- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Could you provide some counseling for me and my ex-husband? We have three children together, and I made a life-changing decision that has messed up my happiness forever. I just didn’t know it at the time. I really want to try and make things right.

You see Ms. Vicki, I was an Army spouse and had been married for 12 years to my husband, who at the time was a sergeant first class. He since has been promoted to first sergeant.

In the early years of our marriage, I was the typical Army spouse. In other words, I lived and breathed the Army. I volunteered a lot in the Army community, spent time at my children’s school volunteering and hosted bake sales for my husband’s unit to raise money for unit functions. I helped anyone and everyone in his unit who had a problem. I was always there.

Now let me bring you to the present. My husband was stationed in the D.C. area. I had to go to work because we simply could not afford living here. I had to work to help pay our mortgage, our children’s needs and other household needs.

I had never worked before and did not know what it was like to be able to earn an income. For the first time in my life, I had a paycheck coming in my own name. I was on cloud nine.

My first job was at the Pentagon, where I was making $50,000 a year as a secretary. I was quickly given more responsibility because of my abilities and talents. My boss was very genuine and good to me. I was earning more than my husband and started to gain more independence.

As I look back on these events, I can see how the affair happened. I got caught up in the officers’ rank. They walk around the Pentagon like they have so much power and knowledge. I wanted to be part of it. I became sexually involved with a major. We fell deeply in love.

I was willing to give up everything to be with this man, even my family. I divorced my husband who was good to me and willingly gave him custody of our children. As I look at it, I know I was so crazy for doing this. I lost friends when I divorced my husband. Everyone tried to talk to me and tell me I was making a mistake. My God, I was married to a good man, we had a wonderful family and we had a good marriage. So, I divorced my husband and I married the major.

Unbeknownst to me, he was a major with no purpose. He had bad credit and was behind on his child support. No one in his family liked or respected him. The worst part is that he was passed over for lieutenant colonel. Yes, Ms. Vicki, my major was non-promotable. He was basically forced out of the Army!

I ended up taking care of him because he grew more and more depressed. I grew tired of this very quickly and wanted to get out. I won’t prolong this story, but I divorced him last August, and I really would like for my ex-husband - the best man I’ve ever known - to take me back. I would do anything to be his wife again. I am lonely and miserable without him and my family. I never stopped loving him.

I no longer work at the Pentagon, but I still work in Arlington. Do you provide counseling services? If not, could you refer me to someone who could? I would like for you to tell my ex-husband it’s normal for people to make bad decisions and give him reasons why we should try to make our marriage work again.

There is an old saying: “It’s better the second time around.” I believe this.

- Second Time Around

Dear Second Time,

I believe you are being honest about the mistake you made in leaving your first husband. You admitted you got caught up in rank and power. It’s sad you became so impulsive and left your husband of 12 years and your children. You found a great position, started earning a great salary and gave in to temptation and lust. Only it backfired: You had an affair with and married a man who was a major with zero character and a lot of other problems.

I get letters like yours every day. Maury Povich makes a living on paternity-test shows. I could make a living on people who think the grass is greener on the other side, only to find out it isn’t greener and is much harder to maintain.

I won’t belabor the point, but I hope you’ve learned some valuable lessons; there are many. Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. I hope you choose to do the latter.

You say you would like to establish another relationship with your first husband. I have to be honest with you. I think he should keep moving forward with his life. Now you want him back? Why? Does he have enough rank for you? Is he powerful enough? What is it? I would advise him not to consider another relationship with you, except one only for the sake of the children.

Regarding counseling, you should consider counseling for yourself right now, instead of counseling for you and your first husband. You are the one who needs to do a lot of self-exploration with the help of a counselor. Start with your health care plan and find out whether you have coverage to see a counselor. I really wish you well, and I hope you won’t have to relive this mistake every day for the rest of your life.

Reader responses to previous letters:

Generally, I think you give good advice, but not this time. I’m a former Army captain with traditional values. I have consistently taught my two sons that when anyone visits you, you’re a “host.” It’s not about you; it’s about making them feel welcome.

Yet the advice you gave to Wife Only Wants to Be Friends on April 23 was, essentially, “The mother and sisters didn’t do anything wrong. Hang out with your own family and don’t take it personally.” How do you “laugh off” valid concerns like this?

Per the following quote, I certainly would have taken it personally: “For example, when we visit my family, they never include my wife in outings or events with them and their friends. My wife is their age. My mother will even attend, often leaving my wife at home alone or with me to entertain her.”

Further, I would have made it much clearer to my family had they done this that it would not be tolerated and if it didn’t change, we wouldn’t be visiting. The actions of the mother and sisters were rude at best. I wouldn’t think of treating a friend like that, much less a family member.

Has our society really gotten to the point where we’ve forgotten how to treat guests? I’m very disappointed.

- TC

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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