Dear Carolyn: I am 25 and have been married a short while. My wife is loving and I have known her for a very long time, but I think the love for my wife is more of a friend love; we were friends in high school and dated awhile. About two weeks ago another friend from high school started talking to me about everything. Life, high school, joking and whatnot, and I have become very attracted to this person and she is attracted to me. We are both married and neither of us has kids. I have a major fear of commitment (to anything) and 80 percent of the time I don’t want to be married anymore.
What should I do, ride the whole thing out until I die, or hope that I fall helplessly in love with my wife? I don’t want to hurt her but at the same time I don’t want to give up the relationship my other friend and I have. She is unhappy the same way I am. Please help me, I don’t know what to do. I would be embarrassed to even think about divorce because my parents and my wife’s all get along great. I am considering just running away and never coming back. But what would that solve? – Very Confused Guy
It would get you to stop fishing in a pond stocked with old high school friends, apparently not the healthiest diet.
The joke content there is only 50 percent. Running away would be cowardly, pointless and wrong, you know this. But you do need to run away, immediately, from “the relationship my other friend and I have.”
Whether you give it up for life or for a season is a question you need to answer – after you answer the one about your marriage. (And, separately, depending on whether she deals with her own marital mess.)
I don’t believe the framers of “till death do you part” intended it to be used interchangeably with, “ride the whole thing out till I die.” Either you’re in this marriage, or you’re out. Either you find a way to get your full heart back into it – through conversation and attention and dedication and also through good marriage counseling, if you feel disconnected or confused – or you find a way to admit your feelings for your wife have changed.
Short attention-span version: Deal with it. I believe you can honor a marriage, and honor a spouse, by declaring you can’t give either one your full dedication. I don’t think you can honor either, though, if you weasel and waffle and back into your decision, all while furtively going on dates with Plan B.
You decide on your marriage based on the merits of your marriage, not on the merits of your alternatives. Then you own your decision. You owe that much to your wife.
That would be true if you were in love with someone else, so it’s certainly true given what you have: exactly two weeks of “whatnot” with someone new, with whom your great thing in common is dread.
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