Waving, Not Drowning

Dear Viv: I cheated with a schoolgate dad

In this episode of Waving, Not Drowning, Viv discusses how to end an affair, whether a boyfriend could be *too* nice, feeling overlooked at work, and what to do if a friend blanks you

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

I'm in a total mess. My daughter started school last year and, about six months in, I started spending lots of time with another dad, and things have kind of got out of hand. (I can't bring myself to even write the word 'affair', but I guess that's what has happened.) This man is completely my type looks-wise and I'm so attracted to him. I know he's not the love of my life - he's a bit immature, and wouldn't fit in my circle of friends, and I don't want to leave my husband for him - but I can't stop myself living in this exciting little bubble. I feel like a total cliche - bored stay-at-home mum is bowled over by someone flirting with her - but I can't help it. But now my husband has found out and doesn't want us to split up, and I've got to somehow stop this whole mess AND carry on having to see this man in the playground every week. I just wish I could run away. Help.

Oh dear. As you know, this is like a bad ITV1 drama. I don’t even need to tell you that. But maybe what I do need to tell you is that you need to wake up and stop pretending that nothing has to change. You’ve said it all yourself: “I know he’s not the love of my life.” “He’s immature.” “He wouldn’t fit in my circle of friends.” Why are you even thinking that your circle of friends would stay the same if you broke up your life? You’ve said it yourself again: “I don’t want to leave my husband for him.” You’ve said it all yourself, all the clues are here. “I’ve got to somehow stop this whole mess.” Yes, you have.

You are lucky because you have been given a second chance. Your husband says he doesn’t want you to split up. You know what you need to do: stop seeing this man (even if you do have to see him in the playground - just don’t talk to him - wear very dark sunglasses if you have to in order to avoid eye contact with him, for goodness sake). You need to set this affair -- and, yes, it is an affair -- to one side, put it behind you and reconnect with your husband. Only then can you know if you want to stay with your husband. At some point you are going to have to figure out why you had this affair in the first place. Is it because you don’t want to be in your marriage? Or is it because you were a bit bored and a bit insecure and you did something a bit stupid? Only by not seeing this man and spending some time talking to your husband can you figure out the answers to these questions.

You say you wish you could run away. I bet you do. But you know you can’t because of your daughter. And you also owe it to your husband to give him a second chance. We all do stupid things and we all behave like a cliche sometimes and God knows we all get bored and go a bit mental in all sorts of different ways. You are not a bad person but you have done something wrong and you need to put it right. You don’t need me to tell you this because you said it all yourself in your letter. Now just go and do it.

By the way, you need to be absolutely categorical with this man. You are never going to speak to him ever again. You are not going to be friends. You are not going to have anything to do with each other. Don’t speak to him, don’t text him, don’t phone him, get a new phone so he can’t phone you. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Get someone else to do the school run for a while if you can. Be absolutely rigid with this because he probably doesn’t want the exciting little bubble to burst either and he may do anything within his power to keep you in it. But it has burst now and you have to face reality before it’s too late and you lose everything. I think you can change things and end the mess because you’ve written in. Now you just need to prove it to yourself.

Dear Viv,

Out of the two of us, my boyfriend is definitely The Nice One. He'll write the thank you card, he'll remember to phone his nan on a Sunday night and he'll set reminders in his phone to remind me of my own dental appointments. However, there's a flip side to all this: I worry that he's a bit too much of a people pleaser. He gets taken advantage of in work regularly, and always seems to be the one picking up the slack on a Friday night (while we have dinner plans, cough) and is routinely screwed over by friends that he doesn't even seem to truly like, but is fiercely loyal to. Whenever I try to tell him that this Mr Nice stuff could ultimately be a danger to him, he gets incredibly defensive and I come off like a heartless bitch. Which, alright, maybe I am a bit, but come on. How can I get through to him without sounding like Cruella de Vil?

Ah, Cruella, what a fascinating conundrum. He does sound like a rather lovely man, though. Well done for snagging him. I wonder, then, why you care. Is it because of the way he is and that you don’t like something about it? Or is it that you’re worried about yourself and how you come across? You don’t give any extreme examples of his nice behaviour actually causing problems. In fact it sounds like the opposite: he smooths over problems, forgives people easily and makes sure you go to the dentist. He is some people’s dream boyfriend. In fact I may ask you to send in his phone number in case my life circumstances change.

The one alarm bell you do ring is this Friday night thing. So you’re worried he’s a doormat at work. He regularly stays late and this means you don’t get your night out. The consequence of this is that whenever he says yes to working late, he’s basically saying no to your dates. This is what this is really about, I think. You’re not worried that he’s too nice. You’re worried that in being too nice he sometimes puts you second. Am I right?

I agree with you that this is potentially a problem, although not necessarily for the reasons you suggest. The only real danger to him in being Mr Nice is that you will get annoyed with him and that your relationship will deteriorate because he regularly has to cancel plans because he’s promised himself to too many different people. This is what you need to point out to him. Being The Nice One is not a problem. But overlooking you and your needs is a problem. And in being unable to say “No, I’m not working late tonight -- I’ve got an anniversary dinner with Cruella”... That is a problem. The issue is not that he is a people pleaser. The issue is that the person he has displeased is you. And you’re perfectly within your rights -- and not being Cruella da Vil at all -- in feeling annoyed if he regularly cancels plans with you.

Be straight and clear with him about how you really feel. This isn’t about him being too nice. It’s about him staying late on Fridays when you’d like to go out. Give him a chance to get things right or make it up to you. He sounds so nice that I expect as soon as you explain what’s really wrong to him he will find a way to leave at 4.59pm every single Friday and still make everyone at work love him. Hang on to this lovely-sounding man. Your teeth will thank you for it.

You can hear the answers to these and the following question on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

I feel like I’m being overlooked for promotions at work. I’ve seen a couple of colleagues starting out in lower positions than me being promoted to a higher level, but it’s always brushed off as a “reshuffle” even though I know they’ve got more responsibilities and a pay rise. I’ve spoken to my boss about the possibility of a promotion but he just tells me I’m “doing fine” and to wait for “when the time is right”. I don’t think he likes me but I also don’t want to believe that he would be so petty as to not promote me just because we don’t get on that well. Should I cut my losses and look for another job?

Dear Viv,

One of my friends seems to be ghosting me. We used to be close, but these days she takes days to reply to messages (if she even replies at all) and only sends brief answers. She never instigates meet-ups any more, whereas she used to always be the one arranging a night out or dinner. I talked to a mutual friend about this and she thinks I’m just being paranoid, but I think she’s trying to phase me out. Should I just accept this, and try not to care? Or confront her and find out why?

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

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