Faithful for now

Does my crush on another woman mean there's something wrong with my marriage?


Garrison Keillor
February 8, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

Feb. 8, 2000

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am happily married, with one child and another on the way. I love my wife very much, and I also love another woman. I met her at my last job three years ago and have been trying to get past the feelings I have for her. I've never crossed the line of infidelity, but my feelings are so strong that it's hard to resist the urge to sweep her off her feet and passionately kiss her. I talked to a close friend about this and he said that it shows I have problems with my marriage and I should let my wife know about these feelings. I'm convinced my wife would understand, but it would throw a large bucket of cold water on a pretty good marriage. So, what do I do? Tell my wife? Run away with the other woman? Seek professional counseling?

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Confused and Bewildered

Dear C&B,

Your friend is wrong, wrong, wrong. Your ability to get a crush on the Dark Lady proves nothing whatsoever about your marriage. But your three years of brooding over this crush is much too long to suffer. Don't get your wife all alarmed, she's expecting your child. So focus on that. And drop contact with the Dark Lady. Entirely. Immediately. You're not able to handle this friendship. If you continue to incubate this dark egg, it will hatch eventually and a creature will jump out and bite you. Roll it out into the cold and let it die.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

My girlfriend and I are engaged to be married in April. We are both incredibly happy as are our respective families. Just one problem. We had a little accident five weeks ago and she is pregnant. The pregnancy itself is not a problem, but the timing is horrible. Our initial joy is now turning to confusion. We have considered the idea of terminating the pregnancy but find the idea distasteful, yet neither of us are sure we can handle the questions, whispers and innuendo that are bound to come from our traditionally minded families. How does one handle these things in this day and age?

2+1=3

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Dear 2+1,

Here's how you handle it: Hold your heads high and look everyone in the eye and if they ask, tell them the truth, and if they can't be loving and happy about the marriage being pre-blessed with issue, then that's their problem. Anyone who cares to whisper can go right ahead, but there is no innuendo here: You two made love and you ejaculated and she conceived -- nothing dark or mysterious there. Don't terminate the pregnancy. Do tell your families directly so they won't hear it from anyone else. But don't apologize or hang your heads even slightly. Thank God for His bounty and marry and raise your child and be happy over how it all turned out.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

My girlfriend and I have been friends for five years and living together for over six months now and talking about marriage. I'm crazy about her -- she means the world to me -- and I have no serious misgivings. In fact, it's that lack of misgivings that worries me: How do I know if I'm thinking about all the implications?

Concerned About My Calm

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Dear Concerned,

What's to think about? You'll both get (1) older and probably (2) heavier and (3) duller and your love will be tried by (4) ugly little things you say and (5) sheer ennui and children who will cost you (6) sleep and keep you in a state of (7) paranoia and (8) self-doubt for years and (9) meanwhile there's the ebb and flow and gradual diminution of the sexual urge and (10) the fact that you look at your spouse sometimes and feel you married a complete stranger. But heck, a lot of that stuff happens to single people too. And if you marry a true friend, then it's vastly easier. And if you're crazy about her and she means the world to you, then how could you not?

Dear Mr. Blue,

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I'm 23, a reporter at a Midwestern daily, just graduated from college, ambitious, talented (according to my colleagues), and my fiancé is 25, charming, kind, intelligent, understanding and so funny he makes me fall on the floor laughing much too often. He's still working in the mall, selling, which he hates. His dream is to be a cartoonist or a late-night talk-show host. But he is fearful to try and he cringes every time I suggest he go back to school. I watch him getting sadder and sadder about his mindless job, and I want him to be able to move on and do something he adores. His fearfulness worries me. How can I convince him otherwise without him resenting it? I'm not calling off the wedding for anything, but I'd rather have a happy impoverished student or comedian than a gainfully employed, depressed wage slave with low self-esteem. Please advise.

Mallrat's Girlfriend

Dear Girlfriend,

Your fiancé's mindless job seems to bother you more than it bothers him. Perhaps you are worried about being held back by him -- that as you rise through the ranks of aging ink-stained wretches to the circle of the select, your underachiever will languish and be an embarrassment to the family. Evidently, he doesn't want to go back to school, so you should stop campaigning for that. Eventually desperation will overcome fearfulness and he'll give himself a kick in the pants and get out of the terrible job and do something else. Comedy is harder than journalism, so cut him some slack. He may not resolve this for a few years.

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Dear Mr. Blue,

A friend from back home called to say he and his wife would like to come this summer for a week's visit. His wife is a conceited, pretentious, destructive woman who my husband and I cannot bear. I feel conflicted. Should I search my heart to find some kinder feelings toward her and try to tolerate her? Or say no? I want to do the gracious and mature thing.

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

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A week is too long to be sequestered with someone you dislike so much. An evening you could manage, but a week is a prescription for homicide. Accept the possibility that you may be entirely wrong about the woman, and tell your friend that you're much too busy to entertain them for a week. Life is short. Enjoy it. Don't beg misery.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've been dating this guy seriously for almost two years, and recently he proposed to me. There are two problems, though: He's in the military and will be sent to Germany soon, and my family hates him. I'm 18 and he's 19. I really love him a lot, but my family doesn't think I should go through with it. Should I go along with my family, or should I follow my heart?

Completely Confused

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Dear C.C.,

You asked so I'll give an answer. Listen to your family. Don't marry him now. Don't marry in confusion. Keep in touch with him, get to know him if you like and let your family take a break from him. When he's done with his tour of duty, he'll be more mature and know how not to piss them off, and you'll be more ready to be a wife, if that's what you decide to do. But don't make any promises. You're 18. Live your own life.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I have been married for almost 30 years and have two wonderful sons, one in college and one in high school. Within a year or two of our marriage I found myself attracted to other men and eventually had several affairs. One of the men left his wife and begged me to marry him. My husband found out, almost had a nervous breakdown and threatened to take our children from me. So I stayed. Now that the children have their own lives I have pursued my interests in painting and folk dance. My husband rarely participates in family life, working on weekends and never taking a real vacation. Our house is falling down around us, and we're always behind in our bills. When he's away for a period of time, I do think fondly of him but it doesn't last long. I fantasize about leaving him, but I keep thinking about how horrible it was when he found out about my affair. I'm afraid he'd go crazy again. What should I do? How do I figure this out?

Confused and Afraid

Dear Confused,

Trust is the oxygen of a marriage, and you sucked all the air out of the room when you had your affairs. Naturally, the union suffers. It's good you're still capable of fondness for your husband, but you do need to make your choice, lady. This is torture. You figure it out by consulting your heart. Have you made a wholehearted attempt to revive and restore this marriage? Romance is an act of imagination, and the human imagination is infinitely capable of great leaps, including forgiveness and renewal. If you don't wish to heal this limping painful marriage, then you should bring things to an end in as civil and friendly and fond a way as possible.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've been married for 12 years to a wonderful woman. We have a smart, charming, caring son who's 10, a dog, a cat and two fish. I work as a consultant four days a week, some from home, and can be as flexible as I want to be with my schedule. Sex between my wife and me has never been better. I play guitar but have no yearnings to be a professional musician. In fact, I have no regrets whatsoever about my life and the choices I made to get here. I am not stressing about keeping up with the Joneses, I am not cheating on my wife or flirting over the Internet. So what's my problem? Don't have one. Thought I'd drop you a line so that among all the dysfunctional philandering alcoholic ambisexual writer wannabes fretting over past, present and future decisions you get to read a letter written by someone who is none of the above and who actually takes responsibility for his own actions!

Joe

Dear Joe,

Noted.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am a 28-year-old woman incredibly frustrated and disillusioned with love and romance. Being from a conservative church background, I am often frustrated with the way I feel as opposed to the way I am supposed to feel -- the conflicts between spirit and the "flesh." I have not had a date in four years. I honestly don't remember the last one. I am fairly pretty, have a good sense of humor, am not a needy personality type. I just can't seem to meet anyone! (Church is the worst place to meet a man.) I am losing hope.

Tortured

Dear Tortured,

Scripture does not instruct us to lead out-of-body lives, free of feeling, only to have faith that God's love changes our hearts and our behavior. Don't try to feel the way you're "supposed to feel" -- that's backward. Follow in the faith, and let God manage the rest, and you go ahead and look for romance. I don't think you'd be happy with a hairy-legged liberal agnostic, so you need to meet men of similar faith. But you probably need to diversify your social life, investigate other churches, practice some ecumenism. And you may need to find a job that lets you get out of town and travel around. Work is where romance strikes, evidently. Don't sell yourself short.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I find myself in a quandary. I have been married for 10 years now, have one son and a marriage that seems to be going nowhere. Three things seem to divide us: She does not feel comfortable with my friends, who happen to be female; she and I have entirely different ideas of what "hot sex" means and we're gulfs apart; she is religious and I am not, and she yearns for a religious household. Is this a typical mid-life crisis I'm going through? Do I punt, pass or kick?

Dazed and Confused

Dear D&C,

These are long-term differences, on which you and she can reach some sort of compromise, but you must do it face to face, perhaps through the good offices of a counselor. This doesn't sound like a typical anything to me; I recommend you stick with your running game.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I am in my mid-40s and recently moved to a rural community with a number of shy bachelor farmers. I find these men lovely, and one of them in particular who has a quiet wit and the kindest, gentlest eyes I've ever seen. For a month or so, he and I kept exchanging little smiles and glances, but when I tried to talk to him, he was in the herd of s.b.f.s, and only twice have we had a nice (albeit awkward) conversation. Now when he comes into the community hall he won't look at me. He heads straight for the trough where he stays for the entire evening. One night he kept his back to me for two hours, and then smiled and winked as he left. The next week he wouldn't look at me at all.

I haven't a clue how to interpret this. I figure he's either interested, scared to death or was just being friendly at first and now he wants me to leave him alone. Should I just leave this poor man alone?

Smitten

Dear Smitten,

You are each trying to read the other's mind, and it sounds as if he is afraid of what might be on yours. Time for you to ignore him. Ignore him dramatically, completely. Stand four feet away from him and be oblivious. Chat with the farmer next to him. Walk past him without so much as a hello. See if he won't approach you and ask if you're angry. And then you can tell him you're upset because you tried to be friendly and he ignored you. And then it's up to him.

Dear Mr. Blue,

My significant other and I are both in our early 30s, and we've been living together since our late teens. There was never any real spark of passion for me (though there was for him), but I do love him dearly in other ways. But I still think often about other men and about breaking up with him. I don't want to hurt him (I tried to leave him once before and it was too painful. And the men I am attracted to are invariably a little sleazy.) But should I settle for a comfortable, friendly relationship when a more fulfilling, passionate one may be possible? I know our placid sex life bothers him, but he seems to be OK. On the other hand, he is a person who tends to enjoy being in a rut. Should I settle down or give in to my longing for more passion? It would hurt me so much to hurt him. I've been fighting with this for years already, and I'm not getting anywhere.

Paralyzed

Dear Paralyzed,

You're not happy and probably he isn't either. Why dig this hole deeper? It's already up to your shoulders. Try living apart and still seeing each other, and see if that doesn't clarify things a little. Either you'll get a breath of fresh air and a sense of liberation from these nagging doubts, or you'll realize that you can't be without him and must go back and try to work on the relationship. Don't provoke a big heart-wrenching discussion, just tell him you need to know what it's like to live alone as an adult. Simple as that. And then do it.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I live in a village of 92 people, am recently divorced and my ex-husband also lives here. Recently he started seeing my next-door neighbor and friend. Many people say to me, "Why do you care?" It just seems in my face, as if it is intentional to hurt me. I would never date his neighbor and have that in his face every time he walks out his door. What do you think?

Insulted

Dear Insulted,

This town is too small for privacy, so if you want not to know about your neighbor, you must move to Chicago, or you must practice not caring. Your ex-husband's intent is not the concern. I think you ought to sit tight and not let on that you care and be neighborly and find something else to focus on, like dancing, or baking, or writing, and let the village go about its affairs.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I'm in a relationship with a wonderful woman whose life is enormously complicated. She is separated from her husband but not divorced, has a 6-year-old son, lives 300 miles away and is very poor and in debt. She is, without a doubt, leaps and bounds beyond anyone I've ever dated. However, my feelings for her have gone from moderately intense love to moderate fondness. I keep thinking I should break this relationship off, but she feels that I'm "the one," that I've given her something she can't find anywhere, and that if I leave she'll be unable to survive. Should I marry her, even though I don't love her, for her sake and for the sake of her son?

Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,

This is a wrong turn. Back up and go straight. She's married, she's needy to the point that she may not know her own mind and you're not in love with her. She needs someone who is, and you're standing in his way.

Dear Mr. Blue,

How does one learn patience? I never seem to be happy with where I am. I want to be in grad school, want to have my career started, want a serious relationship. I have a hard time going through the necessary steps to get to these things (i.e., dating, applying to grad school, etc). I spend too much time longing for point B to enjoy point A.

Grasshopper

Dear Grasshopper,

You're young, and impatience is the luxury of youth. The hormones are pushing you to get out, get going, be somebody. Perfectly natural. You must, however, take things in steps, the same as the rest of us. It's best if you simply know this and do it, but if you need instruction, life itself will teach you. Life is a merciless instructor. Apply to grad school and go dancing.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I have been (amicably) divorced for 17 years and have two wonderful grown children who live away. My ex-husband and I like to have our extended family events together, making sure to include our children and respective partners and elderly parents on both sides, but his current live-in lady gives me the cold shoulder and acts like a gorilla in our midst. My ex is in denial and keeps inviting me in spite of this gorilla in our midst. What to do?

Confused

Dear Confused,

A simple switch of venue might solve this. Talk to your children and propose that you, and not the ex, be the host of these get-togethers. He can decide whether to bring his gorilla or not. She is not the proper host; you are, since you harbor no ill will for anyone. You're able to be gracious to her, she can't seem to be gracious to you, so meet at your house and have a good time and let her decide how to resolve her feelings.


Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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