Dear Patricia: I think of another man while in my marriage limbo
Published 29/08/2010 | 05:00
I AM a middle-aged, married woman with teenage children. Some years ago, I fell in love with a younger, single man. Nothing happened between us, but it made me face up to the fact that I do not love my husband and never really did.
I don't really like him. He can be aggressive and unreasonable at times, and, of course, he is always right.
He is also a blamer, mostly blaming me, basically for everything. I put up with it because he does have good points. He is generous -- although he sees our income, home, car, etc, as his, because he's the primary earner. And he can be very entertaining. Overall, however, I am indifferent to him, and am staying with him for the children's sake and for convenience.
My husband feels more or less the same way. He has told me so, and has said from time to time that he regretted marrying me. But he is also reluctant to leave.
The problem is that I still love this other man. In fact, he is the only man I will ever love. And I feel certain that he loves me too.
But I am aware that the reason we still feel this way is because our love was thwarted. If we had had an affair, it would be over now and we would both be sorry. It could not have worked for many reasons. In particular, there is the age difference.
The pointlessness of it all is getting me down. I know that even the deepest love does not last. I know that it is completely unreasonable to keep loving this man.
I know that, even in the unlikely scenario of us getting together on a permanent basis, we would end up, at best, in a relationship not much better than the one I already have with my husband.
In fact, it would probably be worse, because of all the heartbreak involved. Despite knowing all this, I can't, or won't, stop loving him. Reason does not prevail. I feel that I am in limbo. Am I simply addicted to being in love? And if this is true, what can I do?
YOU are hung up on your fantasy. And yes, fantasy love can become an addiction. Certainly, it can become an habitual escape from reality.
Instead of working on your marriage, you disappear off into your head, playing out a hundred different scenarios with the young man of your dreams.
Meanwhile, you fail to confront the daily disappointment of your relationship with your husband. It seems like impossibly hard work. Or impossibly boring. So you retreat instead.
If this were a satisfactory state of affairs, you wouldn't be talking to me. But like you said, the pointlessness of it all is getting to you. Precisely.
There is no substitute for engaging in the real world. Certainly, fantasies can console us in times of dire stress. But they provide no more than temporary relief.
This is down to you. Your husband's comments about wishing he hadn't married you, or the general list of his failings, or indeed his own failure to properly engage in a conversation about your mutual differences are decidedly beside the point.
You have to create a dignified and meaningful life for yourself, both inside and outside your marriage. And no, I don't mean extra-marital affairs.
Does your husband have to be the sole bread-winner? Could you find a part-time job, just for personal spending? Have you taken a look around your local community for a suitable role for which you could volunteer? Do you need a new fitness routine, or a fashion make-over? Does someone in your family, or among your in-laws, need a bit of back-up?
The point I'm making is that you're not just running away from the reality of your marriage. You're running away from life.
All relationships are a two-way process. Sure, some behaviour can be pretty intractable, and you learn to live with that. But the way your husband treats you is very much down to you. Loving him is down to you, too.
It's about deciding to appreciate him, to be grateful for the good things, to wish him well, to be on his side, to feel kindness towards his foibles, which is really his humanity.
It's about behaving in such a way that he becomes a better man. Indifference, which you say is what you feel, is not lack of love. It's lack of effort. Love, in short, is a question of daily practice.
Finally, if you feel helpless, then start with small things, which are under your control; practical things. And remember, leaving our comfort zone is always hard. Fantasy love was your "drug" of choice. It will take time. Be patient with yourself.