lying to all of those lovely people who believed you during the declaration of vows on your wedding day and anyone else who believes that the wedding ring you wear symbolizes a commitment that you participate in. That’s a lot of people to mislead.
The other problem, of course, is that you hope I’ll join you in the kind of magical thinking (“we were meant to be together!”) that will condone your betrayal. That’s so not me. Judging by my mail, calls from listeners when I’m on V101.1 radio, my personal experience and that of my friends, it’s incredibly common to reconnect with someone from our past through Internet postings, even others in the same life circumstance. Believe it or not, the Internet is really that big. It’s even bigger than your desire to be rescued from a marriage that is not as exciting as you think you should be. And that’s the real predicament—you need to re-evaluate your ideas about marriage. A committed romantic relationship like marriage offers security and the comfort of being known to another. That’s a trade-off for the newness and insecurity inherent in casual dating and affairs. These casual relationships could end at any moment, and it’s this lack of security that provides a thrill to people who fear stability and genuine love. By contrast, the constancy of a committed union like marriage allows you to learn how to find fulfillment by extending yourself selflessly to love another. It’s a deeply spiritual experience, one that trims away neediness and other unhealthy ego behavior and inspires more soulful living.
A few weeks ago in this column, I recommended The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need by Gerald G. May. Here’s a section I want to share with you: “Because love is a giving of ourselves, it always involved some choice to direct and restrain our behavior. Love means being willing to make sacrifices for someone or something. When we love, we do not follow every impulse that comes along. We have a higher concern, a deeper desire; we value our beloved more than we value our passing whim.”
Comprende? It is the keeping of a commitment that provides the freedom to learn how to love and be loved. In your case, that would mean putting aside the passing whim of an affair and committing to your marriage or having the integrity to end your marriage before starting any kind of relationship with a man other than your husband. So, no, you cannot try to be friends with your Internet man. That’s just another way to pretend that you magically fell into an affair. And that would be dishonest, right?