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

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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 Phillip Koons says:

    Lw1: I am absolutely floored at how clueless you seem to be. Your self esteem has gotta be suffering. Being told flat out that you aren’t worth it because the sex is good with her lover would be devastating to anyone’s ego who actually had dignity prior to the event.

    Seriously….stop and think. The woman who made a commitment to you openly mocks that commitment. Yet you want to be nice?

    Screw that.

  2. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 - There are millions and millions of women that are married to affluent men who provide for their physical needs. They have the big house, the credit cards, cash, designer clothes, purses and shoes. They have the “right friends” and live in the “right neighborhoods.” Their husbands rountinely have sex and relationships outside their marraiges and the wives look the other way with the rationalization “I don’t care who he messes around with, as long as my home life stays the same.”

    To a certain extent, this is the vibe I get from this letter writer. He is so pathethic that he has told himself its okay that he play second fiddle as long as his relationship (when she is at home) remains the same. The ultimate insult was as Margo pointed out, she has essentially said he is lacking in bed. That alone should be enough for him to leave.

    How lovely that she is bedding a man that is “low on a social scale” how kind of her to go slumming. She sounds like a piece of work. “If” she did indeed say this and the letter writer isn’t just saying that to make himself feel superior….this letter writer sounds like a weak man. But no different than the millions of other women we all know are out there, happily putting up with a man that routinely betrays his marraige vows.

    Letter #2 -  Wow, talk about hitting close to home. Boy can I relate! For years I too would put up with listening to the compulsive lies of those close to me. Now I call them out on it.  Someone close to me made a comment about missing work because she had (yet again) another doctor’s appointment.  Then she made a slip of the tongue and commented that she “needs to make an appointment to see her doctor and how he was going to kill her because she hasn’t seen a doctor in over 2 years”

    I told her “That’s funny, you’ve been missing work because you said you had doctor’s appointments” She stammered and became defensive. Each time she lies, I call her out on it. I’ve noticed the lying is dwindling.           

  3. avatar christineb says:

    I was wondering if I could pose a question to the group about lying. I teach at a college and have a student who has spent the whole semester lying to me about various things. One recent lie was a blatant violation of the academic integrity policy because it involved a class assignment. I am tempted to report her but my supervisor thinks it’s a small enough lie that it probably doesn’t matter. I think he needs to suffer the consequences of his actions but now I’m wondering if she’s right. The student lies so much I’m not even sure she’ll get the connection. Any thoughts?

    • avatar mayma says:

      Here is what I would do:

      Call student into office, say “this is a blatant violation of the academic integrity policy of this institution.  You have two choices — you can ‘fess up right now or you can lie some more.  What’s it gonna be?”  Don’t say another word.

      If student fesses up:  “Congratulations, you have been warned.  Next violation will be reported, no exceptions, and I suggest you see the school counseling office about your pathology, ’cause I know this isn’t the first time.”

      If student doesn’t admit it, then:  “Wrong choice.  You are being reported for this violation.  Had you come clean, it might’ve gone down differently.  I suggest you see the school counseling office about your pathology, ’cause I know this isn’t the first time.”

      NO WAY would I let the kid off with nary a peep about it.  Your supervisor is being irresponsible.  It’s the institution’s job to shape these people.

  4. avatar Caramia says:

    LW#1 – You deserve much better than what you are getting.  Your wife might be getting away with as much as she can because she thinks you’ll never divorce her.  There’s women out there who wouldn’t think of trying that.  On the other hand, respect demands respect.

  5. avatar Claudia Marek says:

    Re: Sister who does not tell the truth… I obviously do not know the whole story but I work with a condition called Fibromyalgia in which the symptoms are highly variable. Patients are often thought to be hypochondriacs. Patients CAN walk several miles one day and not get out of bed on the next.

  6. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    I DO NOT agree with ANY of the above comments or with Margo. How many millions of women put up with their husband’s cheating because their home life is still good? In this case the situation is reversed and everyone thinks he should shut down this life and get a new one. Well, he didn’t say he was unable to live the the situation so what is wrong with continuing to live with the situation? True this is not an ideal situation but how many- if any- ideal marriages have you ever seen?
    This man travels and his wife is getting some on the side. This is not the end of the world. If they are happy in the time they are together why should he throw out the baby with the bath water (as my mother would have said? An open marriage is a LOT more common than we would like to believe. Please stop making this man feel bad about himself. He loves a woman who has a lover. It is not that big a deal. Not as big a deal as living as a divorced man starting his life over.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Nikki, I didn’t agree with Margo, or anyone else on this thread, because my take was completely different…and from yours as well. I think that the LW enjoys his wife’s affairs, takes a great deal of pleasure from her statement regarding her lover’s bedroom accomplishments, and delights in the knowledge that she can attract a virile but less-than-socially-acceptable “stud” (I suspect that is how he regards this), while returning to him for spoiling, perhaps intellectual and cultural stimulation, and the social niceties of life.

      Yes, my answer was sarcastic, but that was because he was appealing to Margo for an answer as to “how long he should wait” before having had enough and taking flight. I don’t personally believe that he has any desire to make his exit. He wants permission to stay, and at least tacit approval for taking personal satisfaction in what he may think is a highly exotic, naughty and at least inappropriate relationship. Look up “cuckolding” on the internet…you may be vastly surprised at how many men thoroughly thrill to the idea of their women slinking off to have sex with men that are stronger, more “manly”, better lovers, perhaps “lower rent”. My objection is to his own personal lack of integrity and dishonesty…if he is at worst tolerant, and at best enthralled with their arrangement…don’t behave like a naughty schoolboy caught with daddy’s battered porn, be a man, and say, “Hey, this is my kink, and I LIKE it”.

      As for the millions of women you mentioned, whose husbands or significant others are serial cheaters, and who “put up with it because their home life is good” (unclear what you meant by that…that they get to maintain a certain desirable standard of living, that he doesn’t beat them, or bother *them* for sex, that well, at least he isn’t a serial killer or an axe murderer, that they are too fearful of living life on their own, too intimidated to deal with the problem, forced by religious dogma and convictions to live a loveless marriage and so tolerate their situation…) I mean, you said *”millions”* of women are “putting up” with this…not enjoying it, not loving their husbands, not happy…just enduring…I think you may have exaggerated a bit in your numbers, considering the divorce statistics. And someone simply tolerating an unfaithful partner, while NOT engaging in extra-relationship sex with another, or multiple other people, is not the definition of an “open marriage”. That’s a cheater taking advantage of a situation that his partner either can’t, or won’t leave.

      I have known couples in open relationships that actually were viable. While this is not my preference (one of the women invited me to participate when I was much younger, alternatively with her, her husband, and with both at the same time, with, or preferably without my (long gone ex) husband. I declined, mostly because he would never have agreed. In retrospect, it probably would have been interesting and enjoyable) or my husband’s, I have no issues with the lifestyle. I am not interested in interfering in what transpires in other peoples’ bedrooms, and am highly open minded regarding what amuses consenting adults.

      But being cheated on, and tolerating or enduring it for the sake of a decent home life is NOT the same as an open marriage, swinging, cuckolding, polyamory or what the LW seems to be dealing with, per his own attitude. And it pays, and usually pays off well, to be entirely honest with one’s self, especially in these sorts of situations.

  7. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    I DO NOT agree with ANY of the above comments or with Margo. How many millions of women put up with their husband’s cheating because their home life is still good? In this case the situation is reversed and everyone thinks he should shut down this life and get a new one. Well, he didn’t say he was unable to live the the situation so what is wrong with continuing to live with the situation? True this is not an ideal situation but how many- if any- ideal marriages have you ever seen?
    This man travels and his wife is getting some on the side. This is not the end of the world. If they are happy in the time they are together why should he throw out the baby with the bath water (as my mother would have said? An open marriage is a LOT more common than we would like to believe. Please stop making this man feel bad about himself. He loves a woman who has a lover. It is not that big a deal. Not as big a deal as living as a divorced man starting his life over.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      O, and Nikki? An open marriage, or swinging, cuckolding or swapping are all defined as *arrangements”, which means that typically, they are OPENLY agreed upon prior to commencement, with rules and boundaries accordingly (as I said, I’ve been around). Unless a partner *breaks* the rules, there cannot be any “cheating”. If you and/or your partner is allowed to have other lovers, they are not “cheating”.

      Infidelity occurs when a person breaks the bonds of a monogamous relationship. That is, by definition, “cheating”. Your argument is specious at best.

      And speaking of those “millions of women”, I am curious…why not “millions of ‘people’”? Women now cheat on spouses almost as frequently as men, according to the statistics, in the USA. We ARE discussing a male LW now…so why millions of women? I’d call a woman who loathed her situation with a cheating husband who was flaunting his lover’s sexual prowess and lowly status, but who was too weak to leave (and truly wanted to, unlike the current LW) as much of a fool as I’d call a man. I’ve left a miserable husband and been self-supporting with a toddler, bills and few prospects, so I have no double standard. I’d definitely leave a cheater…love or not…because I have no desire to catch something I couldn’t scrape off with Clorox and a pumice stone. I require respect…and cheating shows a complete lack of such.

  8. avatar CatA says:

    Letter1 – This could have been written by my brother and his continuing “relationship” with his tramp ex-wife.  My brother, another spineless sheep like LW1, was deserted about a year ago by his wife of almost 30 years after she had met the “love of her life” (a convicted felon) on the Internet. Oh, and she’d already had several other lovers over the years, but he kept this to himself.  She insisted on a divorce, he wanted counseling (somehow feeling he needed to “court” her again).  She won, and received half his military and civilian pensions for her efforts.  Once she burned through all the money, she came back, of course, with more promises of love, and my brother, Mr. Sheep, took her back under the condition of counseling.  She never kept the appointments and claimed that she was “in love” with both of them.  Supposedly she wanted the divorce so she could finally “follow her dreams” but she is too stupid to realize that she needs a job to do this.  Apparently, she’d rather file bankruptcy than get a job.  Or just keep come running back to her ex.  And she knows how to keep hornswoggling Mr. Sheep because after a brief “absence” and true to form, she’s back yet again, and Mr. Sheep has taken her back in … yet again.  This despite the fact that only within the last week, during a phone call (we live a good distance from one another) my brother had voiced that he was finally moving on with his life, now dating, and telling me he was enjoying the chance to do this.  And now his ex-wife, the soulless waste of carbon, is back in the picture yet again, with her usual in-your-face, it’s-all-about-me style, and her self-serving love-means-never-having-to-say-you’re-sorry FB postings. This manipulative female has absolutely no conscience and seems to think that just because her idiot ex-husband believes her for the 500th time, the rest of the family will just have to accept her back on her terms, with no questions asked or apologies expected.  Apparently, her reprehensible conduct should be of no further concern to any of us.  This untenable situation has really upset our elderly parents and me, too.  I’m sure she’s back to clean out the accounts and will be gone again soon enough, but only after having brought my brother another step closer to financial ruin.  I really don’t know how or even if, I want to continue communication with my brother if he continues to allow his heart and his life to be a revolving door for his ex.  (BTW, their kids are all adults, but youngest still living at home.)  Our parents don’t want to break off communication with their spineless son, but I’m about ready to write off my brother.

  9. avatar David Bolton says:

    I wasn’t even trying to be funny or snarky this time—I read LW1′s letter and was like: “dude, seriously?”

    And LW2 is yet another “I feel guilty for not letting my lying father/mother/sister/dogcatcher step all over my feelings EVEN MORE THAN THEY ALREADY DO.”

  10. avatar R Scott says:

    Not snarky at all. Noooo…….. not at all   :-)