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    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Pathological Monogamy

    I have rarely seen a better example of the pathology that accompanies (or underlies) our culture's expectation, make that ABSOLUTE IMPERATIVE, of monogamy as that which I found in Ask Amy this week:

    Dear Amy: I am a 46-year-old woman and my husband is 48. We have been married for 23 years and dated for five years before that -- the last two years of which we were engaged. We have three children and what I thought was a happy marriage. Everyone has always told me what a great guy he is and what a perfect husband and father he is.

    I had always known in my heart, based on some instinct and not necessarily absolute knowledge, that my husband cheated on me with at least a few other women before we were married. However, I assumed that it was before we became engaged. Recently I discovered that he had four one-night stands, all during the two years we were engaged. According to him, he cheated on me because he didn't know whether he really loved me and wanted to make sure that I was the right girl! Excuse me, but I was under the impression that getting engaged actually meant that we loved and were committed to each other. Does it make sense that he needed to search for "love" when we became engaged?

    I am willing to get marriage counseling, but my husband claims that he made a marriage vow because he does love me and has been faithful during our 23-year marriage. I have doubts whether I can trust him anymore, and it makes me sick to my stomach to think of him cheating on me because he was not even honest enough to tell me the truth about how he felt before we married.

    My heart is broken and I don't know whether this marriage is worth saving.

    Please give me advice regarding how to proceed.

    -- Deceived

    28 years together. How crazy is it to break up with your partner of 28 years because of four nights 23-25 years ago? Imagine any other lie he might have told that long ago, any other problem that came up that long ago, with the exception of his having murdered some member of her family, actually making her consider "whether this marriage is worth saving". Everyone would be telling her she was a lunatic.

    Amy says:

    Dear Deceived: Please proceed directly to a counselor. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

    And, while I'm stretching out this Monopoly metaphor -- you need to give your husband a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

    He doesn't get his card right away, mind you. But forgiving him should be your goal. Why? Because you've been married for 23 years. He's been faithful to you during your marriage. He's a great husband and a great father.

    Your husband was 23 when he cheated on you. What does anyone that age know of love? Very little. That's why they mess up, sometimes repeatedly. That's why they think they can test an emotion as powerful as love with one-night stands.

    You want proof-of-love? How's this: Being married for 23 years to your original sweetheart. Raising kids together. Wiping jammy hands, watching endless soccer games, entering marriage counseling at midlife. Answering for behavior that's more than two decades old. If that's not a loving commitment, then I'm not sure what else to call it.

    Of course your marriage is worth saving. Now take your husband by the hand and save it.


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