#992: “My husband is dating my mom.”

You read that right.


Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a 34 year old straight woman in an open marriage with a 39 year straight man. I have taken far more advantage of the openness of our marriage than my husband, at least until recently. I have had a string of long-term affairs and short-term flings. During the past 8 months I have basically been living with another man in a neighbouring town to the one I live in. I am drawn to men who are starkly different than my husband, who is an intellectual, moderate in terms of his vices and has a disdain for the type of men who spend every evening in a pub.

I have a drinking problem but it is not a problem I feel any need to resolve and I am drawn to men who are also drinkers like me. I can have a glass of wine in the morning and drink until I pass out in the afternoon and wake up when my lover comes home and go to the pub with him and start drinking again. My husband can’t tolerate that behaviour which is why I moved in with my current lover.

This past Sunday my lover and I went to a country pub and I glanced in the dining room and saw my husband with a beautiful older woman, but not just any woman. It was my mother and, from the way they looked at each other and were touching, I could tell instantly that it was more than a friendly lunch; they were quite obviously in love with each other. My mother is 54 years old and is breathtakingly beautiful and, unlike me, hasn’t let her body go. My husband, who is also handsome and fit, looked like he was happier than I had ever seen him. I went to the toilet and threw up and then I dragged my lover out of the pub and went straight to the off-licence where I bought a litre bottle of vodka and drank it at his house until I passed out.

I can’t help but feeling betrayed by my mother and my husband. There has always been something lurking beneath the surface with them and since I haven’t been living with my husband for a long time, I guess she made her move and he couldn’t resist or maybe it was the other way around. Knowing I can’t go back to my life as it once was makes me miss it so much. My mother is the one having long talks with my husband at night, or going to a nice restaurant with him or the theatre and I am at a grubby pub every night with my alcoholic lover.

I have started stalking them, sitting in the car down the street from our house, drinking vodka from the bottle, and watching them come out hand in hand to play tennis in the courts down the street or go out to dinner. I have sneaked in the house and gone up to what used to be our bedroom and found my mother has moved all her clothes into the wardrobe and taken what I had left out and I have even seen a tube of lube on the bedside table (my mother is post menopausal). Seeing that made me hate her more than you can believe. My husband would be disgusted with the way I have let myself go and would probably refuse to have sex with me but he’s happily screwing my mother now and enjoying her perfect body.

I haven’t confronted either of them yet. I would love to put an end to their happy little relationship. It is sick that my mother stole her daughter’s husband and I despise her for that. I can forgive my husband but I could never forgive her and I can’t tolerate the fact that they are together.

What should I do?

Look, I’m a human being, and I read this letter a little bit like this:

giphy (22)
Image: Animated .gif of Murder, She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher reading a book called “The Sins of Castle Cove” and saying “Oh My!”

Like, this can’t be real, right? The references to the lube and the “perfect body”…this can’t be real.

And then I read it again and thought, well, this person sounds lonely as fuck and she had the guts to tell some judgy asshole strangers her story and if it’s real OH MY GOD her HUSBAND and her MOM are THE WORST PEOPLE and maybe we can help validate THAT if nothing else.

Obviously the ick factor of a your husband having an affair with his wife’s mother is high. Y’all have an open marriage, he could theoretically be with anyone in the world, and he chooses your mom? And your mother chooses the one man in the universe who is married to her daughter? That is some unfathomable shitheadery right there, from both of them. For the record, I don’t believe in soulmates. I don’t believe that there is romantic love that is somehow divorced from the choices you make about what to do about your feelings. I don’t believe there are feelings of love and attraction that “have to” be acted upon. I don’t believe in “it just happened.” “It” happens because people make it happen. These two assholes chose this.

I’d have barfed when I learned the truth, too.

giphy (20)
.Gif of Michael Bluth from Arrested Development saying “Her?”

There are some things I can’t get past, though, when I read your letter.

A) Of all the women in the world he chose to date your mom and of all of the gin joints in the world he chose to take her to your regular hangout. What are the chances that that’s a coincidence? What are the chances that they didn’t see you or know you were there? My gut says he/they did it on purpose so that you’d find out that way instead of telling you like the “consenting adults” they’ll condescendingly and repeatedly remind you that they are when you do eventually confront them.

B) In between all the references to “her perfect body” and you pining for the companionable life of long talks and theatre visits you’ve lost, there’s the fact that this has been going on long enough for her to move into your house…

and you didn’t notice until just now. That doesn’t mean his choices are your fault – I don’t know how your open marriage works or what ground rules you set but I’m pretty sure he owed you at least one direct “Hey btw I’m thinking of seeing your mom, is that cool?” conversation.



I mean….

This isn’t just a case of “this guy would be so perfect if only he weren’t $#@!ing my mother,” this is a case of some deep, deep incompatibility and disconnection between the two of you. It sounds to me like you left him, slowly, on the installment plan, and then he decided to hasten the end by setting everything on fire, including the bridges.

And, maybe there’s a reason you never want to be at home where he is lately? (A reason like self-preservation?)

I have so many questions, like, do you hang out, ever? Do you talk, ever? What was the long-term plan for your marriage? Did your husband know that plan? Did he know whether you ever wanted to come back from living with this most recent dude? When you agreed to an open marriage, did you both envision a situation where either or both of you would move out for long periods of time? What does “normal” or “the desired outcome” for your marriage look like to y’all? Have you had a “Hey, this isn’t really working” conversation before now?

Do you still love each other?

Would you have described yourself as “happily married” before you saw them together?

Would he?

Do you know how he’d describe it?

Is there a compelling reason to stay married to him, beyond say, the legalities or force of habit?

Whatever the answers are, taking your mom on a date to your favorite local +  moving her shit into your house (which is still your house…I think?) are not the stealthy moves of professional secret keepers, y’all. This is the You-signal being flashed in the sky. “ALL IS NOT WELL AT HOME. I REPEAT: ALL IS NOT WELL.”

Image: Batman slapping Robin meme! Robin: “They’re consenting adults, who are we to judg-” Batman: (SLAP!) “We can judge them. We can judge them a lot.”

It’s nice that you are thinking about the possibility of forgiveness for your husband (after you break them up somehow, of course), but my read on this situation is that there is no going back to any kind of happy equilibrium in these relationships. He’s always going to be the guy who dated your mom. Your mom is always going to be the mom who dated your husband. You’re framing it as “My mom stole my husband” but your husband did just as much stealing and breaking of trust.

Also, forgiveness is for when someone has a) stopped doing the harmful thing and b) apologized. These people haven’t even done you the courtesy of an honest conversation about what’s happening. I give you permission to ignore the entire concept of forgiveness for now.

Even if they agreed to end things, is there any going back to the life you (thought you) had, where your husband is a safe haven who will always leave the light on for you while you explore your addictions totally unproblematic day-drinking hobby?

You are, as you say, “stalking” them – sitting in your car to watch them go about their lives, “sneaking” into your house – what has stopped you from talking to them?

“Hey, Husband, what’s new with you? Are you sure there’s nothing new? Nothing at all? Nothing you’d like to tell me? Cool, okay, well, have a good day.””

“Husband, I saw you in the pub the other day, was that my mother?”

“Husband, I dropped by the house to pick something up the other day and…okay, I’m just gonna come out with it. Why are my mom’s clothes in the wardrobe?”

“Husband, I realize I haven’t been around much lately, but I think we need to talk. Do you think things are working well between us?”

“Mum, how’re you, how’s the weather, how are things, by the way, are you dating my husband?”

“Mum, Husband, I’m having a hard time even looking at either of you right now, also, what the fuck are you doing? Did you sit around trying to come up with the most hurtful, appalling thing you could do to me?”

Do these questions seem ridiculous and like you can’t picture yourself asking them? Even though they are pretty reasonable questions given the situation? Because if you actually talk about it with them, it will become real?

Yeah. I get that.

giphy (21)
Image: Animated .gif of a tiny adorable ghost making a hugging motion. Text: Ghost hug! You can’t feel it, but it’s there.


I say this with all the love I can muster:

Your marriage is dead.

Your relationship with your mom is also pretty dead.

Those relationships can die but I want you to be alive.

You were hiding from your own life in that pub, all those days of passing out and killing time with grubby men in grubby places. You were hiding, and then your husband came and found you with this giant, awful, sickening secret and you couldn’t hide from it anymore. Now you’re hiding in parked cars outside the tennis club or outside the house where you used to live. What happens when you can’t hide from or drown these feelings any longer? I’m scared for you. Drinking in your car (and presumably driving?) is “danger to yourself and others” territory.

Something has been permanently lost or damaged, and, while I understand the fantasies, breaking these two people up will not restore whatever it is or was. You asked what I thought you should do and the answer is “Take care of yourself.” 

So, please, please, please: Take the kind of loving care of yourself that you wish someone else would take for you. Radically intervene in your own life to take care of yourself.

I think you need to have some talks with your husband about “Hey bro, dating my mom, not cool btw, probably time to end this?” and then some more talks about money and living space and what the winding down of the institution of your marriage entails (financially, legally). And then cut him and your mom out of your life entirely.

Before that talk, I think it is time to call on any and all resources you can find who are not your husband or your mother. Friends. Other family members who you can count on. A divorce attorney (solicitor where you are?). A therapist. A medical doctor for a complete checkup. Find somewhere to live that is just yours, maybe, with no men/distractions/drinking buddies.

Also, no more hiding out, no more monitoring your husband and your mom. Drag everything into the light and deal with it. You told us your story, so tell a therapist and a friend. Start imagining yourself in a different kind of future, where you are free of them and have a fresh start. You are only 34 years old! The next year of your life might suck more than it doesn’t (basically alternating between Adele songs and the”Hold Up” parts of Lemonade on repeat while you grieve), but if you can hang in? If you can hang in, a few years from now you’ll be the lady with the devil-may-care attitude and the “Oh, you think your ex was shit? Oh, you think you don’t get along with your parents? Might as well get comfortable” story.

Let go of the idea of breaking them up, that that’s something you should do or something you can do. The thing will probably perish on its own without you in the middle providing a dramatic focus. Even if they stay together forever gloriously in love mashing their perfect bodies together for the rest of time? Every. Single. Time. someone asks how they met the fact that they are the kind of people who would fuck their wife’s mom/fuck their daughter’s husband will be a part of their story, and they’ll have to choose: Lie or oog people out? Lie or oog people out?

Ok, finally, I think your drinking problem is an actual problem that deserves serious, thorough, compassionate, loving treatment. Only you can decide when you’re ready for that, and it doesn’t sound like you’re ready yet so I’ve tried to respect that in this writing, but when you do decide, you deserve it, all of it, all of the help, all of the recovery. You have an illness that is slowly eating your life. Maybe it ate your marriage a few bites at a time. None of that makes you a terrible person who needs to hide in the bushes from the assholes in her life, it makes you human. It makes you deserving of care and compassion and help and second chances and third chances and fresh starts.

I link to poems a lot and these are the ones on my mind right now:

Glass, by Kim Addonizio

Antilamentation, by Dorianne Laux

(If I’m remembering right, Laux and Addonizio are friends who met at the same writer’s workshop or class. They know. Whatever it is you’ve gone through or are going through, they know.)

Be well, Letter Writer. You are related to a bunch of assholes and I hope you get free very soon.


Moderator Notes: 

A) This ain’t Reddit. What do we lose by being constructive and kind?

B) I know the comments in my mod queue recommending 12-step programs and other alcohol treatment programs are kindly meant and coming from people who have used them successfully. But until the LW asks for that kind of help, they are a distraction, and they tend to attract a lot of thread-jacking debate that I have to clean up. Hold off, ok? Thank you.

C) Closing comments as of 11 pm Thursday because my moderation queue and spam trap are a dumpster fire and I need to sleep sometime.

Letter Writer, please get some help and take good care of yourself.






159 thoughts on “#992: “My husband is dating my mom.”

  1. CA, you are a lot kinder than me because when the LW mentioned day-long drinking I almost couldn’t read the rest for the voices screaming THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. Kudos on a compassionate and non judgmental reply to this letter.

    1. She is clearly not okay – the “it’s not a problem” problem is a classic indicator – but this is a case of “Are you self-medicating to the point of crisis or are you just surrounded by assholes? Baby, it’s both.”

      1. Someday with the benefit of being separated from this whole hot mess, LW will be sober, but her husband and mom will still be assholes.

        1. I realize that you don’t mean it this way, but this significantly minimizes the difficulty of overcoming alcoholism. It is a disease that takes a great deal of sacrifice and work to overcome. I feel that it does a disservice to the LW to pretend that it’s something that will just resolve itself with distance, and implying thus is insulting to the addicts who have put in the work as well.

          1. (And, in point of fact, many people never do overcome their alcoholism. It is a disease with a sadly high death rate.)

    2. I want to give LW a huge, huge hug but also to tell her: if you are sitting in your car drinking… please, PLEASE don’t be driving it afterwards. You deserve better than to put your life in danger (and I don’t wanna be preachy but so do the other people on the roads). I know you’re not stupid and you know you shouldn’t drive after drinking but these things do sometimes creep up on people.

      1. This. LW, I don’t know much about drinking or alcoholism, and you aren’t asking for advice on that topic, but what I do unfortunately have personal experience with is how dangerous cars are. I was in a serious car accident last year. It has been a year and a half of hell recovering from it, I’m less than 60% of the way to better, and there are no guarantees I will ever fully recover. A car accident can suddenly and irrevocably shatter a life, and physics doesn’t care whose fault the accident was. Please do not drink and drive. Please. It is not just your safety that you risk.

      2. FWIW, there are some areas of the US where being in the car while drunk is treated as a DUI, even if the keys aren’t in the ignition. So that’s something to be cautious about.

    1. The LW talks a lot in the comments of that post, and every time she did I lost more sympathy for her.

      I don’t doubt you are going through a rough time, LW, but you need to accept that YOU LEFT YOUR HUSBAND. You’ve been living in another town, with another man, for months.

      I’m like 99% certain this thing with your mom and husband started because they had to be in close contact trying to figure out how to help you or to grieve for the situation you’d chosen.

      1. I mean LW has made some pretty terrible decisions here… and then her mom and husband responded by burning everything relationship-related to the ground forever. I feel like one person behaving terribly does not diminish other people also behaving terribly. Everyone in this situation needs to take some time to think about what they’ve done, and then go forth and make better, less destructive choices.

        1. I agree with this sentiment. And also, even if LW made a lot of mistakes or bad decisions (and I do think LW did), commenters simply saying “you fucked up and you’re a bad person” or something isn’t remotely helpful or productive. :/

        2. I think it’s more LW started the fire by moving in with her boyfriend & leaving her husband & Hubby & mum just threw their belongings onto the blaze too. This whole relationship house is on fire, all that is going to come of this is a whole lot of screaming & 3 injured people in the end. LW needs to leave hubby & the boyfriend. Get her life together if that does or does not include alcohol is up to her I’ve got nothing against functioning alcoholics, but right now boyfriend is being used as a way to avoid making difficult decisions about her marriage. The relationship is over, you are not getting back with your husband, that’s why he’s dating your mother. It’s over, that’s him setting fire to his end of the bridge you lit the day you moved out. I’m sorry this sucks. You really need to take a deep breath and spend some time alone figuring out just what you do want.

      2. What I don’t like from the LW’s comments in that thread is that she says a lot of ageist hurtful bullshit. I get that she’s angry, but the problem is not “54 year old post-menopausal woman initiates a relationship with 39 year old man” (rather “my mom and my estranged husband initiated a relationship without telling me”). As if women were forever vetoed of enjoying their sexuality after they hit 50!

        1. Not good, but…

          a) She’s hurting and furious and lashing out.
          b) The obsessively comparing bodies with her mother stuff comes from somewhere…like…possibly…her mother. Think, Postcards From The Edge. Her mother who chose to fuck her husband. She’s using “hag,” etc. because they are the words that would most hurt a vain mom.
          c) Those attitudes are toxic but they aren’t uncommon – she didn’t like, invent them, and being in pain is not always the time for a radical feminist awakening. Someone who was raised with the attitude that your worth is in your looks and youth is right on schedule with this – look at how she talks about her own body, too. It’s fucking sad more than it’s offensive. There’s time to learn if she can survive all this.
          d) This ain’t Reddit. If she says that stuff here, we’ll deal with it.

          1. They don’t necessarily come from her mother though. Society is a more likely source, imo. Slight side note: I have seen a lot of good parents with awful children, and good kids with awful parents. It’s not necessarily true that any problem one has is from or caused by the other.

        2. In my experience, I have found that women tend to be a lot harder on the “other woman” than the man. CA did a great job reminding her that it takes two.

          LW, please take care of yourself. Good luck!

      3. I haven’t read her comments there (not gonna click the Reddit link for love nor money) but it sounds like she’s cycling and has an audience and that is badness. I agree that “open marriage” vs. “we are kinda separated” are two different things, but I also think some gaslighting has been going on, and even if the “close contact to help her” thing is true, they didn’t have to add falling in love to it. They had choices. This all feels like something designed to force a final decision about the breakup of the marriage.

        1. Wise choice, at that! “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” could be the official motto of many reddit comment threads, this one among them.

          1. Especially some of the bigger subs, like relationships. Or any of the default subs in which you make the mistake of mentioning asexuality or being nonbinary/genderfluid. Not that I’d know from personal experience or anything like that…! X(

        2. I only mentioned it because I thought the advice here was so much better. Please delete the link if you think it’s not cool to have posted it here. (I now think I shouldn’t have.)

          1. It’s okay – if we delete it now it will be back like a hydra and I can deal with whatever comes more than I can with 100 identical “did you catch this on Reddit” comments. 🙂

      4. I feel you on this. The husband and mother are awful and that is a terrible way to end a relationship/get back at someone with whom you were in a relationship with… but LW did bail on her husband in favor of an alcoholic lifestyle with another lover very far away. He got a horrible, inappropriate revenge, but she clearly left him.

        1. Maybe leaving the husband was…self-preservation? A fumbling towards happiness and safety and a place where people treat her well? Maybe not a good or functional one?

          I agree with all the people who say the house of the relationship is burning. Who set it on fire? Everyone. It’s on fire. Time to get to safety.

          There’s plenty of time to lay or accept the blame when the ashes have cooled. We don’t have to do that work for her. We’re not the jury, we’re the fire brigade.

          1. “We’re not the jury, we’re the fire brigade. ”

            Wow, I love that phrasing and it seems potentially very widely useful.

          2. “We’re not the jury, we’re the fire brigade.” Thank you for this, this is perfect.

        2. Sure, she left him, but if he felt abandoned and that the marriage wasn’t working anymore, there are approximately ten million things he could have done rather than sleeping with his mother-in-law. Such as, I don’t know, having a conversation with his wife.

      5. I agree. The two who were closest to you came together to figure out what was going on with you. Also if you had moved that far away from them emotionally, they might not have thought that you cared. Showing up together where you were known to be to get some kind of closure was cowardly. They should have told you to your face separately. But people do cowardly stuff all the time when it comes to dating a best friend or a sibling. I’m sorry this happened to you and by this, I mean all of this. The Captain is right about still being young and having a chance at a better life and a happier you. Try to take this as a wake up call so that things can be better.

      6. I agree. It sounds like the LW started the dysfunction. I mean, becoming an alcoholic and it sounds like because of that choosing to move out of your house to live with your lover and abandon your husband for months, well of course he found somebody else. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

        1. Uhm, the LW says they moved out because their husband “can’t tolerate” their alcoholism. If there was something about me that I couldn’t change, moving out of a house with someone who “couldn’t tolerate” that aspect of me seems like a really sensible decision, and we don’t even know how well the husband’s inability to tolerate it was presented.

          (I have a suspicion! That suspicion is that a guy who doesn’t tell his wife that he’s started fucking her mother is not the kind of guy to express his intolerance by saying “Honey, your drinking really upsets me for these reasons, and I can’t be around you when you do it. I understand you’re not ready or willing to change it yet, and for the moment I still want to be in a loving and committed relationship with you; how should we handle this?”)

          Not staying in a house with someone who can’t stand a big aspect of you is a choice, yeah. It’s not inherently a bad choice.

          And he didn’t just find “somebody else”, he found “LW’s mother.” And didn’t *tell* LW. Assuming the LW’s husband is only comfortable communicating in English and is only attracted to women, there are still several dozen million people he could have found to hook up with. And he chose to pursue and develop a romantic and sexual relationship with that specific one and not mention it

          The husband is not cake I would want in my house, let alone in my mouth.

          1. I agree it’s not a bad decision, but I do think it’s a telling one about the state of their relationship. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t get to be hurt about what’s happened since, though.

        2. Ok but he found HER MOM.

          And her mom found HER HUSBAND.

          Your comments together seem really determined to remove all benefit of the doubt from the Letter Writer, so, okay, howabout the people who are 💯 in an inappropriate relationship?

          1. LW is also in an inappropriate relationship with alcohol.
            Idk somehow husband + wife’s mom isn’t really much worse to me than all the other permutations of husband + wifes’s BFF, husband + wife’s sister, etc. Sure they went about it wrong but LW is also not going about things perfectly? I feel like there is a LOT going on that’s left out of the letter entirely

          2. Do you have to be perfect before you get to be upset when your husband falls in love with your mom?

          3. Nope, no one has to be perfect – no one even can be perfect.
            I guess what I’m getting at is, if I take this letter at face value, there’s way too little information for me to decide who the truly toxic person(s) is/are, or if it’s just a situation where everyone’s dysfunctional but not evil and things snowballed. LW gets blackout drunk daily and has moved out – was it possible for her husband and/or mom to ever have a conversation about this stuff? Did they have a conversation that was forgotten? Did they know where she was? Etc.
            I’m not sure how helpful it is to LW to judge mom/husband either? I’m sure it’d feel good for her, but she’s already using it as an excuse to engage in questionable behaviors (stalking, drinking in the car, etc). LW if you’re reading this – I’m sorry it SUCKS, but the best thing is to try to move on now regardless of who is at fault.
            I have no idea if the alcohol prompted the relationship problems or the other way around and probably it’s both because that’s what it usually is but either way, relationships seem to be irrevocably damaged. It sounds like LW’s relationship with her husband is not salvageable and like it wasn’t really salvageable even if mom wasn’t in the picture. I have no idea what LW’s relationship with her mom was like prior to this mess; there’s a good chance that is not salvageable either, certainly LW needs a long break from her.
            Ultimately what it comes down to is:
            — I think LW should nope out of there with husband/mom rather than confronting folks and trying to get back her husband or whatever
            — LW does have a serious problem with alcohol and before she can try to work on new relationships with other people I think she needs to figure out if the alcohol is worth her health, her future, and every other relationship she has. If she likes the alcohol more than everything else, I guess she’s already got things set up just fine. If she does NOT actually like her lifestyle with the drinking and lover, she needs to work on that before she can build healthy new relationships

      7. But lots of people have had partners with substance abuse issues, contacted their partner’s family to get help, and somehow not wound up fucking their partner’s parent(s). It’s not that hard!

      8. I have to admit, my initial, knee-jerk reaction to the letter was vastly unsympathetic and entirely unhelpful. But having read her comments on reddit, I just feel sorry for her. She’s spent the last eight months lying around drunk all day, now she’s coming out of it and realising she isn’t happy, she’s lost her husband, and it’s too late to do anything about it. And she can’t even slink home to her mother to cry it out and try to put her life back together. I mean part of me still wants to shake her and yell GET HELP, but the poor thing. 😦

    2. LW, the people on Reddit are wrong.

      Being in an open relationship does not mean your partner has carte blanche to date literally anyone in the world. Any decent person in an open relationship would talk to their spouse before embarking on an affair with a relative or close friend of the spouse. Unless you have had a conversation that went, “Hey, spouse, our open relationship means that we can date literally anyone in the world, including immediate family members, agreed? Agreed.” then you have every right to feel pissed off and betrayed.

      Even if you were separated, decent people don’t date the immediate family members of their estranged spouses, at least without the full knowledge that they are hurting their estranged spouse horribly and their estranged spouse has every right and reason to burn figures of them in effigy forever.

      And parents… you can’t date your children’s partners, ex, current, open, whatever!! What?? I mean, who does this??

      Your husband and your mother have 100% unequivocally done you wrong. Listen to the captain, not to Reddit.

      1. It’s one of those things where I’m like, “I suppose it might be *just this side* of okay if the child had died, and they and the spouse didn’t have any kids, and the spouse and the parent were completely estranged from absolutely all the rest of both of their families…and even then it still gives me the oogs.”

      2. I agree with you wholeheartedly that her husband and mother shouldn’t be dating. (I just love the mildness of the word ‘dating’ in this context.)

        Just as regards the “unless you have had a conversation…” I’d want to say to the letter writer that one of the effects of the type of drinking that you are doing is that your memory will be faulty.
        My husband is an alcoholic who is currently sober, and one of the properly surprising things has been how many things he just doesn’t remember at all. Things that were seismic in our family life, and also things that were said, or happened, when I thought he was sober.
        You may have had conversations you don’t remember.

        And I know my attitudes and actions seemed hurtful and bewildering to my husband, because he had forgotten things that would have made sense of my behaviours.

        That’s not to excuse your husband or mother’s behaviours.

        But you ask what you should do and I think, while you’re drinking, you should just let it go. I think it’s difficult to make the happiest, most honest relationship work when drinking is involved. I think it’d be difficult to deal with this particular relationship if you were the most sober, emotionally wise person in the country. I think trying to deal with this particular relationship when drinking is involved would be difficult squared, and won’t benefit you in any way.

        1. This is absolutely true. One of the things that I think may be difficult to understand if you have not been around someone who regularly got blackout drunk (or if you have not been someone who regularly got blackout drunk) is how much it affects your brain. It can do very strange things to it. It can cause you to not be able to create long-term memories of certain periods of time–periods of time where you seemed to be entirely lucid. It can also cause you to remember the words and actions of a particular interaction but to forget the emotional underpinnings. It can erase memories that had previously been indelible. It’s weird, is what it is, and it’s frightening to watch, and it makes the alcoholic an unreliable narrator even when they are doing their absolute best to be honest.

        2. My step father was initially a positive influence in my life, and loved as a parent. As his drinking became worse, he became progressively more abusive. By the time I was a teenager it was survival mode for me. Avoiding my home as much as possible kept me sane and alive.

          When he acted genuinely bewildered at my coldness and that we weren’t close anymore, I assumed it was an act. But as an adult, I’m realizing he was probably blacked out for huge chunks of my childhood, and didn’t remember being abusive.

          LW can’t act on the normal assumption that she knows everything about herself, which is scary and sad.

          Her Mom and Husband are being flamingly awful people, though. I’m so sorry the two people who promised to be there for her are failing so very hard.

        3. I mean I get this but also um…

          “Hey can I fuck your mom?” is probably not a conversation you should only have once.

      3. I am a firm believer in what I call “the messy list,” because I have a loved one whose ex dated Loved One’s sibling while in the process of breaking up with Loved One, and it pretty severely damaged all the relationships involved. When I was still with my most recent ex, who was dating other people, I asked that he not date anyone in my family, on my dissertation committee, or in the class I was teaching. There was still a world of people remaining.

  2. Wow. That’s an incredible situation. My first thought was “this can’t be real” but I know a woman who was married to a man who willingly lived apart from him for years – during which time he fed her all kinds of BS lines about why they couldn’t be together until he’d gotten the perfect job while he met, dated, married and had a family with another woman. It gets so much worse than described here…but my point is that people really do experience soap opera worthy plot lines in their own lives.

    LW, I agree with CA…you need to let your marriage and your relationship with your mom go and take care of yourself! You don’t sound like a happy person, current situation aside. Please take care of yourself and do what you are able to change that. 🙂

    1. Honestly I know two people who ended up leaving their spouses for their in laws, but just via the usual affair route, so this doesn’t surprise me that much. I’m glad the captain was able to offer some compassionate advice, I hope OP sees it and can get their life back on track

  3. While I was reading this letter I was half wondering if it hadn’t been sent, in rather poor taste, on April 1st.

    But since we’re in the habit of believing letter writers here and life has a way to fulfill and overcome our wildest expectations, I’ll just say: please take care of yourself, LW. Take yourself away from people who hurt you and break your trust. When you feel ready to, seek some help to reduce your dependence on alcohol. Find some means to support yourself and some supportive and nice people to surround yourself with. I hope things gett better for you ♡

  4. My mother is the one having long talks with my husband at night, or going to a nice restaurant with him or the theatre and I am at a grubby pub every night with my alcoholic lover.

    It sounds like you have a lot of disdain for the life you’re living. That you value relationships that revolve around long talks, and not spending every night in bars. It seems like theres a discrepancy between what you’re “drawn to” and what you actually want in your life, and I’m hoping you can find a way to have more of what you actually want.

    1. Yep, alcohol can “draw you” to places you actually really hate being in, and keep you there with the stone of “ugh hate this but cannot deal so another drink” on your chest.

    2. Actually, to me anyway, it sounds almost as if the husband wrote this. The “I’m the one who has benefited​ from this open marriage’, “My mother is beautiful, hasn’t let herself go like I have”, or “We”re drinking in grotty hovels while they have nice nights out” seem to indicate that.

      The other thing that struck me as ‘off’ was the description of each spouse, cf. “My husband is an intellectual with no real vices, whereas I drink from breakfast time until i black out, and I think that’s fine, and hook up with boorish men who do likewise”

      Is it just me who suspects this?

      1. Nope. Not just you. This reads REALLY weird with how the LW is just matter-of-factly portraying herself in negative terms. It feels more likely somebody out to make polyamourists seem as awful on both sides. She’s an out of shape, unrepentant blackout drunk, he’s hooked with with her mom, together they fight crime!

      2. No. I got the same vibe for the same reasons. I mean, it’s possible that he wanted to paint her in a terrible light so people would crap all over her (like they have on Reddit) so he feels better about sleeping with her mother.

      3. I don’t know. The level of self-hatred and denial in this letter seem pretty consistent for someone who is in a very self-delusional phase of addiction.

      4. It’s crossed my mind. I also think she doesn’t like herself much right now and could be parroting the way these people talk to her or how they see themselves vs. her.

        1. Agreed. Before I managed to extricate myself from my shitty abusive parents I described myself in similarly awful language all the time.

        2. That was more how I read it–suppressed anger, hatred, self-loathing. Assuming the wife did indeed write this, one small piece of advice–stop saying these things. I won’t tell you to try and change how you think about yourself (and I do think there’s value in owning your negative traits), just…stop insulting yourself out loud or in writing. It’s a small thing, hardly life-changing, and it’ll probably be difficult at first as it’s likely habitual–don’t stress out if you slip up–but it’s also surprising how it changes how you feel about yourself.

          1. My mom starts this around me and gets a “NO NEGATIVE SELF-TALK!”

            LW, whatever is going on, you are in pain. Try to avoid negative self-talk; no need to hurt yourself more.

      5. I noticed the same thing WRT the descriptions, but read it with a heavy sarcasm tone in my head – but having read your comment, that heavy sarcasm would imply that the LW is parroting/mocking what her husband has already said to her. It’s also making me understand some of the Captain’s mentions of the LW moving out of her marital home for Reasons.

      6. I didn’t necessarily suspect the husband, but it does sound like something a guy would write to “get in the mind” of a fictional character perhaps. A lot of gross ideas on how someone might behave without any real understanding or compassion for that character/real women. Granted I read a lot of dubious story ideas so am biased, but this sounds exactly like them.

      7. I dunno, this sounds a lot like mean stuff her mom or her husband has said to her that she’s repeating in a self-deprecating way.

      8. I got the same impression, but reading the insightful and compassionate responses here, I think it’s most useful to both the wife and the husband for people to keep commenting from the point of view of believing LW.

    3. Also, it doesn’t have to be one or the other on fancy intellectual/cultural stuff and casual wings-and-darts style fun. It’s possible to lead a life that has both, and even to do it in a healthy way without any kind of substance abuse, and I hope for the LW to find the balance that works for her and makes her genuinely happy.

  5. Wow. I don’t even know what to say except I am so sorry that you are going through this and I think your husband and mom are awful people. Even if you are in an open marriage, I don’t think dating/hooking up/whatever with a member of your spouse’s family (especially their parent!!!) is acceptable in any way.

    Please take the Captain’s advice and take care of yourself first. It’s gonna hurt for awhile because this really sucks but you can get through it.

    Evil me is thinking that you should be sitting on the couch next time they stroll in from a date and be like “What’s up?”.

    Much love and hugs to you.

  6. Oh Captain my Captain, you said all that better than I could have.

    Oh, LW, I am so sorry, but, I think that marriage is dead. I’m polyamorous and I also think your husband burned that bridge. I don’t know how you were handling the open marriage, but, the lack of communication in this situation would have killed any relationship of *mine* dead as a door nail.
    Please take care of yourself.
    I highly recommend living in your own space for a bit. Give yourself a space that’s yours, that you control the ins and outs of. Choose it yourself and make it yours. You deserve a space that you control.
    I also highly recommend a therapist to talk things over with. Get this stuff out of your head and talk it over with a professional so the space in your head is also yours and belongs to you. Therapists can be a good reality check, and when my own brain weasels are wigging out I appreciate having someone to check with who wishes me well, but doesn’t have a personal stake in my outcomes.

    1. I’m polyamorous, and this is such a breathtaking level of betrayal and boundary-stomping that I’m sitting here with my mouth agape.

      LW’s marriage is over, and I hope that she can get to a place where she seeks treatment for her addiction. But her mother and husband have chosen to hurt her deeply, and that’s what she needs the most help with, in the moment.

      LW, a therapist is a good place to start, a healthy place to vent these feelings and start trying to find some solutions that will help you claw your way out of the pit. I wish you well, and I hope that you can build a happier and healthier life.

    2. Second on the suggestion to get your own space, LW. Not with another lover, someplace, however small, that is under your control, for you.

    1. Good catch. And since, going by the letter, that’s not Husband’s scene *at all*, this adds more weight to CA’s theory that the revelation was premeditated by Mother and Husband.

      1. I had exactly the opposite reaction: LW says it was a “country pub” which means *not* in the town LW is currently living in and *not* a regular hangout for LW.
        So I think it’s a leap to assume they deliberately planted themselves there for LW to see. Being “moderate in his vices” and “disdain for the type of men who spend every evening in a pub” doesn’t mean someone will never go to a pub *dining room* so husband’s presence in a pub isn’t evidence of anything.

        I’m not defending husband and mother, but LW is already in an emotional shit-storm and already has all the reason she needs to end the marriage, that she doesn’t need to add fuel to the fire by assuming they did it deliberately.

        1. I mean, LW’s already suffering horribly and knowing they did it deliberately to hurt her would cause even more pain. LW doesn’t need additional pain.
          If it was accidental, that’s a different world of hurt, but assuming it was deliberate, I think she’s entitled to not take on that too.

        2. Seconding that; I also had that read on “country pub”.

          I mean, it’s not great if the husband did absolutely nothing to let LW know, but it is possible that he and LW’s mother weren’t being deliberately cruel and angling to be seen.

        3. In addition, there might be an issue of scale in the LW’s perspective. In my drink all day youth, I would have called my current 6-8 standard drinks at sports ball events ‘moderate’ because at my height I was drinking 1.5 litres of vodka daily.

        4. I hadn’t thought of that. So a country pub would not be a staple in LW’s routine because she lives in a town? Makes sense, and it’s indeed less cruel. And if she had lost contact with both her husband and mother, maybe they didn’t have any way to know where she would be that night.

  7. Not to tell you how to run your website, Cap, but LW (or someone who lifted her letter and reposted it, who knows?) is taking on all commenters over on reddit. It seems pretty inevitable she’s going to end up doing the same thing over here. In your shoes I’d close the comments since that seems like a real recipe for unpleasantness no matter how gracious your response and commenters here might be.

    1. Thanks for the warning. For now, I am not going to even click on the Reddit link and I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

      1. I gave into curiosity and went over to Reddit. (The comments are actually not that bad – I was expecting some really nasty stuff, but for the most part they were shorter, less compassionate versions of what you said, CA. The top comment (when I just checked) was compassionate and also advised against revenge.)

        But I did see the LW posting – she said that she did end up confronting her mother and husband (last night?) and the two of them had to call the police to have her removed. I don’t know if that motivates you to close the comments, but I wanted to just let you know just in case.

        As always, thank you for your advice, CA. I think you do a great job keeping things balanced and in perspective.

  8. If you can hang in, a few years from now you’ll be the lady with the devil-may-care attitude and the “Oh, you think *your* ex was shit? Oh, you think you don’t get along with *your* parents? Might as well get comfortable” story.

    I just wanted to say this was so kind and hopeful that I’m tearing up. Thank you.

  9. There’s someone who stalks many different corners of the internet, and has done for over a decade, asking, “Is it weird for my uncle to ask me to wear stockings to a wedding?”

    It’s very that.

    1. There’s someone else who does that with a conflict in a church social group. Found them on a messageboard a while back, and someone who’d seen them before alerted the mod team. I…really don’t get that kind of thing, but I kind of hope this is that. Otherwise, well, that’s a lot of pain in the world.

      1. Every so often, someone posts an incredibly long and disjointed rants (nearly identical, but clearly different enough not to be cut and paste) about there being no young people in social groups, on the queer women’s message boards I frequent. When they arrive, they post these rants on every board and thread, over and over, until they get banned; every now and then they find a way back again.

        We nicknamed them Martin, for no particular reason.

        There’s quite a few strange people on the net 😉

      2. There was this…dude? dudette? nonbinary individual? who was posting on two of the JustNo subreddits a while back under three different handles who had the communities in quite an uproar.

        It was kind of a relief to find out the stories posted at length under the various handles were fabricated.

  10. I have so little to add except that I am so sorry, LW.

    You’re allowed to be angry about this, and hurt, and upset. This is an hugely upsetful thing. You’re allowed to not be perfect in your response. Moms shouldn’t sex up their daughter’s husbands and QUITE FRANKLY men shouldn’t be sexxing up their wife’s mom. Like CA said, he could be sleeping with literally anyone who isn’t your mom. That isn’t an accident; it’s intentionally selfish and hurtful.

    I really hope you can get maybe some counseling? Because this is an incredibly painful thing and you need someone to talk to who is trained to help you grieve. Grief is NATURAL here, but it will be hard sometimes because there’s the “oh, hon, he was GARBAGE” factor when dishing with friends, and this guy IS garbage but that doesn’t make the grief less. Please, please, please be safe and take care of yourself. (And stay off Reddit, if you can. That place is not a safe place, I’m sad to say.)

  11. LW, please stop saying mean things about your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever get. Even if you don’t love it or how you’ve been treating it, you can be mindful of the self abuse. If you must criticize, can you focus on how you’ll try to take better care of yourself?

    Anytime I read, “[Person] would be disgusted and refuse to have sex with me,” I want to add, “who doesn’t deserve my time,” after person.

    I struggle with self compassion A LOT. It is so hard. It’s so easy to find flaws and see them as terminal and permanent instead of choices that you can make differently. You want to take better care of your body? Start by acknowledging that your body deserves being taken care of.

    1. I needed this for myself really badly. Thank you, Shine!
      LW: You have been abusing yourself and your marriage and while that was a mistake it doesn’t make you a bad person. You can come out of this! ❤

    2. Absolutely. A lot of the bashing is tied up in the opinions of her mom and husband.

      LW, please free yourself from wanting the good opinion of people who decided to be mind-blowing assholes.

  12. I believe you, LW, and it sucks. I’m sorry.

    In the not-nearly-as-bad-as-this category, a dear friend was living at her mother’s house with her boyfriend, and her boyfriend ended up leaving her for the mother, and my friend had to move away to get distance. Granted, they were much younger (right out of university) and the mother had just gotten divorced, but there should pretty much never be an excuse for this. It was awkward for a year or two all around. Once the ex-boyfriend was an ex to both, my friend and her mother have been able to rebuild their relationship.

    I hope you can prioritize getting away from this junkiness and getting to know yourself. Please grasp whatever time and space you can to process this.

  13. This sounds so amazingly “lifted from a soap opera” level fake to me that I can just applaud the captain’s ability to find something constructive and helpful to say, even to this.

  14. I won’t touch the alcohol aspect since I have too much baggage around that myself, but otherwise…

    1: I could maybe, MAYBE, see a poly relationship with mom and daughter dating the same guy MAYBE if it was thoroughly discussed by all involve beforehand. Maybe. But that didn’t happen here and I think it’s just super… MEAN to surprise you with that, LW.

    2. You definitely need to stop stalking them, as you called it, LW. That’s not healthy or okay behavior either and I can only see it leading to negative things in the future. I agree with Captain that you should just get it all out in the open.

    3. Also jeez that sucks. I hope things look up for you.

  15. Oh, LW, this is so messed up, the only part of this triangle you control is your side; I hope you can cleanly and openly remove yourself. Then take some baby steps towards the life you’d like to have. There are many ways you can do this. Good luck to you!

  16. “Alcoholism is a strange condition. If you survive the drinking stage, and many don’t, it has relatively little to do with alcohol, which is merely the drug with which the alcoholic treats herself. It is, rather, a way of thinking, and continues long after you have stopped drinking. It is a voice in the head: a malevolent voice that wants you to die. I certainly see it that way: it makes it easier to pick my way through the days if I know what, exactly, I am dealing with.” – Tanya Gold, reporting recently in The Guardian

    I couldn’t care less about your marriage. I care about your continuing to live. I hope you find help. I hope it comes soon.

    1. wasabigrrl, I like this quote much better at explaining the way alcoholism is not just about drinking alcohol, but other things about someone’s mental and psychological makeup than I do many of the concepts from AA. AA tends to have a lot of concepts that are more about ‘all alcoholics have fundamentally deceitful personalities and lie and cheat and steal all the time, and they destroy the lives of everyone around them’, but in my experience it has more to do with mindset than with behavior (other than the behavior of drinking) and I’ve known plenty of alcoholics who are mostly only self-destructive, not destructive towards other people.

  17. Okay, taking a deep breath and assuming this is a real thing, LW, your husband dating your mom is a Burn-It-To-The-Ground, Extinction-Level Event. It seems like you kind of left your marriage by degrees, or at least, shoved it to the back burner, and your husband decided to force your hand, as it were.

    Your marriage is over. There’s nothing to “steal” from you or “get back” from your mom, because those relationships are just a smoldering pile of ash. I’d look into hiring an attorney to tie that up legally, before your husband beats you to it.

    Speaking as someone who has been through a self-destructive descent and come out the other side after hitting bottom… you seem like you’re in a self-destructive descent. Maybe you’re not at bottom yet, and you have to let this play out until you are. I don’t know. But, if this event shocks you into taking stock and making changes, I think a good place to start is with seeing a therapist, where you can unpack your feelings about all this, and address your issues with your mom, because good god, I can’t imagine what’s going on with someone who thinks their child’s romantic partner, current or former, is in any way a viable option. I imagine your mother’s parenting choices are probably… interesting… on a lot of levels.

    LW, as the Captain said, take care of yourself. You are at a crossroads. You can let this push you further down into a bottle, or you start fresh, clear away the ashes, and build a new life for yourself. Best of luck to you.

  18. The drinking while sitting in a car is a huge red flag to me and I am surprised that Cap didn’t at least touch on it… My concern being that it sounds like LW is drinking and driving, which is putting her and everyone on the streets around her at direct risk.

    1. This is what gave me red flags too. I’m more than willing to abide to the “LW isn’t ready for help with alcoholic dependence yet”, but this part — where others could be endangered — definitely warrants a response.

    2. Yes. :/ The heavily implied drinking and driving needs to stop ASAP, and also the stalking. It’s incredibly unacceptable to stalk people even if they are total shitheads. Drinking&driving and stalking need to stop even apart from the LW getting therapy and emotional support; they’re separate from the “you will start to make better choices when you are healthier/happier.” They need to stop immediately, regardless. They are frightening and dangerous.

  19. This constant refrain of “my mother’s perfect body” sounds like something that was drilled into LW’s head from early childhood on by a cruelly competitive mother who is very likely a narcissist who was bent on crushing her daughter from the get-go so as not to have any “threats” in the realm of sexual competition (except who seriously thinks their own child is after the same man/men?). I feel like this would also explain LW’s alcoholism. Her husband sounds like a narcissist, too, and I’m almost wondering if the husband/mother’s relationship isn’t founded on some twisted notion of “we’ll show HER” antagonism against the LW that will fall apart the minute she finishes processing and recovering and moves on with her life. Because two narcissists in a relationship without an outside target will either devolve and split quickly or try to kill each other, I would think.

    OK, whatever, it’s about LW moving on, and I REALLY hope she finds a good therapist/recovery program and does this.

    1. Yeah, considering that LW’s mother and husband are *both* the kinds of people who would ever even think of dating each other (what the actual fuck, guys?), I have some theories about how they treated her all along and how LW could’ve been driven to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

      1. Eh. To me that’s a very enabling narrative. I think it’s very likely that there were massive problems in the relationship between LW and her mother, and maybe if she decides to see a therapist or get help for her drinking she can start unpacking that. But “these terrible people drove me to drink, it’s not me” is 100% an enabling story. You don’t get close to starting to think about recovery until you start to be able to see the outlines of something like, “my upbringing was terrible and maybe I’ll always be damaged by that but I have choices in how I react”.

        1. I’m not sure my phrasing was the best there, and totally agree that “everything wrong in my life is someone else’s fault and there’s nothing I can do to fix things” is not at all a healthy or useful attitude, but I don’t believe that LW’s alcohol problems started in a vacuum either. I’ve read some interesting articles (let me know if you’re interested in links, I don’t want to be that jerk on the internet who assigns homework to total strangers) about how addiction is strongly linked to childhood trauma and that makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t believe anyone chooses to be an addict, I believe people abuse substances because being sober seems unbearable.

          Basically I think LW’s mom and husband are both tremendous assholes and that LW needs space from them (lots and lots of space) to even begin to get a handle on her other problems. It’s still LW’s job to fix her own life no matter how much her childhood sucked, but I think understanding where her pain comes from and processing it is a really important part of that.

          1. Yep, yep, yep. Untangling the relationship between trauma, abuse and addiction and figuring out where to put blame and responsibility is super mega hard. And it’s something you can only do for yourself, and you can only do if/when you aren’t using booze or whatever to keep the bad thoughts away. It doesn’t sound like th LW is anywhere near ready to start that process yet, but I hope she gets there.

          2. Although it is also the case that there’s a genetic component to alcoholism. To some extent, it’s just having ended up with a bad roll of the dice, similar to cancer. I say this because sometimes people get the idea of “if I just fix the external elements of this, the addiction will go away,” and that’s very often not at all the case, and unhelpful.

          3. No one chooses to be an addict; pretty much by definition addiction is a set of maladaptive (damaging, undesirable) behaviors.
            But, addiction can have many ways of springing up and it’s not always the parents fault or some problem in upbringing. Most things are, what, 40% environmental (ie, upbringing), 40% genetic, and 20% chance/personality/je-ne-sais-quoi and addiction doesn’t seem to be much different.

            I can come up with all kinds of hypothetical scenarios where mom and/or hubby are total villains vs themselves at the mercy of really weird circumstances and messy hormones but pragmatically I’m not sure how much it matters in that it’s clear LW’s relationship with the both of them needs to be done for a long time if not forever.

    2. And if the mom is 54 and the LW is 34, that means she was born when Mom was nineteen or twenty. I can see a young, immature, angry mom lashing out in this way against the “competition” she gave birth to. Blech.

      1. My father’s second wife was a woman only a dozen years older than me, his eldest child. I was *immediately* pegged as competition for “daddy’s” attention (their wedding song was George Michael’s “Father Figure” god I wish I was kidding). Fortunately, I was old enough that I had moved out and was mostly able to avoid her. When HER youngest daughter got to be about 14 or so, she transferred her jealousy to her own daughter. So I can confirm that this is indeed a thing that happens.

    3. My mother is that level of narcissist — she’s fine-boned, tall, narrow-shouldered, small-busted, refined, and fashionable. I’m robustly-built (same height, but hippy, broad-shouldered, very busty, curvy, and not thin as an adult, although I had an extremely slender hourglass figure as a teen.)

      My mother told me that my breasts were “in bad taste,” that my body looked “slutty” in clothes, that men wanted to have sex with me because I didn’t look or act like someone they should respect.

      (Can you imagine what a messed-up teenager I was, and what kind of twisted relationships I got into as a result/reaction?)

      Even though my mother gained significant weight after menopause, she STILL harps on mine (and my daughter’s, since she’s built similarly to me.) I had to tell her that I would permanently cut off contact if she said it to my child’s face again.

      So, yeah — while my boundary-trampling mother has never *slept with my partners* (in part bc my mother doesn’t believe in sex outside marriage), she very much evidenced sexual hostility and competition towards me, and I very much wonder if the LW’s mother behaved similarly.

      I’m honestly amazed that I managed to survive my childhood/adolescence without more mental-health issues (I certainly have some, though), and while I don’t want to venture into Internet-Diagnosing, this situation is screaming THE BEES HAVE BEEN THERE FOR YEARS to me.

      1. I’m sincerely impressed that you stood up to your mom about your daughter, and wish my mom had done the same. You are incredibly strong and resilient. Jedi hugs to you if you want them.

        1. *Jedi hugs back* Thank you!!

          I couldn’t cut my mother off completely (in part because I wanted to maintain a relationship with my father), but I sure as hell could step in and protect my kid from that level of toxicity.

          My mother is a “small doses relative” today, and my daughter and I both agree that we present a united front against my mother getting to spend one-on-one time with her. We’re polite and friendly about it, but we see her as a team, or not at all.

  20. BTW I bit the bullet and read the Reddit thread (because it’s still less toxic than the current news cycle) and I would like to say that one commenter made some very very good, rational and compassionate points about the alcohol aspect of the issue, yet still their user name is Cumshitter. I think the internet is amazing. LW: I have to agree with Cumshitter and I also hope that you find peace in yourself and your heart and your life. And a job!

  21. Is it bad that I want to see this movie? So much going on here.

    LW, please take care of yourself and get a good divorce lawyer, one who understands open marriage.

    1. I don’t want to see the tragic True Crime version of this movie, though…I want everyone alive and well.

      1. I want to see the space opera version of this where at least one of these characters is interplanetary royalty, at least one of them has a huge space fleet, and all of them are fictional. Already linked my sci fi author friend to this post and made the suggestion. You’re welcome, everyone.

    2. The problem is, if she is in England, is that it’s not a no-fault divorce situation. Irrespective of whether or not her husband was bonking her mother, she left and moved in with someone else. So she needs a non-judgmental SHARK b/c the dirty laundry will come out.

  22. Oh LW, there are so many Bees in this situation and I am in awe of the Captain’s compassionate and helpful response. Please, take care of YOU. When you are done being very very angry and all you have left is despair for a while, please don’t give up on you. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, and I don’t have much else to add, except heartfelt wishes that you make it through this situation as intact as possible and -jedi hugs-.

  23. LW, the Captain’s counsel is great, as ever, and I hope you take some time and absorb it.

    You are in pain, a lot, and I think you have been in pain for a long time. Now two people you should be able to trust are behaving like assholes.

    The hardest thing to do can be to walk away from a wrecked relationship. One wants to try again, one wants to fix it, one wants to confront the asshole causing pain, one wants both justice and revenge.

    Walking away, leaving him and her and I think eventually the lover who is now tangled up with those relationships, unless he is willing and able to be a solid and loving rock to support you, might be the best thing you can do. The captain is right that the marriage is over. Divorce your husband, who is your ex-husband in everything but the law. However smart and interesting he is, he’s also an asshole and you do not deserve that. Stay away from your mother and stop all contact with her, including indirect. They are not good for you. They are actively bad.

    And, if you can, move. If your job and life allow it, with any amount of effort, get miles, a lot of miles, hundreds of miles, possibly an international border, between you and these people and this place, because although a move will be wrenching—therapy can help with this, I know everyone is saying therapy therapy at you, but a therapist should at least give you a listening ear regarding the rotten way your husband and mother have treated you—staying where you will be in the same small towns, same pubs, same shops, same streets, that’s going to be a continuing source of pain for you. So I say, move.

  24. I don’t defend the awful choices of the husband and mother here, but I’m pretty sure that the LW wrote she saw them in a country pub, which are mostly pleasantly restaurant-y during the day, and not at her local pub or a pub in the town she’s moved to, or somewhere they’d be expecting to see her. I don’t think there’s reason to believe the reveal was a set-up.

    1. OK, I think we all had a bit of a cultural misunderstanding. When I read, “country pub” I read that as “a country style pub” not “a pub out in the country”. Like, I wasn’t imagining everybody in cowboy hats necessarily but I definitely didn’t grok that it was literally a description of the location of the pub, not the style/vibe inside of it.

    2. Yeah, she didn’t say they’d wandered into her local. To me this reads as if there’s a nice gourmet pub out in the country between both towns which people would quite naturally drive to for Sunday lunch, and it was pure coincidence that they happened to be there. “Off-licence” also suggests that LW is in the UK, where “country pub” definitely means “pub in the country”, not “country-music-themed pub”!

    3. Yeah, I didn’t get the impression that it was an intentional set-up either. It was Sunday lunch at restaurant. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that they would have known she would be at that place at that time. It doesn’t make it any less weird and awful that they’re dating each other, but I don’t think they’re dating each other AT her exactly. Still though, Captain is right. They could have dated anybody and they picked each other. Not good whether it was a set-up or not.

    4. Even where I live in the US, the dining room area of a pub is more restaurant than drinking establishment, and people who don’t drink alcohol at all will go there for the food. It’s not at all the same as going to a bar when you don’t drink.

  25. LW, i know these feels. i know them too well. my wife decided to fuck hir ex-fiancee, the same one ze insisted on comparing me to repeatedly. i felt like i was going fucking crazy… now that i’ve broken it off with wife it’s easier to ignore. i hope you, too, find a resolution soon. *jedi hugs if you want them*

  26. LW: this is so so hard. But, see if, instead of focusing on them, focus on treating your addiction and whatever is driving that. I wonder if you’ve ever focused just on sitting with you and the life you want, and who you are. The best thing I’ve heard recently is that we all practice some form of self-care, the question is if what you’re doing now is working for you in your life.

    Sometimes drinking be self care, the warm feeling, the knots in your shoulders softening, the blunted edges but this isn’t working for you and you have to find something that’s more effective.

    Best of luck LW. Be well.

  27. I have an appointment and won’t be reading/moderating for a few hours. Please don’t let me come back to find the Donald-Glover-holding-a-pizza-in-a-burning-room gif, or, as my mother-in-law would say, “be sweet, y’all.”

  28. I understand wanting to be compassionate to the LW’s pain. But I don’t feel like it is necessary to paint the husband as the villain, in order to be supportive of the LW.

    Don’t get me wrong. He made a mistake by being passive instead of saying what was on his mind – likely that he wanted out of the marriage. But my point is, it sounds as if this marriage has been over for a long time. They have been separated for 8 months. From LW’s desciption of her typical day, it doesn’t sound like they even spent time together in those 8 months. And I would suspect that her decision to move out didn’t happen overnight either. And, yeah, he should have said something to officially end the relationship before sleeping with her mother. There’s nothing that changes that. But I do think that there is a difference between cheating (let’s just call it that, since you can still cheat in an open relationship) at the final stages of a fading relationship, versus cheating when both the other party believes the relationship is thriving.

    If LW was my friend, my encouragement would be to grieve, and yes, that can include being furious at the mother and husband if she needs to. But I would encourage her to see that the marriage has been over for a long time, and to focus on herself, rather than on him. Learning to practice self care – loving herself, and seeking treatment for her drinking problem – may be a good place for her to start. If it’s financially possible, perhaps seeking therapy to help learn to see herself more kindly, and to treat herself kindly. (Rather than comparing herself negatively to her mother or other women.) I would encourage her not to try to have a relationship with this husband, because I believe it would just be a distraction from her relationship with herself.

    I tried to word the above paragraph in a way that’s not advice giving, but if this was my friend, I *would* be giving advice. I would say, let yourself be angry and cast them as the villains if you need to do that to move forward, but do move *forward*. Don’t let your anger keep you stuck in this stagnant situation. Please take care of yourself and learn to be kind to yourself. And there is real love out there in the world, and one of the sources of that love is *you*. I know it can sound vague and ambiguous when I say that, but that self love is something tangible you can find again, and there are resources out there which can help you find it.

    1. I’m not 100% convinced the husband was aware that they were still in a relationship. She’s been living with someone else for 8 months, and hasn’t beem back to the marital home for long enough that her mother has had time to move her clothes in.
      Hooking up with your daughters ex is sketchy as hell, as is hooking up with you ex’s mother. Seriously. Wow. They seem like a “lovely” couple who deserve each other.

      Still. Her mother did not “steal” her husband, as she has said elsewhere. You can’t actually steal another person, the person has agency … and the husband, in this case, may well have assumed the marriage was over.

  29. LW, I think you need to let your husband go and start planning your divorce. Even if your husband ended things with your mother tomorrow and came begging on his knees for you to leave your boyfriend and come back to him and have everything go back to the way it used to be, can you really see yourself enjoying long walks and nice dinners with him, let alone sex, after everything that has happened?

    Your description of why you backed away from your marriage places all the blame on you (“he couldn’t tolerate my drinking”) but your husband’s behavior since you moved out makes it clear that something went wrong on his side of the equation as well. The captain has a good point about the fact that he could have had a relationship with any number of women, including older women, and yet specifically chose your mother. Either he did so specifically to hurt you, or he’s had a thing for her all along and your moving out was the excuse he needed to act on it. Neither of these (“vindictive asshole or hung up on Mom”) is a good option. You are better off without him.

    That said, LW, your husband and mother, as creepy and awful as their behavior/relationship here is (and really “and then I started having pseudo-incestuous sex with their parent in the bed we once shared” should qualify for some kind of official Seal of Awful award) are the lesser issue here compared to the parade-of-majorettes-all-waving-red-flags problem that is your drinking. According to your letter, you drink to the point of passing out on a near-daily basis, not as part of a social situation or “I party hard on the weekends to blow off steam from the work week” habit, but while sitting alone at home. It also sounds, from your description, that you drink through the day and are almost never not drinking. And you are, by your own admission (“sitting in the car down the street from our house, drinking vodka“) almost certainly drinking and driving, which is something that has a high risk of actually killing you.

    It’s possible for people to be functional alcoholics. You don’t sound functional. You sound like your health and safety are at risk. If your marriage is an emotionally unhealthy House of Bees that needs backing away from, your relationship with alcohol is a full-blown House of Angry Violent Bees Who Sting People For Fun And You’re Allergic to Bee Stings that you should run, not walk away from, before your abusive partner (the alcohol, in this tortured extended metaphor) seriously hurts or kills you. LEAVE. Alcohol might have been a decent anthropomorphized-beverage to hang out with once, you may have had some great times together, but now Alcohol is isolating you from others, monopolizing your time, trying to control you, and hurting you. Don’t hang out with Alcohol alone. Make Alcohol a small-doses friend you only see at parties, (mom-free oh dear god) family get-togethers, or dinners with mutual acquaintances. At the very least downgrade Alcohol’s status within your relationship circle from Primary to Secondary.

    I also think that in addition to being better off without your literal mother-f*er husband, you may also be better off without your lover/boyfriend, who it sounds like is enabling and encouraging your bad relationship with alcohol, but you haven’t included as much information about him, and also he isn’t sleeping with one of your parents and rubbing your face in it so he’s kind of coming out ahead in the partner sweepstakes here. But if he has his own problems with alcohol, the two of you may not be healthy partners for one another right now, even with the best of intentions. Threesome/poly arrangements with abusers don’t work any better than one-on-one relationships with them do.

    1. This comment is beautiful, oh my God. It’s compassionate and true, and also incredibly well-crafted, and you should be proud.

  30. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said – except to validate that, yes! Addonizio and Laux have taught tons of classes and stuff together, and are some of the most phenomenal poets to ever exist. (Big fan here, if that wasn’t obvious.) Together they wrote The Poet’s Companion, a book of poetry exercises on just about every possible topic and style, and the only book I have purposely neglected to return to the library. (And thus purchased through said library.)

    LW – maybe go find that book? You have a lot of feelings to work through, and will probably have more for a long time, and writing bad, angry, sorrowful, heartfelt, embarrassing poetry is a great way to process those feelings. Take it from one who has done exactly that.

    I hope you’re able to find comfort and peace, LW.

  31. I’m going to give this the best shot I can…

    >What should I do?

    OK, so the LW wants advice on what to do next.

    1.) Accept that your marriage is over, and has been over for a long time. 8 months of voluntary separation is long enough to call this even without the other stuff. Contact a lawyer, and initiate a divorce. Follow the legal advice you’re given, but try to hold on to a goal of having the divorce complete as quickly as possible. Do not confuse monetary issues in a divorce with the opportunity to inflict emotional pain and suffering; that path only makes the lawyers richer.

    2.) Seek stability in a new life. Find a new place to live, a new job or source of income, and start building the pieces of a new life. The life you had with your husband is over. The life you have with your lover should also become if not ended, at least untangled from him and the drinking you two share. It is time to start building a new life.

    3.) Part of your new life will be new friends, and new co-workers and new acquaintances, which will give you room to let go of people from your old life. Your mother needs to be one of the people you leave behind with the rest of your old life. Right now, where you are, she is not an OK person to have in your life in any way. No contact with your mother, and possibly with anyone connected to her, because it’s not doing good things for you. Likewise, once your divorce is finalized, you will probably have no contact with your ex-husband.

    4.) This is a really rough period in your life with some difficult challenges, and you shouldn’t be facing it all alone. Finding someone who specializes in helping people, a therapist or counselor, for example, will give you an ally you really need right now.

    5.) If you’re a religious person, spend some time in church. If you’re not a religious person, I want you to consider the idea that karma, or retribution, or fate is a thing that is out of your hands. If there is suffering or pain or misery to be dealt out, that’s up to someone or something larger than you. Feel sad and hurt at the hurts you have, but let the anger pass on to whatever god/higher power/universal consciousness you believe metes out fate and punishment, and let that burden pass from you.

    There’s a lot to sort out for the LW here, and a lot of basic, day-to-day living stuff that needs to be set in order, and that’s going to take a lot of time and energy. Letting go of anger, working with experts for the divorce and the therapy, and letting go of the old life to build a new one are all connected.

  32. Oh LW, you’ve certainly been no innocent, but you don’t deserve this – I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Having suffered infidelity myself, I know the gut wrenching pain and the absolute disgust you have for the couple. And yeah, it IS infidelity of the most blatant kind, open marriage or no. It has all the passive aggressive hallmarks. In an open marriage you have a say on who gets let in your private circle. It sounds like he let in your arch enemy through the back door. This betrayal of privacy goes both ways. He will be leaking to her your marital privacy. She will be responding with your childhood. Oh I know exactly where your head is at. It’s the worst pain in the world and it doesn’t depart quickly.

    That said its the kind of flood which can clear the decks. It takes time, but walk through and you WILL be that “devil may care lady”. You’ll be happier than you’ve ever been. My advice?

    -Realise that every stalking session, even on facebook, buys you hours of pain. How many years do you want to be recovering from this?
    – I would block, block, avoid, avoid as much as possible. Don’t even have the confrontation. Don’t even get third hand reports. Every second you spend on this shitshow is a second you don’t spend on your healing.
    – if you really want to forgive him approach it later on when you’re stronger and they’ve had their inevitable break up within two years. Without you watching, or caring, what’s the point? But I predict you’ll want someone who raises issues with your marriage fairly, with at least a warning shot ultimatum before plan cruel revenge.

  33. Hiya Captain, a tangential suggestion for you: Maybe reconsider using the Batman-slapping-Robin meme? I know some survivors of physical childhood abuse whom it makes really uncomfortable.

    1. It would be nice, yeah. If people must use it, at least add a trigger warning, please?

  34. I am still flabbergasted by the sheer douchebaggery of both husband and mother. Those are the two people who should have stepped up and recognized Lws problems. They should have supported and loved her. Instead, they are boinking each other and make sure to torture LW by ‘accidentally’ showing off what a great couple they are. We have only one side of the story, but even taking that into account, it’s is shitty behaviour to the extreme.

    This is unforgivable. This is betrayal.

    Dear LW, cutting both of them out of your life might be difficult, but you have to take care of yourself. Being alone is preferable to being surrounded by people who poison your mind and eat your soul.

    1. You can’t love and support someone out of something they don’t think is a problem. That doesn’t mean you f**k their mother/husband instead, of course.

  35. “I have a drinking problem but it is not a problem I feel any need to resolve and I am drawn to men who are also drinkers like me”

    All I’ll say about this is that it’s okay if you’re not ready to stop drinking, that doesn’t have to keep you from moving forward with other things. You can go see your doctor and start seeing a therapist as the Captain suggests without being ready to quit drinking. You can work on some harm reduction measures (such as, things to prevent you from drinking and driving) now. You can do things to improve your life, and you can deserve that improved life, even if you are never, ever going to be ready to quit drinking.

  36. LW is going through a truly awful time right now (there’s so much to unpack here I think I’m going to give up and donate the lot), and I think Captain is right that we should be understanding of her horrible, horrible coping mechanisms. I doubt she’ll listen to any advice at all, really; she’s not in that place. Everything is still on fire, and she’s standing there screaming while the house falls down around her. A more productive thing to do would be to leave the house and go be somewhere that’s not on fire, but human beings don’t always think very rationally when EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE.

    Still, hopefully she’ll find some clarity soon and get herself out of the burning building. The main thing I want her to know is that everything is terrible now, but that doesn’t mean it always will be. People’s homes burn down. Their lives burn down. It happens. It’s awful. Then they get a new home. A new life. Because life is stubborn that way.

  37. On first read, my thoughts were that this situation couldn’t possibly be real..but then I thought about my birthfamily and all of the honest-to-doG true and equally unbelievable situations that have occurred throughout the history of my birthmother and her extended family and changed my mind. (For instance: after my birthmother married her second husband, his first wife married my birthmother’s brother, and so then my last two siblings have older half-siblings who are also their step siblings and their step-cousins in the same breath.. My grandfather reportedly told birthmother and birth uncle that as long as they didn’t make him his own father then he guessed he’d be OK with it.) I digress, but am taking the long way to say that even the most unbelievable sounding tales can be true and so therefore the right thing to do is take the LW at her word and respond in the way will support her in this situation.

    The alcohol seems to me to be the first and biggest issue. I don’t think it would be even possible to start to make sense of one’s emotions and find ways to cope with all of this happening when you’re spending so much time either drunk or hungover — neither state lends itself to any kind of clarity of thought, and I think kind of also exacerbates what sounds like an already low self image. LW, you are a human being and you matter, and somehow you need to find a way to step away from this painful situation and take care of you, gently and with intent. All the suggestions the Captain made – finding someone to help, someplace to live that is safe, extricating yourself from the marriage if possible and at least from the geographical/physical environment of all of it. Sometimes physical distance can really help you have emotional distance.

    I hope things get better for you.

  38. COME ON PEOPLE. If the LW and her husband had perfectly amicably said, “You know what, this isn’t working out, let’s get a divorce” it would be BEYOND FUCKED UP for him to fuck (and move in!) her MOTHER. I mean it would be fucked up on both the husband and the mother’s parts. And guess what? Even though that isn’t how things went down, it’s still EXTREMELY fucked up.

    We can say that without even having to make any caveats about it not being ideal that the LW is an alcoholic or whatever. Okay. That’s garden variety human screwing-up. Very common.

    But her husband. Is banging. Her mother. And her mother. Is banging. Her husband.

    I guess now we know what it takes to get CA commenters to turn all victim blamey 😦

  39. Oh, LW. There is so much self-hatred and pain in your letter. It echoes with every word you’ve written to us, and regardless of who’s done what or with whom or when or any of it, I hope that you can find a safe, healthy drain to pour out all that ugliness that seems to be festering inside your heart. What I’m hearing is that you feel so betrayed, but at the same time, you aren’t even trying to make the argument that you don’t deserve this betrayal — I think it really, truly sounds like you do feel you deserve it, and just want to see them hurt with you.

    LW, you do not deserve hatred. You do not deserve this pain that’s driving you to drink and drive and take so little thought for your own life and health. You don’t deserve to be comparing yourself to your mother as a potential sexual partner (!!!!!) and feeling that you come up lacking.

    Cut these people out of your life — neatly, properly, with well-hemmed edges instead of torn ravelly shreds. Divorce your husband — you’re not in an open marriage, you’re already separated. From what you’ve said, either he can’t stand to be around you or you can’t stand to be around him, imagining the judgment he’s passing on you every day. I don’t know which, and I don’t think it matters. He has long since stopped being Team You, and now he’s gone and proven it. I don’t know what the backstory with your mother is, but I’m not the only one here who hears plenteous echoes of Darth Mater. These people do not deserve your emotional energy — you need that for yourself.

    You’ve told us you don’t consider your drinking a problem, so I’m going to content myself with simply echoing what others have said — please, PLEASE do not drink and drive. If you aren’t ready to change your drinking habits, just please make sure you are not putting your intoxicated self in that position. Drink at home, call a cab, install Uber or Lyft or whatever on your phone, whatever you need to do. The rest can wait.

    Every human being deserves a foundation of self-caring. I hope you can find a therapist who can help you see in yourself a person who deserves better than the treatment you’re receiving from yourself and others. There is so much badness ongoing in your life, and I don’t want you to drown in it.

  40. LW, I am so so sorry. You need the biggest hug ever. It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done (and I really respect your honesty because you could have simply not mentioned it), what they’ve done obviously really hurts. When I was a teenager, I had a huge crush on this guy for about 6 months. The sports club he and my parents were members of had a social evening where it became a temporary night club for members. I didn’t expect anything to happen between us, but I was still looking forward to seeing him. Halfway through the evening, I saw a woman straddling him and they were kissing. I felt disappointed and just as I was turning away, I realised something that made me stop dead. The woman was my mother. He didn’t owe me anything, but she knew I had feelings for him. It was like a knife plunged in my heart that she would do that to me. It wasn’t even as if she liked him because she didn’t. She also timed it for when my dad was outside having a cigarette, so she was prepared to betray him too (even though he didn’t see it) just to hurt me because she was angry that men were starting to look at me. I didn’t like men looking at me, it made me uncomfortable as I was only 14. So why she did this is still a mystery.

    Your mother took it one stage further and is now LIVING WITH YOUR HUSBAND. I can’t begin to imagine how much you are hurting right now. But the Captain is right. You will survive this. You will come out of the other side wiser and stronger and we will be rooting for you every step of the way. Take care xx

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