I am 30 and recently moved to be near my parents, who have been married for 35 years. My father has a long history of infidelity, which my mother thinks is over. Almost a decade ago, she found out he was still having an affair with the woman who had worked for him in the 1980s. He had moved her across the country and gotten her an apartment near our house. My mom left my father for a couple of years, but last year they got back together, and they’ve moved to a remote part of the country and started over. My father confessed to me last week that he was still seeing his longtime girlfriend. He tells my mother he’s taking a business trip or a “guy’s weekend.” He has no intention of telling my mother about her, but plans to see her for the rest of his life. He wants me to keep quiet about it, but he’s sloppy about his affair to me (accidentally sends me text messages meant for her, gives me a book to read with an inscription from her on the inside cover, etc). I don’t want to tell my mother—I really believe she thinks the affair is over. I don’t want to be involved in the details of my parents’ marriage, but my father shared this information with me. Is keeping his affair a secret from my mom deceptive? How do I handle him leading two lives, one of which is hurtful to my mother, whom I love dearly and don’t want to get hurt?
—In on the Secret
Now we know that moving a committed philanderer to the backwoods will not put his compulsion to cheat into hibernation. This soap opera has run longer than The Young and the Restless, and given your father’s sloppiness (could he possibly be losing it?), it sounds as if it’s good for a few more explosive turns. You have been put in a terrible position, but you are not obligated to move the plot along. You must make clear to your father that you don’t want to hear anything about his girlfriend, ever again—and that includes misdelivered text messages. Your parents’ marriage has been decades of revelations, tears, regrets, and false promises. If your mother decided to give it yet another go, she can’t have gone in with many illusions. When she eventually finds out—and it sounds as if your father’s trying to get that penciled in—she might ask if you knew. Be honest that your father spoke of it once, and you told him that you didn’t want to be involved in their intimate affairs. Since you say you want some distance from their relationship, why did you move to the back 40 to be near them? Maybe it would make more sense for you to be closer to civilization when your mother does discover yet again that your father’s leading a double life.
Two of my best friends are likely to become engaged this year. I played Cupid for them a few years ago and have watched with joy as their relationship blossomed. I’m a bit closer to the bride-to-be, and a few months ago, she dropped a bombshell on me. She confessed that she’s cheated on her boyfriend, my friend, several times—once with a married father. When I insisted that she tell her significant other, she balked, saying she “didn’t want to lose him.” I love my girlfriend and want her to be happy, but I also respect this man and think it would be unfair for him to be ignorant. She assures me her cheating ways are in the past. Would I be a better friend to keep this to myself, or tell him knowing that I might lose a friendship?
Speaking of The Young and the Restless, you have a chance to stop a marriage that’s going to play out like the one described above. Certainly it’s easier, and emotionally safer, for you to conclude that it’s none of your business, everyone involved is an adult, and you should do nothing. But let’s say the situation were reversed, and your girlfriend knew that your boyfriend had cheated on you multiple times during your courtship—wouldn’t you want to know? Surely, if after the wedding, and after the baby, he shows up on your doorstep one night in tears saying he’s found out his wife is cheating on him, you’d kick yourself for not having told him when he had a chance to decide if he wanted to take this risk with his life. Although you may lose both friendships, I think you need to let the guy know what’s going on. The fairest thing for your girlfriend would be to give her a warning that you can’t live with your knowledge, especially since you feel responsible for their relationship, so that she can have a chance to divulge this herself.
There are two women in my yoga class who snicker and whisper to one another before, after, and sometimes during class. One day, I overheard them in the locker room and realized that some of the mean comments they were making were about me. They were pointed, critical, catty comments about the way I wear my hair in class—I wear pigtails and they called them “her sad little pigtails.” I initially just shrugged it off. The next week, I walked into class ahead of them, and one whispered in a rather cruel tone, “She just always has be the first one in.” The reason I go to yoga is to achieve a level of peace and focus, and these gossipy women are ruining it for me. I even said, “Hello” to one of them in an attempt to defuse the situation and got a very blunt, unfriendly, “Hello” in return. I started attending class on different days, but they’ve started attending the classes that I’ve switched to. Do I confront them? Kill them with kindness? Ignore them completely? I feel like I’m back in high school every time I go to yoga class! Yoga is the last place I want to feel any kind of negativity, let alone project it onto anyone else, but just knowing that these women like to make fun of me for no reason puts my defenses up.
—Too Old for High School
Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and when you’re in corpse pose, imagine that these two aging mean girls actually are corpses. You tried to be friendly, but they’d rather be catty. Actually, it sounds more like elementary school, and the instructor needs to reprimand the kids who can’t be quiet during circle time. Yoga is supposed to silence the chatter in your head and take you inward, so start getting into that mode in the locker room and utterly tune them out. I take yoga myself, and the level of interaction among the students ranges from a nod and a smile to nil. Quietly start chanting “om” to yourself and let them disappear from your consciousness. And be reassured that you haven’t encountered the only warped yoga students.
My child’s first birthday is coming up and though I should be ecstatic, I feel nothing but dread. My parents are liberal Democrats and my in-laws are conservative Republicans. I feel everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but my in-laws hate my parents. I do everything in my power to ensure that the two of them are never at the same gathering. It always turns into a disaster because some political, racial, or religious comment is made by the in-laws that my parents feel they need to rebut. Inevitably, my mother-in-law will then call my spouse the next day to complain about my parents. This, of course, causes an argument between us. How can I sit back and enjoy the birthday party? I feel sicker as the day draws nearer. In the past, I’ve been the one to talk to my parents before every occasion to ask them to make nice. I know it hurts them, especially when it seems they get provoked at times, and to make matters worse, my husband never asks the same of his parents. I want this to be a special, happy day for everyone involved.
—Let There Be Peace
And speaking of elementary school … Unfortunately, you have to try to get through these grandparents’ heads that on the occasion of their grandchild’s first birthday, they’re supposed to be playing horsey or airplane, not pretending to be Ann Coulter or Al Franken. Tell your husband he needs to come to your aid and that of his child and ask his parents to park their politics at the door. If he won’t (and why he can’t stand up to his parents’ for your sake is a question worth exploring), then you should have that conversation with them. Tell them you’re making the same request of your own parents, and that it’s important to everyone that the only fireworks be the candles on the birthday cake. Once the festivities start, if these four can’t focus on topics like sleep schedules and learning to walk, then tell the troublemakers you’re going to ask them to take a time out.