Adapted from a recent online discussion.
A lie like this can't be reversed. Your choice: whether to forgive
D.C.: Six months into our marriage, my husband just told me he had a vasectomy several years ago while engaged to a different woman. He has not just been keeping this from me, but actively lying about it throughout our relationship.
He knows I want children, and says he didn't tell me earlier because he panicked every time he imagined what my reaction would be. He was shaking when he told me, and we have not spoken since. I am staying with my parents and rejecting his calls until I figure out how to handle this.
I know most vasectomies can be reversed, but what about a lie of that magnitude?
Carolyn: I'm sorry, that was so cowardly of him. He's made of glass, and not shattering is his top priority. Lies of such stunning magnitude can't be reversed, as you know. The issue is whether you can (1) forgive him; (2) keep loving him; (3) trust him. You really need all three for your marriage to make it, and so those are the three questions you need to answer. Please accept one call, if only to say what you're thinking about, and when you expect to be ready to talk.
Time will tell who's nice for real, who's nice just to snag you
Anonymous 1: My experience in relationships has been the less I ask for (and occasionally insist upon), the less I get. My nature is to be flexible, but experience tells me that accommodation either draws narcissists who think it's all about them anyway, or people who aren't that interested in participating to begin with. Where's the balance point?
Carolyn: The point at which it's good to be your normal, accommodating self with others is when you find people who like you, vs. like to use you.
That's because when people like you for you, that will include how accommodating you are — whether you barely yield to anyone, or you're a complete pushover. People who are using you will like you just for how accommodating you are.
How to tell the difference? Those who like you will give back, whereas users just take. For a while they may look the same — early in a courtship, a user/narcissist can seem quite charming and giving — but time always separates the two. Givers keep giving (because they like you) and users stop (because they were generous only to snag you).
In other words, I would be careful not to regard "being yourself" as "setting a precedent." Be yourself, be cognizant of the way others respond to you, and hold out for the response that feels right.
Anonymous 2: Re: Accommodation: I agree. I learned that way too late.
If I'd realized it earlier, my life would be very different (I'd have kids). Those who ask, nicely, are showing self-confidence. I thought I was being low-maintenance, but I was really using no standards and putting up with anything. Having expectations sends the signal that you think well of yourself and think you deserve respect. I did it wrong.
Carolyn: I agree, with the caveat that the things you ask for have to be honest reflections of your priorities. Expressing expectations just to serve notice that you are "not going to be ignored," to quote the unfortunate Fatal Attraction, doesn't work. Only integrity does.