Questions this week provide insight and self-understanding with a variety of relationships. Millie, whose husband lives a double life, brings up issues of affairs and cheating. Beth’s question brings up the importance of trusting your intuition and Patricia reminds us that grown up children may turn out very differently than how you raised them to be.
Dear Mary Jo,
How can a man be married for 22 years and have a double life and family, but continue to say he loves you. He told me he cannot control himself, and I never suspected anything? How is this possible?
The fact that you knew nothing tells me that communication was dysfunctional in your marriage on both of your parts. You may have difficulty talking about the real issues, and rather than address them you focus on the everyday more mundane tasks. A double life is not as rare as many think. It happens with affairs, cheating, and any time you treat others in a way that would make you anxious if your partner knew about it. It sounds like your husband is unhappy in parts of his relationship with you, and rather than address his unhappiness directly, he found a way to act out his desires with someone else. I would seek individual counseling for you, because you cannot stay in a marriage with someone who basically is telling you he cannot stop doing what he’s doing. That means he loves his double life more than he loves what he shares with you…period. Don’t over-think it.
Dear Mary Jo,
I met my boyfriend two years ago after having been widowed for 3 years. He has been in Texas for 12 years and both of his parents are deceased, but he has family in South Carolina and Rockport,Texas. He’s met all of my family members and they all like him, including my picky brother. Is it a warning sign that I haven’t met anyone on his side of the family? He’s never been married and has no kids. He is 44 years old, and I am 50.
I am suspicious because you are suspicious. You have known him for 2 years, and my guess is you are getting signs in other areas that are red flags. It’s great your family likes him, but it isn’t as important as your mistrust. It could be he isn’t ready to take you home, or he doesn’t value the relationship as much as you, but it could also mean he is estranged from his family, hiding a past, or afraid of what you may find out. You were widowed 3 years previous to meeting him, and you may have been thrilled to have the attention of another man and moved too quickly. These are all possibilities. If you want to meet his family, tell him directly and make a plan. If he is resistant, then you have a good reason to cool the whole thing off. Healthy relationships require honesty and transparency.
Dear Mary Jo,
I do not know how to reconcile with my adult daughter in a way that will give us mutual respect, and I need your advice. I believe she has NPD, and I now have some understanding as to what has gone wrong between us. But it is difficult to deal with her because she doesn’t seem able to see my perspective, and I do not know how to approach her.
If your daughter has Narcissistic Personality Disorder that is a very serious mental disease. Mutual respect may never be possible, because narcissists are only concerned with themselves and their own needs. They do not have the ability or desire to entertain how others may feel. In fact, a relationship with a narcissist is toxic, and I would recommend you limit your time with her. If I were you, I would practice these behaviors whenever I was with her to ensure she would not violate or hurt my feelings.
1. Practice good boundaries, and don’t enable her by feeling guilty and giving in.
2. Be clear and direct with all communication.
3. Understand that you may never be as close as you would like, but part of being in a relationship with a narcissist is understanding that they don’t want to be close; they want to use you, exploit you and manipulate you. Working with a therapist is worth its weight in gold. The therapist can help you understand and be more effective in your communication with your daughter.
Part of self-care is taking care of yourself…even when that means limiting the time you spend with those who are suppose to love you most.