I feel at the end of my rope. Begining just under a year ago, my family and I have been through a lot. Our family pet of 13 years died, my mother died, one of my sons(16) friends comitted suicide, a significant injury happened to my son, my wifes father died, my father is in the hospital with serious long term health issues, and of course, there is all the drama of a daughter leaving home this year for college.
My wife has always been a fairly negative person, but now it is becoming unbearable to me. Two days ago, after a “girls night out” with the female relatives on my side of the family, she had a screaming tirade for 2 hours in the car as I drove her home from my Aunt’s house. She said a lot of hateful things directed mostly at my family and how I don’t deal with it because I always have to be the “nice” guy who everyone loves me, etc. etc.
This has been coming on for a few years, but now I am not sure…am I just still grieving? Am I going through the exercise of coming up with why I want to stay married? Next year our last child will leave for college. And you know, I can’t come up with any other reason to stay I will be lonely, it will hurt the kids, or my wife couldn’t survive it.
I have suggested counseling, but she won’t go, because “she doesn’t need to defend herself,” (her words). Is this just still grief? Should I go to counseling by myself?
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You and your family have been under enormous stress during the past year. The accumulation of so many losses and changes results in a magnification of the types of impact that stress can have. This has affected you, your wife and your children. I can certainly understand that you feel at the end of your rope. If your wife has always been negative, angry and hostile to you then thinking about divorce at this time of your life makes a lot of sense. However, I am not implying that you should end your marriage. That is something you will decide. Lets look at all the variables that are influencing you.
In addition to all of the tragedies and changes, quite a heavy load, most couples find themselves confused and undecided about their lives once the children leave home. This is not as simple as the “empty nest syndrome.” It is all too common that the glue that keeps some marriages together is the children. They serve as a kind of buffer between parents who in turn use them to avoid dealing with marital issues. Once the children are gone, husband and wife are faced with having to deal with issues they avoided all of these years. It seems as though this is what is happening to you. You are in crisis both brought on by the recent family deaths as well as facing a pivotal point in life. A point when people begin to plan for what they will do and how they will live the rest of their lives. It is often this crisis that brings on separation and divorce. You state that you do not know why you are thinking of divorce. Now, I believe, you should. None of these variables can be dismissed.
As far as your worries about how other people will be affected by divorce, you need to understand that most people are more durable that we give them credit for. You children won’t like their parents separating. Initially, they may feel shocked. On the other hand, they may be anticipating it. Children often have their fingers on the pulse of the family, much more than we know. Your children are at an age when most of us have the ability to tolerate life changes. In other words, ultimately, they will be OK.
Yes, your wife may have great difficulty adjusting to divorce…or she may not. Perhaps she is having the same thoughts as you. Either way, a spouses problems are no reason to stay in an unhappy marriage, at least in my opinion. If you stay because you fear her emotional reactions they you will come to resent her even more than you do now.
Marriage therapy is an excellent idea. Your wife’s fear of having to defend herself is more common than you may think. People often fear they will be judged they the therapist, whether its individual or marriage therapy. Perhaps you can explain to her that you do not want to blame her but to try and resolve you differences. In addition, it seems to me that individual therapy is a good idea for you whether she agrees to marriage therapy or not. The amount of trauma you have suffered in the last year is burdensome. Therapy can help you find ways of reducing the impact of the stress that has afflicted you.
What ever your decision, I want to wish you the very best of luck.