The last two months I have been separated from my husband. I married him when I was 19 years old and fell head over heals for him. We now have two children together and a love that I cannot let go. When we first were married we both were young and like to go out drinking and of course there was no problem. When I first gotten pregnant we split up because of an infidelity he had with one of his ex girlfriends. Now 8 years later and a lot of arguing, not coming home at nights by him, and another infidelity with the same woman I finally got tired of it and kicked him out of our house. He has quit drinking now and has went through counseling but I can’t seem to let go of the past in order to save our marriage. I love him and I don’t want to get a divorce. I think what we have is worth saving but how do I forgive him and let all of the anger go that I have for him? Not only do I have anger for him but it seems to be for everyone else to. Please help if you can.
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I was at a wedding the other day, actually, and the father of the bride gave some gruff advice. "Marriage is a lot of work", he said. "Don’t think it’s going to be easy". A few people there thought he had spoken bluntly, and perhaps he did, but it is nevertheless generally true that marriage is a lot of work, and that it is not easy. At least it is generally not easy if you want a lasting, enduring, and loving marriage. Those things you have to work for.
Part of the reason that marriage is difficult is because as people age, their expectations and desires can change, and their responsibilities often grow. People who started out liking the same things can find their interests diverging in later life. People who started out care-free can end up hating the responsibilities they’ve found themselves taking on. And finally, and maybe most importantly, people who trusted one another early on in their relationship can find out that they no longer trust each other later in a relationship.
Your husband has been unfaithful to you, and that seems to have destroyed your trust in him. Your interests diverged substantially as you grew over time. You sobered up, stopped partying and became a responsible parent and he did not. Though he has turned this behavior around currently, the long amount of time where he left you holding the ball as the sole responsible adult in the relationship has also damaged your trust in him. Damaged trust is difficult to repair, but it’s not impossible for it to happen, if you are motivated to forgive, as you are, and if your partner stops acting in ways that destroy trust. It isn’t clear to me that either of these conditions are met in your case.
If you want to save the marriage and discharge your anger, it seems to me that you need to figure out what sort of behavior you can live with from your husband and what you cannot, and then communicate those limits to him, and get his buy-in that he can abide by those limits. And then time has to go by, perhaps a lot of time, and you have to see that he actually does what he has said he will do. In essence, you have to start over rebuilding trust from below zero where it is today. Though this is a long process most of the time, if the both of you are dedicated to making it happen, it honestly can happen.
It is a very good sign that your husband has been to counseling and seems to have benefited from it. It may also be a good idea for the two of you to see a counselor, together, to talk about the damaged trust in the relationship, and how to go about making repairs. When feelings are so horribly hurt, it is sometimes very difficult to have a civil, productive discussion on your own. This becomes easier to do in the therapists’ office, as the therapist can help facilitate the conversation, and has been around the block and knows the common issues and pitfalls that partners face.
Some of the anger you are feeling is so strong that it is causing you to act gruffly to random people you meet. Hopefully, as you think about what you need to have as a baseline in your relationship and share this with your husband, who hopefully hears that and decides that is something he wants to offer you, this intense feeling will dissipate. Until that time comes around, however, you may want to read up on stress management techniques, and on the nature of anger and how anger feelings can be managed.