It's always darkest after the spawn
I'm an unhappily married 30-year-old woman. I've been with my husband for 10 years, but we only got married seven months ago. We argue almost daily, and he spends all of his time working. Because we fight so much, the thought of him touching me has become repulsive, so we are rarely intimate. Though these problems long preceded our marriage, I felt I needed to move forward in life (marry, have kids, etc.), so I went through with the wedding. I recently got sexually involved with a co-worker, and I think I'm falling in love with him. We have all the loving passion I don't have with my husband. However, I want to have children before I'm 35. My husband can afford to raise a family, and my co-worker cannot. I can't go on like this much longer, and I don't know what to do. — Miserable
Getting married is supposed to be something you do when you find the right person, not whichever person happens to be right next to you when the clock above your ovaries strikes "HolysmokesWe're30!"
Sure, there comes a point in a woman's life when conceiving and carrying a baby to term is miraculous to the point where unicorns should be pawing at the delivery room door. But keep in mind that even good marriages get strained by the addition of children, thanks to the poo-splosions, sleep deprivation (a form of torture violating the Geneva Conventions), and mystery rashes that look just like Ebola when you Google them at 3:03 a.m.
It's also seriously unfair to bring kids into a marriage that's tanking. Sociologist Paul Amato calls children "the innocent victims of their parents' inability to maintain harmonious and stable homes." Reviewing the research on divorce's effects on children, Amato explains that "compared with children with continuously married parents, children with divorced parents ... score significantly lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, self-concept, and social relations."
This isn't to say enemy combatant parents who stay together are doing right by their kids. Amato notes some studies show that children in "high-conflict households ... are worse off than children with divorced parents."
Obviously, staying together "for the children" is a particularly bad idea when you and the husband you despise don't even have the little buggers yet. So why did you make this "repulsive" guy your husband instead of your ex-boyfriend? It probably has something to do with our tendency to engage in ego-protecting "self-justification." Psychologist Elliot Aronson finds that we are prone to refuse to acknowledge our mistakes — even when they're banging us over the head with a leftover wedding centerpiece. Our denial allows us to keep seeing ourselves as smart people who make good choices. Which keeps us mired in our bad choices.
There is a way out, and it's gritting our teeth and admitting mistakes instead of marrying them and making little bundles of stressjoy with them. For you, admitting that you screwed up by marrying this guy — the first step in unmarrying him — would take accepting the potential cost: You might not find a suitable candidate for daddyhood in time (or ever). Yes, that would be rough — but so would the possible alternative: having an adorable pair of twins who go to Harvard — because it's a great place to mug dazed freshmen so they can feed their staggering meth habit.
To quote the Facebook relationship status, "It's complicated." I went out with this man a few times and slept with him once. It didn't work out, and now his sexy guy friend, who's also his boss, has asked me out. However, the boss guy used to date one of my female friends. We are all in the same social circle. What's the protocol here? Do I need to ask permission or give anybody a heads-up about my going out with the boss guy? — Messy Picture
It can be a little touchy for all involved when everybody's answer to "Where have you been all my life?" is "Having sex with your friend."
But perhaps you missed the news. They passed an amendment against owning people. In, uh, 1865. So, assuming your girlfriend isn't in a fetal position behind her couch sobbing over the boss guy, you should feel free to go out with him. But considering how often first dates end up being last dates, it's best to avoid putting out a press release about your plans. If dating the guy does take a relationshippy turn, that's when you give your girlfriend a little heads-up: "Hey, just wanted to let you know, I was rummaging through your trash and I found this fabulous old chair, along with your ex-boyfriend." Stay classy — that is, avoid any temptation to go gloaty: "They both are, like, so comfy and are really perking up the bedroom!"