Dear Margo: When Turning the Other Cheek Is Not the Thing To Do

My wife is having an affair and now we are working on our marriage; how long should we try? Margo Howard’s advice

When Turning the Other Cheek Is Not the Thing To Do

Dear Margo: I wrote to you four years ago when my wife was openly chatting on the Internet. Predictably, it led to an affair, but we worked through it and had a good couple of years. At 45, she is now having another affair. Rather than issuing an ultimatum, I am working on persuading her that our relationship is worth persevering. There is, on my part, lots of TLC and as few judgmental statements as I can manage. Our relationship has improved significantly as a result, but she says that despite this man’s rather low ranking on the social scale (suggesting he is not a marriage prospect), he is so good in bed that she is not inclined to give him up.

I travel a lot for work, and she feels that what we do when apart does not matter. Nevertheless, I want her to stop this behavior. Giving lots of TLC is fun in a way, a bit like courting again, but it is draining without any enthusiastic feedback. Luckily, I’m not a jealous person. I am unsure, however, about how long I should persevere without positive action on her part. Another three to six months? Do you have any experience with this approach and its ultimate success rate? I am emotionally able to split, but not before doing all I can to hang on to the family life we have. — Forever the Giver

Dear For: I hope you are Catholic, because I believe you are a saint. What is going on is an open marriage … though it seems only for your wife. When you say you are not jealous, are you tolerant enough to permit your wife to have bedroom friends who are not replacement material for you because she finds them socially inferior? (By the way, should this not have dawned on you, it is quite insulting for her to say she’s disinclined to give him up because he’s so good in the sack. Just sayin’.)

As to your direct question: I have no experience or data on the approach you are talking about. You sound to me like a good schnook with a paycheck, especially when you say you are not getting positive feedback, and the situation goes back at least four years. I suggest that you have, in fact, done all you can do to hang on to your family life, and you should cut your losses and reclaim your dignity. I think you are being played for a fool. — Margo, lucidly

A Sister Who Does Not Tell the Truth

Dear Margo: My sister is a chronic liar and has been for years. Over the years, as tough times have befallen her (getting fired, husband losing his job), she increasingly has drawn attention to herself by exaggerating — whether it’s physical ailments or financial problems. She has had some actual physical problems, including Meniere’s disease, which, of course, would draw someone’s compassion. But she goes on to completely fabricate other medical conditions, not to mention other facts about her life. An example: “I took a two-hour walk today,” when two days previous she could barely walk.

Long story short, I feel guilty that I no longer call her, but I find myself unable to listen to the lies anymore. My distance alienates her — which intensifies the fabrications. What to do? — Sally

Dear Sal: If you feel unable to stop communications altogether (your call, no pun intended), when you do talk to her, simply hold the phone away from your ear and every so often say, “Mmmm.” Or you could also try telling her your news. I suspect you’ve already discovered it does no good to call her out about her conflicting stories. When I am trapped on a not particularly engaging phone call, I mute my computer and play Spider Solitaire. Just a thought. — Margo, pragmatically

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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61 comments so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:

    #1, It’s time. It’s done.

    #2, I’d find it hard to reach out, too. I find lies difficult to deal with, and even more coming from a sibling. I have a wireless headset that I adore. I’d suggest doing household chores while talking to her. At least that gives some positive results for being lied to, and it gives you something to think about ;-) while she’s talking.

    Cheers,

    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA

  2. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW1 – OMG – where to begin – RUN – RUN FAR AND RUN FAST – she will never stop.  Especially if she thinks there are no repurcussions.  My second husband was a serial cheater.  I was wife #3 – but I thought all of my TLC would cure him.  Even though we had sex every morning and every night (I know for some this is TMI) – I finally decided enough is enough – he married the woman he was cheating on me with during our marriage – surprise – they did not last long – why? – he cheated – I truly thought that by keeping him sexually satisfied that he would not cheat – alas – it is not about the sex – it is about the conquest and getting away with it – the THRILL.  I think 4 years is enough for you to put up with this.  Any children you have will need to be handled delicately but most kids know what is going on – they are wiser than we give them credit for.  Just do not assign any blame and they will be fine.  And if you need a friend to commiserate with or any advice – find me.  hugs to you

    LW2 – Again – RUN FAR AND RUN FAST – my younger sister was like this.  You must call her on her lies.  If not she will just keep on.  My sister got sympathy from the entire family by claiming at age 25 she had to have a compete hysterectomy and then 5 years later had a child – claiming that she was suing the original doctor for malpractice – Yeah Right.  anyone giving her sympathy justs perpetuates the lies and the looking for attention.  You need to engage the whole famly in confronting her and get her some psychological help.  She needs help and will not go herself without some one confronting her.  Best wishes.

  3. avatar Violet says:

    Man, poor LW1 is a class A schnook. 3 to 6 months? Are you kidding me? She already admitted that she didn’t want to give up her lover. What is the point of staying in this marriage. It’s obviously destroyed the poor guy’s self-esteem, and that’s only going to get worse the longer he stays.

    LW2: It always baffles me when people talk about intolerable and abusive family members and feel they have to tolerate it. Family is important, but there is no need to be in constant contact with someone who lies and drives you crazy.

  4. avatar Linda says:

    #1 I admit I do not know if on your social level it is more acceptable to keep the trash within your home than to put it on the other side of the door, though your wife sounds like she is creating a lot of stench and do you really care to spend the rest of your years wondering who who has been picking thorugh the trash while you are gone. You have many years left to find someone who finds being married and faithful acceptable. Make her choice for her and youself and let her be with the level she she beds down with. Just sayin’, but then I have zero tolerance for cheaters.

    #2 When you talk to your sister just listen as if the novel reading will end when the call is over.

  5. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: I don’t think you are a saint, and I don’t think you are playing the fool. I think you ARE a fool. Don’t worry about trying to reclaim that dignity—it’s long gone.

    LW2: The only thing you should feel guilty about is wasting your time. And who is more dysfunctional—the lying sister who won’t change, or the sister who waits forever for the lying sister to change?

  6. avatar MelG says:

    LW#1: So let’s see: your wife is an admitted whore who one affair, and now tells you to your face that she won’t be giving up the guy who’s good in bed, if not good enough to be seen with. And you’re wondering how much longer to stick around? This is when I lose my mind. As a single woman in my early 30′s, who has never cheated on a man in my life, I have to wonder how women like your wife find men to marry them while women like me go on yet another blind date with yet another troglodyte. I agree with David Bolton. Your dignity is long gone. You might as well stay forever, at this rate. You’re not jealous? Good, then stay and see how many more men she goes through. I hope you’re not still sleeping with her. At least make sure she’s not passing along anything icky from her man-friends.

    LW#2: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that being related by blood doesn’t make you family. If you can’t handle the lying or your own guilt, keep the calls to 5 minutes. Don’t let her go into anything detailed. “Hi sis, just checking in, everything ok? Kids all right? Great, talk to you in a few days.” Set your boundaries and stick to them. When she sees that you hang up quickly, she’ll either fall in line or stop the communications herself. Either way, the burden’s off you.

    • avatar htimsr40 says:

      To be clear, she did NOT admit to being a whore … whores take money for sex and it is entirely possible that she is paying … not receiving. She has admitted that she is a slut, and I don’t use that mean in a derogatory fashion … just that she wants sex from multiple men and intends to keep doing it.

      Wife clearly is getting something of value to her from the affair. I could postulate two polar extremes … she wants a more macho man than her obviously submissive husband and is finding that with a man of “inferior station in life” who is sexually dominant in bed with her … or, she simply enjoys the feeling of power of having weaker men under her control, sexual and otherwise, which she clearly has with LW and might also have with her boy toy if he is financially inferior to her and dependent upon her.

      Either way, wife is getting her jollies and will continue to do so and nothing that LW will do will change that. He has three choices: 1) leave her, 2) live with it as is, or 3) enjoy her dalliances second hand as the cuckolded husband who gets off on having a slut for a wife. Who knows, option #3 might open up all sorts of sexual avenues that LW might enjoy.

      • avatar shakes says:

        Right on the money.  There could be a fourth option;  He leaves her, finds an attractive, socially acceptable, faithful woman; watch said wife go completely nuts.  He takes back said wife and she goes back to her old behavior.  Or, he can stay with attractive, socially acceptable, faithful new gal and watch old wife that he says he can emotionally split from stew in her own juices for years to come.
        I vote for dumping wife, especially when she is trading down on this guy, and getting a new gal.
        Only problem is, he might be just one of those guys that loves to be jerked around and treated horribly, there really are men like that, that’s how all those nasty bitches get married.

    • avatar Kriss says:

      “This is when I lose my mind. As a single woman in my early 30′s, who has never cheated on a man in my life, I have to wonder how women like your wife find men to marry them while women like me go on yet another blind date with yet another troglodyte.”

      MelG, you’re not damaged enough to attract a martyr like LW 1. 

  7. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Am pretty speechless really.  Get a lawyer and see a therapist.  A lawyer to protect your assets and a therapist to give you enough of an ego to say *ouch* when you are being kicked in the nuts.   You don’t mention children specifically so I am not even sure if you have them.  Its odd to me that if you have them you don’t mention them but since you didn’t I’m guessing you don’t have them or  they are not factoring in your decision making.  Your wife is in the marriage for your steady paycheck/social standing.  What are you there for?  Is she that good in bed that you can overlook the fact that she is a manipulative slut who has no respect for you?  And yes, I would call her a slut.  Anyone who gets their jollies from one lover and their income/social standing from another qualifies as a slut to me (male or female).  Its worse if you are married to one or the other of them while you are bedding both. 

    LW#2:  You can follow the advice of some and put your headphones on/play solitaire etc when your sister calls to regale you with her latest drama or you can cut her out of your life entirely.  My guess is the latter option would also entail alienating you from some family members you don’t want to be alienated from as there are always those who will put up with behavior most people consider intolerable (witness LW#1) and those people are probably your parents.  Don’t loan her any money, don’t let her move in with you, spend as little time with her as you can without straining your other family relationships and don’t expect she will change or believe any change she or someone else says she has made.  And tune her out in anyway you can even if it means unplugging your phone for days/hours at a time.   (You c an always change your cell # and give it to people who need to call you).  But don’t cut her off entirely unless you are prepared to be the pariah of the family…people like your sister generate sympathy from suckers and I suspect you have some in your family or she would be persona non grata by now.  And people don’t want to think they are suckers so instead of admitting it, they will turn on you for being harsh and *judgmental*. 

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Ya know Katherine, I sometimes have a tough time with your answers but this one to LW#1 was AWESOME!!!!!

      Kar’rin

    • avatar Freyja Vanadis says:

      And then after LW#1 sees the therapist and lawyer, he needs to see a competent surgeon who can give him a spine transplant, since he so obviously lacks one. Ugh.

  8. avatar emma manderson says:

    I don’t know- can’t LW1 just turn his marriage into a proper open relationship, if he still loves his wife and doesn’t mind sharing her? If he has a friend on the side too, it could work really well. I mean he clearly feels like the marriage is still worth being in, for whatever reason.

    • avatar MelG says:

      If he’s asking how much longer he should wait to see if his wife changes, it doesn’t sound like he would want an open relationship. He may not be a jealous guy, but it seems like he at least wants some exclusivity with his wife. He has the right to expect that.

  9. avatar Lisa Bonnice says:

    L1: How long should he wait for his wife to stop sleeping around? Well, about as long as it takes for him to let her know that he’s not interested in that kind of marriage. He’s tolerated it for this long, why should she stop?

    Seriously, it doesn’t sound like she has any reason to stop, if he’s not the jealous type and is still willing to have “fun” TLC with her while she’s boffing someone who’s so great in bed that she even tells HIM about how good it is!

    So, Lw1, how long will it take? How long have you got?

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: It’s time to let her go. She’s using you and she’s using him. You’re not good enough for her in bed, he’s not good enough for her “socially” otherwise. She’s a real jerk. You’ve given it your best effort, have more than gone beyond the extra mile.

  11. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    LW# 1 Your wife is playing you because she sees you more as a doormat than a giver get a lawyer get out.

    Sally should call as few times as possible and e-mail Sis the rest this way when she responds with BS she can just hit delete.

  12. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Maybe just up and tell her she’s a chronic liar. You’re fed up with her B.S. That will make her angry and you likely won’t hear from her for a while. Or…it might be just what she needs to wake her up and she’ll change (probably not, but you never know).

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      I agree completely, Cindy, and I’m surprised more people here seem to think avoiding confrontation is a good thing. As you said, being called on her lies may be the wakeup call the sister needs, and if not, she has at least tried.

    • avatar flyonthewall says:

      I agree, Cindy, but I would also add that she needs to seek professional help because of the extent of the lying. That should light a fire under her butt. :)

  13. avatar Koka Miri says:

    LW1: Not blaming the victim, because of course your wife’s cheating is wrong, but you say “I travel a lot.” How much is a lot? You sound like you’re putting in TLC like a bandaid or like a chore. It makes you feel like the courtship is back on, but it’s been over for a while and frankly I encourage you to really examine why. Especially if your wife is saying she’s entitled to a life while you’re gone and this guy is good in bed. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good in bed, but it might mean she doesn’t remember if you are or not, if you get my drift.

    All that aside, I agree with everyone that your marriage is over. Put in the TLC with your next partner as a matter of course, not as a fix to a problem, and hopefully your new lady will do the same. Your current wife is not worth it.

  14. avatar matchtuff says:

    David Bolton comment on LW1 is priceless. I am still laughing! lololololololo

  15. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – You are a freakin’ saint, dude. You are the kindest most tolerant man, nay person, I have ever read about. God bless you. By the way, I’m sure there’s  young boy somewhere, perhaps in a third world country that has no balls. Please, Saint Doormat send him your’s since you aren’t using them. Send him your dignity and pride as well….b’cause… you know. . ..

    LW2 – I’m glad you got that off your chest and hope you feel better. Nothing is going to change. Do what Margo said. Get comphy in front of the computer, maybe a martini, glass of wine or tea put the phone on speaker and mute and play on the computer while she drones on and on and on . . . .  ..

  16. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I have a loved one a lot like LW2′s. It’s not so easy to just cut them out. I am devoted to honesty, and hearing exaggerations that I KNOW are exaggerations is so bloody painful (how can you not care that you’re lying, and not realize that *I* know you’re lying??)…so, LW2, I know what you’re going through. Margo’s solution is a good one; just tune her out as best you can and (my own suggestion) redouble the truth in your own life.

    • avatar mayma says:

      I’m not being snarky, really, but if you’re devoted to honesty, then why not tell loved one that you know she’s lying?

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        Because she remembers things the way she remembers them. She will explain why the credibility of 15 other people is suspect and never question her own. If I tell her I know she’s exaggerating, not only will it not make any difference to whether she tells the truth or not, it will also:
        1) actually hurt her feelings
        2) make her defensive and “offended”
        3) alienate her, in a relationship that matters a lot to me despite all this
        4) cause her to make nasty comments about the time I called her on her BS for years and years to come.

        So that’s why. It’s very exasperating.

  17. avatar mayma says:

    LW1 is neither a good schnook nor a saint (gah!).  In fact, people like this need to be called “a saint;” it’s why they stay in situations like this.  It’s how they get attention and sympathy, and it’s how they direct hatred toward the spouse.  (They get everyone else to hate the spouse, that is; the saint would never express anger!  Everyone else will do that for him, by calling her a tramp or meanie or ogre.)

    Margo, unfortunately, played right into his hands.  “Aren’t I long-suffering?  I’ve been putting up with this for years!  I give and give and give, but I don’t mind!”  He needs to get help so that he can find methods other than martyrdom to be happy. 

    • avatar Frau Quink says:

      You might be right, Myma. This case is really ‘twisted’. He might as well hand over his 401k to her and call it quits…….

  18. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#2: I have a sister who exaggerates every aspect of her life, to the point of ludicrous extremity. And she lies, reinvents the past, and twists the facts to suit her needs, making of her life a hyperbolic melodrama more nauseating than most Reality TV shows. I have fact checked hysterical references to her disease (she has Ehler’s Danlos) on the AMA and official Ehler’s Danlos website…and she has claimed that both are obviously incorrect…without checking them herself (and I did this to actually help her after consulting with my doctors because I have some symptoms and it is genetic)…and went on to spread her wildly incorrect version of her “deadly” illness (she doesn’t have the lethal variety…she’d be dead by now). She also told a woman who works tirelessly with Romanian women and children who are outcasts because they have been infected by HIV, and therefore abused and cast out, that she was a “beaten woman” (her ex-husband slammed a door in her face…once…when she was haranguing him from the doorway. He never laid a hand on her…trust me, the entire universe would know…and was so stricken with guilt that he didn’t even argue with her for months) in order to get close to her…and through her, closer to a man she had a serious crush on. And then there were her breathless Facebook posts about how she “cut” herself, and was rumored to be a witch when she was a child. I was there. She wanted to be a nun, and since there was only one bathroom in the house, occupied on a regular and lengthy basis by Dad, or Mom…and since she shared a room with our youngest sister…and given that I rarely slept more than two hours a night, so knowing all nocturnal house movements…my sister was *not* cutting (we spent the summers in barely any clothing, per the ’60′s and no AC, and she displayed fewer wounds then I did)…and is trying to be mysterious and special.

    To my great good fortune, she lives in London, England, and I live in Houston, Texas. However, she still manages to reach out and make life special on occasion. My solution has been not to call her, and to make myself very inaccessible by phone…by telling her that she is deeply and abidingly full of what the cats leave in the litter boxes. She ended up on my seldom visited FB page…and then became furious when I called her out on her unmitigated BS and offered that I might “unfriend her”…and then was even more outraged when I did. She has never met my younger son…the second of her only two nephews, now 14…because she “doesn’t like Texas”, and expected the four of us to fly to the UK, get a hotel (she has a tiny flat, no room for four extra people), rent a car, etc.. Even when I agreed to go to the Chicago area, so that she could avoid the horrors of Texas, she refused, on the grounds of “she has her reasons, which I wouldn’t understand”.

    The current solution to my sister is that I don’t even answer her emails unless I am in the mood to amuse myself. She recently turned 50, and both myself and my youngest sister had the same thought: ask every friend we had to e-bomb her with 50th b-day wishes. She would have plotzed, as she doesn’t seem to understand that being 50 is an improvement over the alternative. But then, just a few years ago, she was refusing to reveal her age to the mother of the 20-something she was pursuing. The woman was only five years older than herself. In the end, the e-bomb was only a wicked plot that went uncompleted.

    If you have an unpleasant relative, it’s really your choice how you handle them. Personally, I detest long, whiny, phone bitch-fests, so I screen my calls…or if I must take them…I find an excuse/reason to get off the line when I’m ready. Cardiac arrest. Home invaders. Space aliens, complete with probes. Cat vomiting. Killer cockroaches with assault rifles. Or just, “I can’t talk anymore, email me. Bye now.”. Curiously, it’s often a sad fact that these people are the one’s who garner the most sympathy and attention from clueless family members.

    But you don’t have to be among the them. Screen your calls, delete emails, and live guilt-free and without shame.

  19. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Should you stay? Oh, by all means. Your wife is a prize. and look at the possible pleasures she can bring you. Her great in the sack buddy may be charming the daylights out of other women, too. Soon you could all find yourselves being interviewed by the health department to find out the source for your incurable STDs.

    In other words, get real, stop being such a schmuck, and give this dangerous woman the boot.  

    LW#2: Well, depending on speed, a two-hour walk can amount to nothing more than moving from the couch to the refrigerator, so she may not be lying on that score. Still, you need to minimize contact and mostly yawn when she cranks up with the nonsense. No doubt her friends (if she has any) and other family members also have her number. 

          

  20. avatar flyonthewall says:

    LW#1 please get thee to a licensed qualified therapist to get your head examined! Why are you staying with that woman? From what you have written about her in your letter it is obvious that she doesn’t love you and if someone who had something better to offer her would come along, she’s dump you like a hot potato. Why put up with that? Are you afraid to be alone and that no one else will come along because you are not that worthy? Nonsense! Go to a qualified professional and get some self worth back. Then take a trip to a divorce lawyer and start proceedings. Start loving yourself, dude. You are worth so much more.

  21. avatar Briana Baran says:

    For LW1: I have a handy hair shirt and scourge for you, if you’d like to punish yourself a bit more severely…or you could go with sackcloth and ashes for that wholesome but bloodless look so popular amongst modern martyrs and fashion mavens of the newly anointed.

    You do realize that “…he’s so good in bed…” has a subtext that reads thus, “…much better than you…”, and that your urge to provide foot rubs, and massages, or whatever passes for TLC in your domestic arrangement (I shudder a bit to think) smacks of a submissive’s need to be passively dominated. Perhaps you ought purchase for yourself a collar, something in leather, with a tasteful steel plate that reads “Slave”, an actual locking clasp, and a D-ring for the attachment of a leash. I can think of other…restraints…you might come to enjoy…but she seems to already have a virtual lock on those bits, so perhaps the actual physical accoutrements of bondage could wait a bit.

    Your letter doesn’t read as if you are asking when you should leave…it sounds as if you are asking for permission, and tacit approval…to stay. You’re an adult, ducks…make your own decision. But a bit of advice…when she starts talking about anything relating to The Gimp, and darting appraising glances your way…it may be time to bail.

  22. avatar Kriss says:

    LW1:  Dude, the time to give up trying & leave was when you became aware of the 2nd affair.

    She told you what she was getting out of the affairs & why she wasn’t giving up her lover.  Now you have to ask yourself what you’re getting out of the marriage & why you’re still trying to “save” your marriage when your wife has made it clear she’s happy the way things are & has no intentions to change.

  23. avatar Lourdes says:

    Sorry to ask, but English is not my first language… what exactly does “TLC” stand for? Thanx in advance for any information! :)

  24. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Margo – how funny!  When I call my mother each week, I use my bluetooth to talk to her and play solitare on my Blackberry.  It’s the only way I can make it through the conversation.

  25. avatar pigeons says:

    #2 A Sister Who Does Not Tell the Truth

    Sister needs to be tested for Lyme Disease. Especially for feeling good 1 day, and not the next day. Meniere’s involves unexplained cause, and ringing in the ears, balance problems etc. Dr’s do not want to treat Lyme Disease, so they just name diseases. See why in the documentary ‘Under Our Skin’ underourskin[dot]com

    Anyone accused of being a hypochondriac needs to be tested for Lyme Disease, by a Lyme Specialist. lymediseaseassociation.org (Your Family Doc won’t help you… note the word won’t as opposed to can’t).

    Shame on those calling sick family members liars! For Shame!

    • avatar A R says:

      Pigeon, that’s crazy-people talk!

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Mmmm…pigeons…I think my sister has been tested for every disease that it is remotely medically feasible to BE tested for, and used phrenology, tarot cards, tea leaves and the entrails of sheep to be certain she isn’t afflicted with the meems, megrims and demonic possession (and not the somnambuliform psychiatric sort).

      Not that she actually IS an hypochondriac…it’s really more of a last resort mechanism to come up with an untreatable, mysterious ailment when she lacks recourse for the purpose of gaining the spotlight. As are her hysterical, emotive theatrics when the men she treats with dispassionate contempt, verbally abuses for their many faults and deficiencies, and constantly compares to other more delectable specimens finally engage their brains and realize that she really IS NOT going to go *there* after months of time, emotion, generosity and patience wasted, and that she actually IS that abusive, avaricious and demanding and quietly fade away, change their numbers, and leave no forwarding. This is when she inevitably decides that the flavor of the moment was The One to whom she had given her…heart…and cannot conceive that he would not have seen her True Love, and that he could have treated her So Cruelly.

      Until the next one flies into her web’s sticky side…that is.

      Of course family lies. That’s how I learned not to do so. Darling pigeons, your post greatly resembles that with which the avian variety of your nom de guerre so liberally and noxiously decorates public monuments and parked cars.