Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
The bastard! I caught my husband sexting my close friend. I had the feeling something was up and I grabbed his phone. It was right there. He didn’t think to even hide it.
I can’t go back to work as I don’t want to look at her and we all work together. My husband is the boss and the “friend” and I are secretaries. I grew up with her. I am not sure who I feel more betrayed by. He assures me there was nothing physical, and unless they did it in a closet I tend to believe that’s the case as we are all incredibly busy. I know her husband is an asshole who has demeaned her in front of us. The bastard, my husband, is under incredible pressure at work but that is no excuse.
I am unsure what to do. I asked him to make a decision, “Do you still love me?” But I am unclear if I love him anymore. He’s a great dad and he has no problem helping around the house and with the kids. I thought he was a great guy. Everyone, even my therapist, says I should leave him. What should I do?
F…ing Smart Phone
“Should I leave him or not?” Good question, but you are asking him, and everyone else, to make that decision. I would suggest that the world isn’t black and white and neither of these options might be of your best long term interest.
Situations such as the one you described do not just suddenly happen. It is a long road that brings two people to a crisis point. You have a right to be angry; but your behavior has to serve your long term interests, not just your short term feelings. What is your long term intent? What kind of relationship would you like to have? Did this current relationship reflect that intent?
60% of marriages in America fail and I think our culture is in part to blame. We are not taught the skills that are required to have a successful relationship. Instead, we are instilled with unrealistic and superficial expectations. In our culture, our marriage contract is “to love, honor, and cherish.” This ties love, respect, and duty together in a single entity. This is confusing; a successful relationship needs to address each of these issues as a distinct contract.
Contract One: Love. When you ask, “do you love me?” what do you mean? Love for one person isn’t the same as love to another. There are many types of love and many layers to love. Love changes from moment to moment; over time it waxes and wanes. I believe that love is really a commitment to have an ongoing discussion, with partners remaining open to each other. I believe love should be a commitment to see each partner for both who they are now, and who they will become over time. Passion ought to come from liking your partner as they are and genuinely wanting to be with them. This often isn’t the case; people project their own expectations onto their partners and desire the advantages to be gained rather than the person who is giving them.
Contract Two: Duty. I believe this is where mutual respect and mutual intention come together. It is the contract that binds you in a commitment to make the marriage work. What do you want your marriage and family to look like twenty years from now? It is the reason you are together. This contract should explicitly describe the consequences if the promises are broken. Duty is the boundaries and expectations that have been discussed and mutually agreed on. Duty also pertains to self-respect, as you have a duty to yourself to maintain your integrity as an individual person as well as a couple.
Contract Three: If one is a religious person, then marriage is actually a contract not only with each other, but with God. It is through the relationship that each is fulfilling their contract with God, by having children and prescribing to the cultural rituals and commitments, including the marriage itself.
More than likely you and your husband have never really had a conversation about any of this. In America we wing it. Here, not only do 60% of relationships fail, but they fail in similar and consistent ways. The games people play and the stereotypes they live lead to a few repetitive, and mostly negative, outcomes.
Without contract one and two all relationships are adolescent relationships.
It is possible there is a silver lining in this crisis, if the two of you can work it out together as adults. You need to form contracts One and Two so that your relationship is not just reflexive. This could bring you to a deeper level of mutual intent. Remember: all the advice people are giving you is advice coming from a codependent and dysfunctional culture. Take it all with a grain of doubt.
Choose to grow.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: It’s never a good idea to make life altering decisions when you are in a highly emotional state. Wait until the dust settles before you do anything rash.
People are weird. For many of us, the need to confirm our sexuality over rides common sense and decency. This doesn’t mean we can’t be good parents and reasonable people on other levels. It just means that we play games without considering the consequences, and we can be very destructive without consciously meaning to be.
You need to determine whether your husband is just playing some stupid little game to affirm his sexuality or if there are bigger problems behind the sexting. But one thing is for sure- your husband has dissed you in your place of work and conspired to keep secrets from you with a woman who was supposed to be your friend. He has a position of power and he has violated it. Are you going to be able to live with that? Are you going to a) be able to approach the reconstruction of your relationship as a willing partner, or will you b) approach it is a hurt “victim” who expects to be sit in the seat of self-righteousness? If you think you can manage a) and your husband sincerely wants to make things work, then you stand a chance. But if you are going to occupy position b), then your chance of success is unlikely. You had a part in all of this, and you need to be willing to be open to criticism as well.
As to the other woman in this equation- unless her response to your husband’s sexting was “are you out of your mind? Your wife is my best friend!”, I don’t think she’s really your friend. If your husband is serious about your marriage he will can her ass, pronto. If he doesn’t, that should tell you something right there; and you don’t need a therapist to figure out what it is.