Lifestyle

Ask Amy

Husband is spinning fiction at writers’ workshop

Q. I am a 50-year-old woman. My husband and I have two sons.

I recently found out that my husband has been exchanging texts with another married woman who he met in a writing workshop.

My husband told me that the woman confided in him about her marriage problems and their terrible sex life. She also told my husband that she was having an affair with another man.

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Her statements seemed fishy to me. Why would a woman confide in a married man about her marriage problems, her affair, and her sex life?

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My husband told me that he was not interested in her, but he kept encouraging her to share her personal problems.

I was hurt by this, but he kept insisting that nothing was going on between them. He said he was just using her stories as fodder for his upcoming novel.

Is that a justified reason?

What should I do? Should I be worried?

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Worried Wife

A. You don’t mention how you learned about this correspondence, but I agree with you that its substance raises red flags.

It is inappropriate for people who are in a committed relationship to complain to a new acquaintance about their marriage and sex life.

At the very least, this level of instant intimacy indicates that she is indiscreet and doesn’t respect boundaries. At the most, it signals that she is available and interested. And yes, disclosing that she is already having an affair signals that she is able and available.

Your husband also has a problem with boundaries. He should not develop an intimate friendship with another woman. This intimacy interferes with his relationship with you.

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He also should not exploit this person for the purposes of “writing his novel.” First of all, this is an old, tired, and disingenuous excuse for his own behavior. (I’m not buying it, probably because I hang around with writers, and writing workshops are notorious for launching creativity-fueled hookups.) Only rank amateurs — or scoundrels with gullible spouses — ply this particular fiction.

And here’s some writing advice for your husband: Writers are story-thieves, but it is deeply unethical to use someone else’s life experience for your own novel, certainly without their permission.

Q. I am wondering — why do people choose to have children?

I am 27 years old and in a wonderful seven-year relationship with a lovely man my age. We hope to get married in the next couple of years.

We are both on the fence about having children. It is not a matter of means, nor do I think we would be poor parents.

Every time we ask parents for their opinions, we are told how difficult, expensive, and tiring it is. Meanwhile, we are being badgered by both sets of our parents for grandbabies, and many of our friends are having children.

In a society where we have more choice than ever about whether or not to procreate, why do people choose to do so? What do you recommend?

K

A. Sometimes, couples on the fence about having children become parents when nature takes over. Unplanned pregnancies definitely result in family-building.

But overall, the choice to have children doesn’t seem like one choice but many choices made over time, and fueled by different motivations. Some people seem headed toward parenthood from the time they are young children. For others, forming a loving attachment with a partner seems to kick-start their desire to have a child with that person.

Other people don’t want to have children, until the day they wake up and suddenly do.

The worst reasons to have children are to get your parents off your back, or because your friends are doing it.

When I was contemplating this in my own life, a wise person told me: “Be absolutely certain that this is what you want, because what no one ever tells you is that parenthood doesn’t always work out (for the parents).”

The person telling me this, wryly, was my own mother. But I appreciated the heads-up, because — yes, parenthood is difficult, tiring, and expensive.

But it has also been the hardest job I have ever loved.

Q. I appreciated the question from “Confused Only Child,” who was wondering how to be a good aunt.

You said “Fake it till you make it.” I actually agree! It’s really impossible to know how to have these relationships until you try. And sometimes you make it up as you go along.

Proud Uncle

A. Exactly.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.