22 August 2009

Ask Amy, Curious Husband, and Love

One of my guilty pleasures is reading advice columnists. Most of the time they tell people who are not facing reality, what they already know. Amy Dickinson is one of the better ones. She replaced Ann Landers in 2003. I usually read her stuff through ether the Chicago Tribune or Washington Post.

She recently had a letter from a guy whose wife had an affair some years earlier.

The gist of it is that he caught her, they have rebuilt their relationship, etc. But something bugged him. She had done things for her lover, sexually, that she would not and still does not do with her husband. Amy's response was that he should romance his wife, without any explicit quid pro quo implied, get them out of their various ruts (bills kids, or whatever), and maybe the wife would come around. She ended by saying, " This could prompt both of you to begin a welcome new phase of your marriage."

In my opinion, this is weak. I'll explain why in a minute.

There was a follow-up letter from a woman's perspective.

It said in part
"An affair is an illicit and temporary relationship in which the participants can be different people than they are in their daily lives: This includes trying different things and being more comfortable doing them. I can tell you my husband would be shocked if I behaved with him the way I behaved with my lover. But I enjoyed every minute, and I am glad I got to be so free for a brief time.--Been There
To Which Amy Responded:
DEAR BEEN THERE: It is a shame that you don't feel free to be yourself and try new things in your own marriage. If you learned nothing else from your affair, surely you could take this lesson back home."

I think this was a better answer from Amy. unless "Been There's" husband is unadventurous, he might actually welcome the variety. But if he is unadventurous, perhaps Been There was fine with her response. She apparently has some needs that are not being fulfilled by her husband, and she should ask for them from him.

E4E Take On This

First I want to review a few things.
Definition of Love: Remember that love has two phases. In the first one, love is a feeling. Your hormones and enzymes go into overdrive and turn into an overpowering sense of love that prompts acts of selflessness. The recipient receives these acts as indicative of love.

In the second phase of love, the overpowering feeling is gone. Your hormones are back to normal. Sure you feel fondness, loyalty, call it love if you want. But it's different. M. Scott Peck in the The Road Less Traveled says that this is inevitable. The idealistic side of me doesn't want to believe that, but...

The second phase of love, is not the overpowering feeling. Rather, it's a mature conscious commitment to acts of love for your spouse. It's not about feeling; it's about doing. It is your choice.

You may also recall the posts I wrote on Emotional Needs in a Relationship. It lays out the needs in a few ways, but I personally like the one put together by Steve Harley of MarriageBuilders. There is a list of 10 needs, and in his experience, the normal breakdown by sex is shown below.
Men: Sexual Fulfillment, Recreational companionship, Domestic support, Ph
ysical attraction, and Admiration
Women: Conversation, Affection, Financial support, Honesty and Openness, Family commitment

So this is the framework in which to evaluate this question to Amy. So first, about the affair. Amy had it at least partly right when talking about the hum drum bill-paying stuff. It's just not exciting. Wife probably was in phase 2 of love and was wondering why she didn't love her dear hubby (DH) anymore. She just wasn't feeling, it. ...then along comes Prince Charming (Prince). She felt this overpowering surge of phase 1 love, with its flood of hormones. Prince, who was more experienced and aggressive than (DH), suggests she pole dance (or whatever) for him and she gets caught up in the spirit and does it for him--presumably the first time she has done that.

So far, so good. I don't know anything about the marriage, what DH's role w
as in the disintegration of it, etc, but this seems like a pretty common set of circumstances. After that is where Amy loses it. She says he should just be nice to her, then maybe she will come around.

Let's recap graphically.

Now consider a similar scenario.
Hubbie goes out and has an affair with his secretary. He buys her flowers every week and gifts, while at the same time complaining at home about not having enough money (he was never much of a gift-giver anyway). Now that the affair is over, he still won't buy his wife gifts.

Here's how it looks graphically,

The wife writes a letter to Amy who says, "Here's what you should do. Give
him staggering, mind-blowing sex as if he were your forbidden lover. Do anything he asks for (and some things he doesn't) with no stated "quid pro quo," but just because you want to treat him differently. This could prompt both of you to begin a welcome new phase of your marriage."

It's pretty much an idiotic answer. The positive is that it focuses on what the wronged person can do to help set things right and is ok as far as it goes. DH should be giving his wife what she needs.

However, Amy is suggesting that DH grovel to the person who violated her marital vows, in hopes that she will actually fulfill her vows by satisfying his emotional needs. Again, I do not know what stuff he did over the years to set up the conditions precedent in which the wife cheated, but by not giving him the full measure of her abilities as a lover, which he apparently desires, she is withholding love.

Wife should give DH what he needs. She is fully capable of pole dancing, yet she refuses to do it for the one man in the world for whom she absolutely should. I can't imagine an act more disrespectful of her husband or her marriage, unless she were to pole dance again for someone else.

She is in a marriage in which she is content (she's probably fond of DH and what sahe gets from him), but unwilling to love him in return. How long will he take that treatment?

Edit: Nov 1, 2009 - I have been thinking about this a bit and want to restate the issue that the woman in the drama has. Above I said, "...she refuses to do it for the one man in the world..." In line with the idea that we have limited free will, I think a better characterization of the issue is that when she met Prince and her hormones were screaming, it pushed her to be able to do things that she would otherwise be ashamed to do. When she was back with poor DH her hormones were back to normal and her shame overrode her hormones and her husband's needs. 

Shame can be a healthy emotion, it prevents us from doing things that would truly shake up society. That is not likely the case here. Her pole-dancing would remain only between her and DH, so to be charitable, I will assume that she is not consciously withholding her skills from DH, but rather feels terribly ashamed about it. I think the answer is the same. She should get past it and become able to love her husband.

Another (perhaps offensive) View

Finally, another blog picked up on this letter and absolutely raked Amy (and the husband) across the coals. Before I give you the link on this one though, I have a few disclaimers. It is a very male oriented blog that usually gets way nasty in its opinions about women. It endorses very dominant (alpha as opposed to beta) male behavior. I do not condone or endorse either the opinions or the way they are voiced. It is an interesting perspective, which if communicated differently, in some cases has some merit. You are likely to be offended by many of the viewpoints there. In any case, it seems to have a lot of people enthusiastic as evidenced by hundreds of comments on every blog post.

The column that I am linking to explains a rationale for making the husband in the first letter the beta of the month for July. He is candidate number 2.

In a nutshell, he says that Confused Husband is a candidate for beta of the month for not a.) insisting that she give him what she gave her lover or b.) sending her packing.

What Am I Missing?

Does my analysis make sense? Is the analogy good?

Assuming DH still wants the "treatment," is there any good excuse for the wife not to give it?

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