Wife Endorses The Other Woman

Wife Endorses The Other Woman

Her husband believes he's having an affair; she wants to keep it that way.

Yesterday's New York Times Modern Love column was by Alix Kates Shulman, author of To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed. Shulman, an elderly woman, is the primary caretaker of her husband, who lost his short-term memory and his ability to function alone, when he was injured in a fall four years ago. Tango interviewed Shulman a few weeks ago; you can watch the video here and read our Q&A (not the same as the video) here.

In yesterday's Times, Shulman wrote about her husband's belief that he was having an affair with his companion, Jenn. Shulman hired Jenn to care of her husband during the day—to take him on walks, to the museum, to be by his side always so he can function in the world.

Shulman explained that since her husband usually doesn't know what's going on around him, his brain fills in the most plausible explanation. "Now that my husband’s days are spent in the company of an attractive like-minded young woman who holds his hand wherever they go and acts like a soul mate, what better explanation can there be than that they’re a couple?"

Pretty interesting situation—she's caring for her husband who believes he's having an affair. It seems like that would make Shulman uncomfortable, but she's actually happy that Jenn and her husband get along so well, since he's driven away other companions with his ornery behavior.

She ends the piece describing her search for a new companion (Jenn could only stay for the summer) as similar to searching for a new lover for her husband. "The magic of attraction that makes a couple click remains ultimately inexplicable, as I am well aware. But like anyone who places a personals ad, I remain ever hopeful that love may strike again."

If Shulman does find someone who clicks with her husband like Jenn did, he could spend the rest of his life believing he's having an affair. But would that be better than having an uncomfortable relationship with his companion? Perhaps so.