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Wife Of 21 Years Has A Boyfriend

Question:

My wife of 21 years has a boyfriend. She moved out of the house 6 weeks ago. I have been faithful and have tried to be a good husband and put family first during our time together. I wanted to do marriage counseling but she said that I wouldn’t go when she mentioned it in passing at one time. Since I value her, the kids and the family I have a hard time with this remark. She had let our son’s girl friend move into the house and created less space for our own needs. By her own remarks she said she has lost her home to the kids. 3 years ago her grandfather died, her aunt (4 yrs older) and father died within months of each other. I paid for her to finish her college degree(a year ago) and the stress from her job is great at times. It’s like she’s morphed into a person the kids and I don’t know anymore. What should I do? Should I let her go, should I hope for reconciliation (I do love her). I am at a loss even with the counseling I am doing. Thanks for the response.

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Answer:

Your wife has recently gone through a period of significant life change and stress what with significant family deaths, a new college degree, etc. I could see several meanings in this change. Perhaps these deaths and new degree have helped her to feel freer than she has in the past and she has decided to try to grow herself outside of your marriage. Alternatively, perhaps she has been somewhat traumatized by her losses and has been acting out of a sort of panic feeling. Time may tell, or you may never find out. Either way, this situation is understandably difficult for you.

You are in the middle of acute grief. This decision of your wife’s to leave was sprung on you recently and you didn’t want it at all. You are wanting to preserve the status quo having just lost it, while she probably has taken her time to arrive at a decision to leave and thus may be mostly over the stage of grieving the loss of your marriage. You’ll catch up to her given time, but for now there is a fundamental mismatch that you have to accept.

Don’t freak out too much when she says things that suggest you weren’t wiling to do something like couples therapy when you really were. There is a natural tendancy to revise history to make it fit your preconceived notions that many many people engage in. Your wife is probably remembering things in such a way that they benefit her decision to leave. She is protecting herself. It would cause cognitive dissonance and some pain to her if she recalled you wanting to preserve the marriage when she didn’t want that, so she remembers it differently. A more mature person might not need to engage in that sort of thing, but if she does – so be it. My ultimate point is that if she is doing this – it is not to torture you but to reduce her own pain. You don’t have to take it personally, and shouldn’t. It is her failing – not yours.

It is very good that you are in counseling for your grief. Please keep going so long as you find it helpful. Talking about your grief can be very therapeutic. Do some reading about grief too. Mental Help Net has recently revised their Grief topic center, and I suggest you take a look at it. There are fairly predictable stages that people tend to go through. Knowing about these stages won’t help you feel any better, but it will help you to know that there is an end to the process. Don’t blame yourself. This was your wife’s decision, not yours. People do grow and change, and at least 50% of marriages do end up breaking up in America. We start out with the best of intentions, but love itself is never enough to hold people together. People have to grow together; they have to decide that they want to grow together and make things work together. When that process fails, the marriage fails (whether divorce occurs or not). It is not possible to know what will happen with your wife (whether she will come around to her senses and come back to you and your family, or if her new reality is ultimately more complelling to her). You have no way to control her decision making and never did. However, you do have the potential to control your own decision making and your own moods. As the shock of this trauma dies down and you’re better able to gather yourself, you’ll hopefully see that this much is true. Good luck to you.

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