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June 10, 2014

Ask Me Anything: On Extramarital Affairs, Judgmental Thoughts & Men With Roving Eyes. {Weekly Advice Column}

Chasing Intimacy

*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

~

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything! To submit questions of your own, please email me at [email protected] I do try to answer every question whether it is printed or not, and those that are selected will always remain anonymous.

I also look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section, so don’t be shy!

Dear Erica,

I’ve been married for many years and my husband and I have always struggled to be closely intimate.

However, we are close friends, excellent co-parents and run a household well together. We have even been in counseling for years to try and fix this part of our marriage.

Many years ago a man offered me this missing piece—a close, easy emotional intimate connection—by accident. We were friends for a long time. I never left my marriage because of my kids and since my husband is such a good person, although I crave this connection and feel like I fit naturally with this other person. The other person feels the same.

If I was not married I feel confident this person and I would have a long, happy relationship too. Did I make the right decision?

Always wondering.

Dear Wondering,

One of the toughest things about marriage, ironically, can be a lack of connection—whether it is sexual or otherwise. It is the resulting insidious loneliness which drives many people to have affairs. Once the affair is had—though in many circumstances understandable—things can never be the same, even if the unoffending spouse never discovers the truth.

Why? Because doors have been opened which can now not be closed, much like Pandora’s box.

Your decision to stay with your husband has become even more painful because you allowed yourself to connect deeply to someone else on a level which should be reserved for your marital partner.

But, what’s done is done.

Now the question is, how can you best move forward? I think the answer to whether you made the right decision lies in this question: how would you feel if the roles were reversed? Would you want your husband to stay with you? How would you feel as your own child? You don’t say if this other man has a wife or family, but if so, they must be considered too.

The answers to these questions will vary dramatically from family to family. Personally, I would not want to be married to someone who was in love with someone else. Even if I didn’t know it, the shadow of that fact would color everything. I also would not want to have a parent who was sacrificing an essential part of themselves for me—again, if even I didn’t know that was happening, the fall out: sadness, guilt, blame, anger—would be everywhere, no matter how hard anyone tried to mitigate it.

I come from that perspective, though, as a person raised by parents who “stayed together for the kids.” Their unhappiness was a constant low grade disturbance in my psyche, but certainly other people have had different experiences.

The parameters of family and of the heart are not black and white or one-size-fits-all, despite the rules that society demands we live by. We must try to make our own flawed way as best we can, and I believe you are doing that. One thing I would say, however, is to make sure that if you are staying with your husband and family, you are 100 percent committed and that you take total responsibility for your choices. To stray again now would be morally reprehensible.

disapproval face woman unhappy jealous

Dear Erica,

I consider myself a pretty nice person. I’ve been told by many that I’m easy to get along with and even by some that I’m a delightful person. However, I have a problem with being judgmental against people that I decide (for whatever reason) that I just don’t like.

There are several people that I can’t stand to see photos of or even hear their names. I’m hesitant to attend events where I know I will see them, just because I don’t want to be around them.

Most of these people have done nothing to deserve this, other than behaving in ways that I don’t happen to agree with (usually stirring up drama). I feel that this is a major weakness in my character, but I struggle with overcoming these feelings. Am I a bad person? Is there anything I can do to change what seems to be a major personality flaw?

Reluctantly judgemental

Dear Reluctant,

We all judge—it is part of the human condition. Most of us though, are not as self aware as you seem to be, which tells me you are probably a more wise and compassionate person than you realize.

Something which does stand out in your query, however, is the intense negativity images of certain people can stir up for you and the fact that you avoid situations where some people may be. The discomfort you feel with your own emotions is problematic in that it creates unnecessary obstacles and unease in your life.

The person you need to stop judging so harshly is yourself.

The next time you feel judgmental thoughts coming up, realize that these thoughts are not you. Your true self is much deeper and more profound. To help you understand this truth, you can observe your thoughts. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Focus on your breath.

Imagine these judgmental thoughts are clouds passing by overhead. Watch them as they come and go. Feel the distance between them and your essential self. Watch the emotions the thoughts stir up similarly. Do not try to make them go away or change, simply notice and accept them.

With time and practice, that shouting voice of judgement will be reduced to a whisper, and leave you free to be the beautiful soul you already are.

~

Dear Erica,

Since this is a question about the gap between sexes known for eons, I’ll try to make it short even though it’s huge as the history of problem itself.

What should a woman do if her very spiritual man in seeking absolute honesty cannot stop expressing suffering of not having sex with the rest of the female population, in the same time wanting to commit and losing a lot of energy to transform his needs into something constructive? How could one woman react and how could she not feel that the essence of her femininity is nullified, even though she tries to have an open mind and heart?

Sorry if my English sounds strange, it’s not my mother language.

Woman in crisis.

Dear Woman,

If I understand you correctly, you are in a committed relationship with a guy who wants to have sex with lots of other women, a fact he is expressing openly and which causes you to feel devalued and hurt.

(Your English is quite good, I’m just trying to be completely clear.)

It sounds as if you and he have had several conversations on this topic, so I will assume he knows how it affects you.

Relationships can take on many different forms; monogamous, polygamous, and polyamorous are but a few. The key to a healthy relationship is not its construct, but that everyone involved has the same goals. That is clearly not the case here.

Unfortunately, it sounds like if anyone is going to compromise, it’s going to be you, and that will guarantee your unhappiness.

Please believe that you have the right to the kind of relationship you want, even if you are being told it is selfish, or goes against the “natural” inclination of the male sex. It may be true that men instinctively want to have sex with “the rest of the female population,” but “want to” and “will do” are two different things.

Your boyfriend should take factors other than his own needs/desires into consideration.

If he can’t, I would advise you to run, and run quickly. Your involvement with him will only bring you pain.

 

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr, Diana/Flickr

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