Carolyn Hax: Focus on goals, not games, in marriage

The Washington PostJanuary 27, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I got married pretty young, and have spent the past decade putting great effort into keeping my marriage fresh and growing. Our kids have reached an age of some independence, so I’m able to focus more on my husband.

However, my husband has told me he has been developing feelings for an attractive, single co-worker. He has not acted on his feelings, but says he felt like he was being dishonest by not talking to me about this.

I appreciate his honesty and don’t want to punish him for it. Some trusted friends have suggested that all he’s looking for is a new challenge, so what I should do is withdraw a little bit to give him back the feeling of pursuing me. What do you suggest?


I think reading “The Rules” in the ’90s caused your trusted friends to suffer permanent brain damage.

These friends are partly on to something, but in a disastrous package. The advantages you have are intimacy, transparency and trust — which are exactly what you torch by “withdrawing,” i.e., playing games.

The useful kernel your friends offered is the focus on a “new challenge.” Everyone needs those — but they don’t have to be emotional or sexual. A group goal is the way to keep a marriage close. Child-rearing is often just that, but the intensity diminishes over time. That’s when it helps to develop something else you and your husband can pursue together.

Re: Maryland: I’m a single woman and am horrified to learn that there is still a good extent of game-playing in marriage. My goal is to meet a solid partner and leave this nonsense in the past when I get married. Am I being naive?


The 40-plus-percent divorce rate tells us, if nothing else, that imperfect single people make imperfect married people. There no junk-cleansing Rubicon you cross when you get married. If you imagined anything different, then, yes, you’re being naive.

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