Couples counseling

Should I get pregnant? Can I forgive my husband? Do I tell my boyfriend I have breast implants? And why does one of us have to have a cock to be married?


Cary Tennis
May 7, 2002 11:18PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I've been married two years to my husband, the kindest soul I know. He's the kind of guy who will gently capture dozens of ants a day that have strayed into our kitchen and release them outdoors. He thanks telemarketers for their calls after patiently explaining why he can't accept their offers. He worries that he should put a little money aside for his elder brother, the lawyer, in case he wants to go into academia. So basically, the guy I married is a doll, and he loves me and treats me like a queen.

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But a couple of months before our wedding, when the economy and stock market were still booming, he made a big mistake that no one was able to talk him out of. He decided to quit his job in finance and devote himself to managing his sudden stock market fortune. Within weeks, his fortune had turned into debt. Now, for two years he's been in debt and unable to find a job.

My problem is this. Nature's calling me to get pregnant and have a baby. If we're going to have the kids we want with the spacing between them that I want, we're cutting it close even if we get started right away. I know my husband will make a devoted father, but it would hurt his pride to start a family before he's found work, and it would be a lot of pressure on him. I don't think money per se is a huge problem since I have a job. But the thing that makes me nervous is that once he finally does get a job offer, the odds are very high that we'll have to move -- who knows when or where. We may need to be separated for a while, and if all this happens while I'm in my third trimester or have a newborn on my hands, I think I'll be a whimpering, nervous mess.

What do you advise? Heed nature's call and assume everything will work out eventually, wait for life to sort itself out first or tell my husband to go live with his lawyer brother and stop living off my dole?

Just About Had It

Dear Had It,

I would suggest that you go ahead and start trying to get pregnant, let him continue his job search, but make this ironclad agreement: Once you get pregnant, if he hasn't found a job yet, he either stays at home with the kid or takes a job that doesn't require you to move. That way you'll have some stability.

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But your last line troubles me. It sounds like you're genuinely quite angry with your husband. If his decision to quit his job is part of a pattern of sudden, ill-considered moves, you may have to rethink your whole plan. Being kind to ants and telemarketers is fine, but if you and the children are going to feel secure, you need to know that he's not going to be making these sudden, ill-considered decisions for the next 40 years. You must be sure he can keep an agreement. Think this over carefully. If he's incorrigibly flighty, you're looking for trouble.

Dear Cary,

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A month ago my husband of eight years confessed in counseling to having an affair while I was out of town for 10 days. I was, of course, devastated and shocked as I did not suspect a thing and our relationship has always been centered around trust and honesty. We have two beautiful, innocent little boys and I am trying my best to not create any more wreckage that would affect them. My husband has stopped the affair, gotten into counseling with me and by himself, and is physically and emotionally doing everything he can around here to atone for his mistake. He says it made him realize that he truly does want to be a part of this family and he is committed to doing anything it takes to keep us together.

At this point I just cannot forgive him, no matter what he does or says. I honestly can't imagine being without him -- I have always felt that he is my true soul mate and before this I never imagined that we wouldn't be married forever. But now I just am disgusted by his choice and I cannot for some reason look at this as a "mistake" that I should just forgive him for. Will I ever feel differently about this?

Confidential

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Dear Confidential,

I think you will eventually feel differently about this, but that doesn't mean you will forgive him and forget about it, or that your relationship hasn't been permanently changed. I think it's more likely that you will come to see him as someone you continue to love deeply but who, you now know, is also dangerous, capable of wounding you, not wholly domesticated, not wholly transparent. You may become more cautious, more self-protective, more pragmatic as a result. You may find yourself making contingency plans, and that is probably healthy.

It wasn't a "mistake"; it was a calculated risk full of contradictions and consequences. He may regard it as a mistake now. But it was a choice. It's not like he tripped and fell and accidentally knocked you over. It's more like he burned your hand with a cigarette to see what would happen. Now he's finding out.

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There is a savage, dark part in all of us; we're capable of wounding each other out of sheer devilry. The people we love are not harmless; none of us is an angel. With our appetites and our self-deceptions, we are dangerous to each other even as we love each other. Now that he has wounded you, your husband is a new person to you. You may find that you don't want to be married to this new person. If you cannot reconcile this dark side with the side that is all about "trust and honesty," you may never be able to love him again. But the dark side is always there, in all of us, and it fuels much of what is so wonderful about us: our humor, our ambition, our clannishness, our pride, even our love of our wives and children.

Dear Cary,

I've been with my boyfriend for more than two years. We are in a blissful, so-in-love relationship, but it hasn't always been like that. Just six months ago we "broke up" for a month (and this was the only time in the two years we'd dated that we've gone more than two days without speaking). He eventually came around and declared his undying love and commitment. I took him back and now (six months later) everything is great.

So why the letter? Well, I have a little secret that I haven't told him. I got breast implants and didn't tell him when I had them done (I said the pills I was taking made them grow; somehow he believed me). Now I'm stuck and don't know how to tell him. I already told him I didn't and the only reason I don't want to is that I'm embarrassed. I haven't even told my extended family. I'm not a shallow, self-involved (or body-obsessed) kind of girl. I've always been honest with my boyfriend and everything. Is not telling him this a really deceitful thing? How should I approach him? Please help.

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Late Bloomer

Dear Late Bloomer,

The purpose of breast implants is to create an illusion, and illusion only works if the mechanics are hidden. So if you tell him, you destroy the illusion, and you've wasted your money. Now, if he feels the implants with his hands and asks you point-blank, I guess the jig is up. Once he's seen the wires suspending the woman in the air, the illusion is shattered, and there's no sense lying at that point.

But lying in the service of a diverting illusion is different from lying under oath in a court of law, or lying about whether you've been sleeping with his best friend. Illusion is theater in which the audience colludes. He wants to believe in the illusion of your breasts. The audience colludes with the performer. You're not doing him any favors by destroying the illusion you've created.

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If your head is troubled by the social, political and economic reasons women trade in appearance, you may have been conflicted about performing this particular illusion from the start, and that may be why you feel bad about lying. But if you're going to trade in illusion, you have to be comfortable with the necessary deception.

Dear Cary,

I haven't seen you address a specifically gay concern yet, but I hope you'll take a crack at this dilemma.

After about a dozen serious attempts at relationships with both women and men over the years, I've finally gotten lucky. I'm in love with my whole heart, body and soul, and miraculously, she feels the same way. We've been together a little over a year, moved in together two months ago, and I just know that this one has staying power. My biggest clue is that every time we have a conflict, we work it through and feel incredible surges of love and gratitude and passion afterward. We just plain adore and respect each other. I can't believe I've finally found someone.

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So what's the problem? My lover is not a U.S. citizen. In fact, she made a conscious decision several months ago to overstay her temporary visa and now is residing in this country illegally. The unbelievably unjust thing is that if one (and only one) of us had a cock, we could get married and do that whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing that Americans are supposed to have the right to. But the U.S. government has decided that only people who love someone of the opposite sex deserve to be able to stay together. I'm active in organizations that are working to change this discriminatory policy, but the outlook is dim for a change in the next, oh, 10-20 years.

None of our options are much good: 1) we stay together here in the U.S. (meaning we live in fear of something as minor as a traffic violation and she can't leave her under-the-table, low-paying, way-beneath-her job); 2) move to another country such as Canada or the U.K. (why should I, as a law-abiding, taxpaying, consenting-adult American citizen have to choose between my country and the love of my life?); or 3) try to find a trustable man to marry her for her green card (illegal, risky, a huge pain in the ass and absolutely infuriating -- she should be my wife, dammit!).

Why are so many straight Americans (like the 60 percent of Californians who voted to ban gay marriage) such mean-spritied assholes about other people's love lives, and if you were in my shoes, what would you do and why? Please don't try to brainstorm any other options than the three mentioned above -- they don't exist. Believe me, I've done the research. I love this woman, Cary, and I'd marry her if I could.

In Love, but Outta Luck

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Dear In Love,

I can't think of anything more tragic and infuriating. None of the options look good. I'm going to trust you when you say there are no other alternatives. So here is my approach to insoluble problems such as yours: Accept it and live with it. Consider it an incurable disease. Treat it like the knowledge of inescapable death. Treat it like someone born into slavery treats the knowledge that he will never be free. Treat it like a starving mother in the desert treats her inexplicably cruel fate. She knows no food is going to come from the sky and she dies in the hot dust amid insects and the wailing of children. There is no justice. There is just what is. Accept your situation with dignity and courage, and behave in a way that makes you proud. If that means fighting it, fight it. If that means living secretly, live secretly. But clear your head of outrage, vengeance and self-pity; we're all just working in the Pharaoh's fields, and the Pharaoh is one cruel bastard.


Cary Tennis

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