Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday and I’m down in Mexico with the family, but when you love your job, how could you possibly not solve everyone’s problems even when you’re on the beach?

So here we go.

As always you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Let’s dive right in:

“I’m the same age as you, relatively same educational background, etc. I’ve been married for 15 years and have four children. I just found out that my wife has started an online (Facebook affair) that has turned into a physical affair. What do you think is the best way to confront her? Wait until the next meetup and stop over in person? Drop in on their messages (she left her page open on our kids computer)?”  

The first question you have to answer here is what do you want to happen? You have four children and have been married fifteen years. All four of your kids are under the age of 18 unless you had kids before marriage out of wedlock. So your life is potentially going to change a great deal based on how you handle this situation.

I think regardless of what you want to happen with your marriage, this needs to be a face-to-face conversation between you and your wife.

And whatever you do you 100% should not show up at their next meeting. I understand the “I’m going to confront him and kick his ass!” bravado angle that might be at play here, but all you’re doing is potentially creating a criminal situation for yourself. Sure, you could (potentially) beat his ass, but that might involve the police getting called or severe injury — even death if a fight went horribly wrong — ensuing. Plus, what if the guy is a bigger bad ass than you and he beats your ass and is banging your wife? Then you’ve taken pathetic to an entirely new level.

Put simply, if you’re a grown man and you’re getting in fights for free, you’re an idiot.

So eliminate the confrontation angle from your potential responses.

Which is why you have to let your anger subside here and circle back around to the first question you have to answer: what do you want to happen here? Are you open to the idea of staying with your wife? (If you are, it’s probably based on the four kids). Or is this an immediate deal breaker and you’re calling it quits on the marriage and planning to file for divorce? (If this is your plan then there have probably been issues in your marriage prior to this cheating incident).

Either way I think you need to confront her directly sooner rather than later. (Hopefully when the kids aren’t present in the house too. The conversation could get intense and loud and it’s better if the kids, especially the young ones, aren’t there to overhear all of this.)

But the key question you have to answer is what do you want to happen now in your marriage and in your relationship? The way you respond with her initially sets the framework for your relationship going forward. Make no mistake, she’s in the wrong here, but you have four kids together. You will be a part of each other’s life for the rest of your lives, whether you like it or not.

So what happens now? You have to decide what you want the future to look like.

Now, to be fair, you may not know what you want to have happen until you actually have more time to process the issue. Or even to hear how she responds directly to you. But regardless of all that you need to have a direct conversation with her, sooner rather than later.

And while I don’t want to add to your difficulties I think there are several important questions you need answered here. How long has this affair been going on? And have there been other affairs prior to this one? Most importantly, and staggeringly difficult to contemplate, are you 100% sure that all four kids are yours?

Finally, if you want revenge on the other guy — which I’m sure you do — the play here is to notify the other guy’s wife (he’s probably married with kids too) and blow up his life like he blew up yours. So while sending them a Facebook message isn’t the smart play, looking up his Facebook profile so you’re able to notify his wife as to what you’ve discovered. (With photos of their messages taken on your phone so neither can deny it, is also a valid play on your part).

But the first issue is for you to deal with this issue in your own marriage and determine how you want to go forward.

Good luck.

“Settle this for my wife and me. My kids – 9 and 5 – are going to a birthday party this Sunday for a kid on our street. My wife is going to be out of town and said I need to stay at the party which is from 12:30 to 2:30. This seems ridiculous. If other parents are staying I’m sure it will just be the moms.  Obviously, I’m trying to go home and watch the Penguins- Red Wings game in peace, but even so should I really be expected to stay? I can see this house from my house, so not like they’ll be out in public. What’s the play here?  I know I can just DVR the game, but 2 hours of me time to watch hockey in peace is too good for me to pass up.  Thoughts?”

Man, after how tough that first question was, it’s nice to be back on the fields of petty marital squabbles.

When you have kids the ages of yours — nine and five year old’s are able to handle themselves when it comes to basic birthday needs — I don’t think you need to stay for the party.

Especially when you can see the house from your house.

You’ll just be sitting there at the birthday party — as you say, most likely with the moms, who use birthday parties as an opportunity to gossip and visit — and you can easily drop off your kids and return later. What’s more, if there is any issue at all, you’re a phone call or a text message away.

I’d feel differently if the kids were all young — five year’s old is probably the cut off point where you don’t need to be there, honestly — but a nine year old is in the third grade and a five year old goes to school all day by himself. So I think you’re fine not to be there from a parenting perspective.

The bigger issue here, however, is that your wife has told you to go to the party and supervise. So what happens if you don’t go? You definitely can’t lie about it because either the other parents or your kids will blow up your lie and then you’ll be in real trouble. So you have to say you took the kids there and the party host told you to leave because the kids would be fine.

That’s your only out.

The ultimate challenge for you is your wife’s desire to give you specific instructions when specific instructions weren’t really necessary. (This is a wife special). If your wife hadn’t said anything about you staying, you would have dropped off the kids and left without any issues at all. But now that your wife told you to stay you won’t just be dropping off your kids, you will be dropping off your kids AND SPECIFICALLY NOT DOING WHAT YOUR WIFE TOLD YOU TO DO.

Is it just me or do wives give way more instructions than husbands when it comes to children? I get it, I get it, wives don’t trust their husbands to do what they should do when it comes to parenting — all husbands are lazy when given the option to be lazy — but I can’t remember the last time I gave my wife parenting instructions for when I wasn’t going to be somewhere and insisted that she follow those instructions.

You’re looking for me to tell you that it’s okay to drop off the kids at the birthday party and leave — it certainly is — but your larger issue here is your wife doesn’t think it’s okay. So you don’t have to worry about what I think or what the other parents think or what your kids think or what society thinks — you have to worry about what your wife thinks when she finds out you specifically didn’t do what she told you to do.

And only you know what the price for making that decision, rightfully or wrongfully, will be.

Good luck.

“Here is the scenario: I am 24 and make a lot more money than my older sister does, and my most recent birthday she completely ignored. It didn’t bother me that much because I’m not that close to her to begin with. Now her birthday is coming up and while I usually get her some sort of gift I am planning on not getting her anything since she completely ignored mine. Does this make me a huge scumbag? Also if I go the other way and buy her something super expensive that she could never afford just to rub it in that I make way more money than her, does this make me an even bigger scumbag?”

It sounds like you’re kind of a dickhead.

Did you ever think that maybe that’s why your older sister ignored your birthday?

I mean you open up your email saying you make a lot more money than your older sister does and then say you didn’t care that she didn’t give you a gift for your birthday. But yet you care enough to email a guy you don’t know about it to ask for his advice? And you are thinking of ways to get revenge on your sister based on said gift that didn’t happen that you didn’t care about at all?

This doesn’t add up.

I think the fact that she didn’t give you a gift bothered you and you are trying to find a way to bother her back.

Sure, that’s one way to behave.

But I think the better way to behave is to focus less on revenge with your sister and more on not being a dickhead.

Give her a normal gift and treat her decently for the next year.

If she still doesn’t give you a gift next year, she’s the dickhead and you can move on with your life.

“My mother in law passed away in December. To help my father in law cope, I agreed to let him stay with us for a little while. I thought a little while would be a couple weeks. It is now two months, and I see no signs of of him leaving. I’ve tried having conversations with my wife to let her know I am not ok with this continuing and would at least like some sort of plan or timeline. It never goes well and during those conversations I’ve been accused of having no soul. 

I get that everyone is grieving, but two plus months seems way overboard, and I do not want to live with my father in law. 

He lives nearby so it’s not an issue of not being able to check on him nor for him to come over and spend time with the grandkids. I have not approached him yet to discuss leaving. I know my wife will get pissed if I do. 

So my questions are: how do I get him out, and do I in fact lack a soul?”

I don’t think you lack a soul, but I also think it’s understandable that your wife — whose mom just died — probably has a different standard for dealing with both her grief and her father’s grief than you do.

For you, two months is too long for him to stay with you. For your wife, it isn’t. So let’s begin here — is there a time frame that your wife would consider to be too long for her dad to stay with you? Is six months okay? What about a year? What about years? In other words, when would she feel like you do, that he’s overstayed his welcome?

It may certainly be the case that she’s even unwilling to put a time limit on it because it’s still “too soon” to even know. In fact, I bet that will be her answer. But that’s the conversation I’d attempt to have with her.

I think you need to find out if there’s a time frame where she’d feel the same way you do now.

I also think, and we don’t have all the information here, there are other factors at play. For instance, the size of your home factors in. Is he sleeping on a pullout couch in a tiny two bedroom house with you and your wife and the kids? Or do you have an extra bedroom and plenty of space to handle him? Further issues to consider, does he work? (I’m guessing he’s retired). Does he come and go during the day? Does he cook or shop for the household? Does he babysit the kids and let you guys go out occasionally? Or is he just a zombie house guest pretty much always there and contributing minimally to your life?

All of that factors in.

I think you also have to consider his motivations. I doubt this is his ideal goal. In other words, he doesn’t want to be living with you. In fact, I would guess that he’s so overcome with grief he just can’t bear to go back into the house he and his wife shared. By staying with you and your family he can, at least partly, pretend that his wife isn’t gone forever. But this is where your wife needs to come in and assist him in his grief.

If he can’t bear to go back into his house and start to prepare for a life without his wife, your wife’s mom, then she needs to help make that happen.

Your wife lost her mom here. I’m not going to try and weigh which is harder, losing a parent or losing a spouse, but they are both incredibly overwhelming, particularly if it’s sudden loss.

At some point your father-in-law will have to recognize that his life is not your life and he can’t simply abandon his own home for yours.

I’m not sure what the appropriate amount of time he should be at your house is, but I do know this isn’t a conversation for you to handle. This is something your wife and her father need to discuss. This isn’t about your soul, it’s about theirs; the two of them have to solve this issue as best they can, not you.

Your job is to support whatever resolution they come to. Right now they are in an untenable situation and I suspect both know it. (You aren’t suggesting that the long range future here is that your father-in-law will permanently move in to your house.)

What you should do is encourage your wife to help your dad makes a decision about how best to deal with his grief. It’s time, past time actually, for the two of them to go back into their mom’s house and begin to plan the rest of their lives.

But that’s their job, not yours.

I’d try to be supportive, but not integral to this conversation between the two of them.

Good luck.

As always, send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

I’m headed out to the beaches for the day.

Thanks for reading.

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