Have you thought to yourself, "I don't want a divorce but I don't know what to do"? Are you struggling with all the mixed emotions you're feeling about your husband and your marriage? The following advice can help you gain perspective in your situation, especially if you want to keep your marriage together.
Jo's Question: I've been married for about a year and a half. Our relationship has always been a long distance one, with the goal of being together eventually. He's told me he wants to end our marriage about 10 times, but then decides he doesn't want a divorce and apologizes and professes his love. I feel emotionally bankrupt and don't know how to move forward from here. How do I cope? This seems so unhealthy- I'm losing me and the beauty I used to see within me. I just feel numb and want to sleep for a year. I'm looking for advice on how or what this is (lack of feelings or attachment to life) and how to deal with it?
Gloria Answers: You may call me old-fashioned after reading my response here, but I think we all could use a little old-fashioned common sense now and then. When we marry someone, the goal is to become one in a healthy way - one shared life, one shared home, one shared family. Becoming one isn't a negative thing, but a very good and healthy way to travel through life together. It makes sense that you feel like you are losing yourself because half of you - a half that loves you so much he is equally torn from the distance - is living a separate life somewhere else. We live in so much conflict because we as women want to maintain our "independence", yet we sometimes lose the most beautiful part of ourselves in our quest to maintain it!
I don't know your full circumstance as to why you are choosing to keep the distance between you. But my challenge for you would be for one of you to move. Would it be a sacrifice? Sure. Would it require a lot of adjustment and changes? You bet. Yet, I fully believe that YOU, your marriage, and your hopes and dreams for a happy future together are well worth it. Sit down together and come up with a plan on how and when this all will come to be. Make it happen. It makes no sense to live a divorced life while you're still married!
A resource you may want to check out is the Marriage Building Online course that can help turn your marriage around.
Linda's Question: My husband has told me that he wants a divorce. He doesn't wear his wedding ring anymore and tells me that he is convinced that I'm not the right person for him. However, we still do family things together with our 2 children, and we sometimes sleep together. I feel like he has given up due to all the arguments we have had. Even though he told me that he wants a divorce, I get the impression he wants to live with his family, but just doesn't want to be with me. What can I do? I'm afraid of him rejecting me, and I want my marriage to work out.
Gloria's Answer: I can truly hear your heart, Linda, and I know that you are willing to do whatever you need to do to keep your family together. I do want to honor you in that respect. At the same time, you need to find the strength within you to actually stand up for your marriage.
Right now, with what you have shared, your husband is on the fence. He's not wearing his ring which could mean he is beginning to consider the grass on the other side of the fence. Yet, he is still going on family activities to make sure the foot on your side of the fence is not feeling guilty. And, he is sharing a bed with you on the safe and secure side of the fence to meet his own emotional and biological needs - while leaving you in emotional turmoil and insecurity - and you keep mowing the family yard!
My challenge for you, Linda, is to move the fence. You aren't supporting him or your marriage by allowing him to continue on this way. Move the fence, and encourage him to make a decision to stay or go. It is hard, yet I know, that people only make decisions for two reasons - there is enough pain or enough pleasure. It is time for your husband to be uncomfortable, and while it may make you uncomfortable right along with him, the truth is - you are now anyway!
You are strong and wise, and it sounds like while your husband is confused, he is a man worth fighting for. And your best fighting chance is to begin moving that fence closer to home.
Ann's Question: My husband of 25 years has told me he wants a divorce because he "loves me but doesn't want to be married anymore." This came about after I started discovering some very incriminating evidence that he had been having at least emotional affairs for a very long time. I moved out of our bedroom and told him that if he wanted me back he would come to marriage counseling with me. After several days of not talking to me, he told me that he was not willing to do what I asked, so he wanted to split up. He says he already considers himself not married. The problem is that we can't afford for him to rent an apartment of his own and he won't consider sharing or renting a room in someone's house. So it's been 3 weeks and he won't leave. It's eating me alive to be living in the same house but not be married to him. We still have a son 17 1/2 years old living at home and 2 daughters 19 yrs. in college who come home on holidays. He has told them we are divorcing, but now he has stopped doing anything to progress on it. Please help me figure out what to do!
Gloria's Answer: It is time to stop waiting and time to start taking some action. He has made a decision - he wants a divorce - and yet, he is making it as easy and convenient for himself as possible. He is waiting until he has saved enough money out of the family coffers to move, and you are sitting just waiting for it to happen. From your note, I can't tell if you really want to save the marriage or not. I would challenge you to think about that first.
And then as strange as this will sound, with an assumption that you want to save your marriage, I want you to make him as uncomfortable as possible. Not to be mean and nasty, because that is not the best for you or your children, but to shake him up in the reality that he is creating. For 25 years, you have cooked, cleaned, made his bed, and created a very comfortable home for him and his children. By him refusing to go to counseling and wanting a divorce, he is about to lose all of that. Let him.
Protect yourself by taking the money out of the bank, pack up a suitcase (or garbage bags!) with his clothes, meet him at the door, and tell him that he is choosing to leave his family and his home. It's time to go. It won't be easy or fun. You may want to tell your kids what is going on first and why, and then follow through. Divorce is never easy or convenient. If he truly wants it, let him get a taste of what is to come. Love must be tough sometimes, and it's time for you to stand up for your family and your home.
Brenda's Question: My husband has requested a divorce but I believe he really loves me and is feeling a tremendous pull from his family. We have been married for 16 years and he has left me every year of our marriage. I really feel he is struggling with a monster on his back but not quite sure what it is! I don't believe it has anything to do with another woman. He won't talk to me or even look at me. It has been extremely painful that he totally ignores me. Can you offer any suggestions?
Gloria's Answer: He has left you every year for 16 years, and yet, you still take him back? I have to confess that I'm a little confused! A man who truly loves you would not continually leave you, or refuse to talk to you or even look at you. And I do not believe that his family has this much pull in his life after this many years.
I am only guessing because I don't know your husband, but from the many that I have worked with, that he comes back time and time again only because he leaves in search of something or someone else only to realize that "something else" isn't readily available, so he comes back to his comfortable life with you doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Hmmm . . .
My challenge for you is to regain your self-respect once again. Instead of trying to help him not to leave, quit making excuses for him, and let him know that it is not okay with you that he leaves time and time again. If he wants a divorce, you'll be okay with that, too. Raise the bar on who you are and what you want in your life. Believe it or not, that is a hugely attractive feature for a woman because by challenging yourself to be more, you are challenging him to be the man he always has wanted to be. That is a good thing!
Karen's Question: How do you repair a marriage that is emotionally empty? Conversations quickly turn mean and critical, and it's almost impossible to agree on any subject.
Gloria's Answer: A marriage that is not founded on a solid foundation of communication is usually a very empty marriage. I love that you are asking and seeking out ways to improve that! A couple of suggestions for you that hopefully will help!
1) Men and women are different. Yes, I know - you are thinking that I am brilliant here, but I mean it. Just because we both may speak the same language doesn't mean we will perceive the words, hear the same inflections, or base illustrations on the same experiences in the same way.
2) The way that you communicate love may be completely different from the way your husband communicates his love. You may be a doer who cleans the house, cooks the dinners, and drives him to work every day. You do it without a thought because you love him. He, on the other hand, shows love by spending time with you. He may get angry with you because you are cooking dinner, and he doesn't understand why you won't sit down and spend a few minutes with him on the couch. A great resource here is a book entitled "The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts" by Gary Chapman. I highly recommend it!
3) The fact that the conversations turn mean and critical tells me that he is afraid, defensive, and unsure of himself. He doesn't have an answer, so he lashes out. He hears that you are afraid and insecure and he doesn't know what to do, so he criticizes you. He feels insecure or frustrated with his life or job or money, so he turns aggressive. Is it right? NO! But does it happen - all the time.
4) Your common ground is going to be pulling out some of these monsters out from under the bed, and YOU have the wisdom and power to do this. Read, empower yourself with tools, recognize the defensiveness and the dynamics of his style for what it is, and then refuse to take it personally.
Communication skills are learned, not something we are born with. Be patient and loving with your husband and yourself as you learn new techniques and styles. You'll get there!!
Renee's Question: My husband of 25 years has asked for a divorce. He has admitted to an affair with my children's teacher, and to lying to me for 10 years. I suspected and it often made me irrational. He also admitted to having an e-mail affair which he has continued even though he had told me it had ended. It is an affair of only some weeks but the other women is an old high school friend and writes "I love you." already. I don't work so he had told me he will give me the house and custody. The problem is that I love him, the kids love him and I don't want to break up. Help get my head straight.
Gloria Answers: I remember years ago sitting in a counselor's office crying my eyes out. He asked me if I still loved my husband who I knew had had at least one affair and was suspicious of a current one, but had no solid evidence. I said yes, and asked how I could love someone who treated me so bad. It wasn't easy.
Yet, what I had to realize, and what I most want for you in this, is to look yourself in the mirror and love yourself more. Love who you are right now and the person you want to become more than this fantasy of living "happily ever after" with a husband who treats you like dirt. You are disrespecting and sacrificing yourself, while sending your children a message that it's okay to treat someone badly just as long as you "love" them. No way!
A harder question to ask yourself: If you don't respect yourself or love yourself enough to stand up for what you know true love is really all about, then why should your husband?
In writing this column, I am always very careful not to give the impression or suggestion that I think anyone should get a divorce. The choice is always with the woman living her situation. Since he is asking for the divorce though, my encouragement is to learn what it means to let go of the "fantasy love" and have a healthy and loving relationship with yourself FIRST!
Sue's Question: My alcoholic husband left over two months ago, and I haven't talked to him in over a month. I'm filing for divorce but it is just killing me. I know I can't live this way any longer but my emotions are overwhelming right now, because I do still love him but his alcoholism is out of control.
Gloria's Answer: If you truly do love him, then be willing to do whatever is necessary to help your husband see the affects that his alcoholism is having on the people around him - including you. Pain is a great teacher, and will often cause people to stop and think about the direction they are going in their lives.
For you, I would love to see you take advantage of the many support groups that are available for families dealing with alcoholism. You are not alone! Love yourself enough to get the support you need to get through this with grace and dignity. Love your husband enough to let him know that his actions need to change, he may need to get some outside support as well, and you are strong enough to lead the way.
I know this is hard, but Sue, you can do hard!! You are strong and powerful. Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of the many others in your life who need you.
Janel's Question: I'm afraid that my marriage is headed towards divorce. My husband has refused to touch me in any way for almost a year now, and he talks on the phone constantly but refuses to do so when I'm in the room. He either hangs up right away, asks me to leave, or leaves himself. I've asked him if he's having an affair and he says no. How can I find out if he's telling the truth? I'm confused and very, very angry. Do you know of any steps I can take to open up some communication, or find out what is going on and why he is acting this way? I don't want a divorce but I can't keep living with someone who so blatantly distrusts and despises me.
Gloria's Answer: You are asking if you can find out the truth, but I believe you already know the answer to the affair question. But even if he is not, you have no doubts that you are not in a healthy marriage. You asked me how to communicate and get some answers, and I know this is true for so many women who wish they knew how to communicate better with their husbands.
My suggestions here may sound completely counterproductive, but I would challenge you to open your mind to a new way of thinking and approaching your marriage. After all, what you've been trying so far hasn't worked, so why not try something new?
Most of the time when a husband begins to treat his wife poorly there has been a breakdown somewhere in his respect towards you. I wouldn't waste a whole lot of time trying to figure out the what or when, but understand that that is probably the source. What needs to happen then is that you begin to rebuild some of that respect, and you do it by having respect for yourself first.
Think about it. If you had respect for yourself, would you put up with his private conversations in a room that equally belongs to you? If you had respect for yourself, would you continue to put up with his unwillingness to love you and honor you as his wife? If you had respect for yourself, would you be a doormat who continues to cook his meals, try to be kind, and love him in spite of all of this?
It's time to gain some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and do it in a healthy way. I would suggest that you calmly set a time for the two of you to talk. Get it on his calendar if you have to! Then sit down and again calmly (and maybe even a little coldly) explain the situation as you see it. No tears, no drama, no pleading or begging allowed!! It may be one of the hardest things you've had to do, but you can do this!
Let him know that the private conversations will stop now, and that you suspect him of having an affair. Be very clear that you won't put up with any of it any longer, and that you will settle for nothing less than a faithful, loving husband. Tell him what the end result of his actions will lead to - him leaving with his clothes in garbage bags on the front lawn, divorce, custody issues, etc. He may be angry, but your job is to hold it together. If it gets too hard on you, get up and walk away. Again, guys don't deal well with drama, so just don't go there.
After a year of distance, this may feel extreme, but unless you create a situation that brings things to a head, you will continue to stay here in the dark. Claim your power to make a difference in your marriage, and take a stand - giving yourself all the love and respect YOU deserve!
Katy's Question: We have been separated for about a month and a half. During this time I've missed him very much. Before our separation, we argued all the time about my family, friends, job, etc. I ended up leaving him because I felt he was too controlling, possessive and jealous. For instance, he would get upset if I looked at someone he felt was good looking (whether in the car, watching television, etc.). He always wanted to know where I was or who I was with, etc. When I confronted him about how I felt, we would argue and our arguments would go on for hours and hours. He also doesn't like my family and says they tell me what to do all the time. We went to therapy and my therapist said my husband and I should split up. I didn't take his advice because I didn't feel the same way he did. I know I'm not perfect and have my problems too. However, I left this time and said I want a divorce. However, after not being together for almost two months, I'm not sure he wants to be with me anymore. I called him for a couple of weeks and he just didn't answer my calls. So I left him a message that if he wants a divorce, I would agree to it and get the papers. I just asked him to give me a call to see how we could work out the divorce in a civil way in order to not hurt each other. Unfortunately, he still didn't call me back. I still want to talk to him to try and get back together. Do you think he has moved on and I should just let him go, or should I try to contact him again? I feel like such a sap but I do love my husband. Please help.
Gloria's Answer: It's a wonderful thing that you love your husband, but right now, you need to rediscover what it means to love yourself more! Why? Because you are groveling, you're acting out of fear, you're doing things impulsively, you're changing your mind often, and you're calling it love. It sounds romantic, but when you're on the receiving end as your husband is, it's repulsive.
Here's what I would love for you to do. Just be for a while. There is no rush on filing the papers, and threatening that you will isn't helping. Focus in on your own personal growth and development. What is important to you? What are your goals? How's the physical side of you doing? Check out some good books and actually read them! You might also consider a coach. And just for a little while, let your husband go and give him the space to do the same in his own life.
This is your opportunity to rediscover the most wonderful part of yourself. The part that will truly be attractive to your husband, or, as hard as it might be to think about now, the next man in your life who does bring out the best in you and you do the same for him.
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