Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I’ve been reading these comments on “Tree”, the guy who wanted to find meaning in his life after years of being the silently suffering dutiful husband. I feel for him. I can see myself there. I got married to my wife when she was pregnant and did what I considered to be the right thing for the next twenty years. But I will admit that it was a woman who made me want more. Not necessarily because I wanted her instead…but because I hadn’t felt anything in years like I felt when I was with her. I felt alive again. I kept it all a secret from my wife, but I was ousted when my daughter found some emails I’d saved. Given an ultimatum, I abandoned the new woman and tried to put my marriage back together but my heart wasn’t in it. Ironically, I also couldn’t commit to the new woman, who wanted to build a life together. I just wasn’t ready for that after my dutiful marriage. The upshot is, I lost both my wife and the new woman, although we are all at least civil to each other now. I am living in a room in my cousin’s apartment and now I have no idea where I will spend my reclining years. Any suggestions for me?
Dear Tree 2,
People try to live their lives by some formula. Not surprising, since we are told there is one and we will be punished if we don’t follow it. The problem is that this doesn’t earn any brownie points and comes with no guarantee. Is marrying someone you don’t want to be with “the right thing?” The “formula” says it is. But you do not need to marry to financially support the woman you knocked up and the kids your sperm created. This would still be doing the right thing. If you are present in your child’s life, that’s just the responsible thing to do.
60% of marriages fail because people marry for all the wrong reasons. In your case, there was no love, just a sense of duty. Other marriages fail because there was only “ love.” For many people “love” means finding a person who fulfills the formula we learned from our parents. For others, it means breaking that formula in order to escape. For some, love is just someone who looks hot. We rarely find a person who is our equal. For that, we would have to know our selves independently from any programming. I find it funny that some dating sites call it compatibility if you listen to the same type of music.
Love is a feeling, it is not intellectual data. Love is not related to common sense one iota. Love is important but it will not and cannot in and of itself make a marriage last. As your life shows, intellectual commitment alone can make a marriage last…but that marriage sucks.
Life is about balance. Common sense and love are necessary but so are commitment, respect, communication, honesty and duty. You can’t make a pie with only one ingredient, nor can you make a marriage last with only one.
You need to start gathering many of these other skills before you can have any balance in your life. You can find them through counseling, role models and by asking a lot of questions, especially toward the programming you take for granted. If you look closely, you will find that much of it is probably BS.
Remember: the United States constitution guarantees the right to pursue happiness. It doesn’t guarantee happiness. That requires a lot of hard work and the appropriate skills.
Good luck in your gathering,
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I suggest you ask yourself some hard questions. Start with “do I really want a partner, or do I really want to have things my own way and be left alone?” Since you ran away from your new girlfriend as well as your wife, this is an important question. Sometimes we try to do something because we think it’s the right thing to do. But it isn’t what we really want. We can only get what we want when we admit what it is. Answer that first question and it will tell you what to do next. If you want a partner, start learning the skills it takes to maintain a relationship. If you just want to be left alone, build yourself a supportive circle of friends. Get a new girlfriend who wants the same things you do. There is no one single answer- we have to do what works for us.