I’m married to a guy who is older, generous, and smart. We’ve had our problems: he puts me down, we never cuddle, and sex lasts for five minutes. Two years ago, he took a job abroad and I stayed to take care of his house and look after my ill parents. My husband keeps saying he will move back, but won’t make a firm plan. I became depressed and lonely, but then I met someone. Sex with others is allowed in my marriage, but I’ve fallen in love with this new guy. I haven’t felt like this since I met my husband, except this person has also shown me how I want to be loved.—Todd
There are, supposedly, two stories: “a stranger comes to town” and “a hero makes a journey.” And sometimes it seems like there is really only one advice question: Should I do what I want, or what is right? Shittily for you and happily for me, there’s almost never a definitive answer. Your problem, in particular, is complicated by the sex being sanctioned, by having a few good reasons to leave, and by the fact of having made a lifetime commitment to a guy who might be playing the older-richer-dude card.
Being loved the right way—being known—is maybe the point of life, and is definitely the point of “love.” But even the best love isn’t static. You acknowledged that the way you feel about New Guy is the way you used to feel about your husband—this suggests that in a while you’ll be complaining about New Guy’s deficiencies, too. Likewise, your relationship with your husband could recover from all of this, and get good again.
What you should ultimately do depends on what happens now. Break up with New Guy, at least for the moment, and tell your husband that he has to acknowledge your sad-and-lonelies, and come home like he agreed to, by a specific date. Even if he doesn’t go for it, you’ll have tried before giving your marriage a hasty Viking funeral, and be free to love whomever, and however, you want.
I’m 26 and just finishing a Master’s degree. Should I do a PhD? I would like to teach one day, but it’s so hard to get teaching positions right now. I also know I want a house and a car and a spouse-figure before I’m 31, which is when I would just be finishing school. Thoughts?—Jenna
You could get a regular job, a house, a car, a husband, and in five years be Queen Shit of the cul-de-sac. You could get a regular job and in five years have nothing tangible, or a whole life that you can’t even imagine, yet. You could pursue the PhD and emerge at 31 with a doctorate, debt, and no prospects, or you could find intellectual validation and the tenured academic position of your dreams. Where you’ll land is about as predictable as a handful of pink confetti tossed at an industrial fan.
If there’s a lesson for 30-ishes to learn, it’s that we have none of the guarantees of previous generations. We’re on the loser side of what Forbes called “the new wage gap” between Millennials and our parents. Jobs are fewer and earnings are stagnant. In September, The Atlantic reported that 25-to-34-year-olds have experienced six years of declining salaries, which is “without modern precedent.”
So forget the car and forget the “spouse-figure,” which you can have as a PhD candidate or office jock, and which is up to the gods of interpersonal chemistry and not you, anyway. Your decision, then, is specifically between the perceived normalcy of a desk job and a condo, and a vow of poverty that ends in a doctorate and sagging bookshelves, neither of which are necessarily going to play out the way you want (cue the Millennial Panic Theme Music).
Knowing this, spend a weekend alone, without the people who have a stake in what you do next and without the steady hum of your regular life. Think about what you want the most, apart from the influence of age, money, and practicality. Choose that, because without any sure things, you have to follow your heart. Then, go after it with the super-serious dedication that it’s going to take to make it.
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