My husband and I have been together for seven years, married for just over one year. We have two children and are generally very happy. Weeks after our first child was born, I caught him looking at dating websites. He even had a profile and claimed they were funny to read and he couldn't look unless he created a profile.
Weeks later, I caught him on another website. This time he claimed he was baiting me to see if I was snooping (I was, with good reason).
He's always spent a lot of time looking at pictures of other women - high school friends (through Facebook), movie actresses (the Internet), etc.
It makes me feel worthless, but he's turned it around on me as the bad guy for snooping.
Recently, he's started secretly messaging a girl he wanted to date in high school who's single again. He frequently messages her when I'm not home, deleting the history. It makes me feel like garbage. Yet he always says I'm the only one for him and he'd never dream of leaving me.
I don't want to lose him. I know I shouldn't be snooping but feel he needs to understand that he lost my trust and he's making it worse.
Should I keep trying, Ellie? Or should I accept that this marriage isn't going to work?
The worst thing about this situation is how you feel about yourself. Despite his curiosity about other women and his liking to flirt, there's no mention of him coming home late for suspicious reasons, going out of town, etc. He's still rooted in the marriage and doesn't think as little of you, as you do.
Whatever the future holds, you need to get past this low self-esteem. Some day you may be proven right, but so far, it's a sad dynamic of Bad Boy meets Insecure Woman. You feed into each other's lesser qualities.
Get couples' counselling to find ways to lift your relationship beyond this behaviour pattern. If he won't go and thinks it's part of your jealousy, then go alone and build your self-esteem to make the right decision for you and your children.
After 30 years, I've had it with trying to make Christmas a fun occasion. It happened again this past one. My husband goes into total Grinch mode when store decorations go up.
We have four grown children who still expect stockings. They now help with dinner and all the trimmings. I cater to in-laws, vegetarians, diabetics, alcoholics, and assorted strays for the Christmas dinner.
But I'm burned out. Mostly it's with my husband... I even get my own Christmas present and pretend it's from him. What can I do besides disappear?
Hiding from next Christmas - or what I suspect are year-round frustrations - will just make you angrier, more frustrated, and with added loneliness.
Start looking after you, first. You've been looking after everyone else for too long.
Give the children gift cards to buy themselves what they want and forget the stockings - it's an added pressure.
Tell your collection of strays that those with special dietary needs to bring their own, and everyone else also must contribute something.
OR, and this may be the best idea, get Grinch out to a travel agent and insist you two pick a Christmas Cruise or other getaway for next year. If you enjoy it, repeat. If you miss Christmas, bring fresh energy and some time - and energy-saving ideas for next year.
FEEDBACK Regarding the father whose middle child was an overachiever, and whose eldest was extremely jealous (Dec. 20):
Reader - "As the overachiever, I was hurt and de-motivated by my parents' reluctance to praise me for perfect marks, when there were hugs if my sister even handed in an assignment. I was usually in a split grade class with my sister; our teachers had the same reluctance to acknowledge my successes, but they positively reinforced any small advance she made. I craved attention, and I found some negative ways of getting it.
"As a parent, I find that at different times and in different situations, some kids achieve outstanding success, while at other times, the same just squeak by. I've learned to celebrate a 50% grade in one subject, for the same person who normally gets high 90s in other subjects. There are reasons for this, so celebrate both marks."
Tip of the day:
Stop snooping and get counselling to find solutions.