Five years ago I was a happy hooker in Manhattan living a carefree existence and dating an amazing guy. Easy going, funny, caring, hot as fuck, same playful worldview as me. When he had to move away for a few months I decided to let the relationship fade as letting it run its natural course would likely have ended in heartbreak (at 25 he said he had at least a decade before wanting to settle down; at 31 I knew I wanted a child at some point and didn’t have 10 years to wait to start).
Enter 42 year old handsome ad exec client of mine. We start dating, I quit my job, quit partying, and re-entered the 9-5 workforce. We have endless conversations about my ability to be monogamous (I can) because he’s been cheated on. We fall in love fast and in less than a year decide to get pregnant and move in. All seems to be running smoothly until 2 months after our son is born when I come across evidence that he had lied about a past divorce (2 not 1) and then a few weeks later that he had been seeing sex workers for the last year. Over the course of a few months and therapy I decide to stay. He says it was self destructive behavior because he thought my pregnancy-induced ambivalence towards him (I was) meant I would leave him (I wouldn’t). Things got better, but we never recovered fully. A year and a half later he was offered a job in Portland and I said – fuck it, new start, new adventure.
We’ve been here a year and a half and I have no regrets about the decisions I’ve made. I obviously ignored some large red flags, but I love my son. I love Portland. If we broke up I would be happy to stay here (as in, wouldn’t feel trapped).
But we constantly go through the following cycle:
1. He confuses my introversion for indifference and becomes a cranky bastard.
2. I pull away because my father was a very cranky bastard.
3. I fantasize constantly about the guy who I dated just before him. He was a beam of fucking light.
4. At this point the distance between us is tangible.
3. Blow up. The end is near. Silence. Agree to sort it out. Family unit. Blah blah.
His worst fear is that I am only with him because he is generally sensible and responsible, has a good job, etc.
That’s why I’m with him.
I love him but if he was a loaf or a shitty dad I would have been gone a long time ago. The lust has faded and other than our shared love of our son I don’t know how much we actually have in common.
There’s not even a question in there. I want you to read the tea leaves I suppose.
It seems as though you’ve split the difference between settling and settling down. In that sense, you’re like most women who marry in their thirties for the sake of having a child.
Also, you’re right on schedule for the lust to have faded. That happens to all couples after a few years, especially when you throw parenthood into the mix.
You acknowledge your faults (ambivalence to near indifference) and you acknowledge that he is a good husband and father in some generic, outwardly visible sense. That’s all good stuff to know about yourself, but what you don’t seem to recognize is how easily you’re able to change your own history for the sake of your present emotional state, especially with regard to your prior relationship.
I promise you, beam-of-fucking-light guy wasn’t all that special. He was just young and wild. Hell, so were you. I’m not trying to insult your memory of him or denigrate the relationship. What you two had together was very real, and I’m sure he was a great guy, but he wasn’t magical. You were just in love, and now you’re heaping all your “what might have been” fantasies onto your memory of him.
You’re making beam-of-fucking-light guy out to be much better than he actually was. (Yes, you are.) That’s not fair to you, that’s not fair to him, and that’s not fair to your husband.
Now, as for your husband, his worst fear is NOT that you’re only with him because he is a good provider. That’s merely your interpretation of his inherent low self-esteem, which he otherwise is well-practiced at hiding.
His worst fear is that he is unlovable.
This is a man who throughout his life has regularly and continually paid women for sex and affection. You were one of those women, and believe me when I tell you that there is a dark sticky place in his psyche that you’re never allowed to see where he has some major issues with women, and that part of him is tied directly to his fear of being unlovable. (I can’t even begin to explain all the mommy issues involved here.)
If it weren’t for your son, it’s plainly obvious that the two of you would already be divorced — his 3rd apparently — and you would have already fallen in love with someone else. (That’s your larger pattern, interrupted only by motherhood.)
That doesn’t mean you two can’t have a happy marriage. You can, and it doesn’t have to end in divorce. The good news is you two on some fundamental level have always respected one another. Even at the ass-end of one of your blow-up cycles, neither of you have lost respect for the other.
That’s your saving grace. You can build on that. I recommend you two start seeing a relationship therapist regularly to help the process, but it’s time for you both to start a new kind of partnership, one in which you both shift and refine your ideas about love.
You need to mutually acknowledge that lust fades over time. You need to mutually accept that the two of you have complex sexual and emotional needs, and it’s unreasonable to expect that all those needs can be met by just one person. Furthermore, you need to mutually acknowledge that just because your spouse doesn’t meet all of your sexual and emotional needs, that doesn’t mean you two can’t be a healthy, loving couple.
I promise, you can. As long as there’s mutual respect, you can make it. You may have to fly in the face of tradition, but given your mutual histories, I doubt you’ll have much problem with writing your own rules to your marriage.