Help! My Husband Caught Me Cheating and Now Wants an Open Marriage.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 14 2013 6:15 AM

What’s Good for the Gander …

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a woman whose husband caught her cheating and now wants an open marriage.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Re: Genealogy: I live in Utah, where genealogy is culturally a Very Big Thing. And I have my share of nosy family who are into it. With the tools available to the aunt, the letter writer needs to worry about when, not if, information is discovered and decide how she wants to work with it. Would there be any hope of dropping a hint to the aunt that she is sensitive about the information and would prefer not to have it shared? If not, she just needs to decide how to respond when Aunt Blabber shares with everyone.

A: I don't think the letter writer really does need to worry. This chat's producer, Bethonie Butler, did some sleuthing and discovered that both the letter writer to Carolyn Hax and me is the same person. The original letter was sent months ago, so this is a very patient hoaxer.

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Q. Husband Is Gay and Still in the Closet: I have been married to my husband for 21 years, and six years ago he shared with me that he is attracted to men. Due to religious reasons, he does not want to pursue living a gay lifestyle. He says that he has never been unfaithful to me in the physical sense. Over the past six years, we have tried to make things work and I was sworn to secrecy and could only discuss the situation with a few people that he had to approve of. Now, we are now getting a divorce and he still says that he isn't gay and is telling people that "we just drifted apart." When our friends hear that, I come across as the wife who just wouldn't try hard enough to save the marriage, because he doesn't want to get divorced. What people don't understand is what it has been like for me the past six years: living in his closet and how hard I really have worked, through marriage counseling, and individual therapy. He still doesn't want people to know about his same-sex attraction. My question is: What is my obligation to honor his wish to stay in the closet? Do I need to keep his secret?

A: I don't know why the burden of "drifted apart" falls so hard on you. If you were to say the equivalent, "We just couldn't make it work anymore," that's plenty ambiguous and says to the questioners that their desire for salacious details will go unrewarded. However, your ex-husband does not get to dictate your life story. If you want to tell your friends what you've been through (with the knowledge that they will be very likely to tell their friends) then that is your decision. For guidance and the perspective of others who have been there, contact the Straight Spouse Network.

Dear Prudence: Her Lying Eyes

Q. Re: Sleuthing?: Eeek! I thought the chat was anonymous. There goes my will to submit anything. Or do you just know that it is the same IP address or something but not the actual person?

A: People who submit questions are anonymous! Bethonie found that the IP addresses were identical, that's all we know. Whether you write in to the chat or to the Dear Prudence inbox (prudence@slate.com) we zealously guard people's privacy. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

Q. Paternity Leave and Old Friends: My wife took three months of maternity leave when our daughter was born. When she returned to work, I began my own three-month paternity leave. It's wonderful and my daughter is thrilling, but my problem is my friends. Until a few weeks ago, I took them for normal people with a basically modern view of gender roles, but they have been mean and judgmental about this, calling me "whipped" and saying I shouldn't "let" my wife read any more books like Lean In. (Really.) This weekend, three of them got together and told me that I should be angry at my wife for forcing me to give up on a job I love. No one is giving up on anything! This is just the way we are dealing with the fact that we BOTH love our jobs, and we love each other, and we love our daughter. We know we won't always be able to split everything exactly 50/50, but we're coming at it with a 50/50 mindset. In the long term, I'm sure I'll make friends with more open-minded people, but in the short term, I'm home alone all day with a 15-week-old baby, and I really could use the support of some friends! What do I do?

A: As disturbing as this is, it's actually beneficial for you to find out your friends are such troglodytes so you can dump them and find some people who live in the 21st century. You hardly need male friends who act as some kind of insane Greek chorus demeaning you for wanting to spend time with your daughter and be a partner to your wife. Your daughter did you a great favor with the timing of her birth because parents and children are going to spilling outdoors everywhere. This is a good time for you to look for groups—at your place of worship if you have one, at the Y, through a community center—of new fathers and mothers who want to get together and share this wonderful experience.

Q. Prescription Drug Abuse: My young son and I moved in with my fiancée a few months ago. She has two teenage boys. It has been a tough year for her, her mom passed away in September. She has a high-stress job. Once or twice a month she acts really weird—tired, slurring words, repeating herself, not making sense. I couldn't figure out if she was drinking or misusing a prescription drug. She has abused alcohol in the past. Whenever I asked what was going on she would get defensive and says that she had spent the day crying, and it emotionally exhausted her. This last incident she admitted taking a Xanax. I suspect that is what is the source for her "weirdness." She can function in her job that is about it. At home nothing gets accomplished, even when she is not using the prescription drug. She works herself to exhaustion to forget about her mom, and when she can't work anymore, she stays at home crying. I got her to go see a counselor, who she loved, to help her cope with the passing of her mom. Though she has only gone once in six weeks. She keeps working. How can I be a support to her?

A: Your primary obligation is to your son. Since you've moved in, you've discovered your fiancée is abusing prescription drugs, which is very concerning given her previous history of addiction. You should be concerned for her, and her sons, and do everything to support this family. Given that your fiancée is in extremis, that might mean a conversation about her boys living with their father for the time being, if that's at all possible. You need to insist that your girlfriend get back to the therapist and I think you should say that you want to go to the next session with her because you're worried about her emotional state. While there address with the therapist the issue of the Xanax. Additionally, the marriage needs to be put on hold and you need to seriously consider re-establishing your own domicile until your fiancée is in a sustained, healthy state.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Have a good week and be grateful Mother's Day is over!

Our commenting guidelines can be found here.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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