THE SHREW MUST GO ON
My story starts out like your typical made-for-TV movie, with my husband cheating on me with a mutual acquaintance: I wailed, I calmed down, I died a little inside from feelings of worthlessness. After much reflection, I realized the cheating was a symptom of a problem in our relationship, not the problem itself. After sincere apologies from my husband, we began talking as husband and wife for the first time. But, my story takes a nasty turn: I can't stop going ape on him. Although the acquaintance fled to another city, when images of them pop into my brain, or if he's two seconds late, I become this spurting volcano of hate. I feel I'm spoiling our recovery with these outbursts, but I don't want him to start feeling this wasn't that big of a deal.
-- Mt. St. Helens
Some people do their best thinking while driving. Others wait for answers under the shower or on the pot. Each to his or her own and all that, but just wondering -- are you really at your analytical prime while screaming at the top of your lungs, chasing your husband around the dining room table, and trying to bludgeon him to death with a turkey leg?
Greetings, Spurting Volcano Of Hate! Perhaps you've heard that venting anger will make it go away. It won't. Anger begets anger. It also makes you stupid. Extreme emotional stress unleashes a chemical reaction called the "fight or flight" response, shutting down all systems except those you'd need to either club somebody or run like hell. Sure, this was an extremely helpful survival tool for our ancestors in the cave. And, in some ways, it's still the perfect response -- for any woman married to a troubled leopard or a tribe of cannibals.
Your husband did pledge to be faithful to you. Oops, maybe he crossed his fingers! As upsetting as that must be, be honest: Is it his infidelity alone that turned you into the Denny's of rage (no time's the wrong time for a Grand Slam!), or does it have more to do with the head-on collision of reality and your expectations? Wham, bam, like a moose carcass through your rose-colored windshield, suddenly it's all in your face: He's human, he's fallible, he isn't the tower of ethics you closed your eyes and hoped he'd be. Stop erupting and start thinking, and you might acknowledge a few equally discomforting things about marriage; like, that it isn't a simple solution to all life's problems, but a whole new set of problems -- accessorized with a pornographically expensive set of china.
Sure, it's easier to storm around picturing him naked with her -- which has to leave him picturing you fully clothed with a Home Depot salesman, pricing a nail gun and a couple of two-by-fours.
By raging endlessly, you're doing what he did, just without the sex -- avoiding the real issue, which is figuring out how to be married. But, first things first. Figure out whether you want a marriage more than you want revenge. If you're up for a rebuild, stop screaming, start talking, and get reading -- "Surviving Infidelity" by Rona Subotnik and Gloria G. Harris and "How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You" by Albert Ellis and Raymond Chip Tafrate.
When you sense an explosion coming on, take deep breaths and think positive: Crazy as it seems, his affair could be the thing that saves your marriage. Yes, who knew? Maybe what it takes for you to live happily ever after is not the mythical perfect man but the real-life perfect floozy.
TO MAKE A LONGING STORY SHORT
A co-worker's been giving me flirtatious vibes. We're both in long-distance relationships, and I'm not interested in a local fling, so I always bring up my boyfriend and avoid being one-on-one with him. After a group of us went clubbing, he mentioned how bothered he was seeing me dancing with other guys, and e-mailed me some bizarre sleep-deprived poetry. I want us to be friends, but not in this crazy cat-and-mouse way. How do I clear the air without a gritty conversation?
Modern life is all about avoiding the gritty conversation. Hence, we say "She's stepped out," not "I believe she's in the ladies' room passing some gas." Most people go with the polite-speak; your co-worker's the kind of guy who presses for MapQuest directions to your toilet stall. This leaves you to choose: Be direct or continue to feel like prey. You could give him one last chance to back off. Ignore the e-mail and avoid availing him opportunities to drool on your shoulder. If he persists, you'll probably have to drop a bomb to clear the air: "I love going dancing without you. I hope to go dancing without you for many, many years to come."
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)
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