He owns me

Cary’s classic column from THURSDAY, APR 8, 2004

My boss is a nasty, sexist, arrogant man. How can I defend myself against his unreasonable behavior?


Dear Cary,

I hate my boss. He’s a horrible, old, mean, vain, nasty, sexist, arrogant man who yells and berates me and the rest of his staff constantly. I have a stomachache all day long while I’m working and often fantasize that he will die.

There’s no use in trying to talk to him about his behavior. Our office is his fiefdom and he would only blame me for being too sensitive. Loudly.

In any other circumstance, I would, of course, quit. But I am a first-year graduate from law school, he is a judge, and right now he pretty much owns me. If I quit, I have no doubt he would do what he could to make my life very difficult. He has contacts at the law firm that I plan on working at next year and despite his reputation for being a horrible person, I think there’s a big chance they would renege on my offer.

His influence is, of course, limited. I could always move to another city and start over. But I’ve worked so hard. I went to a really good law school. I have a very bright future, and this job is a big part of that. After all my hard work, it would be such a disappointment to have this conspicuous blemish to work around.

On the other hand, I don’t know how long I can control myself. I’m proud and I have tremendous difficulty not defending myself when he berates me. If I talk back too much I may just cross that line.

I have only five months left on my contract. I know that I should harden myself to it as best I can, do what I can to preserve my dignity, and just finish the year off. But I want to quit more than anything I can imagine. I really think I’m getting an ulcer from all the anxiety and stress.

I’ve been thinking about saying that I need to leave to care for an ailing family member (which I do have). He would yell at me and be horrible, but I don’t think he’d sabotage me in that situation. I hate putting my co-workers in the situation and I hate lying. But I don’t know that I can go on. Can you give me some advice?

A Very Desperate Serf

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Desperate,

The law, it seems to me, is a tool for justice and fairness. To determine what is just and fair, we first determine what is true — we determine the facts. To this end, the law is written with precision. For instance, the law does not say that it shall be punishable by a term in prison not exceeding 25 years if anyone shall be found by a jury of his peers to be a moronic, incompetent motherfucker. We recognize that there are indeed moronic, incompetent motherfuckers out there, but it’s a subjective call. It’s hard to prove.

For that reason, a good lawyer focuses on the facts.

If the fact is that he’s disappointed with your work, and angry with you because you did not meet his expectations, then certain actions might flow from that. There would be nothing wrong in his telling you that. That much could be regarded as a fact: He had certain expectations that were not met, and as a result he had certain feelings.

However, if he deduces from his feelings that you are a backward jackass, and further deduces that since you are a backward jackass he is justified in abusing you, he’s not being a very good lawyer. He’s acting on flawed assumptions. The assumption that you are a backward jackass is subjective and unprovable; it’s no basis on which to act.

Habitual criminals and habitually abusive people have in common their disregard for the suffering of others, and their disregard for the facts. They justify their abuses on erroneous, misleading, meaningless or unprovable notions — that the victim was a lowdown, deserving scoundrel, for instance. Or that the victim was an incompetent and overly sensitive law clerk. If your boss believes you are a backward jackass and therefore it’s permissible to call you names, he’s got more in common with the criminal element than he does with an officer of the court.

So I think you should stand up to him, either in person or in writing, and argue the point that verbal abuse runs counter to the spirit of the law. If he blames you for being too sensitive, you need a counterargument. Ask him if slaves were being too sensitive. Ask him if Rosa Parks was too sensitive about sitting in the back of the bus. Ask him who determines how sensitive one should be. It’s the law that determines that, right? Find cases in which employees fought abusive bosses and ask him if they were too sensitive. Find cases in which sexist, abusive language was used as the cause for damages for, say, intentional infliction of emotional distress.

As to your concerns about the practical consequences of fighting back: The law is more than a career, it’s a calling. As a lawyer, you have a duty to uphold not just the law but what it stands for — shielding the weak from the predations of the strong.

I’m not suggesting you act recklessly, only that you place principle above personal convenience. There are things you can do to shield yourself. If you have contacts at the law firm you intend to work for, see if you can’t have a confidential communication in which you describe the instances of abuse. Ask if it’s well known that he engages in such behavior. Ask if such behavior is tolerated at the firm you plan to work for. Ask what the possible repercussions would be if you were to have a principled falling out with this judge. And think hard about whether you can in good conscience work for a firm whose culture condones such behavior as this judge is known for.

A lawyer needs a fighting spirit. If you’re going to use your training for good in the world, you have to learn to fight tyranny. What better time to begin fighting tyranny than right now?

Cary Tennis Newsletter Sign Up

I’m not ready to be a stepmom

Cary’s classic column from TUESDAY, JAN 13, 2009

If I marry, I get a 16-year-old who can barely take care of herself.


Dear Cary,

I’m 29 and my potential stepdaughter-to-be is 16. We live under the same roof, and it’s driving me crazy inside.

Let’s rewind the story by six months to last July, when my boyfriend and I chanced upon a really nice flat with a magnificent sea view and decided to sort of officially move in together. He bought the flat because he had the money (with some chip-in from his mother), and I helped to make it a home with gadgets, accessories and lots of tender, loving care.

His daughter from a previous marriage, let’s call her Anna, “moved back in” with him years ago because her mother became mentally unstable when the girl was about 10. She abandoned Anna in a foreign country in a fit of madness. At that time, he used to rent a condo with a friend, and I stayed over a few nights a week. Anna spent most of her waking hours either in school or at her nanny’s who lived just a few floors below. I hardly saw her and neither did he, but we did make it a point to at least have a nice dinner together every weekend. It was an arrangement that suited me fine.

When we bought the flat, I knew the present arrangement would happen because she seemed old enough to care for herself and would no longer live near the nanny. What I didn’t realise was how much of a child she still is. I feel bad saying the following but the thoughts are real, so why lie in a letter seeking help? She appears to be a mess.

She has never gone for a haircut on her own. She does not know how to boil water, do a bed, dress herself appropriately and often needs to be reminded to brush her teeth and wash her hair. I brushed these initial signs aside as my inexperience with teenagers. Maybe my expectations were too high. But her dependence on instructions, sloppiness, clumsiness and general head-in-the-clouds mishaps simply surfaced every time she asked for help for something really basic, dropped a mug because she couldn’t tear her eyes off one of her books (she reads and finishes on average one fantasy book a day and generally does nothing else during the hols), soiled a towel with menstrual blood and just kept reusing it till I noticed and stopped her, and proclaimed to be an expert in something and then failed miserably because she simply imagined she was.

To be fair, she’s having a tough time negotiating the nitty-gritty of life because of an opulent lifestyle lived as child. She had maids to feed her and wash her, a chauffeur to drive her around, and a full-time tutor who coached her in every subject. The aforementioned lovely nanny continued the trend of waiting on her hand and foot. The woman also happens to absolutely love Anna. They keep in contact and she often invites Anna back for sleepovers. Come mid-February, Anna will be going to a new school, and the nanny has even told her to come back to stay with her because her own children have gone to university and she wants to have Anna in the house.

Looking at the bigger picture, going back to stay with the nanny is a short-term solution. I should think about Anna as a permanent feature in my life with my boyfriend should we get married. Like it or not, I will be her stepmother, and I can’t keep offloading her to someone else because she can’t take care of herself and I refuse to play caretaker or teacher. In my mind, I can hardly take care of myself.

In my most selfish moments, I think about how she will have a problem graduating because her studies are in a mess, since there’s no one to constantly monitor her. Seeing that she was getting nowhere on her own, we got her tutoring for a few of her weaker subjects, but I think it was too late. In any case, she told me that she thought getting tutoring for all her subjects was the norm. I think she expected to be rescued and was disappointed. I don’t know how she is going to pass junior college and get a degree at any rate. I also think about how she is going to get a job, clueless as she is about what her interests, strengths or weaknesses are. Being kind of unattractive physically, she might have problem falling in love and getting married. She still hates boys, for goodness’ sake! As I said, in my most selfish moments, I think about being burdened with Anna for the rest of my life.

I love my boyfriend. We have a great four-year relationship, and I can’t imagine leaving him. But. If I can’t accept a future with his daughter in the picture, if I can’t love her like my own, if I refuse to pick up where all other sensible adults in her life left off, then where is all this going? Her dad tries to be her friend, but I think what she really needs is a mother. Someone to teach her about the basics all over again. He can’t do that. It’s not in his nature or capability and he may well end up yelling at her and getting no improvement.

My mother was a free-and-easy but loving type who stressed independence in her children early. She wasn’t big on verbal guidance and detailed instructions. Looking back, I can’t remember how I picked up all those common skills that seem to just develop. No one had to tell me I was old enough to get a haircut by myself. I simply went when it was time and I loved it. No one had to tell me not to use dirty towels. Or maybe someone did, but I can’t remember. Whichever the case, I don’t know how to teach whatever this “common sense” is without going mad. It’s alien territory. My mother didn’t teach me so much as showed me in daily life. You don’t verbalize the basic! It’s so damn awkward and it makes me angry! And since we are talking about angry, I hate doing her laundry, folding her panties! I would rather be doing that for my mum and not someone else’s daughter! You see how mixed up my thoughts are about this?

So, what should I do? What should I do? What the hell should I do about Anna for the next two years, for the next 10 years, for the rest of my life? Or should I just say, I’m not the right woman for this father-and-daughter pair and move on?

Asking for It

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Asking for It,

I think clearly you are not the right woman for this father-daughter pair and you should move on.

To put it simply, resources need to be directed toward the care, feeding and upbringing of your boyfriend’s daughter. He is her father. Her mother is incapacitated. So he has a clear, unambiguous duty to raise her. You do not. You have no responsibility toward this girl. But if you marry your boyfriend, then you will have the same clear, unambiguous duty toward her as he does. Since you know that you’re not up to it, to marry him would be unconscionable. It would verge on the fraudulent: to knowingly take on a role in someone’s life that you do not want and are not capable of performing. So if you can do any good in this situation, it would be by telling your boyfriend that you are releasing him from the relationship so that he can turn his full attention to being a parent.

You say that while your boyfriend was renting the condo and Anna was living there with him, you and he hardly ever saw her. That may be one reason she does not know how to care for herself. No one has taught her. The comparison you make between your childhood and Anna’s childhood is not quite fair. Your mother did not go insane and abandon you. Your mother was there for you. Your mother taught by example. Of course you picked up life skills. I understand that it drives you crazy to see this child who has not picked up any of the life skills you took for granted at her age. Yes, it is baffling and crazy-making and outrageous. But it is because her mother went insane and abandoned her and her father did not pick up the task.

So now he has to raise her. In order to accomplish that, certain resources are needed. It is unclear whose money paid for the child’s opulent upbringing. But since she still has a nanny, there must still be resources, in a trust, or in your boyfriend’s bank, or in his mother’s bank, to pay for the care, feeding and education of this girl. Those resources should be explicitly directed toward that end. If your boyfriend cannot structure the resources at his disposal so they are used appropriately, then a professional should step in and set up a legal structure to ensure that the resources go where they are needed.

Having set up the legal structure to direct the appropriate resources toward the raising of this girl, then your boyfriend needs to act as a parent. The child should live with her father, and the father should pay the nanny to make regular visits to their home both to teach the daughter how to care for herself and to teach him how to care for a child. He should also arrange for the daughter to make periodic visits to the nanny’s home, so that she can absorb what life lessons she can about the orderly running of a household. Who else can help? What about your boyfriend’s mother? Can she make regular visits to the home and also help raise this girl? You mention that she has financial resources. She may also have love for her granddaughter.

In short, what I am recommending is that your boyfriend admit that up till now he has not been a good father to this girl. I am recommending a radical change, a radical shifting of priorities. If he is unable or unwilling to do that, or if he is incapable of even comprehending what is meant by a radical shifting of priorities, then my second choice would be for the child to go live with the nanny, and for all the resources earmarked for her support to be directed there.

But in my heart I feel that this father ought to dedicate the next few years of his life to raising his daughter. And you ought to do what the situation calls for, which is to urge everyone concerned to do what has to be done, and then step aside.

Are men spoiled rotten?

Cary’s classic column from WEDNESDAY, AUG 1, 2007

Men in their 40s keep breaking up with me because they want to have a baby. How selfish.


Dear Cary,

The third relationship in a row has ended because the man I was dating suddenly decided he wants children of his own. I’m 47 and the men were about my age. All said at the start they wanted a serious, long-term relationship, then Boom! They love me but I’m too old.

I’m not alone. You’d need a statistician to count the attractive, interesting, single women of a certain age who have been dumped for breeders.

I’m not talking about a clutch of pathetic broads sitting in a bar swilling cheap white wine and whining. We all go out on our own, do things we’re interested in and keep a sense of humor about it all. But when you do all that and see the slop computer matching comes up with, and are kind and polite when your 50-year-old ex introduces you to his 27-year-old wife and their new baby, it’s safer to stay at home and watch Bette Davis movies.

I’ve never lied about my age, and unless there’s some way — that only men know about — to bend the space-time continuum, men are aging at the same rate women age. So what’s with the baby wishes? Is it a cover for fear of commitment or are they just selfish?

I’m leaning toward selfish. My theory is that men of my generation have just had everything given to them. They grew up with at-home moms who took care of them. They came of sexual age before AIDS, when women were becoming independent, sex wasn’t evil anymore and being unmarried but living together was OK, so they didn’t need to commit. They got good jobs, they had independence plus relationships, and now they want to be young again, and with a young wife and children. They can be at 50 what they might have been at 30, only with money and a convenient excuse, age, for not meeting some of the more energetic requirements of parenthood.

I’m trying not to go from anger to fury. OK, I’m already way past fury — from sadness over another breakup to despair over never finding a romantic partner. How can I keep being optimistic despite disappointment after disappointment?

Thinking Men Are Spoiled

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Thinking,

Your theory about men is certainly interesting.

If you had a good title — some kind of “syndrome,” perhaps, like the “Combover Syndrome,” or maybe “The Pot-Bellied Peter Pan,” you could do a book. Maybe you should. It might sell.

But whether your theory is true or false you’re still a modern person in the modern world and you have to make choices and look out for yourself and not let people fuck with you.

So let us look at the simple truth. You had a series of disappointing experiences with men. You were hurt. You feel bad. You are trying not to go from anger to fury to sadness to despair. You want to keep your optimism.

I wonder why you want to keep your optimism. This optimism seems dangerous.

Why do you want to keep it? Of what value is it to you? Is it a shield from a bleaker view? Is it a bulwark against a bottomless despair?

See, I have my own suspicion that sometimes what we call optimism is more like a suicidal, willful naiveté, and that rather than shielding us from despair it leads us there. I haven’t worked this all out in my head, you understand, but something tells me that optimism is not your friend.

So what if you were not optimistic? Could you continue to date men? What if you continued to date men but assumed that every man you dated was an inveterate selfish bullshitter?

I guess maybe that would ruin it. OK, how about this: How about you continue to date but instead of optimism you carry with you a wise, careful, self-protective wariness and skepticism, perhaps paired with an inner certainty that you don’t need a damned fucking thing from any man. Nothing. You don’t need nothing from no man. Like the fish needs the bicycle, OK? You’re inert, self-contained, wary, observing, amused, detached. And you just pay attention to what you’re feeling. When your bullshit detector goes off you excuse yourself like you’re getting a phone call. And you quickly try to figure out what the fuck is going on. What do your instincts tell you? Are you being bullshitted again? Are you giving in to a wish, some wish that comes from someplace where wishes are never granted?

Your theory could be right or wrong. Certainly the historical conditions are there. But I’m not into making sweeping generalizations about men. You’ve still got the problem of personal choice. If certain patterns are repeating in your own life, then you are wise to look into what you are doing. You have to investigate it. You have to protect yourself. You have to stay away from men who do this to you.

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Once the kids are gone, I don’t want them coming back

Cary’s classic column from FRIDAY, NOV 4, 2005

My wife says returning home after college is the new normal — but if they return, I may have to leave.


Dear Cary,

I am 46 and the father of two children, ages 16 and 20 (juniors in college and high school, respectively). My wife and I married very young, had our kids a little earlier than expected, embraced it and made what we felt was the difficult, correct choice of being a single-income family with a full-time mom. I would describe my attitude for many years as that of a doting father and believe that we have given unstintingly, and literally planned out our lives so that our children would have some very nice opportunities. We managed to pay off our home and to pay for a master’s degree for my wife so that, at such time as our eldest was ready to go to college, we could afford to pay for a good school. Which we did; we both have very good jobs and are able to pay tuition out of our yearly income. We have lived below our means for a very long time to do so and generally have not lived what anyone would term a lavish life.

Since she reached age 16 or so, I have really ceased to have a relationship with my oldest daughter. There was never any open break especially: I understand that girls do “outgrow their fathers,” and I accepted the role as an ever-present nonentity and occasional manservant. My wife is a little closer to our girls (the youngest is now 16). I have not especially enjoyed the teen years, to be honest: Again, we have not descended to a level of screaming and open rebellion, but the process of being a doormat to unappreciative family members was not big fun. My children are not psychotic, just run-of-the-mill, somewhat overindulged kids with no appreciation or notable efforts at simple courtesy toward their parents. Normal, in a word.

So what is the problem? It seems that many of my wife’s friends have children who have gotten their rather expensive degrees and simply come back home again to live, sans employment. We have a nephew who attended an extremely expensive big-name school who is now back in the nest, making plans for launching his own company, never having had paid employment anywhere to date.
My wife is convinced that this is the new normal: Kids go off to college and then return home to resume a lifestyle more suited to high schoolers, and she appears to be willing to go along without qualms. My problem is that I am really not interested in the prospect of providing room and board to a college graduate in 18 months’ time: I am perfectly willing to provide financial assistance so that she can start her life elsewhere, but I already feel enormous tension whenever she is under my roof during school holidays.
I’ve had enough: I did everything that I was supposed to do and more, and am not willing to endure Round 2. My wife and I have spoken around this a few times without ever quite getting it out. The point is that, barring some illness or other catastrophic event, I expect my children to assume the burden of their own lives soon after graduation and do not want them to regress to an earlier age. Frankly, if such an arrangement were forced on me for any length of time, I do not think that I would stay in the household.

Do you have any thoughts, Cary? It would not feel good to insist that my wife choose her loyalty to me as opposed to our children, but we have put our own lives on hold long enough. Ultimately I feel that an ultimatum by me — me or them — would not necessarily bring the answer that I would choose, but I know that the alternative is not something that I can put up with. Help!

Wannabe Empty Nester

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Wannabe,

In any household, it seems to me, each contributing member ought to have some kind of veto power over choices that would make them so uncomfortable that they would consider moving out. So I sympathize with you. It seems to me that unless both you and your wife want to have your daughter move back in after college you should be able to say no.

For your next order of business I suggest you do what you’ve been putting off: Talk this over seriously with your wife. You say she appears to have no qualms about your daughter moving back home, and that you have talked around this question a few times. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding it because you believe it will lead to an unpleasant fight. Quite possibly, if you tell her you just can’t wait to be rid of the kids, and if your daughter moves back in you’re moving out, it will indeed lead to an unpleasant fight. But if you tell her that what you really want, and what you’ve wanted for some time, is to have your marriage and your romance back, to have her back, to have your life back, she may feel differently about that. She may be pleasantly surprised. She may have no idea how tough it has been for you, if you have been quietly enduring for all these years. And it may not have occurred to her that your marriage might actually get much better with the kids permanently out of the house. So put it in terms that will make sense to her, where she has something to gain. Don’t give her the ultimatum. Just tell her what you want and how much you want it. And give her something to look forward to: A new, happier, more refreshed you, among other things.

Ask for the sale. Let her think about it. Don’t push too hard. Give it time to sink in.

Of course, first of all, your daughter may not want to move back in. She may have other plans. Your wife may miss her and hope that she wants to return home, and that may be why she has been trying to prepare the ideological ground for such an event, by arguing that this is the new normal. She probably misses her daughter more than you do, and misses playing the role of mother more than you do the role of father. So if you can think of ways to meet your wife’s needs without having your daughter live with you, you may stand a better chance of getting what you want. For instance, if your daughter could live nearby, that might be a compromise that would make your wife happy. Perhaps you could take steps to make that happen — by aiding her in finding a job and an apartment, for instance.
You did what you were required to do. There was an implicit contract involved. You agreed to care for these kids while they were kids, and prepare them to go out into the world and take care of themselves. You did that admirably. Now it’s time for them to fulfill their end of the contract, and it seems right that they should live up to their end.

Aside from the contractual aspect, however, I imagine there is a powerful emotional pull as well. Being completely free of fatherly responsibilities must be a very seductive notion. But some continued support is probably inevitable, perhaps in the form of occasional favors rather than formal financial commitments. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re her father, after all. But I think your desire to have her out of the house is perfectly reasonable, and I hope your wife can grant you this. It seems to me, after all you’ve done, that you deserve a break.

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My live-in boyfriend’s spending a week with a chick he met on MySpace

Cary’s classic column from FRIDAY, SEP 26, 2008

I’m not real crazy about the idea. Should I be jealous?


Dear Cary:

I am writing to you because I need to hear an opinion from someone who does not already love me or think I’m amazing. I need objectivity, beautiful and philosophical objectivity.

I have been dating a man (he’s 27, I’m 30) since January and we recently moved in together at his insistence and despite my reluctance. My reluctance stems from the fact that he has never had a serious girlfriend, and while he is loving in a somewhat aloof way and has made it clear to me that he cares about me, he has not yet told me he loves me.

He is on vacation right now, visiting friends, with plans to head to California to meet up with a young woman that he “met” via MySpace. We’re not talking lunch either — he will be staying with her, at her place, for an entire week.

Apparently they have been e-mailing, then speaking on the telephone, for the better part of the past year. She has been going through a divorce, and has expressed to him that he is the “only friend she has” that she can talk to about things.

I questioned whether he really wanted to do this back in April when he was making these plans. He laughed at me and thought I was jealous, then reassured me that I can trust him and that he is just “visiting a friend.” And don’t even get me started on what her expectations may be — a young almost divorcée whose Internet “buddy” is coming to stay for a week? I can only imagine what she has planned, and I’m trying really hard not to!

Now he’s gone, and I should have told him how I feel (I’m angry! I feel disrespected and disappointed!) before he left. So do I let him know how I’m feeling? Possibly ruin his vacation? Or do I keep it to myself, suffer through the week he’ll be with her and discuss it with him when he returns? Or do I just start perusing the apartment listings? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Is this the way things work these days? Are the lines of morality blurred by all these electrons flying around?

Anxiously Living in Sin

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Anxiously Living in Sin,

I’m going to try to make this fairly quick and straightforward. There are many reasons why a man living with a woman ought to be able to conduct a variety of friendships with other women, friendships in which they are not having sex, friendships that involve staying in the same place, even perhaps sleeping in the same bed chastely. I mean, there are many reasons such a thing ought to be possible. We are complex creatures with many needs for the society of others, and primary relationships ought not stifle us or limit us unnecessarily. I mean, a man ought to be able to have outside friendships that don’t imperil his marriage or primary relationship.

And I imagine, as I look up at the stars on a clear night and contemplate the vastness of the universe, I imagine there exists some world out there, and some manner of creature similar to us in certain ways and yet with this crucial difference — that they are not sexually jealous. Maybe there is such a creature and such a place. Maybe that is where Mr. Spock comes from.

But this world, from what I can tell, is not like that. In this world, when a woman lives with a young, attractive man, and the young, attractive man she lives with decides to spend a week with a woman he met on MySpace, the woman he lives with begins to contemplate the many new uses to which a kitchen knife might be put.

When creatures from these other worlds where sexual jealousy does not exist peer down at us they are no doubt mystified and feel superior to us. They do not fly into fits of rage at the behavior of the ones they mate with. Why should we? What difference does it make what he does when he is not in the primary mating-behavior space? Is it not counterproductive to “cut off his nuts with a kitchen knife,” as they say?

The kitchen knife is a highly charged symbol, domestically speaking, love-wise speaking, blues-song speaking, living-in-sin speaking. It refers, somewhat sexistically, to the fact that women, throughout much of history, have had few weapons with which to counter the physical superiority of the men they live with. But while confined to the kitchen they have also been masters of it and its many weapons. The physically superior male has been, in this classic myth, unaware of the implements available in the kitchen and the uses to which they might be put. Not to mention his unfamiliarity with just how much satisfaction a woman might find in putting the kitchen knife to these unexpected uses (uses that, we might add, are not authorized or intended by the manufacturer).

So on one side you have this counterproductive and seemingly inexplicable desire to put the kitchen knife to novel and unauthorized uses vis-à-vis the dude spending a week with his MySpace friend. You’d think we’d be beyond all that, being that we have put a man on the moon and also have speed-dating. You’d think the whole kitchen-knife-wielding-girlfriend thing would be ancient history.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing, or that it’s the only way it can be, or that you can’t try to live in a different world. I’m not saying that polyamory is bad, or unattainable, either; you might look into the possibility that you and he could have an open relationship; the idea of community that involves multiple simultaneous intimate relationships is, well … some people do that. I’m just saying that a lot of people are like this: When the dude you’re living with spends a week with a chick he met on MySpace, you start to think about the kitchen knife. I’m saying you’re not alone. These thoughts of the kitchen knife seem to be as deeply embedded in the animal nature of women as the desire to spend a week with the MySpace chick is embedded in dudes.

It’s one of those eternal verities.

So what to do? Be seriously unreasonable. Well, first, put the knives away. Then be seriously unreasonable. Tell him it’s either her or you. Seriously. Don’t pretend it’s reasonable. Just tell him you’re serious. Just tell him that’s the way it is. And peruse the apartment listings. Or, better yet, suggest that he peruse the apartment listings.
There’s probably a reason he hasn’t ever been in a serious relationship. Apparently, he’s not serious. I mean, he can’t be serious, right?

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I want to tell his wife about our affair

 

Cary’s classic column from Sunday, Mar 13, 2011

The man I love is deceiving his wife and I think she should know what kind of man she’s married to


Dear Cary,

I fell in love with an amazing, complicated man. He has a young child with an ex and he was living in the United States illegally. And he had a girlfriend. We became friends gently, over a long period of time. I’ve never had such an intense attraction, but we stayed away from it for a year. It finally broke, and our mutual feelings got stronger despite all best efforts.

Then after sleeping together for several months, he showed up at my doorstep and told me his relationship had ended. I couldn’t believe it, but I put the brakes on. Things were too intense and he needed space to get his life in order. We stopped sleeping together. Then he told me he had to leave the country, since he was here illegally.

He left. He wrote to me how much he missed me. Then, as quickly as he left, he returned. Within weeks he got back together with his ex and married her. I know he did this because he needs to be in the United States to be close to his child.

But he also started sleeping with me again, even more often than before. He took care of me, helping me around my apartment, and we spent more time together. Then he told me he loved me, that he made a mistake marrying her and that in a few years when he has his green card, we can be together.

I feel like he would do anything to stay close to his son, and it’s selfish that he’s using her and me.

This whole situation has broken my heart. Part of me wants to tell his wife, since she’s only 27 and they’ve been married for six weeks. I feel like he’s treating her so badly. But I always knew he was with her — she didn’t have that knowledge, and she married him. I don’t want this to continue for years, and for her to find out much later.

Maybe it’s not my business to tell her, but I feel like I would not want to be in her position. I know that by telling her, I will also be ending things for myself with him. Also, I went through a rough breakup at 26 — but it was best because I still had time to get my life in order. The sooner she sees what he’s capable of, the better it is for her.

I can’t believe I’m considering this, but I feel like it’s what I should do.

Lost

tuscanad_sept2016

Dear Lost,

You want to help his wife?

I think what would help his wife is for you to stop sleeping with her husband.

I suggest you quietly and firmly break off your relationship with this man. Then suggest that he tell her.

It’s up to him. He could tell her that he was having an affair and he’s ended it and he could commit to putting the marriage on a new, honest footing. He could be honest with her. He could tell her that he’s had an eye for other women but he’s through with that. He could tell her his son matters most to him, and that he’s going to stay in the marriage and love her as best he can, and raise his son, and live here legally.

But it’s up to him. At some point, if he keeps fooling around, it could be argued that someone should tell her. If he can’t stop fooling around with other women then his wife and child are both in jeopardy and she has the right to know. But still I don’t think you’re the person to tell her. It should be someone with no interest in the matter and no history.

Did you notice that you were sleeping with him as long as he had a girlfriend? Then when he broke up with her, you put the brakes on. Then when he married you resumed your affair. So you may have motives that are hidden from you. So, as I say, even if it becomes clear in the future that she deserves to be told, you would not be the best one to tell her.

Just end it. End it and let him decide what he’s going to do. Strongly suggest that he tell his wife and set things straight. But don’t step in and tell her yourself.

Maybe years later when his residency status is resolved and he can provide for his son, maybe he will want to divorce her and he will call you. I hope you do not wait for him. He’s made his choice already.

You know what I think you should do? I think you should find an unmarried man who lives in the country legally, and suggest coffee.

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