Yes, I'm Married. Why Aren't You Pursuing Me?

QUESTION: Hi - I have just found out about your blog and I think it's so cool that women can get a man's view honestly and insightfully, so kudos to you both.

My question is this - I am in my mid thirties, married but we have problems and though we still share a home - primarily because of the kids - we talk very little - no drama at all, more like a quiet death. I feel both of us are unsure and maybe scared to actually DO anything about it hence we continue to drift along. Serperate bedrooms, no sex, no affection. It may sound crazy to some but for now we are stuck in it. Also our culture (we are not American) tends to frown on divorce so..
Anyway, I started a new job recently and there is a guy there who I got friendly with - incidentally we are from similar cultures. So we would chat occasionally and he was always willing to listen and give advice as he has been working in the organisation for a while, once or twice he helped smooth over a minor issue I had with another senior colleague. But - he generally always acts professionally. I mean I do not expect him to proposition me in the office but I have been pretty used to guys making it clear they were interested (before I married) so it's been a bit of a letdown. Then one day after a staff meeting he asks me to accompany him to pick up files in another department, from there we got talking for maybe 40 minutes at the carpark (we had dropped off the files and he kept saying "wait up for me" so I did. We had a great time just laughing and talking and I was friendly enough. Then nothing. Back to Mr Professional and cool thereafter.

So weeks go by and I'm kinda cool as well. Then another day we got talking and at some point I jokingly said "gosh you're kinda hard to read, I've been working here for months and I thought especially as we are from the same place that we would be great pals by now, but we're not!" Now I said this in a laughing way. He then came back with "No I'm really nice and more fun out of the office, I tell you what lets go catch a movie next week". So I said ok. And he was like "you really mean it" I said sure. Well he texted a couple of times to confirm the movie and eventually we did meet up to watch it. Boring movie. Anyway after the movie I had thought we could go get dinner/drinks and actually get to know each other better but he said he had a headache so we cut it short and went our serperate ways. No follow up calls or anything. At work he is basically the same though I told him I was moving to a new department. I had a small crisis during my last week and texted him to ask advice. He replied with "so ask". I rang talked about it he was supportive then we started chatting about other stuff. He then said we should go out again for dinner or dancing soon and I should tell him when I was ready. I said cool. In summary, I never heard from him again. I have left that department.

Now a couple of extra stuff - at some stage early on he did ask if I was married - I said yes but there were issues but I did not feel I could share them with people I did not know well. We did not talk about it again. I had hoped it would come up the night we went out so I could clarify things a bit but he had a headache. Another thing is - I firmly subscribe to the teaching that a man has to pursue the woman - it's part cultural, part my upbringing..I feel I made it pretty clear through subtle signals - and going to see a movie! that I was interested. So I guess if he did not follow through he was not into me. Maybe the marriage thing scared him off - but at least he could have found out a bit more...Oh well, what do you both think? My marriage situation sounds odd to some but there are people in similar situations - they lead more or less serperate lives, it suits them, they may see other people discreetly but for various reasons do not actually formally separate. Of course - if either partner falls for another person it may change things. I never lied to this guy but did indicate that things were not as they seemed.


GARLAND: Thanks for your question!

I can respect folks for trying to live up to their cultural expectations, but I can't help but feel that any man and woman who are legally married yet only pose as married for the sake of the kids are somehow doing more harm than good. Kids are extremely smart and they know mom and dad don't really love each other, and they'll probably develop a skewed interpretation of what a happy marriage should be. Would you want one of your kids to be stuck in your unhappy situation in 15 or 20 years? Or would you tell them to be happy and worry not about who in your community will be offended?

I bring that point up, not to be the judgemental jerk that I can be but to offer a slightly different view on your choice to have a roommate that looks like your husband. Again, I can respect culture and tradition, but you only get one life to live, and you spending the rest of your life unhappy and lonely so some folks that know your mom and dad can be pleased might not be best for you.

But back to the guy at your job... he's probably not going to try to get much closer to you. Maybe HE wants a girlfriend that IS NOT MARRIED. Maybe he wants someone who's heart he can have without committing adultery. Maybe he wants to be able to date and go ANYWHERE he wants with a woman without having to worry about who sees them, and most of all he probably wants to date a woman without the fear of her angry husband murdering him to defend "his home". I could go on and on. Sadly, while you are probably a fine woman and a great companion for some lucky guy, as long as you are married you can never be another man's EVERYTHING.

And there is a worse side to this because if anyone that knows you are married and sees you talking, flirting or being close to another man - regardless of your culture - the word will spread like wildfire and it will be only a matter of time before your husband finds out. Then HE will be justified in pursuing the divorce from his "loose" wife, and then you will carry a tarnished reputation for yourself and your kids in the eyes of all of these people who's opinions you hold so dear.

My advice is to think carefully about what will make you happy in life and what you are willing to sacrifice for that happiness.

CHUCK: I concur. I admire you and your husband trying to maintain a veneer of domesticity for your children. However, my feeling about cultural traditions is this: They should not be adhered to past the point of common sense. I think your loveless marriage, that has you looking at the workplace for affection and companionship, has largely passed that point.

Children are more perceptive than we give them credit for. And I believe it's quite possible that your kids see that you and their father are going through the motions. Barely. So while you think you may be doing them a favor, for the reasons Garland stated and others, you may be depriving them of a view of what a truly loving relationship is like. To say nothing of what you're depriving yourself of.

While I think it is good you were able to connect with someone who was, on some level, able to show you what you're missing, you should not feel upset or wronged that he has not consistently pursued you. YOU ARE MARRIED. He may be attracted to you, but is not going after you. And it could be for any number of reasons. Moral reservations. Fear of a Pissed-off Hubby. Reluctance at becoming the subject of water cooler gossip at work. But you have no right to expect anything of him as long as your home situation is what it is.

I'm going to tell you to do what I always do: Talk to your husband. Maybe he's going through what you are, and is attracted to someone but cannot go further because of your marriage. But the primary difference between you could be simple. Men can live in limbo for years, staying in situations where there is no life advancement for fear of the unfamiliar, or having to shell out some money. Women are different in that respect. Most women feel the need to move on at some point. Maybe now is the time.


A Bad Man

Question: Hey there Chuck and Garland...Awesome blog and the posts are very insightful and full of good candid information. This is a long post, but please bear with me. I'm trying to give two sides not just mine.

My question is about my husband. I asked for a separation about three months ago after three years of dealing with his verbal abuse. We have 15yrs together and 3 children.

Every three months on the dot I dealt with criticism and his work stress that he took out on me. If he had a problem with his health or work, I was the "punching bag" he'd focus on something that irked him (the house not be clean, me not handling the children more firmly, not keeping my car clean (because he's paying the note mind you), and so on) He left out of the country for a year and I spent that whole year happily doing my thing. The kids and I did a great job functioning, although we missed him. He got back home and I kid you not, two months later, I endured a round of criticisms and attacks on my "flaws". I bawled like a baby. My self-esteem was shot.

Finally, he left on business for two months and on the phone he started telling me that I don't pay enough attention to him, don't do the things "his boys" do, and so on. So finally I asked him, "well with all of these problems I seem to be having, do I even make you happy?" His response? "Sometimes". I asked, well can I get a percentage (because I could not believe it and I deal with hurtful things by laughing it off). He gave me percentages (I asked for it right?) I hung up totally feeling like crap on the bottom of his shoe. Worthless and not much of anything.

When he got back home, I confronted him. I told him that what he had been doing to me was abusive and I should have recognized it sooner, but I guess I was denying that this was happening to me. He thought I was being sensitive. That pointing out things that I need to work on is not criticizing. It's reminding me to "straighten up my act" so to speak. Well, I asked for a separation, because I did not feel good about myself or our marriage. I asked for counseling for himself as individuals and us together. I wanted promises that this would not happen again. He said he could not promise me that and he was not cool on doing therapy on his own. So I told him I would leave the house and go home to my family for a while.

I could not be intimate with him, because he associates intimacy with everything being okay with us. But also, because I was still to hurt by his words to connect to him on that level. We continued to live in the same house and talk, but he kept pushing me to make a decision about us. Although I was trying to get through this hurt that he'd caused me, he was doing nothing but wanting to know if we were going to make up soon or was I going to ask for a divorce. I told him I just wanted a separation, I didn't want to make a decision like that.

Well, over the holiday, actually before then, I found out he had been seeing another woman. He began staying out late on the weekend, coming home the next morning, and having intimate conversations. I found his cell phone bill and called the woman. She said he told her that we were getting a divorce. When I confronted him, he denied they were seeing each other and that they were just friends. Well, he didn't' know I talked to her already and I knew he'd been sleeping with her for over a month. It hurt me very deeply that he had done this to me. I told him that it was over and I was leaving for good.

Well, not less than 24hrs later, while I'm packing up the house, he's now asking me to not leave or divorce him. That he doesn't want to lose me, that he can't see his life without me. He was sorry for the hurt he caused. I can see he is sorry and regretful, but is he serious Chuck and Garland? That he was trying to fill a void because I wasn't touching him or being intimate with him. This is over the space of a month and a half before he actually slept with another woman. Another month and a half that he'd continued sleeping with her until I found out.

I had to ask him, if he was me what would he do? He said, he would try to work things out because we have time and had been through allot together. I'm scared! I am seriously hurt and frightened being in this relationship. How am I supposed to be in this relationship feeling like this? What is wrong with him?

Bewildered on the West Coast

GARLAND: Thanks for your question!

Please keep in mind that Chuck and I are not trained professionals when it comes to this kind of stuff. So, please think about what we say, but don't base a life changing decision TOO HEAVILY on our advice.

You said you were going to try and give both sides of your situation, yours and your husbands, but that is rather impossible since you really don't know the REAL cause of his actions. I doubt if what he tells you his causes are anything close to whats truly going on inside his head and heart.

Personally, I'm a firm believer in the fact that just because two people get married that doesn't mean they were meant to get married nor that they have to stay married! If your husband is killing your self esteem and treating you like a child [because he sounds like an angry father scolding his child about cleaning the car, and the house, and the kids] then maybe you and he aren't meant to be together. Frankly, you are putting up with a hell of a lot of nonsense, and this cheating mess really raises my eyebrows. With HIV and AIDS quietly running rampant across the country, cheating is more than an emotional or fidelity issue, it is major health and life risk! Whatever you do, you should make any long term decision on your marriage contingent upon him taking an HIV test and allowing you to read his unopened results FIRST! He may be killing you in more than just an emotional way.

Can he change? Can he really want to turn things around? Yeah, sure. Maybe. Technically anything can be possible. He could turn around and become a stellar husband, then again he could flip the script and show you a darker side of him that you never even dreamed of.

Through all of this, no matter what your choice is, you have to make sure you don't become "A Mission Woman." A Mission Woman is the woman that latches herself to an unworthy man and finds it her Mission in life to take his abuse and take his cheating and take his beatings and take his shortcomings and take his insecurities all in an effort to make him a better man; all in an effort to let her suffering be the price to pay for chance that some loser could become a winner. If your man is ain't worthy, then your choices are fairly clear.

CHUCK: Wow. Just wow. I got a mental picture just now. It's like this man's mission in life was to destroy your self-esteeem, and I just pictured him on the deck of some aircraft carrier, with a big banner flying behind him saying: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Some questions are hard to answer. For this question, the hardest thing for me will be containing my outrage about this man.

Garland is on point with his answer, except in one respect. If you were a "Mission Woman," hopefully by now you would have seen that there is no redemption for this creep, he has taken no opportunity to improve himself, and would have aborted that mission by now.

Where do I begin? Let me try here: The phone conversation you had with him, when he decided to open up about his unhappiness with YOU, should have been your cue to vent your unhappiness with him. Rather than hanging up feeling beat-down and drained, you should have told him how you felt then. You couldn't have asked for a better time.

But I guess it doesn't matter when you wake up. The important thing is that you did. Ultimately, The best statement of his feelings for your marriage was not his obligatory pleas that you give him another chance. It was that he sought out another woman for sex after A MONTH AND A HALF of separation. That's what's called adding insult to injury.

Is he serious about wanting to get back together with you? Sure. But don't think it's for selfless reasons. Your husband has not demonstrated himself to be very altruistic person. He seems concerned with his own needs above all else. So he may have realized that it won't be as easy to find someone as willing to take his crap as you have been over the years. He may know that having been caught cheating is not the best way to go into a divorce. Either way, Bewildered, life is too damn short to spend any more time with this bad person than the 15 or so years that you already have. Cut him loose. Don't give it a second thought.


You're Not My Daddy!

Dear Chuck and Garland

Great work! Frank advice! I don’t know if my beau was hinting when he showed me your blog! Whatever I am keen on getting your advice on this troubling situation.

I am studying in the UK and my son, my spouse and the housekeeper are back home. Problem is, my boyfriend and my son just seem not to be able to get along. Reason I think is that my son and I lived together for a long time after the death of my husband and he saw this new man as an intruder here to rob him of his mother. I think I have managed to get him to accept that the love I have for him is different from the love I have for my spouse. After all he is 15 years old at the height of puberty.

What distresses me most is that whenever there is a problem between the both of them (remember I am overseas) my spouse keeps saying he is leaving (twice in 3 months)! He hasn’t left though! The truth is I am deeply in love with this man, love him dearly and he knows. I think it is safe to say he loves me too. I keep pointing out to him it is most wrong to let a child determine the future of the relationship of two adults. His position is that he has tried to reach out to the child with minimal success. He has really tried though on an adhoc basis – not sustained; one off events of going out then period of little or no interaction – just the bare minimum communication. At the same time my son has been rude and disrespectful. I have done my bit, given the distance, of trying to get my son to understand his responsibility in ensuring a positive relationship.

His position is that he loves me but he cannot deal with my son. What is your take on the matter?


CHUCK: That's a rough one now. But I think the problems that your son and your "spouse," are having are mainly premised on the fact that they are forced to live together while the one person that they have in common (YOU), is not around. It's sort of like an experiment you're running.

Your son is frank and feisty. That's good. But fifteen-year-old boys can also be self-centered and prone to moodswings. And when he's miserable, and you're not there, who can he take it out on? Your boyfriend. I promise you, if you were there, you'd be getting some of this choice attitude, too. And it appears as though he is only prepared to extend himself a little to your son. He seems to think that trying to bond every now and then ought to work, and your son should be won over to him by now. Only on TV are things that easy.

While I agree that you have a man who must love you for dealing with what he's dealing with, he can't keep threatening to leave you over this. Especially if he doesn't mean it. What does he expect you to do, after all? Throw your son in the street? At the very least, he needs to find a different way to express his frustration.

When you get back home, I would make it a point to get the three of you in a room, as quickly as you can. I would emphasize to them that they are making what is already a complicated situation difficult. Son needs to know that Boyfriend is not trying to make you forget his father. Boyfriend (who I'm assuming has no kids of his own) needs to know that you can't just bond with a child when it's convenient for you. Let them know how much this means to you, and that you are hoping to have a life that includes them both. Encourage them both to speak honestly, maintain realistic expectations, and hopefully you can at least work towards clearing the air with the men in your life.

GARLAND: Thanks for this interesting question!

I agree with Chuck when he says that YOU, the only thing your son and your boyfriend [spouse?] have in common is out of the picture and leaving those two to fend for themselves. This has got to be very hard on everyone, especially your son.

I'm very concerned about your son in all of this because he is, after all, still a child EMOTIONALLY. I assume your husband was his father and this means he's already lost one parent and now with your boyfriend, I'm confident that he feels that he's losing another. I hope that you will be coming back home very soon, or calling for your son to come join you - otherwise, any advice that Chuck and I give is going to be useless in a matter of months. While he is 15 and while you do need companionship, you owe your son at least 3 more years of being your biggest priority! I think your boyfriend should know this and acknowledge this. While he is a reader of our blog, [and we greatly appreciate that!!!] I think he needs to turn off these threats to leave. They do no one any good. They upset you, they make your son feel guilty, and they probably do nothing to make your boyfriend feel good either.

I think you need to get them both together at Christmas time when you return. Before you all come together, you need to take your son off somewhere with just the two of you and you need to be all about him for a whole day. A WHOLE DAY!!! Even if it means staying in a hotel away from your home - you are his mother and he is your son, that is just not a bond that your boyfriend is a part of. Even if your son is a big, grown looking kid with broad shoulders, a mustache and a deep voice - he is still 15 years old inside - and he needs some serious MOM time! After you have been all about him for 12 or 15 hours, gently bring up your boyfriend and how you feel about him, ask your son's opinion of your friend, GENTLY defend him where you need too and in other places leave your son's opinions alone. But when you finish, let him know that your love as his mother with never change or never fade and let him know that you plan on bringing all three of you together for a discussion.

Then, take some time and be with your boyfriend - ALONE. Remind him of how important your son is to you. Remind him that you still owe your son at least 3 more years of caregiving. Let him know that there is a place for him in your heart but you are not going to give up, or kick out your son. Bt you need to be ready to make some tough decisions. He is your BOYFRIEND and your SON is your SON. At this point YOU and YOUR SON are a package deal, either he is in or he's not. If he is still in, then the three of you need to sit down someplace neutral - a park, a restaurant, a Starbucks, and talk this thing through. Lay down the rules, no yelling, no cursing, no crying, no fingerpointing, and respect all around. Try to get everyone on the same page and see where things go - but just be ready to make some tough decisions. Nothing in life is easy - especially having to live alone with your mother's boyfriend, or your girlfriends teen-aged son! THEY BOTH SHOULD BE GIVEN AWARDS!