This one's timely ...
Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm in my eighth year of marriage to a person who can best be described as an "attention ho." He's overly dramatic at the slightest thing (ever been around someone who shouts "O-M-G!" several times while they're at the computer or TV and gets you all riled up over what turns out to be nothing? That's him.), and is an excessive attention-seeker for the *hit* of validation it seems to give him. Of course, he's also extremely intelligent, charming, and witty, which was what attracted me to him initially.
I got past the OMG-stuff pretty quickly, but what's been a recurrent issue for us is that he's not only an attention-seeking beast, but has become addicted to social networking sites where he can impulsively post ad nauseum about every bit and burp in his day, all to the supposed glowing admiration (read: validation) of his Facebook friends, Twitter, and blog followers. Do you wonder how he might have so much time for this activity? He works from home, where his default position is in the easy chair in front of the TV, attached to his trusty laptop.
This is a second marriage for me (1st for him); I have an adult child from my first, long-term marriage, in which I had married young and felt the need to find validation for myself in the few years before meeting #2. I'll note also that I am a very independent person, not needy in any way, and he's pretty free and clear in being able to do whatever he wants (i.e.; watch TV and sports 24/7, go out with friends, which he rarely does because he's online so much, but you get the idea: I'm not holding him back).
Mind you, hubby number one was/is a terrific person that I left behind to "find myself", and any issues I thought were worth leaving him over now pale in comparison to what's become a living nightmare.
In the past few years there have been several instances of his using social networking to share private information, certainly in an attempt to buy some attention credits from his "friends," but unfortunately involving MY private info as well. An example: a few years ago I had started a new job and decided to give notice after just a few weeks in, realizing that it was a very bad fit: the next day I got an email link to hubby's blog, in which he had related the entire story to his numerous followers! It contained everything but the company name, which would have been easy to obtain. Since that time, he is not allowed to blog about anything regarding me unless I approve it first.
There have been other times in which he insulted dear friends of mine with what he had intended to be a witty comment on Facebook; I have since unfriended and now blocked him altogether.
The last straw:
I went to the ER in early November with chest pain, ended up there for over 8 hours and had numerous tests, after which I was sent to a cardiologist. On that long day in the hospital, I told him that only brother and my in-laws were to be told of this, since my elderly Mom has sleepless nights if she knows I have a hang-nail, and I didn't want any other friends to know/worry before we had more info. Fast forward a couple weeks and I’m now headed for a procedure, unsure of what the intervention will turn out to be, but sure that life changes from here on in.
Two weeks ago, I learned quite by accident that, on that long day in the ER, he had TWEETED every single test and diagnostic update to over 600 strangers!!!!!! I only found out because he had me reading something someone had written about him (of course) on his trusty laptop, and when I closed out the window, there was his Twitter-feed opened behind it, showing gazillions of people's tweets, his among them.
His response when confronted? "I was terrified! I had to tell "someone"!
As always, denial of any wrongdoing, then apologies and promises, promises, promises.
Counseling, anyone? Well, let's just say that, in the ten years we've been together there's already been more than enough counseling for him, us, and me, and it's basically a big money-suck at this point. He deleted his Twitter account (his choice), and I'm sure it's just killing him not to be sharing more of my info ... but wait ... how do I know he isn't?
So, here I am, ready for who-knows-what with my health, and filled with rage at this immature, impulsive, narcissistic creature. At this point, I've informed him that as soon as things are settled with me health-wise, he is SO outta here.
I guess I'm looking for someone to validate *me* at this point: after giving him numerous opportunities to get it right, why should I let him stay?
– Over-Exposed, Boston
A: OE, the Internet is addictive, just like anything else. He has an addiction. It sounds like narcissism more than loneliness. And yes, it’s weird.
But it’s common these days. Most people get sick of social networking sites after a while. There’s the initial interest – the rush of voyeurism -- but eventually it gets boring. After a few months, most people use the sites to get in touch and keep up. That’s what they were made for.
But for people who have long been looking for a good audience (your husband), these sites are like a microphone with no off button. You married an “attention-ho” and thought you could put up with him. Now you’re realizing that you have boundaries when it comes to his attention-seeking behavior. Have you spelled them out – as opposed to yelling at him about his stupid decisions? He may need a real list of what he is and isn’t allowed to do.
I’m not going to advocate divorce right now. Mainly because I don’t know enough – and because the reasons you hate him are tied to the reasons you love him. You love his cleverness; you hate the constant sharing. Imagine how Demi Moore feels.
My advice is to take the fate of the relationship off the table as you go through this health issue. Tell him that he should be there for you – and just you – or not at all during the process. It’s what you need to get better. Then get a backup team of friends who can stand by your side as you deal with the illness.
Once you get to the other side of it, you can see how he feels about these sites. Perhaps all of this has been a wake-up call. Maybe it will have gotten old. It might help if he talks to some of his friends (real friends, not Twitter friends) about the issue. For all you know, his followers are rolling their eyes as much as you are. Peers – as opposed to a romantic partner – often serve as a good reality check.
Try to relax so you can get healthy. Tell him to be there for you and talk to his friends. When you’re feeling good, revisit the issue. I’m validating you and then some. But you married the "ho" in question. Consider what that means, the positive and the negative.
Readers? Is there something worth saving here? Can he get over his social networking addiction? Is this about loneliness? What constitutes a social networking addiction? Share. Find me on Twitter here! Me! Me!
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.