The secret underworld

Joey tweets for you at @AskJoeyGarcia.
Got a problem? Write, email or leave a message for Joey at News & Review. Give your name, telephone number (for verification purposes only) and question—all correspondence will be kept strictly confidential.
Write Joey, 1124 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95815; call (916) 498-1234, ext. 3206; or email

My husband posted a profile on an online-dating site and identified himself as “separated.” One of my co-workers, a single woman, saw it and joked that there was a man online who was my husband’s twin. When I confronted my husband, he denied it. I started screaming because the photo he posted was from our vacation; he just cut me out of the picture. Finally, he admitted he’s thinking about a divorce and wanted to test the waters. He’s been on three coffee dates. I’m floored. Everything has been normal. We talk, parent together, vacation and have a good sex life. My head is spinning. I can’t sleep, I’ve lost 15 pounds and my hair is falling out. What should I do?

Take care of yourself. You need to marshal every internal resource available so you can transit this crisis. Your idyllic suburban life has suddenly collapsed to reveal a secret underworld that was in control all along. It’s a familiar plot: The National Security Agency and Edward Snowden. The U.S. Army and Pvt. Chelsea E. Manning. Weeds. The Wizard of Oz exposed as a small man behind an elaborate curtain. Awareness of the reality and regularity of betrayal, whether social or personal, doesn’t make it any less painful or shocking when it actually happens.

Secure the counsel of one or two reliable friends, plus a good psychotherapist and an excellent divorce attorney, in that order. Every time you feel the world crashing down on you because your husband posted a profile, stay grateful that the profile came to your attention. When you sink into grief at his betrayal, lift yourself up with gratitude for your ability to carry integrity into, through and out of this experience. Yes, I know that you screamed at him and probably wish now that you didn’t. Hey, we all lose it sometimes. Forgive yourself and focus on handling this situation with grace. If your husband refuses to join you for marriage counseling, exit the marriage immediately. You don’t want to end up on the wrong side of his secret life a second time.

My 5-year-old grandson cries and hits his mother when he does not get his way. My daughter always gives in. She feels guilty because the child’s father abandoned them and refuses contact. My grandson has one friend at school, a girl. No one wants to be around him because of his whining and crying. I’m a retired school employee and have seen the overbearing-mother issue from the other side. How can I get my daughter to understand she is harming my grandson in the long run?

Your daughter’s struggle stems from her inability to separate her grief over a failed relationship from her insecurity about being a single parent. She needs reassurance that relationships don’t always work out as expected. Her gift from that lost connection is a beautiful child. Her responsibility now is to grow into a woman who can parent a child, guide him through the thickets of adolescence and let go when he matures into a young adult. Talk to her about what you witnessed as a school employee. Offer advice that is on-point, like this: “I would like (the boy’s name here) to be able to play with other children. Let’s consciously model for him how to cooperate and be kind.” Then, get on the floor and play with him. When he acts out, reduce his access to things he enjoys. The most important thing, as I’m sure you can attest, is a parent’s follow-through with appropriate discipline. If your grandson misbehaves, and your daughter says he can’t play with his lightsaber (or whatever), she needs to hold firm. Otherwise, he learns quickly that there are no real adults at home.

Meditation of the Week

“[F]ame and wealth can buy everything—except class, grace, and sophistication,” said protocol expert Lisa Gache. And that's why athletes, musicians, actors and others in the spotlight are not your children's role models. Are you willing to be someone others can look up to and emulate?