Things Bother Me in My Marriage…Then There’s This Person

Reader’s Question

I have a problem. I am married to a loving, caring man; however, a lot of things bother me in my marriage. My husband has a tendency to say and do dumb things, he’s very forgetful, his family stays stuck up his butt all the time, and he has very little business sense, to name a few of the things that bother me. These are things I did not see before the marriage, and now they have come out, full force. We have been married almost 3 years. (We’re in our late 20’s.)

In the last few months, I have had a growing attraction to someone who comes in my work — he’s in pharm sales, and is married. He’s attractive, friendly, smart, easygoing, etc. He used to not talk at all, until one day, when I initiated conversation. He is so nice, almost flirtatious. I saw him one night at dinner with his wife — he looked miserable. He saw me and spoke, but was not himself. When leaving, he stopped at my table (I was with a friend) and said, “Have a drink for me, because I am going to need it.” The next business day he came in the office for no other reason than to talk to me. I asked him if he was OK the other night, judging by his behavior, and he said he was bored because he knew he was about to go home.

I’m not trying to jump the gun here, but it seems he is unhappy at home. I hate to think that I am more compatible with him than my own husband, and he might feel the same way toward me. Do a lot of people stay married, even if they don’t want to? Could he be the type that’s unhappy or discontent, but he’s going to stick it out anyway? Nothing has happened between us, other than mild flirtation, but I seem to get this vibe from him that he likes me. Maybe it’s female intuition? I can’t help but feel we are so compatible, yet I know I will never find out. I would never intentionally hurt my husband, and I am not the type to sleep around or do things to ruin my reputation. This man is the only one I feel this way for. I love my husband, but I’m not sure I’m in love with him. Are there other women out there who have this problem, and if so, what am I supposed to do? Please help… Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

Marriages move through a variety of stages over time. Just like a job or career, we move through stages of loving it, being bored by it, being irritated by it, and even looking for another job if one happened to come along. It’s also not uncommon to have contact with folks in various stages of their marriage — when they’re bored, miserable, loving it, or fed up. For both of you, it doesn’t mean anyone is ready to make a move.

The biggest problem with the situation you describe is that it’s an artificial relationship. You mention being married to your husband for three years but you didn’t see these faults/issues until they came out full force. Now, with this pharm rep, based on two sentences in a restaurant and a couple of brief conversations — you feel the two of you are so compatible. If we think about how this happens, your fantasies about the relationship are creating a compatibility that is actually unknown. Based on knowing about 2% of his personality — his “public” self — you’ve created the rest of his personality in fantasy — exactly to match what you’d like to have in life. This is how people get into a lot of trouble.

It’s possible to be emotionally and/or romantically lonely in a marriage. You may be going through one of those periods. During such times, often due to a high level of stress, we lose our warm feelings and have the sense that we love our partner, but we’re not “in love” with them. While it’s possible to fall out of love with a partner, stress in our personal life can create the same feeling and same problem. We become interested in something exciting in our life, a distraction. This is why 85% of extramarital affairs occur during times of high stress. This is also why 95% don’t end in anything except misery and damaged relationships.

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I’d be very careful here. Enjoying the flirtation and attention is one thing, but continued fantasy may result in the loss of your marriage and little else. You only know 2% of this pharm rep. This alleged miserable marriage may be his strategy as a player. You’re in a weak spot and need to protect yourself. You might want to consider talking to your husband about your loss of romantic feelings, perhaps seeking marriage counseling. You may also want to check yourself for signs of depression or stress, reviewing materials on this website.

What should you do…protect yourself. What you’re seeing as a light at the end of the tunnel may actually be another train!

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