Hax: Temptation tears at husband in 'recovery'

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 2:46 PM

Dear Carolyn: Whenever I am at a party with my wife’s girlfriend, she flirts with me. No … not flirt; groping and teasing is a better description. Sticking her hands in my back pockets, grabbing my butt. When I went to kiss her goodnight (on the cheek), she grabbed my face, said, “On the lips,” and then kissed me. First time it happened was when I showed up at a party without my wife, and she said, “I am SO glad you are here alone!”

I got caught cheating on my wife two years ago. I am in “recovery,” as I really have a problem being faithful. This will not end well if I don’t do something, but I don’t want to stir the pot, so I put up with it.

Confession … she is doing a good job! This could end badly. Help!

Carolyn says: Are you in recovery, or in “recovery”? Meaning, do you admit to an emotional problem and intend to get better? Or do you accept the way you are, merely nodding as people say you have a problem, and secretly hoping you won’t get seriously tempted, or seriously caught, again?

If it’s recovery, the real deal, then you already know the only chance your marriage has is the truth — that and a redoubling of your effort at whatever treatment you sought two years ago. You tell your wife immediately what’s going on with her “friend” (get it?), because said friend is already stirring the pot and your passivity equals permission.

If instead you’re in quote-unquote-recovery — if your marriage isn’t a commitment so much as prowlus interruptus — then that’s what you need to admit, first to yourself and then to your wife.

Either way, make this not about monogamy for the sake of it, but about living honestly as who you really are. That means admitting the fidelity you’ve maintained lately is purely an act of will. But first: You suggested twice in your letter that this will end badly, yet I’m not sure you’re even sure how you — not your wife — would define ending well. Your chances go from slim to … less slim if you know that going in.

Needing good news

Dear Carolyn: There’s so much bad news in the world lately (Ebola, Gaza, Syria, airplanes falling from the sky) that I feel really overwhelmed and anxious. I care about what happens in the world and I want to stay informed, but I feel like I’m at my bad-news saturation point. Any suggestions on how to stay informed but not get overwhelmed?

Carolyn says: You’re not alone in this, certainly. It’s OK to go on a media fast (or just words, no images) until you regroup.

As a longer-term solution, it’s also reasonable to redefine “informed.” Yes, there’s value in following world news, especially at election time for national offices — but I can argue the most effective citizens are the ones who focus their attention within reach of their influence.

If you’re equipped to make a difference globally, then do. If you aren’t, then consider zooming in locally. Since every level needs caring, responsible, informed people on duty, and since helplessness is what overwhelms us most, give helpfulness a chance. That is, after some much needed rest.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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