Dear John: Let Sleeping Cats Lie?
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
What’s your problem? Write to John at email@example.com.
About six months ago, I did something terrible, although it was completely unintentional. I was leaving my fiancée’s house, and as I was driving down her street, I accidentally hit her cat and killed it. I was horrified. The cat was obviously dead. I pushed it to the side of the road and took off in a panic. That night, I went back with a bag, got the cat and buried it. The next day, I had calmed down, but I couldn’t bear to bring myself to tell her what happened. And the more time had passed, the more I allowed the story to be that the cat had apparently run away.
But something else has occurred that I never expected – as time has gone on, I‘m feeling more and more guilty. I thought I’d be able to forget about it, but it took the cat “running away” for me to realize how attached my fiancée was to it. She truly loved it. The last time I went to pick her up for a date, she was at the edge of the woods behind her house calling for the cat. At that moment, I felt like I couldn’t keep letting this go on. I got up all my courage to tell her what happened…. And then I couldn’t do it. I know how upset she will be and I know I’ve made it worse by not letting her grieve. Initially I was afraid to tell her because I couldn’t bear to hurt her and I couldn’t bear the thought she might break up with me over this. (The cat darted in front of my car, but my fiancée already thinks I drive too fast.) I am in constant fear that I will accidentally say something to give it away – I’m writing to you only because I know she doesn’t read this column. John, I don’t know what to do. I have to tell her, right? What do I say? How do I justify this lie? I can’t believe how much this is weighing on me. I would appreciate any help you can give me.
Dear Guilty Conscience,
Yes, you have to tell her. And there’s no turn of phrase I can offer you that is going to make this any easier, for you or for her.
Your lie is understandable. It was not something you did out of malice. Circumstances were such that you were offered an easy way out of telling the truth, and you took it. The fact that you now find yourself unable to blithely go along with your story is a point in your favor.
You just have to sit down with her and blurt it out. Once she knows the essential fact, the rest will be easy. (That doesn’t mean, of course, that it won’t be painful. It will.) Just say, “This is going to come as a shock, but your cat didn’t run away six months ago. I accidentally hit it with my car and I was afraid to tell you.” Then take it from there. Tell her how terribly sorry you are that you misled her, and explain that it was due to your own fear and a reluctance to tell her something you knew would devastate her.
She will undoubtedly be upset and angry, but you should do this as soon as you can. Get it over with so she can grieve for her cat and you can unburden yourself. Will your relationship survive this? It’s hard to say. But I don’t think it can survive with one of you carrying around such an awful secret anyway.
My husband took up knitting a few years ago when it was undergoing a bit of a resurgence. He’s always loved making things, he’s a very fussy knot-tier from his days in the Navy, and I think the incongruity of a man like him knitting (he’s kind of a man’s man) appealed to him, too.
The problem is, he makes a lot of things for friends and relatives, then he’s perpetually disappointed when they don’t wear them all the time. I’m not sure his expectations are reasonable – most people will wear what he gives them once or twice, but he keeps a mental inventory of who has what and how often they wear it. It really bugs him if someone doesn’t wear one of his things for a while because he puts a lot of work into them and he’s very proud of them. No one has ever said anything, but frankly, I suspect most people don’t wear his creations because they don’t like them. He tends to favor overly bright colors and he makes things too big, always claiming he wants to allow for shrinkage.
His heart is in the right place and I hate to see his feelings hurt, but I don’t want our friends to feel pressured into wearing things they don’t like, either. The whole situation is causing way more tension than it should. What should I do?
Married to a Needle Addict
Dear Married to a Needle Addict,
Your husband sounds like a well-meaning guy, but what he’s doing is unfair. A gift, even a hand-made one, should not carry with it any obligations as to its use. What to wear is a very personal choice, and he should not be so thin-skinned as to pout when his gifts aren’t worn as frequently as he thinks appropriate.
Having said that, why not put his compulsive knitting to better use? Tell him it’s obvious he gets a lot of satisfaction from giving his creations to people who truly appreciate them, and just about everyone you know already has something he’s made. So why doesn’t he start knitting sweaters or scarves to give to the homeless to help hem get through winter? Or perhaps he could call a local hospital’s maternity department and offer to knit caps for newborns. He could even sell his wares on ebay. With a little imagination, he will be able to find people who will be truly happy to wear what he makes, instead of being badgered into doing so.
My husband and I have been together for over twenty years. We met in high school. I was the head cheerleader and he was the quarterback of the football team. Kind of a cliché, but in our case, it’s true. We were both voted most attractive in our senior class. We attended the same college and were married after we earned our undergraduate degrees.
Since then we have had two children, and he and I have fulfilling careers. I have maintained a high level of physical fitness and I’m considered very pretty. My husband has lost his hair and has a potbelly. He never exercises. The bottom line is that I am just not physically attracted to him anymore, really. I force myself to have sex with him because I know that it is good for our marriage, but I fantasize about other people. He has no idea that I feel this way. If you asked any of our friends about our relationship, you would find that we are the source of admiration and perhaps envy. We respect each other and treat each other accordingly. My questions for you are: How important is being physically attracted to your partner? Is it wrong to be fantasizing about someone else? Is this just the way it goes – you can’t have it all? Is it possible to just repress these feelings, and do you think that they could eventually pass?
Dear Better Half,
Of course it’s important to be physically attracted to your partner. But as we age, it’s also important to be realistic. At 40, no one looks like he did at 20, and at 60, no one looks like he did at 40. As far as our bodies are concerned, life is a long, hopefully slow decline after an all-too-early peak. Enjoy whatever you have while you have it.
There are a lot of ways we all deal with this. Usually, deeper, less transient qualities, like kindness or a great sense of humor, become more reliable sources of attraction. Fantasizing about someone else is fine, too, as long as it’s just an idle fantasy. But the bottom line is marriage requires maturity and part of maturity is accepting that our bodies change, and not for the better.
That’s not to say we should just let ourselves go. If your husband exercised a little, he would most likely live longer, have more energy, and look better, too. Have you encouraged him to do so? As a former athlete, it’s not as if he’s unaware of the benefits of working out. (It is a bit cruel to hold his hair loss against him, though.)
I don’t think your question is only about sex, though. You sound a little bored in general. Maybe that’s the true cause of your sexual apathy. Yes, you can repress these feelings, but I don’t think they will pass. Why would they? You and your husband both deserve a fulfilling relationship that doesn’t require forcing yourself to have sex. A visit to a couples’ therapist would not be a bad idea.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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