[Two Pronged] Asking the wrong questions
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I got married at 22 to my boyfriend of 4 years. At 25, our marriage failed after I admitted to a short lived affair with a marijuana addict. My husband investigated its existence a year after the affair ended. My conscience could no longer bear my past sin, hence the admission.
My husband and I were inseparable during the early years of our relationship. He was my life. Born from an affluent family, they made me sign an ante nuptial agreement under conjugal partnership of gains prior to getting married after he knocked me up on purpose. This act honestly affected me. Marriage was no fairy tale. Less than a year after getting married, my husband changed. We live in my in laws' house ergo did not assume full responsibility in our family life as well. He had his first job, garnered more drinking buddies, remained a heavy drinker but now with a new fetish of toying around strippers. He would blatantly disrespect me also by nagging at me whenever I get emotional.
Our sex life was also one-sided. Aside from rare love making, I was the one who always pleases him with foreplay and oral sex, which he never returns. Several times after giving him oral, I would feel really horny and worse I need to ask permission first before getting on top of him. Whenever he says no despite my begging to climb aboard, I don't do it and I feel downright frustrated. He is disgusted at white menses or discharge, something expected when on pills. He does not give me cunnilingus.
Oftentimes, I find myself getting a chance only at sex once he had passed out from drinking. No stir, but I'm actually gorgeous to begin with. My good looks, flawless skin and slim figure could pass me for a celebrity but my husband never really complimented me. He won't even touch or kiss me. I felt so ugly in his eyes. I was so alone.
I was so weak that I fell victim to a man who started complimenting me on Facebook. He seemed like a cool guy. At first he just wanted us to be friends which I thought would be harmless. We share same the interest in TV series and music. He found out how neglected I was because even at dawn I could still reply or talk to him over the phone whenever my husband goes out for booze with his different sets of friends almost every night.
He knew when we had fights because I was always crying. From text mates, we crossed the line. He said he had fallen for me, and I felt flattered, tempted. He was good in bed, and I used him for sex for a brief moment. I stopped after reflecting on my sins. I have values but had forgotten to hold on to them after being pushed away by my own husband.
The thing is, my husband accuses me of being a nymphomaniac. He could never forgive me. He believed he had given me everything I wanted from house to joint bank savings. He said that my good skills in bed and past infidelity were clear indications of it. I had been suicidal. I could not forgive myself for the sin I did and for ruining his name.
We are co-parenting to date. Should I feel guilty all throughout my life and believe that I was all alone to blame why I became a wayward spouse? Should I continue loving and caring?
Thank you for your email.
You are not the first woman, nor will you be the last, to resort to an affair in order to try to compensate for a lousy marriage, only to think that perhaps your situation has taken a turn for the worse as a result. However the way you recount your story seems so skewed that maybe it would be opportune to re-examine things a little and the chronology of events should help cast some light.
After an idyllic start to your relationship with your husband to be (let's call him Bill) in which you were inseparable, you say you had to get married because Bill "knocked you up on purpose". This statement, redolent with implicit meaning, is however never explained and so we are left with a number of puzzles: a pregnancy for which you claim zero responsibility and an apparently reluctant marriage to someone who was actually the man of your dreams.
Matters deteriorate rapidly thereafter as Bill "changes" into the man of your nightmares - drinking, strippers and a lack of sexual interest in you are the principal charges against him.
Alone and weak, you embark on an affair and choose as an antidote to your boozing and carousing husband none other than a marijuana addict whose main attraction seems to be that he paid you attention, unlike your husband who ignored you. This affair proved short-lived because you "reflected on your sins" and re-embraced your "values". To salve your conscience, you even admitted your infidelity to Bill, who branded you an ungrateful nymphomaniac who ruined his name.
Now you ask "Should I feel guilty all throughout my life and believe that I was all alone to blame why I became a wayward spouse? Should I continue loving and caring?"
Leaving aside any suggestion that this sorry tale reads like a bad telenovela written by a committee of mediocre and unimaginative hacks, a storyline which you, Roseanne, might wish to pitch at a later date to some second rate tv cable outfit, I feel compelled to say that you have lost perspective here.
Who knocked you up on purpose? Who changed? Who became an inveterate drinker? Who consorted with strippers? Who failed to perform his conjugal duties? The answer of course to all these questions is Bill, not you.
It was possibly ill advised to respond to these indignities by having an affair with anyone, and maybe a marijuana addict was not the perfect choice, especially as until that moment, according to your account, only Bill was in the wrong (though my experience and the scientific literature on the subject indicate that a single party is seldom entirely to blame for relationship problems).
In addition, after the affair, you confessed and (?) promised to mend your ways but instead of matching your promise by giving up his drinking and carousing, all Bill did was call you ungrateful for the material things he (or his parents) had given you over the years.
Marriage should involve a caring and loving mutual relationship and most marriage vows spell this out clearly. They certainly don't say that all of this can be replaced by a credit card or two.
Now this brief analysis hopefully illustrates how events can be interpreted in different ways depending on the perspective brought to bear. The answers to your questions are 1) no, you are partly but not solely to blame and 2) yes, you should continue loving and caring but be careful on whom you bestow your love and care. Bill may be your husband but he certainly isn't an obvious choice for your love and care at present.
Perhaps instead considering different questions like should you remain with Bill, what are you going to do with the rest of your life, would be a more fruitful use of your moments of introspection since a miserable future with a vengeful Bill does not seem an enticing prospect.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. To my mind, Mr Baer has been most helpful in answering all your questions in your final paragraph. He also added several other observations which, while accurate, could be interpreted as gratuitously cruel, but I hope this was not your reaction.
I feel, therefore, that I would be most helpful by focusing on your own words, thus giving you an opportunity to explore how your attitudes might have contributed to the situation you are now in.
“Born from an affluent family, they made me sign an ante nuptial agreement under conjugal partnership of gains prior to getting married after he knocked me up on purpose. This act honestly affected me.”
As far as your relationship with your husband is concerned, the most important phrase is “he knocked me up on purpose.” Was your getting pregnant before marriage something you had both agreed to?
If so, even if perhaps not the wisest move, at least it was something you both decided to make happen, as equals. If no, then his arrogance would have been the death knell of your relationship.
“I have values but had forgotten to hold on to them after being pushed away by my own husband.”
Are you saying that, if only your husband had not pushed you away, you would have still held on to your values? If this, indeed, is your belief, then not only are you giving your husband much more power than he has, but you have tried to remove all responsibility from yourself.
“At 25, our marriage failed after I admitted to a short lived affair with a marijuana addict. My husband investigated its existence a year after the affair ended.”
It doesn’t ring true, dearest Roseanne, that your marriage failed simply because you told the truth. If your husband investigated its existence not during the affair, but a year after it ended, it implies it was not the affair per se but the interactions between you that made him suspicious. These interactions might have started before, perhaps during, or even only after the affair.
There is a saying that goes: “To win with a toxic person, don’t even play the game.”
You are definitely not a toxic person, but it is possible that, like many of us, you are playing a game with yourself; a game called “Let’s see how many other reasons (besides my own doing) I can come up with for the sh*t my life has become.”
If you want your life to be less sh*tty, more under your control, and thus less stressful, you might want to stop playing that game with yourself, Roseanne.
In fact, why not replace it with: “Let’s see where I goofed and where I can, perhaps, even UN-goof the situation”. Winning at this game will not necessarily change your life into a dream come true, but it will definitely make it less of a nightmare by showing you the things you can do to make it better.
Best of luck,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.