DEAR ADA BRUNSTEIN,
I was reading the NYT this morning looking for blogging material while on the road and came across your article in the NY Times Styles Modern Love section, The House of No Personal Pronouns.
We have never met and will probably never meet, but it’s time someone took you by the hand and gave you some sound advice. I normally don’t give advice to strangers but recently I have come across a number of people (men and women) in situations comparable to yours. Two have confided in me. Believe me, you are not alone in your dilemma. There are many Adas out there.
Let me start by pointing out that you are in a long-term relationship. You may refer to your lover as “boyfriend” but after a year of this, recognize the fact that you are in a long-term relationship. Call him boyfriend, lover, paramour or whatever else.
The short version of my advice is this:
Leave him right now, cold turkey, permanently, and don’t ever go back to him.
That means getting up, walking away, throwing away the key to his house and changing the key to your place (maybe even moving to a new place of your own). Erase his phone number off your phones and block his calls.
Here is why:
In your article you mention how
“in the past my jealousies have gotten the better of me”.
Allow me a small digression from your current dilemma to explain that it is not wise to engage in prolonged arguments with your man as to whether you would be OK with him sleeping with Uma Thurman, be it in theory or in practice. The appropriate response on your part would be to state in abruptly clear unambiguous terms that of course it would not be OK with you. If he protests, complains, or doesn’t acknowledge that you’re not putting up with any of that, it’s time to break up.
If you expect an exclusive, monogamous relationship, you must make it absolutely clear.
But back to your current dilemma:
You entered into this relationship for the purpose of proving a point:
“This was going to be the new me. A stronger, cooler, nothing-fazes-me sort of girlfriend who would prove I’ve outgrown the formerly jealous me. I would be unconventional, brave, hip and oh-so-bohemian in my nonchalance.”
Congratulations; you have proved your point. You are cool, nonchalant, bohemian, brave, and everything you set out to demonstrate. And you have done so in spades.
And here’s the rub: While relationships with divorced men are very difficult because a great many men still love their ex-wives, you are in the middle of an even greater mess because he’s not a divorced man.
Is he still married?
Is he still living in the same house as his wife, sharing living quarters?
Of course, the answer to these two questions is yes. While you would like to think that there has been a separation, that they have moved on and moved out, the physical fact remains that neither of them have. They both remain exactly where they choose to be: smack in the middle of each other’s lives and living together under the same jointly-owned roof.
And now for the skinny, from two points of view:
First the cynical, since I’m not above cynicism:
A great deal of satisfaction in life comes from being able to ‘play your game’. You are ‘playing your game’ when you are in control of your circumstances. The situation you describe where you have to ask, “does she mean to lay claim to her place while putting me in mine?” is a situation where you are playing her game. And legally it is her place.
Make no mistake: you will be playing her game for as long as you are attached to her man.
Yes, he is her man.
And the second point of view,
From the point of view of love:
Nowhere in the article did you mention the word love.
I have to assume that, since you are a writer, this is not a mere lapse.
Love is not an easy thing. Poets, philosopher, and psychologists have spent whole lives trying to decipher, explain, and understand it. All of them would probably agree that love means commitment.
This man has shown absolutely no commitment to you. In addition, by remaining in a relationship with him, you are denying yourself the opportunity to find someone who would love you , who would commit to you.
Ask yourself, Are you so afraid of love that you must remain with this man?
Give yourself a chance at love and leave this situation, where you are allowing a marriage to drag you into their very dysfunctional and downright perverse “whirlwind of ifs and thens“, to use your phrase, and leave him.
You have already wasted a year. Don’t waste a minute more.
I realize that the odds are that you will not read my advice, and that even if you read it you won’t follow it, but you have been told. You can’t use “nobody told me” as an excuse.
Update, Monday 23 July
Welcome, Dr Helen readers. You’ll probably enjoy this post, too.
In other insanities, it’s time for the Carnival
I’ll be on the road for the greater part of tomorrow so there won’t be a podcast, but you can listen to the Gerard and Siggy show.