My husband of one year cheated on me. We’re in our early 30s and have been considering a baby. I thought we had a loving relationship. He revealed this himself, and tells me he’s sorry. Why did it happen? He has no answers other than “it just happened.”—Annie
This is almost a good opportunity to climb up on my desk chair and give you a really excellent rendition of the new best song ever, that Taylor Swift one that goes, “We are never ever ever getting back togetheeeer,” but maybe cotton-candy breakup anthems don’t have the therapeutic gravitas you’re looking for. But what else is there to say? It definitely didn’t “just happen”—like, your husband didn’t trip and land with his erect penis inside someone else’s biscuit—but it’s unlikely that he actively wanted to hurt you. It just, you know, happened.
Why someone in a good relationship cheats on a good person is a forever question. It’s also not one that I can answer, but maybe take a bit of comfort in the basic truth that neither can anyone else. I can tell you that cheating as a newlywed has a whole other meaning than stepping out on your first boyfriend because you’re stupid, or leaving a 25-year marriage because you’ve slid into the existential chaos of middle age.
Why this happens is both obvious—sex, self-destruction, acting out, ego—and, in a situation like yours, still a mystery. So why do these guys commit to women and create families at all? Why would a man agree to an expectations-riddled live-in situation if he didn’t want to participate? Maybe it’s naïve, but I guess I won’t believe that men don’t understand that making this decision without meaning it is the most predictable, most banal way to fail, and fail cruelly.
The basic word about infidelity is that you, the cheated-on, have to decide what comes next. So, if you want to stay together, you have to forgive him, or actively try to forgive him, and work on your relationship, probably in therapy. If you want to leave, leave. But the only way you’ll ever really know why he did this is if you are randomly gifted with the bounty of all-seeing mystic wisdom, with a signed card from the universe.
In this economy, how important is school? I’m about to enter my last year of a university program that I find annoying, and I’m not motivated to go back. I’m paying for school myself through loans.—Don
I was going to ask a university guidance counsellor and a job recruiter, but I already know what they’ll say, which is probably why you’re asking me and not them. I feel some moral and logical obligation to tell you to go back: You only have one year left (one year!), and, yes, in this shiteous economy, a BA is the bottom line for most jobs. It’s also hard to find the motivation and money to return to school after a few years away, so you may drift just short of a degree forever. A Pew Center study reports that 86 per cent of graduates consider their degree a “good investment,” which is encouraging. So, go back.
Unless, of course, you really don’t want to. The cost of university, even in this country, is unconscionable: According to Statistics Canada, between the mid-’90s and mid-’00s, graduates with student debt rose from 49 per cent to 57 per cent. The economy increasingly rewards entrepreneurialism and offers part-time and contract employment, not benefits and security. The whole narrative of how to do it is changing. So what would you do if you didn’t go back? I mean, after my first year of university, which was characterized by a D average and an addiction to menthol cigarettes, I dropped out and spent seven months in my jammies. This style of drop-out is not recommended. If, however, you have a plan or a real trajectory pulling you somewhere else, don’t go back. Either way, you have an obligation to use your youth for something. Use it; use it up.
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