Am I a cuckold?

Every month my fiancee sees this "friend" from work and comes home tipsy

By Cary Tennis

Published August 11, 2011 12:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

Over five years ago when I first quit drinking, my fiancée was having trouble adjusting to me being sober (and, admittedly, a little boring and a bit of a downer). She commutes more than 60 miles by train to New York each day, and one afternoon she said she'd be home late because she had to go out with a girlfriend/colleague in her biz. She came home very drunk and said some things that didn't make sense, so I checked text messages and emails on her phone. She went out to see another man. I confronted her about it and she said that it didn't amount to anything, she'd stop, and she was just having trouble adjusting to me being sober and not being a drinking buddy anymore.

I went to rehab after a relapse a week later. This incident wasn't my only trigger but it certainly did not help matters. After I got better and dedicated myself to staying sober (which I have done for over five years now) and being a more optimistic person. It's not easy, but I have been getting better.

I have been concerned all along, however, about my fiancée's drinking (yes, we are still just engaged) and her relationship with this guy, who is also a business relation of hers. She comes home late just about once a month, and every other time a little tipsy. She has not mentioned this guy much but I know he keeps sending her notes to go to karaoke with her, or to go to a concert with her (on a Saturday night!). I know she probably hesitates to mention him out of sensitivity to me, but for a short time a few years ago she would invite him and his then girlfriend over to our house from time to time, as if to show he had a girlfriend and was no longer a threat and, can't we all be friends now?

Am I overreacting to someone asking my fiancée to go out to karaoke or to a concert, alone? Or am I a moron for not doing something about this sooner? I know one question you have: Why aren't we married? I asked her to marry me over six years ago, and she keeps changing her mind over how and when to do this (it will be a second wedding for both of us). Is she waiting for me to finalize the deal? I keep telling her any time, anywhere. Is she not committing because she still wants an out, in case I relapse or don't continue to develop into something else? She usually doesn't respond to this guy's requests, or lies and says she has an appointment, can we do it some other time, or just responds very equivocally. Would I be asking too much for her to tell the guy, "Look, I am engaged to be married, I can't do this"?

Call me Cuckolded?

Dear Call Me Cuckolded?

The concept of a man's being cuckolded is a bit narrow, I think -- too narrow to account for the presence of eros in a relationship that has at least one admitted alcoholic in it. If we broaden the picture a little, maybe we can get a sense of what's going on with you two.

People come together to meet all sorts of needs. Some of those needs are apparent but some are secret even to ourselves. The public language of romance and marriage allows for romantic love, monogamous sex, physical and medical caretaking, companionship, a blending of families and things like that, but that's not all there is to us humans!

We are vast, hungry beings full of secrets and unexpected lust, fantasies of betrayal, longings ineffable and pointed (yet hot to the touch), fear and doubt and self-recrimination, all manner of sudden impulses.

"Speak for yourself," you may say -- and of course I am. This is my conception of human personality -- a beautiful chaos of desires and designs operating behind a thin, translucent membrane of normalcy. This is the human spirit capable of wild extremes of ecstasy and torment, the sacred and profane, the idiot and the genius.

This wild spirit gets us into trouble. So say you quit drinking and try to live a quiet, orderly life. All those instincts and drives are still there. Your fiancée still likes to go out and party just like she did before you quit drinking.

Obviously each of you has needs that are not being met in your relationship. At the risk of causing upset, why not open up a conversation about these neglected parts of your personalities that are trying to find expression? Why not put everything on the table and ask yourselves honestly what you want, what you need, what you're looking for?

It may be that if you are honest about what you want, you will see that there are more forces pulling you apart than holding you together right now. Maybe that is what this is telling you. Or maybe what it is telling you is that your conception of the relationship needs to expand to encompass her need to go out and party with her friends.

The concrete fact of whether she is having sex with this man is important, but it is only one part of the picture.

And what about you? What do you need? It sounds like you want stability and commitment. But what else? What brings you joy? You mention having become somewhat "boring" since you quit drinking. How do you get high now? That is, what brings you excitement and fascination? Where do your passions lie?

The answers to these questions may point outside the relationship. So either the relationship must expand to accommodate these things, or the two of you need to acknowledge that you have changed as individuals, and this relationship you once conceived as a cocoon and a refuge no longer serves you.

Write your truth

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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