Like most bloggers, this is my not-so-secret other life. I get paid to work for a living, but because I’ve opted for a cushy job that keeps life simple for me, it’s not exactly keeping me in luxury. Blogging’s what I turn to for kicks, for fun, for community.
But I don’t live under the delusion that any of you are my “friends”. You’re not. Let’s keep it real, right? You like reading what I have to say, but beyond that, you really don’t know me. That’s how it works. You see what I want you to see, but not a thing more. It’s fabulous, from my end.
And that’d be great if we could skate through life riding only on the surface, allowing others only to see the bare minimum of who we are, but it’d sure make for a pretty plastic existence. Who we are shines through in all the little things we do each day; picking up a piece of litter instead of walking past, holding a door open for someone 15 feet behind ya, not saying “thank you” when someone does something for you… all these things reveal who we are, but you’d never see any of that on the web, so what do you really know about web personalities after all? Not fuckin’ much, my friends.
So, it’s because of my rather strong feelings on the notion of taking web “friendships” and “communities” a bit too far that I’ve been avoiding answering a particular reader’s letter of late, but how’s about I take a kick at it now?
It’s a huge email, and I sort of have to pick the things you need to know, ‘cos not all of it’s getting tackled today. First of all, the reader wrote in after reading this posting called “When Relationships Falter” on this trusty blog o’ mine. So, here’s whatcha need to know:
1) This is a friend writing in with a question about someone he calls a close friend, but who he’s never met, and who’s really only an internet connection.
2) He’s never met the spouse/partner in question, but has made his acquaintance online on the odd occasion, so he has some knowledge of a somewhat misogynistic views held by the Husband.
3) His friend, the Woman we’ll call her, is a relatively new mother. Her relationship ain’t what she’d hoped it’d be. He’s working all the time, there’s never any sex. It’s frustrating and it’s very much not a partnership, if we’re to believe her side of things. She claims she sees him for 2 hours a week, on average.
4) The Husband, not my letter-writer reader, has told The Woman that she is not to masturbate just because he’s not there to fuck her, even though she’s apparently caught him masturbating of late. My reader wants to know if this is fair.
5) The Reader thinks she should be moving out. He’s got the husband pegged as probably having an affair. Etc.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. Boy!
Let’s tackle the easiest thing first. Number 4. Of course it’s not fucking fair! She can masturbate any time she wants, so long as her conscience is clear on the matter that it’s her choice and her prerogative. And if he is in fact masturbating and she’s being told not to, then he’s a fucking hypocrite. Open and shut. Simple. Read my Why the 40% of Women Should Masturbate that you’ll find under my sidebar.
Now, is the husband having an affair?
Holy fuck, let’s just back the hell up here, all right? An affair? Sorry, reader, but you’re some guy about 1,500 miles away, or whatever. You’ve never met either of these people. You’ve never lived a moment in their lives, let alone in their shoes. You’re going ENTIRELY on her word. You can’t be jumping to conclusions here, it’s ridiculous. And you should NOT be getting involved.
It’s crazy, this internet thing. It’s this big ol’ community and we all feel like pals. But it’s as fake as the day is long. In ways, it’s brutally real. Some of the things I’ve published on here felt like I was scraping the walls of my heart and smearing it all up for the world to see. But how do you really know it’s real? You don’t. You just assume I’m telling the truth. Thankfully, I am, but not everyone does. I learned my lessons the hard way a long time ago, and now I’m pretty guarded when it comes to buddying-up on the ‘net.
We’ve all heard of the internet hoaxes — videos of people supposedly held prisoner, people faking personals on Craigslist to mock and expose others. We really can’t trust anything anyone says.
We can get alarmed at times. ILike when had an email from someone in response to a personals ad 18 months ago, one that just terrified the hell out of me because this person was going on about suicide and hurting others. Did I wade into that? No fucking way! I forwarded the email to professional counsellors at a crisis line and made sure they looked into it, and I washed my hands entirely of it. You can’t go meddling in people’s lives because it can be downright fucking dangerous at times. Seriously!
So that’s one reason I say to pull back and stop getting involved — you just don’t know. Maybe she’s a nutbag in real life. Maybe she’s possessive and jealous. Maybe they have more money problems than you know. Maybe the baby just provided the classic huge shock young couples aren’t read for, and as a result she’s battling post-partum depression and he’s done the classic “guy” thing and thrown himself into work. Maybe it sorts out all by itself because, instead of dumping all her problems on some “safe” and “non-threatening” guy a couple thousand klicks away, she starts telling her husband how she really feels. Maybe they get counselling.
Maybe a million things could, might, may happen that you, in your fish-eye distorted and limited view of their world you can’t possibly conceive because you’re listening entirely to her point-of-view and you’ve already convicted him as being the only one doing something wrong here.
But she’s doing something wrong, too. She’s not talking to him, not as far as we know. She’s not talking to the real people in her life — people who can see both sides — that may or may not be able to help her reach a real resolution.
Now, there are times when the internet is a cry for help. Yes, this is true, it happens, and those cries for help need to be heard. But another unhappy woman in another unhappy marriage isn’t a cry for help that needs to be heard, not yet. Shit happens. Relationships come apart. We need to suck it up and learn to get through it, but we really need to try hard to resolve relationships before we give in, or start displacing our energies onto others by way of dumping on friends and failing to communicate. She needs to stop complaining to people who can’t solve her problems, and she needs to fucking confront the person she believes can change it all: Her Husband. They need to sit down, have the “Wow, so that baby really changed everything, huh? I totally didn’t see THIS coming” chat that is probably at least half, if not way more, of their problem.
The thing that someone like me, who’s very cautiously opted out of the Baby Game, even though a small part of me wants a kid, understands is: A child changes EVERYTHING in your life. Not all for the better, either. Yeah, sure, there’s the cool shit that comes down when they hit 18 months and totally plug into the wonder of the world and just baffle you at every turn…
…But then there’s that very needy, not-too-interesting-yet, hard-to-predict, awkward-to-learn-about itty-bitty baby that pops into the world and requires your attention for 24/7 for at least the first six months. And there’s the hormones. And the constant exhaustion that comes with it. And the never, ever being able to press “pause”.
A lot of new parents don’t communicate about how, yes, it’s a beautiful baby, but holy shit did it change everything about life. There can be a romanticizing of one’s past when that kind of upheaval comes and lands on you. And when you realize it’s a “rest of your life” change, it’s bound to be a little overwhelming for people who didn’t really have an eyes-wide-open look at the commitment truly required in having a baby.
I think they have a communication problem. How do you have sex when you can’t admit to your partner that you’re too tired and frustrated to be happy? How do you talk about not understanding why this thing you wanted so much leaves you feeling so empty inside? How do you talk about your discontent without making it feel like you’ve made the wrong decision? It’s a HARD conversation to have, so naturally people will avoid it.
If you go meddling in this beyond saying “You NEED to keep talking to him. You CANNOT just give up before finding out if this is just post-baby-blues felt by both of you” then you might go irreparably damaging a marriage that might’ve survived if they both just held on a little longer through the tough times that sometimes follow when a baby comes into the world.
She needs to understand that it’s okay to be depressed and empty and tired when she’s caring so much for this baby all by herself. She needs to understand that post-partum depression can linger for a long time, and that it needs medical attention. She needs to be made to see that she has to talk to her husband and him know the urgency behind how much change needs to transpire in the relationship.
When all of THAT occurs, when they’ve exhausted everything, THEN comes the need to realize that, maybe, just maybe, the union was wrong and she should move out.
But that’s a long fucking ways off.
And BEFORE it gets there, you need to pull the hell back and stop being the dumping grounds for this woman’s emotions so that she can have the conversations required. If those conversations fail with her husband, and conditions continue to worsen, then she needs to have a long hard look at the financial costs and requirements, and whether she can make that work, of being a single mother — long, long before she goes boldly crashing out the door to rent her own place.
Support her but do not coddle her. Do not allow this steady stream of her negatively complaining about her life yet failing to take actions to change it. You’re being an enabler, not a friend. Tell her to start being constructive and making firm choices about how to deal with her problem. She needs to chat with him, and if he doesn’t listen or change during a trial period, then she needs to figure out what her life is going to require as a single mom — and she needs income besides child support because far too many ex-spouses are deadbeats on payments (mothers, too) and she can’t just willy-nilly expect money to work out and society to pitch in and help. She needs to really understand what’s at stake if she goes it alone.
But she needs to make those decisions on her own, and you have no business getting involved in it with opinions, what have you, since you don’t really have a view of the full picture. Tell her the path to take, but leave the specific advice for the “real” people in her life.
Harsh but that’s how I feel about it. What do you other readers think? Am I being too hard? Do you agree with my take?