Ask Auntie BubboPants

Right now Chester is sleeping in a pile of felted sweaters that I am planning on using in projects. Normally I’d kick him off the sweaters but he just looks so so comfortable! I’m pretty sure this is the best thing he’s ever had. He didn’t even get up when I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and he NEVER lets a kitchen trip happen without him.
He just buried his nose under a sweater, sighed and went back to sleep. Guess he’s keeping the sweaters for a while.
Speaking of Chester! Don’t forget to let your animals write in with their questions or comments or stories, Chester will be taking the helm and answering questions soon!
but let’s look at the things in the people world…
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
I have to admit that this is pretty weird for me to write to someone I don’t know about my personal problems, but I am hoping that I am not missing something in translation or communication…
Here is the issue, my husband, is in the military. We’ve been married for almost 9 years and have 4 children. Like a lot of marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs. Fast forward to a week or so ago, said husband asked me to get something out of his laptop bag/all purpose bag, and while I didn’t know which compartment said item was in, I came across some photos, there were 4. One of each of the kids (older photos of the girls), one of me, and one of some girl I didn’t know. Even now, I get somewhat teary eyed just writing about it. I’ve tried to talk about it, confront about it, whatever it takes to try to get an honest answer out of him about why he would carry it. All I get is some twisted answer or some blame on me for him to have it in his possession! Even to go as far as to tell me that he has ‘forgotten’ about it.
I’m sick to death with having to have this battle, and why he can’t be honest with me. It hurt my feelings so bad, and I just don’t know where to turn or who to talk to with it. I have no idea how long he had been carrying the photo, and there is even a little note on the back. I can’t recall what it said. It was just so unexpected and I was so surprised. I have all these other thoughts running through my head when he is deployed and I just can’t handle it…not that I think he would cheat outright, but I just don’t know anymore. We’ve been to marriage counselors over the years, because we have such a major miss communication.
I have a lot of trust issues to begin with, and I know he is aware of this. Lately we’ve been arguing about a lot of things, and the worst of the arguing comes from how much I dislike his family and his religion. I’ve been feeling so disconnected, hurt and majorly distrustful lately. Maybe you can shed some hope somehow, maybe I am missing something. It’s like everything I know has been flipped upside down. Would you carry a photo of someone in your knitting/crochet bag that you were not married to? My mom said that I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, and another friend said I shouldn’t read into it so much.
Thanks for letting me vent, I’d like to remain anonymous (if you put this in the column)…I’m sure you get a lot of marriage issues? Please tell me I am not the only one out there that has issues…there are so many times that I feel like an island.
Anonymous Chicken Butt

Dear ACB,
Okay, I have written and rewritten this answer. I have gone to play mindless flash games, I’ve read other things, I’ve sat quietly, I’ve written it and erased it. I keep trying to find the right words to describe what I’m seeing.
The fact of the matter is that you and your husband stopped being husband and wife a long time ago. Being married isn’t an endurance sport, you don’t get to the playoffs for scoring well. The only way a marriage works is if you and your husband are on the same team working together towards the same goal. You should not be two disparate people forced to put up with each other and yet that is exactly what I am seeing.
I get so many letters that say “I am just so tired of fighting” and I just want to hold the letter writer and whisper, “then stop fighting”. It is so important that both of you stop seeing each other as the enemy and start seeing that if you can’t work together then 4 kids rapidly approaching their teen years are going to eat you alive.
I don’t know who that is in the picture and it does not matter who she is. What does matter is that he won’t tell you who she is. He’s being cagey and obtuse, any adult with 2 neurons in their skull will know that not answering the question is only going to make someone more suspicious. The more suspicious you get, the more hurt and upset you feel and the more you see him as the enemy and the more you lash out and the more he feels that he was justified in not telling you. It’s a vicious and ugly circle and quickly takes on a life of its own.
The first thing I want you to do is take some time alone and think about the situation. What are the possible answers to “who is the person in the photo?” Someone on the side? Someone with whom he flirts but has not done anything with? Someone who is interested in him but he is not so interested in her but she gave him a photo and he absentmindedly stuck it in his bag and never gave it a second thought but when push came to shove felt he could not answer your questions because you wouldn’t believe him anyway?
Think about all the outcomes and think about how they make you feel. Especially think about that first one, what if she is someone on the side? What would your reaction be? Would your reaction be, “I knew it! I knew he would do this one day!” What if it’s the second option, would you believe him? would you be angry that he is flirting with someone else? Or what if it was the third option? Would you say, “that’s absurd, nobody carries photos of people they aren’t married to!”
It’s obvious you have no faith in your relationship and perhaps he doesn’t either, I don’t know. You make yourself crazy worrying about his possible infidelities when he is deployed. Do you think he WOULD cheat on you when deployed? Why do you think that? More importantly, why did you marry a man that you assumed would cheat on you when you were not around?
These thoughts and feelings get funneled into our actions. I’m not saying he did or did not cheat, I have no way of knowing that. What I do know is that when you suspect such an action you will start to act suspicious and when you act suspicious the other person begins to feel like the enemy. They become defensive, they no longer see you as their reliable teammate, but as someone with whom they have to tread lightly for fear of saying the wrong thing and driving those suspicions.
So, if you think he is cheating then I want you to think about what the next step is. If you are merely afraid that he might cheat, then you need to spend some time thinking about where that fear comes from, and how it is affecting your relationship or how it has affected your relationship.
Ever since people clumped together in groups and started defending themselves, men have gone off to battle and the women have stayed behind to raise the kids and run the house. This isn’t easy. Not only are you constantly worried about his safety but you have the added pressure of doing all of the household things like raising the kids, making meals, buying groceries, paying bills all by yourself. This kind of thing makes you tough and steely. Being a soldier on the battlefield also makes you tough and steely. Then he gets sent home and you have these two tough and steely people who, lets face it, barely know each other, trying to blend their lives back together. You have a system for running the house, you have worked so hard to get this system in place and here he comes all wanting to take over the system but who the hell is he? Some guy that does not know that you do not buy groceries on Wednesday and you certainly don’t buy sugar cereal for the kids!
This happens over and over and over. Military families breaking up because the post deployment life is perplexing at best, harrowing and frustrating at worst. Of course you can add all kinds of PTSD and other injuries to the mix, those don’t help. Oh, and then one person suspecting the other of cheating during their time apart. That’s an onion in the ointment.
What you have here is not so much a miscommunication, but a complete breakdown of communications. You’ve both stopped working together, you’ve both stopped listening. You’re both so busy building your defenses and barriers and safety zones that you’ve walled yourself away from each other. How the hell are you going to work together if there is 3 feet of concrete between you?
If you want this marriage to work and I’m not telling you that it will or can, but if you want it to work you are both going to have to start dropping your defenses and start seeing each other. And you know what? Sometimes that means you will get hurt. That happens. But still we keep the defenses lowered because sometimes the hurt is not intentional, or sometimes the hurt is less of an attack and more just something that we just don’t want to hear or know or accept about ourselves.
You went into marriage counseling with an idea that the marriage was cracked and you needed some tape for it. That’s not going to work. The marriage is not an object, separate and distinct from you. The marriage IS you and both of your are creating the rift. You have to go back into counseling with your defenses down, with your softness exposed and weak. You both have to go into counseling with just this question and no other question, “what do i need to do to be a better teammate for my spouse?” Neither of you gets to play any sort of ‘tit for tat’ game, neither of you gets to say “well…you do THIS and it’s way worse than THAT!”. You don’t get to say it at all and you need a marriage counselor that knows this and will make you stick to it.
Both of you are 100% responsible and both of you need to start working on it.
Also, I know I wrote a lot and I’m sorry about that, but let me just add one more thing before I go. His family and his religion? They are never going away. You do not have to like them but you certainly have to accept them and you have to respect how important they are to him.
Good luck chickenbutt. Please keep me posted. This CAN work out but only if both of you are willing to work harder than you ever have before.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
My first ‘I love you’ bf was in high school. We dated for about a year and a half, but then his parents were going through a divorce and he ‘needed a fresh start’ so we broke up, er, he dumped me in our junior year. Then a couple weeks later he started dating a freshman. The horrible things that stupid high school boys do. We dated again for a couple months, but both agreed that was a dumb idea and broke up.
Fast forward to today, where I am almost 30 and involved with an awesome guy and we’ve talked about the ‘m’ word, however far in the future that might be. Would I trade new awesome guy for old high school dude? Not a chance. New awesome guy loves all the little things about me that old guy ignored. He even TiVo’s all the show he knows I’m missing. So why can’t I get the doofus out of my head? He’s haunting my dreams, literally. He even popped up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. Odd thing was, I went to a palm reader a couple of weeks ago (for laughs) and she said, “Who is this guy you’re trying to dig up? Stay away from him.” Okay, that’s open to interpretation. Do I try the old ‘write a letter telling him what a crapbag he was and how great I’m doing without him and then burn it’ route? Please help me forget this guy.
Made a New Friend and Wants to Dump the Old

Dear MaNFaWtDtO,
Um, do I need to drive to where you are and smack you in the back of the head? because I will! Acting all like a chickenbutt with crazy urges!
This ex of yours DOES NOT EXIST. done. over. gone. The person he was when you were together does not exist anymore because you are together. poof….there it goes. Writing to him is about as useful as writing to a stegosaurus and telling him that you’re glad he’s extinct.
More importantly, you do a disservice to your current guy. You think it’s okay because you are thinking about how much better this new guy is compared to the old guy, but really all you are doing is obsessing about the old guy and funneling energy into the trash can. Relationships should never be treated as a ‘trade up’. When you do that you leave open the possibility of trading up again.
That guy is gone. The relationships do not compare. Stop wasting your time wienering around and start focusing on what you have right now!
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
I did it. I cast on and knit a sweater for my now ex-girlfriend. I knew when I cast on that things were not good. I wonder if I really really knew about the sweater curse and that just helped me make the decision to end the relationship…
So now – the dilemma. It’s now 3 months after the final “goodbye”. I’ve asked the ex for no communication whatsoever (well – there is some joint property – so we have to communicate sometimes – but you get the picture). And…I’ve finished the sweater. It’s made just for her – she picked out the yarn – it’s a top-down raglan scaled exactly to her size.
I really don’t mind sending it to her, but since I am the one who said no communication, I feel that sending it is a really bad mixed message. I really don’t care if she wears it or burns it – but I promised that I’d finish it, and I keep my promises.
Friends are split – some say don’t ever send it. Some say – wait six months and see if you can both get over the breakup then send it. Some say – oh, wtf – send it anyway.
My main issue is that I made a promise – and I’m not clear on the next steps.
Any advice?
Done with the Sweater

Dear DwtS,
hmmm interesting….
Like you, I like to keep my promises and if I promise to make something for someone I want to keep that promise no matter what. This is something really important to me.
On the other hand, a handmade sweater given as a gift after the break up if completely filled with all kinds of crazy messages, intended or not.
So, I give you this…
If you were more than half way done with the sweater when the break up happened, then give her the sweater. If you were less than half way done then donate it to charity and be done with it.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
It hit me the other day that I’m really quite close to graduating from college. Not in May (thank goodness) but I will graduate a semester early, in December. I know the job market is terrible, but I really can’t put myself through more school to get an MBA. I’m really excited to get out into the big bad world, but the truth is, I’m so scared that I could piss my pants.
A few years ago when I envisioned myself at this point, the envisioned me was in a great relationship with the now-ex (lying cheating bastard) and..well…alot braver. There are a few job offers on the table, but none of them were what I was hoping for and not nearly the salary I was hoping for. Even working for my dad isn’t going to be as lucrative as I once thought it would be. And I feel like a total butthead for even saying this when so many people are un- or under-employed.
So what I’m saying is that nothing has really gone to plan, and I’m absolutely terrified. Is it normal to be panicking nearly a year before graduation?
Scared Shitless and Running out of Optimism

Dear SSaRooO,
Is this normal? Hell, this is to textbook normal that I’m surprised they aren’t teaching a class about it:
“You Plans are Meaningless: Section 101 Fate is Laughing at You”
Seriously, though, it really is normal. We make plans and we create expectations based on a set of criteria and a somewhat misinformed set of data. As we move forward in life we work and work and work and suddenly remember those plans and dreams and they aren’t matching up and WHAT THE HELL!
But we only look at the goal and not what led us to decide that this was where the goal should be set. When you set this goal, how much did you understand about the vagaries of the economics of this country? When you were thinking about salary, where did your figures come from? How realistic were they? When you were thinking about the longevity of your relationship, where did…yeah you know.
It’s perfectly normal to be scared. In fact it is GOOD to be scared. Being scared means you’re thinking, it means you’re paying attention, it means that you are learning early that things do not always turn out as we wish they would. The younger you learn to not only accept that but how to adapt to it, the better. Those people who seem to always hit whatever goals they set right on time? They’re the ones that freak out in the grocery store one week because there’s been a tomato recall and they had plans to make BLTs for dinner and how the good goddamm are they supposed to make a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich if there are no tomatoes available for them to reach this goal. Weird but true. Trust me, I’m Auntie BubboPants.
Things won’t turn out the way you expect them to, but if you are prepared and can adapt then quite often things end up way awesomer that you could have imagined.
This is not what I imagined my life would be like at 35. I never pictured any of this. But I love it, I really really do love it.

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