Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I’ve been married to Joe for about 30 years now. During the first 20 years of our marriage, I went from being totally in love, to being suspicious, to being upset. I discovered that behind his vows of fidelity, he was cheating on me with a variety of women, all of whom came and went. Why didn’t I leave him? I just didn’t feel bad enough. First, none of the relationships ever went beyond a few weeks’ worth of trysts. Second, when he was seeing someone else, he was actually nicer. Since I wasn’t defining myself by his attention anyway, I decided to let it go. By the time the kids grew up and moved out, I was just accustomed to how things were.
Now that I am in my 60’s I don’t really care what Joe does. I know he’s never going to leave me. I’ve seen my female friends go through divorces and end up alone. They certainly don’t seem any happier than I am. I’ve decided that at this point, that I am content with the way things are. Joe is nice to me, has consideration in allowing me to live my life without messing with it. I don’t really care about sex anymore, and when he has a fling, it barely registers. I am more annoyed when he wants to watch a football game during Top Chef.
Here’s my question: I know that according to marriage standards, there’s something wrong with the big picture in mine. But if we ignore the standards and just ask the question, “are you happy or unhappy?”
I have to say that I am more happy than not. Should I question my relationship just because it isn’t the ideal? Or is it enough that I feel like I am getting what I need and I don’t care about the rest of the crap?
No one talks about it but in many cultures your situation is the unspoken norm. Some clients have even told me when they have complained about it to their mother, she told them to more or less shut up and deal with it. Even some religious leaders have told them some bull like “tolerance is best,” and “turn the other cheek.” In other words, shut up and deal with it. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the world.
I agree your situation isn’t ideal. Relationships are supposed to be equal and reciprocal, but in male dominated cheating cultures woman who have large female social networks and are independent seem to do alright. However, I’ve seen many problems arise with the immigrant families who move to America. The wives have as much of a relationship with their partner as they would with a sperm donor…and they have become cut off from the support of their female friends. These women often lose everything.
There is no one way to live life. You seem to have created a niche you are happy with. What anyone else is doing really isn’t relevant. I just recommend you keep your social network large and be wary when he retires. Do not let him isolate you. When the sperm donor is home all the time often these arrangements have to be renegotiated.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: each marriage is a contract between two people. What those people agree to is what matters, not some outsider’s opinion. If you are not unhappy and have a rewarding emotional life with your friends, you are certainly doing better than many. You are right- I have seen women divorce their husbands, imagining it would solve every problem…when in fact it just created a whole new set of problems.
What matters is what you think. Right now, you seem fine with your life. If that changes, think again.