Any advice about how to help or deal with my friend, Carolyn, who found out two years ago that her beloved husband, Sparkly Dick (not his real name) of 5 years was cheating on her, shortly before he dumped her to run off with his Cliche Younger OW?
Six months later, Sparkly Dick came crawling back, as things had not worked out with CYOW, who turned out to be very demanding and not as “sweet and nice” (his words) as Carolyn. She accepted him back and has scaled down her life considerably to ensure that he will never cheat again, as she has taken 50% of the blame for his behavior, as instructed by a Marriage Counsellor. Both C and Sparkly D are 50. It’s his second marriage. the first ended in infidelity with a much younger girl who subsequently dumped him.
Carolyn fell apart when she learned that Sparkly D was cheating on her. The affair had gone on — he said — for “just a month” but my guess is, it was a lot longer. Sparkly D told Carolyn in an email that she shared with me that he was “madly, passionately in love for the first time in his life” with CYOW, and that he felt “warm companionship only” with Carolyn. He wanted to “truly live” so he “took this chance at love, at life”.
When the chance failed, he told C. that he had made a mistake and that he was sorry, but that she had become a little distant and she was working too much which meant he was bored at home. Hence, he wandered. He was sad, depressed, and needed love so he sought it elsewhere…etc… you know the drill.
Carolyn has given up her job to be a stay at home wife, all the better to ensure that Sparkly D cannot cheat again (he works from home a lot so she can monitor him). He has to show her his phone to make sure he is not sending any cheating messages to any other OWs. He has to take Carolyn with him when he goes out of town on business trips — she tags along with him and makes him take her to any business lunches or dinners, so he can’t meet OWs there. He goes to a running club on Sundays and she tags along there too in case any OWs are hanging around to snag him.
You get the picture. Carolyn rarely comes out with me or our group of friends any more because she has to stay with Sparkly D. If she does come, she wants to bring him, but I cannot stand the sight of him, because I remember how Carolyn was when DDay happened.
I have tried to talk to her and tell her that her behavior is excessive and that if he is a cheater, then he is not worth it… she should dump him… but she will not accept this, she says she loves him and that marriage is sacred. I can’t believe he will not cheat again.
I don’t want to freeze her out of my life. How can I tell her that I don’t want to see SparklyD? That I am delighted to see her but I don’t want a rundown on who he emailed that week, or what he said to whom on the last business trip she tagged along on? Her life is now all about him and monitoring him… Is our friendship over? I want to support her but I don’t know how.
I Hate The Marriage Police
Dear I Hate The Marriage Police,
If I knew how to get people to stop doing stupid things and be the people we want them to be, do you think I’d be working two jobs? No. I’d be a Magic Fairy Godmother living in a cookie palace with a fleet of winged unicorns at my beck and call.
“Sparkleblaze! Gather yonder fuckwit! Tell him to stop snorting cocaine!”
SHAZAM! Fuckwit is transformed. Devotes himself to a life of Pilates and environmental clean-up.
Hate, I don’t have these powers. I’m like you — feeble and human. The best I can offer you is truth and boundaries.
Truth: “Carolyn, you deserve better than Sparkledick. It really pains me to see you hurt.”
Boundaries: “I’m not going to discuss Sparkledick with you.” (Change the subject to peonies or ice skating or something pleasant you both enjoy.)
Carolyn: “But you have to support my marriage! And treat Sparkledick like you did before!”
Boundary: “I can’t un-know this. I’m supporting our friendship by being truthful with you (when asked), and changing the subject when we disagree about something so fundamental — Sparkledick.”
Carolyn: “I found Sparkledick’s burner phone!” (sobbing)
Truth: “What are you going to do about that? You only control yourself. Is this relationship acceptable to you?”
Carolyn: “I WILL TETHER HIS DICK TO A BEDPOST! AND GEOLOCATE IT!”
Truth: “You are choosing this misery.”
Boundary: “How about that ice dance competition?”
Hate, you can see this way forward is pretty exhausting. Only you can decide how deeply you want to invest in someone who doesn’t share your values and opinions. Like, you think Carolyn is worth more than a Sparkledick and she disagrees.
You’re in the weeds in this relationship, you know a lot about their dumpster fire of dysfunction. I get it, it’s hard to look away and it’s excruciating to see people you love behave self-destructively. But as they say with addicts, detach with love.
If you stay in her life, just give her the gift of your presence (minus SparkleD — have a boundary there). Go to a movie, remind her of her best self, have a laugh, walk a dog, support the local high school musical… do a thousand things that aren’t Sparkledick-centric.
That’s the best I can offer. Of course, introduce her to CN too. But she’s got to decide this on her own.