Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Therapy: Inolvement with Married Men

One of my readers, one whom I consider a friend, occasionally engages in email conversations with me when public commentary seems less than desirable for the conversation. Recently, regarding my post on Monday, this reader sent me a couple of emails that I thought were worthy of serving as the basis for this week’s Thursday Therapy session and after being granted permission to do so I share them here. I have not reproduced the entire emails below, but only the parts that addressed the pertinent issues. For ease of reading, and to keep from getting too confused as you go through this, my reader’s email comments will appear in blue while my writing will remain in the normal black. Hopefully, this will help you keep straight who is saying what.

"As far as J’s marriage is concerned, I feel that it is up to him as an adult to make his own choices." {Here, of course, the reader was quoting from my blog post}

I think, if you step back from that, just a bit, and take your own self off to one side of the question, you'll see what a dodge that is. Even if it is J's 3rd marriage, and he has clearly established his own, shall we say 'lack of punctilious respect' for the institution of marriage. Marriage doesn't just exist between the two spouses, to do with as they please; it is, in its essence, woven into the larger social fabric, and there is an implied mutual support between the marriage and the society. Marriages/families are the fundamental building blocks of a society/culture. When marriages and families are strong, the society is strong; when marriages and families fail, the society is in trouble. . . (OK, end of the sociology lecture. . .)
In my opinion, that is a simplistic way of looking at things. I think that J has, rather than a lack of respect for the institution of marriage, a habit of choosing unwisely whom to marry. I won’t begin to go through all the pathos behind that but just to point out that while marriage may well be a fundamental building block of a society, ill-conceived marriages make staying within them extremely difficult and, dare I suggest, not even truly plausible.

My point is, we owe each other, even if only as fellow-citizens (although there is certainly much more to it than just that), respect for each other's marriages. And if J doesn't respect his own marriage, you owe him the encouragement and exhortation to do so, not collaboration in undermining it.
Here I just flat out disagree. If J chooses not to respect his own marriage then there is something wrong within the marriage, whether it be J, his wife, or a combination of both of them. If he chooses to undermine his marriage that is his choice, not mine. I hold at least as much respect for his marriage as he does. I have turned down many more offers to be with him than I have accepted. I have tried to talk about putting his marriage first. He does not wish to do so. I am done trying to convince him. I suppose I could, and probably should, just walk away from him at that point, but I don’t. I bow to my weakness and give in to my own desires of wanting him. Yes, I hold myself responsible for my actions and what I do to undermine my own relationships but not to what J does to undermine his.

I'm frankly a little surprised and dismayed that someone who is as solicitous of her neighbors' well-being as you are (and I do sincerely respect that about you) would so seemingly casually wave off responsibility to honor and respect and support her friend's marriage.
Again I will just say that although it may appear through the blog that I have casually waved off responsibility I really have not. J and I have many conversations about the situation, and I do try to encourage him to do the right thing. The problem is that he tries to encourage me to do the wrong thing and is either more persuasive, or I’m more swayable, or both.

Plus, there's The Golden Rule, if nothing else. . . (as Kimba pointed out, you didn't much like it when it was done to you; altho not, I suppose, to your marriage. . .)
This is the part that I really want to address because it seems to me that many people have misunderstood my feelings or read into my feelings something that was not there or something. In any case, I really want to set the record straight on the whole BJ/Serenity issue. While I think that some see Serenity as the villain in that whole scenario I never did. I always saw BJ as the villain in that scenario. BJ was the one who betrayed me. BJ was the one who went behind my back. BJ was the one whom I always held responsible for his decision and his actions. Had BJ truly loved me he would not have been swayed by Serenity or any other woman. As it was, he was always ripe for the taking. There was not one day in our relationship when I could have honestly said that I trusted that he wouldn’t find someone else who, for whatever reason, was better. With regard to The Golden Rule, would I have wanted Serenity to act differently? Not really. She went after a man she wanted to pursue. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. There are two things I do have a problem with:
(1) The way BJ tried to blow me off with a “Goodbye Jane” email. I definitely think that showed cowardice and a lack of respect for The Golden Rule.
(2) The way that Serenity bashed me on her blog afterwards, particularly since I counted her as one of my internet friends. I would have been perfectly happy to stay friends with her, even had she and BJ stayed together, had she not turned on me and kicked me when I was down.  I have wondered if perhaps she did that anticipating that I would be angry with her for stealing my man and went with the "a strong offense is the best defense" theory. I don't know. For that I struggled to forgive her, but for luring BJ away I have never held her responsible for that. BJ did that all on his own. BJ could have said “No” but he didn’t.

Every strong marriage strengthens my marriage, even if only by example - 'look, there's a strong marriage; this marriage stuff really is doable, and worth persevering for'. And conversely, every marriage that fails has an analogously deleterious effect - 'wow; X & Y broke up; maybe it IS better to just cut our losses, when it gets hard. . .' Of course, none of this is determinative; but every marriage has an effect on every other marriage, either encouraging or corrosive. And that touches on what I was saying about the 'social dimension' of marriage. . .
Here I agree that every marriage has an effect on every other marriage. Both the good and the bad marriages have an effect on every other marriage. J’s marriage is not a strong marriage, nor is it an example you would want to show your kids and say to them to follow his example. He married a woman because she needed rescuing. He is the classic save the damsel in distress guy. It is much more of a relationship where he takes care of her and her son because nobody else will than it is a strong marriage. He does not love her. I would hope that others would see his marriage and use it as a cautionary tale not as an example of what marriage should be. If anything, I think we need to encourage people before they marry to make really damned sure they are marrying someone who they really want to be with for a lifetime. It is way too easy to jump into a marriage without really understanding what you are getting into. I would hope that people seeing J’s marriages would look on that not as an endorsement for bolting when times get tough but for being more careful who they choose to marry in the first place.

To wrap things up I want to say that while I carry many burdens of guilt around with me one that I do not carry is one for not working harder to support J’s faithfulness to his marriage. That’s his deal, not mine. It is his choice to continue to step outside his marriage to get the intimacy that is lacking in his marriage. While I respect the opinions of others who see things differently, I must say that this is one issue on which we will just have to respectfully disagree.

Also, one last point of clarification, if I were to implement a “no married men” rule for myself it would be just that – for myself, for reasons of my own well being, and yes I will admit there are many good reasons in my own best interests not to be involved with married men (and something which I am working on in therapy with Freud). It would not be because I felt I owed it to society in general or fellow womankind to ride herd on married men and keep them from cheating.  The men need to buck up and deal with that end of the issue.


Desmond Jones said...

Seems just a tad 'Law-of-the-Jungle-ish' to me. . . I wonder if you'd really want to live in a world that took this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. . .


"I think we need to encourage people before they marry to make really damned sure they are marrying someone who they really want to be with for a lifetime. It is way too easy to jump into a marriage without really understanding what you are getting into."

Amen to this. Absolutely, amen, and amen. That point was driven home very well to Molly and me, and it has been one of the cornerstones of such marital success as we've had.

"I would hope that people seeing J’s marriages would look on that not as an endorsement for bolting when times get tough but for being more careful who they choose to marry in the first place."

Fair enough. But my point would be that the promise is the thing. Certainly, be very careful about who you promise to throw your life in with. But that admonishment to careful choices only has meaning if the promise itself is binding in some meaningful way. Be careful who you marry, because marriage is for keeps, not until you realize you goofed. And the absence of a 'back door' goes a long way toward motivating you to make the best of where you're at. . . Otherwise, marriage is just a glorified version of going steady. . .

Fusion said...

It's such a can of worms, and harder because of how everyone looks at marriage or even committed relationships. I decided early on when looking for someone to date that married women were off limits. And that included married men in the J/O group I belonged to last year. To me, married is married, if you want to be with someone else, get divored first, or don't get married in the first place to make it easier to break up and move on.

If he chooses to undermine his marriage that is his choice, not mine.
This is true, but it's your choice in sleeping with him to assist in that undermining, because the bottom line is that you are the other woman, or at least one of them.

I was looking at other parts of this post to quote from, but they all point to the same bottom line, and as you point out, we'll just have to respectfully agree to disagree on it.

But a big part of me hopes you don't go through with it on the 3rd, because personally I think you deserve better True.

Nuff said my friend, take care.

Therese in Heaven said...


I kept trying to figure out how to comment, but I don't know what to say. I just wouldn't have expected such a lack of compassion and respect for others coming from you.

John said...

I'm more than a bit surprised by the defense of being the "other woman" in a bad marriage. I didn't expect it from you, or the you I thought I knew through your writings. And it wasn't a very creative defense either: its all his fault since its his decision. At least the argument was well articulated and thought out.

I guess I'm always amazed that any woman would want an intimate relationship with a man who found it so easy to lie to his closest intimate partner. And that is speaking as someone who's wife, and himself, have fallen off the fidelity bandwagon once.

Trueself said...

OMG! Are you people serious? Really?!?! We’re going to put all the blame on the other woman and let the man off scot free? Really? Where is personal responsibility in this? Why is it always the girl’s/woman’s responsibility to say “No.”? Why do we expect men to be such weak fools that they can’t say “No” to temptation, but expect women to be the upholders of virtue? Honestly people! WTF?!?!? Have you all lost your minds?

Desmond Jones said...

Where did I say, or imply that J has no responsibility for his own actions, or that it is all your responsibility to uphold his marriage? Absolutely, he bears his own responsibility for his own infidelity.

But you, by being a willing partner to his infidelity, bear your own responsibility.

Hell no, J shouldn't be hitting you up for sex on the side; it speaks ill of him that he would, and he has his own answers to give for that. But just because he does, doesn't mean there's a free pass for whoever he wants to f**k. . .

And I'm wondering, the least bit, about the vehemence of your response. I didn't read people who'd lost their minds here. . .

Trueself said...

Des - What I see here are a lot of people trying to make it my responsibility for upholding J's marriage. I just don't see it that way. I see it as J's responsibility.

I do not see it as right for me to be having sex with J. I am not trying to defend that. I am just simply saying that his marriage is his responsibility. If he chooses to cheat that is his responsibility not mine.

It is not my responsibility to protect society or wives or whatnot from unfaithful husbands. If men weren't willing participants there would be no unfaithful husbands. Not my responsibility.

My responsibility is me and my behavior. I have never said my behavior is right. I have never said that everyone should pat me on the back and tell me I'm doing just fine, but when everyone focuses on how my behavior is the crux of the problem here I don't see it.

I will own every bit of how wrong it is for me to go out and have sex with other men without regard for how it impacts my life and the lives of those around me. However, I'll be damned if I'm going to worry about how J's behavior is impacting the lives of people around him. He can worry about that. I have enough worries of my own.

I do care about people. I care a lot about the welfare of other people. However, I see a real distinction between private, personal behavior between J and me, and my desire to make sure everyone in this country has health care or my desire to see the wealth in this country more equitably distributed.

When it comes right down to it one thing I've learned in the last couple of years is that nobody will ever look out for you but you so you best focus on looking out for yourself. That's my focus for now, trying to look out for myself the best I can while dealing with the consequences of prior actions. It's up to J to look out for himself. Period.

And what really pisses me off is that anyone that has read this blog for a while would be surprised that I think or feel this way. Either it means y'all have been reading things into my writings that weren't there, or I haven't made myself very clear.

Desmond Jones said...

And I guess that was my point in the first place. There is an entirely proper sense in which you are 'your brother's keeper'. Or 'your brother's marriage's keeper', if you will.

We all have too many interconnections with each other, whether we want them or not, to just wave off and say, 'not my problem'. . .

But, I've already said more than enough to make my point. What you do with this is up to you. . .

ginnyh said...

Oh my goodness! I don't even know how to comment on these other commenters yet..............except to say that while I respect their thoughtful, deeply felt responses to this issue, I feel that they are coming off as mostly judgemental and patronizing. But given some of these commenters' own conservative/traditional views I've seen expressed on their own blogs, I should not be surprised. They mostly sound like all-knowing parents trying to "school" a rebellious teenager. They speak some truths, but they way they choose to express those truths is off-putting to me personally.

Your post was, as usual, well thought out and well-written. I still feel profoundly sad for you and choices/changes you've recently made in your personal life. But. I truly can say I understand those choices and can only hope you will continue to work towards personal happiness in healthy ways. You appear to be (after a pretty good while of reading your blog) a smart, funny and strong woman who only deserves the best in life. I've often felt a great many similarities in your experience and mine which is really why I keep on coming back to read your blog.

I only wish that somehow it would've possible for you to go ahead and divorce W--I know how hard it is (speaking from personal experience) and would continue to be for you if you were divorced, but I think it would have been the best course of action for you in the long run.

I guess I don't see much of anything anymore as simple "black and white" issues and I believe most of these commenters still do. And, for the record, I still think that the responsibility for infidelity primarly lies with J, and that is really his problem but I can't say that I'd ever trust him with respect to any long-term involvements.

Jeni Angel said...

Well, as someone who has slept with her share of married men-and currently lives with someone who was married when we met, here is my 2 cents:

I think 3 people are involved in infidelity. The husband, the wife and the "other". In this scenario, The fault lies with the wife for not recognizing that there is something missing in the relationship-or in some case, withholding from the relationship. The fault lies with the husband for not addressing this with his chosen life partner and working on fixing it with her or ending the marriage. And the fault lies with the other woman for giving that married man the opportunity to cause harm.

Now, this isn't 100% the case for everyone, but you'd be surprised that this is the scenario for most adultery. I come from a long line of cheaters/cheatees.

I know, for me, that when Michael told me he and his wife were divorcing, I was devastated. I called out sick from work for 2 days. I knew that I didn't cause the divorce, but I didn't help in any way-even if that way was not giving Michael what he wanted. Not participating.

That being said, I don't think it's your responsibilty to make J's chocies for him. Like you said, you need to take care of you. I just know (and I know that YOU know) that this situation isn't necassarily the right way.

I can only speak for me, but I know how bad I felt when Michael would leave to go home to his wife. At some point, I realized how little I thought of myself to accept that situation. But I can't do the work for you (hell, I've barely scratched the surface on working on myself). Only you can decide when you are ready to see that you are worth so much more than what J has to give. That's where my concern lies.

Becaue, True? You are so very beautiful. You light up a room. You make people laugh. You love basketball! You are smart. You are kind.

That's what you need to know. You deserve the world.

cah1470 said...

True as I wrote in the comments from your earlier post I agree the "paragon of societal concern" stuff is just a bit too much to swallow. Or the notion that leaving a grown man to be responsible for his choices reverts us all to the law of the jungle. I will just repeat I hope you continue to bring the what whens and whys of this to Freud and figure out how to care more about yourself to find someone who is worthy of your time.

Because to me that is your #1 priority not J, his marriage, or how marriages help the society as a whole and then by definition you help society by not sleeping with him. I mean good grief if you can make better choices for yourself I think that would be a much more fruitful endeavor.

Because at the end of the day you not sleeping with J is not going to turn him into a monogamous husband. It's going to mean you have moved on to better things. Is there any doubt he will still be cheating?

Therese in Heaven said...

I do care about people. I care a lot about the welfare of other people. However, I see a real distinction between private, personal behavior between J and me, and my desire to make sure everyone in this country has health care or my desire to see the wealth in this country more equitably distributed.

Therein lies the problem, Trueself. Its easy to care about people who don't really affect your life, whom you don't know, and how you help is in a detached and impersonal way (like how you vote). Its a lot harder to care for the people who you actually have the ability to help personally if it means denying yourself something you want, like having sex with their spouses. How we care for people privately is of even more importance than how we care for them publicly. Speaking just for myself, it would have meant a lot more to me if my husband's lover had said no and walked away, than if she voted for universal health care and I benefited from it. If you can't respect people on an individual level, you will never make a difference on a broader one.

I truly hope you are able to find a healthy way to take care of yourself that brings you some peace.

FTN said...

Yeah, what Therese said. Well-written. :-)

It's not that it's all "his responsibility" or just "your responsibility." It's 100% his and 100% yours. And this is your blog, so I think everyone is talking to you, because they are concerned about you.

There's not much else I can add that hasn't already been said above.

Emily said...

Actually, Trueself, on a whole other issue, can I just say that I'm worried about you.

I got quite a bad feeling when I read that you were allowing W to move in with you. Is there any way that you could take care of him without having to go so far with it? If you feel miserable about it, then surely your own feelings are telling you not to do it.

On J - Well, in all honesty I have the impression that with a guy like J, if it's not you, it'll be someone else. I am, once again, kind of concerned about you, though.

Maybe if you could just pause for a bit and breathe deeply for a while, you'd realize you could hold out for taking control of your own life, and even hold out for someone who really loves you and respects you and treats you well.

Val said...

I'm late to the commentary party, but WTH... [excuse: busy weekend, long update post forthcoming!]
In many ways I'm way too close to this, since I was married to a cheater the first go-round, for almost 14 yrs - & it was a blessing-in-disguise for me that M left when I put my foot down, or else the muleheaded fool that I was [hopefully I'm a little bit better now] would probably STILL be suffering through that abuse...
I had several opportunities to cheat myself during my 1st marriage; it ran the gamut from a star-crossed-lovers scenario [oh, the romance & the drama!!] to a mate swap [if it feels good, DO IT] - but I couldn't go there. I knew how I felt as the long-suffering wife - also some deep instinct for self-preservation kept me from discovering how M would have behaved when cuckolded... [very badly, I'm certain]
& if there's any self-righteousness in my tone, please forgive me - I'm not trying to be "patronizing or judgmental"; I just want you to know where I'm coming from!