Hey Cool Mom, I have two children, a happy marriage, and a very stable home life. I’m happy and proud. I’m also bored out of my fucking mind. I’ve spoken to my wife about this and she’s been understanding. The house in the suburbs thing was always more her goal than it was mine. It’s nice to be able to talk about it, but that dialogue doesn’t solve the problem and I’m concerned that if I don’t take action in the short-term, I’ll do something ill-advised and harmful to myself or my family in the longer term. I’m not talking suicide. I’m talking wrapping a Corvette around an electrical pole or picking a fight in a Whole Foods.
My wife has suggested that I propose a solution. Now, I’m concerned that I’m going to damage our relationship by doing so. I’m considering asking her for an open relationship (one-sided, which… I know) or for the chance to travel on my own or for the chance to quit my job and start something new, which would require rethinking our budgets. As you can tell, I’m not of one mind about this thing. Am I being a selfish ass? Is it my job to suffer in silence? Are my expectations for my life unreasonable? — Tom, 42, Connecticut
I don’t want to be totally dismissive of your plight. Boredom can have a corrosive effect on one’s relationship, not to mention their mental health, and clearly in your case both of these things are currently at risk. Nor do I want you to think you’re obligated to suffer in silence, which is never the solution to anything (other than, perhaps, getting a paper cut at a yoga retreat), nor do I want to make you feel like there’s no solution to your woes. There absolutely is. But it has to involve someone other than just you.
That said… WHAT? No. Is this for real? Oh my God.
I will ramp up slowly here and grant the one premise I’m willing to grant: Married life is often super boring. Between having the same arguments with your spouse and making the same dinners and reading your kid the same llama llama bullshit over and over and over again until the day you two fart out your last breaths together in a studio apartment at a state-funded nursing home (and that’s, like, the best case scenario), the reality is that marriage can often be stultifying if not grim. But your problem doesn’t seem to be that you’re bored, or unhappy with your relationship per se. Your problem seems to lie not in your heart, but your head, which according to my Waze is about 700 feet up your own ass.
You’ve offered myriad potential solutions for how to alleviate your own marital malaise, each one more selfish and impractical than the last. (A one-sided open relationship? Do you think you’re the protagonist in one of Woody Allen’s unfunny European movies? Fuck right off.) They all, however, have one thing in common: They don’t involve your wife or kids at all. That tells me this is not just a you problem. Because if you think you’re bored out of your fucking mind, *in Yosemite Sam voice* I gua-ron-tee your wife feels exactly the same way — if not more so.
You and your wife need to sit down and have a long-ass, guts-out, midnight kitchen table chat about this, and you need to give her, like, a 75 percent faithful version of everything you just said here (I would edit out the one-sided open relationship part, unless you’re actively in the market for an one-sided sparring session.) You need to tell her you’re bored, and that you want to work with her to help find the solution together. You’ve probably been scared of doing this because you’re worried that her feelings will be hurt. And, yes, that might happen. This conversation will be difficult and it very well may involve tears. But if you care about your life together at all, let alone your own sanity, you need to lay your cards out on the table and come up with a roadmap going forward for how to introduce some novelty into your relationship.
Ultimately, the roadmap looks different for different couples: Maybe it’ll look like you two taking a trip together to some exotic locale, sans kids; maybe it’ll look like you negotiating a few jaunts to Vegas or to a cabin in the Rockies with your college buddies, solo; maybe it’ll look like you guys joining a sex club and porking a bunch of strangers in Road Runner masks on a plastic-covered couch. The point is, you will be coming up with the solution together, and that in itself will get you half of the way there.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a quick fix that doesn’t involve putting on your big boy pants and talking openly to your loved ones about your problems, I’ve heard autoerotic asphyxiation can be quite fun. Ask your neighbors on the cul-de-sac if you can borrow a lemon.
I never feel like myself when I’m with my in-laws. I always feel like I’m holding my tongue, or trying to be a version of myself that’s presentable. They’re conservative, and they have a lot of personal beliefs that I don’t agree with. I’ve been married for a few years and I don’t think I can keep up the facade. It’s exhausting.
What’s better? Keep wearing the mask and be polite, or be myself and risk potential arguments? — Evan, 37, Cincinnati
First of all, kudos to you for at least attempting to maintain cordial relations with your in-laws — by being the bigger man and biting your tongue, you’ve saved your partner a hell of a lot of hardship, and I’m sure they’re grateful to you for it. I hate to break it to you, though — I’m not sure I agree that you’ve been successfully maintaining the facade of political neutrality for so long. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that they have a much better idea of your political beliefs than you think. Even if you’ve done your damnedest to suppress your eye rolls and sighs and expletive-laden outbursts, they probably have a decent idea of where your political affiliations lie. And my guess is that your in-laws are well-aware of how you feel about your political beliefs; they just don’t particularly care that you may disagree with them.
Let’s assume, however, that your in-laws have been living in a giant biodome of their own farts since 2016, and they literally have no earthly idea that anyone could possibly view their Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories and QAnon #GreatAwakening Facebook posts as anything other than gospel truth. And let’s assume that you really are reaching your breaking point and you just can’t take it anymore. You need to share this with your wife and develop a plan of attack accordingly — it’s your relationship with her, not your relationship with her parents, that matters.
She’s probably going to make this a multiple choice problem by saying one of the following things:
a): “Yes, ABSOLUTELY you have permission to call them out, if I hear one more ‘build the wall’ rant I’ll quietly hang myself.”
b) “Yes, I know, but they’re my parents, and I love them, and I’d really appreciate it if you just kept your mouth shut.”
If she says the latter, you should try your damnedest to keep biting your tongue. But if you really just can’t anymore, then there’s nothing wrong with engaging in a little healthy debate. Sure, you can expect a little awkwardness at the next Christmas Eve dinner, but that’s a small price to pay for not having to listen to your father-in-law rant about the dangers of antifa.
That said, here’s what you shouldn’t expect to do: change their minds. These people are, presumably, middle-aged. They’re gonna buy the same cars and ask for the same haircuts and persist in the bizarre and mistaken belief that Jimmy Fallon is charming until the day they die. How you feel on that day may end up having a lot to do with the things that you did manage to agree. Bernie Sanders, rest assured, won’t be one of them.
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