FROM HERE TO ATTORNEY'S FEES
I'm 23 and married just over a year. Six months ago, before my husband and I moved so I could start law school, I slept with an older attorney, a co-worker. I was wracked with guilt and confessed to my husband. Now, he's constantly depressed, angry, and insecure, and I've happily buried myself in my studies, trying to forget that another outburst awaits at home. I regret what I did, but I don't need to be constantly reminded. I can't help feeling I married too young. I still love my husband although I don't feel "in love" with him, but I stubbornly refuse to admit failure, and hold out hope things will work out. I'm overextended with studying, and keep waking up with a sinking feeling that something needs to be done. But what?
-- Silently Stewing
You take the relaxed approach to marital reconciliation -- simply holding out hope things will work out. You might apply this strategy elsewhere in your life; say, to home remodeling projects. Yes, forget drills, saws, and socket wrenches. Hire psychic construction workers, ply them with beer and Chex Party Mix, and have them spend the day holding out hope your kitchen cabinets will grow new doors.
Your marital problems probably started with an equally relaxed approach to thinking -- a failure to use your head as more than a staging area for your hair. In this, you're not alone. A lot of people, especially those in their 20s, make life-shifting decisions without really thinking them through. Take that pledge, "Till death do us part," as in, "I'll never, ever have sex with anyone but this man." Can you seriously promise that or be counted on to make any decisions of lasting consequence at 22 -- in lifetime terms, essentially 22 minutes after you've recovered from being blind-drunk at prom?
Your approach to cheating seems just as "yeah, whatever." What was the idea here, you'd have sex with this hotshot attorney, hop out of bed, and blithely be on your way? Oops, what's that thing following you home? Look, it's a little black blob of guilt! You tucked it away in your purse. But, like Paris Hilton's Chihuahua Tinkerbell, which she dumped on her mother after it got Tinker-huge, your guilt soon outgrew your handbag.
Next thing you knew, you were giving a piggyback ride to a black blob the size of a Barcalounger. "Yoohoo . . . Honey . . . " After all, what's a husband for besides hauling your oversized baggage around?
Now, there's a creative take on justice: You do the crime, somebody else does the time. (Your future clients should be so lucky.) Meanwhile, you can't quite get what, exactly, the big deal is. You said you were sorry; how come your husband's still lying there on the front walk like Humpty Dumpty? Um, just a guess, but it might have something to do with all the effort you're investing in rebuilding his trust and the marriage you exploded; or, as you put it, "stubbornly refus(ing) to admit failure" (while stubbornly avoiding doing anything else).
Ask yourself what's really tragic, a marriage that ends or a marriage that goes on too long? Maybe the best you can do is turn this into a learning experience, and resolve to take a leap second/look first approach to life. This isn't always foolproof, but even if it doesn't stop you from, say, marrying too young, maybe you could get unmarried in a kinder, gentler way -- maybe by informing your husband it isn't working, and parting friends. And, wow, maybe that's what love is -- getting out of what love was supposed to be without mashing the other person's ego into gruel.
POLITE AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
The woman I've been seeing has been gradually distancing herself. Drawers she emptied for my change of clothes are now filled with her stuff, and while she returns calls, a certain politeness has crept in. According to her mom, I'm great with her young son, and all her friends think I'm good for her. How can I get her to recognize what we have?
-- Polite Fright
Civility is a lovely thing, but it's also the antithesis of lust, as in, "Shall I make polite, reserved love to you?" Anybody who isn't oozing need is sure to respond, "Actually, I believe I'm due for a headache around then." Around when? "Around whenever you were hoping to make polite, reserved love." In other words, stop rereading the "World's Greatest Boyfriend" mug her mom gave you and tune into your very local weather; namely, the temperature drop from steamy to politely polar. Clearly, it's a waste of time to keep petitioning to stuff your tube socks back in her drawer. Grab your remaining dignity and get out of there -- before the stench of desperation makes it impossible for Mum and the girls to give you a referral.
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com
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