Savage Love Letter of the Day: Should He Stay Or Should He Go (On and On and On)?


OMG I don't agree with Dan at all. LW describes a one-sided relationship that he doesn't want to be in, with a woman he doesn't seem to like.
No matter what happens with the wife (and I have serious doubts about that relationship), the other woman is a nightmare!!!

The LW says "I do have high self-esteem and self-image", but no, he doesn't. Not if he left her trample all over him like that and actually wants more.
"If he let her", not "left her".
This sounds like you should get your self in therapy. I'm surprised dan didn't say that.
It kinda sounds like you don't actually love your wife or have a healthy relationship with her. Break up. Take a year or two to do therapy do things that interest you, get yourself in a good place and then get involved with healthy women who aren't manipulative. My 2 cents.
"when being successful with women is of the utmost importance for a heterosexual male, I was pretty unsuccessful"

Did anyone make it past this?
Because it's a nice day and I'm going to see some queens do a Twin Peaks show and I don't have time for someone's weird ass narrative.
Somewhere, there's a therapist who gnawed their own leg off to escape from hearing this tale go on and on.

So he wrote Dan.
It's a cliche to say "think of the children" HOWEVER, think of the children and at least try to make it work for their sake.
I'm headin' back to hawt men with tight butts pushin' trucks.
Therapy would really help you, letter writer. I speak as someone who was in a similar situation once. Don't listen to the idiot commenters who are blithely telling you to dump your wife. You have children with this woman, so she will always be in your life to some degree, you won't be able to just close that door and forget her. You owe it to her, your kids, and yourself to work on this relationship. It sounds like you have a lot of good things to build on, and I can tell you from experience that it can become much better. It's been 15 years since my marriage almost crashed, but therapy taught me to advocate for my own needs. Your wife should work on her issues too. That perfect fairy tale romance we all chase may be just a dream, because this is the real world and we all have issues. But true happiness is possible. Good luck, I'm rooting for you.
Kill me now!
LW, you need a hobby, something that will engage the adult part of your mind.
The second other woman was being honest with you, she was ambivalent. She wanted the cosy times with you and she also wanted her marriage to work. She chose the marriage.
Maybe change jobs, find one where only men work. No chance you're bi is there?
This is making me nostalgic for newsprint and ink and a finite number of available column inches.
This letter needs Cliff Notes.
@7: I hope he got hazard pay for this one.
@9: "Don't listen to the idiot commenters who are blithely telling you to dump your wife"

Maybe he should leave for her sake.
GUH: Thank you for letting me know tgat there are people in the world who are fucked up in the same way as I am.

@9: Totally agree with your experience/advice but would add.... try swinging!
I used to write long-ass letters to no one just to try to make sense of my thoughts and feelings. The key is to write, forget it for awhile and then re-read it with fresh eyes.

A couple of things: you found a woman at age 23 who loved and wanted you. And your low esteem self figured this was your one chance at love, family, etc. When we're in pain, relief feels a hell of a lot like happiness, like love. I'm not suggesting you don't really love your wife but back then, if you'd been emotionally healthier, you might have recognized some fundamental incompatibilities. And you might have decided she was worth it or you might not have. But your decision would have come from a place of strength, not neediness.

Now you're in a better place and you're seeing that there might have been other options for you. Forget the other women. They're red herrings. Find that strong sense of self, figure out what you want from your marriage, what you can give and what's non-negotiable. Then go to your wife with honesty and vulnerability and decide together. Are you all in or all out?
Oh, Dan, I wanted you to go on and on as long as the writer did! You could have a Nanowrimo-off this November. Thanks for a moment, in a bar, laughing out loud to the point I'm sure my bartender thought he should have cut me off prior to this point.
Okay, LW, let's take stock of what you've done here.

1. You hit a rough patch/boring patch in your marriage. TOTALLY NORMAL.

2. You started thinking about people who were not your wife in romantic or partnership kind of ways. Specifically, you started thinking about your work colleagues in romantic or partnership kind of ways. This is also TOTALLY NORMAL...the phrases "work wife" and "work husband" exist for a reason. Depending on your job, you may spend as much awake time or more with your work spouse as your legal spouse. Human relationships are messy and complicated and so you do form intimate relations (not sexual, but there's a certain level of intimacy) with these people you see every day. (At one point, I had both a work husband and a work wife, and all three of us would openly admit it and laugh about it.)

If you had just kept it at a work spouse, you would have again had an opportunity for counselling or therapy for you, and maybe gotten to a resolution that worked for both of you sooner. But...

3. Instead, you separated from your wife in the hopes that you could not have a wife so you could get this other woman who works with you interested you in a romantic way, and that wound up with the woman not interested in you, your wife miserable, and you miserable. Still no seeking therapy, or if you did, you didn't mention it in the letter.

"Anyhow, getting back with my wife didn't just automatically make her happy again, and the first few months together were very tough and not fun by any means."

YOU DON'T SAY. You left your wife AND YOUR KIDS chasing after something new and shiny. That means in addition to effectively dumping her, you dumped all of the work of being a primary caretaker to kids on her, and if you moved out, you left her with the additional financial burden of two households instead of one. That's not the kind of insult that somebody just "gets over."

The only reason you got back together again was...

4. Your wife finally gets to a put up or shut up point on the separation and "forces" herself back into your life. This is not a good sign. Again, another missed opportunity for counselling.

Which makes this point: "too deflated and exhausted to keep fighting, and thinking it might actually make my wife happy and not miserable, I just went with it"

All the more concerning.

5. You meet a woman who makes you feel sparkly inside....and who's being an ass to you, and who dumped you for her husband.

Which means that even if you physically were living in the same house, you were not putting time and energy that you clearly had for relationships into trying to come to some sort of negotiated peace with your wife. You put it in with someone who wasn't your wife, even knowing that what this person who wasn't your wife was doing was time-sucking bullshit.

Even if your wife is a "kind of a demanding and at times difficult woman," at this point be honest with yourself and admit that you've treated your wife like shit.

6. At long last, you attempt to make some kind of concrete renegotiation with your wife:

"My wife and I are still trying work things out. ... And she is making an effort to make the relationship less one-sided, and has done a decent job at it. "

That says to me that your wife is making the effort to make these changes in good faith. Even after all you've admitted to doing, she's still making the effort to make these changes in good faith, which says quite a lot about her commitment to you and to your marriage and to having a stable home for your children.

LW, please, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, get your ass into therapy. Not couples counselling -- that can happen separately, but you need therapy for you. Figure out what you want for you, whether you'll ever have it in this marriage, and what you'd need to do to get that. This includes divorce. If you're not going to ever work on this marriage in good faith, or if your discovery of The Sparkle has forever shattered your marriage (which, again, is totally normal, if unpleasant), divorce your wife with as kind a negotiation as you can.

You don't have to stay married if you don't want to be married. Just...quit treating your wife like crap while you make up your mind.
She saw something In you no one else did, she fucked you when no one else would, she had a kid for you when she already had one, she's beautiful, smart & strong, she took you back after you left her for someone who didn't even want you, and she's STILL willing to work on your marriage and become a better person for you? You should be thanking your lucky stars she's still with you. But you sound too immature, selfish and self obsessed to appreciate what you have. I guarantee that if she left your ass for good you'd be back begging like Robin thicke for another chance because you only want what you can't have. She deserves better.
I wish this comment system had thumbs-up. I'd be up-thumbing @20.
1. "My wife won't go to sportsball games with me, she's such an abuser!" Get over that. People are allowed to have different interests. I wouldn't sit through three hours of sportsball no matter how much I loved someone.

2. "I was the one who had to get fixed, for some reason." Um, because a vasectomy is FAR less intrusive than a tubal ligation. Didn't you do any googling?

3. "it was still painful to "lose out" to someone else, just like I always had before I met my wife." So it's all about your ego. At least you admit it.

4. Dude, you're allowed to be FRIENDS with women. Sounds like that is what you want. "For the first 10 years, I had minimal contact with friends and family." You know that's not normal, and having friends -- like Woman #2, this sort of relationship is known as a "friendship" -- is?

5. "Considering that I had told her on a number of occasions to basically leave me alone, because I was trying to avoid this exact situation, I was pretty pissed and hurt when she was the one who decided to cut us off from each other." So you ask her to leave you alone, she leaves you alone, and that makes you angry?

6. Her husband went through her phone? These people are just as dysfunctional as you. No wonder you had such a strong connection with her.

Forget about this woman. Block her. Let her leave your life. Focus your energy on your wife and, hello, kids. I think the problem here is that he never had a relationship that lasted for any length of time and ended in heartbreak before he got married, so he's going through that life stage now. Welcome to emotional adolescence, hon. We've all been there and we've all made it through. You will too. You want the truth from her? The truth is she's a mess. Now you know. Move on.
Lava @11: ROFL! You win the thread award for Best Comedy Comment.
Mirea @17: You win the award for Best Serious Comment. Slinky @19 as well, for their emphasis on GETTING SOME THERAPY!
The LW is or was in love with a married woman whom he didn’t wholeheartedly pursue, mostly because he lacked confidence. He's furthermore mostly resentful of his wife, though he tries to see her good side. Most of all, in a confused way (a way he can't quote admit) he regrets not having had more sex with women not his wife.

Is it possible at all he could address the last by putting all his insecurities on the table in front of his wife and opening up the marriage? Could they try swinging?

BTW, maybe commentators should have to answer multiple choice comprehension questions to check how far they've read before they can post. Someone writes a novelistic screed because they're perplexed and in pain.
@21 I support your right to up-thumb anyone you like, as long as you have consent.

LW: therapy!! Individual *and* couples, the latter from an AASECT sex positive therapist who'd be open to idea of you two exploring opening up your relationship so you can get some of your desires for new / someone else met without breaking up.

Sometimes it ain't stay-or-go, it ain't either/or, it's both-and.
Dan needs to add "Moments in the Woods" to that required list of Sondheim listening.
Frankly I think opening this particular marriage is THE WORST possible step they can take.

Remember that whiny letter that went around reddit a few years ago about a man who liked his girlfriend but wasn't attracted to her anymore/love her/ they opened the relationship, and it sounded mostly like she did so just to keep him even though she didn't want to. The the realities of online dating kicked in. He got maybe 2-3 dates, and his ladyfriend got all kinds of action. There he was expecting hot and cold running blowjobs, and instead he got his pride bruised, his happy little place in his relationship blown away (someone to basically do his emotional labour for him and maybe cook and clean who he didn't have to care for), and NO PUSSY.

That sounds a lot closer to what will happen in this relationship than them being able to patch up their differences. The Letter Writer doesn't have the emotional maturity to understand why his wife would be hurt and angry after he left her and the children for 6 months just because he moved back in. Then he whines about not even being able to do affairs properly. If they open up and she gets tail and he doesn't, that'll blow what's left of this relationship wide open and I don't think it could be repaired.
@24: "Could they try swinging?"

Ain't going to fix what's broken here.
Also, open relationships need a strong foundation of trust and communication, and it doesn't sound like LW and his wife currently have that. I certainly wouldn't trust someone who (fairly recently?) left me for 6 months and hasn't been putting his heart into rebuilding with me. LW, you said yourself your wife is trying on her end to make things better. You've been really shitty to her, and you should work on appreciating her, treating her better, and earning back her trust. Or stop wasting her time and leave her.
@28 . Undead Ayn. 'Ain't got to fix what's broken here'.

I agree it's probably not.

The LW berates himself for not being a man in the wrong ways. He think he's failed as a hot-blooded male in that he only had sex about seven times before he met his future wife. (Either he was in a relationship with someone who would not have sex with him or his conquests did not lead to the relationships he hoped for). And then he thinks he's a failure as a straight men for not being able to have a fling or affair with the woman he has an emotional connection with on their work trip out of town. In fact the way he needs to man up in terms of facing his responsibilities as a parent (to both children) and--most likely--getting his marriage on a happier footing.

Whatever this guy's shortcomings, it seems his wife wanted him back and is prepared to work on their marriage. We don't know quite why this is--whether she believes in marriage in principle; she thinks her children need their father; she was confused by his not sleeping with his work-wife (or held out hope because of this); she values his good qualities, or any other reason. He seems to have a deep feeling of inferiority and of his being hard done by in not having more sexual experience. Maybe he can give her blessing to his sexual adventures? Otherwise they will be limping through life with a sense, that isn't going to go away, of the life unlived on his part--even the life she's prevented him from having.
You start with saying you're about to write a novel, but have you considered writing a novel? Clueless self-absorbed men as narrators/protagonists are all the rage. Think Nick Hornby, Tom Perotta, John Updike. You write out your frustrations about real relationships, your fantasies about imaginary ones, and get it out of your system that way. Add some humor and a plot; it should be popular with the ladies. They eat that stuff up.

Yours is the classic coming of age story. There's a lot to relate to in it. Nearly all of us can remember what a challenge it was to make that transition from hot, forbidden, confusing, intense and ultimately unreal love to the day to day, predictable, secure, responsible, and often boring love we settle for. The former can be like a drug. We know it's no good for us over the long term, but damn it feels so good in the present, and it's practically addictive. We want more.

Why do you want the truth from Other Woman? Because she's withheld that from you, dangled it out in front of you and made you grab for it while she snatches it away.

There are a lot of things in your letter I could zero in on or that a good therapist could explore with you, but let me go for one. This business of wanting someone who will make you feel the way you know you're capable of feeling, that person you can feel your full authentic self with? Why are you ceding your power to someone else? No one is responsible for how you feel. You do that yourself. You want to feel whole and powerful and complete? That's on you. I recommend really demanding sports training, something where you push yourself, sweat it out, collapse, and try again.
This is actually one of the most life-wise responses I've ever seen to a dilemma that almost all marriages go through. An excellent response.
@30.Harriet: tut tut for him missing out on his sex / romance quota. Imagine that, poor poor man. Of course his wife should kiss him on the forehead, children behind her skirt, and tell him.. go forth warrior, top up your conquest list...
@33: "Oh honey, I'm so glad you agree with me that 'the Patriarchy' is to blame for my wandering eyes and inability to devote myself to my family for any length of time."

Reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon's excuses to his ex wife for serial philandering:

Then later, after he confessed everything, he told me, “I let myself love you. I stopped worrying about the contradiction. As a guilty man I knew the only way to hide was to act as though I were righteous. And as a husband, I wanted to be with you like we had been. I lived two lives.” When he walked out of our marriage, and was trying to make “things seem less bewildering” to help me understand how he could have lied to me for so long, he said, “In many ways I was the HEIGHT of normal, in this culture. We’re taught to be providers and companions and at the same time, to conquer and acquire — specifically sexually — and I was pulling off both!"

Poor poor baby.
LW, thanks for the extensive list of your wife's shortcomings, though you forgot to put in idiot for choosing you. If I was her and read this letter, well. Not my story, though I see similarities. The man seeing that family life is just not his thing, and that demanding woman? Yes, she's me.
LW, you have two children, try to think and behave with their welfare in mind. If you don't love your wife, then you don't love your wife. That is what you need to own up to with yourself and then her. Then the task of dismantling your family, begins.
Personally, I think you being snipped was the right call. Saves another woman out there trusting you with her womb.
Yes undead, what an arsewipe that guy is. Pathetic and dishonest and so normal in many ways. Family life is tough, on both parents. The kids bring the stress. This guy, our novel length self indulgent LW, talks about his wife, the woman he has been with for twelve years, who stretched her body to carry his child, like she's the cleaning lady, and he's looking for reasons to fire her.
Fuck him. Rude man.
The gig is up for these airhead men because other straight and gay fathers are proving beyond a doubt that men really can do the distance with their kids. To me that's what all this heartbleeding bull is really about, getting out of the job of parenting.
LW, you say you have high self-esteem, but are you sure that's true? Your actions sound more a bit like those of a shy/ covert narcissist. Everything seems to just happen to you and seem to feel that you are in some way a victim. Is it possible that your wife seems demanding because you can't vocalize your needs, forcing her to carry the emotional burden of maintaining a relationship with you?

You seem to resent your wife for many things - to take one example, if you didn't want to get your tubes tied, why did you - she is not your mother - she offered you a compromise and you accepted it - why do you still resent her for this? You are responsible for your actions and you are responsible for telling your wife what your needs are - if it's important to you to go to a sporting event, say that (don't just run around trying to get another man's wife to like you better).
I agree with @36, Lavagirl, you seem very confused. You say you want honesty with this other woman. You know and everyone else knows that honesty is not what you want.

I do feel a lot of empathy for your wife. You seem to spend less time considering her feelings (or your responsibilities to her) than you do worrying about how incompetent you were when you tried to have an affair.

Try to be emotionally intimate with your wife - that's a bigger challenge than getting some rando to fuck you.
@39: There's a definite narcissism to that shame/sin spiral, he's completely unable to get out of his head to consider the others.
Let's look at the timing:
They get together. She's a single mom at that point.
They're together 12 years.
Five years ago, she has his son. Two (or more) kids at this point.
Two years ago, his attention starts to wander. Note that his youngest child is now three - old enough to be a pain in the ass, not old enough to be trusted. Needs constant, patient, loving, adult supervision. This is the time when he starts emotionally checking out.
One year ago, they separate. His son is now four. Still not old enough to be in school or abide by rules. Still in need of a lot of care, attention, supervision, and picking up after. The guy dumps her with no mention in his long, rambling letter about child-care, his share of the parenting duties, or any mention of his obligations towards this person he helped create (or the older ones he became a father to when he married their mom).
Nine months ago, they get back together, grudgingly. And then all the fuckery since then.
By now, his son should be entering kindergarten, assuming normal development. I suspect he will find his wife a little more bearable since the labor in dealing with the kids is a little lighter.

But honestly, I think he'd be doing his wife a big favor by divorcing. None of this separation crap, where she gets all the kids, work, and bills and he gets to wander off with his full income and no obligations.
How I love these comments, especially those of fichu, slinky and loverly. Better insight than months of therapy. But how on earth does a man with LW's qualities finally decide to be happy with the abundance of good things that he has, before his wife decides she is utterly done with waiting for him to grow up?

I don't think he has much time.
I feel a little guilty about the fact that I find the LW to be completely insufferable.

But then again, I'm cranky right now, and we're all allowed to be cranky now and again.
Gamebird @41, that's what I keep coming back to, as well. Nowhere in his letter does he mention childcare arrangements, parenting duties, financial ramifications (if wife and kids are on his insurance, then what?), or the basic work of running a household. He does mention how much time he has spent chasing after other women. Regardless of whether that time was spent on his own or with someone else, that's a huge amount of work that he dumped on his wife because it was more important for him to follow his dick than to work on the admittedly hard work of having a family with young children.

And calling himself a reasonably intelligent person who has no idea how he found himself in this mess....well, if you make a point of following your dick wherever it wants to go, the intelligence source between your ears isn't doing you much good, is it?

The LW wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants his peaceful, stable life (with a good little wife and kids), he wants ass on the side, and most of all he doesn't want anyone to call him out on his not taking care of his responsibilities as a partner and a parent.

EVEN IF his wife is a horrible human being, which we can't know from his letter and my feeling is that he's an unreliable narrator (c.f. "reasonably intelligent person"), none of that makes any of what he's done less appalling.
Thanks, Miss Piggy, for the compliment. I reread my own note in 31, read the other comments, and realize something I wouldn't ordinarily say: I came down too easy on GUH. I did call him self-absorbed and clueless, but just to make it clear, he's also horrible, irresponsible, and a bunch of other pointed insults I'm not literary enough to express well. Yes, there's something to relate to in his letter, but while I said we all knew what it was to have trouble transitioning to settling down, I hope I didn't sound too sympathetic or like I was making excuses for him. Abandoning children? No, no, no, and no. Don't do that. Abandoning a good wife because you think you might be able to do better, be a little happier? It's all despicable. Get some counseling. Also get some basic ethics, do the right thing, stop being a dick.
Harriet @24: People who are this fucked up should not inflict themselves on third parties. An open relationship would just spread the drama.
@46: Exactly. A "solution" to everything he currently craves isn't going to make him a good father or equal partner.

@42: "how on earth does a man with LW's qualities finally decide to be happy with the abundance of good things that he has, before his wife decides she is utterly done with waiting for him to grow up?"

He doesn't, he burns through several rounds of goodwill before everyone gets disgusted and spends the extent of his time hitting random women up and sobbing about how he's garbage instead of changing up the routine.
@47, I keep coming back to this letter.

This is the end stage of "young dude with no understanding of emotional labour/the work that maintaining relationships takes." He doesn't seem to have any awareness of how he's acting like a human wrecking ball in the relationship around him....with his wife, with his kids, with his coworkers (I'd be disgusted if one of my coworkers left his wife to try and hook up with me...and I've had the middle-aged man proposition me with a sob story about how he and his wife were on the outs, but it never crossed his mind to leave her). I suspect that if we asked Woman #2 for her side of the story, it would come across as very different than what LW says.

I think whoever said he was focusing on all the wrong things for defining himself as a man nailed it. If the extent of his understanding of himself as a man and as a member of society is by how many women he's stuck his dick into, and by the way he describes them as "conquests" and not even as human beings, he really needs to get his ass into therapy and get a trained professional who he pays for the work they provide him to do some growing up, quick.

Slinky @48: To be fair, it was a commenter who used the word "conquests," not the LW. All he said was that he had terrible luck getting women until he met his future wife. It wasn't clear whether he wanted to "conquer" women or a relationship, just that he didn't get what he'd hoped to. I agree therapy would do him a lot of good.
Therapy might help this man if he's open to it. They might not be therapeutic, but the words I'd use are simple.. grow up. What does it matter what choices were made at 23yrs of age, they were made. This now 35 yr old man has responsibilities, to other people, other little people.
Instead of putting his mind to thinking what he is missing out on he shifts his focus and sees what they, his children, are missing out on. Therapy might help him see patterns from his own father, childhood, how he treated his mother etc etc, and these can be helpful in owning one's dysfunction. The hard work of rearing kids still has to be done.
LW, I know I kicked your arse hard, you needed it. It's not about just you anymore, there are three other people here with you, and two of them aren't adults. You are needed as one of the adults.
I'll bet anything that the LW would describe his mother much like he describes his wife. Often mommy issues, show up in that feeling of powerlessness - feeling helpless to protect himself from the demanding wife. The thing is, his wife seems pretty damn willing to try and make her marriage work. She doesn't sound like an overly demanding person. She's having normal feelings due to HIS betrayal and HE'S the one that's hanging onto resentment? Oh, hell no. Get some therapy and work on separating your wife from your mommy. Your poor wife can't ever win if she's trying to make up for what you didn't get in your childhood, nor is that her job. Clearing this up will help you take authentic emotional risks in your marriage, which is what creates real intimacy. In the meantime, focus on showing your wife patience, caring and appreciation. Whether your marriage works on not, you have children together and owe it to them to maintain a respectful and caring connection with her. And stay the hell away from other women.
LW, you're MARRIED, in a monogamous marriage! BOTH of your would be/could be/should be lovers are MARRIED, in monogamous marriages! Why are you not asking yourself: "What's wrong with this picture?" Get some therapy to help you figure it out!

Do you want to make your marriage work? If yes, STOP.CHEATING, and make a sincere, all out effort to work on your marriage. If you believe you don't have what you need/want/desire from your marriage, do the right thing and get a divorce, PAY CHILD SUPPORT, continue to be a decent, loving dad. And good luck to you in finding a woman who fulfills/completes/understands you who likes sports and your friends and family - one who is NOT MARRIED, and not totally FUCKED UP!!!

Get therapy, block the would-be MARRIED lovers, stop hunting for affairs at work - this is never a good idea. PUT YOUR CHILDREN'S WELFARE FIRST! Work on your self esteem and figure out who you are and what you want, or no relationship is going to work out for you. AND stay away from married women!

@33. LavaGirl. I'm not addressing the question of whether he's entitled to feel aggrieved at missing out on not having had many more sexual partners in his life. He's not. He should first have felt grateful his wife was willing to take him on sexually; then, a bit into the marriage, have had the strength and trust to try to negotiate non-monogamy. What I'm concerned with, rather, is how this marriage can work--primarily for the sake of his children, and then for his wife's sake. It won't work if he feels he's shelved the life he could have led in a spirit of offering up sacrifices to his wife.

Anyway, would you want after fifty years of marriage to have your husband (/wife) feel that the story of their life was that they gave it up for you? In terms as clear as the LW feels this?
@46. BiDanFan. But he's not going to get the sense of comfortable male power--that he maybe needs to keep the marriage alive--by going to sex workers.
BiDanFan @48 you're correct. That said, just because it was a commentator and not LW describing women as conquests, LW's other words: "when being successful with women is of the utmost importance for a heterosexual male" and "but it was still painful to "lose out" to someone else" and "Fine, go move to some town you don't want to live in with some guy you don't really want to be with" aren't the words of a man who sees the women around him as people, but rather as prizes to be won.

When the women he chased chose relationships with other men, he describes it as "losing out," or as sour grapes. That the women he was chasing, no matter what kind of a fucked up relationship situation they found themselves in, could and did have agency to make decisions other than to fall into love/bed with him never seems to have occurred to him.

Regardless, this man has responsibilities that he's shirking because he's been chasing after strange, and he's been deeply shitty to his wife, and that the terms he uses to describe himself are not words of someone who is confident and has their act together. Hence, the need for therapy.

Harriet@53, you still not getting it. Any life sacrifices that need doing are done for the children. I'm sure after fifty yrs both parents could give words to many sacrifices done in the marriage. Good on them for making fifty yrs.
@55: "That said, just because it was a commentator and not LW describing women as conquests, LW's other words: "when being successful with women is of the utmost importance for a heterosexual male" and "but it was still painful to "lose out" to someone else" and "Fine, go move to some town you don't want to live in with some guy you don't really want to be with" aren't the words of a man who sees the women around him as people, but rather as prizes to be won."

Yup. My point wasn't the exact words but his hed-up-ass fall back of blaming the patriarchy for why he was being utterly terrible to the woman who appears to love him when he feels nothing of the sort in return. He sees prizes and entitlement and what's best for himself, but little regard for anyone else.
@53: "What I'm concerned with, rather, is how this marriage can work--primarily for the sake of his children, and then for his wife's sake"

Children aren't stupid. What's for his wife's sale is exactly as important as what's for "the children".
Children aren't stupid, but they are vulnerable, more vulnerable than a grown woman who has some agency. That's why it's more important that things be done for their sake then for hers.

I don't know why it saddens me so much that the women commenters on this thread are suggesting again and again that there's something wrong in seeming to repeatedly abandon parental responsibilities and to seemingly not factor in children's needs when deciding what you will do, and the male commenters don't seem to follow that train of thought at all.

I guess it's all so reductive and yet so real.
@21. 20 sounds like they need a good up thumbing.
"we rarely did things that I liked to do that she also didn't enjoy"

So occasionally she did do things with you that she didn't enjoy, just to make you happy? Were you much more generous with her? Did you often do things (not counting errands & chores) just because you knew she enjoyed them?

"The sex was good and frequent, but we weren't/aren't completely compatible in this area either"

No two people are completely compatible sexually. Most people would consider you two lucky to be having "good and frequent" sex after a decade of marriage.

loverley @39 wrote: "You are responsible for your actions and you are responsible for telling your wife what your needs are - if it's important to you to go to a sporting event, say that."

Yes, exactly that.
Harriet @53: I disagree that GUH should feel "grateful" to his wife for having sex with him. I think the fact that he did feel "grateful" to her for breaking his "losing" streak is part of the problem: it sets up the relationship as unequal at its core, and subsequently, as we've seen, he's grown to resent her for the sacrifices he made (friends and family) because he was grateful just to be getting laid.

Harriet @54: Correct, so he shouldn't go to sex workers either. Where did that come from? He's never indicated that he's not having sex with his wife.

Slinky @55/Undead @57: Yup, I picked up (@22, point 3) on this somewhat sexist, scorekeeping attitude as well. Not a mark of maturity.
@56. LavaGirl. Of course a long marriage requires sacrifices of both partners. That's not at issue. Of course these sacrifices are made for children, as much as for the other partner.

The situation here is that, as the LW has represented it (and he could be wrong), he feels that he is making an undue share of the sacrifices; and that his wife is content to have most of the say in running the household, and implicitly content with infrequent and boring sex. This would be a set-up hard to sustain. Whether his feelings are justified or his analysis is correct are not the point. The point concerns how their marriage can be improved. It’s possible that, in the wife's position and as far as you know, you would leave (what you see as) a weak and self-pitying man for dust. But she's working on the marriage; this isn't the choice she's made.
@58. UndeadAyn. The children, and especially the younger one (who's 5yo), are blameless in their parents' relationship difficulties. Whoever we think is most responsible for the couple's problems (and I think virtually everyone supposes it's the man, the LW), his wife has had some part in the problems. The children are also more vulnerable and have less power of their own decision. Yes, a 5yo can think, 'Mommy cares for me more than Daddy', but it's hard to imagine a kid that age in normal circumstances who would think, 'Mommy and Daddy should split up'.
@63. BiDanFan. To me sex (and his feeling that he's been hard done by over the course of his life in how few partners he's had--and also how narrow the range of sex he's had) is the core of the problem. He describes feeling completed for the first time in his life by a woman who treats him appallingly. I'm not sure that this is once-in-a-lifetime or overwhelming love; I think it's perhaps just good sex. It wouldn't surprise me if this wonderful mutuality wasn't something as simple as her sucking his dick. My sense is that for his marriage to work, for everyone's sake, he needs to get over feeling sexually shortchanged. I don't know how this could happen. It might be by his wife doing more things in bed with him--but she hasn't for twelve years. He could count his blessings and give up his sense of coming off worse in this regard (poor choice of expression, I know) but I think he'll feel resentful. So how?
@64. You and I read different letters. This guy goes walkabout for six months, tearing his hair out about about some woman who gives zero fucks about him and who do you think kept the children alive and fed and rested and entertained and at school for those months? His wife, the one you say runs the roost.
This man is not looking right under his nose and seeing what he's got, because he's too busy complaining about what he hasn't got. A family just doesn't arrive with the snap of a finger, it takes love and effort and years and sacrifice to create one. Some women still die in childbirth.
I don't give a rat's arse if this man gets his heart's delight satisfied in this life or the next.. what I've been saying, over and over and over, is for him to keep the welfare etc of his children in his mind, as decisions are being made.
Maybe I can help state Harriet's argument in different terms. (Harriet, I know/hope you'll jump in wherever I've got this wrong.) We all know that GUH should be grateful to his wife, that he shouldn't be so hung up on the other woman, that he should look out for his children, that he shouldn't be disappointed that he slept with the number of women he slept with before he married that he should be a different sort of person altogether. The problem is that telling people what they should do, think and feel never works. It never works to insult them into doing the right thing. Even therapy where he can explore all this doesn't have a great track record for getting people to feel differently about anything. It can help them see that their actions aren't working to get them what they think they want, but that's about it.

If I've got this right, Harriet is throwing out ideas that GUH might try. None of the rest of us like the ideas much, but we haven't got anything better, and the very idea that there are things he might try make us think she's suggesting that it's okay for GUH to have run out on his wife and family.
Fichu @68
It never works to insult them into doing the right thing.

That's it. But I fear that "insulting" a LW who is considered unsympathetic simply feels too good to resist for many commenters. Hence the "piling on" the LW with more and more invective while the thread progresses.
Personally I prefer commenters who go against the grain and who try to be constructive (you @31, Harriet_b_the_b).
Harriet @64: Where do you get "infrequent and boring sex" out of "The sex was good and frequent, but we weren't/aren't completely compatible in this area either (e.g. I greatly enjoy giving and receiving oral sex, she less so. I'm generally more curious and open to trying other things in the bedroom than she is, as well.)"? Sounds like frequent, if a tad boring, sex to me. You even contradict yourself @66: "I'm not sure that this is once-in-a-lifetime or overwhelming love; I think it's perhaps just good sex." Despite having written to Dan, GUH does not harp on about how good the sex is or isn't, or how frequent the sex is or isn't. I think you're jumping to unsupported conclusions by claiming the reason GUH is unhappy is because the sex is bad. In fact, he even says that his fantasies about other women "the fantasies weren't always sexual in nature." He's missing an emotional connection with his wife, an emotional connection which he got with these other women. Sex workers aren't the type of professional that can fix this problem; a marriage counselor is.
I'm not entirely sure that it never works to insult someone into doing the right thing.

I've been to very calm supportive therapy which validated me and made me feel good, and I've had counselling which, while not being insulting exactly, was pretty unsympathetic to me feeling sorry for myself. One prompted me to take action and make changes - guess which one?

I'm not seeing a whole lot of insulting of this guy here, though there has been some. It's more "Stop making yourself out to be a victim, step up to your responsibilities, and either really focus on improving your marriage or get out of it". In other words, actual steps that he can take to clean up the mess his life is right now. And he doesn't have to be a time traveler or become a different person to do it, either. He doesn't have to stop feeling what he's feeling, he just needs to stop doing what he's doing.
I disagree RE @69, ( congrats), these comments aren't piling on, they are people agreeing. Parents probably who know the work involved rearing a child under five. And they empathise with his wife.
Empathy, now there's a word.
@66, you wrote: "My sense is that for his marriage to work, for everyone's sake, he needs to get over feeling sexually shortchanged. "

This is probably true, and this is 100% ON THE LW.

By his own description, the LW's wife is making a good-faith effort at working on their marriage, that sex was good and frequent, and that when he asked her (key point) she'd give things the old college try.

He's still the one who walked out on her looking for strange.

He's still the one who, after his wife called his bluff (aka moved back in), spent time and effort having a weird and fucked-up emotional affair with another woman, rather than attempting to reconcile in good faith with his wife.

He's still the one who is surprised/doesn't understand why his wife would be hugely upset at him for ditching her and their children (with all of the financial, social, and familial issues inherent in that action) even after he moved back in.

Frankly, this guy is at a point where someone needs to tell him to shit or get off the pot. If he wants to have sex with women who are not his wife, but wants to stay married, it's on him to come to a reasonable, well-negotiated and kind solution. Probably he'll have to sacrifice one or the other -- an open marriage requires trust and communication, and LW's already shown himself to be the kind of man who'll just walk out because what his dick says is more important than his existing obligations.

My guess is that these two will be divorced in 2 years and it will be an ugly one.
@69: "But I fear that "insulting" a LW who is considered unsympathetic simply feels too good to resist for many commenters."

I don't begrudge someone from offering sincere advice, I just don't happen to see him taking anyone's seriously with this attitude.
@67, LavaGirl. I'm not sure we even read different letters. When he left his wife 'for several months' in the hope he was signalling his availability to the woman from work, I would doubt he had much contact with his children. He says he 'missed' them. This could be because his wife rationed his access to them while he had left, but it's maybe more likely to me that he isn't that closely and practically involved in the care of his 5yo.

What I'm saying is more that his wife has to engage with his (quite possibly unjustified) grievances if the marriage is to come out intact or stronger. She can hope, and you can hope, too, that the LW becomes a completely different person. A more mature person, someone more able to shoulder his responsibilities. But I don't think this will happen just through his waking up to what he has in his wife. He has too many regrets about what he didn't do in the past and what he sacrificed for the sake of the marriage.
@68. Fichu. That's pretty much my position exactly. I'm also suggesting that his resentments and unhappiness have to be the problem of the other adult (still) in this situation, his wife.
@70. BiDanFan. Rather than contradicting myself, I think I was confused (am confused?) at whether GUH had sex with the second woman who treated him manipulatively. I think he probably didn't. Or maybe he did? And that what's that talk of being completed and feeling 'fucking happy' means? But on balance he didn't (and further he wants credit from his wife for not having an affair with the first-woman-at-work when he moves out and for 'resisting emotional entanglement with another woman'--the second one, his 'soulmate'). Anyways, my idea was that he's so unfamiliar with the prospect of sexual gratification with any woman not his wife that he sublimates it crazily, not recognizing lust--when it's lust--for what it is. His relationship with this second woman, who pursues him but chooses to stay with her husband, does not sound like one of soulmates or of people cut out for each other. I would think the LW casts it in these terms because he projects a sexual idyll.

He needs to work his need for fragile-male-psyche-affirming sex out of his system. Like having a fling with a younger woman who wants no more than that, or dipping his toe into a sexual subculture his wife would frown at--all without going behind his wife's back or slackening on his parental responsibilities. But I'm not sure how likely this is.
@74. Slinky. His dick has curled up and died so far. I see no evidence he's cheated on his wife. Partly he's failed to through lack of animal spirits and partly he's been high-minded enough not to want to start anything until he's dissociated himself fully from her.

I guess commentators are splitting into two views. Some people are saying 'look at yourself in the mirror, man! Listen to yourself!' Shape up!' This is the 'bootstraps' view--he should pull himself up by the bootstraps. I don't think it will work. Maybe it will. Maybe he will come to his senses. But he's been separated from his wife and children for 'several months', and it was her who initiated a rapprochement. If she wants to hold onto him, my feeling is that she'll have to work through his issues and make changes to both their accustomed behaviors in running the household, raising the children--and in bed.
@76, Harriet. He can change how he thinks. How he analyses his life story. How he sees his wife and his children.
If these two go to some form of counselling together, he'd have time to air his grievances and his wife hear and vice versa. And you don't think she hadn't already heard them, over and over.
Maybe the wife needs to leave for several months, sort herself out, and leave him with the kids and household maintainence.

"Maybe the wife needs to leave for several months, sort herself out, and leave him with the kids and household maintainence."

That would be awesome!
LW I'm gonna borrow a line from Carolyn Hax and say you can't make your marriage work if you're profoundly invested in another woman. You admit that your wife has been putting the effort forth to make things better.

I have a crazy idea. What if you put all the time and effort you spent chasing this woman who dumped you into your marriage? What if you started treating your wife the way you treated the women you had affairs with?

Even if the marriage still needs to end you'd at least have a chance at a civil divorce that's less traumatic for your kids. Plus there's a chance you might make your marriage work.
"his resentments and unhappiness have to be the problem of the other only adult (still) in this situation, his wife" fify

Essentially you seem to be saying that she must change - start taking responsibility for his issues, in addition to her own, and presumably those of the children - because he can't possibly be expected to.

He sound like a fairly pathetic fool to me, but even I don't think he's that freaking pathetic.
Darn it, my strikeout of "other" worked in preview.....
Lavia @80 and Gamebird @81, are you really suggesting that it would be a good idea for Long-Suffering Wife to walk out for a few months and leave the five-year-old and the older child(ren) in the sole custody of this man-child? From what I read in his letter, he is totally self-absorbed. He is either unaware or unwilling to take responsibility for his own agency in his ongoing troubles, let alone take on solo parenting duties for his minor children. He just kinda points his kayak downstream and lets the current take him where it will, and things with other women keep happening to him along the way, mostly bad but sometimes not so bad, which he somehow finds encouraging. Other than kvetching about being the one who had to get "fixed" when he might have liked to father more children in the future - i.e., in a different life, with a different woman, and disregarding the fact that the surgery is much easier and less complex for male-bodied individuals, making it the most rational birth control choice for many monogamous couples once their families are complete - he seems much more concerned with his past, current, and future entitlement to an ideal romance and love life than with the real-wold wife, kid, and step-kid(s) he already has. I doubt that he even understands that these dalliances are as bad (or worse) for his kids as they are for his wife.
GUH, I think you're onto something when you grasp after the truth. The truth is missing, and you feel it. You can't have truth about anyone else until you have truth about yourself.

You're going to have to admit you're in need of that, and you're going to have to pursue it through frustration and blankness, before you can get what you need. Try therapy, but it's mostly you. You're going to have to want it more than you've maybe ever wanted anything. Worth a shot. You don't want to die this way, I'm guessing?
@80. LavaGirl. I think we're finding common ground. Couples therapy and his looking after the kids for a while--the elder is presumably a teen and can help with the little one--that would be a good idea.
@83. Agony. Yes, I think they both have to change for the sake of the marriage.

She may be difficult, as he says. She may have limited his time with his friends, because they were immature, not at the stage of their lives of having children--in her eyes bad fratboy or jock influences on him. There could be scope for her allowing him friendships--probably with men--outside the family. GUH tries to be fair-minded and doesn't tell tales against his wife (other than bringing up the vasectomy)--there's no anecdote about, for instance, how her mother came to stay during the World Series and watched endless reruns of _The Golden Girls_. But there could have been cases of this kind. He says she hasn't been to a sports game with him. Well, of course she hasn't, because it's meaningless to her--evidently so much less important than what goes in the kid's lunchbox or whether his or her colored singlets are nicely laundered. But what if it's more important to him? Besides urging him to raise his game, she has to take what matters to him seriously.
@87 the problem with that is that I'm pretty sure step-kid will be doing all the work. It would be better if they put the kids first instead of trying one-up the other.
Okay, so your marriage hit a stalemate--like all long-term relationships do--and instead of working with you partner to straighten things out, you climb the fence because the grass was greener.
That relationship didn't work out [surprise surprise] and you tucked tail and asked your wife to take you back. Hey, no one else wants you, so might as well stay with the one who DOES.
You sound very selfish and you're making excuses for your behaviour, projecting blame.
You obviously are not therapy material--too selfish for that--and I'm not a big fan of therapy myself. I think it's a waste of time, over-inflated, and tossed out as a cure-all for everything.
YOU need to work on YOU by YOURSELF.
Like another said, I think you should leave your wife for her sake, not yours. You are to egocentric to have a good woman like the one you found.
BTW, could it be your wife was not interested in exploring with you sexually because you were not taking her satisfaction into consideration during the acts you already were engaging in? Are you the type of man who 'gets off' and leaves your wife sexually frustrated in the end, telling her to 'finish yourself off because I'm already finished'?
I know your type. I been in some very short-lived relationships with men of your type.
Grow up and take responsibility for your actions.
There's the quite-real possibility that your failures with women in the past has been because of your selfishness.
Another BTW, do you help her with the housework and child-rearing, or do you spend your time playing computer games and updating your social status on the Internet?
Again, I know your time as well as I know the back of my hand.<
Is this thread even going to end?
The older child is his child, he has been their father for twelve yrs, and what's wrong if they help while dad is in training. Ok, maybe not disappear for several months straight up, get dad into the family running on his own routine slowly. Say Friday night till Sunday morning. A few weekends of full on parenting, this man will understand why the energy on this thread has been so charged and he might see his wife in a whole new way, especially when she walks thru the door on Sunday morning.
So many things about your letter reminded me of my own failed marriage. I was married almost 15 years and now divorced over three. So many things were right about our marriage, some critical things wrong. I went to therapy; he didn't. It could have been saved if he tried, but he didn't so it wasn't. Now he's dealing with the same shit with a new woman, new baby. In the aftermath of my devastating (to me) divorce, and after two years of failed attempts at new relationships, I decided to take a year long dating and sex free break and focus on myself, my career, my kids, and my friends. In that year, I learned to love myself and when that happened these fantasy type relationships that you keep having where they seem so perfect because that is what you created IN YOUR MIND, stopped happening. I no longer look for affirmation or happiness anywhere else. I have peace. Please don't take as long as I did to learn to love yourself and understand that it is no one else's job to make you happy nor is it anyone else's fault if you are not. If your wife is making a true effort at being a better partner then stay with her. But you also need to make her understand that you will now be putting yourself first, pursuing your own (non sexual) interests, friendships, and career goals without her approval or involvement. You need to take a year to work on yourself. Travel, take a college course, tend to friendships you have neglected, and do not pursue any relationships with coworkers or other romantic type involvements. They do not serve you and they are not fulfilling any emotional needs as your mind has tricked you into believing. Meditate. Go to therapy. Learn to love yourself and the nonsense will melt away. I promise. Good luck.
Capricornius @85

"..kvetching about being the one who had to get "fixed" when he might have liked to father more children in the future - i.e., in a different life, with a different woman, and disregarding the fact that the surgery is much easier and less complex for male-bodied individuals, making it the most rational birth control choice for many monogamous couples once their families are complete"

I totally disagree with that sentiment. Married or not, monogamous or not, male-bodied or not, no one should be pressured by their partner to undergo a more-or-less irreversible, life-changing, invasive surgical procedure if they don't really want to do it. Pulling out the "rational choice" and "you'd do it if you truly loved me/wanted to be with me forever" card is, frankly, abusive. This should never be a decision by committee and how other married couples do it is irrelevant. There are ways to sort out birth control without undermining anyone's bodily autonomy.

Don't get me wrong - I think the LW comes across as an annoying, self-absorbed, immature git, and it's hard to feel much sympathy for him. But it certainly sounds like he was pressured/ emotionally blackmailed into getting a vasectomy, and that, in combination with "little contact with friends and family" comment, certainly raises some red flags about the wife.
@Harriet, where on earth did you get, "pull yourself up by the bootstraps?"

The single thing most commentators have said, in addition to, wake up to the responsibilities you have (aka parenting responsibilities to young children), is, GO GET THERAPY. Find someone to talk to and start sorting out what he wants to do. Individual therapy in addition to marriage counselling.

If he's feeling aggrieved that he didn't get more sex with more women, that's something a therapist will be able to help him sort out. Including understanding that there is *nothing* his wife can do to help him with this...that's entirely on him with his therapist to sort out. (And I maintain that opening up the relationship or seeing sex workers just so that LW can get a few notches on his headboard is quite possibly THE worst thing to do in this situation. I doubt that even the most sex-positive therapist on the planet will say, for THIS relationship in the state that it is in, an open relationship will be a Good Idea. This is a relationship in profound crisis and every minute he spends either with other women, chasing other women, or online flirting with other women is time that he's not only not working on his relationship, but where he is actively avoiding the big and hard question which is, do I stay married or do we divorce.)

If he's feeling wounded that the women he chased after aren't interested in him, that's something a therapist will be able to help him sort out.

If he's wondering why his wife is still so upset, and noting that even though they're back together and she's making a good-faith effort to rescue the marriage but HE still isn't happy, again, that's something a therapist can help him sort out.

Just because that will involve a lot of hard work and soul-searching and brutal honesty on his part does not mean that it's bootstrapping. It's finding out why he's unhappy and burdened with the assistance of professionals, and figuring out what to do about the obligations and responsibilities he has in an ethical and humane way.

LavaGirl @91, I think wife needs to go somewhere far longer than just a weekend. A whole week would be better, and go somewhere that she will be well cared for but way to far away to swoop in and fix the mess this dude will inevitably make. If it happens, she needs to make sure that any female friends or family members are also instructed to not lift a finger to help him....he's a grown ass man and has been a parent for 5 years and he can figure it out himself.
@93: "But it certainly sounds like he was pressured/ emotionally blackmailed into getting a vasectomy"

"Pressured/emotionally blackmailed" is in the eye of the beholder, and an emotionally immature, passive aggressive dick like the OP is not immune to exaggeration, as is strewn throughout the letter. Surely he'd spend more time with family if he didn't prioritize his side-flings over his wife or parents.

"certainly raises some red flags about the wife."

I can't see that as such when it's communicated through the semaphore of wildly gesticulated red flags.

@94: " where on earth did you get, "pull yourself up by the bootstraps?""

Comments sections are a sea of solutions in search of a problem to attach to.
It would depend slinky @94, on how much time this man has actually spent with his child. From the letter, I'd say he has left it mainly to his wife to sort. And yes, she's indulged that. Wean him into the care and work up to a week. If he divorces he'll have to do it, assuming he gets 50/50 custody.
Imho, this pooch is fucked and willl not be unfucked. Let LW live on his own for a while. Let his wife move on. And just focus on being good parents.

I think there is a significant chance that lw will regret it. But he will just keep blaming her for feeling unhappy and unfulfilled until he goes. As someone said (bidan?), he lacks the experience to know what he has.

Oh well.

The Modern: "Toxis Masculinity, it damages men too! Stuffing all your emotions down inside is bad!"

Some man: "So I've got this issue, I need help..."

The Modern: "Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Do you realize how privileged you are, and that other people have REAL problems?"

@98 SLOgerati: Not only are you a loser for feeling sorry for yourself, and you should have shut up, but also, you are the source of all your problems.

Great thing we've created here, folks.
@99. Who is telling him to shut up?

It's the running off to find himself while abandoning his children that is pretty revolting.

And before you play the sex card, ask how society treats the rarer woman who runs off and leaves her kids. She is usually considered unnatural and the husband left tending the children a saint.

@100: He's having his own MRA titty-fit over people going off on a narcissist.