Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
The Tell Tale Toddler
I’m a college girl, 22, very blunt so here goes. I’ve been having an affair for 9 months with another woman, a former professor of mine. It’s so hot and passionate sometimes we literally cannot take our hands off each other. The problem; she’s married to a guy and they have a 2 year-old. I have no problem with the way things are going. I wasn’t looking for strings and she has no desire to get a divorce, although her husband cannot know about us. The problem is her daughter. We hook up around lunchtime, but sometimes her daughter’s school is closed and she’ll be napping while we… don’t nap together. We’re very careful and keep the door closed but recently the little girl found us getting dressed, then a second time she walked in while we were half-dressed and kissing. Mom told her we’re girlfriends, no big deal, but this kid saw me a third time, just in the hallway leaving and told me, “I’m telling Daddy about you.” I smiled and said okay, but now I’m uncomfortable going to her house. I really don’t know if I’m worried the little girl will talk, or feeling guilty about the whole thing in general. What are your thoughts?
- Tell Tale Toddler?
Hi Tell Tale,
The problem is not and will never be a two-year-old. Projection is for movies, it will never help anyone to superimpose their own dissonance onto an innocent child. Besides, she is two! Maybe she wants to tell Daddy about Mommy’s new friend. Regardless of her motives, the mouths of babes can inspire profound reflections. I am not shaming you in any way for an affair, rather reminding you that there is a fellow in the picture who “cannot know.” That makes your affair a secret and those will always be troublesome. If that kind of tension is what revs your motors between the sheets, I only ask that you prepare yourself for potential disclosure, willing or otherwise, to the husband. You both have your dials set to casual, but feelings often change over time. This thing may run its course, after which you part amicably, but what if it does not? The way you deal with infidelity, and the way you observe her doing the same, will tell you a lot about each other as potential partners. In short, secrets and deception are rarely healthy, and occasionally talking over a cup of tea at the kitchen table may not be as much fun as romping all over each other, but it is a good fit for school closure days and helping lovers communicate about what they truly want.
I’m a Jewish gay man, 24, in a relationship with a coworker for the last 4 months. He is cute, funny, and smart, the whole package but tends to make remarks, jokes, etc. that border on anti-Semitic. He treats me personally with respect, but makes ugly remarks about my faith and Israel and its current leadership. He used to make them anytime, but when I asked him to please lighten up a little he simply stopped saying them when we are alone. At any time there’s down time at work or we’re out with friends, current events come up and he polarizes the issue. I have never lived in Israel, although my relatives have, but this is a White guy from a Protestant background, and he gets his distorted information from a certain brand of media, sharply opposed to Israel. I happen to agree with him on some points, I just don’t believe it’s okay to disparage a whole race because you disagree with a country’s existence or its current leadership. I know he’s aware of himself, because he’s careful to never bring up or comment on the subject when we’re with my parents. So, why is he with a Jew if he thinks so little of us?
Oh my God, you are in a relationship with a coworker? Just kidding, it sounds like compatibility is high except on the current events page. This conflict is why some families/couples have the sacred rule that is followed 100% in their presences; No politics or religion. The topics are off-limits, and no amount of baiting can lure them from their fence. Are they insensitive, self-absorbed people who turn a blind eye to the suffering of others? Or, are they heroic champions of self-control, who understand the futility of engaging in ceaseless debates over opinions, well informed or not, to which all of us passionately feel entitled. You decide for yourself. I can offer that when someone cannot grasp the concept of agree to disagree, then I would rather talk about the weather or what we ate that that day.
In a relationship this is not as effective and communication is the key to avoiding conflict. Sit down and unpack the new rule: “Love is impossible without respect, so Trevor, from now on the topic of Israel/Palestinian conflict is off-limits in my presence. Your flip and unfunny remarks about death and war offend and hurt me, and if that is not enough to make you stop or at least limit this dialogue to the time we spend apart, which I would willingly do for you, then maybe the love I thought we had is only one way and we need to reconsider being together.”
I’m a stay-at-home father, 30’s with a 3 and 1 year-old. My wife is a successful attorney and businesswoman with a very rewarding and lucrative career, so we are very fortunate. I have learned to let the emasculating jokes and comments roll right off without flinching, whether it’s at the supermarket or kid’s gym or park, so that’s behind me. I’ve also learned to manage how my wife is never, ever fully present with me and the kids, even during the 3 hours she actually sees us in the evening. I still bathe and read to the kids and tuck them in because she’s too tired. She also travels a lot, and sometimes she’s gone for a week straight. What I can’t manage is that I want to work! I used to be a great HVAC repairman and I know it’s not glamorous like her career, but it gave me a purpose. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but I need to work with my hands; that is just the way I am wired. I am feeling useless and all I want is to do a little hard work. I brought it up to my wife and was shot down cold. She seems to think I’m ungrateful for all her hard work. How can I go back to work without her resenting me?
- House Bro
Hi House Bro,
I am going to assume that hiring a nanny is not a problem for you financially, so going back to work would be as simple as, well, hiring one and going back to work. That must be a comfort. So, you only need to communicate your need for productivity and occupational fulfillment to a woman whose career has taken over most of her life, and according to you, lives to work. She at least should be willing to hear you out.
We toss around the term work/life balance for a reason. The yin/yang of our personal and vocational lives helps us to maintain a sense of control. Of all things to feel guilty about, a desire for hard work should not be included. There is plenty of work in your field, in all seasons and with the added benefit of flexibility. Anyone with a furnace out during a New England winter or an air conditioner gone kaput during a Texas summer will not care what time you show up.
Going back to work, at least part-time may be easy enough for you. However, there are other issues to consider. Your beloved spouse sounds over-worked and under-involved with the family, and your communication with each other may need a tune-up as well. Counseling cannot hurt, and it may help jump-start the process of restoring that work/life balance for both of you.
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
Photo by Fotolia/highwaystarz