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Can My Marriage Be Saved?

Question:

My husband of 19 years is unhappy in the marriage and says we can’t communicate. I know I have been difficult and have pushed him away, but even when I admitted it, it was probably too late. I think our biggest problem is our business, which is suffering right now during this recession, and all we do is work. We’re like business partners and not like husband and wife.

He is already seeing another woman and most likely will marry her. He is away on a trip right now seeing the other woman. What confuses me is that prior to his leaving, we were still having marital relations, he was still sleeping in bed with me, and told me he would take care of me and the kids no matter what.

He won’t say he doesn’t love me, but he does say he respects me. When I spoke to him on the phone and told him we could fix this marriage, that we should try for the sake of the kids, I sensed a vulnerability in him. I just don’t know if he really still wants to be with me. He complains that he’s been unhappy for the entire marriage. I know that’s not true.

I have tried so hard in the last few years to be a good wife, to talk to him, try to engage him, but he won’t open his heart to me. If he wants a massage, he’ll ask our oldest son. If he wants a cup of tea, he’ll ask our son to make it. He doesn’t like to ask me to do anything for him. At breakfast, if we’re not talking about the business, we sit in virtual silence unless I offer some anecdote from the newspaper.

I still love him in spite of his lack of interest in me and want to save the marriage for the sake of the children (we have three – 16, 13, and 8). But how can I save it if he is now focused on another woman and he keeps looking backwards at all the hurt?

Do you think this marriage can be saved? I want to try counseling but he is resistant.

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Answer:

It is my opinion, both professionally and personally, that no one can reliably predict whether or not a marriage can be saved. However, the situation that you present is important, difficult and raises some questions that I believe you need to explore for yourself.

What especially stands out in my mind is that, after discussing the fact that your husband is having an affair, is with the other woman at this moment (of your writing) and probably wants to marry her, you state that “you don’t know if he still wants to be with you?” In fact, you report that he sleeps in bed with you and has sexual relations with you. Where are you in all of this?

That is the question that stands out to me. Why do you continue to have sex with this man knowing he is having an extra marital affair? Do still really want to still be with him? It seems as though you do and that is ok if that is the truth but, another question is, why do you still want him?

Your point to him about the children has merit but not if the marriage continues with each of you being unhappy and his continuing to have an extra marital affair.

It is extremely difficult to do an assessment from a long distance like E. Mail but I cannot help but think about how you must feel in all of this. Your E. Mail does not seem “angry” to me. There are no ways that people “should feel” about life’s situations. However, one tends anticipates that, when an extra marital affair is revealed, the other partner does become angry.

Also, you state that your husband seemed “vulnerable” when you spoke to him over the phone. How do you know he felt vulnerable? Are you engaging in wishful thinking?

There is no question at all that divorce is extremely painful and upsetting to an entire family such as yours. On the other hand, so is an extra marital affair. It may be that you want to continue the marriage for the wrong reasons, such as dependency needs of your own, not wanting to raise three children alone, and not wanting to be alone yourself. These reasons have validity but are they enough.

Only you can know what is the correct thing to do for yourself and the children. At the very same time, it is vital that you not overlook your feelings about the extra marital affair. I can imagine a time when, if you succeed in keeping the marriage, all your angry feelings will emerge sometime afterward.

Ultimately, if your husband refuses marriage psychotherapy the future is bleak, it seems to me. The reason I say that is that all the problems that got the two of you to this place will remain and continue to cause disruptions.

My advice is to get him to go to marriage therapy if he really wants to save the marriage. However, if he wants to save the marriage then a pre requisite of entering counseling is for him to end the affair. I do not see how a marriage can possibly continue in the face of one partner having an affair.

In my mind, the bottom line to this is that if he really wants to save the marriage, the affair must end.

Best of Luck

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