Q: Dear Susie: I’ve been happily married for seven years, but my problem is that I find myself constantly attracted to other women. I love my wife, so that’s not the problem. Is there something wrong with me that I need the attention, or is this normal? I’ve never cheated on her, but I still feel like I’m doing something bad. Signed - Feeling Naughty in Detroit Lakes
A: Dear Naughty: Wow, there’s just so much juicy stuff in your question, I hardly know where to begin! Seven years is the typically normal time to be making some adjustments in your marriage. They say every cell in your body rejuvenates every seven years, so you’re essentially a new being. Patterns are emerging, and you’re looking at your partner, wondering “Can I live the rest of my life looking at her bras drying over the shower?” It’s not really about the bras, it’s about habits and patterns.
A friend once told me that she doesn’t think humans are meant to be monogamous—we live too long—it’s unnatural. I remember thinking she was a little crazy (she was on her third husband), but now I might be beginning to understand her point of view.
When I look at you, I’m seeing a very loving, very dedicated, very intense man. Whatever you do, you do 1000 percent. That’s a noble virtue, but it can make you tired. So here you are with this woman, giving 1000 percent, and you may be getting tired, wondering if you can keep this up for the rest of your life. So you “rest” a little by flirting with other women. It may energize you, provide some distraction from the day-to-day, offer you some escape fantasies, maybe (“what would it be like if I were with this woman?”).
You saying you feel badly about your actions. That tells me that it’s wrong for you. There’s a whole range of moral behavior. For some, playing cards is immoral. For others, murdering someone is totally understandable and forgivable. Then there’s everything in between. You also look like you have high moral ethics, and hold yourself to those high standards. So when you do something “wrong,” you probably beat yourself up about it, and then you feel worse.
You might want to lighten up on yourself a little, first of all; then you might want to lighten up on your expectations within the marriage. If you put all of your attention and energy into your spouse, you won’t have much left over for the rest of your life. I don’t think any one person can provide everything you need. For goodness sakes, my poor husband for example!! I don’t think he could stand it if I dumped everything on him. No, I’ve got a big circle of friends that I rely on for emotional support. Do you have a support group outside of your wife?
I’m also seeing that your wife loves you totally back, too, so that’s the good news. Both of you are “loyal” and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize your relationship. But it may be helpful for the two of you to sit down and talk about your marriage. What works, what doesn’t work, what you’d like to do differently, what dreams you have, expectations, gripes. Maybe you’re expecting something that she isn’t, and that secretly makes you a little resentful.
You can pull away by putting your attentions on other women, but your wife will probably pick up on that, and be hurt by it, even if she doesn’t know exactly what is happening. And that’s not fair to her.
You might also want to look at your definition of yourself as “naughty.” That sounds kind of like you like being thought of as naughty. Perhaps as a child you were the “good” one, the smart one, the studious one that never acted up. This could be your way of acting up.
I think you and your wife are going to be fine. I just think you might benefit from some soul-searching, and some communicating with your wife. Marriage isn’t for sissies - it consists of several marriages within the marriage, as both people continue to grow and change. The secret is to be open to change. And it looks like both of you are up for that. As you change, you may find yourself naturally gravitating back to your wife, without the need for the constant “detours.”
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