My Marriage is Ruined

I met my wife when we were both young. I married the first woman I fell in love with. I knew at the time we started dating that we were incompatible, but it didn’t stop us from getting together, because (a) I truly believed there was nobody else in the world who was like me and would be compatible with me, (b) we both believed that if you love someone you have to be with them, and (c) true love overcomes everything, right? Right? Isn’t that what Disney movies with talking animals say?

When we got together, she wanted a traditional monogamous relationship. I am not monogamous, and have never been in a monogamous relationship. She knew that, but we tried anyway.

So we had a relationship where we could both have outside lovers (and did; she had other partners too) but only with strict rules. She said I was not allowed to love someone else, I could not do things like spend the night with another lover or make commitments to another lover, and so on.

You know, all the things that naive, inexperienced, insecure couples do when they try to open a relationship.

The problem? I didn’t realize that you can’t pass rules on feelings (if that worked, why not just pass a rule saying “nobody is allowed to feel insecure”? Derp.)

More importantly, I never thought about how that disempowers other people, how profoundly it objectifies them, and how hurtful it is to them. It reduces them to the status of walking sex toys, tells them their feelings don’t matter, and tells them that they can never have a voice in what they share with me.

Which is really fucked up, and it’s why, when I speak and teach, I advise people “never date or get involved with couples that have these rules.”

I hurt other people, who became attached to me (as people often do when they have sex) only to have the door slammed in their face, and to be told their feelings don’t matter.

It took me way longer than it should have to see how I was hurting other people, something I still regret to this day. Finally, when I did see it, I could not in good conscience continue to do it and still look at myself in the mirror.

My wife and I tried to find a new foundation to build our relationship on, but by that point we had 18 years of history, and a history of dealing with problems and insecurities by passing rules leaves a relationship brittle and weak.

She had spent that eighteen years truly believing that I didn’t really want to be with her and that I would leave her when I found someone “better.” Having a partner who truly believes, year after year, that your love isn’t real and you secretly want to leave is soul-killing.

So I asked for a divorce.

We are not close any more, but we are still friendly and do talk to each other from time to time.

Valentine’s Day Gifts Ideas for All Types of Lovers

If it so happens you find yourself with a date on Valentine’s Day, it’s kind of the same situation as a night like New Year’s Eve — there is an unwritten rule about making the evening more special than your regular Saturday night dinner.

“For some, this means making reservations at the most exclusive restaurant in town, where you’ll enjoy a prix fixe menu, along with the “special pricing,” rushed along by your server to make way for the next enamored couple, and of course the [perfect] gift and card you spent hours selecting,” says Rosalinda Randall, a civility consultant and author.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? No?

Valentine’s Day is a lot of pressure, no matter where you are in the dating process. “Whether you are in a long term relationship or have been seeing a love interest for just a short amount of time, giving a gift on Valentines will always be regarded as a kind gesture and ultimately capture the hearts,” says Yolanda Williams, a professional matchmaker.

However, there are levels to your gift giving, depending upon the seriousness of your relationship. Certain gifts are permissible, while others can be giving too soon. “If you’re just meeting, buying expensive gifts can be regarded as coming on too strong. So stick to gifts that are low-key. Most women love romance. And what that simply means is it’s a gift that shows you really put some thought into it,” Williams says.

Too Soon?

“If you’re dating someone who has been dropping hints about Valentine’s since the moment you met on New Year’s Eve, you might reconsider the relationship,” Randall says. “Valentine’s Day gift-giving is really up to the gift-giver; their regard for the holiday, affection for the person, perspective on future of the relationship, and budgetary constraints.”

Make Suggestions

“Saying, ‘I want to do something fun on Valentine’s Day’ won’t cut it; it’s too subjective. Making concrete suggestions about what you want will set the tone,” says Joan Barnard, Zoosk’s relationship expert. You might say, “Wouldn’t a couples massage be fun?” or “This would be the perfect time to try that cute French restaurant.” Sharing suggestions will give your partner some parameters: how much to spend, how romantic the gift should be, etc., says Barnard.

Make sure your suggestions match the level of your relationship: If you have suggestions in mind, make sure they match where you are in your relationship and love, says Barnard. If she’s expecting a card and receives a diamond necklace, she’ll feel overwhelmed. Be realistic. Save expensive gifts for your serious established relationships, says Barnard.

1. If You’re Newly Dating

You don’t know very much about your new main squeeze yet, and this gift should be more of a token. Let her know you are thinking of her and into her — but not enough to scare her off. Keep it light and fun, but not too intimate. “Hopefully, you’ve had a couple of conversations where you listened and picked up on what they like. By the way, if they are dissatisfied with your gift because they expected more, run!” says Randall.

Potential gift ideas:

Drunken Caramels
Obviously chocolate and flowers are the classics, but up the ante a bit with these unique treats. The sweets come infused with Cabernet, Chardonnay, Guinness Stout or Bourbon.

Mixology Collection Salt Bar Gift Set
If she’s all about an after-work cocktail, she may just want to spruce up her at-home bar. These organic salts can be the finishing touch to her favorite specialty cocktails. Includes: Applewood Smoked, Black Lava, Ghost Pepper, Lemon, and Thai Ginger Sea Salts.

2. If You’re Several Months In

This gift should show a bit more consideration and understanding of who she is and what she’s into. Maybe it will be a DVD of her favorite movie, a special edition of a book she loves. Maybe you’ll buy her those shoes she’s had her eye on, or cook her favorite dinner. Whether you’re a month or a year into the relationship, spend more time doing what she loves and show that you’re willing to explore with her. “Consider what they enjoy doing: cooking — a fancy kitchen gadget or spices; active lifestyle — massage certificate; busy lifestyle — food delivery program. Something for their pooch. (That’ll score a lot of points),” Randall says.

Potential gift ideas:

Yours and Mine Toothbrush Set.
Great for the stage where you are getting to know each other and sharing spaces. It’s small but thoughtful.

Ultra Faux Fur Throw.
Because getting cozy is never a bad idea, at any stage.

3. If You’re Getting Serious…

The key here is to show you put in some thought, says Williams. By now you should know her favorite things, and know what will make her happy. “Women love gifts that mean you two will be spending quality time together. So book a couple’s spa day, a future road trip or a flight, or tickets to a show. At this stage, jewelry is always a nice gesture as well. Whatever you decide, make sure it comes from a genuine place. If she’s the girl for you, she will appreciate that more than anything,” says Williams.

Potential gift ideas:

Bijouxx Jewels Citrine Pendant in Sterling Silver
You want to show you care, but maybe you don’t want to go too crazy yet. A simple gemstone in sterling silver is thoughtful and romantic, but nowhere near a ring.

Coyuchi Sateen Terry Robe
At this time, you are spending more time at each other’s homes and you want her to feel comfortable. It’s a great time to buy her some pjs to lounge around in that aren’t just about nookie, but about feeling welcome.