Updates: “Can’t Accept His Behavior” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Can’t Accept His Behavior” whose husband was fooling around behind her back, refusing marriage counseling, and justifying his behavior as being that of a typical man, saying that she shouldn’t be concerned because men “can separate sex and love while women can’t.” She asked if he wanted an open marriage, even though she had no desire for one, because she thought that would be better than his “sneaking around.” Keep reading to see how she’s doing now and whether, two years later, she’s still married to the philanderer.

I was reading your column again today and thought I would provide an update. I really appreciated your advice and everyone else’s comments as well.

I don’t know how uplifting this update will be, but I wanted to share what has changed, both good and bad. I have taken the advice to heart, even though I have not made all of the life changes advised.

I am in counseling and have a long way to go towards understanding my own issues and why I have such low self esteem. I have read several books on codependency and feel that I am on the right track there.

Fear still holds me back in a lot of ways. I have a successful career in government service, but I am ready for new challenges and responsibilities. I was chosen for a professional development institute at work, and am in the midst of obtaining a new credential. I am doing well at work in my current position; however, I am afraid to take a lot of risks.

My husband has promised (again) to change. As far as I know, he has not been back on any hook-up sites, webcams, or chat rooms. I dragged him to marriage counseling, and he attended one session. The counselor told me that she did not think he was invested and that he tended to minimize all of his actions. She advised that she could not work miracles and that, if he were not invested, it would be a waste of everyone’s time.

We are still trying to work on our marriage. We even tried the open marriage, and I had many dates; however, he did not have any. Thus ended our foray into alternative relationships. I think he is starting to appreciate me now.

He has been the stay-at-home dad for the past five years. Sometimes he expresses that he has low self-esteem and feels emasculated because he cannot provide financially for the family. I remind him how much he contributes with caring for the children and household, but he holds some antiquated views in gender roles. He is starting to come around, though.

Thank you for the advice. I wish I could say that I followed all of it, but I feel that I am doing what is best for my family.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. Your therapist is right, if he isn’t invested then nothing will change. Unfortunately he seems to be very comfortable in his situation.

  2. dinoceros says:

    It’s good that you have made a few positive changes. But I think it’s inaccurate to say “we” are working on the marriage. You are, not him.

    1. I agree, I think her husband is riding her coattails. I think the letter writer is moving in the right direction, though.

  3. GertiethDino says:

    I feel sad for you and infuriated at your husband. I personally wouldn’t put up with his behavior, but that is me, I have no skin in this game.

  4. It sounds like a fairly happy ending in a way. The LW has decided they can live with the situation. The counseling seems like a positive step. It’s what’s needed in the present. Best wishes for the future!

  5. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    What I find heartening in the update is this:

    We are still trying to work on our marriage. We even tried the open marriage, and I had many dates; however, he did not have any. Thus ended our foray into alternative relationships. I think he is starting to appreciate me now.

    Yeah, the counseling comment is concerning. But perhaps there’s been a change based on him seeing how desirable the LW is and how, if he didn’t want to treat her well there was a line out the door of men who would?

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      I think it’s also a good sign that he’s given up his job and is taking care of the kids. It seems like a textbook narcissist wouldn’t give up the power/control of being the one with a job. I wonder though if the feelings of emasculation that that’s causing is maybe making him try to go out and show that he’s a man with other women? If he’s got old-fashioned ideas about gender roles then he must really be struggling with being the stay at home parent. That would also explain the “that’s what men do” comments. If he can’t do what he thinks men should do in one area of his life, is he trying to in others? He does need therapy I think, but I’m guessing that’s another thing that “men don’t do”, and doing that on top of being a stay-at-home dad is a bridge too far for him.

  6. Oh lord the poor OP sounds defeated. I mean, the letter is worded so damn cautiously…. I dunno. Team kids.

  7. LW, I urge you to get your husband out of house and get him to work.

    1) That way he would not have the time to cheat. His so called lack of esteem is no longer an excuse.
    2) In case of a divorce, you don’t have to pay him spousal support

    I know you think he is taking care of kids. But I suggest you get him to work and use that money for childcare. In the long that is better for all of you.

  8. Baccalieu says:

    There is really not much to do here. The husband has made clear that he is not prepared to change his ways. He refuses to even admit there is an issue. Therefore all she can do is either leave him or live with it. She has chosen the latter. It is not the choice that most women would make, or the choice that I would make in her shoes, but we are not in her shoes. And it is not necessarily a horrible choice. In the last century (and really for many centuries past) a lot of women made this choice (although the options for them were much less palatable or even non-existent) and I don’t know that all of them were miserable. There are even prominent women today who make it, including, possibly, the future US president. (I really don’t think Bill Clinton has changed his ways, do you? And I certainly wouldn’t call Hillary a victim or powerless in the situation.) I hope this woman can find happiness with her choice too.

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