DEAR CAROLYN: Can you please outline for me what I need from my husband concerning his emotional cheating? Three years out, I still feel it's unresolved. When asked why he chose to shut me out and open up to another woman — half his age — he has said repeatedly he doesn't know. He has never been one for introspection. I am not sure he knows how. He has acknowledged what he did, has said he is extremely sorry, has said he didn't connect what he was doing to its potential to hurt me. But we had been growing distant for a while beforehand. As time passes, and as my requests for him to say more on the subject go unanswered, I don't know what to do.
UNHEALED: I think you've gotten all from your husband on this that you're going to get.
He didn't hurt you on purpose. He's sorry he did it. He's not introspective. He won't become so upon request.
There's no more juice in this lemon.
So, whatever you still need to feel better will have to come from you.
That can be couple's counseling, to explore the distance and not just the indiscretion. The introspection issue isn't going away.
And/or it can be supplying your own understandable "why." Such as: You and he had grown distant (it happens); he's human (it's messy); he was attracted to youth and novelty (it's the oldest story there is).
Maybe true, maybe not, but it certainly makes sense.
And things that make sense, to my mind, are things on their way to being forgiven. If you can understand that he felt lonely, caved to temptation and had no conscious harmful intent, then you can see his behavior wasn't an attack, it was a lapse. One he recognized and renounced as he recommitted to you.
If you can embrace that, then I hope you can also see that your path with your husband now leads forward, with optimism, instead of looping back continuously to mistakes three years ago that you can't undo.
If you're not able to embrace this idea, if your mind keeps going back, then I urge you to seek counseling. Getting stuck on traumatic events is also a common human experience — for which therapists are trained to help.
DEAR CAROLYN: Help. I tend toward introversion, preferring quiet times with a few friends. How do I gracefully decline invitations that I know will cause me anxiety? I recently told a friend and neighbor, in response to her invitation to play a game I despise, that I love her and would love to see her but don't want to play.
For all my life I have pushed myself to fit in and participate in activities when I didn't want to, all the while wishing for the time when I could leave. Now, at 58, I just don't want to do that anymore.
Where is the line between honoring my need for quiet and being a misanthrope?
Should Have Been a Librarian
SHOULD HAVE BEEN A LIBRARIAN: Good for you.
Your answer was graceful and clear. I'd only add this: After you decline, suggest something you'd rather do: "How about a walk tomorrow?"
By the way — librarians have to interact on demand with all people who demand it. You probably made the right choice.