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Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this
week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to
someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff
Dear Breakup Girl,
It's Obsessed, again ("Thanks for
Sharing"). I am the happily married guy with two kids from a previous
marriage. M is my wife, and I had written that we are compatible in all
respects, except for hang-ups regarding past relationships.
You had agreed, more or less, with my self-analysis, and encouraged me to
let latex, not morals, come between us. (M contracted herpes from a previous
casual relationship). I write seeking more clarification.
I had mentioned the herpes only to illustrate a point that contracting
herpes did not change her morals/values/whatever regarding casual sex. You
picked up on the unprotected aspect of her sex life, saying that having
unprotected sex with others, without informing them as to her condition, was
selfish behavior. And you admonished me not to keep harping on it.
And while that may be useful and wise advice, I don't harp on this issue
in fact, after the initial disclosure, it has rarely come up. And it is
her, not me, that mentions it. Each time it has, I have been understanding,
sympathetic and reassuring all the things I am supposed to be.
What drives me nuts is not the herpes, but the lying (to me) about the
encounters she has had, the sense that I was somehow misled or misunderstood
something about her during our courtship, (that something being the
values/morals thing I was reaching the conclusion in the wake of my first
marriage breakup, that casual sex is wrong, and was seeking someone who felt
the same, thought it was her, since we held off for a long time, until we were
in love, but in actual fact, she was still cruising the bars, so to speak, a
month or so before we dated ). This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that at
least four (six?) previous partners are still in her circle of friends.
One is an absolute jerk. Loud, obnoxious, domineering, self-centered. I have
spoken to him perhaps six times and every time, he has said something
crude or offensive. (Here's an example of his idea of a joke: "So, does
she still like it when you go down on her?") He is too socially inept to
realize that he is not very well-liked, just tolerated. Everyone is either too
polite to tell him, or they ignore his negative qualities and focus on his
positive. In fairness, there are some. He is a soft harmless person, is
regarded as intelligent, funny, and as M points out to me every time we run
into him and have the inevitable set-to because he has said something stupid,
nothing he says is intended to be malicious. He genuinely thinks he is being
witty and glib.
We have not invited him to any gatherings we have hosted, though M is
regretful and to some degree, resentful of me -- because she likes his
wife a lot, and M is also extremely conscious of what people may think
("Ohmigawd, they might think I don't like him!"). He is, in spite of
what people think about him, tolerated as part of the crowd. He may not be
invited to many things, but thinks nothing about showing up anyway. When he has
been around, M has shown him the utmost courtesy, laughing at his jokes, paying
attention to him, being interested in his life -- in spite of my feelings,
which are well known to her, and in spite of what she knows he says and thinks
about her (she dumped him when he was head over heels for her; he told me at
one point at his own marriage, in fact, which I reluctantly attended,
willing to at least give it the ole college try -- that he loved M with all his
heart and always imagined that he would marry her someday).
M and I had an incredible row a few weeks back, our worst one yet. I was
dropped off at a friend's place by M, well out of town, while she went off to
another event. As she was leaving, the jerk showed up. I had to endure him for
more than two hours, then for another hour and a half when M came back, while
she socialized with him.
Things have not been quite the same since then, because it is far from
resolved. My point was that I had thought we had agreed that we would make
tracks if he ever showed up, and that if we hadn't agreed on that, that we damn
well would agree from now on in. I loathe the man to a degree I have rarely
felt, and it pains me to have M sit there and make nice to him for fear of
offending him, leaving me to writhe in extreme discomfort.
At first, she was full of lame excuses didn't realize how long we were
sitting there, didn't want to rush her drink, was hoping someone else may show
up, thought she was just being polite, and so on. Then it was that I should be
big enough to ignore his comments, confident enough in our relationship to
realize there is no attachment or lingering feelings on her part, and that,
after all, she has an ex-wife to put with who is also a jerk.
My reply is that I do not force her to sit around and make nice with the ex,
or watch me sit around and make nice with the ex, that the issue with the jerk
is not one of being big, or that he is a threat to us. He's just a complete
jerk, that's all. And because of their past together, I feel extremely
uncomfortable when he's around. Same as she does with the ex, which is why I
take pains to try and make sure her exposure to the ex is extremely
And then it deteriorated from there a screamerama, nasty things said
to one another, angry stomps to the spare room, doors slamming, ugly, ugly,
ugly. Now we sit, dug in, entrenched in our respective positions, wary of
bringing anything up that could lead to a fight. Trying to get along and avoid
The Issue. But now, in a few weeks' time, there is an event that she considers
a Must Attend, for both of us. The jerk will be there, so I consider this a
Must Send Regrets. We studiously avoid talking about this, but both know it is
coming up fast.
This upcoming event is, of course, the tip of the iceberg. Though it has
dominated this letter, it will be resolved one way or tri-nother. We will
either go, or we won't, or she will go alone. We will probably have a fight,
because none of these solutions is a solution, and the tip of the iceberg will
re-emerge every bloody time we have to see him, or any of her other past
partners. Any thoughts or suggestions that could help avoid a Titanic-like
-- Obsessed, Still
You have done a lot of the clarification yourself
here. I understand that the virus is indeed the manifestation of a larger
malaise. Like, "it's not about the herpes" -- it's about trust,
dissembling, the "she's not who I thought she was" thing. Issues that
-- like certain viruses -- are present and active even when
I would also like to say, sagely, that "it's not
about this friend, either." But it is, partly. I mean, one thing we all
have to deal with is that our partners come with pasts, and sometimes those
pasts come to parties. But he sounds like a total nightmare. No excuses; the
stuff he's said is grounds for impeachment. Inexcusable. And, thus, plausible
for you to claim that you don't hate him because he poses some kind of threat.
He's odious enough all by himself.
So bottom line, what is It about? What's the rest of
the iceberg? Well, much like you, I'm not sure. And this is why you two have to
talk. Not about calendars and guest lists. About the mountain of ice beneath
the surface: why, on one hand, does/did M engage in self- and
relationship-destructive behavior AND go out of her way to please and be liked
by and maintain peace with everyone? Except you? Why, really, do you slink
along to these events on an ad hoc basis rather than stepping back and
attempting negotiation and compromise? You're right -- you might be able to
keep steering around the tip, but the iceberg itself could still sink the boat.
Don't wait for the film to rewrite history.
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