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How The Mother Half Lives After nine years of being a single mother, I married a man I really liked. Although I knew he wasn't my soul mate, he was good with kids. At the time, my rich ex-husband with his perfect homemaker wife was suing for custody, so I felt pressured to be in a stable relationship. Three years later, I'm horribly unhappy. I am no longer in love with my husband, although I do care about him. My son is deliriously happy here in the suburbs with his two-parent family, and, at 13, would be very vulnerable to emotional problems should we get divorced. Meanwhile, at 35, I've fallen in love for the first time. His marriage isn't fulfilling either, but he has a young child, and seems unlikely to leave his wife. Should I stick it out with my husband, who is my friend but not my soul mate, until my son is in college (5 more years!) -- even if this involves fantasizing about another man during sex? Or, should I get out and hope I find an available man to love?

--In Relationship Hell

Oh, the suffering. Horror of horrors, you might have to fantasize about another man during sex. Let's hope you can find a crown of thorns that won't clash with your new cocktail dress. And, don't forget to pick up a pack of Lee Press-On Stigmata next time you're at the drugstore.

There's a reason suburban homes of people with kids are seldom mistaken for nightclubs or singles' resorts. Chances are, it's that family life generally doesn't revolve around parents fulfilling their every romantic and sexual whim. Dropping everything to run off in search of some really hot sex -- oh, I'm sorry, I mean TRUE LOVE -- is the province of people like me, who recognize that they're self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and impulsive, and thus unfit to be parents. Unfortunately, parenthood is too often the province of people like you, who are also self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and impulsive, but refuse to let that stop them from accessorizing with a baby.

Unfortunately, it's a little late for you to opt out of the responsibilities of parenting. (What is this, the 52nd trimester?) But, but…are you really supposed to wait five whole years, until your kid's in college, to get your phreak on? Quite frankly, if somebody in your family has to suffer so somebody else can be “deliriously happy” -- maybe the person doing the suffering should be you? We'll be sure to tack your picture up in the hall of martyrs: Joan of Arc, Jesus of Nazareth, “Stephanie” of Suburbia…mired in “relationship hell.” Um, excuse me, but maybe “hell” is genocide in Sudan, not suburban disaffection?

While you're sitting around waiting for romance to drop from the ceiling like those oxygen masks on planes, maybe you could actually DO something to bring it into your marriage. Wow, whatta concept, act romantically with your husband and romance might just follow. This does run contrary to the corny “soul mate” concept you're dragging around -- the ridiculous notion that there's one perfect partner for you, who will be your shortcut from all your bad choices and unresolved issues to an instant perfect life. Well, how about you start making better choices and resolving your own issues? Even if this means coming to terms with the fact that a mother's life is not one long bubble bath of self-indulgence. Tragically, raising a kid who isn't on the fast-track to rehab and jail, if not just making a permanent indentation in some therapist's couch, may require enduring the torture of friendly companionship and lukewarm sex. Poor, poor dear. Well, we all have our hangnails to bear.

Posted by aalkon at October 18, 2005 12:49 PM


I feel sorry for the husband... Does he know that the only reason she married him was to create the illusion of a "stable relationship" so her ex wouldn't get custody? Not only is she spiteful towards the ex, oblivious to the feelings of the new hubby, but then has the audacity to beg for sympathy for being made to lie in the bed she made. Perhaps she needs to make an indentation on a therapists couch...

Posted by: Samantha K at November 8, 2005 11:32 PM

Perhaps she thought her first marriage would last. Maybe they were very happy when she got pregnant and it came as a great and unhappy surprise to her when the marriage ended. Maybe she tried to make her first marriage work for both her and her child's sake but her first husband wasn't interested in working it out and moved on.

Now, because she tried to do what she felt was right for her child you castigate her and call her "self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and impulsive" because she is trying to find a little happiness and physical intimacy for herself? Is marrying in order to provide a stable home for your child a selfish act?

She's simply a human being with a need for a sexual relationship. Her "sin" is that she only realized how important that is until after she'd been without it for too long. That's not self-absorbed, that's learning from your mistakes.

You assume she hasn't even tried to make her current marriage better. How do you know that she hasn't tried to put spark in to the relationship and, after a couple of years with no success, resigned herself to the reality that it will never be what she needs?

It's easy to say from the sidelines that a divorce or self-deprivation for many years are her only moral choices but you aren't living that hard reality. You don't have to worry about your child's well-being and you aren't being deprived of the physical intimacy most of us can't live happily without.

She has already gone through a divorce and the stress of trying to provide a stable home for her child despite the devastation that divorce probably brought on her and her son's life. Now you want her to live in involuntary celibacy because she made the mistake of marrying the wrong person and getting pregnant many years ago? Can't you put yourself in the shoes of a parent who has been deprived of what they need to be whole and happy for the sake of their child before you condemn them?

Posted by: Suzy L at December 30, 2005 7:16 PM

Why is it that everyone's "seeker-of-advice" question reads the same?
I am in a so&so relationship where the other person does nothing for me, and I found someone new, and I cant understand why he/she/it doesn't make me feel that way?
And then, low and behold, the common sense wisdom;
Not "what haver you done for me lately?" but "what have YOU done lately?"
Everyone seems so unhappy, but it never occurs to them that maybe they should be the ones putting a little "xtra lovin" into the situation. Just to try it on for size.
I wonder, maybe the self absorption and isolationism of people in general society has become so endemic that people in general simple are unable to see that THEY should be the first ones to dive in and try and solve whats wrong. Instead of fence sitting and waiting for the other person to develope psychic powers and derive the problems from inside their very souls..
Until this gets figured out, I'm just gonna blame everyone else for my probs...
Just like everyone else..

Posted by: Kotora at January 29, 2006 9:21 AM

Amy's advice was totally spot on. This selfish woman is lookin for permission to hurt her children because of a mistake that SHE made for a man that probably won't even leave his wife. Infidelity is never the answer and won't help this woman solve her problems. Instead she should look into why she makes such poor relationship decisions in the first place.

Posted by: Rachel at June 5, 2006 4:47 PM

People grow apart, people fall in love with others. It happens. Don't judge it, it happens. I agree, she needs to suck it up for the kids for the time being and try to make the best of things. But please don't judge the woman so harshly. It's a hard thing to love someone you can't be with.........

Posted by: Leah at June 18, 2006 6:49 PM

Sorry, but I can be irresponsible, impatient, and run off with the next guy who comes along -- because I have a dog, not kids. Once you choose to bring kids into the world, your needs come second. "It's a hard thing to love someone you can't be with"? Oh, boo frigging hoo. It's a harder thing to be raised by a self-absorbed idiot of a mother.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 18, 2006 11:37 PM

I think a major point here is that the writer basically admits that she married her current husband so that she could maintain custody of her son, that she chose to marry him, knowing that he wasn't her "soul mate," because it was advantageous to her side in the custody battle. She goes on to try to absolve herself of full responsibility for that choice (she "felt pressured to be in a stable relationship" because of her ex and his new wife). I think Samantha K hit the nail on the head when she said that IRH was begging for sympathy for being made to lie in the bed she made. Yeah, the situation sucks, but she put herself in it knowingly. Regret can be a real bitch, huh?

Suzy L asserted that IRH married to provide a stable home for her child. I wonder whether it wasn't more in order to be triumphant in the custody battle for her own sake. In any case, she has to face the decision she made, ask herself whose happiness is more important--her family's (yes, her husband's too) or her own--and live with the consequences of her answer, including taking full responsibility for any hurt she might do her son by breaking up her marriage.

Posted by: Nora at November 8, 2006 1:49 PM

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