Wow! Thank you sooo very much, Dixie. I have been so torn. I hadn’t spoken to my husband yet, as I was trying to figure out how I felt before I did. You helped me with that, and I did ask him for clarity. He said he did not remember saying that “the love of [his] life [was] married to someone else” and that sounded too poetic for something that would come out of his mouth. I let him know that either way, he did say it, and it’s a pretty heavy statement. I asked him straight up if he is still in love with his ex-wife, to which he stated absolutely not and told me I was his number one. I told him I understand that we may both hold love for others, as we have had times together and cannot erase that. But still being in love is different, and I wanted clarity. He just kept saying he didn’t remember saying it, so doesn’t know what he meant by it, but that he loves me and I am his number one. I thanked him for his honesty, and told him he can think on it more, in case anything else comes to him.
To answer your questions: he said he and his wife grew apart and didn’t grow together. They ended up having too much conflict they couldn’t get past. It was several years after the divorce that she reconnected with her high school sweetheart. My husband had been divorced five years (and had some other relationships) before he and I met. In fact, we dated initially, and it fizzled out. We reconnected at a later time and he told me that when we first met, he was not in a great place and still working through his own things. But when we reconnected, he said he was in a much better place.
First of all, brava for talking to him about it. I was kind of amazed you hadn’t because I would have followed him around the entire next day, including into the bathroom, asking him about it. (If I were Mrs. Eliot Spitzer I would have called him Client 9 every day for the rest of his life.) I admire your self-restraint, but was it tinged with a little fear? Fear of conflict? Fear of the answer? Fear of needing to acknowledge there’s something to work through? It’s none of my business, but since you asked, your husband’s answer doesn’t satisfy me. He may or may not remember saying it. (If he drinks to excess so that he says things he doesn’t remember, that’s another problem.) His saying he doesn’t remember saying it is a deflection. His saying that it sounds “too poetic” a thing for him to say is a deflection that veers towards telling you you’re not being truthful. When you brought it up, there was really only one thing he should have communicated, and it should have been loud and clear. Something along the lines of: “Oh honey, I AM SO SORRY. That must have really hurt you and I AM SO SORRY. I don’t know why I’d say that because I LOVE YOU SO MUCH and YOU YOU YOU mean EVERYTHING to me. Again, I am so sorry that when I was drunk I said something that hurt you because I LOVE YOU MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF and I am so mad at myself for hurting you. I AM SO SORRY.” I wasn’t there but your representation of his answer seems somewhat lacking in remorse, empathy, affection, and perhaps even total honesty. I get that he said what he needed to say in the situation, but your description does not have me going, “Whew!”
Whether or not what your husband said was in vino veritas, I’m going to be completely veritas-y with you: I think there’s still some issue here, even if that issue is solely how hurtful it is to have heard your husband say that. Like I said before, there are multiple chapters in people’s lives, and he absolutely could be completely over his ex and think of you and only you as #1. But both his remark and its impact on you need to be dealt with. May I suggest at least a little couples counseling? Relationships need some transparency and a lot of care and support, and counseling can only help. Meanwhile, look around you for people to give you the care and support you deserve. I’m one of them — and your husband better be one too. Good luck — and please keep me posted.
Email your questions to Dixie at dixie [at] jumbleandflow dot com. We may feature your question and Dixie’s advice on jumbleandflow.com. You can choose to remain anonymous or provide your name — totally up to you.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
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