Monday, September 28, 2009

His Driving is Driving Her Crazy!

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: My husband has always been a pretty aggressive driver, but over the past couple of years he's gotten worse. He can't drive across town without at least once leaning on the horn, giving someone the finger, following too closely, etc. I cringe when I'm with him, and I'm afraid that one of these days there will be a road rage incident like you read about in the newspaper. He knows I'm terrified of getting into an accident or some other incident, but if I say something he just gets angrier, accusing me of siding with the other driver over him. I try not to drive with him unless it's necessary, but we do go a lot of places together (restaurants, weekend trips, etc.), and he won't even consider letting me drive "his" truck. What can I do? ("Lynda" in Tennessee)

DEAR LYNDA: I'm hoping you have another vehicle you can drive, because I don't think you should even get in your husband's truck until he's gotten some psychological help. He's got major anger-management issues, and it's just a matter of time before---as you said---you'll be reading about him in the newspaper.

It may feel strange at first, but you're going to have to start going places in two separate vehicles. When he demands to know why, you'll want to stay calm and stay in control. Explain that it's been obvious for a long time that you're uncomfortable being in the truck with him, and that it's best for both of you that you go in separate vehicles for the time being.

If he asks what "the time being" means, tell him that it's entirely up to him; once he gets help and changes his driving habits for the better, you'll be happy to start going places together again. To give him some practical information, you might want to do a google search of defensive-driving programs in your area, most of which at least touch on road rage prevention. You might also want to find out if there are psychologists nearby who deal with anger-management issues regularly. Because judges will often require anger-management sessions for people convicted of aggressive driving offenses, your local traffic court may be an excellent source of information.

With guys like your husband, I would be careful not to provoke him even more by implying that he is totally at fault. Tell him that you know that there are a lot of idiots out there on the road, but that there's nothing he can do about them except keep his distance from them. Tell him you don't want to see him do something crazy, even if in theory he's in the right, nor do you want to see him wind up in jail, or in the hospital, or in the morgue.

But don't be so supportive that you back down; your safety and your sanity are at stake. And don't think about the monetary costs. Whatever extra money you'll have to spend on gas by taking two vehicles, or whatever the anger-management treatment will cost, is a pittance compared to the cost of car repairs, hospital bills, lawyer fees, insurance surcharges, and God-knows-what else.

Good luck, Lynda, and let me know how it turns out.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

High School Reunion Controversy

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: My 30th high school reunion is coming up in a couple of months, and my wife has made it clear that she wants to go with me. I'm not wild about the idea. My wife doesn't know any of my old classmates (she and I grew up in different states, and none of my old friends were at our wedding three years ago), and I'm sure she'll be bored stiff. Also, I'm worried that it won't be fun for me if she's by my side the whole time. Don't get me wrong: I'm not looking to hook up with old girlfriends. (I went to a few previous reunions when I was married to my first wife, and believe me, nothing happened). But I don't want to be inhibited about what I say to people, or have people feel inhibited about saying things to me. Is there any way I can gently explain to her that it will be better for both of us if I go alone, without triggering suspicions on her part? ("Joe" on Long Island)

DEAR JOE: I agree with you that spouses and reunions are often a bad mix, especially when the spouse doesn't know anyone there. Unfortunately, though, spouses often insist on going anyway, and not only because they might be suspicious of old girlfriends or concerned that you might drink too much with your old buddies. There's actually a good reason your wife might want to go: she may want to know more about who you are.

Think about it: the two of you have only been married a relatively short time. I don't know your wife's age, but you were apparently in your mid-40's when you got married. Whether you realize it or not, she may be very curious about the kind of person you were in your younger days, and eager to see the reactions of your friends when they see you again.

I think you should talk to your wife and make sure she understands that the purpose of your reunion---of any class reunion---is to reconnect with old friends and rehash old stories. Make sure she understands that some of those friends may seem like total idiots to her, but they mean a lot to you. And make sure she understands that the stories you'll all tell will be funnier to you than they will be to her.

And I would also tell your wife exactly what you told me about the old girlfriends. If she's been to her own reunions, she should already know that, yes, some flirtation is bound to occur, but that flirtation doesn't have to lead to a hook-up. In fact, thirty years of aging (on everyone's part) will often provide a reality-check when it comes to romantic fantasies.

If, after hearing all that from you, your wife still wants to go, then you have no choice but to take her. But you'll both have to go there with the right attitudes: no expressions of boredom on her part, and no "I'm here with my chaperone" attitude on yours. Introduce her proudly to your friends, and don't forget to introduce her to your old girlfriends, too. And, if possible, try to introduce her to some other "lonely spouse"; it might be fun for your wife and it might take the pressure off of you to constantly entertain her. You never know: you may have a better time with your wife there than you would by yourself.

Good luck, Joe, and let me know what happens.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

End the Marriage After an Affair?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send all questions to

DEAR JIM: I learned two weeks ago that my husband had an affair with a 23 year old intern at his marketing firm (he's 40). They apparently saw each other all summer until she returned to grad school in another state. I learned of the affair inadvertently after reading some e-mails that he sent to her in the middle of the night and failed to erase. He admitted that he had sex with her but insisted that it was she who came on to him. He also insists that it's the one and only time something like this has ever happened in our six years of marriage, and promised that it will never happen again. My friends all say that I'd be crazy to stay with him, and that it's probably not the first time it happened, only the first time he's been caught. I'm distraught and really torn. I don't want to throw out the good with the bad, but neither do I want to be a fool. Any advice? ("Tortured" in Chicago)

DEAR "TORTURED": A lot of people feel the way your friends do---that with adultery, it's one strike and you're out. And a lot of people believe that all adulterers become serial adulterers, and that even when they get caught they still can't be trusted. There's certainly plenty of real-world evidence to support their beliefs, but the problem with listening to friends is that it's your life, not theirs, that will change irrevocably if you terminate your marriage. You have to decide if divorce is really what you want.

Being tortured by indecision is no way to live, but neither is being tortured by regret later on. I think what both you and your husband need to do is to take a collective deep breath and start communicating again---simply, honestly, and without accusations, excuses, or meltdowns. You'll both need to understand why the affair happened. "She threw herself at me", even if true, doesn't tell the whole story. The real issue is why he was so receptive to her come-on.

It won't be easy to discuss these kinds of things without getting some help. You may want to consult a marriage counselor, particularly one who specializes in infidelity issues. You may also want to check out, a website and online support group created by a couple in Vancouver, Anne and Brian Bercht, whose marriage was ultimately strengthened after his affair forced them to confront some major issues in their marriage.

You may or may not eventually decide to stay with your husband, but you owe it to yourself---and to him, too---to make a sincere effort to figure out what went wrong and (if possible) what can still be done to make things right.

Good luck, "Tortured." I hope you'll let me know your decision once you've had time to recover from your pain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When Your Husband is a Porn Addict

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to:

DEAR JIM: My husband and I have been married thirty years. We used to have a good sex life, but it's been nearly five years since we last made love. I'm not happy about that, but I could probably accept it if my husband was medically unable to perform. But he goes on porn sites all the time. I know this because he never deletes his Internet history, and I've seen days when he's been on over a dozen porn sites. Jim, I may not be as slim or pretty as I once was, but I think I still look pretty good for my age. Why would a man prefer pictures to a real-life woman? What can I do about it? ("Yvonne" in Colorado)

DEAR YVONNE: If it makes you feel any better, you're not alone. Pornography addiction among men is rampant these days. A sex therapist I know says that pornography's appeal can be explained by the "Three A's": it's accessible, affordable, and anonymous.

A guy who prefers porn to a real flesh-and-blood woman is saying, in effect, that he's not interested in foreplay, or seduction, or pleasing a woman. He's saying that he doesn't want to talk before or after sex, and that he doesn't want to deal with the imperfections of real-world bodies, or the demands made by real-world sex partners.

He may also be conscious of his waning sexual prowess. More than a few porn addicts need to look at literally hundreds of nude pictures before they can get fully erect or before they can achieve orgasm. Sitting in front of a computer screen can be less threatening than lying in bed naked next to a woman.

But all that is an explanation, not an excuse. Your husband is not doing either of you a favor by his actions, and he's eventually going to cause you to have an affair or to file for divorce (or both). What you have to do---right away---is to seek marriage counseling, particularly with someone skilled in dealing with sexual issues. A licensed sexual therapist might also be a good idea.

In making the case for therapy, you don't necessarily have to tell your husband that you know he visits porn sites; the mere fact that you haven't had sex in five years is proof that something is wrong. You can remind him of how much you---and presumably he---used to enjoy making love, and how badly you miss those days. Once you begin therapy, you can confidentially tell the therapist what you learned from the Internet history.

If he balks at the idea of any kind of therapy, please refer to the advice I gave "Roberta" on August 16. It's vital for both of you that you get help, and you should be aggressive in seeking it and in persuading your husband to participate willingly.

Good luck, Yvonne, and let me know what happens.