Deploy Meets Girl
I'm a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, serving in Iraq. My wife of a year, whom I love and adore, has recently begun telling me she's lonely. It's understandable, as I'm on month 12 of this tour, which has just been extended. Last week, she confessed she's become "attracted" to another man. She says she still loves me and wants to be with me, but if she were alone with him and he made moves, she doesn't know how she'd respond. I'm confused, can you love someone and become attracted to someone else?
--Heartbroken in Tikrit
It's rough back there in the suburbs. I can just see your wife, gingerly making her way across the parking lot, crouching low and ducking behind cars in case there are Iraqi snipers behind the Rite Aid sign. Who knows what perils lurk on her way home... an I.E.D. on Elm Street, or maybe a poorly marked speed bump to send her latte flying? Oh, the horror... the horror... (You ever try to get coffee stains out of white pants?)
We've all got issues. The thing is, it's not like you're taking inventory up the road at World 'O Widgets, where distracting you from your work could cause you to suffer a nasty paper cut. Yet, here she is, going all confessional on you like you're hashing this out over coffee at Applebee's: "Sweetie... I should tell you, I'm tempted to have sex with somebody else, and I guess there's nothing you can do from thousands of miles away... but, whaddya think?" What are you supposed to say, "Gee, thanks, honey, really appreciate your keeping me in the loop"?
Making this even harder for you is your belief that love should be a cure for attraction--that when somebody loves you enough to say "I do," they won't start thinking, "I'd sure love to do him, too." The truth is, somewhere in each of us there's a list, "Things that make us go hubba hubba," formed largely by genes, and also by life experience. And, sorry, there's no editing this list, or sending in an announcement, "Ahem, we're married now." But, don't despair. According to economist Robert H. Frank, author of Passions Within Reason, love may be just the weapon to ward off infidelity. There's a human tendency to go for small, immediate rewards--an affair, for example--over bigger, more distant ones. But, Frank points out, feelings of love for a romantic partner can function as an immediate reward, and if they're felt strongly enough, can negate the pull of the (more conveniently located) competition.
As much as this must feel like being away at camp and getting a letter informing you that your parents are splitsville ("But, have a great summer, kiddo!"), you can't mope your wife into keeping her legs crossed.
Your best defense is weapons-grade mush: Tell her you love her, tell her why you love her, tell her why you married her, and keep telling her. And keep her talking about her love for you. In case there is slippage, consider whether you agree with the idea that without sexual fidelity you have nothing, or whether you see value in trying to forgive her and rebuild.
Ultimately, as frustrating as it is that you can't be there now to protect her from an ambush on Elm (or a bush on Elm blocking the stop sign), you've got to keep your focus on bringing yourself and your buddies back alive--not playing Oprah from the foxhole.
A Hound Of Flesh
When my wife and I divorced, she wanted our two dogs, and I said I'd help with their expenses. Three years later, she's not only asking for money for vet bills, but for boarding, at $40/night, when she's on business or vacation. (My living situation won't allow dogs.) My friends say they're her dogs now, and I should stop paying. She does have a good job, and money isn't an issue.
See Spot run. See Spot run up the bills. See your ex-wife run to make her flight to Tahiti--sniggering about hitting you up with boarding fees when she gets home. Now, you did commit to caring for these dogs, and not just until your feelings for their co-owner took a turn for the worse. (Perhaps because she's petty and conniving? Just guessing!) You also said you'd "help with their expenses." Veterinary necessities, okay, but boarding costs? Come on!
What a perfect match--your sense of duty and a woman who senses the opportunity for extra cash for duty-free Chanel. Inform her that, from now on, you'll be helping with REASONABLE expenses--those directly related to the dogs. Enough with this "woman bites man, points finger at dogs" business, since it's unlikely the vet's prescribing liver shunts for them plus a spa weekend for your ex-wife.
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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