Dear Mabel: Help! I am married and I feel like I am slowly falling for a guy at work. It started with happy hour, then instant messaging, and lately we have had a few conversations about maybe meeting up outside of the office. I love my husband, I really do. But I have to admit that I am enjoying flirting. It’s fun. How can I stop myself from cheating? I don’t want to but I am feeling the temptation.
Signed, Annie from Philadelphia
Mabel: Hi Annie, we are all human and it’s not uncommon to develop feelings towards another individual even when we are married. Obviously, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed such as your internal conflict and the connection between you and your husband. You need to examine why you are attracted to this other person and what struggles might be occurring in your marriage that are making you feel like you need to look elsewhere?
However, kudos to you for wanting to do the right thing and avoid betraying your partner. It’s not easy to fight these feelings and urges, but it can be done. It’s important to remind yourself why you want to protect your relationship with your husband. Why is your marriage important to you? What do you love about your husband?
As difficult as it may be, it all shall pass. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Relationships are similar. They need a few key components to germinate: time, proximity, and chemistry. Without one of those, a relationship can not survive for long. So what do I mean by those components? Well, time is the amount of time you are in contact with the other person, whether in-person, phone, or online chatting. Proximity is the physical distance between two people (this is why long distance relationships are hard). And, chemistry is liking each other, attraction, and common interests. Since you are flirting with this person, there is obvious chemistry. In order to avoid acting on that chemistry, you need to eliminate the other two components—time and proximity. I don’t expect you to quit your job, but you do need to separate yourself from this other person. You need to end the instant messaging, avoid happy hours where he is present, and decrease any time spent with this person in a non-professional setting. You can get through this if you take the right steps. Staying focused on your marriage and working to get through whatever struggles may be causing you to stray can help to keep your mind and heart in the right place.
Concerned Client: My husband wants me to fold his clothes but not in my way, he wants me to fold them his way. I am not big on folding clothes in any special way. I do it the way I was taught which he thinks is “too messy,” or “incorrect.” That is what I know. It doesn’t bother me that my clothes are folded this way and my kids could care less. I could learn the way he wants me to fold, but it seems pointless to me. He is losing his patience and I am growing frustrated.
He could just fold his own clothes himself but it takes him a week to get to the basket and by then it is overflowing with clean, unfolded, wrinkled clothes. I at least want to get them into the dresser, out of the way. It makes no sense to me why he is ok staring at a basket of unfolded clothes for a week but not ok with me folding and putting away his clothes. He says he doesn’t care if it doesn’t make sense. He just wants me to fold the clothes his way. He says it is “my job” to take care of the laundry and I should do it “his way.” What the hell? He works full time and expects me to all the stuff around the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and all the laundry to his standards. I am ok doing it my way, but why does it have to be his way?
Mabel: Before I make the assumption that this is a misogynist behavior, I need to get a bigger picture. What is the implicit or explicit agreement that you currently have with your husband in terms of division of labor (i.e. you take care of all the stuff in the home, while he handles the stuff outside of the home)? Do you expect him to adhere to certain standards when it comes to the yard work? Or taking care of vehicles? Why he expects you to fold the clothes his way may be his way of executing what he thought might be an agreement. Have you ever talked about an agreement of who does what and how? Sometimes couples assume an agreement and really they need to discuss it with each other.
Letter from concerned client: I decided to leave my hometown and move to accomplish my career goals, and now I really miss my family. My parents are getting old and they don’t understand why I decided to leave and not stay with them. My mom has always told me to ‘live simple’ and despite not agreeing with my decision to move she still supports me. It makes me feel even more guilty, like I am letting them down.
Mabel: I understand your desire to make your parents proud. You said your mom wanted you to ‘live simple’ but still supports you in your goal, however hard it may be to attain that goal. It is a little like how I wanted my kids to enjoy playing music but instead, their interests are art and tennis. Even though art and tennis are not my desires, at the end of the day seeing my children enjoying and working towards their own goals makes me profoundly happy. For them, learning to master these things frustrates them a lot of the time but that is part of life and reaching a goal. You decided to move because it is important to you in the reaching of your goals, and it isn’t always easy. The process of living in a new place and working can be very frustrating. Your mother has a desire for you to live a simple and happy life because that is what she knows of happiness. Most of us mothers have our own desires, however, supporting our children in their own dream is a lesson in parenting. A lesson that it’s not about us but about the child. It is about learning how to love someone, and how to see the world beyond us. It is an important lesson for all us parents. My dream is for my children to soar in whatever they choose to do, even if I have little understanding of it. If guilt is something that weighs them down, like most mothers, I would love to take that weight off their shoulders so they can fly more freely. I am not sure if this is how your mother feels, but my hypothesis is that most mothers share these similar sentiments.
Letter from concerned client: I just started dating a guy that my friend used to date. They went on a couple dates and it didn’t go anywhere. Even though they had nothing serious, I am still afraid my friend will be mad when she finds out. What do I do? How do I approach this with her?
Mabel: I understand how this could be a daunting and scary conversation as you are worried it could damage your friendship. The best way to approach this situation is to tell her as soon as possible. If she were to find out thorough the grapevine she would think you were trying to hide it from her and it would be more hurtful. It is best if you open up to her. Have the conversation. Show her you value her friendship. It will make both of you feel better to talk it out, get it off your chest and give her a chance to tell you how she feels about it. Have the conversation face-to-face to make it as genuine and heart-felt as possible. Avoid doing it over the phone, and definitely do not do it through text message. Those ways of communicating won’t come off as meaningful to her. Approach the conversation as “I want to let you know because I value our friendship and didn’t want you to find out from anyone else.” Let her know that you do care about her feelings. She will likely appreciate your honesty, and if it does bother her she will be able to let you know. Having an open floor for conversation will ease tensions across the board and will help to avoid any damage to your friendship.