Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (queries can also be sent anonymously using this form). Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.
Did I mention my life is really quite perfect? And it doesn’t just look like it from the outside. Beautiful hillside home with Instagram-worthy photo op locations in every nook and cranny; kiddos who snuggle us, whip out witty banter and kill it on the court; a few part time jobs that give me just enough to feel valued with space for being a stay-at-home mom, a gym junkie, a bookworm and an avid bath taker; and a dashing husband of 13 years who cooks, gives me flowers on Valentine’s and knocks my socks off in the sack. See!?! The really quite perfect life.
Except. My husband cheats on me. He’s a dating app frequenter, a dick pic connoisseur, a flirt to the max. He goes from raunchy sexting to the occasional hook up. Strangers mostly, but it has gone as far as my high school bestie — giving me everything from anxiety, rage, fear and STDs. We’ve seen counselors, read marriage books and sex books and divorce books, talked about splitting and talked about staying. I’ve told him I can’t stay if he continues, yet he continues and I stay.
I’ve reconciled myself to seeing he may have a need here I can’t fill, so porn it up baby, just leave the interaction with an actual person out of it — but there always seems to be an actual person. I’ve given him my blessing to do whatever his heart, or his dick, really needs, just be honest with me about it — and yet I always find out on my own.
Recently he said he wouldn’t need to step out on me if we had sex more often. So I amped up my game. And yet, I still find, after months giving it up multiple times a week, and believing we are doing better, that he is on another dating app. So, Kiki, what does a woman like me do?
We are happy. We laugh and talk. We go on dates and vacations. We eat dinner as a family every evening and sleep in the same bed every night. We do projects and family activities and vision boards. And yet.
I’ve attempted to bend and twist and become what he needs. I have forgiven and forgotten and pretended until it was real again. But when I see those pictures shared across the ether, or even random text messages with lighthearted conversation, I am lost. I love this man. I love our life. But I can’t reconcile this part of him.
Maybe if he would just own it, I could come to terms with this weakness. Maybe if I could just bend a little more I wouldn’t mind so much. But the hiding and the secrecy and then the infidelity, it’s bending me to the breaking point. What do I do, Kiki? How do I get to keep my really quite perfect life and shake off those parts of my husband that tear me to shreds. Or even better, how do I get him to stop!
Thank you from the most cliché part of my broken heart.
Oh sweet girl. You already know the answer to this one. You talk about being happy, but you are hurting, deeply, and the reason is that you cannot be married to your life. You cannot be married to your vacations. You cannot be married to your beautiful hillside home. A marriage takes more than one person, and all parties have to bend in order for it to succeed.
Everything you list above that you value can be found with some other person or on your own. What makes a marriage is intimacy — and when you are twisting yourself past recognition, that intimacy is not possible. You say you love this man, and you love your life together. But do you love yourself? Do you respect the person who backs down from her ultimatums, who keeps changing herself in hopes that the next version will be the right one?
You mentioned having kiddos: Is that the dating advice you’d give them — to bend to the breaking point for someone who keeps moving the goalposts of the relationship?
Don’t wait around for him to change. You owe it to yourself and to your family (including him, frankly) to take responsibility for your own happiness. And there is a world of resources out there to help you do it. No matter what you choose in this relationship, you are not alone.