Should I Stay Married for the Kids?


This question brings people to this blog from time to time: Should I stay married for the kids? They ask it of Google or Yahoo! or Bing and arrive here. It is a noble question, a sign of maturity even to ask it.
I was once one of those kids for whom a couple stayed married, so I can tell you there are some real plusses. We continued to be able to afford a house and a yard in a good school district, one that got me to MIT on scholarship. I have to say thanks for this.
I had two parents helping me the day I pulled off a really great sixteenth birthday picnic overlooking the Hudson River. When both parents showed up after my husband died, they arrived together and did not add the tension a couple of divorced parents might have. Again, so much better than I see in other families that split up.
However, I believe a lot of people who ask the question picture doing what my parents did, which is staying the course, a course that took an arduous route and offered little reward other than honoring their integrity and doing right by their children.
They paid a huge price for what they gave us. Worse, we could see the price they were paying and feel the tension between them every day. Growing up, I felt fortunate, but never comfortable.
And then I became one of those parents asking, “Should I stay married for our child?” Ann Landers offered the awful advice to add up the benefits and the costs and choose the better deal. The therapist I saw offered little hope of my situation changing; we cannot remold our spouses. But they missed the point entirely.
Stay married for yourself. Stay married for another shot at a great marriage with the person your kids call Mommy or Daddy. If you have been trying to change your spouse, give it up, because 90% of your experience of the marriage — unless it involves walking on eggshells to avoid threat of bodily or emotional harm — is taking place between your two ears, and you truly have the power to change it.
Divorce gets you from -5 to 0 on the life satisfaction scale. It gets your kids from maybe 2 (if they sense your unhappiness) to -8 and leaves them powerless to change any of it. Changing the way you see your marriage and your options and living your life differently as a result can take you from -5 to +8 in a year. And for your kids, your +8 is their +10.
If you’re at -5 right now, this next benefit might not yet be great news, but when your spouse finds himself or herself married to a +8 and raising +10 kids, his or her life satisfaction is going up, too, maybe even enough for you to feel yourself incredibly fortunate you didn’t leave before the second act.
Three things work for me to change everything:

  1. Assume Love – Take a second look at everything that upsets you about your mate’s words and deeds by asking what might explain them if you are still loved as much as ever by someone as wonderful as you first imagined.
  2. Expect Love – Everything you expect about what a spouse should do or how someone who loves you will act gets in the way of letting yourself be loved. An expectation is a premeditated resentment. If you have been waiting for your mate to fix your life, start fixing it yourself. Prepare to be surprised by the forms love takes when you stop trying to dictate what it should look like.
  3. Find Third Alternatives – When you disagree, let go of your first choice to free yourself to look together for an even better choice, one at least as good for you with the bonus of making your spouse happy, too. Never settle for being a doormat or for being right without being kind.

Afraid you might be putting on rose-colored glasses and changing nothing? Rose-colored glasses are actually part of most happy marriages. They change everything. Your kids want you to fall in love all over again with their other parent. Give it a try.
Tell me, did your parents stay married for the kids? Did they divorce? Did it affect the one you handled the rough spots in your own marriage?

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Thank you so much for these thoughts. I needed it right now. Just found your blog today.
    I love the idea that “An expectation is a premeditated resentment”; it has me thinking. On one hand I think it is a great idea, but on the other hand I feel that if we should “Never settle for being a doormat” then we have to have expectations and make them known. Maybe it’s a fine line.
    Thanks again for the post.

  • Never, ever be a doormat, Sarah. The difference between a doormat and a woman with an unmet expectation is a big one. This was a distinction I could not see in my first marriage, and it made me awfully unhappy. I am going to write a blog post right now for you and everyone else who fears it’s a fine line, because I want you to enjoy being married.

  • Thanks for a great article and website.
    I realize that a part of our problems in our marriage is because of my expectations of how a loving marriage should be. We have been to marriage conferences/retreats and what I have gotten is a dream about something better in our marriage than just being parents. Initially I put my expectations high about finding a way back to a romantic marriage, I called my parents and arranged with them to take care of our children over the weekend and book a hotel with a nice spa (that I know that my wife likes) anniversary. What surprised me was the reaction of my wife, she got furious about me planing something like this without asking her first and simply said that she was sick. As I had promised the children to go to their grandparents I still went there with them leaving my wife at home. After returning I discovered that she had been shopping the entire weekend and not rely been sick.
    Her expectations on me feels huge, she expects me to do a lot more than I possibly can handle and her standards for how it should be done are so high tat I rarely manage to do things good enough.
    As to not make things worse I decided not to mention my dream/expectation for our marriage and in one way it has lessened the friction but it also means that we get nowhere in our relation. We keep together for the children but are only parents and not lovers.
    I have tried to get her to read the book “Five love languages” together with me and it has helped me to understand her better but she has only read the first part and does not prioritize to read the second. She has clearly made a point of that her love language is “Acts of Service” and I have tried to do all I can to give her that but without seeing any result.
    The big question in my mind is how I could try to get her to change her expectations and try to see the things I try to do as a sign of love.
    She also puts really high expectations on her self and gets very frustrated when she cant fulfill them her self.

  • My parents stayed married for their kids and it was awful. I saw my mom be a doormat and my dad be continually contemptous and denigrating to her. He was emotionally abusive to us kids too (I’m guessing this is a not uncommon pattern). I grew up an insecure, fearful child. Now, as an adult, I’ve really had to work at not repeating either of my parent’s examples. The simple witnessing of an abusive relationship is damaging to a child. When my parents did get divorced, when I was in my 20’s, I said, “Thank God! Why didn’t you do it sooner?”

  • I am at a crossroad, at this very moment. Part of me feels shame, and being selfish. The other, wishes for freedom.
    I knew the very day I got married, that this wasn’t what I wanted. I had wanted to break things off, but the day I had planned to, I found my then girlfriend with child. Needless to say, my fear of becoming my sperm doner, got the best of me. My father wasn’t around, and I was not going to do the same.
    Fastfoward, we have been married 8 years now, and I have been trying to get out every since. We have done the counseling 3X, didn’t work. I have tried to leave sevetal times, twice she tried to kill herself. She’s never happy, a Debbie downer, about everything and has 0 patiece. Hence why I wanted to end it in the first place. And, you think I should stay?
    I love the kid, but not the mother. Our family backgrounds are night and day. Hers, filled with uneducated, beer drinking, sloppy drunks, mine some of yje best schools in the country, on to awseome carrers.
    Sometimes its good to split.

  • John, sometimes it IS good to split. I can not blame anyone for giving up on such a painful situation when they have been unsuccessful in changing it for so many years. You have endured a lot for your child.
    And yet, there is that shame, that sense of selfishness, and your love for this child who will no longer have any at-home supporter when the depression, the impatience, and the sloppy drunks are too much.
    So I offer you a small assignment, one I wish someone had given me when I reached that point of wanting out, despite the consequences. What will you do differently when you are free of your current circumstances? Write down everything you can think of. Take a few days to think of everything.
    Then, for this exercise, cross off the list any item that requires finding another partner. You should be left with a bunch of things like spending more time with your friends, getting in better shape, doing more things alone with your kid, going to more laugh-out-loud movies, taking up fly fishing, learning to dance, or visiting Romania.
    Now, take each item and figure out some way to do it (or start doing it) BEFORE you leave. This will work better if you do them without making it obvious you intend to leave, so don’t bother responding angrily to any objections you get from your wife. Give yourself three months of living your new life while still married.
    It just might change your life. At the very least, it will give your kid three months of a happy father before the divorce begins. It will help you sort out how much of your unhappiness comes from your dashed expectations of what your wife will add to it and how much from the limitations you have placed on it to avoid her negativity. It will give you a clearer picture of how easy or difficult the changes you look forward to will really be. And it will probably keep you from entering a rebound relationship or doing things you are not proud of to women who are nothing like your wife and not responsible for her actions.
    If it changes your view of your wife and makes you wonder if perhaps you two still have a future, despite her family background, please do contact me. I have lots of tools you can use to rebuild. But no, I am not telling you to stay, only offering help doing so if and when it seems like the right thing for you.

  • he is sneacky and dont tell the truth might be having some kind of reletionship with a family member . i feel sick to to my stomach

  • My husband of almost 18 years has been having am” emotional” affair with my sisternlaw. I just sprang it on me this week. He feels guilty and says he’s been unhappy for years. This has really come out of left field he says it’s not sexual I don’t really think believe him. But the distrust I have for him is killing me. we gave three great kids and I thought we had a good life together. I’m lost… 🙁

  • You do have a good life together. And three great kids. Don’t lose sight of this as you deal with the shock, Mel. If he gets past his guilt and unhappiness, and you get past your distrust, you will still have these things.
    Your distrust is normal and natural. It’s there to protect you. It can fool you, though. Don’t tell yourself that just because you distrust him, he did more than he’s telling you. Take your time to find out where things stand.
    Telling you means he’s ready for a change. People who are unhappy in their marriages do really stupid stuff. Some leave. Some throw themselves into work or a hobby that keeps them away from home a lot. Some find another person to tell them they are valuable and lovable.
    It sounds like you are married to the third type and in some danger of becoming the first. Don’t choose while you are still in shock. In that third group are some trying to secure the benefits of both relationships, which is what you fear. But lots of others in that group are hopeful that things will get better with time, if they can just get enough affirmation (or sex) outside the marriage to wait for a change in circumstances that will let them throw themselves back into the relationship. They want a good relationship with their spouse but lack the skills, so they try something stupid like this. And then, after they see it gets them nowhere good, they are ready to change.
    You are owed an apology and the truth, as well as plenty of time to rebuild your trust. Whether you stay or go, your husband will always be part of your life. You have children together. You have been together long enough that your life story will always include him. Your finances will likely involve him for the rest of your life.
    Eventually, you will have to choose to forgive him and get on with life, together or apart, or make him the central figure in your life as you refuse to forgive someone who will remain a key part of your life. As you picture your future, picture him forgiven in your mind, even though this is unlikely to happen right away.
    If you want a chance at a great life together, consider addressing the sources of his ongoing unhappiness. I am not suggesting you make the changes he imagines would make him happy. His expectations are probably as unreasonable as mine were 25 years ago.
    But hear them out. Treat them as a difference of opinion, one in which you two have been stuck for years thinking there are only two options. Go read the instructions from October 1 through 4 for finding Third Alternatives. I expect that addressing his list will address a lot of your list, too.
    And get help, people who can feel your pain without putting down the man with whom you have had 3 great kids and 18 good years. Check out the Beyond Affairs Network and the book After the Affair.
    I wish I could just give you a huge hug, Mel. This is a lot you are dealing with. I hope he intends to stay and has the character to regain your trust and your love.

  • i have been married 11 years-my husband is unhappy and wants out. he has wanted to leave me several times and i always cry and beg him to stay. The last time he moved out of our room and said he was going to tell our son-i have an illness and had a flare up at that time so he said he would wait for me to recover before leaving. i feel pathetic that my husband doesnt want me but i hate the thought of divorce. he flat out refuses any type of counseling or help for us.

  • I am so very sorry for your pain, Denise. Crying and begging might delay a divorce, but what might you do to enjoy what you have while you still have it? One of the fastest and most reliable routes to happiness turns out to be building your gratitude muscle. At the same time it improves your happiness, it also makes you a whole lot easier to fall back in love with.
    Try writing a letter to him (which you are free to share with him or not) in which you thank him for a few of the things your marriage to him has brought into your life and divorce will not take away. In my marriage, such a letter would thank my husband for teaching me to take another look at comedy and bring more laughter into my life when I am stressed. Because of him, when I start feeling critical of others, I will always remember his frequent reminders that there is a seat for every [butt] and that a world that would be perfect for me is not the same thing as a perfect world.
    If we had any kids together, I would certainly put them on my list, as well as everything they learned from him and all the time I got to spend with them because of his income. I will instead be grateful for the long-term influence of his love for my grandchildren from my first marriage on their development into great human beings. I will always know my mother’s life was extended and her self-esteem restored because of him.
    I would write the letter to remind myself that while there is a lot to lose if we divorce, there is a lot I will keep no matter what. I would write it to get better at feeling and expressing gratitude, even when there is lots to feel cheated by, too. And I would write it to give myself the gift of greater happiness and satisfaction with my life.
    And if the opportunity came to sit quietly with him, I might read it to him. I would surely weep as I read, but the tears would be tears of gratitude rather than tears of fear and rejection. And if my words or my tears somehow pierced the covering he has wrapped around his heart, I would hug him like there’s no tomorrow. And take the next week to write another letter just like this one.

  • Sigh… I’ll try keeping it brief. With no real friends to talk to I find myself landing on your blog as expected from your first sentence. Google, is it really my only friend?
    We are not married, but we have been together for almost 6 years. We wear wedding rings (real ones) and proclaim we are married but are saving the date for a better financial situation, or is that my excuse because I know it may not last forever?
    I saved my wife from a horrible abusive marriage which she birthed 2 children. The other guy is out of the picture as I helped her get rid of him and now for 90% of the kids lives I have been their dad. They are 7 and 8 now and I do love them but is it worth killing myself over?
    I have broken up with my wife many times but she is overly obsessive and a little crazy and would stalk me until I would finally cave in. Granted part of my weakness was due to her promises of the good life when we do get married and she gives her all to me.
    Skip past all the crazy history and lets move to the beginning of my full commitment. 2 years ago I decided to fully commit and had her move in with me and asked the kids to start calling me daddy. I have given my all and then some to be the best I can let myself be. We have had our bumps but I can honestly say there was a point in time where I was really happy.
    Fast forward to today.. We had her parents move in with us as they became homeless. This forced me to buy a house that was barely in my range so I can fit all 6 of us with out killing each other. She was at one point in school which gave me hope for a better financial future.
    Due to her parents ways she has now flunked out and basically spun our lives upside down. They have sense then moved out but left a trail of destruction in their path.
    I now find myself financially strapped and being the only one employed there is not much wiggle room. Then my sewer line broke and put me beyond my budget. I have expressed this to my wife multiple times but she continues to spend my money with out my permission and has put me a good grand in debt and unable to take care of finances and I am afraid of losing all that I have worked so hard to achieve. I explained about breaking my trust but that did not stop her and then I found out she also had begun stealing from stores to get her “shopping fix”.
    I now find myself very unhappy in most areas of my life. I no longer want the responsibility of taking care of someone else’s kids not my own. I want to get “fixed” as soon as possible so I never have to worry about having kids in my life. I am unhappy with my wife as I feel she has failed us by doing bad in school and ruining our financial future. She stays home all day but yet the house is always dirty, granted it is 2,500sqrft so its is work but she has all day to do it.. I don’t even want it spotless…
    She also has an issue with me, I cannot say they are bs reasons but with my lack of desire to have a relationship or kids I am sure it shows in my daily life now as I don’t help with the kids at all and I am pretty cold.
    I tried breaking it off with her and she has begun throwing the kids in my face and how i’m going to crush them. How now both their dads left and she will have to deal with them alone while they are having issue. Forgot to mention both of them have extreme ADHD issues and then some. So she throws in my face how I am going to ruin their life and so on.
    I am truly unhappy and just want to be left alone now. I don’t want a wife, I don’t want kids, I don’t want anyone else’s responsibilities.
    I am so lost and confused and I feel the only way to save myself is to release myself from this life so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.
    I don’t want to be stalked anymore or obsessed over.
    I want freedom to work on my career and myself and get back to what I was originally striving for.
    If I meet a beautiful women along the way who is without kids and working in a successful career I wouldn’t mind exploring another relationship but I feel all that I expected and hoped for in staying in this drawn out relationship has been lost and I now feel hopeless.
    This is affecting me at work and I can’t think the way I need to in order to perform my job which could then again mess my career up.
    …sigh. Will advise help? Probably not but maybe getting this off my chest will at least give me a few more weeks of peace in my mind.. Though at this moment I feel no sense of relief.
    Thank you for reading my rant I will check back to see what you have to say.

  • I am so sorry for your pain, Tony. Financial issues can make it so hard to even think straight about a relationship. They hurt, and it is so hard to feel loved when our partner seems to do nothing to fix the situation. We are often willing to abandon someone we love in hope of stopping the pain, but it only stops the pain of not being rescued. The financial issues remain. In fact, they often become greater for both of you.
    (1) Unless you live in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, or the District of Columbia, I expect you are legally free to walk out on the woman and the children you rescued from abuse. However, it sounds like you would love her again if you had no financial problems. The financial problems don’t go away if you stop loving her. When problems get big and we get too little support with them, it can feel like getting rid of our partner will stop the pain. It won’t. All it gets rid of is the love.
    (2) Her parents are gone. Whatever damage they did is in the past. Neither of you is stuck where you ended up while dealing with them.
    (3) You own a house you can barely afford when there are no emergencies like broken pipes, and emergencies always come with owning a house. This problem no longer has anything to do with your relationship with her, because you will still own it if you split up, but it gets in the way of enjoying her role in your life. You can sell it, rent it out and live somewhere less expensive, take in a boarder to help pay the bills, or take a second job to pay for it, whether she stays in your life or not. Taking care of it will free you up to enjoy her love for you.
    (4) You are in bad financial straits. If she were gone, you would still be in them. Don’t argue over housekeeping; it has no financial value to you. Do whatever you would do about it if she were gone, whether that is to do it yourself or to ignore the mess. If you were likely to pay for housekeeping without a wife, it would have real value to you. For now, it is a straw man dragged into your fights over whether she will help you out of your financial pain. It just gets in the way of enjoying the woman you love.
    (5) She does not work and has not continued the education she screwed up. As a single mom, she is in worse financial straits than you are and at grave risk. It sounds like she knows it, because she compulsively spends more of your money than the two of you can afford and resorts to shoplifting when she feels broke. Stop making the money available to her. You don’t need to break up to do this. You can protect her from abuse again, this time her self-abuse and the danger to her children if she gets sent to jail. Support her efforts to get an education or a job and perhaps counseling. Keep control over the money, not out of meanness, but out of love.
    I hope things get better for the two of you, and that you are able to honor your commitment with love, instead of all the current resentment. Please let us know how it turns out. I hope others will post more suggestions for rediscovering your love.

  • I think it’s good that you’re keeping it together. I know what it’s like to have your parents divorce. My dad wasn’t Mr. Wonderful, but I needed him in the same house. He had things to offer that I needed and each parent has things to offer that the other doesn’t. Besides that, the father usually ends up crowded out of the picture in some way or other whether or not this was intended. Also, if you’re divorced don’t remarry if you have kids.
    I’m married with a few kids myself and dealing with a difficult marriage myself. I’ve had time to reflect on the things I just told you. The whole thing isn’t about happiness the way modern society understands happiness, but there’s a satisfaction in doing what’s best for your kids.

  • Thank you for your feedback it is much appreciated. Here is an update.
    The morning after I sent the post in my wife “beat the crap out of me” (attacked me in the shower, slamming my glass shower door and punching it, opening it up and punching me) over me asking when the kids Holiday Lunch was going to be. We missed their Thanksgiving Lunch and I wanted to be there for them this time. She took it as I was trying to screw her over and play mind games with her since she just got into a verbal confrontation with their teacher.
    From that point I told her she needs to move out I am not going to be anyone’s punching bag. This is the 2nd time she has put her hands on me and I nearly killed her for doing it. Though being a man taught to never hit a lady all I could do was holder back and push her away the best I could. It took A LOT of self discipline not to defend myself. This scares me because I never want to hit her but for a moment I thought to myself life would be easier if I just knocked her out so she would leave me.
    A bunch more drama has gone on including her mom, aunt and cousin coming up and her mom being disrespectful to us. Which put her in a bad mood right before I had my company holiday party. Needless to say she ruined that for me, we stayed there for 30 minutes and had to leave because of the drama. It’s like I keep giving her “chances” and she keeps digging herself further down. That night was the last straw for me, I went out to the club just to get away from her. I was trying my best to find a friends house to crash at but unfortunately…. people seem to never be there when you need them.
    Since the weekend I had cut her off in a cold way. No more “I love you” or affection or touching at all. Then I made the mistake that I have so many times in the past and gave into my man urges.
    Since then we have had several conversations and it seems like things may be getting better but really.. it’s only be a few days. I made it very clear I can deal with a lot of things but screwing with my money is not one of them. I agree I shouldn’t let her have my card but unfortunately I work a lot and she always has the car so she has to get gas, buy food, and run other errands which makes it nearly impossible for me to cut the card off. Though I will admit she hasn’t been spending.
    We are basically on the edge and it can really fall either way at this moment. Because I love her I am giving it yet another chance but I also let her know we as a family need to start going to therapy. We are starting to get into really nasty fights and we never used too. The kids are being affected and I hate for them to see what’s going on with us and the oldest is starting to act out now.
    I pray this can work out in a peaceful way.
    Thank you for the feed back it helped, also thanks for giving me a place to talk as I lack that.
    Again thank you.

  • Tony, I hope you two can come back from the edge. Physical violence is never acceptable in any relationship, and I highly recommend Steven Stosny’s book Love Without Hurt (the paperback title) / You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore (the hardcover title) to anyone dealing with it in their marriage.
    When you feel yourself getting angry at her at other times, try to remember that you cannot save a marriage or your self-esteem by fighting with your spouse. Go for a walk or get some exercise until you are calm, because you CAN save a marriage by being calm and strong and willing to look for Third Alternatives to your disagreements.

  • Hey! I am really struggling and could use some advice. My husband and I have been married 7 years, and we have four small children. (yes, we’ve been busy.)
    I love my husband, he works hard for our family and he doesn’t deserve this, but I’m having a huge, very intrusive “crush” on another man. (I don’t talk to this guy outside group settings at all, so not an emotional affair, tho I can see how quickly it could slide downhill given half a chance.)
    This is causing me to resent everything about my husband, who is hardworking and faithful and who deserves better than this. He’s in therapy right now for depression, so maybe that is a part of it. He has been “down” for years now. I know I’m comparing the fantasy version of Crush-Boy to the warts’n’all version of my husband, but that does not make the crush go away.
    I guess I just miss feeling excited about life. Maybe that’s what this other guy represents to me.
    Anyway, help? We’ve been making an effort to get out alone a little more often, tho’ the sheer cost of babysitting four kids 6 and under is pretty prohibitive.
    His parents are still married, though they don’t seem like good marriage role models to me. His mom walks all over his mild-mannered dad in ways that seem really disrespectful to me, and they seem more like housemates bound by obligation and tradition than by love. So yeah, they are married but it’s hardly an inspiring example.
    My parents, OTOH, divorced when I was in my early 20s. My dad is apparantly happily remarried and my mom seems surprisingly content as a single woman. (they still hate each other tho, and I do *not* like my stepmother. The divorce was uuuugly. Right now the prospect of dealing with “blended family” drama is one of the main things keeping me out of trouble. lol)
    But… surely neither of those are good paths!

  • Your budding relationship with Crush-Boy rests entirely on your mental invention of who he is. You are pretty much guaranteed that hooking up with him will be a huge disappointment to both of you.
    It is also based on a mental invention of who you are. And it is a very, very familiar one to me, because my first husband was depressed for the last two years of our marriage. Instead of working on feeling excited about your life, you hand off this responsibility to him, knowing he cannot possibly handle it for you while depressed. Now you are free to invent a version of you that would be excited if only he were not bringing you down.
    I got to find out what happens next when my first husband died, and I share it with you. No one else, not Crush-Boy, not Super-New-Husband, not Exciting Single Friends, can restore your excitement with life. In fact, life as a single mom (and I had only one child, already 9 years old, to raise, a lot easier than what you are looking at) offers lots more challenges to restoring excitement.
    With every one of my needs that I dealt with after Husband #1 died, I had one of those “I could have had a V-8” moments. What if I had done this while there was still a good, hardworking, faithful man to love me? What if I had adjusted my schedule and budget to get out more often or to do less housework in my non-work hours? What if we could have gotten away for lunch together if I had just changed jobs or moved the office then as I had to when he was gone? What if I had taken up country dancing then and gotten all those endorphins from the exercise, made all those new friends who were so different from my work friends, even if he did not join me in learning to dance?
    Crush-Boy has no idea how to make your life more exciting in any permanent way, and he does not want your babysitting problems. Your husband will rejoice in your more exciting life and your ability to see his best qualities instead of reflecting your lacks onto him. He will be delighted to see your kids grown into great adults and will join you in dropping everything to help when one of them hits an obstacle on their way there.
    The best way to rid yourself of Crush-Boy ruining your good thing is to get to work today on a more exciting life for yourself. May I recommend and as two great places to begin?

  • I think you are right, that I am using him to build up an image of myself that’s not BORING. And I am boring, so boring I am boring myself just thinking about it.
    I know the Crush-Boy is not love, not least because imagining him as a stepfather to my kids makes me shudder. lol
    So yeah, I need to get a life. But how? You talk about taking 90 days and making radical changes to lifestyle, fulfilling dreams more-or-less as if you were already out the door, and I can appreciate that idea.
    but if not really single, don’t you have to explain yourself a little? Say I want 50 dollars a month to spend on, say, joining a club, or say I want an hour a week to spend at the gym, don’t I have to run that by my husband first? (I have no personal income. I’m an unemployed housewife.)

  • If you were single, would you have someone to watch the kids for an hour? Would you have $50 to give the gym? There is nothing magic about divorce. You have to make all the money both of you have stretch to cover everything it does now plus another home and extras of all the kids’ stuff. There will be nothing left over for gyms or school or new clothes or even dating.
    So get creative. Make up exercise routines that use the cans in your cupboards or the gear at your local playground. Do an exercise video while the kids color or nap. Invite friends to come over with their kids and learn line dancing with you.
    Take turns with your neighbors making dinner for three families instead of one. Use the time saved to make something you can sell if you need some more pocket cash.
    Do a progressive dinner for the kids, so all of them spend an hour at each house and the other two sets of parents can have a candlelight dinner alone.
    Ask your husband to go to the movies with you or take a walk with you. If he says no, ask if he would mind if you do it solo and leave the kids with him for a couple hours. You really might be surprised by the answer. Come home smiling and happy to see him, and you might be even more surprised when he invites you to take some time for yourself and offers you cash to do it.
    Like to paint? Try finger painting with the kids or make room in a top cabinet to keep your paints ready to use after they go to bed. Have a book you want to write? Dictate it into a recorder while you dust or do the dishes. Sorry you did not get to be a journalist? Get your kids to help you start interviewing people all over your town and post it on the internet for your neighbors.
    Ask your mother or your mother-in-law if she would visit for a week and give you three hours a day to get out and do your thing and make new friends, so that you can keep on doing your thing in your free moments after she leaves.
    If you run out of ways to be yourself without your husband’s permission, try the #IdeaParty run by @BarbaraSher on Twitter. Those folks absolutely love to help find a way around any obstacle to any dream. Just please don’t get stuck on the $50 or the babysitting or your husband’s lack of enthusiasm.

  • Hi Patty,
    I appreciate your blog. I am finding myself in a difficult situation.
    I am a young father, age 22. I met my wife as a freshman in college age 18. We were together for 6 months, and she was on birth control the entire time. One month she stopped taking birth control without telling me (I believe she actually did this on purpose) and voila she was pregnant. I forgave her for this, and took everything like a champ. I consider myself an extremely driven person and father, and do everything I can for my wife and child.
    Well…since she was pregnant, she pressured me to get married ASAP as her family is very baptist. So, I did what I felt was the right thing and we got married.
    I had doubts on my wedding day. You may ask, “there has got to be some reason you married her right, or why you two were together”.
    Sure…I guess, she was a girlfriend I had in college and I married her because she got pregnant. I did not love her when we married…I still dont know if I love her now.
    I have resentment everyday about being married, and feel incomplete with my wife. We are very different people.
    I am social, she wants to stay home. She doesn’t like my friends, and actually would prefer If I had none…She has no friends herself, I am her entire emotional supporting framework.
    OK, so I am unhappy, 22 (shes 27) and I dont know what to do. I start medical school in August which will basically consume my entire life, and any free time I have I will want to spend with my daughter. I dont want to leave the relationship in pursuit of another woman – this would only make things more complicated.
    I have talked about this with my wife, she had a nervous breakdown…
    Im lost. I have been trying to love my wife for 4 years now…ITS NOT POSSIBLE. The only reason Im staying in the relationship is for my daughter, whom I love dearly. Since my wife has a job (60K) a year, and Im still in school she has threatened to take 100% custody if I left her…she would probably win because I live in Florida.

  • Oh, Ben, what a tough situation! If only we could get you in front of college freshman to explain why we ought to get to know each other better before we start a sexual relationship.
    You haven’t said what you might have done to try to love your wife, but you will barely have time for a personal life while in medical school, and you will need all the cooperation and domestic tranquility you can possibly muster. Sounds to me like your very best option is to fall in love with your daughter’s mother.
    Let’s imagine this is an arranged marriage. You’ve been paired up with someone who holds some appeal (after all, you chose her as your girlfriend), earns a decent income, and holds a most important position, mother to your daughter.
    To grow up feeling the world’s a safe place, your daughter will want to know you understand and share her faith in and love for this woman. No matter how careful your wife might be in dating or mating (and we’ve seen she wasn’t all that careful at 23, just lucky), any other men who enter your daughter’s life increase her risk of sexual and physical abuse.
    So, arranged marriage. Millions of men manage to fall in love with the women their family chose for them. If you’re religious, you pray for it. But it also helps a lot to learn more about love. If you’re headed to medical school, I gather you’re pretty good at learning. It will take time to apply what you learn, but I promise you that your daughter will gain even more from every hour you spend loving her mother than from the hours you spend with her, especially before about her sixth birthday.
    Can’t give you much of a reading list in a comment, so I will promise to post one on Monday or Tuesday as my blog post of the day on I have been to the point of thinking I am not in love. It’s an awful place. But much of it is in your head and therefore under your control. It really is possible. It took losing my first husband (I became a widow at 34) to grasp this. I promise to point you to a bunch of resources on this blog and in the writings of those who study love and marriage. Give it one more try. There truly is nothing more important you could ever give your daughter.

  • Ben,
    Patty said most bluntly to me recently, “What kids care about is that you share in THEIR connection to the adults that matter so fiercely to them. They can’t stand for one parent to dislike the other. It’s freakishly important to them that the adults they love see what they see in the other adults they love.” I didn’t see that clearly until this past weekend.
    I saw HOW MUCH it really affects a child when the adults in their life come together with open hearts. I had dinner with my husband, his ex, the boy they raised for his first 5 years together, her two children from her current marriage and the kids grandparents.
    I would not have gone but the boy asked me to come. And Patty is right, he could give a rat’s ass about the relationships. He wanted to show off his mom to me, he wanted me to meet his siblings.
    How hard would it be to just experiment with the steps it would take to love this woman? You’re finding lots of reasons and using a lot of energy to hate her. And you know hating her is crushing your kid.
    It sounds like there are behaviors of hers that you don’t like. That’s not her, that’s her behaviors and if you apply some of the things in this Blog, like Assume Love…You just might find some. How crummy would that be to fall in love with the mother of your child?

  • Rachel, I love that you are so brave and willing to try new approaches to old problems. What a gift you gave this child in seeing the woman he wanted you to spend time with as his mother rather than your husband’s ex. I expect it also made her feel a lot more secure about the time he spends with you and your husband.
    And please excuse my delay in posting this. I was unable to use my regular computer and could not find any written copy of the password for my blog!

  • Hi I just came across this blog from searching in google..haha
    Well I am currently at a cross roads of trying to figure out whether to divorce or continue to stay in a marriage where we live like roomates. We have been married for 8 years now, and when we were dating i wanted to break up with him because i felt he was not my type, i wasn’t attracted to him physically, and i found him boring. Then my sister and best friend said i was being selfish and that he cared about me and looks weren’t everything and that i should give it some time. Well after 4 months of dating he gave his ring to me and said you are marrying me and i want you to meet my parents. At that point i felt obligated to tell my parents about him, and before i knew it we were setting a wedding date, and getting married. In the 1st year of marriage i thretened to leave a few times, and he would say, you made a commitment and now you have to stick to you. so i decided i should. I complained to him that our marriage was stale like his parents marriage. He would work late and long hours (they have a family business) and i would be busy studying and we barely spent time with each other, or had sex. he is also a home body, if ever we were invited to go anywhere, he would continuously ask if we had to go, and eventually i became like him, and stopped going placed, and became a home body like him. Then 4 years or so into our marriage (after graduating from school i worked with them in their business) i decided the next step was to have kids so we did, we now have an almost 3 year old and a 1 year old. When we planned to have kids i had to convince myself to have sex with him in order to have them. When we have sex i have to imagine other things, and fantisize etc. I have been home since we had our 1st child. And now we are at the point where i told him i was making a change, i began dressing up, trying to go out, at which point he began questioning me, and every time i want to go out for me he always gives me a guilt trip, but now i decided i would no longer live like room mates and that i want more. 8 years later we are now speaking of divorcing and going our own ways. He is willing to make it work and try to do what it takes, but i’m not sure if there is anything left in me to try. I keep trying to tell myself that it’s best for the kids, but then i ask myself what are we going to do later when the kids are gone? stay in a stale marriage. Its not only sex, but an attraction, excitement, fun of being with each other the love that is lacking. and i’m trying to figure out if it was never there, can it some how develop now?? I don’t know what to do. PLEASE help.

  • Patti,
    Thanks for the blog and place to share.
    After a 20 year marriage, house and 3 kids, 20 girl, 17 boy & 12 boy, I find myself on the backwash of an affair where I have fallen in love with another woman. My hopes and dreams are to be out of the marriage but…
    We have had a tumultuous marriage with many good times but a lot of pushing and shoving over the years. We both come from divorced homes, she- an only child, and me- 4 siblings. My family is fairly connected for the most part but the fall-out from my parents’ marriage and eventual divorce has been severe for us all. She is from another culture where extended family is very connected and while living in this country for the last 20 years when issues arose with my family she would confront for the sake of connecting, which has rarely worked as hoped. She is a type A personality, very driven and controlling. I’m an avoider, passive aggressive, wanting peace above anything. I grew up with a dominating, violent dad that finally left at age 14. I did not realize how much of me had been shut down over the course of our marriage. We would often argue over different approaches to church, child rearing, her need to go home often for vacation, our finances, my work or travel requirements, etc. It became worse when her mother moved in 12 years ago after her retirement so she could grow old with her only grandchildren. They are very close to the point I would call unhealthy but they are all each other has had for many years. They are best friends. I felt as though they ran the home and I was the meal ticket. I would often tell her “I hate my life.”
    I love being a dad more than anything in the world. Every day I attempt to be the dad I wish I had. The husband part has been very unfulfilling. I have retreated so much so that I do not know who I am. My wife has shown contempt for men in generally and me specifically. I do not feel understood or even safe to begin unwrapping all that has gone on in our marriage and the resentment that has grown over time. And at 50 years old I am questioning how long I can continue in this marriage. We have had much counseling over our 20 years, Bible studies, conferences, weekend retreats and countless books, that has done little to improve things before this affair became known. I have never been unfaithful before now but this woman drew me in with all the things that I felt I wasn’t getting at home. I moved out for a few months and have been back for almost 1 year. We have been in crisis mode since I have been back in the house with counseling and attempts at change but for me, it is too little too late. I wish to move over in a new direction. What thoughts might you share with me in my situation? I value any consideration and time you might give me. Thank you.

  • Rob, thanks for writing. The one thing I would caution you is that most folks who get involved in an affair are drawn to the things they are missing at home. Because they still have whatever works at home, they don’t notice they may simply be trading one set of needs for another. It is easy to compartmentalize your life during an affair, but not so easy after you are ready to rebuild a new life that can include your kids, your past, and the things you love other than being in love.
    If you love being a parent, you need to know how very difficult it is for anyone else to appreciate that role, even if they have kids of their own. Your relationship with your children is older and always will be older and better established than your relationship with any new partner. It takes a strong partner and a lot of Third Alternatives to integrate a new love into that very important part of your life. The odds are slim that your new love will ever see your children the way you see them or feel as comfortable around them and their children as you will.
    It may be too late for the two of you, but if you can find a few Third Alternatives and let go of a few expectations, you might find you can build something new and healthy together. You would spare your kids what both of you went through and give yourself a partner who shares your love of those kids.
    It sounds like you may need to find an alternate living arrangement for her mother, one that gives the two of you more privacy and more time together. If she has a well-connected extended family, there should be many options to explore there.
    Passive-aggressive is definitely not the road to peace-making. Finding Third Alternatives is. Please check the categories list on the right side of Assume Love for lots of posts about how to find them, whether you rebuild this marriage or head off in search of another.

  • Ok. I’ve NEVER done this (posted about my life) and am a little nervous. But, I’ve been reading the posts on here and although I can’t totally “buy it” right now, I kinda like the way you think and want to know your opinion. I hope my thoughts will make some sense to you while they sound CRAZY (’cause they are.) 🙂
    I am married with 2 kiddos. My husband and I have been married for almost 18 yrs. Most of those have been unfulfilling for both of us. I want to be close to the top of the priority list and have some fun. He wants a clean house and a decent meal occasionally. We both lose. 🙂 (BTW, I use humor for diffusion.)
    I lived for a long, long time (16 yrs.) wishing for and trying to propagate something more. I asked for dates and time alone. I planned a few including a couple of big trips and dragged him along. My efforts were not reciprocated and even when we were out, he wouldn’t even introduce me to people when he would see friends/coworkers, etc. I’ve always felt like he’s ashamed of me.
    I am trivial enough that it hurt(s) me that he can save for, plan for and execute a guy getaway whenever he wants, but can’t figure out how to plan to take me out to dinner or for a weekend away.
    He does 3-4 overnight or longer trips/yr with friends for his hobbies. I don’t do things like that with girls, ’cause I consider clothing, food, future expenses, etc. AND, all the girls I know are Mommies who don’t leave either.
    Over 2 yrs ago, I finally decided I’d had enough. I said the word – DIVORCE. I longed to be alone, untied and imagine him with the kids while I had some time to play at whatever struck me as fun.
    I COMPLETELY expected him to say, “Ok,” and look forward to it like I was. But, no!
    SHAZAM!!!!!! Changed man! Now, he’s all the things I requested for so long. Thoughtful, kind, helpful, understanding, loving, patient, forgiving, etc. Still, very few dates (that just ain’t gonna happen), but, overall, I don’t know another man who could match him.
    Problem is – I can’t seem to let go of this resentment and anger. I keep feeling like, “Really? I asked nicely and put up with crap and begged and cried and read every stinkin’ marriage book I could find, tried to change me, tried to cauterize my feelings, prayed to God on my face on the floor and all I really had to do was get ugly. I HATE that!!!!
    For years, I had friends tell me to tell him I want X and Y or I’m leaving and I would never do it ’cause I didn’t want to use that. I wanted to be loved of his own free will…..not out of demand.
    I’ve gotta get past this. Our children are suffering, he is suffering, I am unhappy and stinkin’ cryin’ right now just typing about it. I still want out. It all feels fake.
    How do I fix me to move on and appreciate what he is after I so deeply gave up so long ago?

  • Assume Love, Kelli. For the moment, let go of all you know and suspect about your husband. Assume you have been married to someone who loves you completely, is not at all ashamed of you. What might make such a man offer changes only when you threaten divorce?
    One possible explanation is that he truly had no clue how discontented you were until you spoke that word. This happens a lot, because men and women measure the quality of their relationships very differently.
    Another possible explanation is that he knew of your discontent but felt helpless in the face of it. When we feel helpless to change something, we keep pushing it down below priorities like making a living or sustaining relationships with friends that compensate somehow for what’s missing. No one likes feeling helpless, but few of us are taught the skills to strengthen a relationship with someone whose personality, strengths, and hormonal makeup (which affects what we seek from a relationship) differs from our own. When dealing with the problem becomes urgent, then we stretch ourselves to find a solution and let other priorities slide. People do this even when they truly love and want to stay with their partners.
    You do not need to buy into either of these explanations. You get to choose which explanation you believe. But now that you know how someone who truly loves you might wait for a threat of divorce to take action, you must choose whether to risk walking away from real, long-term love to hang onto your explanation, which makes you feel unloved, or to let yourself feel loved.
    It is quite scary to let yourself feel loved. You might be wrong or things might change, and your guard would be down after 18 years of keeping it up. All I can say, from my experience, is that you can rebuild from a sudden, devastating loss of love, while you can never actually protect yourself by keeping your guard up, because it keeps out too much of the love you are offered.

  • Thank you for having such a blog. I have never posted this before and this might be my one and only time that I do, because I just want to know what others are feeling out there in similar situations. First off, I wish none of us were in this situation, its depressing, sad, and painful. I think at the end of the day we all want to be loved, cared about, and to feel alive. I am a man in my thirties, married for about a decade with two kids…Love my wife just because she’s the mother of my kids, but not sure if for the person she is…Years and years have gone by where, she is no longer interested in my physically. Sometimes I think back, the most physical contact me had was during the times we wanted to have kids, or she wanted to have them… I tired going to the gym, running, swimming, to change my appearance, but still no attention. It has come to a point in time, where nota day goes by where she is angry at me for what sometimes the honest truth, I have no idea. I work about 10 hours a day, come home just to play with my kids for about 30mins, and we all sit and have dinner. I feed one or both kids (as I choose to, my quality time with them) and talk about topics with my wife…after high school she lost all of her friends, her parents made her feel guilty for going out, since her older sibling was going through hard times. Even in those times, I put my friends on the back burner and was by her side. Today she has no friends, just a few on facebook, never goes out, because she feel obligated to take care of both of our kids since she’s at home. T
    Today I do not think we love each other, but are together because of the kids and because of our families. You know even after a decade of being married, I have never called her a bad name. But the bad names are always said to me ever other day. For the reasons, I can go into some other time. My reason for still staying married is for my kids. And I am not sure I would turn away and ask for a divorce, since I would never ever want my kids to feel what I did.
    I am a type of person that some might think is weak or a “punk”. I don’t know how to change, or be stronger mentally or physically. All of this for me started when my own parents went through a divorce that hurt me harder than I ever thought. I lost my identity. I lost my fire about life, friends, college, food, etc..What I felt at that stage in my life, I swore if I ever had kids, that I would never ever put my kids in that situation. I looked up into the sky and swore to God that I would forfeit my own happiness just to know my kids would never ever feel the pain that I did and do today.
    Days go by, for the past few years, I sit in my car and just talk to myself, ask myself questions of why or who do I change, what do I have to do differently. I look online for help. Sometimes all I want is just a big hug to say things will be ok. I try to bribe my kids for hugs, which has been helping greatly. =) The joys of my life.
    She’s a great mother, but not sure about a wife. I am not perfect and I sure I have more flaws then her. But for the past few years, coming home, never acknowledge the physically aspect of our marriage, how was your day honey, good job, or lets do something, just don’t come by anymore….I think we are great parents, but a couple I think we’re on the verge of failing. I don’t want to, she’s my first in everything. Someone I want to grow old with. But I cant stop feeling what I feeling. I love her from head to toe. But when you don’t feel that back, what do you do. I stopped working out, starting eating fastfood (not over weight), but I’m so out of it, my close friends and other family members are shunning themselves fro me. If anyone out there can help, please do. I have spoken about this to a close friend I have and gotten great advice. Any comments, good or bad would be greatly appreciated.

  • Anger kills libido, Nick. No amount of appearance improvement will change that.
    If your wife feels angry, your best remedy is to start looking for Third Alternatives together. At first, she may feel distrustful of your attempts, just because it is hard to believe in Third Alternatives until you see a few of them. So be sure you jump the net first: tell her you truly want her to have what she desires. Know that you can find ways to give these things to her other than the ways she’s imagined so far.
    If you are feeling depressed, deal with it. See your doctor, start exercising daily, eat better, avoid alcohol and other downers. You cannot help her start to love life again until you do.
    If she does not have friends because she feels she must stay home with the kids, help her find acceptable ways to get the care she feels the kids need while she’s out (or the two of you are out together). Or help her find ways to make new friends or spend time with old friends with kids in tow. Perhaps you could organize a barbecue at your house, where you handle the cooking and organize a few activities with all the kids, giving your wife and her female friends a chance to schmooze while they eat.
    It is likely to be difficult for her to resume old friendships after letting them slide. Right now, you want her to have friends. She says she wants to do right by the kids. You must include this in the specs for your Third Alternatives, but when you hear hesitation to be seen by her friends again, ask for what else she would need to feel comfortable with them (or to get out and meet new ones), instead of getting annoyed by her foot-dragging.
    Then brainstorm! Get creative. Go a little crazy in rattling off possibilities, just to shake the cobwebs from your brains. Maybe you will even find yourselves laughing together. Laughter is a great anger-ender.
    Do you know her Love Language (from Gary Chapman’s bestseller, The 5 Love Languages)? Give her what she’s looking for in small doses every single day for a month, whether it’s affirming words (spoken, love letters, or notes stuck where she will find them during her day) or gifts, acts of service, or quality time together. We know your Love Language is physical touch, and look how much it drives you crazy to do without it! She is surely missing hers, too.
    As you lead her back to a physical relationship, watch out for all-or-nothing behavior. She needs to know it’s OK to kiss or hug you even when she’s not in the mood for sex, because she won’t likely get into the mood for sex until she’s comfortable kissing and hugging you again. Make sure she doesn’t have to reject you or have sex she doesn’t want after every physical touch. Ask sometimes but not always.
    Let us know how the two of you make out. You are in a spot very familiar to a lot of couples with kids who have been married for 7 years or longer. It does get better in most cases. I hope yours will be one of them.

  • I was with my son’s father for 11 years before we broke up 8 years ago, we have a 5 year old son together who we both adore, and my son adores his dad as he does me. I had been very unhappy for about 2 years before I finally gathered up the courage to leave him. I just fell out of love with him over time because he had cheated on me a few times and I still stayed with him, he also constantly pushed me away, wasn’t affectionate, we never did anything together because he was never interested in doing much with me as a couple. When my son was born we fought a lot over disagreements on parenting which made the household become very tension-filled. Well long story short since he moved out 8 months ago he has constantly tried to win me back, I know he still loves me and of course now he regrets everything he did in the past. Deep down inside I could do without him because I simply do not love him anymore but my son’s feelings toward this is killing me. He wants his daddy to come back home. I am having a really hard time deciding if I should let him come back for the sake of my son. I feel sellfish in not wanting him back and my son’s happiness is really important to me but then again so is my happiness. Im really confused…..

  • Brenda, I am so sorry for the circumstances in which you now find yourself. Your son loves the two of you. What he seeks, as all children seek, is not for the two of you to live together but for you to love each other.
    I think it would be marvelous to give him what he seeks. It will provide him with strength and stability and a great foundation for his own relationships. But he will know even faster than you do if you’re faking it.
    Another breakup would be tough on him. He is way too young to understand how difficult it is for you to forgive and to trust again after being cheated on and pushed away. But that difficult route is the only one to what he seeks from the two of you. You might want to travel most of that journey while still living apart, to protect him.
    Be honest about what you need in order to fall in love again, and be open to receiving what’s offered, even when it is not what you expected. You have many years ahead of you as the joint parents of this child. You can afford to invest one or two of them in seeing whether enough has changed to gradually fall in love again.
    Many of us are in a hurry to move on, to find someone else more like what we expected in a mate. But you will never find another man who shares your depth of love of this child, and you will never be able to really enjoy any other interests with your child pushed to the side. That counts for a lot.
    But no one should expect you to find your way back to loving his dad overnight. Give it time and your sincere best effort as a gift to your child and yourself.

  • Thank You so much… your advice really means a lot and has opened my eyes to the important things in my situation.

  • Yes, but how do I stay? How do I get through day to day with his apathy or distaste with me?
    Married 14 years, highschool sweethearts. Together 8 years before marriage. Two girls 7 and 10. His parents divorced at 10, mine are still together but my father is a burden on my mother who claims she loves him still.
    My husband can’t stand it that I don’t know what he is thinking. Says I’m not his soulmate. Says we are functional, he loves me, but does not have that magical love for me. But, he says, things change.
    He also does not trust that I could ever take care of the children on my own if something happened to him. Does not trust my judgement. He does not have respect for how I live my life.
    He had gastric sleeve surgery and went from 375 to 225. He looks great and things are usually great/good between us. Great sex life usually.
    He started drinking about 5 months after surgery in 2010. He finished a whole bottle of premade margarita last night.
    I’m devastated. We will not divorce until the kids move out. So I have to live with him.

  • How do I stay is a great question. You stay by falling in love with him again, especially if you are staying to do right by your children.
    How do you fall in love again? Start with what you have both already noticed: things change. This means you are falling in love with someone new, and you are doing it as someone new. Not all the changes were for the worse. Look closely for the things you could love about this man who is the only father your girls will ever have. They love him. Look through their eyes. What makes them proud to be his girls? What about them makes them feel safe?
    So he doesn’t trust you to care for the girls if he dies. Until that happens, it’s irrelevant. After it happens, you will do what you must do. (I became a widow and single mom when my son was nine, and I have met other young widows. You do whatever it takes. And it takes a lot.)
    You say things are usually great or good between you and you usually have a great sex life. Start there. Make the good better. When you feel disrespected by him, make physical contact before you say or do anything. Then start looking for Third Alternatives. Jump the net and tell him you want to find a way to get what you need from life and still keep his respect. This means you don’t do things his way or your way. You listen with love to *why* you each choose your way. There is a good chance you do not disagree about the ends, only about the means. Brainstorm a way to achieve the ends each of you seeks by finding some other means.
    And if you cannot agree, do what feels right to you, but do it with empathy for his discomfort.
    That magical love is not so magical. It comes, I believe, from being loving toward someone you believe loves you. If you wait for the feeling to return before you start showing love again, it is unlikely to come. But when you prime the pump, the love flows again. You can prime it by expressing gratitude for the ways you are loved, even if they do not include some others you might like. You can also prime it by offering love, even when you’re not sure he deserves it, and doing it in the ways he is most likely to notice.
    Heavy drinking is not a sign you are unloved. It is more likely a sign he is unhappy. You have already pinpointed two likely causes. The first is his weight and what changing it did or did not do for him.
    The second is that he wants to feel more understood (know what he’s thinking) and in tune (soulmates). And he’s stuck, wanting to stay (for his daughters, he will say, but also because he’s still with his high school sweetheart) but not daring believe it is possible to feel more understood or in tune, because he thinks he already knows who you are and all you can become. He’s wrong. He never saw a couple he cared about get through their slump, but most do. And he has not yet seen all you are capable of.

  • I don’t know if I was looking for the article I wanted to read, or if you wrote I article I needed to find. Either way, your post really made a difference today, and helped me setting the course going forward.
    For that, I deeply thank you.

  • Thank you so much for your response. We came together better, my husband regretting how he brought things up about no magical love. But it was because I pulled away, as I do to protect myself. As soon as I let him back in a little, he was distant again. We’ve been planning his vasectomy for a while and it’s tomorrow. I will be there with him, but only as a chauffeur
    I no longer trust him, or his love for me. He took everything back except that he feels distance between us. Apologized, does not know why he talks himself into these corners. This is a repeat pattern for us, in different ways, but always his dissatisfaction.
    He has stopped drinking a lot in the
    past week. Only a couple beers. Very careful and open about it. Not even tipsy. Hope it lasts.
    I don’t want to open myself up yet again to his disappointment. It’s still day to day.
    I’m so grateful to have an outlet to talk about it. I am too embarrassed to share with my friends. I mean, how many times do u ride a rollercoaster that hurts until u realize it’s the same ride and get off?

  • So, how is pulling away working as a way to protect yourself?
    Your husband recognizes the distance you keep putting between the two of you, so it’s not as if, on the next try, your message might suddenly get through. He gets it, but it seems he doesn’t know what to do about it, so he adds to the distance with hurtful words intended to protect himself.
    Vasectomies are no small matter for men or marriages. Your roller coaster will be pulling out of the station again shortly.
    Why not lean in instead of pulling away this time? If you need to protect yourself, set a time limit on leaning in, like 6 weeks. Then don’t let yourself pull away before then. Time’s up right away, of course, in the event of any violent or threatening behavior, but otherwise, do your best to stay in and present and enjoy the ride. It might be the best one yet.

  • I’ve been married for 13 years, and for the last three, things have been very difficult. We have a son who is 8 years old. Our journey together hasn’t been an easy one. Im not even sure where to begin but due to some really stressful work situations and a lawsuit in which my husband is involved in, our family has suffered a great deal.
    My husband is never around. I am raising our son alone and many times my son tells me “where is dad etc…I often have to make things up like “he’s working late tonight…” but I know that isn’t necessarily true. He works late hours but when I’ve driven by (out of suspicion) his office, he is not there. I know he enjoys playing “poker” but now he’s doing that almost every weekend. At first, I thought maybe that was his outlet–and I thought I was being a good wife by letting him go out and do his thing. But over time our boundaries were diminishing to the point where last week he didn’t call me at all and never came home to sleep 5 our of 7 nights! No phone calls or explanations. I am having such a hard time rationalizing all of this. I feel sorry for him because of all that he’s going through with work but at the same time I am resentful and hurt that he’s decided to deal with his pain by leaving me behind in our marriage and raise our son on my own. I’ve tried on several occasions to tell him we need to work this out. I’ve told him how unhappy I feel and I’ve cried out to him and told him that I feel he has “checked out” of this marriage already. He responds by telling me that I have chosen to deal with our stressful situation by running to my family. I have “chosen” to spend time with my parents and siblings to fill the absence I am feeling at home…I often spend Fridays and Sundays there but have always told him he should join us. He always makes excuses and never wants to come.
    Our sex life is non existent and hasn’t been for some time. Over two years. I am ashamed and hurt. I know that he might be suffering from depression or stress from this work situation so I do not press this issue. I too haven’t been in the mood so I don’t necessarily blame him as much as I am curious and suspicious. It just doesn’t make sense that he’s out “working” till 2 am every night! I definitely have trust issues and wonder if he’s looked elsewhere.
    I really need clarity on this. I told him this past weekend that we need to either work on this marriage and I need to see changes like him not coming home late etc…or we need to make a decision to separate. He didn’t fight me on this too much but said maybe we should make small adjustments to our marriage and see if that helps. He then went out AGAIN and didn’t’ come home till late but told me that he needed to clear his mind…he makes me feel guilty for confronting him on his behaviour but I’ve told him that he’s pushing me into a corner. He cannot do the things he’s doing and expect that I just sit back (which is what I’ve been doing for the past few years). Honestly if it wasn’t for my son, Im not sure if I would be here in this marriage but I am heartbroken. I came from a home where my parents are still happily married — to think that my son won’t be getting that breaks my heart. But at the same time I am scared to keep going on like this and passing up the chance to be happy! I don’t want to look back at my life and say “what if”…I feel that it’s not fair that I am the one who has to make this life altering decision for our family and not him. I am the one who is here and has stood by him…he’s the one who is running away from home and our problems.
    Any advice would be appreciated especially where my son is concerned.

  • It’s a wonderful thing to want an unbroken marriage for your son. But I don’t think we do our kids any favors by just sticking it out, unhappy.
    Both you and your husband are into the “don’t do’s” right now: don’t stay away from home, whether it’s at “the office” or with your family. You won’t fall back in love by constraining each other’s behavior. What do you both enjoy doing, and how soon can you do it together, just the two of you or maybe you two and your son?
    Your husband, just because he’s got male hormones, is likely very sensitive to criticism from you and to rejection by you. You, just because you’ve got female hormones, are likely very sensitive to feeling abandoned by him. When you fear it’s over, watch that you don’t react with rejection or criticism. Until you’re ready for it to be over, try to react with gratitude for whatever is good about him, whatever makes you hope it’s not over. It may stop the cycle of pushing each other away.

  • I am so glad that I found your sight and can’t thank you enough for letting people get their feelings out and actually responding to them.
    My story is this…I fell madly in love with a man ( I will call D from here on out ) when I was just 17. We lived together briefly and loved hard like nothing else I had ever felt.
    We separated for what we thought would be a brief time ; he moved home to Michigan ( we lived in Florida) to start school and live with his father, I joined the army signed up for 3 years to grow up a bit and help pay for schooling. We had all intention as soon as I was stationed somewhere he would join me and we would marry.
    Just before basic training graduation my step father committed suicide; he shot himself at home in front of my mother. I got a hardship discharge from the Army and went and lived with my mother to get her through a very difficult time. D was dealing with his own emotional trauma as his father was very abusive to him and basically just used him to take care of his business. We were both dealing with difficult family issues and demands. We communicated less and less until it seemed as if he had completely forgotten about me and the love that I thought was so dear and special.
    Fast forward 6 months… met a great guy through my sisters work ( I will call him E ) He was smart , funny and we had a lot in common. Our first date was in May … he was at the house ( my mom’s house) all the time . One day while watching TV we were talking about him needing to find a new place to live .. his lease was up … my mom says .. why don’t you just move in here … you are here all the time .. Cheap rent ect.. ect… Well he moved in 4th of July weekend after just dating 6 weeks. A was not sure how I felt about that but.. went along with it (I was not even sure that I loved him).
    We became engaged in Oct and married a year and a half later. All along I was not sure if I loved him the way I should love the man I was going to marry….. and never had the love or feelings for him that I did for D. The day I walked down the isle I new I was making a mistake and the D should be down at the end of the isle waiting for me. But all the hoopla of a big wedding … I could have never called it off.
    So we married, had comfortable life ….. bought a house, had three kids, enjoyed great vacations lived comfortable ……. all while I was still missing D ….
    I did what I thought I should do .. be a good wife.. give him children.. be a great mom… take care of everyone and always be the family rock.. the emotional level headed one that everyone came to for advise, All while I was falling apart inside and living a lie.
    Then thanks to technology I find my self searching out for D on the computer.
    Found him .. emailed him… thought I would be just glad to know he was alive and well.
    I am at this point I am in a loveless marriage of 21 years and have three children 17,13 and 11. D is not married but has been engaged for 8 years. we live about 3 1/2 hours apart.
    The immediate connection we had was like we had never been apart. The first time he hugged me.. I felt as if I was finally home after all these years . It was now 24 + years since we had seen each other and we both find ourselves falling for each other hard and fast. 10 days after our first email he drove to meet me. We spent the day sitting at the beach talking about our lives.. where we are and how we got there, And how we never stopped loving each other. The love we have is like nothing else I have ever felt or experienced. I have never loved anyone or felt this happy with anyone ever sadly, including my husband E. That initial meeting was one year ago. Since then, he has left his house (his ex-fiancé is still living in it and he is still paying for it do to be upside down) moved 5 minutes from me to an apartment; which is tough for him after leaving a 4000 sq ft house. he still has the same job… he commutes and travels M – F and we see each other on the weekends
    I have told my husband and confessed to him everything. his family and my family know that I am in love with D and want to spend my life with him. My husband is crushed had no idea I had been unhappy for so long or that I still loved D all of these years. He has kept this a secret from our children as I feel like such a failure as a mother and wife but can not imagine living another day with out D in my life.
    I never thought my children would have to deal with divorce. They are our number one priority everyone’s D. E and mine. I know I have failed as a mother and wife and have caused so much pain and hurt. This was never me.. I am the one that always made everyone happy.. I am a nurse .. it is my nature to take care of people.. not hurt them and destroy them like I am doing.
    I moved out of the house 3 weeks ago and am renting a villa less than a mile a way … I have the kids over here but they have yet to spend one night .. i am still trying to make it a home for them. I am with them off and on everyday, I work the midnight shift 11p-7a so they really don’t miss me being there at night.
    I had to move out…. My husband has been amazing through this whole thing and is not mean or hateful. Not sure I ever deserved such a man. The love that D and I share is the most amazing love but it is at the expense of my family. I can not image not being with D ever again… I lost him once, I can not let it happen again. For the first time in 25 years I am happy again. So here I am feeling as if I have abandoned my kids, left a beautiful house and a good man that was not abusive,….. all for my selfish love for D. Not sure what to do I love D so much and am not sure that I could live without him. Please help me.

  • I am so sorry for what has happened to you, Sue. It sounds like a very, very difficult situation. It’s sad D stopped communicating with you all those years ago. That must have hurt!
    It’s sad you never chose to show your husband the intense love you now show D, sad for him, sad for you, and especially sad for your children who have grown up thinking love is pale and bland when you know otherwise.
    It’s sad you are entering your new relationship with D saddled with the costs of an apartment, an upside down mortgage on a house you two can never live in, and your legal obligation to share the cost of the home your children live in. It’s especially sad this looks to you like D giving them number one priority.
    It’s sad you don’t see his eight-year, live-in “engagement” as a repeat of his lack of commitment to you 24 years ago. It’s sad you are weighing only two possibilities, life with him and life with your husband, because on the face of things it looks like life without either of them is a very real possibility.
    That can’t-live-without-each-other feeling is such a wonderful one. It’s the same one every child is born with, which makes it feel a lot like rebirth when it hits–or when it’s carefully cultivated to add strength and shape and permanence to a family.
    I am so sorry for your very difficult choice, Sue. Some people in this situation must follow their heart and divorce. Others learn from the reminder of what love they are capable of and start over at home. Only you can choose between these. Just please don’t choose that awful third choice of returning, unhappily and resentfully, to the half-hearted marriage you had for all those years while you waited for E to be D.

  • I have only talked to one other person about this and I just want the opinion of an outsider. I have been married for 4 1/2 years now. Happily as I can remember. We now have a baby almost 9 months old.
    When unexpectedly coming down for a drink just after I went upstairs, I came down to him setting up a time to meet with a woman on his lunch break. A lunch break that he “never has time for with such a busy work schedule”. He of course tried to lie to me, like I had imagined what I heard. Then he says that it was just about making the call and not actually going. Of course after much prying he does meet with women he finds online about every 2-3 weeks. For who knows how long, years from my understanding. Of course this makes me feel completely disgusted with him and in an instant I have lost all good feelings for him.
    I was 100% set on leaving him (kicking him out). Completely set on the idea. Why would I stay with a man that I can never trust again?
    Well, needless to say, I am still here. For 2 reasons I believe. Not for any hope I hold I can ever trust or feel the way I did before. But for the following:
    1. I dont want to be alone. Not only do I not want to, but I am not sure that I can do it on my own. I certainly cant afford the life we have built together. As much as he says he will continue to pay for the house and help in everyway for our baby and I to keep what we have. I know things like that dont last and I simply could not keep 1/2 off the life we have built, at least not without finding a new job or another. I have a very strained relationship with my own family, which limits my options tremendously. Him and his family have become everything I rely on. I sit around looking at everything we have and cry because I know I cant do it. Or at least not without a struggle and hardship. How am I suppose to raise and provide for a 9 month old all on my own?
    2. Our baby. I dont want to affect his life in anyway because of this. I dont want to take him away from his father or any of things we have been able to provide for him. But at the same time staying in a relationship that may not be good, could also be a bad thing. I try my best not to become my parents, but they always “stayed together for the kids”. And I tell you now, they are about the worst example of that kind of marriage.
    I cant even remember where I am in this now, but I did finally talk to a friend. My own personal friend who I assume is on my side. She feels there is hope for me to trust him again but I just dont see it. At the same time though, she feels that if she were in my position and sent him away, she would miss him in 6 months and ask him to come home. Then what a waste of time and effort for everyone in my opinion.
    Now…he tells me that it is nothing to do with me. That he has “a problem” that needs professional help. So far he has looked into meetings that he plans on attending in a couple days. Mind you, this all just happened 5 days ago.
    Even if I dont get a reply, I needed to get all this out of my head. As right now I am sitting in the dark of my living room, because when I lay and try to sleep all I can think of is exactly what he was doing. Questions just go back and forth in my mind. Questions that I really dont want the answers too, but wont go away. I already wish I didnt know, just so my life would be back to normal.

  • I am so sorry for your pain, Confused Mommy. I think I’ve said this a few times, but I will repeat it. You offer your child very little by staying together, as you have personally seen in your own family. What your child wants is for you to love or at least respect his or her other parent.
    If you walk out now, there is not much chance of that happening.
    Your distrust and disgust are natural. So is confused sexuality for your husband during your pregnancy and care of an infant. You have changed. Your appearance changed. Your body and how it works changed. Your role in life changed. Husbands must figure out what to make of all these changes, and some do so by cheating. It’s a monumentally stupid way to deal with the changes, but we all have our stupid moments, some bigger than others.
    Here’s what we know:
    1. If it’s first-pregnancy-related, you may already be out of the woods and on your way to a healthier relationship.
    2. It is possible to regain trust, to forgive, and to fall madly in love with your man again. Check out the Beyond Affairs Network at and Janis Spring’s book, After the Affair, for plenty of good advice.
    3. It is possible to beat a sex addiction if he really has one. And when a spouse has an addiction, you are the only one who can protect you and the relationship from it until your spouse finds a treatment that works for him. And you can set those boundaries with love. You don’t need to stay angry to protect yourself. You might find Dr. Steven Stosny’s Emotional Healing webinar series, which begins on September 8, 2012, helpful for this. Here’s the announcement
    I hope that you find your way back to those good feelings and a loving relationship in which to raise that little one.

  • Thank you for your reply. I guess one thing I forgot to mention is we had a very brief moment of this about 3 years ago. It had only happened 1-2 times. Unfortunately, I guess partly my own fault, I didnt address the problem at the time. Perhaps that is the reason it frustrates me that much more this time. Disappointed in myself for not dealing with it properly then. But that I understand.
    I have read some of your other posts about affects on children and I have learned a great deal. If we can work through this, even if I still have those feelings of mistrust, I will try my best to be a good example for my child in our relationship.
    I honestly believe he has an addiction and I guess I will never be able to see it from his point on how he allows that to happen.
    Thanks for your insight. I will try to take it one day at a time.

  • One day at a time is good. And when you are dealing with any addiction, a group like Al-Anon can help you manage your end of the journey back to a healthy marriage. None of us are born knowing how to deal with addiction or how to avoid getting sucked into one. But we can learn.
    Addiction means your husband will need to work much harder than most of us to be the man he vowed to be. It also means you will need to be much firmer than the rest of us about what you can and cannot deal with. Part of this might mean developing skills and maintaining contacts that will let you support yourself and your child if you ever need to separate. I hope it’s never necessary, but you will stand firmer and he will find it easier to fight his addictive urges if it is possible.
    I know many trustworthy addicts. They learned late but they learned, and they take the necessary steps every day to avoid the things that trigger their desire for whatever they became addicted to. May your husband master those things, too, and may you find yourself proud once again to be married to him.

  • I stumbled upon this blog searching for any help. My wife and have been married a very short time, 1 1/2 years. We have a beautiful 12 week old son who is absolutely perfect. I am at a point in our relationship where most days I cannot stand being around my wife. I work 12 hour night shifts as a nurse, the days I can stand being around is when I am home a few hours to sleep.
    Since before we got married I have had my doubts, but have always found an excuse for our fighting. It always follows the same circular pattern… she starts getting short, and angry. She then begins a few Weeks of downgrading everything I do, from my cleaning skill, my job, my performance as a father and in the bedroom. This downgrading is usually associated with screaming,yelling, threatening to leave me; and on a few occasions it has gotten physically violent to the point of calling friends at 3am to come get me.
    Each occurrence I have made excuses… she drank to much, she is stressed about the wedding, she pregnant and hormonal. I am at the point that I wouldnt even care if she left. She has become hateful and negative about everything.
    I have tried getting her to go to counseling with me, or even by herself (her family has extensive emotional/depressive disorders). But she refuses. I have gone to counseling, tried being that great husband ive always dreamedbof being.
    I am emotionally numb to her at this point… We have discussed seperation, she starts crying and apologizing saying she will change… The good part of the cycle…
    I have tried your advice about doing things differently, trying to love her… I dont know whatvelse to do. I know I love my son more then I can express and dont want to raise him in this kindbof environment…
    Therr are many other things that have been bothering me about our relationship… But this is a good start.
    Thank you.

  • I am so sorry to hear about your situation. There are two giant red flags in it. One is the violence. Violence is never acceptable in a marriage nor in the parent of an infant. Please take advantage of any and all help in your area for stopping the violence first, before you try to sort out anything else. You and she will share the raising of this child for at least 18 more years.
    The second is that you have excused her anger and uncivil behavior as a result of drinking too much. If she drinks too much because she cannot stop herself, she cannot control her behavior until she gets help with her addiction to alcohol. Until she does this, only you can protect yourself and your child and your relationship from the harm her addiction does. Protecting yourself and the baby might call for a short-term separation, one with love and hope for a better life after she deals with a life-threatening problem only she can address.
    Beyond the two red flags, I would invite you to notice this pattern and stop playing whatever your role in it might be. If it goes downhill when you come home only to sleep, organize some other activities together. If it is worst when she’s worn out (and most new mothers are worn out a lot), go without whatever you can possibly go without to hire someone to help at home or to take off time to provide that help. If she seems to feel better about herself when she taunts you with insults and makes you defend yourself, agree with her, smile, and throw her a compliment on coping with the trials of being a new mom.
    And be sure to read all about Third Alternatives on this site, because she is obviously upset with a lot and probably does not believe things could be better if you two cooperate on finding those Third Alternatives, but you can show her it can.
    Also, please remember that alcohol is a depressant. If she’s prone to depression, you might want to keep none in the house and get out among people when you two want to enjoy a drink.
    Wishing you better days.

  • i have been married 20 years and have three spectacular children – 15, 13, 10. i dont want to go through a divorce or put my kids through a divorce but i dont want to be married either. my husband and i do not have a relationship. we live in the same house. we share a checking account. we share car pooling duties and child supervision duties. we do not share a bed for the most part. he falls asleep on the couch every night. he will come to bed in the middle of the night if he wakes up. he used to wake me up to have sex when he would come to bed. i was so starved for attention that i gladly participated. now i totally resent it. i have told him that if he wants to have sex, he should come to bed at a decent hour. he still sleeps on the couch and sometimes comes to bed in the middle of the night but we do not have sex. i feel so unwanted and unloved and feel like it seeps into everything in our lives. if he doesnt like something i cook, i feel hurt. if he doesnt agree with who i am voting for, i feel hurt. if he doesnt want to paint the bathroom, i feel hurt. i just feel hurt all,of the time. in the past, these same things would frustrate me or make me mad but i would get over it. now, it just all seems like it is a pile of garbage that keeps growing and never taken out. little things are now big things. there is part of me that thinks that i should not complain. he has had a job for 23 years. he is not an alcoholic or a gambler or a cheater (that i know of) or physically abusive or any other things that seem to be acceptable reasons for divorce. on the other hand, we dont talk, sleep together or agree on anything. my 10 year old would be devastated by a divorce. i think my 13 and 15 year old would be sad, but they would understand. i am pretty sure they realize that this is not a normal or at least desireable marriage. if they were in this situation, i would want them to get divorced. i never want them to feel like they are unwanted, unloved or not good enough. i feel like we are setting such a bad example for what they should expect out of life. i feel guilty for not having a good marriage and i know i would feel guilty for getting a divorce. i am really lonely and sad. 🙁

  • What an awful situation! And what a great one, too. Great because it’s the easiest sort of marriage to restore into a warm and loving relationship. If you want some hope that it’s possible, go watch the new movie Hope Springs.
    It tends to focus mainly on the sexual side of the marriage. The rest follows from that, but we don’t get to see the process. This blog is all about that process, less about the sex.
    It can sometimes sound like I’m putting all the blame on my readers, when they are sure they have awful spouses who need fixing. But I am instead trying to show my readers they have the power to make huge changes, because what’s happened did not result from some decision by your spouse to have a lousy marriage.
    For example, you write, “i have told him that if he wants to have sex, he should come to bed at a decent hour.” What if the middle of the night is when he finally sets aside a million other worries and thinks lovingly of his wife? What if waking you feeds a fantasy of his that helps him see you again as an object of desire? Or what if it just takes him that long to work up his courage to face the possibility of being refused when he, too, is worried the marriage is dead? How could you make it more inviting to come when you’re still awake? How could you make it easier on yourself to have sex in the middle of the night?
    You mention also that you two disagree on everything. My husband and I do, too. When we first got together, we put a small notebook on our coffee table. Every time we agreed on ANYTHING, no matter how tiny, we wrote it in there. It let us both know we were safe with our disagreements. Because we did not fight over them, and we found Third Alternatives for the ones we had to come to some agreement on, we came to value those disagreements. They get us to think more deeply, try new things, talk more (after we felt safe in disagreeing), and search for Third Alternatives.
    Invite your kids to help you create a scrapbook or wall-hanging with what the four of you like and admire about your husband. They may remind you of a few great reasons to stay married until you can fall back in love. And presenting it to him may give him a great reason to fall back in love with you.
    While your teens may realize this is not the way it should be, until they see that, they are vulnerable. When you believe that no conversation or physical contact is bad, the physical contact and constant communication of a bullying, argumentative partner looks different and can be mistaken for an improvement. Give yourself a year of doing everything possible to show them what the real thing looks like, because it sounds like you had it with this man way back when and can have it again.

  • I have been married for almost 19 years and have 3 great kids, aged 13, 10, and 6. I’m not in love with my wife – haven’t been for a long time – and often times find myself not even liking her. She knows I don’t love her anymore and mentions it all the time. I don’t disagree with her, but I also don’t verbalize that it’s true. There are a few reasons why I stay married. The first is the kids. My parents got divorced when I was 14. It sucked and was extremely difficult on us financially and emotionally. I don’t want to have to put my kids through that. The 2nd is financial. My wife is a stay at home mom who homeschools our children. Getting a divorce would put an undue financial burden on both of us. She would probably be forced to put the kids in school and go back to work – something I know would be very hard for her to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t forsee it getting any better, but I’d rather stay in a sucky marriage, than put my kids through the emotional and financial hell that would result from a divorce.

  • Dan, you know how bad one of the options is for kids. I know from my experience how bad the other is for kids. The third option was mentioned in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is to love your wife. Act with love toward her and look for things to love about her until the feeling of being in love returns. Those whose love lasts a lifetime don’t let their feelings of being in love drive their actions. They let their actions create the feelings they want to live with (and want their children to live with) for the rest of their lives.

  • Hi I would like some advice of whether to stay married or divorce. I have been married for 13 years and have 2 wonderful children but every year that goes by I have grown to hate my husband. Lately I have thought about hiring an attorney and just end this nightmare of a marriage. But I do not want to lose my kids. I would leave tommorrow if some told me he could never have ky kids. I do not trust my husband around my kids, I know it is a sad thought. My husband has many problems. I feel he is an alcoholic and addicted to prescription drugs. I’m afraid if I go thru with this divorce it will get ugly, I will have to prove to a court all these problems my husband has and the court my not believe my side. I feel the kids need to stay with me and have supervised visitation with their father. In the meantime I walk on egg shells everyday some days are ok nut other days I cry myself to sleep very unhappy. I deserve to be happy. Should I try to change him, I have and he will not stop drinking or taking drugs. He feels his drinking is normal and he needs rxs drugs. He has been on theses rxs drugs for 10 years for somekind of back pain. And he drinks 3 to 4 rum and cokes every night and the worse is when he drinks while on his rxs pain drugs. This is when he turns into an abusive monster. He is more verbal abuse but if I speak up it turns physical. Do not know whether to give up on this marriage or try to fix it and raise my kids in a two parent home???/

  • Abbiann, I am so sorry your marriage has reached such a point. I cannot make this huge decision for you, but I do understand that sometimes things have been bad for so long that we cannot envision ever regaining compassion for a person or feeling safe around them again. Once the possibility for compassion and reconciliation is gone, there is not much left to a marriage.
    One thing divorce will drive home is that our kids are never our kids. No matter what we do, they will always have two parents. Even if a judge grants you full custody and supervised visitations, even if the kids are relieved to be protected from one of their parents, it will not stop their longing to have a close and healthy relationship with their father. There is no guarantee he will stay in their lives after a divorce nor that he will provide for them financially. And, as you note, there is no guarantee they won’t be ordered by the courts to spend time with him without you around until they are deemed old enough to make their own choices.
    Whether you stay and rebuild your relationship or leave and deal with the ugly situation you fear, when you’re dealing with alcohol and drug driven behaviors, it’s best to focus on the behaviors and not the alcohol or drugs. Here’s why. If you object to the behavior, the addict can connect the dots and see the abused substance as the cause of the behavior. But they are free to try to change the behavior without yet giving up on the drugs or alcohol, until they prove to themselves they no longer have that control and must give up the addictive substance.
    If you object to the substance, one that will take a lot of hard, daily effort to give up, they will always argue first that you’re wrong about their addiction. And now the choice to do that hard work is making you right and them wrong. It’s a lot easier to be strong when they agree the behavior should change and prove to themselves that fighting the addiction is their only hope of changing it.
    And if you object to the behavior with love and compassion for your spouse but intolerance for behaviors (including verbal abuse and violence) that force you to choose between your personal well-being and your relationship, there is a chance of making it through the addiction recovery before you are both convinced that one of you is a better person than the other. A healthy marriage is between equals.
    Whether you stay or go, Abbiann, please don’t deal with drugs and alcohol without help. Groups like AlAnon can help. Trained clergy members can help. Social workers can help. Addiction therapists can help. Drug and alcohol intervention specialists can help. Women’s shelters can help. You can find most of these in the blue pages in your phone book, by searching the web for resources in your area, sometimes by asking a physician or clergy member or lawyer. Please line them up before you take the next step. You need knowledge and a safe place to ride out any storm. You also need a ready-to-roll option for your husband should he choose treatment over divorce. Even if you choose to divorce anyway, you will find it easier on you and your shared children to do so without addiction in the way.

  • Thnx i jst read ths att th ryt tym n thnk i cd use sm advice.
    I dated ths guy since 2007 .he continually wantd a bby n i gv in in 2010 ever since he hs turnd emotionally abusive sleeps away all weekends and never wants to tlk about it.we r nt legally marriedcbt have stayed together since 2010 he hs nt visited my hm neittherr hs he tkn me to hs hm thou both our family visit us n knw we live daughter loves hm so mch bt he says am using hr to force myyself to hm.currently am jobless and at times i feel if i gt a job i should jst mive out thou i knw al b failing my daughter.
    Ths is a guy who claimed loved me n tht i cnt deny bt nw he hs failed me n kips hurtng me.he hs literally destroyed my life n seems not to here coz of my bby and dnt knw wat to do.advice plz

  • I wish I could help you, Strousey. I am not familiar with the laws or customs in your country. I don’t what services are available to a single mom who has no job. And it sounds like you have never had a commitment from this man.
    Here in the US, I would advise everyone to pay attention to the difference between “I love you” (even “I love you and want you to have my baby”) and a commitment to love you. “I love you” is about an emotion, one that can come and go. “I will love you” is about actions and intention, which depend on a person’s integrity, not his or her emotions.
    It is best for children to live with their two parents who love each other (meaning act with love, even when they do not feel the emotion of love). If parents cannot love each other in the same home, better to have them love each other and their child from separate homes. Having parents who refuse to love each other, whether in the same home or different homes, is always third best.
    Also not good for your child: having unprotected sex with a man who will not account for his overnight whereabouts (because your health affects your child’s future) or when you are thinking of moving out (because another pregnancy affects your child’s future).
    Without any past commitment to love you, you three have a tough road ahead. You can choose to start loving him and fixing your life so you no longer blame him for ruining it, while hoping for a future commitment from him. Or you can choose to start loving him and fixing your life so you no longer blame him for ruining it, while ending your sexual relationship and shared home. No matter which you do, this man will always be her father. Your loving or unkind actions toward him will always affect her.

  • So, I want the absolute best for my three little men, ages 2,4 & 6. However, my marriage has had difficulty almost since it began but we have been able to make happy memories as well. He has “rages” about 1-2 times a year. It is unexpected and very scary. Last night he broke our dining room table and repeatedly hitting me in the face after not getting a video at our son’s flag football game that I accidentally missed (I think I have a concussion). The kids were sleeping and I don’t think they heard, but what should I do? Do I stay married so that they have both parents in the home? Do I leave for events that are few and far between but can become very violent when they happen? I loved/love my husband but these events are making me loose that love. I want to keep myself and my kids healthy and happy and I am conflicted about what divorce means for my children, they are my world. I called a law office today to get advice on divorce as an option and have an appointment with my marriage therapist/counselor (who my husband suggested but refuses to go with me to.) Please help.

  • Divorce and risking his violence are not your only choices. I cannot believe he intends to hurt his wife, but it sounds like he is unable to stop himself from doing so. If he cannot regulate his behavior, this leaves only you to protect yourself and your children from the physical and emotional harm and him from the shame. You simply cannot share a home with someone who cannot control himself when something angers him.
    Whether you leave to create a safe space for him to choose treatment (if this is due to a brain injury or substance abuse) or education (if he’s simply never learned to stop his anger) or you leave to divorce him, be safe. Before you reveal your plans, be sure you line up your protection: a shelter or safe house to live in, a new babysitter, knowledge of the laws for requesting supervised visits with the children, etc.
    Work with your lawyer and therapist to help you make it clear to him whether you’re done with the risk or willing to return if he removes the risk. It takes a lot of strength to choose to change something like this. Until he finds it, the danger is always there, and the only alternative to finding the strength is to invent stories that you somehow caused his inability to behave so shamefully.
    You need all the help you can get to make it 100% clear that such behavior is not acceptable and apologies won’t remove the threat. You also need protection, because being called on his unacceptable behavior could quite possibly trigger an even worse rage. Please work with professionals in your community to line up the help you need.
    I understand your wanting to keep a healthy, two-parent home for your children. It’s admirable. But right now, it’s not one. You each must choose to take the hard steps to change this, and it can only happen if you both take yours.

  • I’m glad I found your website the stories and responses have provided some insight for me. I’m trying to save our marriage before we get into real trouble. I have been married to my wife for about 2 years now and we have a 5 month old baby boy. For the past few months some things have drastically changed with my wife and probably me unbeknownst to me. She has become obsessively protective of our son. To the point where she now almost resents my parents from coming to visit. She says that I was not there for her when our son was born because I didn’t protect her from my mother. Now in my eyes at the time I thought my mother was trying to help being a new father I didn’t know the things to look for in a situation like that. But apparently the new mother is in a fragile state, she claims my mother took my son out of her arms repeatedly, told her she wasn’t feeding him enough or at times too much, that she was calling her grandson her baby etc. My wife blames me for not stopping her and not putting her and my son first. I was totally caught off guard by this because unfortunately I didn’t see these as a threat. Even now she says she cannot trust me because she doesn’t believe I’m going to put her and my son first and will make excuses for my parents. We have started counseling and right now it does not seem to be helping because she is very emotional and brings up new things that I did not protect her from. When my parents come to visit next time she is adament that I put them in their place if my mom says something or else, she has said you better tell her to stop the moment she says something and if she doesn’t stop kick them out of the home. I want to protect and put my family first but not at the expense of alienating my parents. I’m hoping this is a phase that she is going through but she has mentioned seperating because she doesn’t believe that she can trust me. Please know that there has been no infidelities or improper relationships for either us she is having trust issues that I love her or not. A little background on my wife as well, she comes from a toxic family environment, parents divorced after 20 years. She does not talk to her father anymore and the mom leaves a lot to be desired, giving us the guilt that we should be giving her money etc. For the sake of time and not going into detail am I dealing with her relationship issues with family and past or is there something with us or did I do something wrong? I want to do what is right for us but divorce is not an option because I do not want that for my son or hopefully our future children if we can get past this. What can I do to get our marriage in a better place?

  • I am glad you are in counseling, CC, because it is entirely possible your wife is dealing with postpartum depression on top of a mother-in-law disagreement. A professional counselor should be able to diagnose it.
    We all have hot buttons from our childhoods. It sounds like your wife never felt protected by the adults in her life. Now, she’s doing what she can to protect your son and looking frantically to you to protect her as she protects your son. And she’s doing it with a full dose of post-pregnancy hormonal influences on her emotions.
    Your mother very likely comes from a culture where mothers and mothers-in-law expect to take the role of teacher or coach. Thank her for trying to fill this valuable role. And then tell her that the role is an unfamiliar one to your wife, so all the good things she tries to do can be viewed as criticism instead of help. Ask her, because she’s not dealing with all the hormonal stuff, to tread lightly and help you build up your wife’s confidence. Tell her your marriage is very important to you and you want her help with this transition into being parents.
    Then jump the net with your wife. You might want to read some of my other posts on Finding Third Alternatives, because you two need one. To jump the net, you would agree with her that it is very important to protect your son and say you want to do this with her. Let this sink in, then add that, while it is important to you to do this, you cannot agree that the best way to do it is for the two of you to separate or for you to alienate your parents, and you would like to work with her to find a way to protect her and your son that strengthens the bond between you and changes your mother’s behavior without pushing her out of your lives.
    The next step is to ask her for more details on what she hopes to protect the baby from, because you two cannot come up with a protection plan that preserves your son’s family until you understand any threats that are not obvious to you as a father. Don’t try to solve them or debate them, only to find out what she wants him protected from.
    If her concerns come across as obsessive or extreme, discuss them with your counselor. If they are simply different from your concerns (which would be totally normal), tell her you want to provide these protections. Then tell her you don’t want to protect your mother’s right to snatch the baby from her or boss her around, but you want to protect your wife from these things without being rude or disrespectful to your mother, so you need to come up with some approach other than tossing her out of your house.
    When you both understand what the new solution needs to achieve, you can toss around some ideas. I can see them including visiting with your parents somewhere other than in your home, so you two are alone with the baby for bath time and bed time and can talk in private during your visit with them. I can see them including your joining her for a parenting class, so that you can tell anyone who tells her otherwise that whatever she is doing is the method you have both agreed on. I can see them including finding an experienced mom she feels compatible with to join you during your parents’ visits.
    I wish you luck with this, and I hope you will join me for my November 14th teleclass (

  • My husband and I have been married 5 years and together for 7. We have a little girl who will be 3 in march and a 6mo old little boy. On my son’s due date I found out that my husband had been having an affair for the past month. I was induced 3 days later. I was crushed. I didn’t know we were not happy. I decided to forgive him and to stay together. He sat he is sorry and will never do it again. He I a great father. However, our families are exact opposites! My dad is a business owner, republican, self-made millionaire due to his hard work. His dad is unemployed and has been leaching off the government for the past 15 years. They drink, smoke, and do not say thank you or gifts. Just rude! My husband and I also do not have much in common. Opposites attract sort if thing. However, since the affaire I hate to admit this but I do not really live him any more. I am staying with him for the kids. Wouldn’t it be easier to get out how while they are young than waiting and trying to work it out only I find out it won’t get better and to divorce when they are older? I am so unhappy. :-(. I want to be happy! I think our daughter picks up on it and it breaks my heart.

  • Macey, sure it would be easier to get out now. And if you have no plans to let yourself fall back in love with him, your kids are already in a no-win situation.
    But if what you really wish is that he would love you, love you enough to get through your disbelief after his awful breach of your trust, getting out now will leave you without what you want. It’s highly unlikely anyone is going to come along and sweep you and your kids off your feet and love all three of you. And even if you find such a person, what are the odds of your kids falling in love when they have a great father already?
    When we’re horribly hurt, it takes a lot of courage to acknowledge we really want that love and partnership. We must work as hard at re-opening our hearts as our spouses must work at re-establishing their honor and our trust.
    As mothers who want to protect our children, our anger makes it easy to picture “rescuing” the kids from someone who has hurt us, but they will still love him, and they will always be the grandchildren of those people you look down on. Just as your daughter picks up on your heartbreak now, she will always pick up on your feelings about her grandparents and father. And she will never be 100% free to express her feelings with you because of it if your feelings don’t change. is a truly wonderful resource for anyone recovering from an affair. So is the Beyond Affairs Network.
    And I don’t see being attracted to your opposite as a problem. A tool my second husband and I used when we wondered if we had anything in common was a notebook on the coffee table. Every time we agreed on anything, no matter how small, we wrote it in the notebook immediately. As the list grew, our fears subsided. Mastering finding Third Alternatives helped a lot, too. Personally, I think I have grown a lot more with someone unlike me loving me than I did in the same amount of time in my first marriage, in which we and our families had a lot more in common.
    I hope you will read some of the other articles on Assume Love before you make your decision about the man you not so long ago believed you could love and honor through better or worse, through sickness or health, whether you grew richer or poorer. Because it sounds like you have a good shot at falling back in love with a good man your kids adore if you decide it’s worth the effort.

  • My husband’s Catholic faith says we should never get divorced, but he yells at me (and at baby) for little things like not cooking good (he’s a chef) or for leaving a sticky pot to soak instead of scrubbing my arms off or for going out and buying baby a snack instead of staying in the house cleaning. I feel like he has two volumes: mute and yell. When he’s not yelling, he’s stomping downstairs to his bedroom (his, not ours). I am completely torn whether I should consider this emotionally abusive and leave while I can, or whether I can put up with this so that our daughter can have a father her whole life.

  • Leave and put up with what’s happening are seldom the only two choices for two people who once adored each other and currently adore the same child. Here are some other options. You only need one of them to work, so try them all:
    – A new coming-home routine that allows him time to shed any leftover anger at folks at work and fully shift into his loving husband/father role before he has to deal with any of the chores or problems these roles entail.
    – Intense concentration on your part for a while to catch him being the guy you love and reward him with your respect and affection.
    – Date nights: scheduled time to be a couple again, without the baby, because few of us are the person our spouses married while there is a baby in the room.
    – Dr. Steven Stosny’s Boot Camp (by phone or in person in Baltimore, MD), which will teach both of you techniques for keeping your cool and treating each other with compassion.
    – Cooking lessons for you or cooking ahead together on his day off or soliciting his advice on what you plan to cook this week or putting him in charge of cooking.
    – A place to put soaking pots out of view, not to be secretive about your approach but to be sensitive to something that obviously turns him off.
    – A change of jobs for him to reduce the stress he’s obviously under, which might mean finding a way to make some money while the baby sleeps or cut some costs while you stash away an emergency fund to get the three of you safely through the transition.
    – Ear plugs to take the sting out of his loud voice or pinching the baby for a good scream in response to his yelling, as long as you’re sure he won’t hurt the baby.
    – Lowering your voice to near-whisper level. Almost everyone lowers their voice in response to a lovingly lowered voice.
    – Active appreciation for all he does to support your family financially. As we settle into our roles, we do lots that our spouses never see and grow to take for granted. When one of us starts overreacting to what might look like shirking, it’s usually because we feel taken for granted, not because we want to supervise our life partner. Men are even more sensitive to this than women.
    I hope you found here at least one idea you can use to start reshaping your marriage, Tina.

  • Most of the advice I see on the topic of stay or go boils down to “There was love, love is gone (perhaps now replaced with evils of resentment and all its displays), do I leave or do I stay?” In fact, science even has statistics that help make this choice easier: if your fights are loud, violent, and frequently in front of the kids, and anger management doesn’t help, divorce is a BETTER option for the kids. If you can keep the kids near-oblivious to your situation, staying together is in long term better for the kids. In fact, happily married parents did not necessarily raise happy kids, so your happiness means very little for kids, as long as they have the both of you, and no clear fighting and violent unhappiness. The absolutely BEST advice I’ve ever received on repairing a marriage is “you cannot get your marriage back – it wasn’t working to begin with if you got here, but if you remember how you once loved each other and wanted to be together, you can find the desire to build something new together, something that works.” I agree with that statement VERY MUCH!
    But what does one do in an odd situation when two people were married young and for all the wrong reasons? My wife and I have very passive aggressive fights – no violence, no yelling that kids can hear (VERY rarely anyway), no thrown objects. We’re just ridiculously incompatible. Never have been. VERY wrong for each other. It’s not that I resent her now, it’s that given another pass, I’d never marry her in the first place, nor she me, and I’m fine with that. Her core passion is comfort – she loves a state of minimum activity, so long as everything is in-place. I am an adventure seeker, to whom a chaotic turn of events is just another adventure to adapt to. She’s ultra-punctual, and I’m not. She doesn’t love through touch, and I cannot live without touch – it’s a 12 for me (5 love languages reference). Kisses are awkward, sex is virtually non-existent (1/month on average, but as rare as once every 3-4 months happens). We recently escalated things to the point of discussing divorce. She wanted to leave. At first I had every intention to save the marriage, then I realized that it cannot be saved since there was never love. And as different as we are, building anything new would be hard. I have a life list mile long of things I want to do with my life, she wouldn’t come up with 1-2 things we could enjoy doing together. All would be simple without kids, but we have 2 amazing boys: 6 & 4. They love each one of us very much and we love them back. In different ways, but with our full hearts. The last straw was the fact that I never knew love before this marriage, and thought that it’s a myth, or something that I can create, fake, live with a “cup half full”, but in my search to fix the marriage, I discovered a lot of materials on fixing my own confidence, my own world views, my understanding of male/female roles in a relationship, female psychology, sexual/seduction approaches that got me attention from the opposite gender that I never dreamed of having. My first thought was family-bound: how do I seduce my wife? How do I get her attracted to me? And I managed it… a little bit anyway. Our sex life got better, things go a little bit smoother… but it required a LOOOOT of work, and I didn’t like who I became doing it. I was basically someone else. I felt she was attracted to what I did, not to who I was. I realized even more strongly she felt no acceptance towards the real me, she didn’t want the real me. In my psychology research I found a type of woman that matches me far more, and accidentally one day ran into a woman of just that type… in fact, not only her type was a match, but everything from her Briggs-Myers personality to our life interests. She also had a life list, and it was similar to mine. This woman inspired me and was inspired by me. I took 2 weeks away from family life to get a perspective and spent them with this woman. I should probably feel guilty, but I do not. I didn’t cheat, I just wanted to research what I was missing. Our conversations were amazing, way she put her hands on me felt incredible, even in the most unsexual of her intentions, it sent electricity down my whole body. Our life goals are identical, she thinks my sweat smells sweet. What does that even mean?!!! I’m still baffled by that phrase! It sounds so incredible. I think I flew up a little when she just took my hand and told me “I’m so happy right now”. We ended up kissing, and her kiss feels like heaven, no less. I feel through touch, and the way she feels I’ve never felt before with any of my ex’s (and I’m not the most experience-deprived man in the physical department).
    Before you go to criticize… I sat down with my wife and tried to work out a way to fix our marriage and she completely refused, that happened before I met the new girl. I told the new girl that I am married and have kids and probably will get divorced. So no one had been lied to. Cheated on? I don’t know… lately my wife has once again expressed an interest to try to work on our marriage, but her idea of “us working” is “me changing myself”, and her enjoying the benefits of me becoming more like what she wants me to be. We’ve been together for 7 VERY LONG years. Most of those were spent in fighting, unhappy, just committed to raising kids, and content that there’s nothing better out there – this is my life, and I must live it. Plus some legal things until recently made our divorce impossible. But those things are about to pass and won’t stop us anymore.
    AND I SO WANT FOR MY KIDS TO BE HAPPY!!!!!!! But are fighting and violence really the only two things that decide if they’ll be happy or not?! No, they’re not exposed to those… but will they grow up to be happy men?! Would they not be better off seeing their dad love to the fullest and be loved by someone? Would they not be better off with a model of what acceptance and wanting look like? I respect their mother, we’re very unlikely to have any sort of custody battles….. uncomfortable meetings in the future? maybe, maybe not… or maybe she’ll meet someone she can fall in love with too and she’ll be happy?! I would really like that for her. She admits she never loved me, and she also says she’s loved before, and knows what that feels like for her, and that she doesn’t feel it with me (never has). Given that a future full of love is really possible for each of us separately, SHOULD WE REALLY STAY TOGETHER JUST FOR THE KIDS WITH 99% OF NEVER BEING LOVED BY ONE ANOTHER? Please understand that I would never ask if I wasn’t willing to bite the bullet and just stay. But I hope someone out there with more worldly wisdom can offer another point of view or words of experience, or just words of support. My heart is breaking… to know love, to know it’s SOOOO CLOSE, and to possibly never be able to love or be loved in a way I was meant to be. I made a mistake marrying the wrong woman and making children with her. But now that they are here, it’s not just about me anymore. I want what’s best for all 4 of us. I want my wife to find love too, just not at the cost of raising heartbroken kids. Do kids really suffer if their divorced parents do not badmouth each other? respect each other? speak kindly of each other? Just live with a new partner… And I’m still young. I could have more kids, the new girl is amazing, and thinks the world of my kids. So it’s not like they’d have an evil stepmom. Instead they’d gain an adventurous beautiful stepmom who grabs the life by its horns, and lives it to the fullest, she and I together could teach my kids to live without fear of failure, to go start a business, to go learn to dance ballroom, to go fly a paraglider off a mountain… these are things I’m afraid they’ll miss out on (most of them anyway) in the company of their present parents staying together.

  • This is so beautiful and right on. It made me cry though because it’s too late for me and my wife who made the unilateral (and inexplicable to me) decision to leave our marriage and break our family in two, saying she didn’t want to “do this anymore.” She once said “I don’t care what anyone says, I can see the shadow behind their eyes.” (Talking about children of divorce.) I thought that this (what you write about) was what we were doing and what we were committed to. I am so brokenhearted, more on behalf of my kids than myself, and I don’t understand how she “could do that to our kids.” (As she would also say about parents who quietly got divorced for no particular reason.) I wonder what she would think if she read this now. I tried so hard to get her to at least try but she flipped a switch and didn’t ever look back.

  • I”ll bet you’ve never heard a story like mine before! My husband and I have two children (10 and 12) and have been married for 7 years. My husband is content to be married to his “friend with benefits” because that’s exactly what we started out being and it hasn’t changed one bit. We started out as friends (great friends, by the way), added the “benefits” and the kids came along. My husband has never been attracted to me in any way/shape/form and has no romantic feelings for me. He admits this and wants to stay married for the sake of the kids. He doesn’t want to be away from them. I respect that, but what am I supposed to do? Sit around and be content to be his pal? I am so struggling with this I feel like I’m going to explode. In addition, I feel like a complete idiot…what, did I really believe that he could just start having feelings towards me? What a joke.

  • As ever, seriously enlightening as well as beneficial post on Assume Love:
    Should I Stay Married for the Kids?.
    Many thanks.

  • My husband recently wanted to leave me and I begged him to stay and make it work. I now know that guilted him into being with me may not have been the right thing. However, what should I do now that he is here? Do I let him go or do I start working to improve and try to save my marriage?

  • Unless he’s violent, why not try to save the marriage, Alicia? I would start by Finding Third Alternatives for the things you disagree on. Wouldn’t hurt to shower him with respect, either.

  • Just heard back from Alicia by email and sent her this. I think a lot of others trying to save their marriages might find it just as useful.
    If extra responsibilities keep you from having fun or spending time together, it often happens that one of you becomes the spokesperson for fun times together and the other for doing what must be done. If this happens, run these two options through the Find Third Alternatives process, because it is almost never truly an either-or question. You can have both.
    Start with my latest blog post on the subject:
    Here is a four-part how-to manual:
    And a caveat:
    And one I think you may find especially useful:
    This two-parter is really helpful, too:
    For a bunch more, browse through this page to find the ones that grab you:

  • Hello. I have never written a comment before but I have read everything I can find on the internet about my situation and I like your perspective. I hope you can help me.
    6 years ago I had an affair with my exboyfriend from before I met my husband. It was mostly emotional although there was sex on two occasions. (We had no where to meet so it is possible there would have been more sex if there had been more contact. Mostly we just talked and I sucked up the attention that I never got from him when we were together.) At the time I had two kids under 3 and we had moved overseas 2 years before for my husbands study and then to a new city the year before for his new job. My husband had taken a job that was incredibly demanding and he hated but did not feel he could leave. He was very withdrawn and depressed at home but not communicative. He was always exhausted and worked very long hours. I was not as supportive as I should have been. I became very isolated and so focused on him and was suffering exhaustion as I had no other help with the kids and they were not good sleepers. I had not expected to be a stay at home mother and felt forced into the role and so had resentment. My mother had died as few months after my first child was born and we had moved overseas a couple of months after that so there were a lot of changes that happened without discussion as to the full implications. Anyway- these are not excuses as I take full responsibility- just context.
    The affair ended after a few months as both of us knew we were not going to leave the people we were with, he was leaving town, I thought I was too, and basically the whole thing was just built on fantasies of our old relationship which rapidly disappeared once we spent a bit of time together. and he moved to states. Occasionally he came to town and we would meet for a coffee but it was very much as distant friends- the emotional involvement was gone. On one of these occasions (maybe 2 altogether) my husband found out. It was terrible. We had planned to leave the country already so there was a lot going on. packing and moving and (at that stage) three small kids. We got back to our home country and everything was very up and down. I did not know if he was going to leave but eventually we got a house together. He does not want to live apart from the kids. After many many months he finally said he loved me. Since then it has been up and down. Great for a couple of months and then again withdrawn and cold. This has to do with my affair but it was a pattern that existed before I had the affair and have always found it very VERY hard to deal with. Early this year things were bad again, he sited lack of sexual intimacy, then things got better and we had a wonderful couple of months and I thought we were finally through the major emotional obstacles. Then in June he started getting moody and emotional and withdrawn. Long walks by himself on the weekend etc. Then early August which coincidentally is the anniversary of him finding out about the affair (4 years this year since he found out although 6 years since the affair ended) he turned away from me during sex and told me he didn’t love me. He loved me but was not in love with me and was only staying for the kids but was considering a separation. He woudl let me know when he decided if he was going to do that. He said he had horrible dreams about it and could not get it out of his head. He will not do couple therapy but is considering therapy by himself. (I am in therapy since this announcement which is helping me – I probably needed it years ago to deal with anguish about my mothers death, and other emotional issues in my family.) I am able to be cheerful around him although I spend my free time obsessively searching the internet for clues as how to deal with this. I want us to have a rich and warm love which I have seen we can have when we go through the happy periods but these dark periods are so hard to cope with and I am afraid this one is permanent. It is like the feeling has just drained out if for him. So my questions are : Should I just be patient and remain calm and loving and see what happens? Should I put a time limit on it in my head? If we are not fighting and I am able to demonstrate love and affection is this enough of a positive atmosphere for the kids to mean i should just stay anyway? I don;t want to leave but I don’t want to grow old starving for even a little attention and affection. We are still having sex as I am initiating it but he will not touch me or say he loves me. I still love my husband, admire him and want to treasure him. I am not sure he feels anything positive for me apart from the fact I am a good mother. I have had to mature a lot and I think I am able to be a better partner now than I was before. I am afraid it is too late. He definitely has no trust in me and although he says we have a deep friendship and our house is happy and he is still making plans with me (fixing the house, christmas holidays etc) I feel he has checked out. I want to save this and am willing to be patient but don;t want to set up a lifetime of empty loneliness for both of us. What should I do. Thank you

  • Sounds pretty awful right now, Opal. But there is hope.
    For a while, when you were overwhelmed and fearful you would never get your needs met at home, you checked out of your marriage. You took your needs and fantasies and body elsewhere for a while. And yet you are back and in love with him again. So, Assume Love and ask yourself what would make your husband check out for a while, even if he loves you? Overwhelm and fear that he cannot get his needs met at home are a couple of big possibilities.
    Some things you ought to know. First, for women, the very foundation of a relationship is affection and attention. For men, it is trust and respect. When the foundation is crumbling, offer what he needs to build upon, not what you would. Show him trust and respect and offer him whatever he needs to get past his distrust of you, even if it’s more time after four years. He may just now be dealing with his pain, as you are just now dealing with your feelings about your mother’s death.
    Second, the difference between love and in love appears to be this thing Barbara Frederickson is calling the emotion of love, or Love 2.0, the stimulation of our vagus nerves and release of oxytocin that happens when we experience positive emotions in sync with our partner. Look for small opportunities to experience them every day.
    And don’t overlook what you’ve got. He responds to your sexual overtures. He trusts you in bed. He trusts you as the mother of his children and as a dear friend. His distrust appears to be limited to your respect for him. Your house is happy.
    You’re starving for attention and affection, but surely you know you will get even less if you leave, perhaps for a long while, since you have children to raise who will need even more of your attention and affection than they do now. It was 11 years after my first husband died before I met my second husband. The quality of attention and affection I received from the men I dated in the interim was usually dreadful.
    So perhaps you can develop ways of getting attention and affection that don’t require him to renew his vows just yet. When you share news of good fortune or an achievement, give it a little build up: “Something exciting happened today that I really want to share with you. Is now a good time?” Ask for his help with things he’s good at. Pay attention to his character strengths and create opportunities for him to use them around the kids, then point out to them what a great guy he is. When you’re out walking with the kids, offer him your hand and see if he takes it. If he’s a dancer, make a date to go dancing.
    If you’ve read the earlier comments here and on One Last Stand Before Divorce, you know I heartily endorse the website for anyone dealing with infidelity. I hope you will visit it as you look for answers. I wish the two of you a new foundation and a long, loving marriage.

  • This is my first time posting.
    I think my story is similar to some of the others posted here, except I have no kids.
    I’ve been married fourteen years, coming to fifteen years this October. My wife comes from a well-to-do family – the princess of the house. I come from a solid middle-class family.
    There were problems before we got engaged, usually to do with her wanting all my time and attention, trying to take me away from my friends and my divorced mum, whom I was living with. She gave me an ultimatum to chose between her and my mum, and ashamedly, I chose her (there’s some history of my mum abandoning me when she got divorced and later remarried, leaving us with my Dad).
    Anyway, there were doubts when I proposed. We went away to her parents place in another town to celebrate her birthday. I bought the engagement ring as her birthday present. But I got cold feet…but did not have a back up birthday present. I came clean and told her my intentions, but that I had doubts. I spoke to her Mum about this. I asked her whether not wanting to hurt someone is a good enough reason to get married. And she said yes. My mum-in-law adores me.
    I then proposed to my wife and told her I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her.
    Did I mention that my wife is the first girl I slept with?
    Anyway, I’m generally a warm and caring person. Being from a divorced family, my dream was always to have my own family.
    I’ve always wanted kids. I can’t say I’ve ever had the “hots” for my wife. But I did develop a very strong bond. Problem is I think it was more a father-daughter bond. Tucking her in bed, kissing her on the forehead. I think we met each others needs, but not as husband and wife. Her wanting to be “loved” and me wanting someone to love. It’s messed up I know.
    Anyway, here’s the crux of it. 12 years on, and she was still not sure whether she wanted kids. And she was treating me like how a spoilt child treats a parent – basically my needs came second. But at the same time, she can a sweet adorable girl.
    I told her a number of times, don’t string me along. Tell me if you o not want to have kids – then I’ll live my life more selfishly.
    I’ve told her: if I were to treat you the way you treat me, you wouldn’t even be able to stand.
    I’ve told her, I’m not happy – to which she responded – “So what do you want to do about it?”
    When I raised issues, she’d just stare at me angrily and not respond. Partly because she’s always been a bit emotionally cold (being the princess) and also she has a lot of pride (being the princess and coming from a rich family).
    I was on sleeping pills for 3 years.
    Eventually, I had a fling for about 3 months. My wife found out. At first, all she could do was focus on the other woman. I told her, the other woman is not the problem. The problem is my heart – it’s just not there. But she fixated on the other woman for a long time. Probably over a year.
    We went for counseling immediately after my wife found out about the affair. I think that was the wake up call for her.
    The affair also “brought me out of the closet” so to speak. Basically, forced my to admit, it was an act of will all these years, and paternalistic feelings.
    We’ve been separated on and off for two years now since the affair. She now sees her faults and wishes she could turn back time. She is a sweet girl. Just a bit self-absorbed and sometime oblivious to the needs of others.
    I think I’m still struggling because of a sense of right/wrong and obligation.
    IF we had kids – I would not have a problem staying. We can be best friends and leave it at that. I’m 42, my wife is 38. If we had kids, they would see us through our middle years and we’d be fine as friends in our older years.
    Problem is I so badly want kids. And she does too now. But I’m tired. It’s so easy for me to love another woman.
    I met a woman manning a counter at the local driving range the other day. She had cute little girl with her. I asked, “Is she yours?” She replied, “I wish.” I asked “How many kids do you want?” She replied, “As many as I can have.” I found that soooo attractive.
    I grew up with my Dad, who is a disciplinarian with high expectations. Life growing up was about keeping silent and not making mistakes. I crave warmth and affection. I think I’m a little broken on the inside. When I was in college, I did my thesis on what makes marriages work.
    Before we went for marriage counseling, my wife had never once..not once…asked me how was my day (after all a young girl is not expected to ask her father) or asked me about my childhood (she knows my father and knows my childhood must not have been easy).
    OK. Decision time. Currently separated. Living the life of an emotional monk. Trying to figure out if I can change my heart.
    I can try to assume love, but there are a lot of painful memories, and the proposal itself is haunting.
    She has changed in some ways. She is now more open to sharing her feelings with her friend. She needed her emotional support to survive and she says the right things to me.
    She is emotionally intelligent, but just not emotionally mature, if that makes any sense. I think the difference between the two is empathy/warmth.
    I can give her the benefit of the doubt and say, she’s changed. But, I just can’t bring myself to go back. It would be so so easy for me to just find a simple kind woman and start anew.
    I could even wait for her to find someone to can make her happy, and then move on.
    I’ve been to a number of personal counsellers. They tell me the same thing. Move on. Even my wife’s best friend has told me to move on. She too treats my wife like a daughter….
    I’ve left and then gone back before. And then left again. My wife is still waiting for me. I’m stuck. Assume love?

  • Peter, thank you for taking the time to explain your situation. I want to start by explaining that Assume Love does NOT mean “act as if you are loved.” It is a tool to use when you spouse’s behavior upsets or confuses you and makes you wonder if you are loved or not. Because your fear that you may not be loved (or safe or free to be yourself) focuses your mind to help you escape a threat, trying on another explanation often reminds you of information you’ve temporarily forgotten or gives you a different perspective on the problem. You look for explanations of what might make someone who still loves you (which is more likely than not) act this way.
    One of my favorite examples is getting hit in the Achilles tendon with a shopping cart in the supermarket checkout line. If your first explanation is carelessness, you feel devalued and get angry. Now your finely tuned old brain kicks into action to protect you from this and all other violations of your rights and boundaries. So, if I tell you it’s not carelessness, your second guess is likely to be intentional harm. You might even shove back the cart that hit you before you even take a look.
    But if I ask you to assume the person who caused all that pain is a gentle, kind woman of good character and come up with a different explanation, your self-protectiveness melts away and it just might occur to you to check if the person who did it is having a heart attack or a fainting spell or being attacked by someone behind her. And it occurs to you because you override that old brain’s life-preserving narrow focus with a new brain skill of putting yourself in another person’s shoes.
    So, you might want to Assume Love and try to think of other explanations for your wife’s reluctance to have children sooner. And other explanations for why she never asked about your childhood. And why she pushes you to nurture her and doesn’t nurture you. Set aside all of your fears about her (just for the moment) and explore the story that she’s a woman of good character, doing her best in this relationship, and wanting badly to show you her love. I’m not saying it’s a true story, only that when you look at the problems through this story, sometimes some amazing stuff pops out, just like it does in the supermarket example, and you suddenly feel a lot closer or see the solution to a long-standing problem. At others times, it just gives you better questions to ask. And if you’re not loved, and there is no loving explanation that makes sense in your case, this makes it clearer.
    I understand why a lot of people say just leave. If you felt completely okay with just leaving, you probably would not be writing here. So let me give you the downside of leaving.
    The first is that we are all human. There really is no perfect match out there for you, even if some might be better. When you find the woman who wants kids, she may be looking for someone to foot the bill and administer the discipline, not to hold the babies, coach the kids’ rugby team, or be her playmate and lover. Or she may come from a rougher background or have less education than you and end up seeming like a bad influence on your kids.
    The second is that every time you find such a woman, she might turn down your proposal; I know at least one person who left to have kids and never found anyone willing to join in.
    The third is that you will lose almost 15 years of your personal history. I am a remarried widow, and I hate that those 14 years of my life are largely off-limits. I am fortunate to have a husband who doesn’t flinch when I do talk about them, and I have the advantage of zero reason to ever suspect I might go back to him, as there is after a divorce. But it’s a loss.
    The fourth is that the dating pool at your current age (I was widowed at 34 and met my second husband at 45) is nothing like the one you were in the first time. While there are some really wonderful people in it, the percentage with really awful relationship skills, STDs, or pre-existing kids with joint custody or bad role model fathers is a lot higher at this age.
    The fifth is that the men in highest demand in that dating pool are the ones who can tell the story of what they did that contributed to the problems in their first marriage–not the “I had an affair” story or the “I married her despite my misgivings” story, but the story of why they might have been difficult to nurture or why their early moves might have created expectations that went unfilled later or how their unresolved differences might have given their wives misgivings about having children together. But most of those have been through several long-term relationships, enough to see the patterns. The ones who figure these things out with their first spouse generally want to stay after figuring them out.

  • I have been married for almost 10 years now. My husband has been telling at me and Turkish almost daily now. I feel like a doormat. He don’t help me with the kids, I can’t talk to him about my feelings without him becoming upset. I’m really lonely. he has cheated on me. Just recently I meat a man who I talk to about anything. He asks how I am and how the kids are. I feel myself bonding to him. He a God fearing man. And tells me not to give up hope. The more I talk with him the more I grow to love him. I son know if I Should stay in this marriage gg or the kids sale or not. Please help me I’m troubles.

  • Falina, if you feel like a doormat, bonding with another man is the worst thing you could do.
    It is easy for this other man to encourage you and give you hope. He has no responsibilities for you or the children. He’s not yet experienced the rebellion of most step-children. He does not need to negotiate things like who does what around the house or what’s clean enough or how much money is enough or when it’s OK to miss dinner or a gathering with relatives. The vast majority of such relationships do not progress to marriage.
    More importantly, you are once again putting your happiness in someone else’s hands. Take up a hobby or resume one you left behind. Dress to please yourself. If you are lonely, get out and meet other women with children. Then trade childcare with them to do more of what you love. Yes, your husband is likely to yell at you about all this at first. I know this because he’s already yelling at you. But it’s actually your best chance at winning him back or at finding a man who will love you, not your problems.

  • I’m not married but I have two children with this man. We’ve been together for almost 8 years because I got pregnant after knowing him for 1 year. He really makes me mad and upset when we fight. I have to admit that when I am really angry I can say the meanest things and I yell…. A LOT! I am loud and he hates it. I was only 21 when I got pregnant and now I’m 28. I feel sorry for our children with all the screaming and yelling in our household. I want to stay because he is the father but sometimes I want to leave because I’m not happy. I feel like he isn’t a good partner. He doesn’t carry his own weight when it comes to the responsibility of our kids. Sometimes I wonder, why hasn’t he proposed to me? Maybe he feels the same that I’m not “the one” for him. I’m just “the one” who have him two kids……

  • Dear Young Mommy. Somehow I missed your comment when it first arrived. Just noticed it today.
    You are caught up in some thinking that will get you nowhere.
    First, this man will always be your children’s other parent, a hugely important person in their lives and their children’s lives. Wanting to leave because he doesn’t carry his own weight when it comes to the responsibility of your kids is like wanting to shoot yourself in the foot to stop the pain in your ear. Leaving won’t relieve you of the weight you are carrying. It will increase it. And it will add the responsibility of coordinating two separate lives with the man you don’t want in your life but your kids need in theirs.
    Leaving sometimes makes sense, but never because you’re feeling overburdened as a parent. That’s just part of being a parent.
    It’s very likely their father also feels overburdened. We all see the burdens of parenthood differently. One parent can live with dirty clothes on the kids but not with a diet of processed foods. Another can live with a diet of processed foods but not with five-day-a-week childcare. Another thinks childcare is a plus for their kids but can’t stand how hard he or she must work to pay for it. And the one who loves his paid job thinks changing diapers and cleaning up vomit is a job he’s simply unable to stomach.
    All of us do the things we think are most important for our children. And somehow that always adds up to just past what we believe we’re capable of or ought to have to bear.
    You also ask why he doesn’t propose to a woman who says the meanest things to him and yells a lot, loudly, even though she knows he hates it and it harms their children. Would you really want a husband who chose this madness?
    Yelling and saying mean things when something angers you is a choice. You can learn to make a healthier choice, one that leaves you happier, your children more secure, and perhaps their father more loving. One source of such instruction is Dr. Stosny at, especially his boot camps, in person or by phone. You can also ask almost any psychologist, social worker, or clergy member to refer you to local anger management classes. If your man notices the difference in you, let him know where you learned to deal with anger. He might choose to take a healthier approach, too.
    I believe an awful lot of the anger in marriages comes from the awful frustration of believing we must do it our way or your way or meet in the middle with a compromise. Only one of these gets us what we want, and having it our way requires denying the same satisfaction to the person who matters most to our wellbeing. But the two alternatives we argue about are seldom the only ways to get what each of us is looking for. And some of the others give us what both of us are looking for, because what we don’t like about the other alternative is not often what the other wants to get from it. Check out the Find Third Alternatives category on this blog for lots of help finding them.
    One more thing. If you are expecting your man to make you happy, it’s not going to happen. Happiness is an inside job. With or without him, you will need to restructure your life, probably several times over your lifetime, to make room for what makes you happy. You don’t need to change your man, your figure, your job, or your wealth to find happiness, unless one of them has you walking on eggshells to avoid pain all day every day.
    I hope you’ll stick around and read more of Assume Love. Let me know how it’s going in the comments. I wish you lots more love and lots less yelling.

  • Crap! Bottom line is don’t get married…if you do date for marriage…dont settle for anything less than the perfect match for you….take time to make sure…even if it means living together.

  • I hear your frustration, but research has shown time and again that what holds marriages together is not the match of the two people but their relationship skills. It has also shown that what happens to those who live together is different from what happens to those who commit to marriage.

  • My story is similar to many others, and maybe I have already read the answer but just couldn’t see it.
    I have been married for almost 20 years. We have 2 kids aged 9 and 13. I do not want to divorce, but only because of how it may affect them. I really need to get away from this relationship and am considering proposing a controlled separation. My husband is completely against this idea.
    I got caught up in an emotional affair because I was completely unaware of my loneliness. My spirit was dying and I didn’t even know it.
    I have been in counseling for almost 2 years and we have been seeing a marriage counselor for 18 months. We have been stagnant for that entire time.
    I tried so many things over the years to make things better. Pretty much everything mentioned here. I don’t know that I ever loved my husband; I used him in college as protection from other men approaching me.
    Anyway, I am so scared of living the rest of my life emotionally numb so I can stay married for my kids. I don’t know that I can give any more emotionally than I have already given. Also, he had sex with me when I was sleeping and I feel like I was raped. He knew I wasn’t engaged because he said something he would never say to my face; I just happened to be awake enough to hear it.
    I have had gut problems for 20 years since I first met him, but now that I have basically checked-out, my guts are normal. I don’t want to return to being a slave to my guts. Every time I think about the things I need to do to make the relationship “happier”, my guts just go crazy again.
    I am fine in all aspects with the thought of divorce — except what it would to to my kids. In fact, when I think of taking action towards the divorce, I often feel lighter and happier, like it’s the right decision for me.
    So to ask the same question another way: Do I ask for the divorce, push for the controlled separation, or just stick it out no matter what?

  • Dear Confused, “stick it out” is never on my list of recommended options. For your kids, a tense and loveless marriage can also be damaging. After a safe environment, what they want most is for the people they love and depend on most to love and depend on each other.
    My advice is repair the relationship or call it quits. But I am a lot more hopeful that you can restore this relationship than you sound.
    If after two years of therapy, you are healthy only when you are “checked out” and “numb,” I would suggest you may have the wrong therapist. And if after 18 months of marriage counseling, you believe there are unpleasant things you need to do to make your relationship “happier,” I would urge you to try a different therapist there, too. Happy relationships are not earned or forced. They are the result of falling back in love with each other, and a marriage counselor should be teaching them to you, not helping you negotiate who does what to whom.
    It’s entirely possible you are married to an awful man so selfish or damaged that he cannot love you. There are some out there. But what causes a lot more hurt is often our efforts to make things better, especially while walling off our feelings.
    It sounds like both of you have stepped over the line in your pain at being denied the love you need, and it will take time and compassion to restore your trust in each other. You two will be in a relationship for a very long time because of the children you share, and trust will be essential, even if you separate or divorce.
    If he’s an addict or an alcoholic and needs time to get sober, or if he has not yet learned to manage frustration and anger and plans to learn now, a controlled separation might be a step in the right direction. But if you don’t want to be married to him, it would only prolong the pain for him and the children.
    However, from the facts you’ve shared, you are actually one of those couples with a very high chance of success at falling back in love. You were unaware of your loneliness, but you choose an even lonelier option in separation or divorce, which strongly suggests you still crave an emotional connection with the man you’ve spent half your life with. It’s not loneliness you want to end but the intense and very human craving for togetherness. And that’s something a good therapist should be able to help you find. And I’ll bet the first step he or she recommends is for you to stop trying to make things better, because it’s counter-productive.

  • Hi
    I am sort of “stuck” in a similar situation. Currently i am 44 yrs. My wife. 39.. I believe that i never loved my wife or EVER was in love with her… Married for 12 years… With her 14 years.. Two children aged 8 and 6.
    At the time when started going out with my wife she was in deep depression… He somehow told she was going to end her life if we were going to split (that was 14 yrs ago)… Then after a couple of months.. we got engaged – still felt that this was TEMPORARY.. and i was confident that i will END This in a couple of months…. … I WAS WRONG… After a couple of months again the same situation…. got MARRIED… still was confident that i WILL END THIS SOON… I WAS AGAIN WRONG.
    She is Nice as the mother of my children, i was never really attracted to her, SHe is also very good in having the house tidy, clean etc etc…
    I am struggling running my own business (crisis lately) – She is getting MORE money that me… I feel that SHE never appreciate how much i am trying.. and also i never remember when she offered help for MY BUSINESS (she has a MBA)…
    However we fight all the time.. – Different way of THINKING of whats.. correct or Not.. for what is COMMON SENSE (common sense.. is not so COMMON..) I dont really know if its
    > GOOD for the children to get a divorce
    > Stay with her till the children grow up
    > I dont have an affair / i dont have anything else.. but I really want to.. I feel so EMPTY…
    > If we didnt have kids i was never going to be with her..
    On the other hand.. Its NOT easy to FIND a NEW partner and START a NEW life or at least feel that you have found your soul mate..
    I dont really know what to do…. I dont really know whats CORRECT and whats NOT . It might be correct for ME but it might NOT be for my children…

  • George, it sounds like you’ve been carrying around a lot of resentment for a long time, feeling like your marriage is really just a life-saving favor that went sour. Resentment crowds out love. So, your first step if you want to turn this around is to let go of your expectation that she will ever repay that great favor. (Ironically, the chance that she will repay it will increase enormously once you stop expecting this.)
    Your second step is to stop fighting about Common Sense, and I can give you a very useful tool for this. Find Third Alternatives instead. There is an entire category of posts on this blog on how to do this. Very useful. It will change your life, even if you decide to divorce.
    And I have an off-the-wall suggestion for you if you’re willing to try the first two. Go talk to some traditional Hindus or Muslims about how to fall in love in an arranged marriage. Their parents choose someone for them (or narrow the choices to a few candidates), and after they marry, the spouses cultivate love. In this case, your parents did not choose your wife, but she is surely the one your two children would choose for you.
    If you can’t find anyone in an arranged marriage, try reading Love 2.0 for some tips. Give yourself a year of trying to love her, trying to find what’s attractive about her, trying to Assume Love and see her offer of business help as loving rather than dismissive, trying to master the art of Third Alternatives with her.
    Even if you don’t succeed, you’ll be in a much better position to avoid another rescue relationship (or search pointlessly for a soul mate) after you two part company.

  • Okay. … so I’ve been in a relationship for 16 years married for 4yrs. 3 kids together. We have days since 10th grade. He was the wild bad boy, I was the calm church girl. I thought I could help him. I did. He stopped hanging in the streets, finished school, have his life to Christ, etc. So why do I hate my Husband? Well let’s see, he has no job, he is immature, he doesn’t help with the kids or the house work, we have now of the same ideas or views…. on paying bills, money, raising our 3 kids, life. We arrive about everything. He is rude, has no Manors, no respect, very selfish, very lazy, plays by a total different set of rules, out side of sex…. . Don’t talk. He had addiction problems, he has Un treated bipolar….. I hate him most days. I regret many things in my life and time wasted with him. I feel sorry for my kids for having him as a sucky dad. I have to force him and m make him do anything beneficial to the kids or the house hold. Prior to marriage he has cheated, hit me, and prevented me from finishing school. I alway make excuses for him. He not taking his medicine for bi polar, or he needs to go to rehab. I’m sick of excuses. I’m currently putting him through school right now. He refuses to work. I hate him so much for using me like he does. I was a divorce but I’m afraid of God’s anger. I’m afraid of what it will do to my kids …. they cry every time I tell him get out. He begs me nor to leave. He claims he loves me and that after he finishes school in 15 more days… life will be different. I believe he loves me. I don’t know that I care about having a different life. Im scorn from living this life for so long. It’s too the point that regardless of what he does now. .. wrong or right. ..I find reasons why is wrong and I hate him that much more. I feel like I’m already mentally gone. I don’t touch him like I use to. .. when he touches me I jump. …I feel like I’m the problem more than he is now. Please help! Is there a way to d feel different? I read my bible and repent. But as soon as I see him or he does something it all goes out the Window until I’m done cursing him out or telling him how I really feel and all my regrets….. then I think God help! Any advise is appreciated. I could say a lot more but my life has been so full of drama and our differences. ….I could write a book. ..smh

  • Dear Patty,
    I came across your blog today, as you probably guessed, because of marital problems. My husband and I have been together for 18 yrs. and married for 8 yrs. This is my 2nd and his 3rd marriage. I fell in love with him the first moment I saw him. When we met, we were still married to our former partners. I had already separated and he was still living with his ex. At first we were having fights about him not leaving his ex and still sleeping with her. After he left her, we were fighting that he was not coming over as often as I would. He would hang out at the club with his friends and not really commit him to me and my son out of 1st marriage. It was a constant breaking up and getting back together. It wasn’t just me; it was also coming from his side. Insecurities have been in our relationship since day 1. After 10 years of up’s and down’s we got married. I was very happy. Why? Because I felt that compared to my ex (abusive), this man was someone I can grow old with, stick through thick and thin. One year after we got married, he went for a job to another country. During his stay I have found his password to his email accounts, and what I found was devastating to me. He was having email contact to several female “friends” he knows, which included my former neighbor. I was shocked to read these emails. He also had profiles set up on several dating sites, which really got me into a rage. I was disappointed in him. How could I have been so wrong in him? Is it too naive to think that there might be men out there who are faithful- straight out faithful- no emotional or physical cheating? I know you will say you both were married when you met. I know it was a mistake. Anyway he came back home soon, because he didn’t like the working conditions in that country. But he told my mom that he returned because I couldn’t handle things at home. When I read those emails I realized, something is going wrong in our marriage. When we fought I would get very loud and defensive. I felt that my behavior had driven him to those women. I tried to work for the marriage. By the way he has never apologized for the things he did or wrote to those women. He was upset for reading his mail and changed his passwords constantly. But every now and then I found evidence that he was talking or meeting other women. He always denied things. Although the marriage wasn’t that, my hormones were going crazy and I wanted to have another child so badly. It wasn’t the keep him, it was just for my selfish needs. He didn’t want to. He expressed that but didn’t take any precautions. And I got pregnant. Needless to say the time during my pregnancy wasn’t very good. He was full of resentment, and I was hurt for him not wanting to be part of the pregnancy. We both love our daughter dearly. When I tell my husband that I want out, he starts listing up all the past and why did I wanted to have a child if everything was sh..y. isn’t better to be good parents but not a miserable couple? We tried to split up several times, but somehow got back together, for whatever the reason might have been. It seems like we always have a chip on our shoulder, if I’m in a good mood he’s not and visa verse. We make each other’s lives miserable, but why? When he is home, we hardly talk, there is no affection, no hugs, no kisses, and he is 99% of the time in front of the computer and watches TV. When he wants sex, I don’t feel like it, because there is no affection. I want to feel desired and loved outside of the bedroom, before I can have any feelings in the bedroom. I don’t feel the LOVE anymore. I want to believe that deep down we love each other and that our fighting and negative behavior is just out of anger, resentment and hurt feelings. I can’t seem to trust him, when he works late or hangs out with friends; I believe that he is seeing someone else. I don’t want a divorce, since my son had to grow up w/o a dad and I don’t want the same for my daughter. Just because he is a lousy husband, doesn’t make him a lousy dad. He is now going home for a family reunion and I am looking forward to be apart. I want to be able to breathe again and do the things I enjoy doing.

  • Lady Miles, you’re way too focused on him. Let’s sort out your needs instead.
    Do you need help with the kids or the housework? If so, think about how you would get these if your husband were gone from your life. Then do that, unless it involves breaking your vows.
    Do you know how to resolve differences of opinion so that both parties are pleased? If not, please read the section in this blog about finding Third Alternatives, or read Stephen Covey’s book on The Third Alternative.
    Do you need to protect your income and assets from your husband’s depressions or manias? If so, move them into accounts only you can access.
    Do you need more income? Give some thought to how you could make some, because it’s actually a lot less taxing to make money than to convince someone else to make it. Before my first husband died, I was making more than him and working hard to do it, so it never occurred to me to try to make more. Fourteen months after he died, I had doubled my income. I had to use some of the extra money to pay for household help, but this freed me to make the rest more easily.
    Do you need your kids to have another mentally stable, non-drug using adult in their lives? Check out Big Brothers and Big Sisters or look for similar programs where you live — colleges are a good place to check, and so are churches.
    Do you need relief from rehashing what happened before you married? Check with a therapist or with a book like How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable. You cannot change what happened, but you can change its effects on you.
    Do you need the money you’re spending on his education for some other purpose? Don’t pay for another semester. (If you’re not paying for the education, only for his expenses, think of it as a gift to your children, not to him. They get to see their father without shuffling between homes and always have you available in case of problems with his addictions or bipolar disorder.)
    Do you need relief from fear related to his behavior while self-medicating his bipolar disorder with drugs or alcohol? Specify the behavior you will not tolerate, not the sort of treatment he ought to get. Then find someone (police, a pastor, a social worker, your big brother, a strong friend, or several of these) you can call, and call them every single time he lapses into that behavior. Make no excuses for him. Don’t lecture him or accuse him. Just make the call and ask for help stopping the behavior or for protection from it for you and the kids. Leave the choice of rehab or psychiatrist or AA or NA or whatever to him.
    Do you need more time or money or company for putting some fun in your life? Focus on how you would get it if your husband were gone, and make it a priority to get it.
    Do you need a reason to like your husband? You enjoyed his company in the 10th grade. You enjoyed it when you chose to marry him. Go back there in your mind, and notice again what’s good about him. Stop yourself when you start adding “but” to that happy memory.
    Do you need a reason to respect your husband? You listed a few, the things he changed once he met you. For others, check out the list of character strengths at
    Do you need to allow yourself more of a wild side? You’ve invested a lot in converting him over to your calm church girl, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But there is a reason you were attracted to his wild side. Are you working so hard to influence him that you’re not allowing him to influence you? In a healthy marriage, we influence each other — not to the point of violating own our basic nature and values, but enough to stretch them and grow.
    Do you need to understand addiction and bipolar disorder better, so that you can separate in your mind what he can control and what he can’t, so you don’t mistake the ones he can’t as signs you are not loved or respected? Al-Anon and your physician are two good resources.
    Do you need to live apart but still married, welcoming him into your home with love but giving each of you time apart every day?
    Do you need better manners in your home? Remember that we are all comfortable with different manners, and home is where we want to feel free to be ourselves, but almost all of us respond to context. Would a more formal dinner table help? Would it help to make TV viewing or video game playing a scheduled, shared family activity? Would it help to ignore bad language intended to grab your attention? Would it help to raise your own manners another notch? Would it help to pray when you feel moved to spew venom at him, so that you don’t appear to approve of that language?
    Paying attention to your needs truly beats paying attention to his failings. You may even rediscover why you loved him once you do.

  • DP, the very best thing you can do for your daughter is to love her father. And that’s not easy with someone who has such a hard time with commitment as your husband appears to. There is a very good chance he feels as suffocated as a claustrophobic in closed closet whenever he feels especially close to you. And that can be very awful to live with.
    On the other hand, there is also that bit about his lifelong obligation to your daughter being something you selfishly foisted upon him against his will.
    And now you two are stuck in an extremely common negative feedback loop. He stares at a computer or TV screen when he’s home, an obvious attempt to avoid other interactions with you and your daughter, which suggests they don’t often go the way he hopes. He’s damned for having sex with other women and not allowed to have it with his wife. And you would love to have it with him, but you need those interactions he’s avoiding to get in the mood. And it just gets worse each day until one of you decides to break the cycle.
    If you want to be the one, start doing something while he’s at home that he would enjoy doing with you. Or sit down and watch TV with him and bring something tasty with you. Or invite him to join you away from home doing something he would enjoy, and if he says no, go do it without him.
    And while you’re breathing and doing the things you enjoy when he’s at the reunion, make a list of them. Because you really ought to be doing them all the time. When you get to do things you love (unless they involve something like throwing darts at a photo of him), you will appear a lot more lovable.

  • Patty,
    I just came across this blog on google. And your advice to a John in Oct 2011 struck a chord in me. I am so happy to see that you are still on this blog. I apologise in advance in case this turns out to be very long.
    I have been married for 7yrs and have a 5yr old daughter.
    My husband and I have multiple issues. He sees no good in me, he is given to threats and insults (calling me stupid, a fool, worthless etc) when we have a disagreement. We have been to conselling twice. The second time lasted over a year and I ended it because I couldn’t afford it any more and it got to a point my husband would go in and not communicate. (He earns more than I do).
    He didn’t like the way counselling was going, he felt it was going my way even though he suggested the changes he wanted at home and the counsellor asked that I go along with them if I was willing (and I was) to cultivate an agreeable atmosphere. Even with that, he couldn’t maintain the changes he wanted. I gave up because he wasn’t cooperating but didn’t want to not go so he is not seen ‘as the one at fault’ and was of the attitude that since he wasn’t paying it wasn’t his money going to waste.
    His parents got separated when he was a child (very messy separation. His dad was physical with his mum, dad kidnapped him and his siblings told them their mother was dead and they would die too if they ever saw her and spoke to her etc)
    We haven’t been intimate for almost 5yrs. We both have very demanding jobs. Our finances are separate.
    His parents are very well educated and comfortable, so are mine. My parents have been married 42yrs.
    I have wanted to leave for a long time but thought I owed it to my daughter to try, others times when I felt there was no hope, I haven’t left because of financial reasons, because of fear of lonelines, but mostly as well as above reasons…or excuses…because of fear of how it would affect our daughter.
    I have found him watching gay porn. He complained in counselling that it is because he is sex starved. The counsellor asked why did he refuse my advances, he replied because he always felt I wanted sex to manipulate him. The counsellor then suggested he make the advances, he said he can’t because he has to get to work the next day and he knows I would want full sex. Okay whst of weekends, he said he can’t do Saturdays cause he is resting from work and Sundays he has to rest for the week ahead. The counsellor suggested starting with hugs only, he refused saying he feels that is being a hypocrite. He doesn’t see why he should be giving hugs if the marriage is not right.
    2 years ago I told him I wanted a trial separation and started viewing houses to move. He said he didn’t want a trial separation. I suggested he find a mediator or counsellor of his choosing since he didn’t like the ones I got (from the church, the 2nd was from RELATE). He said okay he will. I started house hunting with a view to moving out…unknown to me at the time, he had accepted an offer on our home (his house).
    By the exchange date, I hadn’t secured a place to move and he had gone and told our daughter I wanted to leave them and wouldn’t be moving with them to the new big house with garden. My daughter was distraught. I got really concerned and confused on what’s right to do when I saw how affected my daughter was.
    So I moved with him to a new house. I asked
    a few times when he was going to get a counsellor/mediator he said he ‘wasn’t physically, mentally and emotionally ready to work on our marriage’ I didn’t complain because things were quite cordial (I was attending counselling for myself) and I could see how happy and content our daughter was. I have raised the issue of intimacy and more children but he will not respond. He has now gone back to insulting me.
    During an argument 2 days ago (the first in the last 5 months), I asked when is he going to get a mediator or counsellor because we can’t go on like this and he replied ‘why can’t you get one?’
    In that instant, I felt in my heart I really should leave him..he is stringing me along and in hindsight has always done so.. I feel he needs to grow up.
    I want more kids..I want more kids badly and I am going to be 40yrs this December. I don’t want to remain celibate for the rest of my life.
    I feel my options are
    1. stay in the marriage because of our daughter even if it means no more kids but I don’t want to be celibate and would gladly have an affair.
    Or 2. leave him..with all that means.
    I really feel i should make sure our daughter is protected, feels secure and confident. She didn’t ask to be born, we wanted her.
    But I am depressed, not coping with work, have developed self confidence issues…and I am so lonely and miserable.
    I don’t know what to do for best.

  • Dear Patty,
    I am so happy to find your blog.
    I have been married for exactly 6yrs. I am 37 and my husband is 38. We have a daughter who has just turned 4.
    Our marriage has been in trouble from the very first day.
    We dated on and off for almost 3yrs. Once after a year of our being together, when i referred to us as boyfriend and girlfriend, he pointed out that we weren’t that we were friends. One day which was a few months later he referred to us as boyfriend and girlfriend..this was after a few months of us barely seeing and speaking on the phone even less. He would go for days without phoning and if I called he always sounded like I was a nuisance and would get off the phone before I have even finished saying ‘bye’. His reason was he spends a lot of time on the phone at work, he doesn’t want to be making calls when he doesn’t have to. When he does come round to see me, he wouldn’t hug or cuddle or even kiss me..he wouldn’t make any effort to spend time with me alone.
    I eventually got fed up and broke off the relationship. He would come back after a few weeks quite keen and behaving as if we hadn’t broken up. This happened a couple of times and each time I would get sucked in because I loved him. I would make excuses…like he probably doesn’t want to hug me or kiss me cause my family are around etc.
    He later asked me to move in with him so we could build our relationship. I eventually agreed and moved into his flat (he owned it). A month after moving in, he told my parents he was going to propose and they got excited (I was 31yrs at the time. Who knows they were probably worried that i was going to get left on the shelf. My younger sisters were all married with kids). He proposed but I didn’t feel we were ready. We were having arguments that weren’t getting resolved. (And i wasn’t if my love was reciprocated, I had told him i loved him but he had never told me he loved me). So I told him I would think about it. A week later, he said he loved me. I then agreed to marry him. I honestly wasn’t secure in his love for me and I feel he was excited to be with me as I was with him. I wanted a lond engagement but he moaned, emotional blackmail and eventually I thought, why wait…we could still grow stronger in our relationship in marriage everything doesn’t have to be perfect at the start.
    Three days before we got married, we had a massive argument because he had moved in his friend and wife to live with us until they find their feet, get settled and could afford their own place without telling me. (I worked away from home due to long commuting. I am a medical doctor, he’s an engineer). I didn’t find out till after they had been there for over two weeks. I went home to pack and travel out to meet up with him for our wedding, only to find a lady quite at home with herself in the kitchen doing some cooking.
    I asked him, why he didn’t tell me and didn’t he think it will be odd to his friend and wife that I never called to say hello..welcome them. He replied that I would have said no to his friends staying with us, so he decided not to tell me or ask me. During that argument, I realised we shouldn’t be getting married..that it would be a mistake. We had already flown abroad for our wedding, our families and friends had all flown in..some with very young kids. I didn’t have the courage to call it off. I put it down to ‘things we can sort out’.
    6 year later, with the last 5yrs of them without sex or any form of intimacy, with him descending to threats and insults when we have disagreements/quarrels, he’s refusal to think about having more kids that I desperately want (I am running out of time), two times at marriage conselling, many several trials at making the marriage work, lack of support from him with helping out around the house or helping with childcare, many thoughts of wanting to leave, developing depression and a growing lack of self confidence, getting treatment and conselling for them..and many many many sleepless nights later of wondering how our daughter is going to be affected by our separation..I told him I wanted a trial separation to which he refused. I told him 8 months ago.
    He helped out a little bit more with childcare and chores for a while but that is now tailing off. I can’t speak or suggest anything because it leads to arguments and then insults. I have been afraid for too long to speak up because I dread the insults. With each argument, each rain of insults..a little something dies in me each time..I lose a little bit more of the love I have for him.
    He refuses to give me any sort of affection, he will not work on our marriage because he is not ready to do so right now…he doesn’t have the energy.
    I feel we are basically incompatible, I don’t know what he wants from me..i don’t think he knows what he wants either. In counselling, the ‘problems he had with me’ changed with every session.
    Recently..actually in the last 6 months, there has been a cordial environment at home because I took a what i can call a third alternative (I call it that, now that I have read your blog) . And I have been desparate to maintain that atmosphere because I see how our daughter blossoms when the atmosphere at home is light, nice and warm..and i feel so fulfilled to see her so content and happy. So Patty, my third alternative has been to see him as my best girlfriend. I have made a lot of effort and have made friends with kids the same age as my daughter. So we get to do things, go out have fun days..leave my daughter at their while we go out for lunch or window shopping…we have the occasional family sleepovers so instead of going out to the movies, the kids are upstairs asleep in bed enjoying their sleepover while mummies are downstairs eating loads of ice cream, chocolate gateau, popcornand watching movies which eventually get neglected for gossiping, thinking up business ideas and just laughing and eventually giving in to exhaustion.
    I am happy in my person. But I am dying slowly inside. I am not fulfilled, I am feel alone and starved of affection, love, intimacy…and sex. I want more kids and I am not getting younger…I really want more kids..and I know that 5 years from now if I had stayed and don’t have any more kids I would be very bitter and would hate him so much. If I leave and don’t get to have more least I bitterness. I have spent the last 9yrs of my life (since i met him) in near celibacy. I have a high sex drive and have been dealing with a lot of sexual frustration. I haven’t cheated because I have not been interested in anyone else except my husband, i am madly attracted to him (but now have the desire to seek someone else) and also out of respect to him and respect for my daughter. I want to be the best role model I can be.
    My love language is the languages of touch. I have experienced love…very fulfilling relationships but couldn’t marry my ex (we were together 7yrs) because of religious differences which caused so much trouble in our families. I was young and thought ‘well, maybe it wasn’t meant to be’. I was heartbroken. In hindsight, we should have fought harder for our relationship. I met my husband 5years later. He was the first guy since the end of that relationship to touch my heart.
    Right now, I know I still love my husband, he probably loves me in his own way. But I know in my heart it is a lost cause.
    His parents had an extremely messy separation..infact that is putting it lightly. He has never talked about it to me…his family won’t talk about it…they are so secretive about it. I do know some very dak things happened there…his dad psychologically abused him and his brothers..did not care how much he hurt his kids just so he could hurt their mum. They have been heavily scarred especially my husband. He is the eldest.
    So my husband doesn’t want to separate but he is not willing to try..he does not accept that he has 50% blame..fault..responsibility to the marriage working/failing. No, it’s all my fault.
    I don’t even want to try anymore. Because we have done that so many’s not going to change. We are going round in cirles…I feel he has stringing me along. I am considering staying in the marriage for the sake of my daughter but know that should an opportunity present itself for me to cheat, I would grab it wholeheartedly. I feel no guilt about it and I am not troubled about getting found out. I just want the opportunity to present itself. I am a slightly petite pretty US size 2 – 4 and look like i am in my middle twenties…You hear of people having affairs and it seems so easy but I don’t seem to see any man.
    Because I rather do things properly, that’s why I went on google…I am worried about how our daughter will be affected if we separate. She adores her dad and her dad loves her too…she is quite mature for her age and knows when things aren’t right..she tries had to get us holding hands asking us to cuddle etc…it hurt me so much because it is not her place to do that..she is a child. We should be looking after her…protecting her. That lead me to my 3rd alternative and things have been great at home atmosphere wise..but I can’t live like this for the next coming years..i want more than a friendly housemate…I want a husband..a man…I want to live life…be happy. I want to try and make my own way and try for a chance at having a happy life. But at the expense of my daughter? Would she really be badly affected? Which is better for her…to continue the way we are or for us to leave? Which is best?????? I feel like a failure of a mother to think that I am going to mess up our daughter’s life if I go ahead and separate from her dad. I know she will be hurt, really really affected.. I wonder if the damage could be repaired or I also wonder if my leaving her dad is actually what’s better for the long term. Oh, I am so confused.
    Patty, I know I have rambled alot. And I hope my post makes sense. I would love to hear your take on this situation.

  • Ada Lynne, I doubt your daughter will feel secure and confident with a father who insults the other most important person in her life and a mother who is lonely, miserable, depressed, and not coping with work. You need a new strategy to fall back in love with the man you married.
    If you think your husband might join you, you could try Steven Stosny’s Boot Camp. There is now a telephone version for those who cannot get to Bethesda. The website is Dr. Stosny is very good at reaching men who can’t find any way of handling their frustrations other than becoming insulting. If you’re on your own, you might check out Michelle Weiner-Davis’s Divorce Busting for ideas to try.
    Avoid ever telling your husband he should grow up. This is the best adult he knows how to be. He might learn new skills in the future, but he doesn’t have them now, so “grow up” only conveys your lack of respect for him, which hurts him as deeply as a lack of love hurts you. It’s just how we’re wired.
    You should definitely give a try to the advice I offered to John, too. It’s a good antidote to declining self-esteem, and a healthy way to exit a marriage if it’s irretrievably broken.
    One thing that concerns me is your timeline. At 39, if you do leave your husband, your urgency to make more babies could make you easy prey for a lot of unscrupulous men in the dating market and put you and your daughter in an even worse relationship. Promise me you’ll take a full year to really get to know the father of your next child before you run any risk of pregnancy. And if you don’t leave your husband, you may be adding a lot more stress to a fragile marriage by having another child, especially with the extra risk of having a special needs child. Don’t rush into this if you want both children to have their best shot at happiness.
    You may also want to read the many comments on my One Last Stand Before Divorce post, which you can find in the Archives or by searching the web for that title.

  • Sara, I really like your third alternative, and here’s why. It’s taken your focus off what’s wrong with the marriage and whose fault that is. (It’s always both of you, but assigning blame just adds to the problems; it never fixes them.) It’s gotten you doing the things that Barbara Frederickson’s Love 2.0 research says create opportunities for the fleeting emotion of love, that little rush that makes us feel “in love” by synching up our positive emotions. (And, yes, you can feel this love with girlfriends, too.) It releases oxytocin and improves the vagus nerve’s tone.
    What’s still missing is physical touch, something that obviously matters a lot more to you than to your husband and that can even feel manipulative to him. I would suggest a sex therapist or some good guidebooks to help you seduce him without making him feel manipulated.
    Since your third alternative is working, I’ll take a guess that your husband’s love language is what Gary Chapman calls Quality Time. You might want to comment once in a while on how your time together is, much as you would want to hear your sex life is great or it’s wonderful to be in your arms.
    What you describe from your dating years is a man with commitment phobia. They desperately want a relationship, but they know from past experience that when the relationship feels really close and warm, it scares the bejeebers out of them, like getting locked in a small closet would scare a claustrophobic. So they race into relationships, hoping to get ahead of the panic and enjoy themselves for a bit. And they withdraw or get argumentative just when things are going especially well.
    Then, after the panic subsides, they show up at your door again. They even leave things with you to reclaim when that time comes, often unaware that they’ve done it or that they are there to resume a damaged relationship. They also bring people to live in a home where they expect things will otherwise get warm and wonderful, or they join the military or take a job overseas right after getting married.
    Fortunately, phobias are just about the most easily cured of all mental health problems. Sometimes, it requires a therapist’s assistance. Other times, the person just lucks into a situation where they can experience small, manageable but increasing exposure, over and over, to what scares them.
    If my amateur diagnosis at a distance is correct, you may want to stifle your urge to keep pushing for more and more intimacy when you get a little. Keep the moment safe, the equivalent of leaving the door open and the light on in that closet and giving your claustrophobic pal the spot closer to the exit. And don’t for a minute think the panic has anything to do with whether he loves you. It’s all been there since his childhood went awry.
    One more thing. You can afford help with childcare and housework. That’s not what’s missing from your marriage, and if it’s missing from your life, you don’t need it from your husband. He’s surely picked up on the fact that providing it when you asked for it was not enough, just as providing the things he asked for was not enough.
    If you two are up for any more therapy, consider Imago Therapy. With your educations and backgrounds, you are excellent candidates for making big breakthroughs with it. Harville Hendrix is the inventor of this approach and has trained many therapists in it. He’s also written books about it, if you would like to check it out first.

  • Hi, Patty.
    Many thanks for your reply. I really appreciate it. No, I have never told him I feel he should should grow up. I have never insulted him. I can’t do that because I am not wired that way and even if I could actually bring myself to insult anyone..I could never do that to him. He is the father of my child.
    The advice you gave to John struck a chord with me because I took time out from work (I am still on a career break) and now do locum work. So I now control when I work and have taken to doing things that I have on my life (bucket) list which has included travelling, attending football matches in the stadium, learning swimming, taking my daughter pony riding etc. I have been doing all this with my daughter and we have had really fun times.
    I go back to full time regular work in a few months but would really like to be settled..feel more secure. I can’t keep taking career breaks.
    I am not in a rush to get into a relationship just to have a baby. I am just in a rush to have some peace of mind and to feel free and be comfortable in my own home.
    I want more children but I don’t want to hurry out of my marriage so that i can quickly get into another relationship. I am honestly not ready to have a relationship yet. I just don’t want to remain in a situation in which I have no happiness, in which my chances for more kids are minimal and miss out on any possibilities for a happy relationship in the future. But I worry about the impact on our daughter. He is good with her and they are quite close.
    For some reason, something about me winds him up the wrong way. It’s always been like that, I just didn’t take it seriously, I thought it was teething problems which a lot of relationships have. I was quite naive.
    Unfortunately, Steven Stosny’s boot camp is not an option cause we live in Holland. I will read your blog on one last stand before divorce. Many thanks for your reply. I am so glad I came across your blog.

  • I believe Dr. Stosny’s boot camp can be attended by telephone, even Skype, if it interests you, Ada Lynne.
    I wish you peace in your decision about whether to leave or build a different relationship. Neither is easy.

  • Oh that’s good to know that there is a Skype option. I honestly don’t know what to do for best. But it is important that my daughter is put first. I will tell my husband about it. And see where it goes.
    Patty, thanks for your help and advice.

  • Hi,
    I apologise, reading back i see my post gave the wrong impression.
    In order to create a warm, nurturing environment at home, I decided to see my husband as a girlfriend..a best girlfriend. That makes living with him bearable. I make no demands on him. We live like friendly housemates. And i think he is very content and happy with how things are.
    My third alternative was to make friends with the mums of kids my daughter’s age at her pre-school (I have become pretty close to a couple). And because we all have the same issues with not having much time for socializing because of work and having a young family, we get together to do things with our kids as a group (mums & kids), do movie sleepovers etc and occasionally get one of the daddies to babysit while we go out for lunch or window shopping…you know, just doing different things.
    You see my love language is physical touch and quality time. My husband has no desire to spend time alone with me.
    Occasionally, he will go out as a group with extended family or friends (where he behaves like he is a hands on dad and can’t keep his hands off me). But at home, that can’t be further from the truth. I am sick of people telling me how lucky I am..they don’t know how different things are in reality when we are not on display. I no longer want to act like a loved up couple whenever we are in public. He even insinuates that we are having difficulties conceiving when people ask ‘aren’t you going to have another one?’
    I am happy in myself, a lot stronger now emotionally and psychologically. I am not interested in trying to make the marriage work. I am all done in. I have nothing more to give. I love him…a lot. I am attracted to him still. But it’s a lot cause. I have checked out. I will only work on our marriage if for once, he takes the initiative…makes the effort to get us help.
    I am ready to continue living as friendly housemates if that’s what is better for our daughter…her both parents in one house living together comfortably. But because I can’t imagine not having any human contact….no physical touch for the foreseeable future, I will take any opportunity outside my home should it present itself.
    Because I am confused on whether staying married for our daughter’s complete wellbeing (with the above scenario) is best or whether leaving is best, I wanted to know your take.
    And I think you have already answered me in your reply (please correct me if I am wrong).
    Dear Patty, you are good at what you do. I am so grateful. Thank you.

  • I am so sorry for your loss, Sara. I hear you letting go of someone you love and desire, and I ache for you.
    If you two can co-parent in the same house while living separate love lives, there are likely to be some real conveniences and financial advantages for your daughter for the next couple of years. Beyond that, I hope you will leave the shark-infested waters of men willing to date women who have a husband and child that come first and find love again, so your daughter can experience a happy marriage before she’s old enough to choose her own future.
    I’m fighting back tears. I know the pain of giving up on someone you really hope won’t let go.

  • I just took the time to read your response… I think your response was based off my original post. I don’t know how that’s possible but thank you for your advise. I will try to do all things.

  • Dear Patty,
    My wife and I have been together for 13 years, married for 8 years, and have two children 4 1/2 and 3. Things have always been up and down for us and I think our saving grace is that we both work so much that we don’t often see each other, so when we do see each other it can go either way, really well or a day full of arguments due to the fact we haven’t seen each other, and are more like flatmates. At present we spend one whole day together and two nights a week, we both work in hospitality and I generally work 60+ hours a week and my wife is part time, so she can spend more time with the kids. I am often very tired and mentally drained on my days off which makes it hard for everyone especially the kids, everyday I am up before 7, and when I am working I am not in bed until 1am, I know this doesn’t help as it puts me in a really bad mood, and like all kids they stress us both out and we take it out on each other. I do the majority of cleaning for the household, don’t get me wrong my wife does her fair share, but rather than spending time with the kids or my wife I am always cleaning, ironing or whatever and I do get resentful of it. Especially coming off an 18hr day to wake up in the morning and find the kitchen is still a mess from the night before. It is hard to talk about it without it getting thrown back in my face, that I might not have done something, like put my shoes in the right place.
    The problem really started for us when we left our homeland to live abroad, one year after being married, not even one year into living in a new country my wife was having an emotional affair, I still really don’t know how far it went, but it destroyed me a lot, but I tried to suck it up (we didn’t have kids yet), as I thought it was because of me, we came very close to splitting up then, but we tried to make a go of it, every now and then I still remember it and feel pretty gutted and get a little depressed. After we had our two kids the same thing happened again with a different person, but again from work, so I actually know both of these people, although I am not sure if anything happened, but she was hiding things from me, so I knew what I was looking for, and it soon came out she had feelings for someone else. My wife decided she need counselling for herself, which was great for her, she learned a lot about herself and became more positive, but it never changed the way I felt, betrayed, unsure of what to do, as time has gone on my wife now wants to experiment with other women, after many long discussions, I agreed that she could, but under the pre-tense it could only happen once or twice otherwise it is just have a full blown affair. Anyway after trying but not succeeding with two different women who ended up emotionally hurting her, it is all becoming a bit too much and I feel like I am being pushed aside to make room for her own desires. I am sure like many other people, I don’t have many friends, and have never been able to express the way I feel, so I harbour my emotions and explode during an argument which I know is not the right way to go about things.
    Money is tight which doesn’t help as sitters cost a fortune, and my wife is starting to get her social life back by going out a fair bit, while I feel guilty if I do go out as it could be a night I could spend with the kids.
    Our sex life seems to only happen when she has been drinking, so I never get to see the real her. I know she is not to blame, as I have my faults and I am sure there is plenty of them. But all that has gone on is making look at freedom. Although nothing has happened, I am finding myself attracted to another women, and I am sure she has feelings towards me. I really do not know what to do as I love my kids, and coming from a family where my parents divorced when I was 6, I never wanted the same for my kids, my father was not present and my mother had it hard with two full on boys. I often feel like we are together just for the kids. When we are on holiday we usually end up arguing after a couple of days because we are not use to each other. It is hard work, we have no family over here for support, which also makes me worried if we did split up.
    Sorry for the rambling, I probably could go on a lot more, I just have never expressed myself in this way.

  • Leigh, it’s really no wonder both of you are looking elsewhere. You have both neglected your relationship, which needs daily moments (like five a day) of shared positive emotions to maintain any sort of bond.
    Resentment undoes those daily moments, too, and you have elected a whole lot of resentment. You have chosen work that I am sure benefits your children and your wife financially but robs them emotionally by keeping you drained, tired, and in a bad mood. I am sure they resent this and you resent their lack of empathy for your long work days.
    You have taken responsibility for chores that create resentment for you: the ones you do and resent having to do, the ones you expect her to do even though they appear not to be a high priority for her (like kitchen cleanup), and the ones she expects you to do even though they are not a high priority for you (like “proper” storage of shoes).
    You have held onto your resentment at your wife’s inappropriate way of coping with the stresses of living in a foreign country with too few of those shared positive emotions and surely a bunch of resentment at the new chores a different country usually adds to the list.
    You have chosen a lifestyle that leaves you with too little money and too little time to spend a carefree night away from your children, which leaves you resentful when your wife decides to take some.
    And I was right there in your shoes the day before my husband dropped dead. We had chosen a lousy lifestyle, too, and never saw how it guaranteed us a lousy marriage. We both saw counselors who also did not see it and encouraged us to find more time apart for our own happiness.
    It was quite a shock to wake up to the knowledge that ALL the chores and ALL the childcare and ALL the school events and making ALL the income were now my responsibility.
    It was so much worse to realize, as I quickly did, that if I had made the changes I made then back while he was still alive, we would have had lots more couple time together, lots fewer resentments about sharing chores, and lots more of those shared positive moments. It was also amazing to see how much love I still had for him, once I took ownership of the things I needed to feel good about my life.
    (By the way, I doubled my income over the next fourteen months while reducing my working hours and my commute, without leaving the company I worked for. I used the extra money to free up more of my time for parenting and for myself.)
    Walking away can seem so tempting. But before you do, try making the changes you will have to make as a divorced single parent right now. Your wife is making the wrong ones first. You two have a lousy emotional and sexual connection in large part because you have created a life that offers no foundation for such a connection. Adding the expenses of moving your family into two homes and the time drain of supporting your kids through a life of shared custody or single parent living won’t improve that foundation one bit for either of you.
    Affairs or one-night stands require that you disconnect from your life in small chunks of time for sex or the sort of intense emotional connection that lets you pretend to care and be cared for without any responsibility for follow-through. A good marriage requires that you do a better job of integrating your roles as sexual beings, emotional beings, parents, and individuals who need outside interests and friends.
    It sounds like your current lifestyle does not support having a good marriage, whether with your children’s mother or anyone else. That’s not good for you or for your children.

  • I’ll give this a try… One reader stated, “Google is it really my only friend?” I read that and laughed, thinking that’s me. I work to do everything, I don’t have time for friends. Se La Vie! Ok, I have known my wife since we were early teens. She dated my best friend for 5 years and we were always together. She was one of my greatest friends too. We went separate ways after high school and 5 years later she found me again on Myspace. I was attending college and separating from a relationship that produced my son. She was also getting ready to handle her divorce that had created 2 children. We began dating and one year later I dropped out of college to take a job that could bring our families together. My son was 4, her two sons were 4 and 1. My ex made my life hell with my son and created a terrible burden on my relationship. He was with us every chance I could have him. And the wedge that she created between my wife and my son is still present today. Shortly after joining families we were married. We moved a couple times, she completed Cosmetology school, the children got older, and we settled into a sardine can that we live in. My son’s mom is now in prison for drugs and he lives with her parents. I will delve into that in a second. My wife and I had a wonderful baby girl that is now 3 and holds my heart. That brings the “Brady Bunch’ to 6 total in a sardine can. We have had our share of ups and downs even way down to the bottom. In 2008 my mother got sick and to afford the hotels I used my wife’s credit cards. Soon I was giving the choice to resign or get fired due to the amount of time I missed. I respectfully resigned and we moved to the city we met in. Only this time I had a crappy job that could not pay the bills or the money I racked up on her cards. Her credit scores plummeted as mine were already screwed from my earlier years. She still resents me for that I think and we almost divorced then even though I was trying as hard as I could to support us. She was attending school at this time. I think I resent her to for creating that environment while I was truly trying. Two years ago I took a job with extensive travel to try to purchase a home that could give us space. So far we have not accomplished any savings. The first 6 months I came home to no money and was so upset I pushed her away for 3 months. We almost separated that time also. The road is rough, I miss my kids and hate hotel rooms but it is all for a greater cause so I still say. That hope has been tested many times. Now my son, his mother will be in prison for some time to come. He does not get along with my wife’s oldest son and really does not get along with my wife despite her most valiant efforts. He did live with us for 3 months but it was time to return to the road and he did not want to stay here without me. I conceded it was best to live with his grandparents. My daughter misses him tremendously and truly enjoys his company. Those are but a glimpse into the onion of our marriage and life, the layers seem endless.
    Ok, presently I am unhappy. My wife and I seem so snappy. I have grown so short tempered with her youngest son. He has ADHD and tries my patience so much. I think I feel resentment for him that my son is not here due to their conflicts. When it is just my wife and I, or with our girl, my son, or her oldest son we get along great but when her youngest son is present all hell breaks loose. I have supported our family for 7 years now with no help from her but what she does here is a full time job. When our daughter starts school she says she will find work. I don’t know what I would do with help financially. My wife and I no longer have an intimate relationship. I am always the one who initiates it and have expressed my remorse for her lack of interest. This has really effected my feeling on our marriage.
    I feel I can offer my children better from me if we were separated almost like I would not have to include everyone and could focus on them more. My son has already stated he would live with me again. I feel I could achieve my dreams to benefit my children’s’ future. With those thoughts I feel sadness I would not be able to see my daughter every chance I get. That my wife would be left in a vulnerable position being a single mother of 2 1/2, granted I would be present for my girl any time I need constituting the 1/2. My wife would need daycare to work and I don’t believe she could do what is needed done outside to make the home work. She has stated that everyone would be crushed and her boys would lose another father, there’s being, so to say, not worth a damn. We have tried no counseling or other parties. It just doesn’t seem to work, not due to lack of love; I do love her and would miss our marriage tremendously. I can see the benefits of civilized separation I just do not know if it is worth the impact on the children. We due argue just not tremendously. I do believe it is possible to stay together although I feel my son will never live with us. To be honest to all readers I don’t know if my feeling toward her youngest son will not turn into hatred. I think I will always hold resentment. God I don’t want to give up my little girl. I know what it’s like I gave up my son once with his mother and once to offer calmness to him and my wife and her kid. I am so lost and wonder… Google, is it really my only friend?

  • Mike, I must thank our mutual friend, Google, for the introduction. You do NOT sound like a man who needs a divorce. It does not appear likely to fix much, and you already know how even better than I could much it complicates everything else.
    Let me try to repeat your story in a slightly different order, one that might help you see how to get out of this awful pain you’re feeling now.
    Q. Mike married a really good friend and still loves her fiercely. Should he divorce her?
    A. No, that doesn’t sound like a reason to divorce.
    Q. A year and a half ago, Mike was so upset over finances that he wanted no sex for three months. But then he wanted her again. Should he divorce her?
    A. Divorce a woman he loves and wants to have sex with? No!
    Q. But now that Mike is over that bit of resentment and rejection, his wife wants no sex. Mike hates having no sex with the woman he loves. Should he divorce her to have sex with strangers or perhaps to fall in love with someone else?
    A. Only if there’s no chance he can resume having sex with this woman he loves, shares a long history with, made solemn vows to, and shares a daughter with. Is Mike’s wife refusing him as a way to make him leave, which might suggest there is no such chance?
    Q. No, his wife says she and the children, even the two Mike did not father, would be “crushed” if he left. Should he divorce her?
    A. Sure doesn’t sound like it would make either of them any happier.
    Q. But they live in a sardine can and still cannot afford a house, even though they have both sacrificed a lot to give their 3-year-old daughter a stay-at-home mom and to work toward giving her and her siblings a better place to live. Mike, at least, is worn out from trying. So, perhaps he should divorce her and be a single dad to two kids instead of a married dad to four?
    A. Divorce cannot fix any of those problems. It makes them worse. They will jointly need to provide two homes instead of one. His wife will need to work, even though she has a toddler at home and a special needs kid and an older child and no reliable help of any sort from the other father. Mike will need to be available to his kids at times when he’s expected to work. He could lose his job. None of this will get any of them out of the sardine can lifestyle or give the kids as much attention as they need or increase Mike’s or his wife’s chances of a great marriage with someone else. Divorce will not fix a financial problem.
    Q. Speaking of financial problems, Mike spent a lot of money on hotels and a lot of time off from work to visit his mother as she was dying. He already had a bad credit rating. Now his wife does, too, because he was forced to resign from his job over it and couldn’t make the payments on time. Then when he started making more money, his wife spent more of it than he expected. They are both pretty angry at each other over money matters. Is this a good reason to divorce?
    A. This doesn’t sound like an addiction gobbling up funds or like a vindictive spouse taking the lion’s share of joint assets. It sounds like ordinary miscommunication about risks and priorities. Send them to the Money Habitudes website, Syble can teach them to talk more easily about their feelings about money. Divorce would just gobble up more of their money.
    Q. Mike also has a son who doesn’t get along with his wife’s same-age son, so the boy lives with his jailed mother’s parents, except when Mike gets a break from traveling. If he divorces the wife he loves, he can spend more time with his son, can’t he?
    A. He could also spend more time with his son by coaching the boy’s soccer/football/baseball/chess team. Or by going weekend camping together or on ski trips. Or by sending his stepson off to camp. Or he could hire an au pair so his kids could travel with him where he goes for work, as I did when my work took me to DC for 3 weeks after my husband died. My son did independent study assignments at the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, etc., with his au pair who was here to the see the U.S. and improve her English. Of course, since his daughter is likely to be torn between her two big brothers, he might also want to try to mend the rift between them for her sake, whether or not he stays married.
    Q. But is Mike wrong to also look at divorce as a way to avoid the frustration of living with his wife’s younger, ADHD-afflicted son in a sardine can?
    A. Here he is right. It will spare him from living with the boy. But it will put his daughter in an even smaller home with a stressed-out single mom and a special needs brother. Guess which gender child usually grows into the job of providing the care her mother can’t provide for such a child?
    Q. Well, darn! Mike’s unhappy. What can he do?
    A. He can work on his financial, housing, and step-parenting problems alongside his wife, rather than blaming her for them. (We all do this, by the way. It’s really hard to notice when what’s wrong with your life isn’t actually caused by your wife — or your husband. He or she is so wrapped up in that it looks like things could be better apart.)
    Mike had bad credit before he met her. He dropped out of school. He misjudged the consequences of helping his mother in her final days and got forced out of a good job. He got slammed by the recession and the only way back onto his feet was to take a job that keeps him away from home, leaves his wife on duty with no breaks, and drives his son to live elsewhere because he’s not there to moderate disagreements between the two boys. Every one of these problems or worse would be happening whether or not he was married, but he’s letting them come between him and the woman he loves, which makes his marriage feel all wrong.
    And, of course, we have a nice, simple word for undoing a marriage, and we have none for undoing a money-housing-time-children mess.
    I have told this story before, but I will tell it again. In the last two years of my marriage, we made a cross-country move for my husband’s career and, for good reasons, chose to live close to his office, giving me a very long commute every day on top of longer hours. That commute was the source of so many bad feelings and so much resentment, in both directions, but neither of us saw it as the source. We saw it as a given in our lives, and our spouse’s decisions looked like the source of the problems. When he died, I had to make it go away to be closer to our son’s school, so I did what I had to do to shorten my daily commute, and that’s when I saw how different, how much more loving our lives would have been if I had seen it as changeable.
    Mike, it’s not just the heavy-travel job that’s building your nest egg while destroying the very reason for the nest that’s the problem. It’s also the step-kid situation. Imagine if your wife died tomorrow. Would you throw your two step-kids to the wolves? Or to their father? I doubt it. Without your wife there, I’ll bet you’d take a course on parenting ADHD kids, locate reliable babysitters, spend time helping the two older boys find things in common, let your step-sons know they can rely on you. You’d give them more responsibilities, so they felt like real contributors. And of course you would need to change jobs to be there for all of them, so you would. And then, I’m pretty sure, you would bawl your eyes out that your beloved wife wasn’t there to enjoy it.
    Of all the stories I’ve read on this blog, yours is the one least likely to be improved, even for you, never mind the kids, by divorcing.
    I asked our friend Google for some names of other helpers, in addition to
    She came up with these:

  • Ive been married going on 13 years. I have a 8 year old girl & a 4 year old boy. They are both my everything & I love them with all my heart & I try to spend every free minute I have with them. My wife on the other hand is another story. She and I have had a rough marriage, to say the least, for the past 13 years. We have never seen eye to eye & very rarely do we agree on anything. We don’t have much in common either & are not sexually compitant. So you may ask “Why did you guys get married?” Good question. I married her because: 1) I was ready to settle, 2) she appeared to be someone who would be a good mother to my children, 3) she was very attractive, 4) she appeared to be domesticated, etc. Nothing having to do how she treated me or how she made me feel. I hope this explains a lot. Don’t get me wrong, she a decent person but we just dont seem to get a long. I’m to the point where I can no longer live with her. It just feels so toxic. I feel stressed out, depressed, anxious, & unsettled. I’m ready to move on from her but not from my kids. I don’t know what to do. Can someone help me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Dan, your wife selection process sounds a good bit like an arranged marriage. In those, people don’t expect love to conquer all. They expect to make an effort at falling in love with the person who meets their criteria for a good partner.
    If you have any friends from India, Pakistan, or another country that practices arranged marriage, you might ask for tips on how to fall in love with a good woman. Or at least how to actively admire and emotionally support one, because no matter what your direct relationship with your wife is, this woman will always be, to the children you love, the other most important person in their world.
    Your relationship with their mother, married or not, will always be as the person who shares and supports their admiration for her and who stands by her so that she can be the best possible mother for those children, even in times of hardship or stress. If it’s not, your relationship with your children, as well as their relationship with their mother, suffers.
    If you enter into a relationship with another woman, your choices are effectively limited to women strong enough to do as Rachel (in the comments above) manages to do: to see her through your children’s eyes and not as someone who knew you and had your heart long before she did. The odds are good she’ll need to ask the same of you with her children.
    So, yes, I’m saying your easier route here is to try to fall in love with the mother of your children. When I married my second husband, we rarely agreed on anything, so we kept a journal handy. When we DID agree, we wrote it down. Seeing the list grow helped us cope a lot better with the times when we disagreed and had to find a Third Alternative.
    Not seeing eye to eye with my husband, but knowing I can trust him, I have learned a lot. I have had the chance to see things from different perspectives, to learn things I never would have learned on my own. It’s not as easy as my first marriage, but I have grown a lot more in it.
    We didn’t have much in common at first, either. So we keep trying new things, looking for ones that both of us enjoy. And we have two televisions, because we find very few shows both of us can enjoy. But we record the shows, so they never take priority over the things we can enjoy together.
    I suspect you meant to say you’re not sexually compatible, but in truth many couples are not sexually compatible because they are not sexually competent. In other words, they haven’t learned much about how to get themselves or their partners in the mood or how to make sex fulfilling for both of them. We fool ourselves into thinking we know all we need to know because of how we did with a new partner and a younger body and none of the after-effects of giving birth to children or the complications of living with them.
    And maybe you have tried all this with your wife already and gotten nowhere. If so, and you cannot bring yourself to love her, at least work at seeing her through your children’s eyes, the way you might see a beloved teacher of theirs, where you can focus on what they love about her without negating any of it because the woman has bad taste in clothes. Be sure you can do this before you ask them to split their lives in two and miss out on the conveniences and financial benefits of married parents.

  • hi…it has been quite an experience reading ur posts n advice.i have been married for 14 years n have 3 boys. im at a crossroad now….i know that i cant leave my marriage yet i feel suffocated. i feel there is nothing in my marriage except for my boys. we only talk in front of them n when v r alone its just silence.each time i try to talk we end up arguing.i feel so tired.after this i will try ur advice of not expecting which is quite challenging as i have a high expectation on what a father shd be.i hate it when he is happier to spend time wt his friends as compared to wt the children……im thankful to ur website.i never want to do anything tht hurts my boys.tq

  • Hmmmmm!!!! Dear Patty, this is just a sign of relief to have finally found a blog like this to let out my pains to someone that really cares and will offer a priceless advice.
    I am an African, a Nigerian to be precise and divorce is never an option for me. We’ve been married for almost 4 years now. We have 2 kids, a girl(3yrs) and a boy(7months). I am 24yrs old and my husband is 38.
    There was this guy i found in his house while we were still dating(we dated for 6 months+), he introduced him to me as his cousin and i had no reason to doubt him then. He took the house like his second home, he comes in and out at will, he can stay for days before leaving for his home. He is my age mate and I liked him, he’s hardworking just like a lady. There was a day i visited my husband to be, i went through his messages and was disturbed by the type of love messages they both exchange. I confronted him immediately just the way i felt about it, he told me that it was the guy. That there’s a girl that is disturbing him to be her boyfriend, that those messages were from the girl and the guy forwards them to him just for him to read. I STUPIDLY believed him. Though i asked him to delete them. When we got married the guy was still there, i took him like my own brother. He helps us with anything he can and we help him financially too. We also got to know his family. I started noticing the UNNOTICED. They still share those love messages, my husband calls him virtually everyday and at the end of the calls he never fails to tell him that he loves him. Infact he is so into this guy. I didn’t take it that serious cos i still believed they were cousins and i can tell any of my family that i love them. Then i talked to my mother-in-law and she revealed to me that she started seeing the guy in this house the same year i met my husband. That they are in no way related. It just dawned on me that my husband has been cheating on me ever since we met, not even with a lady but a fellow guy. I DIED and DIED again at the thought of it. I’ve tried talking to him about it for him to stop whatever it is he has with the guy. I confront him each time i found out something about them. He will always lie about it and deny everything. I was with the guy’s phone on one valentine’s day, my husband had gone to work. While i was with the phone a message from my husband came in, i anxiously opened it, Lo and Behold it was a valentine’s love message saying that ”he will never leave him, that he is love and his valentine”. I NEVER got that kind of message from my husband. I confronted him on his return, he begged and said it was a mistake. I forgave him and i didn’t confront the guy like he begged me not to. I came across another, this time it was from the guy to my husband, i confronted both of them together and i had to stop him from coming to my house. And i made it clear to my husband that he will be offending me if he keeps being in touch with him. I have talked to him heart to heart, i have cried, i have moaned and i have scolded him, But my husband will always call him in my absence and i know they are still in touch. Ever since then, my life hasn’t being the same. I have lost the respect i had for him. The trust is no longer there and i no longer believe him. He has LIED, CHEATED and even ABUSED me PHYSICALLY bcos of these. Every little thing he does is an offence to me and i never fail to remind him of his affair bcos it still hurts me till today and i have not been able to forget them. I have tried to move on without those thoughts in my head, but that is simply impossible cos when i was ready to forgive and get to trust him again, he wasn’t ready cos he valued that affair over me. I have neva told anyone this bcos i didn’t want to expose him. Only if he can erase those hurtful memories from my head and make me trust him again. Thank you very much!

  • Hi, Dana. I am so sorry to hear of your pain and isolation in your marriage.
    Are your high expectations for a father helping your boys or hurting them? This is the father they have and will always have. He may disagree with you about how to be a good father, or he may simply not feel competent to be even the sort of father he desperately wants to be. In either case, telling him you expect something different robs him of the respect he craves from you and robs you of the pleasant, affirming conversations you crave from him.
    Pat Love and Steven Stosny wrote a marvelous book titled How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. You might find it helpful.
    I love to talk, too. My husband not nearly as much. So I make sure I have other people I talk to regularly. It cuts down on my neediness when I am around him. And this cuts down on the total silence, which happens when someone is afraid that saying anything will be worse than saying nothing.
    I recommend seeking out more things worth talking about. More date nights. More bowling. More dancing. More county fairs. More museums, especially quirky ones. More inspirational speakers. More top-notch musical performances. More restaurants you’ve never been to before. More brand new TV shows. More croquet games in your back yard. More games of Twister, naked if the kids are in bed.
    Allow no conversation of kids, the house, jobs, or finances while you’re enjoying them, even if it means doing the entire activity together in silence. You can resume those conversations after you get back in the habit of experiencing conversation as a fun part of your romance again.
    And if you want to get a conversation started, start it by praising something you admire about your husband. It’s really hard to argue with.

  • Vivian, I am so very sorry for your pain and for your husband’s awful situation, too. Exposing him could rob your children of their father. Since you are unwilling to consider divorce (I have never heard of it being outlawed for Nigerians, especially not for those living outside Nigeria), have you decided at what point you will have caused your husband enough pain to make up for yours, so you can get on with your life as his wife?

  • I’ve been recently looking up massive amounts of information regarding counseling, divorce, separation, etc…I came across your blog and it made me think positive as opposed to all the negative swirling around.
    This is a long story, I apologize, but I’ve been seeking some kind of answer, trying to find something but I can’t help but feel this is a semi unique situation. I am in the Marines so it all makes sense.
    Abby my wife and I met over the phone back in August of 2005. She was a friend of my sister, we talked endlessly and we clicked quite well, after two months we decided to meet. She flew out to San Diego where I was stationed and we spent 4 days together, but it was magic, to this day as hard as it is I can recall some of that weekend quite clearly. But I just knew in my heart then that this was the one for me. She had a good head on her shoulders, was goal oriented, and wanted a lot out of life that I did. It was very spontaneous but I proposed to her that very weekend, and she said yes, I was 20 and she was 22. We had no plans of getting married yet but it just felt right. The next few months, we’d fly back and forth to CA and NY as much as possible to see eachother. Although long distance, we were doing very well.
    Come February 2006, I had to go to Iraq for a year. I’d been there once before and was well aware of the strain that deployments can put on a relationship, and discussed these things with her to help prepare her the best I could. My deployment was split up in two 6-month stints. I made a lot of effort to keep her happy from afar and without going into too much detail, I basically gave her a lifelong dream, a puppy. I knew she’d never had one yet, and knew she’d be lonely so I thought what better gift than a puppy. I did that among many other things, we talked often while I was there, and she was finishing college. Over the course of the first 6 months, things weren’t easy but we made it, and I could see the strain it was putting on her. So when I came home we went to Pre-marriage counseling, (we’re both catholic) and we spoke with the deacon regarding many things. But I could tell she was not ready for the next 6 months. I talked to her about it once more, and proposed a break up, on consensual terms so that no hard feelings would be involved beyond the obvious, and when I came home we would see where things went. She refused and wanted to wait, to which I was happy to hear.
    So I went back to Iraq in late August 2006, from that point on a few nights a week we’d discuss marriage vows over the phone and what they meant to us. Things were rough as expected, but as the holidays approached, out of nowhere Abby said she needed a break because she couldn’t take the distance anymore. I was devastated, I tried to figure out why, as I was putting forth all the effort possible from where I was, and all she kept going back to was I was somehow smothering her because she felt like she had to keep the phone with her at all times in case I called. I was devastated, well at the time I didn’t find out anything, I had my suspicions, but no evidence. Over the next few months November to early January, she didn’t talk to me much until right before I was about to come home she called and told me how much she missed me. Naturally I was happy as I loved her dearly, I asked what happened and she said she went on a date with a guy, but realized she didn’t want him, she wanted me but needed time alone to straighten her thoughts out. I asked the obvious question of did you have sex and she said, “no”. I wanted to believe her so I did. -details- We had a justice of the peace wedding in Oct 2007.
    Fast forward to late 2008, actual wedding planned, everything is in order and here we go. I am getting ready with my brother in law, brother, and cousin for the wedding. We’re all reminiscing about the past, laughing, and nostalgia all the way around it was a good time. But then my brother in law said something to this day I’ll never forget…”I’m glad she picked you over the other guy though, he was a douchebag.” My heart sank, and I remember time stood still for what seemed to be an eternity so many thoughts running through my head, and he could tell something was up and asked if I knew anything, to which I said, “well I thought I did”. So he didn’t want to go into detail as he felt horrible now, but I found out that she had seen this “Other man” for a couple months and then it just didn’t work out between the two. She had gone to his place a number of times and vice versa. I mean I could go on and on with all the things that went through my head at that moment but I’m sure you could imagine.
    So here I am on what’s supposed to be one of the biggest days of my life and all I can think about is that she lied to me about everything, and though she may have called it while I was in Iraq, at that moment it felt like I had just found out about her infidelity as if it had happened yesterday or today even. I just went through the day, we were already married afterall, so my sole memory of my wedding day is the pain I was going through all day holding it in. I don’t remember my vows from that day, I don’t remember many details at all, I just remember faking a smile and thinking about how mad I was at her. I tried to talk to her about it after we were home, but she immediately went on the defensive and would not discuss anything with me.
    Again without going on forever, it’s been a very rocky road, 2009-2011 she was very distant with me and any time I brought it up it was always my fault, and I needed to get over it because it was in the past. Those same statements come out today. However even with how bad things were, I was dead set that I will make this marriage work through thick and thin. So we planned onward, in 2011 we had our beautiful baby boy Ryan, after he was born nothing changed, and I just felt so alone. So I moved out for about 2 months, we went to a marriage counselor for that time, and I decided that I could not leave my son, not right now, I was not mentally ready for that. So I kept trying, but at this point now to a degree, my heart was dead to her (Abby) and I just couldn’t see her the same way no matter what I did. Mid 2012, I received orders to Hawaii, I was ready to go by myself and have her stay in NY near her family and mine, so that was there would be a support structure for her, but she pleaded that we move to Hawaii to start anew in a new location and everything. I concurred and we move out to Hawaii together…at first things were okay, we had stuff to do, kept us occupied. But intimately, the connection was not there. Every kiss felt forced for me, the sex was dismal at best. I attribute this to me never really getting over the fact that she slept with another man, and no matter how hard I try to get over it, it just lingers. Present day, we now have a beautiful baby girl, and she is the cutest little thing you’d ever lay eyes on.
    But now I am at a point of indifference with my wife.
    I don’t care what she has to say anymore, she wants to talk about work but I just don’t care to listen. I have no interest in including her in any of my activities any longer. I used to try to get her involved but I just don’t care. I don’t care where she goes, what she does. I look at her and I feel empty to her, like I have nothing left to give. I think to myself what more do you have to give after you’re heart has been ripped out and hung to dry. But I am so torn, because I look at my beautiful children, and their smiles are priceless, when my baby girl laughs, and smiles at me, she breathes life back into me and melts my heart nearly every day, and my son, as much of a pain in the ass as he is. Every day as he grows I look at him, and I’m so proud of what he’s becoming, all the hard work I’ve put forth into raising an intelligent, polite young man. The thought of not being able to be there every day rips me apart, but the thought of staying with a woman who ripped me apart is just as painful. I can’t say I hate her, but maybe it’s hate and I just don’t recognize it, all I know is I look at her and I see a woman I used to love, but she shared herself with another man. I think to myself, what does it take, I mean what does a woman want, when a man gives everything he has, to be the good husband, the good father. I’ve always tried to live a life of honor, but I see myself slipping, my morals are waivering and I am beginning to lose myself, who I thought I would always be. I am losing myself to indifference, I am cold, I am heartless, I am unhappy, I feel as if I am dying on the inside.
    My despair comes from my relationship with my wife, but my hope comes from my relationship with my children.

  • Phillip, how horribly sad that your entire marriage has been so unhappy, after that magical beginning you had together. And how awful to reach a crossroads where you must choose to see less of your children or fall back in love with their mother, when that seems impossible to do.
    As you surely know, infidelity — a single one night stand or affair, at least — is rather common among married couples. It’s even more common among married couples separated by deployment. It’s even more common when that deployment is to a war zone. And it’s a lot more common still among couples who are not yet married and must sustain that hope that everything will still be the same after the deployment. Perhaps it is even more common among couples where the deployed member offers to break it off if the other member can’t stand the the separation and the fear.
    This is not to condone infidelity. It is a terrible breach of integrity. And to someone for whom integrity is among his greatest character strengths, as it is for many Marines, terrible may not be a big enough word for it. And to commit this breach and then lie about it, the horror doubles. I cannot imagine the pain of learning about both on the day of your formal wedding.
    But for someone who brings into your life other character strengths, including the ones that made your first visit together so magical, someone who still must work at integrity, temptation is a much stronger foe. As wonderful as your wife sounds, I imagine she was offered quite a lot of it while you were away. And once it happened, and she wavered while facing the holidays with only a telephone connection to you, she may have been exercising a different character strength when she chose to lie about it, a strength like kindness or optimism or love. ( is the place to learn about these.)
    Perhaps when she broke with integrity to lie to you, your wife was simultaneously exercising exactly the strength that made her seem so wonderful when you met her, trying to protect your relationship and your feelings. It’s nice to share a few top strengths with our mate, but it’s the ones that differ that make our lives so much fuller. Those are the ones we learn from and the ones we can lean on when our own are not enough.
    And it does seem you were happy with her lie. You married her and apparently had a good first year of marriage. But from the day you learned of her lack of integrity (and for many people, the lie is even worse than the infidelity, because you need to trust your spouse), your heart has been filled with resentment. And the thing I have learned is that resentment is horribly, horrible corrosive to relationships.
    Recently, I read Barbara Frederickson’s Love 2.0 research, which offers a really clear reason why it is so corrosive. Our relationship is based on both long-term and short-term connections. Commitment is long-term. Shared goals are long-term. Shared children are long-term. Common interests and hobbies are long-term. But we also need the short-term. We need to feel the emotion of love, too. And surprise! It does not come from any of those things. It comes from brief (minutes long in many cases) episodes of feeling in sync as we share some other positive emotion together.
    During your magical weekend together, you knew she was the one for you because you had non-stop episodes of getting in sync. When this happens, oxytocin flows (which will make you feel a warm rush and a sense of trust) and your vagus nerve is stimulated (which usually is felt as warmth in or near the heart). Your body loves this, because stimulating your vagus nerve tones it up, which makes your heart and other organs healthier.
    In healthy, happy marriages, this emotion, this getting in sync, is felt an average of 5 times a day or more. Not non-stop as in that first weekend, but for a half-minute or a few minutes each time.
    The emotion is interesting. It’s not actually any different from the emotion of love you feel with your children or even with the emotion you feel when you connect with a fellow Marine or a stranger in the airport. What’s different is that you are feeling it in the context of those longer-term connections.
    But here’s the catch. Resentment toward a person makes it much, much less likely that you will reach these little moments of synched-up good feelings. You have been starving yourself of them from the moment your brother-in-law dropped that bombshell on you. And you have been starving your wife of them, too.
    And trying to stay together while starving had eaten away at the longer-term bonds you once had.
    So, if you want some hope for your marriage, what will it take for you to let go of your resentment about her lack of integrity while you were in Iraq and her choice to lie to you about it for more than a year? Maybe you simply cannot ever tolerate her lack of integrity or her attempt to keep you from learning about it. If that’s the case, and for some people, it is the case, there’s nothing left.
    But perhaps what you need to let it go is some sort of penance from her. Or maybe for both of you to take the test at that site I mentioned so that you can get a better picture of who she is and why you fell in love with her and how she adds to your life and to what you can offer your children. Because with a gal that great and two wonderful kids, I can’t imagine that eliminating the resentment won’t give you back what you lost because of it.
    If you decide to go for it, best to let her know, because the turnaround when you start feeling love again could make her suspicious that YOU have just ended an affair.

  • Ive been married for 15yr ,have three kids ages 4,8,12. I am seriously considering divorce. My husband is a compulsive liar with ADHD. He is a good/kind person but lies about anything from returning a book to the library to not paying car insurance or taxes on our house, while having the money in the bank to pay for these things. He has ruined my relationship with my childhood friends because he has lied to them about business transactions. He doesn’t steal their money but he just tells them he will get things done, but nothing ever gets done and ends up costing them a lot of money. I feel the shame of having a husband that lies to everyone andhaving them look at me as if I must be the same because we are married. He loses jobs every one to 2 years due to his lying and I have to always be the provider for the family. WE fight every day over his lies and the children are sometimes home to hear it. how can I stay in a marriage where I cant believe a word he says.
    We haven’t has sexual relations in over 6 months and there wasn’t much happening in our 15yr of marriage.
    What should I do? Should I continue to live a life of shame for my children, aways trying to decipher whether he is telling me the truth or lying?
    We went to marriage counseling for a few months that how I found out he had ADHD, buthe refuses to take medication to treat his disease, but he has been trying to be more truthful, but it is not 100%. I don’t know if I can continue living with someone I cant trust. I have be a detective every day and Im getting tired of it. He gets upset that I am questioning him every day and this causes a lot of tension between us. Most days I hate him. I don’t leave the house much because I’m afraid of bumping into someone who he has deceived. I went to my aunts funeral and someone approached me there. What should I do?

  • You seem so wise. Please help me. I don’t want to be divorced. I don’t want to do that to my children. But I live with a man who cannot sincerely apologize. Ever. For anything. He absolutely cannot show remorse. And he knows he’s done plenty he should be remorseful for. He’s disrespected me in every way you can imagine short of cheating. All he can say is “Fine. Can we move on?” But I can’t move on. I can’t trust him. Every promise he makes he breaks. Every plan for parenting we make goes down the drain. Every time I turn around he has us in more and more debt. He 56 years old! I guess like you say I should just start living my own life? Our kids are 10 and 12. Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind it’s so painful. I can’t find a way to think about what’s happening that doesn’t hurt really bad. Sometimes I just get in my car and drive so I can scream. Please help me just find a mindset that might bring me peace.

  • Thank you, Carlina. I hope you will read this piece about a lying husband (who lies to avoid apologizing for mistakes):
    And this one about financial irresponsibility:
    “Fine. Can we move on?” is something you hear from one of two types of husbands. The first is a man who feels less than good enough, feels a lot of shame, and is fighting to hold his marriage together by walking away from anything that adds to his primal fear that you don’t respect him (and therefore don’t love him). The second is a man who needs no love and has taken a wife to get himself an inexpensive personal servant and prop. And I’m not sure they are any different, because I don’t believe any needs no love, but they find shame so horrible to deal with that they refuse to love in order to avoid feeling shame.

  • hi Patty, just wanted to say thanks for opening my eyes to a third alternative: developing a happy relationship for the kids

  • have you heard the phrase – if someone really wants to do something, they will always find a way?
    So if after repeatedly explaining, telling, crying, fighting about my need for emotional connections – he doesnt do anything to even agree that we need help – is that a sign of the end?
    I am normally a person who makes people feel special and all i ever want is to be made to feel special. A small surprise once in a way; a simple thing like getting the kids to do something for me for mothers day. I came to terms with the fact that he doesnt KNOW how to spring a surprise; that he cannot hide things and keep secrets – so i was gradually getting used to this lifestyle. Then something happened that completely messed things up for me with the realization that it isnt that he cannot keep a secret to surprise someone – it is just that he doesnt see why he should do it for me
    Our marriage is happy bcos i have made it to be that i am always happy and hyper. For the sake of the kids, i have and will continue to do it.
    But what about me?

  • Dharshi, I know that some of those who write to me are, indeed, married to jerks who either don’t or can’t love them. This is why I always suggest you first Assume Love.
    Some people think this means you should give your spouse the benefit of the doubt or overlook things that upset you, but it doesn’t. It means try a little experiment to get clear on whether the love is gone or whether you’re just missing it.
    So, imagine a movie. You see the couple falling in love. It’s really clear they both adore each other. At first, they go out of their way to make sure the other knows it. Later, they get busy with other things that distract their attention. But the love is still there, strong as ever. As someone watching the movie, you know this, even if the characters wonder from time to time.
    We see a scene that clues us in that he knows how to surprise someone with a gift or a celebration, something she very much wishes he would do for her. Now, watching the movie, you know he loves her dearly. And he’s a man of good character; she didn’t marry just anyone.
    How will the screenwriter make it all work out in the end? Well, first we need to guess what might explain his failure to give her a surprise like the one she wants.
    When you’re in the middle of this pain, you spend most of your time looking for signs the man is flawed or he never really loved you. That’s why we create the movie version and just assume the love and the good character — so we can set all that aside and think of reasons why he might behave this way. Then we can see if any of the reasons fit in your personal story.
    In the movie, he might know she wants “emotional connections” but have no idea that a surprise like the one he just pulled off for someone else would count as an “emotional connection.”
    He might know she wants a happy surprise, but by now she’s cried and complained about it so much that arranging one would feel more like groveling than showing love.
    He might be showing her love some other way (hard work, massage, respect, affirming words) but feeling it’s being ignored and not reciprocated — so he doesn’t expect his surprise to have a happy ending.
    He might have a very different relationship with her than with the recipient of his surprise, so that it’s true he can do this, just not for the wife he adores and shares a home with.
    He might have had help coming up with the surprise for someone else and none for a surprise for his wife. Or he might have had a stroke of insight into what would delight the other person and still be waiting for one to delight you. My husband, who cannot comprehend gift exchanging and thinks it’s a form of torture, once brought me toilet paper with a bow on it on my birthday, because it was the first thing he’d ever run across while shopping on my birthday that he was sure I needed and did not currently have.
    I’m sure you can add a few for our movie husband. Have you seen the Discover Card commercial where the man’s on the phone with them when he opens the door to his surprise party?
    Once you’ve got a list of possibilities, you ask yourself if any of them could be true for your husband, too.
    If none of them fit, maybe you’re married to a meanie. If you leave, you still won’t get any pleasant surprises (at least until you find someone new to love you and your kids — it took me 11 years), but at least it won’t be so easy to take it personally.
    But if any come close, they may open up a conversation with your husband that’s open to learning more about who he is and why, just because they allow you to have an unmet need without it meaning he has a flaw.
    Even writing that last bit brings tears to me eyes, because the morning after my first husband’s sudden death, the difference between my unmet needs and his flaws became crystal clear in a flash. I was left with a lot more unmet needs, even though he was gone from my life and our son’s. It was a horrible surprise to see how many of my needs he had been meeting while I waited impatiently for him to meet the rest. And as I learned to deal with my own needs, I so often wished he were there, so we could enjoy the cleared air.
    Dharshi, I hope you are married to someone who still adores you but has some reason why he can’t be the one to handle this need of yours. And I hope you find some other positive emotional connections to celebrate with him while he’s still yours.

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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