Flirting, with horses

I pay for the horse farm; my husband uses the horses to attract women

By Cary Tennis
Published July 2, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am writing this at 4 a.m. The last few years my husband seems so uninterested in me, to the point of staring at other women right in front of me and when we are with another couple, flirting and boasting to the other women, and completely ignoring me.

If I try to let him know how demeaning this is to me, I am the jealous wife who needs to "grow up."

We have a horse farm and I don't ride horses. However, I support his hobby and have financially sacrificed for this to be part of his life. He loves to invite women to ride horses on our property or offers to take women riding, and when friends come to visit he pressures people to ride or we end up watching him ride.

Just writing this sounds bizarre and I wonder how this is really me? We have grown up together and somehow things have tilted so that it's all about him. He lost his business and I supported him. He has been a great dad and is good to my family.

I struggle to believe this is not important but it feels so humiliating when it is occurring.  The latest is his phone was going off and I went to turn it off, I noticed his friend who just left (divorced with new girlfriend) and he exchanged texts where his friend says his girlfriend would gladly help groom the horses for the chance to ride at our farm, my husband writes back that his brushes are ready, let's ride ... when his friend replies that ha ha he is so funny my husband wrote back he can only hope ...

We had made love all the night before. He woke up and told me these people were coming and I cooked and entertained these people I didn't know all day just to read this. When confronted, he ignored me and told me to grow up. Of course I told him he was the one that needed to grow up, that he was married and why didn't he present himself that way.

Am I crazy? Do I throw away 30 years for this? Or is it not just this but the pervading feeling he is taking advantage of me?  I am a successful, attractive, outgoing women who has many opportunities myself, but I would not do that in front of my husband.

Why am I putting up with this?


Dear Hurt,

You are putting up with this because you love your husband and don't want to destroy your marriage. You don't know how to rekindle the intimacy you shared in the beginning, but feel there must be a way.

There is a way. You and your husband can get through this. But you need to tell each other the things that are really happening in your emotional lives. To make that possible, you might need an intermediary, like a therapist or someone who can coach you through this transition, because some of the things you need to say, and admit to each other, are not going to feel natural. What would feel natural is telling him what a jerk he is. What would feel natural for him is to tell you to butt out and calm down. What you are going to have to do, instead, is admit that he's hurt you deeply. And he's going to have to do some of the same. Then you will have to hear each other talking and feel some of the compassion you still have for each other, and some of the shame, perhaps, too, for how you've been feeling and behaving, and come together around how you are really feeling now, in the present.

Think about your husband. If he has lost his business and is depending on you then he is feeling diminished. So he is boasting and fooling around. He is showing off to his friends. The fact that he may be attracted to other women and fantasize about them is not so bad. He may feel that his own libido is not being understood. But he's being disrespectful. He is acting like a jerk.

Acting like a jerk is not such a terrible thing. People tend to act like a jerks when they're not getting what they want.

If you and he could honestly talk through these things, and feel secure enough to do that, I think you could see that you still love each other and are just having trouble adjusting.

This is doable. This is what happens in couples therapy all the time. It's not rocket science. And you don't need couples therapy necessarily. You just need to go on this emotional journey. Maybe you have some instincts that will guide you through it on your own. Maybe you can book a month-long trip to Maui and just hang out with him and say some things to each other. Maybe you don't need a therapist. I get tired of always saying, "See a therapist." I bore myself always saying that. Maybe there is a novel solution. I do feel strongly, however, that what needs to happen between you two is the kind of thing that happens in a therapist's office: safe, grounded, honest communication and honest listening, and no retaliation, and time enough for what's been said to sink in and be heard.

Maybe you can do that in Maui. It just has to be done.

He could change. He could learn to respect his own desires but also contain them and act appropriately. You could learn to see that this same guy who's acting out is also the guy you fell in love with.

You've been together 30 years. Inside you might be 25 but outside, you're in your 50s. You turn 50 and buy horses. Or you fall in love with a truck. Why horses? Why a fast, powerful truck? You want to feel the power and invincibility that you used to feel in your own body.

There is nothing so terrible going on in your marriage. But your lives have changed.

From this point on, it will either get better or worse. If you face it and take some risks, it will get better. If you continue to stew, and then retaliate, then stew, then retaliate, it will get worse.

You've been together 30 years. He doesn't want to leave you. You don't want to leave him. Face it together. Work it out. Find a way through this.

Cary Tennis

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