DEAR NATALIE: My fiancé wants to “share” with another couple. She’s considerably younger than me, so I understand that we may be in different places in our lives, but the idea of being with another woman does nothing for me. I am in love with her and I’m a one-woman-kind-of-guy. I tried to explain that I wasn’t interested, but she got upset about it. We are supposed to get married next month. I’m 46 and she’s 29. Do you think she’s just having cold feet or do you think she’s been cheating on me? I am not sure what to do. I love her and don’t want to lose her. -- NO SHARING
DEAR NO SHARING: While these conversations can be uncomfortable, I applaud you both for speaking up as to what you need and want from each other, but marriage is a huge commitment and if she is having any doubts, better to pump the breaks now and work this out, then to jump into it and end up divorced by this time next year. I have no idea if she’s cheating, but the fact that she is willing to discuss what she wants is a good sign, because at least it means she does care about your perspective and thoughts on the situation. Part of this is an age thing, too, you are right. She hasn’t had as many life experiences as you have, and maybe she is nervous about the idea of being with the same person for the rest of her life. Whatever is going on needs to be sorted out sooner than later. Is she able to give up the idea of “sharing” in order to marry you? Is she willing to do that? Are you willing to let her have experiences outside of your relationship to appease her? What are your deal breakers and what are hers? I recommend you both write them down and see if there is any intersection or ability to compromise. If there is, great. If there isn’t, you may want to reconsider walking down the aisle and save yourselves both a lot of heartache in the process.
DEAR NATALIE: My wife and I just celebrated our 30 year anniversary, but in 2016, I found out about an affair that my wife was having. I suspected there had been something going on for a couple of years but every time I asked my wife she denied it and said that she and our neighbor were just friends. I found cell phones three different times. The first one was a cell phone from a co-worker in the bottom of her purse. She said it was for work in case he needed to get a hold of her. I didn’t believe it and she got rid of the phone. Then she started going to play racquetball with our neighbor who is single. I was traveling a lot and she was encouraging me to travel. I got suspicious in January 2014 when she began preparing a meal on a Sunday and I was traveling and asked who it was for and she said a homeless family. I left and when I tried to contact her by cell phone she didn’t respond for two hours. I asked her to send me a picture of the people she made the meal for and she sent me a picture of the stove top with the food on it. When I asked her to send me a picture of the people she began yelling at me. I then found another cell phone on Mother’s Day 2014 when she left it in her dresser drawer with messages to our neighbor on it. She again said they were just friends and got rid of the phone. This kind of behavior had been on-going for three years. She joined the club to play racquetball with this guy and pretty soon it was four times a week. The guy moved out of the neighborhood but nearby. We separated for five months (fourth separation in three years). She came back but she is still being very private about a lot of things. I have asked her to go to counseling but she said it didn’t work for us the last time. I told her it didn’t work because she wasn’t ready to quit the affair and be honest. This has caused me to drink more heavily and in September 2017 I got a DWI. I am pretty much through all the court stuff now but will be on probation for 4 years. I have been sober for 13 weeks and go to AA on Monday nights. My wife drank until recently but has told me she can keep it under control. She doesn’t want to stop drinking. Our kids don’t think she can but she refuses to get help. There are still signs I believe she is still having an affair. I recently found $250 hidden behind some clothes and she continues to drink and then apologize about many things. I have found out more from her friends about other affairs she denies. My brothers and friends ask me why I continue to try to keep this going. I honestly don’t have a good answer but I want to find a support group to help me. Any help will be appreciated. — FEELING HOPELESS ABOUT MARRIAGE
DEAR FEELING HOPELESS ABOUT MARRIAGE: You need to separate. Even if you aren’t ready to divorce her, living in the same house with her is hurting you. The drinking, the lying, the cheating, no wonder you feel defeated and hopeless. I'm so sorry that you are going through this. Separate and continue therapy alone and work on yourself. When you have been with someone who has treated you so poorly for so long, it can be hard to imagine what a life without that person feels like. There’s a freedom in that, but also fear of the unknown, too. There are so many trust issues here, so many layers to unpack, and nothing can be built on a foundation of sand. If she isn't able to be monogamous and that is the expectation you have, you can't continue to live like this. Divorce, move forward, find some peace. She clearly has her own demons to contend with and being in this marriage together is toxic. I know it can be hard to let go, but the longer you continue down this path, I worry for what your future may bring. Take some time apart, focus on yourself and when you get the courage to file for divorce, do it. Your health and happiness are worth more than this toxic woman. Set yourself free by setting both of you free.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Instead of asking someone the dreaded “What do you do?” question, try this instead: “Working on anything interesting?” That opens the door to learn more about them professionally, but avoids the trap of getting a resume-like answer.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)