Thursday, October 30, 2008

Internet Adultery

The OW who crossed my path had already had five or six adulterous flings under her belt, so to speak. I have to give her credit for her perseverance, because she managed to accomplish all that during a 12-year marriage and while caring for her two young children. Eventually she zeroed in on a wealthy older man -- also married with kids -- and their affair spiraled into a domestic drama worthy of Tolstoy. These two, whom I often think of as Bonnie and Clyde, left devastation in their wake, blowing up their marriages, wrecking two families and leaving their children in emotional turmoil for years to come.

Their affair had been largely conducted through secret email accounts, lovey-dovey instant-messages, and clandestine cell phone calls, particularly because they lived a couple thousand miles apart. I was interested to see that a new study, reported in the New York Times, found that infidelity is on the rise, especially among older men and young couples -- a demographic that matches the above-described duo. Moreover, the study found that growing numbers of these affairs are centered on electronic contact.

"I see a changing landscape in which the emphasis is less on the sex than it is on the openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets," says one marriage therapist. "Everybody talks by cell phone and the relationship evolves because you become increasingly distant from whomever you lie to, and you become increasingly close to whomever you tell the truth to."

Food for thought. While it's no surprise that the new technology fuels illicit fantasies and infatuations, perhaps the biggest danger is the lying and secrecy that it enables, driving a growing wedge between spouses that becomes, in effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Other Woman

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been addicted to Vogue Magazine. I study the photo spreads as religiously as other women might study the Bible or the Qu’ran. However, in all my years as a Vogue devotee, I have rarely actually read an article. But this month, I had to read every word of the article entitled “The Ex Factor” by Anne Taylor Fleming, who, as an eighteen year old, became involved with a forty year old married man who left his wife for her in 1969. They have been married ever since.

Who are these Other Women, anyway? I needed to know who would admit to this heinous behavior which breaks all the codes. And why. And what’s inside her head. And how guilty is she? Did she realize how much damage she did in breaking up a family? Would she do it over again? Is being really young an excuse? Is it possible to naively not know any better?

What resonates particularly badly with me about Anne Taylor Fleming is that as she supposedly grieved at the funeral of her husband’s former wife, the woman whose family she had destroyed many years before, she regretted she had never taken the opportunity to thank this woman for giving her a family “and making room in it for a ridiculously young second wife”. No real qualms. Nothing about how her four stepsons, one barely five years younger than Fleming, had to cope. Just pure narcissism.

My familiarity with OW’s began with my college roommate Deb whose relationship with her married boss was chronicled in a previous blog entry. Deb was truly in some sort of la-la land and never had a clue. All she knew was that she loved her boss with all her heart and that she believed he loved her, and so she couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t just release him as if he were a caged parakeet.

The next OW to cross my path was Peg who was a serial husbandizer, a single woman who dated married men exclusively, one after the other until—briing!—her reproductive alarm clock went off, and she arranged for her tryst of the moment to turn into an ugly divorce case so she could marry the guy and have a baby. It all turned out according to her plan.

And then there’s Madame X, the Massachusetts midget, who has made a habit over the past twenty years of breaking up marriages just to feel special. To be honest, once she wrecks a home, she does tend to marry most of the guys, but every now and then she flips one of the scrawnier fish with a flatter wallet back into the water.

I had a conversation with a young friend whose mother recently disclosed that in her twenties she had been an OW for several years before becoming dissatisfied and moving to Paris. Having lived the life of an OW, she recognized a good guy when she met one and immediately married the first one who came along. That was well over 30 years ago. It’s great that when she did settle down, she was able to marry a wonderful man, but I wonder what her daughter thinks of her OW history back in the day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Need-based love

That's what these rebound relationships are all about, right? Women who are driven to "fall in love" out of neediness and desperation. The result is usually blindness to the man's character, and ugly surprises down the road.

Ever since her divorce, my friend Polly has jumped from one rebound relationship to the next. This is because she can't be without a boyfriend for more than two weeks. Every time a heavy, deeply involved relationship ends, she manages to pop up in another one within two weeks. About a year ago she hastily and eagerly dived into a live-in relationship after the guy she had been dating for a month took her on a romantic, extravagant trip to Venice replete with champagne and candlelit sunken tub, and showered her with Mahnolo Blaniks. How this could be the piece de resistance that would catapult anyone into a serious relationship is beyond me, given that any guy with a few bucks could do it. It reveals nothing about his character except that he is perhaps a spendthrift.

In any event, she sold her home, sold off her furniture, and moved into his apartment. I thought he displayed some early signs of thuggish and controlling behavior, but that eluded her. As time went by, however, she saw that he had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. One day he plied her with Ferragamo's and Jimmy Choo's, the next day he'd get angry and curse her out in a shockingly coarse way, calling her "slut," "whore" and the C word. The following day he was all contrition, offering to do whatever she wanted, which she found irresistibly endearing. This continued for more than a year. At one point he threw her out of the apartment during a fight, even though she was paying half the rent and no longer had a home to return to. He even confiscated her cell phone and barred her from using the computer so she wouldn't be able to find a place to go.

But sure enough, he later apologized and she moved back in. After several more months of abuse she finally ended the relationship. And guess what? Within two weeks she went online and resurfaced in another one, with yet another guy she'd known for about a month. She never looks back look enough to analyze this pattern -- she just cruises right along to the next boyfriend. She has even criticized me for being too picky and critical of the men I've met online. Well, I call it being discriminating, and while it's left me without a boyfriend for long periods of time, I'd rather have it that way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rebound Relationships: Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire

That “Dark Side” business is scary. Most of us think any fairly intelligent woman would know her new mate well enough before she moved in with him so as not to find certain aspects of his character totally surprising, but obviously that’s not always the case.

Here is a cautionary real-life tale:

Fresh from a failed second marriage, and never one to spend more than two minutes alone without a man in her life, Maxine met Jim and fell for him right away. Her first two husbands were Jewish guys, one a dentist, the other a lawyer, each from a background similar to Maxine’s. Jim was different and seemed exotic to her. He had studied to become a priest but dropped out of the seminary, got drafted and sent to Vietnam, immediately married his high school sweetheart upon his discharge, and had three sons before he turned 25.
By the time Maxine met him, he had left his wife years before, and had recently broken up with a long-term live-in girlfriend, and claimed to be an entrepreneur as the president of an Internet music company.
After a short while, he moved into Maxine’s condo, and they enjoyed their life together. He worked from home, making weekly overnight trips to Baltimore where he said his company was headquartered. They were both Francophiles studied French together. They saved up money and bought a pied-a-terre in Paris. Maxine started a business with her three best friends, and she was appointed treasurer. When Jim volunteered to keep the books for her business, she was delighted.
Time went on and she wanted to get married, but Jim insisted that they were as good as married anyway, and that marriage might ruin their wonderful relationship. Maxine’s daughter and Jim’s sons were good friends, and in a modern take on combined families, when Maxine’s daughter got married, Maxine’s second husband and Jim walked down the aisle as did Maxine and the biological father. Maxine’s daughter considered Jim her “third Dad”.
Long story short, six months after the daughter's wedding, Maxine discovered that Jim had mortgaged her apartment, raided her business of all of its capital, maxed out her credit cards, and cleaned out her retirement accounts. When he walked in the door, she was in hysterics. She asked him how he could do this to her. He told her he was sorry, that he couldn’t help himself, that he had a drug problem and that he was ashamed to admit it, but he’d done the same thing to his prior girlfriend. And, as an aside-- by the way, he had never divorced his first wife who was living in--yes-- Baltimore. Maxine came toward him shrieking as anybody who had simultaneously lost her boyfriend, her life savings, her equity, and her business might do, and he immediately took off out the window and down the fire escape never to be seen or heard from again, except in court. By then, he claimed to be bankrupt and destitute, and there was no hope of recovering a cent.
To top it all off, Maxine’s business partners, previously her three best friends, lost their money because she allowed Jim to manage the checkbook. They were not feeling forgiving.They stopped talking to Maxine-- except in court where they attempted to have her repay their losses. I liked Maxine a lot, but because my best friend was one of those former business partners, I can never speak to her again either.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Marrying on the rebound

On the subject of internet dating, my friend Cathy met her second husband online. Her first husband had walked out to move in with his girlfriend, and Cathy was blindsided. She was so distraught that for the first six months she was heavily sedated and took to her bed, didn't go to work, couldn't pick up her kids from school. After six months she began seeing a therapist who insisted she kick-start her social life. So she signed on to an internet dating site, met a few guys, and within weeks fell in love with a man who was, like her, recently separated. It was a fast, whirlwind love affair, and within a year she was sporting a huge rock and they were building a new house on the beach in North Carolina.

It took them a few years to get their divorces and complete the beach house. Once it was built, Cathy sold her New York home, left her job, and moved with her fiance to North Carolina to throw a splashy wedding and start their new life. They both found jobs, took wonderful trips together, and seemed idyllically happy and devoted. While I always suspected that they had rushed into their relationship -- with each clutching onto the other to avoid the pain and loneliness of divorce -- time proved that they were the rare exception to the usual fate of rebound relationships.

But three years into the marriage -- and eight years after they first met-- the rebound effect reared its ugly head. It turns out her new husband had a dark side that Cathy hadn't known about, and she asked him to move out. They are in the process of settling their divorce.

I felt terrible when I heard about it. But it helps explain why the divorce rate is so much higher the second time around, and it underscores the central message of our book: You have to go through the whole miserable process -- pain, anger, loneliness, transitional relationships, and the satisfaction of building a new life -- before you can pick out Mr. Right and be in a mature relationship that's not based on need. Blindly seizing on somebody doesn't work. I thought Cathy had lucked out, but it seems there are no short cuts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Women Can be Internet Dating Weirdos Too !

Women can be Internet dating weirdos too! Even our dear friends can behave a bit “off” when faced with dating strangers.
My friend Alison was e-mailing back and forth with a man she connected with through a dating site. After two weeks of clever, witty e-mail interchange, they spoke on the phone and she found him quite charming. Although she reads fashion magazines, romance novels and vampire fiction exclusively, and he reads history and economics, they agreed to meet at an arty book store. The plan was to browse and then go out for coffee. When Alison arrived outside the book store all done up in her Prada of the moment, she peered through the window and spotted a short, ugly, older fellow dressed in a shlumpy corduroy jacket and, certain that this must be her prospective date, she bolted for home.
Once she reached her apartment, she called the guy on his cell phone and immediately went on the attack: “Where were you? I was waiting for almost an hour and you didn’t show up. You stood me up. How dare you?”
The guy couldn’t get a word in edge-wise throughout her tirade. When she finished, he told her that he had arrived a half hour early and had been waiting for her ever since, and hadn’t seen her. He told her what he was wearing- sure enough it was the corduroy jacket. She retorted that she had seen no such person in any such jacket, and that he had stood her up and was too much of a coward to admit it, and then she slammed down the phone.
When I inquired why she had made it sound as if it was all his fault, she replied that it’s a lot better for his ego for him to think that she felt snubbed, than for her to be truthful and say that she caught sight of him and that he was too ugly and shlumpy for her to go ahead with the date!
Meanwhile, he could be the nicest guy in the world and she will never know. Two years later, she’s still looking for Mr. Right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Internet Dating Weirdos

Though I met a wonderful guy online, I still consider that outcome to be a fluke. He was on there hoping to meet just one woman who didn't lie, while I hated being on there so much that I refused to "play the game" and therefore didn't lie. Somehow we found each other, two needles in a haystack. But here's a story from a woman that strikes me as much more typical:

"Five minutes before my first meeting with a man I had met on a dating web site, he called to say that he couldn't keep our date -- he had just been hit by a bicycle and had landed in the emergency room. Something sounded off, so I called the hospital and was told that no such person was there. When I called him back, he insisted he was. Several weeks later, I spoke with a woman who also had a date with this man, and he canceled -- claiming he had just been hit by a bicycle. When I confronted him, he insisted that bike accidents aren't so unusual."

Isn't that the lamest excuse you ever heard?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Divorce and Custody of the KitchenAid Mixer

Back to Mitch and his antics. When the court finally ordered him to vacate the marital home, it was only because he had been caught in flagrente entertaining his ‘ho in the bedroom he still shared with his wife of twenty years. Gross!!

Although he and his new girlfriend had been seeing one another on the sly for long enough to be making wedding plans in Aruba, despite the fact that both of them were currently married to other people, he still was reluctant to move out from the home he shared with his wife. As a matter of fact, on the day the judge ordered him to leave, he stamped his foot like Rumplestilskin and refused to go without, of all things, the KitchenAid mixer.

His wife was surprised. He had already loaded a moving van with anything and everything he could remotely call his, and here he was throwing a tizzy fit over the mixer. She had counted on using its pasta-making attachment that very evening to make dinner for friends so she wouldn’t feel so alone in the house once he left, but she decided she’d buy her pasta at Trader Joe's and end the tirade by just giving him the mixer.

Several days later her friend in spinning class said, “I thought Mitch was a CPA, but I hear he has a cockamamie new business going. He and the new girlfriend are baking cookies using a secret recipe, packaging them and selling them in office buildings all over Boston. They’re called Cookies by Mitch and the Bitch.”

The wife reported Mitch’s new source of hidden revenue to her divorce attorney.Shortly thereafter, she found a recipe card accidentally left in the kitchen cabinet with his secret recipe.

Mitch and the Bitch’s No-Longer Secret Cookie Recipe
Makes 4 dozen large cookies
A KitchenAid helps but you can even hand mix this recipe if you’d like.

Wet Ingredients:
4 sticks margarine or butter (Mitch is cheap and uses margarine)
2 cups sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps.vanilla

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups flour
4 cups oatmeal – ground
2 tsps. baking soda
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

one 8 oz. dark chocolate bar grated (use a high quality chocolate bar)
24 oz. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sugar, brown sugar and margarine or butter.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients separately and then add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
Mix in grated chocolate bar and chocolate chips.

Grease a cookie sheet.
Form golf-ball sized cookie dough balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake approximately 15 minutes. Cool.
Can be frozen and reheated in microwave.

Enjoy—courtesy of Mitch and the Bitch.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who keeps the ring?

With the economy tanking, people are worried about their homes, the stock market, the cost of food and gas, and . . . the question of who gets the engagement ring if the wedding is called off.

Disputes on that subject are rising, according to the NY Times. Sharon Bush, a former sister in law of the president, was recently engaged to a billionaire who gave her an 11-carat diamond ring that he bought for $243,000. The engagement was called off, and when she didn't return the ring, he sued. Ms. Bush's lawyer, Raoul Felder, argued that the ring was a gift, not an engagement ring. The case ended with a settlement agreement that he won't divulge, but she has since been seen wearing the ring.

In general, courts rule that the ring goes back to the buyer regardless of who broke off the engagement. They view the ring as the symbol of a contract that is now null and void. But etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige thinks that if the woman broke off the engagement, she should return the ring, and that if the man broke it off, he should say, 'Of course you keep the ring.' If it's a family heirloom, she agrees that it should be returned but advises that the man replace it with another piece of jewelry. Fat chance!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dating a Widower

I know three women who are currently dating widowers--the guys we refer to in our book as The Gold Standard. These men never left their wives for a younger babe, have stuck out the ups and downs of a long marriage, and when their wives needed them most, they balanced the roles of working, caretaking and parenting. What’s not to like?

However, being cautious and protective of my friend, Gold Standard guy or not, I was really worried when Suzanne handed her heart to her new love after just a date or two. I was surprised to see her hard edges melting away right in front of me, and worried sick that this guy just wanted a fling after nursing his wife throughout a two-year terminal illness. But, it turns out that he was ready to move on and he’s bananas about Suzanne and just as eager to share his future with her as she is ready to share her life with him. They’re even discussing the best locations for retirement!

A guy friend, who is a widower himself, says there are definite red flags to watch out for before falling head over heels for a widower. These signs could indicate that he’s not ready to move on yet and is (probably not consciously) using the woman he’s with now to fill the void he’s feeling.

Here are the Watch Out signs:

He hides you from his family and friends.
You remind him of his late wife.
He compares you to his late wife.
He hasn’t removed the visible shrines to his late wife.
He can’t/won’t tell you that he loves you.
He refuses to talk about his grief.

My widower friend reminded me that no one of these signs is a deal-breaker by itself, but each and all of the signs should make you aware that he may not be as ready as you are for a relationship.