It has escalated from chatting (which I still think is wrong but not as egregious as real life cheating) to attempting to meet up in real life. He sees nothing wrong with his behavior and has dismissed it as “just looking around,” which he didn’t think I’d mind. He says he was looking “at” other women but not “for” other women.
Every time I bring up his actions and suggest marriage counseling, he says there is no need for it and he’s happy in our relationship. I reply with my own concerns, and he tells me that, if I have issues, I should get individual counseling. So I did.
I did not like what my counselor had to say: that my husband is a sexually compulsive narcissist. If she’s right, and this is in fact the case, is there any hope that he will stop “looking around”? We have two children together, so I want to stay married if at all possible and reasonable.
I’m at my wit’s end. I even asked if he wanted an open marriage at one point because I thought that would be preferable to his sneaking around. At least I’d know where things stood. He said no, but then said it’s male nature to philander and I didn’t need to worry. Men, according to him, can separate sex and love while women can’t.
At the same time, I truly don’t want an open marriage because I want a stable environment for the children. We are happy but for his problem behavior, which he stops for a while and then starts again. It’s happened four times and I just don’t want to accept that he can’t change. Please advise. Thanks. — Can’t Accept His Behavior
It’s almost funny — except, not really — that you say an open marriage would be preferable to all the sneaking around because then you’d at least know where you stand when, in fact, you DO know where you stand. Your husband does not care about you, or what you want, or what your feelings are, or what you need to be happy in your marriage. That’s where you stand. When you suggested couple’s counseling, he said he didn’t need it because HE was happy, but what about YOU? That doesn’t matter to him. When he flirted with a friend of yours, he got mad at the friend for telling you, not because he felt bad that he was wrong to have hurt and embarrassed you but because the friend “blew it out of proportion.” He argues that he’s looking “at” women and not “for” women even though he’s apparently attempted to meet the women from online in real life. He thought his behavior was ok because he “didn’t think you’d mind.” When you expressed that, yes, you DO mind, he said that it’s just a male’s nature to philander — um, no, it’s not — confirming that he is, indeed, doing more than “just looking around.” And he’s arguing that even if he IS doing more than “just looking around” — hint: he is — it’s ok because he can separate love from sex. It’s all ok, isn’t it, as long as he’s happy and as long as he can excuse away his behavior because it’s male nature.
NEVER MIND that his philandering bothers you (of course it does!). NEVER MIND that you’re unhappy in your marriage. NEVER MIND that you want him to change his ways. HE’S perfectly happy, and, in his mind, that’s all that matters. Because your therapist was right: your husband is a narcissist. And narcissists don’t easily change their spots. Sure, you can try to plead and cajole him into going to therapy with you. MAYBE he’ll go. Probably he won’t. Or, he’ll go and not really open up or put in any effort because this is YOUR issue, not his, and YOU should be the one to accept him because, after all, he’s just being an average man, doing typical male stuff, like picking up women on the internet and cheating on his wife and putting the moves on her friends behind her back.
EXCEPT! That’s not how an average man behaves. Yes, that’s how some men behave. Crappy men. Men who have been told over and over and over that that kind of behavior is ok and acceptable because it’s just their nature. Men whose romantic partners send the message that their behavior is acceptable every time they turn a blind eye to it because acknowledging it — like, really acknowledging it and saying, “That’s NOT ok and I won’t stand for it”–isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when kids are involved or when they aren’t financially independent or they simply don’t know how to be on their own because it’s been so long or they’ve lost their self-confidence and the idea of that kind of loneliness is too much to bear (as if the loneliness they feel every time their men cheat on them is somehow better). But, fuck that.
Quit sending the message that this behavior is ok and that you’ll accept it if he’ll just be honest about it and stop sneaking around. Quit settling for bad behavior. Quit settling. Stand up for yourself and tell your husband that you’ve had enough and you will leave his ass if he doesn’t re-commit himself to your marriage and the sanctity of that union. And if he doesn’t show an immediate effort to keep you — if he doesn’t start taking you and your marriage and all the hurt he is causing you seriously, MOA. Because the stable environment you think you’re providing for your kids by with a chronic philanderer doesn’t sound so stable. And it certainly doesn’t sound happy. And, really, what’s the point if you don’t have that?
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.