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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.


Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.