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Heavy Meddle: She Cheated And Now Wants To Return To The Scene Of The Crime

Dear Steve,

My wife and I are both writers. While we were dating she went to a writer’s conference, where she had an affair with one of the lead writers. We resolved it, got married and it’s been a few years. Now, she wants both of us to go back to the same conference. It has nothing to do with him. He hasn’t been to it in years. I’m not worried about that, and we’re solid together, in any case. She wants to go because it is an excellent conference.

I just can't seem to stomach the idea. Should I "man-up" since it really is all over and has been many years? Or should I continue to put a kibosh on the whole thing?

I figure you are experienced in all the weirdness that can happen at a writer’s conference.

PHOTO

Signed,
Stressed Hubby

Dear Stressed,

I should mention that I’m actually writing this letter while at a writer’s conference! And that I just had sex with every single one of my students! Twice! Wow, am I a slut.

Kidding!

I’m not a slut. I just wish I were one.

But here’s the thing: There is a weird and volatile vibe at writer’s conferences. The participants get very worked up, and occasionally faculty members take advantage of the power they hold. It happens far less than the gossip would lead you to believe. But obviously, as in your wife’s case, it does happen.

She might be thinking: What’s the big deal? But the big deal in question was a betrayal <em>you</em> suffered, and in my view that gives you a majority share when it comes to voting.

All that being said, I’d listen to your gut on this one. Your wife’s betrayal hurt you deeply. It’s a part of your history that still haunts you. And I suspect that if the shoe was on the other foot (if you’d gone off to a conference and slept with a teacher) she would not be okay with the two of you going back there. I am, of course, NOT suggesting that you test this theory by sleeping with a teacher at a writer’s conference, even if one as slutty as myself appeared in your path.

Who knows? Maybe your wife wouldn’t be troubled by this. In which case, I can see why she might be thinking: What’s the big deal? But the big deal in question was a betrayal you suffered, and in my view that gives you a majority share when it comes to voting.

So I’d sit down with your wife and level with her. Don’t front. Don’t pretend it’s okay. That’s a recipe for disaster.

It may be that having this discussion will make things tense, as it will call up for both of you a difficult time, when you weren’t on as solid footing. Maybe you’ll discover that there are still certain unresolved trust issues. Better to discover that now, I say, than five years down the line. And it may be that, after a full airing of your doubts and fears, you’ll feel willing to attend this conference with her, or to let her head off on her own.

The bottom line is that, as wonderful as this conference might be, there are dozens of wonderful writing conferences in this crazy world. (Believe me, I’ve vamped around plenty of them.) But your wife only has one husband. My own motto, as a married person, is simple: If my wife isn’t happy, nobody’s happy. I’m not saying that I do everything in my power to make her happy. Lord knows, I don’t. But that is the goal, the ideal, the dream.

There are dozens of wonderful writing conferences in this crazy world ... But your wife only has <em>one</em> husband.

It’s tough being married to someone who does what you do. There are a million issues to contend with — issues of time and ego and artistic prerogative and money. Don’t compound those by withholding how you really feel from one another, especially in a case as delicate as this one, in which your shame is being pitted against her ambition.

There’s no shame in the truth, Stressed Hubby, and that applies both to yourselves and your characters.

Steve ♥

Editor's Note: What do you think, readers? Did Steve get it right? Weigh in in the comments. 

And, what about you? Need advice? Send your dilemmas via email.

This program aired on July 29, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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