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Should I Stay Married for the Kids?

This question brings people to this blog from time to time: Should I stay married for the kids? They ask it of Google or Yahoo! or Bing and arrive here. It is a noble question, a sign of maturity even to ask it.

I was once one of those kids for whom a couple stayed married, so I can tell you there are some real plusses. We continued to be able to afford a house and a yard in a good school district, one that got me to MIT on scholarship. I have to say thanks for this.

I had two parents helping me the day I pulled off a really great sixteenth birthday picnic overlooking the Hudson River. When both parents showed up after my husband died, they arrived together and did not add the tension a couple of divorced parents might have. Again, so much better than I see in other families that split up.

However, I believe a lot of people who ask the question picture doing what my parents did, which is staying the course, a course that took an arduous route and offered little reward other than honoring their integrity and doing right by their children.

They paid a huge price for what they gave us. Worse, we could see the price they were paying and feel the tension between them every day. Growing up, I felt fortunate, but never comfortable.

And then I became one of those parents asking, "Should I stay married for our child?" Ann Landers offered the awful advice to add up the benefits and the costs and choose the better deal. The therapist I saw offered little hope of my situation changing; we cannot remold our spouses. But they missed the point entirely.

Stay married for yourself. Stay married for another shot at a great marriage with the person your kids call Mommy or Daddy. If you have been trying to change your spouse, give it up, because 90% of your experience of the marriage — unless it involves walking on eggshells to avoid threat of bodily or emotional harm — is taking place between your two ears, and you truly have the power to change it.

Divorce gets you from -5 to 0 on the life satisfaction scale. It gets your kids from maybe 2 (if they sense your unhappiness) to -8 and leaves them powerless to change any of it. Changing the way you see your marriage and your options and living your life differently as a result can take you from -5 to +8 in a year. And for your kids, your +8 is their +10.

If you're at -5 right now, this next benefit might not yet be great news, but when your spouse finds himself or herself married to a +8 and raising +10 kids, his or her life satisfaction is going up, too, maybe even enough for you to feel yourself incredibly fortunate you didn't leave before the second act.

Three things work for me to change everything:


  1. Assume Love - Take a second look at everything that upsets you about your mate's words and deeds by asking what might explain them if you are still loved as much as ever by someone as wonderful as you first imagined.

  2. Expect Love - Everything you expect about what a spouse should do or how someone who loves you will act gets in the way of letting yourself be loved. An expectation is a premeditated resentment. If you have been waiting for your mate to fix your life, start fixing it yourself. Prepare to be surprised by the forms love takes when you stop trying to dictate what it should look like.

  3. Find Third Alternatives - When you disagree, let go of your first choice to free yourself to look together for an even better choice, one at least as good for you with the bonus of making your spouse happy, too. Never settle for being a doormat or for being right without being kind.

Afraid you might be putting on rose-colored glasses and changing nothing? Rose-colored glasses are actually part of most happy marriages. They change everything. Your kids want you to fall in love all over again with their other parent. Give it a try.

Tell me, did your parents stay married for the kids? Did they divorce? Did it affect the one you handled the rough spots in your own marriage?

Comments

a beautiful post.

Thanks, Pete!

Thank you so much for these thoughts. I needed it right now. Just found your blog today.
I love the idea that "An expectation is a premeditated resentment"; it has me thinking. On one hand I think it is a great idea, but on the other hand I feel that if we should "Never settle for being a doormat" then we have to have expectations and make them known. Maybe it's a fine line.
Thanks again for the post.

Never, ever be a doormat, Sarah. The difference between a doormat and a woman with an unmet expectation is a big one. This was a distinction I could not see in my first marriage, and it made me awfully unhappy. I am going to write a blog post right now for you and everyone else who fears it's a fine line, because I want you to enjoy being married.

Thanks for a great article and website.
I realize that a part of our problems in our marriage is because of my expectations of how a loving marriage should be. We have been to marriage conferences/retreats and what I have gotten is a dream about something better in our marriage than just being parents. Initially I put my expectations high about finding a way back to a romantic marriage, I called my parents and arranged with them to take care of our children over the weekend and book a hotel with a nice spa (that I know that my wife likes) anniversary. What surprised me was the reaction of my wife, she got furious about me planing something like this without asking her first and simply said that she was sick. As I had promised the children to go to their grandparents I still went there with them leaving my wife at home. After returning I discovered that she had been shopping the entire weekend and not rely been sick.
Her expectations on me feels huge, she expects me to do a lot more than I possibly can handle and her standards for how it should be done are so high tat I rarely manage to do things good enough.
As to not make things worse I decided not to mention my dream/expectation for our marriage and in one way it has lessened the friction but it also means that we get nowhere in our relation. We keep together for the children but are only parents and not lovers.
I have tried to get her to read the book "Five love languages" together with me and it has helped me to understand her better but she has only read the first part and does not prioritize to read the second. She has clearly made a point of that her love language is "Acts of Service" and I have tried to do all I can to give her that but without seeing any result.
The big question in my mind is how I could try to get her to change her expectations and try to see the things I try to do as a sign of love.
She also puts really high expectations on her self and gets very frustrated when she cant fulfill them her self.

JS, I am going to offer some suggestions for your situation in a new blog post. (Anyone reading this later, look for the June 7, 2011 post.)

My parents stayed married for their kids and it was awful. I saw my mom be a doormat and my dad be continually contemptous and denigrating to her. He was emotionally abusive to us kids too (I'm guessing this is a not uncommon pattern). I grew up an insecure, fearful child. Now, as an adult, I've really had to work at not repeating either of my parent's examples. The simple witnessing of an abusive relationship is damaging to a child. When my parents did get divorced, when I was in my 20's, I said, "Thank God! Why didn't you do it sooner?"

Thanks, EM, for adding to this important topic. I am so sorry for the pain you endured.

I am at a crossroad, at this very moment. Part of me feels shame, and being selfish. The other, wishes for freedom.

I knew the very day I got married, that this wasn't what I wanted. I had wanted to break things off, but the day I had planned to, I found my then girlfriend with child. Needless to say, my fear of becoming my sperm doner, got the best of me. My father wasn't around, and I was not going to do the same.

Fastfoward, we have been married 8 years now, and I have been trying to get out every since. We have done the counseling 3X, didn't work. I have tried to leave sevetal times, twice she tried to kill herself. She's never happy, a Debbie downer, about everything and has 0 patiece. Hence why I wanted to end it in the first place. And, you think I should stay?

I love the kid, but not the mother. Our family backgrounds are night and day. Hers, filled with uneducated, beer drinking, sloppy drunks, mine some of yje best schools in the country, on to awseome carrers.

Sometimes its good to split.

John, sometimes it IS good to split. I can not blame anyone for giving up on such a painful situation when they have been unsuccessful in changing it for so many years. You have endured a lot for your child.

And yet, there is that shame, that sense of selfishness, and your love for this child who will no longer have any at-home supporter when the depression, the impatience, and the sloppy drunks are too much.

So I offer you a small assignment, one I wish someone had given me when I reached that point of wanting out, despite the consequences. What will you do differently when you are free of your current circumstances? Write down everything you can think of. Take a few days to think of everything.

Then, for this exercise, cross off the list any item that requires finding another partner. You should be left with a bunch of things like spending more time with your friends, getting in better shape, doing more things alone with your kid, going to more laugh-out-loud movies, taking up fly fishing, learning to dance, or visiting Romania.

Now, take each item and figure out some way to do it (or start doing it) BEFORE you leave. This will work better if you do them without making it obvious you intend to leave, so don't bother responding angrily to any objections you get from your wife. Give yourself three months of living your new life while still married.

It just might change your life. At the very least, it will give your kid three months of a happy father before the divorce begins. It will help you sort out how much of your unhappiness comes from your dashed expectations of what your wife will add to it and how much from the limitations you have placed on it to avoid her negativity. It will give you a clearer picture of how easy or difficult the changes you look forward to will really be. And it will probably keep you from entering a rebound relationship or doing things you are not proud of to women who are nothing like your wife and not responsible for her actions.

If it changes your view of your wife and makes you wonder if perhaps you two still have a future, despite her family background, please do contact me. I have lots of tools you can use to rebuild. But no, I am not telling you to stay, only offering help doing so if and when it seems like the right thing for you.

he is sneacky and dont tell the truth might be having some kind of reletionship with a family member . i feel sick to to my stomach

I feel for you, Liza. Here is a link to a list of reputable programs for dealing with infidelity.

My husband of almost 18 years has been having am" emotional" affair with my sisternlaw. I just sprang it on me this week. He feels guilty and says he's been unhappy for years. This has really come out of left field he says it's not sexual I don't really think believe him. But the distrust I have for him is killing me. we gave three great kids and I thought we had a good life together. I'm lost... :(

You do have a good life together. And three great kids. Don't lose sight of this as you deal with the shock, Mel. If he gets past his guilt and unhappiness, and you get past your distrust, you will still have these things.

Your distrust is normal and natural. It's there to protect you. It can fool you, though. Don't tell yourself that just because you distrust him, he did more than he's telling you. Take your time to find out where things stand.

Telling you means he's ready for a change. People who are unhappy in their marriages do really stupid stuff. Some leave. Some throw themselves into work or a hobby that keeps them away from home a lot. Some find another person to tell them they are valuable and lovable.

It sounds like you are married to the third type and in some danger of becoming the first. Don't choose while you are still in shock. In that third group are some trying to secure the benefits of both relationships, which is what you fear. But lots of others in that group are hopeful that things will get better with time, if they can just get enough affirmation (or sex) outside the marriage to wait for a change in circumstances that will let them throw themselves back into the relationship. They want a good relationship with their spouse but lack the skills, so they try something stupid like this. And then, after they see it gets them nowhere good, they are ready to change.

You are owed an apology and the truth, as well as plenty of time to rebuild your trust. Whether you stay or go, your husband will always be part of your life. You have children together. You have been together long enough that your life story will always include him. Your finances will likely involve him for the rest of your life.

Eventually, you will have to choose to forgive him and get on with life, together or apart, or make him the central figure in your life as you refuse to forgive someone who will remain a key part of your life. As you picture your future, picture him forgiven in your mind, even though this is unlikely to happen right away.

If you want a chance at a great life together, consider addressing the sources of his ongoing unhappiness. I am not suggesting you make the changes he imagines would make him happy. His expectations are probably as unreasonable as mine were 25 years ago.

But hear them out. Treat them as a difference of opinion, one in which you two have been stuck for years thinking there are only two options. Go read the instructions from October 1 through 4 for finding Third Alternatives. I expect that addressing his list will address a lot of your list, too.

And get help, people who can feel your pain without putting down the man with whom you have had 3 great kids and 18 good years. Check out the Beyond Affairs Network and the book After the Affair.

I wish I could just give you a huge hug, Mel. This is a lot you are dealing with. I hope he intends to stay and has the character to regain your trust and your love.

i have been married 11 years-my husband is unhappy and wants out. he has wanted to leave me several times and i always cry and beg him to stay. The last time he moved out of our room and said he was going to tell our son-i have an illness and had a flare up at that time so he said he would wait for me to recover before leaving. i feel pathetic that my husband doesnt want me but i hate the thought of divorce. he flat out refuses any type of counseling or help for us.

I am so very sorry for your pain, Denise. Crying and begging might delay a divorce, but what might you do to enjoy what you have while you still have it? One of the fastest and most reliable routes to happiness turns out to be building your gratitude muscle. At the same time it improves your happiness, it also makes you a whole lot easier to fall back in love with.

Try writing a letter to him (which you are free to share with him or not) in which you thank him for a few of the things your marriage to him has brought into your life and divorce will not take away. In my marriage, such a letter would thank my husband for teaching me to take another look at comedy and bring more laughter into my life when I am stressed. Because of him, when I start feeling critical of others, I will always remember his frequent reminders that there is a seat for every [butt] and that a world that would be perfect for me is not the same thing as a perfect world.

If we had any kids together, I would certainly put them on my list, as well as everything they learned from him and all the time I got to spend with them because of his income. I will instead be grateful for the long-term influence of his love for my grandchildren from my first marriage on their development into great human beings. I will always know my mother's life was extended and her self-esteem restored because of him.

I would write the letter to remind myself that while there is a lot to lose if we divorce, there is a lot I will keep no matter what. I would write it to get better at feeling and expressing gratitude, even when there is lots to feel cheated by, too. And I would write it to give myself the gift of greater happiness and satisfaction with my life.

And if the opportunity came to sit quietly with him, I might read it to him. I would surely weep as I read, but the tears would be tears of gratitude rather than tears of fear and rejection. And if my words or my tears somehow pierced the covering he has wrapped around his heart, I would hug him like there's no tomorrow. And take the next week to write another letter just like this one.

Sigh... I'll try keeping it brief. With no real friends to talk to I find myself landing on your blog as expected from your first sentence. Google, is it really my only friend?

We are not married, but we have been together for almost 6 years. We wear wedding rings (real ones) and proclaim we are married but are saving the date for a better financial situation, or is that my excuse because I know it may not last forever?

I saved my wife from a horrible abusive marriage which she birthed 2 children. The other guy is out of the picture as I helped her get rid of him and now for 90% of the kids lives I have been their dad. They are 7 and 8 now and I do love them but is it worth killing myself over?

I have broken up with my wife many times but she is overly obsessive and a little crazy and would stalk me until I would finally cave in. Granted part of my weakness was due to her promises of the good life when we do get married and she gives her all to me.

Skip past all the crazy history and lets move to the beginning of my full commitment. 2 years ago I decided to fully commit and had her move in with me and asked the kids to start calling me daddy. I have given my all and then some to be the best I can let myself be. We have had our bumps but I can honestly say there was a point in time where I was really happy.

Fast forward to today.. We had her parents move in with us as they became homeless. This forced me to buy a house that was barely in my range so I can fit all 6 of us with out killing each other. She was at one point in school which gave me hope for a better financial future.

Due to her parents ways she has now flunked out and basically spun our lives upside down. They have sense then moved out but left a trail of destruction in their path.

I now find myself financially strapped and being the only one employed there is not much wiggle room. Then my sewer line broke and put me beyond my budget. I have expressed this to my wife multiple times but she continues to spend my money with out my permission and has put me a good grand in debt and unable to take care of finances and I am afraid of losing all that I have worked so hard to achieve. I explained about breaking my trust but that did not stop her and then I found out she also had begun stealing from stores to get her "shopping fix".

I now find myself very unhappy in most areas of my life. I no longer want the responsibility of taking care of someone else's kids not my own. I want to get "fixed" as soon as possible so I never have to worry about having kids in my life. I am unhappy with my wife as I feel she has failed us by doing bad in school and ruining our financial future. She stays home all day but yet the house is always dirty, granted it is 2,500sqrft so its is work but she has all day to do it.. I don't even want it spotless...

She also has an issue with me, I cannot say they are bs reasons but with my lack of desire to have a relationship or kids I am sure it shows in my daily life now as I don't help with the kids at all and I am pretty cold.

I tried breaking it off with her and she has begun throwing the kids in my face and how i'm going to crush them. How now both their dads left and she will have to deal with them alone while they are having issue. Forgot to mention both of them have extreme ADHD issues and then some. So she throws in my face how I am going to ruin their life and so on.

I am truly unhappy and just want to be left alone now. I don't want a wife, I don't want kids, I don't want anyone else's responsibilities.

I am so lost and confused and I feel the only way to save myself is to release myself from this life so I don't have to deal with it anymore.

I don't want to be stalked anymore or obsessed over.

I want freedom to work on my career and myself and get back to what I was originally striving for.

If I meet a beautiful women along the way who is without kids and working in a successful career I wouldn't mind exploring another relationship but I feel all that I expected and hoped for in staying in this drawn out relationship has been lost and I now feel hopeless.

This is affecting me at work and I can't think the way I need to in order to perform my job which could then again mess my career up.

...sigh. Will advise help? Probably not but maybe getting this off my chest will at least give me a few more weeks of peace in my mind.. Though at this moment I feel no sense of relief.

Thank you for reading my rant I will check back to see what you have to say.

..sigh.

I am so sorry for your pain, Tony. Financial issues can make it so hard to even think straight about a relationship. They hurt, and it is so hard to feel loved when our partner seems to do nothing to fix the situation. We are often willing to abandon someone we love in hope of stopping the pain, but it only stops the pain of not being rescued. The financial issues remain. In fact, they often become greater for both of you.

(1) Unless you live in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, or the District of Columbia, I expect you are legally free to walk out on the woman and the children you rescued from abuse. However, it sounds like you would love her again if you had no financial problems. The financial problems don't go away if you stop loving her. When problems get big and we get too little support with them, it can feel like getting rid of our partner will stop the pain. It won't. All it gets rid of is the love.

(2) Her parents are gone. Whatever damage they did is in the past. Neither of you is stuck where you ended up while dealing with them.

(3) You own a house you can barely afford when there are no emergencies like broken pipes, and emergencies always come with owning a house. This problem no longer has anything to do with your relationship with her, because you will still own it if you split up, but it gets in the way of enjoying her role in your life. You can sell it, rent it out and live somewhere less expensive, take in a boarder to help pay the bills, or take a second job to pay for it, whether she stays in your life or not. Taking care of it will free you up to enjoy her love for you.

(4) You are in bad financial straits. If she were gone, you would still be in them. Don't argue over housekeeping; it has no financial value to you. Do whatever you would do about it if she were gone, whether that is to do it yourself or to ignore the mess. If you were likely to pay for housekeeping without a wife, it would have real value to you. For now, it is a straw man dragged into your fights over whether she will help you out of your financial pain. It just gets in the way of enjoying the woman you love.

(5) She does not work and has not continued the education she screwed up. As a single mom, she is in worse financial straits than you are and at grave risk. It sounds like she knows it, because she compulsively spends more of your money than the two of you can afford and resorts to shoplifting when she feels broke. Stop making the money available to her. You don't need to break up to do this. You can protect her from abuse again, this time her self-abuse and the danger to her children if she gets sent to jail. Support her efforts to get an education or a job and perhaps counseling. Keep control over the money, not out of meanness, but out of love.

I hope things get better for the two of you, and that you are able to honor your commitment with love, instead of all the current resentment. Please let us know how it turns out. I hope others will post more suggestions for rediscovering your love.

I think it's good that you're keeping it together. I know what it's like to have your parents divorce. My dad wasn't Mr. Wonderful, but I needed him in the same house. He had things to offer that I needed and each parent has things to offer that the other doesn't. Besides that, the father usually ends up crowded out of the picture in some way or other whether or not this was intended. Also, if you're divorced don't remarry if you have kids.
I'm married with a few kids myself and dealing with a difficult marriage myself. I've had time to reflect on the things I just told you. The whole thing isn't about happiness the way modern society understands happiness, but there's a satisfaction in doing what's best for your kids.

Thank you for your feedback it is much appreciated. Here is an update.

The morning after I sent the post in my wife "beat the crap out of me" (attacked me in the shower, slamming my glass shower door and punching it, opening it up and punching me) over me asking when the kids Holiday Lunch was going to be. We missed their Thanksgiving Lunch and I wanted to be there for them this time. She took it as I was trying to screw her over and play mind games with her since she just got into a verbal confrontation with their teacher.

From that point I told her she needs to move out I am not going to be anyone's punching bag. This is the 2nd time she has put her hands on me and I nearly killed her for doing it. Though being a man taught to never hit a lady all I could do was holder back and push her away the best I could. It took A LOT of self discipline not to defend myself. This scares me because I never want to hit her but for a moment I thought to myself life would be easier if I just knocked her out so she would leave me.

A bunch more drama has gone on including her mom, aunt and cousin coming up and her mom being disrespectful to us. Which put her in a bad mood right before I had my company holiday party. Needless to say she ruined that for me, we stayed there for 30 minutes and had to leave because of the drama. It's like I keep giving her "chances" and she keeps digging herself further down. That night was the last straw for me, I went out to the club just to get away from her. I was trying my best to find a friends house to crash at but unfortunately.... people seem to never be there when you need them.

Since the weekend I had cut her off in a cold way. No more "I love you" or affection or touching at all. Then I made the mistake that I have so many times in the past and gave into my man urges.

Since then we have had several conversations and it seems like things may be getting better but really.. it's only be a few days. I made it very clear I can deal with a lot of things but screwing with my money is not one of them. I agree I shouldn't let her have my card but unfortunately I work a lot and she always has the car so she has to get gas, buy food, and run other errands which makes it nearly impossible for me to cut the card off. Though I will admit she hasn't been spending.

We are basically on the edge and it can really fall either way at this moment. Because I love her I am giving it yet another chance but I also let her know we as a family need to start going to therapy. We are starting to get into really nasty fights and we never used too. The kids are being affected and I hate for them to see what's going on with us and the oldest is starting to act out now.

I pray this can work out in a peaceful way.

Thank you for the feed back it helped, also thanks for giving me a place to talk as I lack that.

Again thank you.

Tony, I hope you two can come back from the edge. Physical violence is never acceptable in any relationship, and I highly recommend Steven Stosny's book Love Without Hurt (the paperback title) / You Don't Have to Take It Anymore (the hardcover title) to anyone dealing with it in their marriage.

When you feel yourself getting angry at her at other times, try to remember that you cannot save a marriage or your self-esteem by fighting with your spouse. Go for a walk or get some exercise until you are calm, because you CAN save a marriage by being calm and strong and willing to look for Third Alternatives to your disagreements.

Hey! I am really struggling and could use some advice. My husband and I have been married 7 years, and we have four small children. (yes, we've been busy.)

I love my husband, he works hard for our family and he doesn't deserve this, but I'm having a huge, very intrusive "crush" on another man. (I don't talk to this guy outside group settings at all, so not an emotional affair, tho I can see how quickly it could slide downhill given half a chance.)

This is causing me to resent everything about my husband, who is hardworking and faithful and who deserves better than this. He's in therapy right now for depression, so maybe that is a part of it. He has been "down" for years now. I know I'm comparing the fantasy version of Crush-Boy to the warts'n'all version of my husband, but that does not make the crush go away.

I guess I just miss feeling excited about life. Maybe that's what this other guy represents to me.

Anyway, help? We've been making an effort to get out alone a little more often, tho' the sheer cost of babysitting four kids 6 and under is pretty prohibitive.

His parents are still married, though they don't seem like good marriage role models to me. His mom walks all over his mild-mannered dad in ways that seem really disrespectful to me, and they seem more like housemates bound by obligation and tradition than by love. So yeah, they are married but it's hardly an inspiring example.

My parents, OTOH, divorced when I was in my early 20s. My dad is apparantly happily remarried and my mom seems surprisingly content as a single woman. (they still hate each other tho, and I do *not* like my stepmother. The divorce was uuuugly. Right now the prospect of dealing with "blended family" drama is one of the main things keeping me out of trouble. lol)

But... surely neither of those are good paths!

Your budding relationship with Crush-Boy rests entirely on your mental invention of who he is. You are pretty much guaranteed that hooking up with him will be a huge disappointment to both of you.

It is also based on a mental invention of who you are. And it is a very, very familiar one to me, because my first husband was depressed for the last two years of our marriage. Instead of working on feeling excited about your life, you hand off this responsibility to him, knowing he cannot possibly handle it for you while depressed. Now you are free to invent a version of you that would be excited if only he were not bringing you down.

I got to find out what happens next when my first husband died, and I share it with you. No one else, not Crush-Boy, not Super-New-Husband, not Exciting Single Friends, can restore your excitement with life. In fact, life as a single mom (and I had only one child, already 9 years old, to raise, a lot easier than what you are looking at) offers lots more challenges to restoring excitement.

With every one of my needs that I dealt with after Husband #1 died, I had one of those "I could have had a V-8" moments. What if I had done this while there was still a good, hardworking, faithful man to love me? What if I had adjusted my schedule and budget to get out more often or to do less housework in my non-work hours? What if we could have gotten away for lunch together if I had just changed jobs or moved the office then as I had to when he was gone? What if I had taken up country dancing then and gotten all those endorphins from the exercise, made all those new friends who were so different from my work friends, even if he did not join me in learning to dance?

Crush-Boy has no idea how to make your life more exciting in any permanent way, and he does not want your babysitting problems. Your husband will rejoice in your more exciting life and your ability to see his best qualities instead of reflecting your lacks onto him. He will be delighted to see your kids grown into great adults and will join you in dropping everything to help when one of them hits an obstacle on their way there.

The best way to rid yourself of Crush-Boy ruining your good thing is to get to work today on a more exciting life for yourself. May I recommend http://authentichappiness.org and http://geniuspress.com as two great places to begin?

I think you are right, that I am using him to build up an image of myself that's not BORING. And I am boring, so boring I am boring myself just thinking about it.

I know the Crush-Boy is not love, not least because imagining him as a stepfather to my kids makes me shudder. lol

So yeah, I need to get a life. But how? You talk about taking 90 days and making radical changes to lifestyle, fulfilling dreams more-or-less as if you were already out the door, and I can appreciate that idea.

but if not really single, don't you have to explain yourself a little? Say I want 50 dollars a month to spend on, say, joining a club, or say I want an hour a week to spend at the gym, don't I have to run that by my husband first? (I have no personal income. I'm an unemployed housewife.)

If you were single, would you have someone to watch the kids for an hour? Would you have $50 to give the gym? There is nothing magic about divorce. You have to make all the money both of you have stretch to cover everything it does now plus another home and extras of all the kids' stuff. There will be nothing left over for gyms or school or new clothes or even dating.

So get creative. Make up exercise routines that use the cans in your cupboards or the gear at your local playground. Do an exercise video while the kids color or nap. Invite friends to come over with their kids and learn line dancing with you.

Take turns with your neighbors making dinner for three families instead of one. Use the time saved to make something you can sell if you need some more pocket cash.

Do a progressive dinner for the kids, so all of them spend an hour at each house and the other two sets of parents can have a candlelight dinner alone.

Ask your husband to go to the movies with you or take a walk with you. If he says no, ask if he would mind if you do it solo and leave the kids with him for a couple hours. You really might be surprised by the answer. Come home smiling and happy to see him, and you might be even more surprised when he invites you to take some time for yourself and offers you cash to do it.

Like to paint? Try finger painting with the kids or make room in a top cabinet to keep your paints ready to use after they go to bed. Have a book you want to write? Dictate it into a recorder while you dust or do the dishes. Sorry you did not get to be a journalist? Get your kids to help you start interviewing people all over your town and post it on the internet for your neighbors.

Ask your mother or your mother-in-law if she would visit for a week and give you three hours a day to get out and do your thing and make new friends, so that you can keep on doing your thing in your free moments after she leaves.

If you run out of ways to be yourself without your husband's permission, try the #IdeaParty run by @BarbaraSher on Twitter. Those folks absolutely love to help find a way around any obstacle to any dream. Just please don't get stuck on the $50 or the babysitting or your husband's lack of enthusiasm.

Hi Patty,

I appreciate your blog. I am finding myself in a difficult situation.

I am a young father, age 22. I met my wife as a freshman in college age 18. We were together for 6 months, and she was on birth control the entire time. One month she stopped taking birth control without telling me (I believe she actually did this on purpose) and voila she was pregnant. I forgave her for this, and took everything like a champ. I consider myself an extremely driven person and father, and do everything I can for my wife and child.

Well...since she was pregnant, she pressured me to get married ASAP as her family is very baptist. So, I did what I felt was the right thing and we got married.

I had doubts on my wedding day. You may ask, "there has got to be some reason you married her right, or why you two were together".

Sure...I guess, she was a girlfriend I had in college and I married her because she got pregnant. I did not love her when we married...I still dont know if I love her now.

I have resentment everyday about being married, and feel incomplete with my wife. We are very different people.

I am social, she wants to stay home. She doesn't like my friends, and actually would prefer If I had none...She has no friends herself, I am her entire emotional supporting framework.

OK, so I am unhappy, 22 (shes 27) and I dont know what to do. I start medical school in August which will basically consume my entire life, and any free time I have I will want to spend with my daughter. I dont want to leave the relationship in pursuit of another woman - this would only make things more complicated.

I have talked about this with my wife, she had a nervous breakdown...

Im lost. I have been trying to love my wife for 4 years now...ITS NOT POSSIBLE. The only reason Im staying in the relationship is for my daughter, whom I love dearly. Since my wife has a job (60K) a year, and Im still in school she has threatened to take 100% custody if I left her...she would probably win because I live in Florida.

Help.

Oh, Ben, what a tough situation! If only we could get you in front of college freshman to explain why we ought to get to know each other better before we start a sexual relationship.

You haven't said what you might have done to try to love your wife, but you will barely have time for a personal life while in medical school, and you will need all the cooperation and domestic tranquility you can possibly muster. Sounds to me like your very best option is to fall in love with your daughter's mother.

Let's imagine this is an arranged marriage. You've been paired up with someone who holds some appeal (after all, you chose her as your girlfriend), earns a decent income, and holds a most important position, mother to your daughter.

To grow up feeling the world's a safe place, your daughter will want to know you understand and share her faith in and love for this woman. No matter how careful your wife might be in dating or mating (and we've seen she wasn't all that careful at 23, just lucky), any other men who enter your daughter's life increase her risk of sexual and physical abuse.

So, arranged marriage. Millions of men manage to fall in love with the women their family chose for them. If you're religious, you pray for it. But it also helps a lot to learn more about love. If you're headed to medical school, I gather you're pretty good at learning. It will take time to apply what you learn, but I promise you that your daughter will gain even more from every hour you spend loving her mother than from the hours you spend with her, especially before about her sixth birthday.

Can't give you much of a reading list in a comment, so I will promise to post one on Monday or Tuesday as my blog post of the day on AssumeLove.com. I have been to the point of thinking I am not in love. It's an awful place. But much of it is in your head and therefore under your control. It really is possible. It took losing my first husband (I became a widow at 34) to grasp this. I promise to point you to a bunch of resources on this blog and in the writings of those who study love and marriage. Give it one more try. There truly is nothing more important you could ever give your daughter.

Ben,
Patty said most bluntly to me recently, “What kids care about is that you share in THEIR connection to the adults that matter so fiercely to them. They can't stand for one parent to dislike the other. It's freakishly important to them that the adults they love see what they see in the other adults they love.” I didn’t see that clearly until this past weekend.

I saw HOW MUCH it really affects a child when the adults in their life come together with open hearts. I had dinner with my husband, his ex, the boy they raised for his first 5 years together, her two children from her current marriage and the kids grandparents.

I would not have gone but the boy asked me to come. And Patty is right, he could give a rat's ass about the relationships. He wanted to show off his mom to me, he wanted me to meet his siblings.

How hard would it be to just experiment with the steps it would take to love this woman? You’re finding lots of reasons and using a lot of energy to hate her. And you know hating her is crushing your kid.

It sounds like there are behaviors of hers that you don’t like. That’s not her, that’s her behaviors and if you apply some of the things in this Blog, like Assume Love…You just might find some. How crummy would that be to fall in love with the mother of your child?

Rachel, I love that you are so brave and willing to try new approaches to old problems. What a gift you gave this child in seeing the woman he wanted you to spend time with as his mother rather than your husband's ex. I expect it also made her feel a lot more secure about the time he spends with you and your husband.

And please excuse my delay in posting this. I was unable to use my regular computer and could not find any written copy of the password for my blog!

Hi I just came across this blog from searching in google..haha
Well I am currently at a cross roads of trying to figure out whether to divorce or continue to stay in a marriage where we live like roomates. We have been married for 8 years now, and when we were dating i wanted to break up with him because i felt he was not my type, i wasn't attracted to him physically, and i found him boring. Then my sister and best friend said i was being selfish and that he cared about me and looks weren't everything and that i should give it some time. Well after 4 months of dating he gave his ring to me and said you are marrying me and i want you to meet my parents. At that point i felt obligated to tell my parents about him, and before i knew it we were setting a wedding date, and getting married. In the 1st year of marriage i thretened to leave a few times, and he would say, you made a commitment and now you have to stick to you. so i decided i should. I complained to him that our marriage was stale like his parents marriage. He would work late and long hours (they have a family business) and i would be busy studying and we barely spent time with each other, or had sex. he is also a home body, if ever we were invited to go anywhere, he would continuously ask if we had to go, and eventually i became like him, and stopped going placed, and became a home body like him. Then 4 years or so into our marriage (after graduating from school i worked with them in their business) i decided the next step was to have kids so we did, we now have an almost 3 year old and a 1 year old. When we planned to have kids i had to convince myself to have sex with him in order to have them. When we have sex i have to imagine other things, and fantisize etc. I have been home since we had our 1st child. And now we are at the point where i told him i was making a change, i began dressing up, trying to go out, at which point he began questioning me, and every time i want to go out for me he always gives me a guilt trip, but now i decided i would no longer live like room mates and that i want more. 8 years later we are now speaking of divorcing and going our own ways. He is willing to make it work and try to do what it takes, but i'm not sure if there is anything left in me to try. I keep trying to tell myself that it's best for the kids, but then i ask myself what are we going to do later when the kids are gone? stay in a stale marriage. Its not only sex, but an attraction, excitement, fun of being with each other the love that is lacking. and i'm trying to figure out if it was never there, can it some how develop now?? I don't know what to do. PLEASE help.

It's a question many are asking themselves. I believe the answer is yes, you can fall in love with your husband. Here are two recent posts on how:

I Love You But I Can't Stand This

How to Fall in Love with Your Wife (many of the steps apply to both sexes)

Patti,
Thanks for the blog and place to share.
After a 20 year marriage, house and 3 kids, 20 girl, 17 boy & 12 boy, I find myself on the backwash of an affair where I have fallen in love with another woman. My hopes and dreams are to be out of the marriage but...
We have had a tumultuous marriage with many good times but a lot of pushing and shoving over the years. We both come from divorced homes, she- an only child, and me- 4 siblings. My family is fairly connected for the most part but the fall-out from my parents’ marriage and eventual divorce has been severe for us all. She is from another culture where extended family is very connected and while living in this country for the last 20 years when issues arose with my family she would confront for the sake of connecting, which has rarely worked as hoped. She is a type A personality, very driven and controlling. I'm an avoider, passive aggressive, wanting peace above anything. I grew up with a dominating, violent dad that finally left at age 14. I did not realize how much of me had been shut down over the course of our marriage. We would often argue over different approaches to church, child rearing, her need to go home often for vacation, our finances, my work or travel requirements, etc. It became worse when her mother moved in 12 years ago after her retirement so she could grow old with her only grandchildren. They are very close to the point I would call unhealthy but they are all each other has had for many years. They are best friends. I felt as though they ran the home and I was the meal ticket. I would often tell her “I hate my life.”
I love being a dad more than anything in the world. Every day I attempt to be the dad I wish I had. The husband part has been very unfulfilling. I have retreated so much so that I do not know who I am. My wife has shown contempt for men in generally and me specifically. I do not feel understood or even safe to begin unwrapping all that has gone on in our marriage and the resentment that has grown over time. And at 50 years old I am questioning how long I can continue in this marriage. We have had much counseling over our 20 years, Bible studies, conferences, weekend retreats and countless books, that has done little to improve things before this affair became known. I have never been unfaithful before now but this woman drew me in with all the things that I felt I wasn’t getting at home. I moved out for a few months and have been back for almost 1 year. We have been in crisis mode since I have been back in the house with counseling and attempts at change but for me, it is too little too late. I wish to move over in a new direction. What thoughts might you share with me in my situation? I value any consideration and time you might give me. Thank you.
Rob

Rob, thanks for writing. The one thing I would caution you is that most folks who get involved in an affair are drawn to the things they are missing at home. Because they still have whatever works at home, they don't notice they may simply be trading one set of needs for another. It is easy to compartmentalize your life during an affair, but not so easy after you are ready to rebuild a new life that can include your kids, your past, and the things you love other than being in love.

If you love being a parent, you need to know how very difficult it is for anyone else to appreciate that role, even if they have kids of their own. Your relationship with your children is older and always will be older and better established than your relationship with any new partner. It takes a strong partner and a lot of Third Alternatives to integrate a new love into that very important part of your life. The odds are slim that your new love will ever see your children the way you see them or feel as comfortable around them and their children as you will.

It may be too late for the two of you, but if you can find a few Third Alternatives and let go of a few expectations, you might find you can build something new and healthy together. You would spare your kids what both of you went through and give yourself a partner who shares your love of those kids.

It sounds like you may need to find an alternate living arrangement for her mother, one that gives the two of you more privacy and more time together. If she has a well-connected extended family, there should be many options to explore there.

Passive-aggressive is definitely not the road to peace-making. Finding Third Alternatives is. Please check the categories list on the right side of Assume Love for lots of posts about how to find them, whether you rebuild this marriage or head off in search of another.

Ok. I've NEVER done this (posted about my life) and am a little nervous. But, I've been reading the posts on here and although I can't totally "buy it" right now, I kinda like the way you think and want to know your opinion. I hope my thoughts will make some sense to you while they sound CRAZY ('cause they are.) :)

I am married with 2 kiddos. My husband and I have been married for almost 18 yrs. Most of those have been unfulfilling for both of us. I want to be close to the top of the priority list and have some fun. He wants a clean house and a decent meal occasionally. We both lose. :) (BTW, I use humor for diffusion.)

I lived for a long, long time (16 yrs.) wishing for and trying to propagate something more. I asked for dates and time alone. I planned a few including a couple of big trips and dragged him along. My efforts were not reciprocated and even when we were out, he wouldn't even introduce me to people when he would see friends/coworkers, etc. I've always felt like he's ashamed of me.

I am trivial enough that it hurt(s) me that he can save for, plan for and execute a guy getaway whenever he wants, but can't figure out how to plan to take me out to dinner or for a weekend away.

He does 3-4 overnight or longer trips/yr with friends for his hobbies. I don't do things like that with girls, 'cause I consider clothing, food, future expenses, etc. AND, all the girls I know are Mommies who don't leave either.

Over 2 yrs ago, I finally decided I'd had enough. I said the word - DIVORCE. I longed to be alone, untied and imagine him with the kids while I had some time to play at whatever struck me as fun.

I COMPLETELY expected him to say, "Ok," and look forward to it like I was. But, no!

SHAZAM!!!!!! Changed man! Now, he's all the things I requested for so long. Thoughtful, kind, helpful, understanding, loving, patient, forgiving, etc. Still, very few dates (that just ain't gonna happen), but, overall, I don't know another man who could match him.

Problem is - I can't seem to let go of this resentment and anger. I keep feeling like, "Really? I asked nicely and put up with crap and begged and cried and read every stinkin' marriage book I could find, tried to change me, tried to cauterize my feelings, prayed to God on my face on the floor and all I really had to do was get ugly. I HATE that!!!!

For years, I had friends tell me to tell him I want X and Y or I'm leaving and I would never do it 'cause I didn't want to use that. I wanted to be loved of his own free will.....not out of demand.

I've gotta get past this. Our children are suffering, he is suffering, I am unhappy and stinkin' cryin' right now just typing about it. I still want out. It all feels fake.

How do I fix me to move on and appreciate what he is after I so deeply gave up so long ago?

Assume Love, Kelli. For the moment, let go of all you know and suspect about your husband. Assume you have been married to someone who loves you completely, is not at all ashamed of you. What might make such a man offer changes only when you threaten divorce?

One possible explanation is that he truly had no clue how discontented you were until you spoke that word. This happens a lot, because men and women measure the quality of their relationships very differently.

Another possible explanation is that he knew of your discontent but felt helpless in the face of it. When we feel helpless to change something, we keep pushing it down below priorities like making a living or sustaining relationships with friends that compensate somehow for what's missing. No one likes feeling helpless, but few of us are taught the skills to strengthen a relationship with someone whose personality, strengths, and hormonal makeup (which affects what we seek from a relationship) differs from our own. When dealing with the problem becomes urgent, then we stretch ourselves to find a solution and let other priorities slide. People do this even when they truly love and want to stay with their partners.

You do not need to buy into either of these explanations. You get to choose which explanation you believe. But now that you know how someone who truly loves you might wait for a threat of divorce to take action, you must choose whether to risk walking away from real, long-term love to hang onto your explanation, which makes you feel unloved, or to let yourself feel loved.

It is quite scary to let yourself feel loved. You might be wrong or things might change, and your guard would be down after 18 years of keeping it up. All I can say, from my experience, is that you can rebuild from a sudden, devastating loss of love, while you can never actually protect yourself by keeping your guard up, because it keeps out too much of the love you are offered.

Thank you for having such a blog. I have never posted this before and this might be my one and only time that I do, because I just want to know what others are feeling out there in similar situations. First off, I wish none of us were in this situation, its depressing, sad, and painful. I think at the end of the day we all want to be loved, cared about, and to feel alive. I am a man in my thirties, married for about a decade with two kids…Love my wife just because she’s the mother of my kids, but not sure if for the person she is…Years and years have gone by where, she is no longer interested in my physically. Sometimes I think back, the most physical contact me had was during the times we wanted to have kids, or she wanted to have them… I tired going to the gym, running, swimming, to change my appearance, but still no attention. It has come to a point in time, where nota day goes by where she is angry at me for what sometimes the honest truth, I have no idea. I work about 10 hours a day, come home just to play with my kids for about 30mins, and we all sit and have dinner. I feed one or both kids (as I choose to, my quality time with them) and talk about topics with my wife…after high school she lost all of her friends, her parents made her feel guilty for going out, since her older sibling was going through hard times. Even in those times, I put my friends on the back burner and was by her side. Today she has no friends, just a few on facebook, never goes out, because she feel obligated to take care of both of our kids since she’s at home. T

Today I do not think we love each other, but are together because of the kids and because of our families. You know even after a decade of being married, I have never called her a bad name. But the bad names are always said to me ever other day. For the reasons, I can go into some other time. My reason for still staying married is for my kids. And I am not sure I would turn away and ask for a divorce, since I would never ever want my kids to feel what I did.

I am a type of person that some might think is weak or a “punk”. I don’t know how to change, or be stronger mentally or physically. All of this for me started when my own parents went through a divorce that hurt me harder than I ever thought. I lost my identity. I lost my fire about life, friends, college, food, etc..What I felt at that stage in my life, I swore if I ever had kids, that I would never ever put my kids in that situation. I looked up into the sky and swore to God that I would forfeit my own happiness just to know my kids would never ever feel the pain that I did and do today.

Days go by, for the past few years, I sit in my car and just talk to myself, ask myself questions of why or who do I change, what do I have to do differently. I look online for help. Sometimes all I want is just a big hug to say things will be ok. I try to bribe my kids for hugs, which has been helping greatly. =) The joys of my life.

She’s a great mother, but not sure about a wife. I am not perfect and I sure I have more flaws then her. But for the past few years, coming home, never acknowledge the physically aspect of our marriage, how was your day honey, good job, or lets do something, just don’t come by anymore….I think we are great parents, but a couple I think we’re on the verge of failing. I don’t want to, she’s my first in everything. Someone I want to grow old with. But I cant stop feeling what I feeling. I love her from head to toe. But when you don’t feel that back, what do you do. I stopped working out, starting eating fastfood (not over weight), but I’m so out of it, my close friends and other family members are shunning themselves fro me. If anyone out there can help, please do. I have spoken about this to a close friend I have and gotten great advice. Any comments, good or bad would be greatly appreciated.

Anger kills libido, Nick. No amount of appearance improvement will change that.

If your wife feels angry, your best remedy is to start looking for Third Alternatives together. At first, she may feel distrustful of your attempts, just because it is hard to believe in Third Alternatives until you see a few of them. So be sure you jump the net first: tell her you truly want her to have what she desires. Know that you can find ways to give these things to her other than the ways she's imagined so far.

If you are feeling depressed, deal with it. See your doctor, start exercising daily, eat better, avoid alcohol and other downers. You cannot help her start to love life again until you do.

If she does not have friends because she feels she must stay home with the kids, help her find acceptable ways to get the care she feels the kids need while she's out (or the two of you are out together). Or help her find ways to make new friends or spend time with old friends with kids in tow. Perhaps you could organize a barbecue at your house, where you handle the cooking and organize a few activities with all the kids, giving your wife and her female friends a chance to schmooze while they eat.

It is likely to be difficult for her to resume old friendships after letting them slide. Right now, you want her to have friends. She says she wants to do right by the kids. You must include this in the specs for your Third Alternatives, but when you hear hesitation to be seen by her friends again, ask for what else she would need to feel comfortable with them (or to get out and meet new ones), instead of getting annoyed by her foot-dragging.

Then brainstorm! Get creative. Go a little crazy in rattling off possibilities, just to shake the cobwebs from your brains. Maybe you will even find yourselves laughing together. Laughter is a great anger-ender.

Do you know her Love Language (from Gary Chapman's bestseller, The 5 Love Languages)? Give her what she's looking for in small doses every single day for a month, whether it's affirming words (spoken, love letters, or notes stuck where she will find them during her day) or gifts, acts of service, or quality time together. We know your Love Language is physical touch, and look how much it drives you crazy to do without it! She is surely missing hers, too.

As you lead her back to a physical relationship, watch out for all-or-nothing behavior. She needs to know it's OK to kiss or hug you even when she's not in the mood for sex, because she won't likely get into the mood for sex until she's comfortable kissing and hugging you again. Make sure she doesn't have to reject you or have sex she doesn't want after every physical touch. Ask sometimes but not always.

Let us know how the two of you make out. You are in a spot very familiar to a lot of couples with kids who have been married for 7 years or longer. It does get better in most cases. I hope yours will be one of them.

I was with my son's father for 11 years before we broke up 8 years ago, we have a 5 year old son together who we both adore, and my son adores his dad as he does me. I had been very unhappy for about 2 years before I finally gathered up the courage to leave him. I just fell out of love with him over time because he had cheated on me a few times and I still stayed with him, he also constantly pushed me away, wasn't affectionate, we never did anything together because he was never interested in doing much with me as a couple. When my son was born we fought a lot over disagreements on parenting which made the household become very tension-filled. Well long story short since he moved out 8 months ago he has constantly tried to win me back, I know he still loves me and of course now he regrets everything he did in the past. Deep down inside I could do without him because I simply do not love him anymore but my son's feelings toward this is killing me. He wants his daddy to come back home. I am having a really hard time deciding if I should let him come back for the sake of my son. I feel sellfish in not wanting him back and my son's happiness is really important to me but then again so is my happiness. Im really confused.....

Brenda, I am so sorry for the circumstances in which you now find yourself. Your son loves the two of you. What he seeks, as all children seek, is not for the two of you to live together but for you to love each other.

I think it would be marvelous to give him what he seeks. It will provide him with strength and stability and a great foundation for his own relationships. But he will know even faster than you do if you're faking it.

Another breakup would be tough on him. He is way too young to understand how difficult it is for you to forgive and to trust again after being cheated on and pushed away. But that difficult route is the only one to what he seeks from the two of you. You might want to travel most of that journey while still living apart, to protect him.

Be honest about what you need in order to fall in love again, and be open to receiving what's offered, even when it is not what you expected. You have many years ahead of you as the joint parents of this child. You can afford to invest one or two of them in seeing whether enough has changed to gradually fall in love again.

Many of us are in a hurry to move on, to find someone else more like what we expected in a mate. But you will never find another man who shares your depth of love of this child, and you will never be able to really enjoy any other interests with your child pushed to the side. That counts for a lot.

But no one should expect you to find your way back to loving his dad overnight. Give it time and your sincere best effort as a gift to your child and yourself.

Thank You so much... your advice really means a lot and has opened my eyes to the important things in my situation.

I would love to hear back from you along your journey, Brenda. It might help a lot of other people facing this same question.

Yes, but how do I stay? How do I get through day to day with his apathy or distaste with me?
Married 14 years, highschool sweethearts. Together 8 years before marriage. Two girls 7 and 10. His parents divorced at 10, mine are still together but my father is a burden on my mother who claims she loves him still.
My husband can't stand it that I don't know what he is thinking. Says I'm not his soulmate. Says we are functional, he loves me, but does not have that magical love for me. But, he says, things change.
He also does not trust that I could ever take care of the children on my own if something happened to him. Does not trust my judgement. He does not have respect for how I live my life.
He had gastric sleeve surgery and went from 375 to 225. He looks great and things are usually great/good between us. Great sex life usually.
He started drinking about 5 months after surgery in 2010. He finished a whole bottle of premade margarita last night.
I'm devastated. We will not divorce until the kids move out. So I have to live with him.

How do I stay is a great question. You stay by falling in love with him again, especially if you are staying to do right by your children.

How do you fall in love again? Start with what you have both already noticed: things change. This means you are falling in love with someone new, and you are doing it as someone new. Not all the changes were for the worse. Look closely for the things you could love about this man who is the only father your girls will ever have. They love him. Look through their eyes. What makes them proud to be his girls? What about them makes them feel safe?

So he doesn't trust you to care for the girls if he dies. Until that happens, it's irrelevant. After it happens, you will do what you must do. (I became a widow and single mom when my son was nine, and I have met other young widows. You do whatever it takes. And it takes a lot.)

You say things are usually great or good between you and you usually have a great sex life. Start there. Make the good better. When you feel disrespected by him, make physical contact before you say or do anything. Then start looking for Third Alternatives. Jump the net and tell him you want to find a way to get what you need from life and still keep his respect. This means you don't do things his way or your way. You listen with love to *why* you each choose your way. There is a good chance you do not disagree about the ends, only about the means. Brainstorm a way to achieve the ends each of you seeks by finding some other means.

And if you cannot agree, do what feels right to you, but do it with empathy for his discomfort.

That magical love is not so magical. It comes, I believe, from being loving toward someone you believe loves you. If you wait for the feeling to return before you start showing love again, it is unlikely to come. But when you prime the pump, the love flows again. You can prime it by expressing gratitude for the ways you are loved, even if they do not include some others you might like. You can also prime it by offering love, even when you're not sure he deserves it, and doing it in the ways he is most likely to notice.

Heavy drinking is not a sign you are unloved. It is more likely a sign he is unhappy. You have already pinpointed two likely causes. The first is his weight and what changing it did or did not do for him.

The second is that he wants to feel more understood (know what he's thinking) and in tune (soulmates). And he's stuck, wanting to stay (for his daughters, he will say, but also because he's still with his high school sweetheart) but not daring believe it is possible to feel more understood or in tune, because he thinks he already knows who you are and all you can become. He's wrong. He never saw a couple he cared about get through their slump, but most do. And he has not yet seen all you are capable of.

I don't know if I was looking for the article I wanted to read, or if you wrote I article I needed to find. Either way, your post really made a difference today, and helped me setting the course going forward.

For that, I deeply thank you.

You have made my day, Jim! Best of luck to you and your kids.

Thank you so much for your response. We came together better, my husband regretting how he brought things up about no magical love. But it was because I pulled away, as I do to protect myself. As soon as I let him back in a little, he was distant again. We've been planning his vasectomy for a while and it's tomorrow. I will be there with him, but only as a chauffeur
I no longer trust him, or his love for me. He took everything back except that he feels distance between us. Apologized, does not know why he talks himself into these corners. This is a repeat pattern for us, in different ways, but always his dissatisfaction.
He has stopped drinking a lot in the
past week. Only a couple beers. Very careful and open about it. Not even tipsy. Hope it lasts.
I don't want to open myself up yet again to his disappointment. It's still day to day.
I'm so grateful to have an outlet to talk about it. I am too embarrassed to share with my friends. I mean, how many times do u ride a rollercoaster that hurts until u realize it's the same ride and get off?

So, how is pulling away working as a way to protect yourself?

Your husband recognizes the distance you keep putting between the two of you, so it's not as if, on the next try, your message might suddenly get through. He gets it, but it seems he doesn't know what to do about it, so he adds to the distance with hurtful words intended to protect himself.

Vasectomies are no small matter for men or marriages. Your roller coaster will be pulling out of the station again shortly.

Why not lean in instead of pulling away this time? If you need to protect yourself, set a time limit on leaning in, like 6 weeks. Then don't let yourself pull away before then. Time's up right away, of course, in the event of any violent or threatening behavior, but otherwise, do your best to stay in and present and enjoy the ride. It might be the best one yet.

I've been married for 13 years, and for the last three, things have been very difficult. We have a son who is 8 years old. Our journey together hasn't been an easy one. Im not even sure where to begin but due to some really stressful work situations and a lawsuit in which my husband is involved in, our family has suffered a great deal.

My husband is never around. I am raising our son alone and many times my son tells me "where is dad etc...I often have to make things up like "he's working late tonight..." but I know that isn't necessarily true. He works late hours but when I've driven by (out of suspicion) his office, he is not there. I know he enjoys playing "poker" but now he's doing that almost every weekend. At first, I thought maybe that was his outlet--and I thought I was being a good wife by letting him go out and do his thing. But over time our boundaries were diminishing to the point where last week he didn't call me at all and never came home to sleep 5 our of 7 nights! No phone calls or explanations. I am having such a hard time rationalizing all of this. I feel sorry for him because of all that he's going through with work but at the same time I am resentful and hurt that he's decided to deal with his pain by leaving me behind in our marriage and raise our son on my own. I've tried on several occasions to tell him we need to work this out. I've told him how unhappy I feel and I've cried out to him and told him that I feel he has "checked out" of this marriage already. He responds by telling me that I have chosen to deal with our stressful situation by running to my family. I have "chosen" to spend time with my parents and siblings to fill the absence I am feeling at home...I often spend Fridays and Sundays there but have always told him he should join us. He always makes excuses and never wants to come.

Our sex life is non existent and hasn't been for some time. Over two years. I am ashamed and hurt. I know that he might be suffering from depression or stress from this work situation so I do not press this issue. I too haven't been in the mood so I don't necessarily blame him as much as I am curious and suspicious. It just doesn't make sense that he's out "working" till 2 am every night! I definitely have trust issues and wonder if he's looked elsewhere.

I really need clarity on this. I told him this past weekend that we need to either work on this marriage and I need to see changes like him not coming home late etc...or we need to make a decision to separate. He didn't fight me on this too much but said maybe we should make small adjustments to our marriage and see if that helps. He then went out AGAIN and didn't' come home till late but told me that he needed to clear his mind...he makes me feel guilty for confronting him on his behaviour but I've told him that he's pushing me into a corner. He cannot do the things he's doing and expect that I just sit back (which is what I've been doing for the past few years). Honestly if it wasn't for my son, Im not sure if I would be here in this marriage but I am heartbroken. I came from a home where my parents are still happily married -- to think that my son won't be getting that breaks my heart. But at the same time I am scared to keep going on like this and passing up the chance to be happy! I don't want to look back at my life and say "what if"...I feel that it's not fair that I am the one who has to make this life altering decision for our family and not him. I am the one who is here and has stood by him...he's the one who is running away from home and our problems.

Any advice would be appreciated especially where my son is concerned.

It's a wonderful thing to want an unbroken marriage for your son. But I don't think we do our kids any favors by just sticking it out, unhappy.

Both you and your husband are into the "don't do's" right now: don't stay away from home, whether it's at "the office" or with your family. You won't fall back in love by constraining each other's behavior. What do you both enjoy doing, and how soon can you do it together, just the two of you or maybe you two and your son?

Your husband, just because he's got male hormones, is likely very sensitive to criticism from you and to rejection by you. You, just because you've got female hormones, are likely very sensitive to feeling abandoned by him. When you fear it's over, watch that you don't react with rejection or criticism. Until you're ready for it to be over, try to react with gratitude for whatever is good about him, whatever makes you hope it's not over. It may stop the cycle of pushing each other away.

I am so glad that I found your sight and can't thank you enough for letting people get their feelings out and actually responding to them.
My story is this...I fell madly in love with a man ( I will call D from here on out ) when I was just 17. We lived together briefly and loved hard like nothing else I had ever felt.
We separated for what we thought would be a brief time ; he moved home to Michigan ( we lived in Florida) to start school and live with his father, I joined the army signed up for 3 years to grow up a bit and help pay for schooling. We had all intention as soon as I was stationed somewhere he would join me and we would marry.
Just before basic training graduation my step father committed suicide; he shot himself at home in front of my mother. I got a hardship discharge from the Army and went and lived with my mother to get her through a very difficult time. D was dealing with his own emotional trauma as his father was very abusive to him and basically just used him to take care of his business. We were both dealing with difficult family issues and demands. We communicated less and less until it seemed as if he had completely forgotten about me and the love that I thought was so dear and special.
Fast forward 6 months... met a great guy through my sisters work ( I will call him E ) He was smart , funny and we had a lot in common. Our first date was in May ... he was at the house ( my mom's house) all the time . One day while watching TV we were talking about him needing to find a new place to live .. his lease was up ... my mom says .. why don't you just move in here ... you are here all the time .. Cheap rent ect.. ect... Well he moved in 4th of July weekend after just dating 6 weeks. A was not sure how I felt about that but.. went along with it (I was not even sure that I loved him).
We became engaged in Oct and married a year and a half later. All along I was not sure if I loved him the way I should love the man I was going to marry..... and never had the love or feelings for him that I did for D. The day I walked down the isle I new I was making a mistake and the D should be down at the end of the isle waiting for me. But all the hoopla of a big wedding ... I could have never called it off.
So we married, had comfortable life ..... bought a house, had three kids, enjoyed great vacations lived comfortable ....... all while I was still missing D ....
I did what I thought I should do .. be a good wife.. give him children.. be a great mom... take care of everyone and always be the family rock.. the emotional level headed one that everyone came to for advise, All while I was falling apart inside and living a lie.

Then thanks to technology I find my self searching out for D on the computer.
Found him .. emailed him... thought I would be just glad to know he was alive and well.
I am at this point I am in a loveless marriage of 21 years and have three children 17,13 and 11. D is not married but has been engaged for 8 years. we live about 3 1/2 hours apart.
The immediate connection we had was like we had never been apart. The first time he hugged me.. I felt as if I was finally home after all these years . It was now 24 + years since we had seen each other and we both find ourselves falling for each other hard and fast. 10 days after our first email he drove to meet me. We spent the day sitting at the beach talking about our lives.. where we are and how we got there, And how we never stopped loving each other. The love we have is like nothing else I have ever felt or experienced. I have never loved anyone or felt this happy with anyone ever sadly, including my husband E. That initial meeting was one year ago. Since then, he has left his house (his ex-fiancé is still living in it and he is still paying for it do to be upside down) moved 5 minutes from me to an apartment; which is tough for him after leaving a 4000 sq ft house. he still has the same job... he commutes and travels M – F and we see each other on the weekends

I have told my husband and confessed to him everything. his family and my family know that I am in love with D and want to spend my life with him. My husband is crushed had no idea I had been unhappy for so long or that I still loved D all of these years. He has kept this a secret from our children as I feel like such a failure as a mother and wife but can not imagine living another day with out D in my life.
I never thought my children would have to deal with divorce. They are our number one priority everyone's D. E and mine. I know I have failed as a mother and wife and have caused so much pain and hurt. This was never me.. I am the one that always made everyone happy.. I am a nurse .. it is my nature to take care of people.. not hurt them and destroy them like I am doing.
I moved out of the house 3 weeks ago and am renting a villa less than a mile a way ... I have the kids over here but they have yet to spend one night .. i am still trying to make it a home for them. I am with them off and on everyday, I work the midnight shift 11p-7a so they really don’t miss me being there at night.
I had to move out…. My husband has been amazing through this whole thing and is not mean or hateful. Not sure I ever deserved such a man. The love that D and I share is the most amazing love but it is at the expense of my family. I can not image not being with D ever again… I lost him once, I can not let it happen again. For the first time in 25 years I am happy again. So here I am feeling as if I have abandoned my kids, left a beautiful house and a good man that was not abusive,….. all for my selfish love for D. Not sure what to do I love D so much and am not sure that I could live without him. Please help me.

I am so sorry for what has happened to you, Sue. It sounds like a very, very difficult situation. It's sad D stopped communicating with you all those years ago. That must have hurt!

It's sad you never chose to show your husband the intense love you now show D, sad for him, sad for you, and especially sad for your children who have grown up thinking love is pale and bland when you know otherwise.

It's sad you are entering your new relationship with D saddled with the costs of an apartment, an upside down mortgage on a house you two can never live in, and your legal obligation to share the cost of the home your children live in. It's especially sad this looks to you like D giving them number one priority.

It's sad you don't see his eight-year, live-in "engagement" as a repeat of his lack of commitment to you 24 years ago. It's sad you are weighing only two possibilities, life with him and life with your husband, because on the face of things it looks like life without either of them is a very real possibility.

That can't-live-without-each-other feeling is such a wonderful one. It's the same one every child is born with, which makes it feel a lot like rebirth when it hits--or when it's carefully cultivated to add strength and shape and permanence to a family.

I am so sorry for your very difficult choice, Sue. Some people in this situation must follow their heart and divorce. Others learn from the reminder of what love they are capable of and start over at home. Only you can choose between these. Just please don't choose that awful third choice of returning, unhappily and resentfully, to the half-hearted marriage you had for all those years while you waited for E to be D.

I have only talked to one other person about this and I just want the opinion of an outsider. I have been married for 4 1/2 years now. Happily as I can remember. We now have a baby almost 9 months old.

When unexpectedly coming down for a drink just after I went upstairs, I came down to him setting up a time to meet with a woman on his lunch break. A lunch break that he "never has time for with such a busy work schedule". He of course tried to lie to me, like I had imagined what I heard. Then he says that it was just about making the call and not actually going. Of course after much prying he does meet with women he finds online about every 2-3 weeks. For who knows how long, years from my understanding. Of course this makes me feel completely disgusted with him and in an instant I have lost all good feelings for him.

I was 100% set on leaving him (kicking him out). Completely set on the idea. Why would I stay with a man that I can never trust again?

Well, needless to say, I am still here. For 2 reasons I believe. Not for any hope I hold I can ever trust or feel the way I did before. But for the following:

1. I dont want to be alone. Not only do I not want to, but I am not sure that I can do it on my own. I certainly cant afford the life we have built together. As much as he says he will continue to pay for the house and help in everyway for our baby and I to keep what we have. I know things like that dont last and I simply could not keep 1/2 off the life we have built, at least not without finding a new job or another. I have a very strained relationship with my own family, which limits my options tremendously. Him and his family have become everything I rely on. I sit around looking at everything we have and cry because I know I cant do it. Or at least not without a struggle and hardship. How am I suppose to raise and provide for a 9 month old all on my own?

2. Our baby. I dont want to affect his life in anyway because of this. I dont want to take him away from his father or any of things we have been able to provide for him. But at the same time staying in a relationship that may not be good, could also be a bad thing. I try my best not to become my parents, but they always "stayed together for the kids". And I tell you now, they are about the worst example of that kind of marriage.

I cant even remember where I am in this now, but I did finally talk to a friend. My own personal friend who I assume is on my side. She feels there is hope for me to trust him again but I just dont see it. At the same time though, she feels that if she were in my position and sent him away, she would miss him in 6 months and ask him to come home. Then what a waste of time and effort for everyone in my opinion.

Now...he tells me that it is nothing to do with me. That he has "a problem" that needs professional help. So far he has looked into meetings that he plans on attending in a couple days. Mind you, this all just happened 5 days ago.

Even if I dont get a reply, I needed to get all this out of my head. As right now I am sitting in the dark of my living room, because when I lay and try to sleep all I can think of is exactly what he was doing. Questions just go back and forth in my mind. Questions that I really dont want the answers too, but wont go away. I already wish I didnt know, just so my life would be back to normal.

I am so sorry for your pain, Confused Mommy. I think I've said this a few times, but I will repeat it. You offer your child very little by staying together, as you have personally seen in your own family. What your child wants is for you to love or at least respect his or her other parent.

If you walk out now, there is not much chance of that happening.

Your distrust and disgust are natural. So is confused sexuality for your husband during your pregnancy and care of an infant. You have changed. Your appearance changed. Your body and how it works changed. Your role in life changed. Husbands must figure out what to make of all these changes, and some do so by cheating. It's a monumentally stupid way to deal with the changes, but we all have our stupid moments, some bigger than others.

Here's what we know:

1. If it's first-pregnancy-related, you may already be out of the woods and on your way to a healthier relationship.

2. It is possible to regain trust, to forgive, and to fall madly in love with your man again. Check out the Beyond Affairs Network at http://www.beyondaffairs.com/ and Janis Spring's book, After the Affair, for plenty of good advice.

3. It is possible to beat a sex addiction if he really has one. And when a spouse has an addiction, you are the only one who can protect you and the relationship from it until your spouse finds a treatment that works for him. And you can set those boundaries with love. You don't need to stay angry to protect yourself. You might find Dr. Steven Stosny's Emotional Healing webinar series, which begins on September 8, 2012, helpful for this. Here's the announcement http://compassionpower.com/Healing.php

I hope that you find your way back to those good feelings and a loving relationship in which to raise that little one.

Thank you for your reply. I guess one thing I forgot to mention is we had a very brief moment of this about 3 years ago. It had only happened 1-2 times. Unfortunately, I guess partly my own fault, I didnt address the problem at the time. Perhaps that is the reason it frustrates me that much more this time. Disappointed in myself for not dealing with it properly then. But that I understand.

I have read some of your other posts about affects on children and I have learned a great deal. If we can work through this, even if I still have those feelings of mistrust, I will try my best to be a good example for my child in our relationship.

I honestly believe he has an addiction and I guess I will never be able to see it from his point on how he allows that to happen.

Thanks for your insight. I will try to take it one day at a time.

One day at a time is good. And when you are dealing with any addiction, a group like Al-Anon can help you manage your end of the journey back to a healthy marriage. None of us are born knowing how to deal with addiction or how to avoid getting sucked into one. But we can learn.

Addiction means your husband will need to work much harder than most of us to be the man he vowed to be. It also means you will need to be much firmer than the rest of us about what you can and cannot deal with. Part of this might mean developing skills and maintaining contacts that will let you support yourself and your child if you ever need to separate. I hope it's never necessary, but you will stand firmer and he will find it easier to fight his addictive urges if it is possible.

I know many trustworthy addicts. They learned late but they learned, and they take the necessary steps every day to avoid the things that trigger their desire for whatever they became addicted to. May your husband master those things, too, and may you find yourself proud once again to be married to him.

I stumbled upon this blog searching for any help. My wife and have been married a very short time, 1 1/2 years. We have a beautiful 12 week old son who is absolutely perfect. I am at a point in our relationship where most days I cannot stand being around my wife. I work 12 hour night shifts as a nurse, the days I can stand being around is when I am home a few hours to sleep.

Since before we got married I have had my doubts, but have always found an excuse for our fighting. It always follows the same circular pattern... she starts getting short, and angry. She then begins a few Weeks of downgrading everything I do, from my cleaning skill, my job, my performance as a father and in the bedroom. This downgrading is usually associated with screaming,yelling, threatening to leave me; and on a few occasions it has gotten physically violent to the point of calling friends at 3am to come get me.

Each occurrence I have made excuses... she drank to much, she is stressed about the wedding, she pregnant and hormonal. I am at the point that I wouldnt even care if she left. She has become hateful and negative about everything.

I have tried getting her to go to counseling with me, or even by herself (her family has extensive emotional/depressive disorders). But she refuses. I have gone to counseling, tried being that great husband ive always dreamedbof being.

I am emotionally numb to her at this point... We have discussed seperation, she starts crying and apologizing saying she will change... The good part of the cycle...

I have tried your advice about doing things differently, trying to love her... I dont know whatvelse to do. I know I love my son more then I can express and dont want to raise him in this kindbof environment...

Therr are many other things that have been bothering me about our relationship... But this is a good start.
Thank you.

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. There are two giant red flags in it. One is the violence. Violence is never acceptable in a marriage nor in the parent of an infant. Please take advantage of any and all help in your area for stopping the violence first, before you try to sort out anything else. You and she will share the raising of this child for at least 18 more years.

The second is that you have excused her anger and uncivil behavior as a result of drinking too much. If she drinks too much because she cannot stop herself, she cannot control her behavior until she gets help with her addiction to alcohol. Until she does this, only you can protect yourself and your child and your relationship from the harm her addiction does. Protecting yourself and the baby might call for a short-term separation, one with love and hope for a better life after she deals with a life-threatening problem only she can address.

Beyond the two red flags, I would invite you to notice this pattern and stop playing whatever your role in it might be. If it goes downhill when you come home only to sleep, organize some other activities together. If it is worst when she's worn out (and most new mothers are worn out a lot), go without whatever you can possibly go without to hire someone to help at home or to take off time to provide that help. If she seems to feel better about herself when she taunts you with insults and makes you defend yourself, agree with her, smile, and throw her a compliment on coping with the trials of being a new mom.

And be sure to read all about Third Alternatives on this site, because she is obviously upset with a lot and probably does not believe things could be better if you two cooperate on finding those Third Alternatives, but you can show her it can.

Also, please remember that alcohol is a depressant. If she's prone to depression, you might want to keep none in the house and get out among people when you two want to enjoy a drink.

Wishing you better days.

i have been married 20 years and have three spectacular children - 15, 13, 10. i dont want to go through a divorce or put my kids through a divorce but i dont want to be married either. my husband and i do not have a relationship. we live in the same house. we share a checking account. we share car pooling duties and child supervision duties. we do not share a bed for the most part. he falls asleep on the couch every night. he will come to bed in the middle of the night if he wakes up. he used to wake me up to have sex when he would come to bed. i was so starved for attention that i gladly participated. now i totally resent it. i have told him that if he wants to have sex, he should come to bed at a decent hour. he still sleeps on the couch and sometimes comes to bed in the middle of the night but we do not have sex. i feel so unwanted and unloved and feel like it seeps into everything in our lives. if he doesnt like something i cook, i feel hurt. if he doesnt agree with who i am voting for, i feel hurt. if he doesnt want to paint the bathroom, i feel hurt. i just feel hurt all,of the time. in the past, these same things would frustrate me or make me mad but i would get over it. now, it just all seems like it is a pile of garbage that keeps growing and never taken out. little things are now big things. there is part of me that thinks that i should not complain. he has had a job for 23 years. he is not an alcoholic or a gambler or a cheater (that i know of) or physically abusive or any other things that seem to be acceptable reasons for divorce. on the other hand, we dont talk, sleep together or agree on anything. my 10 year old would be devastated by a divorce. i think my 13 and 15 year old would be sad, but they would understand. i am pretty sure they realize that this is not a normal or at least desireable marriage. if they were in this situation, i would want them to get divorced. i never want them to feel like they are unwanted, unloved or not good enough. i feel like we are setting such a bad example for what they should expect out of life. i feel guilty for not having a good marriage and i know i would feel guilty for getting a divorce. i am really lonely and sad. :(

What an awful situation! And what a great one, too. Great because it's the easiest sort of marriage to restore into a warm and loving relationship. If you want some hope that it's possible, go watch the new movie Hope Springs.

It tends to focus mainly on the sexual side of the marriage. The rest follows from that, but we don't get to see the process. This blog is all about that process, less about the sex.

It can sometimes sound like I'm putting all the blame on my readers, when they are sure they have awful spouses who need fixing. But I am instead trying to show my readers they have the power to make huge changes, because what's happened did not result from some decision by your spouse to have a lousy marriage.

For example, you write, "i have told him that if he wants to have sex, he should come to bed at a decent hour." What if the middle of the night is when he finally sets aside a million other worries and thinks lovingly of his wife? What if waking you feeds a fantasy of his that helps him see you again as an object of desire? Or what if it just takes him that long to work up his courage to face the possibility of being refused when he, too, is worried the marriage is dead? How could you make it more inviting to come when you're still awake? How could you make it easier on yourself to have sex in the middle of the night?

You mention also that you two disagree on everything. My husband and I do, too. When we first got together, we put a small notebook on our coffee table. Every time we agreed on ANYTHING, no matter how tiny, we wrote it in there. It let us both know we were safe with our disagreements. Because we did not fight over them, and we found Third Alternatives for the ones we had to come to some agreement on, we came to value those disagreements. They get us to think more deeply, try new things, talk more (after we felt safe in disagreeing), and search for Third Alternatives.

Invite your kids to help you create a scrapbook or wall-hanging with what the four of you like and admire about your husband. They may remind you of a few great reasons to stay married until you can fall back in love. And presenting it to him may give him a great reason to fall back in love with you.

While your teens may realize this is not the way it should be, until they see that, they are vulnerable. When you believe that no conversation or physical contact is bad, the physical contact and constant communication of a bullying, argumentative partner looks different and can be mistaken for an improvement. Give yourself a year of doing everything possible to show them what the real thing looks like, because it sounds like you had it with this man way back when and can have it again.

I have been married for almost 19 years and have 3 great kids, aged 13, 10, and 6. I'm not in love with my wife - haven't been for a long time - and often times find myself not even liking her. She knows I don't love her anymore and mentions it all the time. I don't disagree with her, but I also don't verbalize that it's true. There are a few reasons why I stay married. The first is the kids. My parents got divorced when I was 14. It sucked and was extremely difficult on us financially and emotionally. I don't want to have to put my kids through that. The 2nd is financial. My wife is a stay at home mom who homeschools our children. Getting a divorce would put an undue financial burden on both of us. She would probably be forced to put the kids in school and go back to work - something I know would be very hard for her to do. I don't know what to do. I don't forsee it getting any better, but I'd rather stay in a sucky marriage, than put my kids through the emotional and financial hell that would result from a divorce.

Dan, you know how bad one of the options is for kids. I know from my experience how bad the other is for kids. The third option was mentioned in Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is to love your wife. Act with love toward her and look for things to love about her until the feeling of being in love returns. Those whose love lasts a lifetime don't let their feelings of being in love drive their actions. They let their actions create the feelings they want to live with (and want their children to live with) for the rest of their lives.

Hi I would like some advice of whether to stay married or divorce. I have been married for 13 years and have 2 wonderful children but every year that goes by I have grown to hate my husband. Lately I have thought about hiring an attorney and just end this nightmare of a marriage. But I do not want to lose my kids. I would leave tommorrow if some told me he could never have ky kids. I do not trust my husband around my kids, I know it is a sad thought. My husband has many problems. I feel he is an alcoholic and addicted to prescription drugs. I'm afraid if I go thru with this divorce it will get ugly, I will have to prove to a court all these problems my husband has and the court my not believe my side. I feel the kids need to stay with me and have supervised visitation with their father. In the meantime I walk on egg shells everyday some days are ok nut other days I cry myself to sleep very unhappy. I deserve to be happy. Should I try to change him, I have and he will not stop drinking or taking drugs. He feels his drinking is normal and he needs rxs drugs. He has been on theses rxs drugs for 10 years for somekind of back pain. And he drinks 3 to 4 rum and cokes every night and the worse is when he drinks while on his rxs pain drugs. This is when he turns into an abusive monster. He is more verbal abuse but if I speak up it turns physical. Do not know whether to give up on this marriage or try to fix it and raise my kids in a two parent home???/

Abbiann, I am so sorry your marriage has reached such a point. I cannot make this huge decision for you, but I do understand that sometimes things have been bad for so long that we cannot envision ever regaining compassion for a person or feeling safe around them again. Once the possibility for compassion and reconciliation is gone, there is not much left to a marriage.

One thing divorce will drive home is that our kids are never our kids. No matter what we do, they will always have two parents. Even if a judge grants you full custody and supervised visitations, even if the kids are relieved to be protected from one of their parents, it will not stop their longing to have a close and healthy relationship with their father. There is no guarantee he will stay in their lives after a divorce nor that he will provide for them financially. And, as you note, there is no guarantee they won't be ordered by the courts to spend time with him without you around until they are deemed old enough to make their own choices.

Whether you stay and rebuild your relationship or leave and deal with the ugly situation you fear, when you're dealing with alcohol and drug driven behaviors, it's best to focus on the behaviors and not the alcohol or drugs. Here's why. If you object to the behavior, the addict can connect the dots and see the abused substance as the cause of the behavior. But they are free to try to change the behavior without yet giving up on the drugs or alcohol, until they prove to themselves they no longer have that control and must give up the addictive substance.

If you object to the substance, one that will take a lot of hard, daily effort to give up, they will always argue first that you're wrong about their addiction. And now the choice to do that hard work is making you right and them wrong. It's a lot easier to be strong when they agree the behavior should change and prove to themselves that fighting the addiction is their only hope of changing it.

And if you object to the behavior with love and compassion for your spouse but intolerance for behaviors (including verbal abuse and violence) that force you to choose between your personal well-being and your relationship, there is a chance of making it through the addiction recovery before you are both convinced that one of you is a better person than the other. A healthy marriage is between equals.

Whether you stay or go, Abbiann, please don't deal with drugs and alcohol without help. Groups like AlAnon can help. Trained clergy members can help. Social workers can help. Addiction therapists can help. Drug and alcohol intervention specialists can help. Women's shelters can help. You can find most of these in the blue pages in your phone book, by searching the web for resources in your area, sometimes by asking a physician or clergy member or lawyer. Please line them up before you take the next step. You need knowledge and a safe place to ride out any storm. You also need a ready-to-roll option for your husband should he choose treatment over divorce. Even if you choose to divorce anyway, you will find it easier on you and your shared children to do so without addiction in the way.

Thnx i jst read ths att th ryt tym n thnk i cd use sm advice.
I dated ths guy since 2007 .he continually wantd a bby n i gv in in 2010 ever since he hs turnd emotionally abusive sleeps away all weekends and never wants to tlk about it.we r nt legally marriedcbt have stayed together since 2010 he hs nt visited my hm neittherr hs he tkn me to hs hm thou both our family visit us n knw we live together.my daughter loves hm so mch bt he says am using hr to force myyself to hm.currently am jobless and at times i feel if i gt a job i should jst mive out thou i knw al b failing my daughter.
Ths is a guy who claimed loved me n tht i cnt deny bt nw he hs failed me n kips hurtng me.he hs literally destroyed my life n seems not to care.am here coz of my bby and dnt knw wat to do.advice plz

I wish I could help you, Strousey. I am not familiar with the laws or customs in your country. I don't what services are available to a single mom who has no job. And it sounds like you have never had a commitment from this man.

Here in the US, I would advise everyone to pay attention to the difference between "I love you" (even "I love you and want you to have my baby") and a commitment to love you. "I love you" is about an emotion, one that can come and go. "I will love you" is about actions and intention, which depend on a person's integrity, not his or her emotions.

It is best for children to live with their two parents who love each other (meaning act with love, even when they do not feel the emotion of love). If parents cannot love each other in the same home, better to have them love each other and their child from separate homes. Having parents who refuse to love each other, whether in the same home or different homes, is always third best.

Also not good for your child: having unprotected sex with a man who will not account for his overnight whereabouts (because your health affects your child's future) or when you are thinking of moving out (because another pregnancy affects your child's future).

Without any past commitment to love you, you three have a tough road ahead. You can choose to start loving him and fixing your life so you no longer blame him for ruining it, while hoping for a future commitment from him. Or you can choose to start loving him and fixing your life so you no longer blame him for ruining it, while ending your sexual relationship and shared home. No matter which you do, this man will always be her father. Your loving or unkind actions toward him will always affect her.

So, I want the absolute best for my three little men, ages 2,4 & 6. However, my marriage has had difficulty almost since it began but we have been able to make happy memories as well. He has "rages" about 1-2 times a year. It is unexpected and very scary. Last night he broke our dining room table and repeatedly hitting me in the face after not getting a video at our son's flag football game that I accidentally missed (I think I have a concussion). The kids were sleeping and I don't think they heard, but what should I do? Do I stay married so that they have both parents in the home? Do I leave for events that are few and far between but can become very violent when they happen? I loved/love my husband but these events are making me loose that love. I want to keep myself and my kids healthy and happy and I am conflicted about what divorce means for my children, they are my world. I called a law office today to get advice on divorce as an option and have an appointment with my marriage therapist/counselor (who my husband suggested but refuses to go with me to.) Please help.

Divorce and risking his violence are not your only choices. I cannot believe he intends to hurt his wife, but it sounds like he is unable to stop himself from doing so. If he cannot regulate his behavior, this leaves only you to protect yourself and your children from the physical and emotional harm and him from the shame. You simply cannot share a home with someone who cannot control himself when something angers him.

Whether you leave to create a safe space for him to choose treatment (if this is due to a brain injury or substance abuse) or education (if he's simply never learned to stop his anger) or you leave to divorce him, be safe. Before you reveal your plans, be sure you line up your protection: a shelter or safe house to live in, a new babysitter, knowledge of the laws for requesting supervised visits with the children, etc.

Work with your lawyer and therapist to help you make it clear to him whether you're done with the risk or willing to return if he removes the risk. It takes a lot of strength to choose to change something like this. Until he finds it, the danger is always there, and the only alternative to finding the strength is to invent stories that you somehow caused his inability to behave so shamefully.

You need all the help you can get to make it 100% clear that such behavior is not acceptable and apologies won't remove the threat. You also need protection, because being called on his unacceptable behavior could quite possibly trigger an even worse rage. Please work with professionals in your community to line up the help you need.

I understand your wanting to keep a healthy, two-parent home for your children. It's admirable. But right now, it's not one. You each must choose to take the hard steps to change this, and it can only happen if you both take yours.

I'm glad I found your website the stories and responses have provided some insight for me. I'm trying to save our marriage before we get into real trouble. I have been married to my wife for about 2 years now and we have a 5 month old baby boy. For the past few months some things have drastically changed with my wife and probably me unbeknownst to me. She has become obsessively protective of our son. To the point where she now almost resents my parents from coming to visit. She says that I was not there for her when our son was born because I didn't protect her from my mother. Now in my eyes at the time I thought my mother was trying to help being a new father I didn't know the things to look for in a situation like that. But apparently the new mother is in a fragile state, she claims my mother took my son out of her arms repeatedly, told her she wasn't feeding him enough or at times too much, that she was calling her grandson her baby etc. My wife blames me for not stopping her and not putting her and my son first. I was totally caught off guard by this because unfortunately I didn't see these as a threat. Even now she says she cannot trust me because she doesn't believe I'm going to put her and my son first and will make excuses for my parents. We have started counseling and right now it does not seem to be helping because she is very emotional and brings up new things that I did not protect her from. When my parents come to visit next time she is adament that I put them in their place if my mom says something or else, she has said you better tell her to stop the moment she says something and if she doesn't stop kick them out of the home. I want to protect and put my family first but not at the expense of alienating my parents. I'm hoping this is a phase that she is going through but she has mentioned seperating because she doesn't believe that she can trust me. Please know that there has been no infidelities or improper relationships for either us she is having trust issues that I love her or not. A little background on my wife as well, she comes from a toxic family environment, parents divorced after 20 years. She does not talk to her father anymore and the mom leaves a lot to be desired, giving us the guilt that we should be giving her money etc. For the sake of time and not going into detail am I dealing with her relationship issues with family and past or is there something with us or did I do something wrong? I want to do what is right for us but divorce is not an option because I do not want that for my son or hopefully our future children if we can get past this. What can I do to get our marriage in a better place?

I am glad you are in counseling, CC, because it is entirely possible your wife is dealing with postpartum depression on top of a mother-in-law disagreement. A professional counselor should be able to diagnose it.

We all have hot buttons from our childhoods. It sounds like your wife never felt protected by the adults in her life. Now, she's doing what she can to protect your son and looking frantically to you to protect her as she protects your son. And she's doing it with a full dose of post-pregnancy hormonal influences on her emotions.

Your mother very likely comes from a culture where mothers and mothers-in-law expect to take the role of teacher or coach. Thank her for trying to fill this valuable role. And then tell her that the role is an unfamiliar one to your wife, so all the good things she tries to do can be viewed as criticism instead of help. Ask her, because she's not dealing with all the hormonal stuff, to tread lightly and help you build up your wife's confidence. Tell her your marriage is very important to you and you want her help with this transition into being parents.

Then jump the net with your wife. You might want to read some of my other posts on Finding Third Alternatives, because you two need one. To jump the net, you would agree with her that it is very important to protect your son and say you want to do this with her. Let this sink in, then add that, while it is important to you to do this, you cannot agree that the best way to do it is for the two of you to separate or for you to alienate your parents, and you would like to work with her to find a way to protect her and your son that strengthens the bond between you and changes your mother's behavior without pushing her out of your lives.

The next step is to ask her for more details on what she hopes to protect the baby from, because you two cannot come up with a protection plan that preserves your son's family until you understand any threats that are not obvious to you as a father. Don't try to solve them or debate them, only to find out what she wants him protected from.

If her concerns come across as obsessive or extreme, discuss them with your counselor. If they are simply different from your concerns (which would be totally normal), tell her you want to provide these protections. Then tell her you don't want to protect your mother's right to snatch the baby from her or boss her around, but you want to protect your wife from these things without being rude or disrespectful to your mother, so you need to come up with some approach other than tossing her out of your house.

When you both understand what the new solution needs to achieve, you can toss around some ideas. I can see them including visiting with your parents somewhere other than in your home, so you two are alone with the baby for bath time and bed time and can talk in private during your visit with them. I can see them including your joining her for a parenting class, so that you can tell anyone who tells her otherwise that whatever she is doing is the method you have both agreed on. I can see them including finding an experienced mom she feels compatible with to join you during your parents' visits.

I wish you luck with this, and I hope you will join me for my November 14th teleclass (http://www.enjoybeingmarried.com/articles/teleclasses/).

My husband and I have been married 5 years and together for 7. We have a little girl who will be 3 in march and a 6mo old little boy. On my son's due date I found out that my husband had been having an affair for the past month. I was induced 3 days later. I was crushed. I didn't know we were not happy. I decided to forgive him and to stay together. He sat he is sorry and will never do it again. He I a great father. However, our families are exact opposites! My dad is a business owner, republican, self-made millionaire due to his hard work. His dad is unemployed and has been leaching off the government for the past 15 years. They drink, smoke, and do not say thank you or gifts. Just rude! My husband and I also do not have much in common. Opposites attract sort if thing. However, since the affaire I hate to admit this but I do not really live him any more. I am staying with him for the kids. Wouldn't it be easier to get out how while they are young than waiting and trying to work it out only I find out it won't get better and to divorce when they are older? I am so unhappy. :-(. I want to be happy! I think our daughter picks up on it and it breaks my heart.

Macey, sure it would be easier to get out now. And if you have no plans to let yourself fall back in love with him, your kids are already in a no-win situation.

But if what you really wish is that he would love you, love you enough to get through your disbelief after his awful breach of your trust, getting out now will leave you without what you want. It's highly unlikely anyone is going to come along and sweep you and your kids off your feet and love all three of you. And even if you find such a person, what are the odds of your kids falling in love when they have a great father already?

When we're horribly hurt, it takes a lot of courage to acknowledge we really want that love and partnership. We must work as hard at re-opening our hearts as our spouses must work at re-establishing their honor and our trust.

As mothers who want to protect our children, our anger makes it easy to picture "rescuing" the kids from someone who has hurt us, but they will still love him, and they will always be the grandchildren of those people you look down on. Just as your daughter picks up on your heartbreak now, she will always pick up on your feelings about her grandparents and father. And she will never be 100% free to express her feelings with you because of it if your feelings don't change.

DearPeggy.com is a truly wonderful resource for anyone recovering from an affair. So is the Beyond Affairs Network.

And I don't see being attracted to your opposite as a problem. A tool my second husband and I used when we wondered if we had anything in common was a notebook on the coffee table. Every time we agreed on anything, no matter how small, we wrote it in the notebook immediately. As the list grew, our fears subsided. Mastering finding Third Alternatives helped a lot, too. Personally, I think I have grown a lot more with someone unlike me loving me than I did in the same amount of time in my first marriage, in which we and our families had a lot more in common.

I hope you will read some of the other articles on Assume Love before you make your decision about the man you not so long ago believed you could love and honor through better or worse, through sickness or health, whether you grew richer or poorer. Because it sounds like you have a good shot at falling back in love with a good man your kids adore if you decide it's worth the effort.

My husband's Catholic faith says we should never get divorced, but he yells at me (and at baby) for little things like not cooking good (he's a chef) or for leaving a sticky pot to soak instead of scrubbing my arms off or for going out and buying baby a snack instead of staying in the house cleaning. I feel like he has two volumes: mute and yell. When he's not yelling, he's stomping downstairs to his bedroom (his, not ours). I am completely torn whether I should consider this emotionally abusive and leave while I can, or whether I can put up with this so that our daughter can have a father her whole life.

Leave and put up with what's happening are seldom the only two choices for two people who once adored each other and currently adore the same child. Here are some other options. You only need one of them to work, so try them all:

- A new coming-home routine that allows him time to shed any leftover anger at folks at work and fully shift into his loving husband/father role before he has to deal with any of the chores or problems these roles entail.

- Intense concentration on your part for a while to catch him being the guy you love and reward him with your respect and affection.

- Date nights: scheduled time to be a couple again, without the baby, because few of us are the person our spouses married while there is a baby in the room.

- Dr. Steven Stosny's Boot Camp (by phone or in person in Baltimore, MD), which will teach both of you techniques for keeping your cool and treating each other with compassion.

- Cooking lessons for you or cooking ahead together on his day off or soliciting his advice on what you plan to cook this week or putting him in charge of cooking.

- A place to put soaking pots out of view, not to be secretive about your approach but to be sensitive to something that obviously turns him off.

- A change of jobs for him to reduce the stress he's obviously under, which might mean finding a way to make some money while the baby sleeps or cut some costs while you stash away an emergency fund to get the three of you safely through the transition.

- Ear plugs to take the sting out of his loud voice or pinching the baby for a good scream in response to his yelling, as long as you're sure he won't hurt the baby.

- Lowering your voice to near-whisper level. Almost everyone lowers their voice in response to a lovingly lowered voice.

- Active appreciation for all he does to support your family financially. As we settle into our roles, we do lots that our spouses never see and grow to take for granted. When one of us starts overreacting to what might look like shirking, it's usually because we feel taken for granted, not because we want to supervise our life partner. Men are even more sensitive to this than women.

I hope you found here at least one idea you can use to start reshaping your marriage, Tina.

Most of the advice I see on the topic of stay or go boils down to "There was love, love is gone (perhaps now replaced with evils of resentment and all its displays), do I leave or do I stay?" In fact, science even has statistics that help make this choice easier: if your fights are loud, violent, and frequently in front of the kids, and anger management doesn't help, divorce is a BETTER option for the kids. If you can keep the kids near-oblivious to your situation, staying together is in long term better for the kids. In fact, happily married parents did not necessarily raise happy kids, so your happiness means very little for kids, as long as they have the both of you, and no clear fighting and violent unhappiness. The absolutely BEST advice I've ever received on repairing a marriage is "you cannot get your marriage back - it wasn't working to begin with if you got here, but if you remember how you once loved each other and wanted to be together, you can find the desire to build something new together, something that works." I agree with that statement VERY MUCH!

But what does one do in an odd situation when two people were married young and for all the wrong reasons? My wife and I have very passive aggressive fights - no violence, no yelling that kids can hear (VERY rarely anyway), no thrown objects. We're just ridiculously incompatible. Never have been. VERY wrong for each other. It's not that I resent her now, it's that given another pass, I'd never marry her in the first place, nor she me, and I'm fine with that. Her core passion is comfort - she loves a state of minimum activity, so long as everything is in-place. I am an adventure seeker, to whom a chaotic turn of events is just another adventure to adapt to. She's ultra-punctual, and I'm not. She doesn't love through touch, and I cannot live without touch - it's a 12 for me (5 love languages reference). Kisses are awkward, sex is virtually non-existent (1/month on average, but as rare as once every 3-4 months happens). We recently escalated things to the point of discussing divorce. She wanted to leave. At first I had every intention to save the marriage, then I realized that it cannot be saved since there was never love. And as different as we are, building anything new would be hard. I have a life list mile long of things I want to do with my life, she wouldn't come up with 1-2 things we could enjoy doing together. All would be simple without kids, but we have 2 amazing boys: 6 & 4. They love each one of us very much and we love them back. In different ways, but with our full hearts. The last straw was the fact that I never knew love before this marriage, and thought that it's a myth, or something that I can create, fake, live with a "cup half full", but in my search to fix the marriage, I discovered a lot of materials on fixing my own confidence, my own world views, my understanding of male/female roles in a relationship, female psychology, sexual/seduction approaches that got me attention from the opposite gender that I never dreamed of having. My first thought was family-bound: how do I seduce my wife? How do I get her attracted to me? And I managed it... a little bit anyway. Our sex life got better, things go a little bit smoother... but it required a LOOOOT of work, and I didn't like who I became doing it. I was basically someone else. I felt she was attracted to what I did, not to who I was. I realized even more strongly she felt no acceptance towards the real me, she didn't want the real me. In my psychology research I found a type of woman that matches me far more, and accidentally one day ran into a woman of just that type... in fact, not only her type was a match, but everything from her Briggs-Myers personality to our life interests. She also had a life list, and it was similar to mine. This woman inspired me and was inspired by me. I took 2 weeks away from family life to get a perspective and spent them with this woman. I should probably feel guilty, but I do not. I didn't cheat, I just wanted to research what I was missing. Our conversations were amazing, way she put her hands on me felt incredible, even in the most unsexual of her intentions, it sent electricity down my whole body. Our life goals are identical, she thinks my sweat smells sweet. What does that even mean?!!! I'm still baffled by that phrase! It sounds so incredible. I think I flew up a little when she just took my hand and told me "I'm so happy right now". We ended up kissing, and her kiss feels like heaven, no less. I feel through touch, and the way she feels I've never felt before with any of my ex's (and I'm not the most experience-deprived man in the physical department).

Before you go to criticize... I sat down with my wife and tried to work out a way to fix our marriage and she completely refused, that happened before I met the new girl. I told the new girl that I am married and have kids and probably will get divorced. So no one had been lied to. Cheated on? I don't know... lately my wife has once again expressed an interest to try to work on our marriage, but her idea of "us working" is "me changing myself", and her enjoying the benefits of me becoming more like what she wants me to be. We've been together for 7 VERY LONG years. Most of those were spent in fighting, unhappy, just committed to raising kids, and content that there's nothing better out there - this is my life, and I must live it. Plus some legal things until recently made our divorce impossible. But those things are about to pass and won't stop us anymore.

AND I SO WANT FOR MY KIDS TO BE HAPPY!!!!!!! But are fighting and violence really the only two things that decide if they'll be happy or not?! No, they're not exposed to those... but will they grow up to be happy men?! Would they not be better off seeing their dad love to the fullest and be loved by someone? Would they not be better off with a model of what acceptance and wanting look like? I respect their mother, we're very unlikely to have any sort of custody battles..... uncomfortable meetings in the future? maybe, maybe not... or maybe she'll meet someone she can fall in love with too and she'll be happy?! I would really like that for her. She admits she never loved me, and she also says she's loved before, and knows what that feels like for her, and that she doesn't feel it with me (never has). Given that a future full of love is really possible for each of us separately, SHOULD WE REALLY STAY TOGETHER JUST FOR THE KIDS WITH 99% OF NEVER BEING LOVED BY ONE ANOTHER? Please understand that I would never ask if I wasn't willing to bite the bullet and just stay. But I hope someone out there with more worldly wisdom can offer another point of view or words of experience, or just words of support. My heart is breaking... to know love, to know it's SOOOO CLOSE, and to possibly never be able to love or be loved in a way I was meant to be. I made a mistake marrying the wrong woman and making children with her. But now that they are here, it's not just about me anymore. I want what's best for all 4 of us. I want my wife to find love too, just not at the cost of raising heartbroken kids. Do kids really suffer if their divorced parents do not badmouth each other? respect each other? speak kindly of each other? Just live with a new partner... And I'm still young. I could have more kids, the new girl is amazing, and thinks the world of my kids. So it's not like they'd have an evil stepmom. Instead they'd gain an adventurous beautiful stepmom who grabs the life by its horns, and lives it to the fullest, she and I together could teach my kids to live without fear of failure, to go start a business, to go learn to dance ballroom, to go fly a paraglider off a mountain... these are things I'm afraid they'll miss out on (most of them anyway) in the company of their present parents staying together.

PLEASE HELP! ANY ADVICE IS APPRECIATED!

I have been reading and re-reading this comment for five days. I ache for the pain of this choice you must make, Gregory. And I don't want any of my readers to miss my reply to your comment, so you will find it at http://www.assumelove.com/2013/01/married_young_and_for_all_the.html

This is so beautiful and right on. It made me cry though because it's too late for me and my wife who made the unilateral (and inexplicable to me) decision to leave our marriage and break our family in two, saying she didn't want to "do this anymore." She once said "I don't care what anyone says, I can see the shadow behind their eyes." (Talking about children of divorce.) I thought that this (what you write about) was what we were doing and what we were committed to. I am so brokenhearted, more on behalf of my kids than myself, and I don't understand how she "could do that to our kids." (As she would also say about parents who quietly got divorced for no particular reason.) I wonder what she would think if she read this now. I tried so hard to get her to at least try but she flipped a switch and didn't ever look back.

I am so sorry for your loss, John, and for your wife's loss, too. Stay close to those kids.

I"ll bet you've never heard a story like mine before! My husband and I have two children (10 and 12) and have been married for 7 years. My husband is content to be married to his "friend with benefits" because that's exactly what we started out being and it hasn't changed one bit. We started out as friends (great friends, by the way), added the "benefits" and the kids came along. My husband has never been attracted to me in any way/shape/form and has no romantic feelings for me. He admits this and wants to stay married for the sake of the kids. He doesn't want to be away from them. I respect that, but what am I supposed to do? Sit around and be content to be his pal? I am so struggling with this I feel like I'm going to explode. In addition, I feel like a complete idiot...what, did I really believe that he could just start having feelings towards me? What a joke.

As ever, seriously enlightening as well as beneficial post on Assume Love:
Should I Stay Married for the Kids?.
Many thanks.

My husband recently wanted to leave me and I begged him to stay and make it work. I now know that guilted him into being with me may not have been the right thing. However, what should I do now that he is here? Do I let him go or do I start working to improve and try to save my marriage?

Unless he's violent, why not try to save the marriage, Alicia? I would start by Finding Third Alternatives for the things you disagree on. Wouldn't hurt to shower him with respect, either.

Just heard back from Alicia by email and sent her this. I think a lot of others trying to save their marriages might find it just as useful.

If extra responsibilities keep you from having fun or spending time together, it often happens that one of you becomes the spokesperson for fun times together and the other for doing what must be done. If this happens, run these two options through the Find Third Alternatives process, because it is almost never truly an either-or question. You can have both.

Start with my latest blog post on the subject: http://www.assumelove.com/2013/06/a_third_alternative_in_the_bed.html

Here is a four-part how-to manual:
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/10/what_is_a_third_alternative.html
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/10/find_a_third_alternative_-_ste.html
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/10/find_a_third_alternative_-_ste_1.html
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/10/find_a_third_alternative_-_ste_2.html

And a caveat:
http://www.assumelove.com/2011/05/is_it_a_third_alternative_or_j.html

And one I think you may find especially useful:
http://www.assumelove.com/2012/01/third_alternatives_for_worrier.html

This two-parter is really helpful, too:
http://www.assumelove.com/2012/10/let_go_of_the_how_to_find_the.html
http://www.assumelove.com/2012/10/let_go_of_the_how_to_find_the_1.html

For a bunch more, browse through this page to find the ones that grab you:
http://www.assumelove.com/how_to_find_third_alternatives/

Hello. I have never written a comment before but I have read everything I can find on the internet about my situation and I like your perspective. I hope you can help me.
6 years ago I had an affair with my exboyfriend from before I met my husband. It was mostly emotional although there was sex on two occasions. (We had no where to meet so it is possible there would have been more sex if there had been more contact. Mostly we just talked and I sucked up the attention that I never got from him when we were together.) At the time I had two kids under 3 and we had moved overseas 2 years before for my husbands study and then to a new city the year before for his new job. My husband had taken a job that was incredibly demanding and he hated but did not feel he could leave. He was very withdrawn and depressed at home but not communicative. He was always exhausted and worked very long hours. I was not as supportive as I should have been. I became very isolated and so focused on him and was suffering exhaustion as I had no other help with the kids and they were not good sleepers. I had not expected to be a stay at home mother and felt forced into the role and so had resentment. My mother had died as few months after my first child was born and we had moved overseas a couple of months after that so there were a lot of changes that happened without discussion as to the full implications. Anyway- these are not excuses as I take full responsibility- just context.
The affair ended after a few months as both of us knew we were not going to leave the people we were with, he was leaving town, I thought I was too, and basically the whole thing was just built on fantasies of our old relationship which rapidly disappeared once we spent a bit of time together. and he moved to states. Occasionally he came to town and we would meet for a coffee but it was very much as distant friends- the emotional involvement was gone. On one of these occasions (maybe 2 altogether) my husband found out. It was terrible. We had planned to leave the country already so there was a lot going on. packing and moving and (at that stage) three small kids. We got back to our home country and everything was very up and down. I did not know if he was going to leave but eventually we got a house together. He does not want to live apart from the kids. After many many months he finally said he loved me. Since then it has been up and down. Great for a couple of months and then again withdrawn and cold. This has to do with my affair but it was a pattern that existed before I had the affair and have always found it very VERY hard to deal with. Early this year things were bad again, he sited lack of sexual intimacy, then things got better and we had a wonderful couple of months and I thought we were finally through the major emotional obstacles. Then in June he started getting moody and emotional and withdrawn. Long walks by himself on the weekend etc. Then early August which coincidentally is the anniversary of him finding out about the affair (4 years this year since he found out although 6 years since the affair ended) he turned away from me during sex and told me he didn't love me. He loved me but was not in love with me and was only staying for the kids but was considering a separation. He woudl let me know when he decided if he was going to do that. He said he had horrible dreams about it and could not get it out of his head. He will not do couple therapy but is considering therapy by himself. (I am in therapy since this announcement which is helping me - I probably needed it years ago to deal with anguish about my mothers death, and other emotional issues in my family.) I am able to be cheerful around him although I spend my free time obsessively searching the internet for clues as how to deal with this. I want us to have a rich and warm love which I have seen we can have when we go through the happy periods but these dark periods are so hard to cope with and I am afraid this one is permanent. It is like the feeling has just drained out if for him. So my questions are : Should I just be patient and remain calm and loving and see what happens? Should I put a time limit on it in my head? If we are not fighting and I am able to demonstrate love and affection is this enough of a positive atmosphere for the kids to mean i should just stay anyway? I don;t want to leave but I don't want to grow old starving for even a little attention and affection. We are still having sex as I am initiating it but he will not touch me or say he loves me. I still love my husband, admire him and want to treasure him. I am not sure he feels anything positive for me apart from the fact I am a good mother. I have had to mature a lot and I think I am able to be a better partner now than I was before. I am afraid it is too late. He definitely has no trust in me and although he says we have a deep friendship and our house is happy and he is still making plans with me (fixing the house, christmas holidays etc) I feel he has checked out. I want to save this and am willing to be patient but don;t want to set up a lifetime of empty loneliness for both of us. What should I do. Thank you

Sounds pretty awful right now, Opal. But there is hope.

For a while, when you were overwhelmed and fearful you would never get your needs met at home, you checked out of your marriage. You took your needs and fantasies and body elsewhere for a while. And yet you are back and in love with him again. So, Assume Love and ask yourself what would make your husband check out for a while, even if he loves you? Overwhelm and fear that he cannot get his needs met at home are a couple of big possibilities.

Some things you ought to know. First, for women, the very foundation of a relationship is affection and attention. For men, it is trust and respect. When the foundation is crumbling, offer what he needs to build upon, not what you would. Show him trust and respect and offer him whatever he needs to get past his distrust of you, even if it's more time after four years. He may just now be dealing with his pain, as you are just now dealing with your feelings about your mother's death.

Second, the difference between love and in love appears to be this thing Barbara Frederickson is calling the emotion of love, or Love 2.0, the stimulation of our vagus nerves and release of oxytocin that happens when we experience positive emotions in sync with our partner. Look for small opportunities to experience them every day.

And don't overlook what you've got. He responds to your sexual overtures. He trusts you in bed. He trusts you as the mother of his children and as a dear friend. His distrust appears to be limited to your respect for him. Your house is happy.

You're starving for attention and affection, but surely you know you will get even less if you leave, perhaps for a long while, since you have children to raise who will need even more of your attention and affection than they do now. It was 11 years after my first husband died before I met my second husband. The quality of attention and affection I received from the men I dated in the interim was usually dreadful.

So perhaps you can develop ways of getting attention and affection that don't require him to renew his vows just yet. When you share news of good fortune or an achievement, give it a little build up: "Something exciting happened today that I really want to share with you. Is now a good time?" Ask for his help with things he's good at. Pay attention to his character strengths and create opportunities for him to use them around the kids, then point out to them what a great guy he is. When you're out walking with the kids, offer him your hand and see if he takes it. If he's a dancer, make a date to go dancing.

If you've read the earlier comments here and on One Last Stand Before Divorce, you know I heartily endorse the DearPeggy.com website for anyone dealing with infidelity. I hope you will visit it as you look for answers. I wish the two of you a new foundation and a long, loving marriage.

This is my first time posting.
I think my story is similar to some of the others posted here, except I have no kids.

I've been married fourteen years, coming to fifteen years this October. My wife comes from a well-to-do family - the princess of the house. I come from a solid middle-class family.

There were problems before we got engaged, usually to do with her wanting all my time and attention, trying to take me away from my friends and my divorced mum, whom I was living with. She gave me an ultimatum to chose between her and my mum, and ashamedly, I chose her (there's some history of my mum abandoning me when she got divorced and later remarried, leaving us with my Dad).

Anyway, there were doubts when I proposed. We went away to her parents place in another town to celebrate her birthday. I bought the engagement ring as her birthday present. But I got cold feet...but did not have a back up birthday present. I came clean and told her my intentions, but that I had doubts. I spoke to her Mum about this. I asked her whether not wanting to hurt someone is a good enough reason to get married. And she said yes. My mum-in-law adores me.

I then proposed to my wife and told her I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her.

Did I mention that my wife is the first girl I slept with?

Anyway, I'm generally a warm and caring person. Being from a divorced family, my dream was always to have my own family.

I've always wanted kids. I can't say I've ever had the "hots" for my wife. But I did develop a very strong bond. Problem is I think it was more a father-daughter bond. Tucking her in bed, kissing her on the forehead. I think we met each others needs, but not as husband and wife. Her wanting to be "loved" and me wanting someone to love. It's messed up I know.

Anyway, here's the crux of it. 12 years on, and she was still not sure whether she wanted kids. And she was treating me like how a spoilt child treats a parent - basically my needs came second. But at the same time, she can a sweet adorable girl.

I told her a number of times, don't string me along. Tell me if you o not want to have kids - then I'll live my life more selfishly.
I've told her: if I were to treat you the way you treat me, you wouldn't even be able to stand.
I've told her, I'm not happy - to which she responded - "So what do you want to do about it?"
When I raised issues, she'd just stare at me angrily and not respond. Partly because she's always been a bit emotionally cold (being the princess) and also she has a lot of pride (being the princess and coming from a rich family).

I was on sleeping pills for 3 years.
Eventually, I had a fling for about 3 months. My wife found out. At first, all she could do was focus on the other woman. I told her, the other woman is not the problem. The problem is my heart - it's just not there. But she fixated on the other woman for a long time. Probably over a year.

We went for counseling immediately after my wife found out about the affair. I think that was the wake up call for her.

The affair also "brought me out of the closet" so to speak. Basically, forced my to admit, it was an act of will all these years, and paternalistic feelings.

We've been separated on and off for two years now since the affair. She now sees her faults and wishes she could turn back time. She is a sweet girl. Just a bit self-absorbed and sometime oblivious to the needs of others.

I think I'm still struggling because of a sense of right/wrong and obligation.

IF we had kids - I would not have a problem staying. We can be best friends and leave it at that. I'm 42, my wife is 38. If we had kids, they would see us through our middle years and we'd be fine as friends in our older years.

Problem is I so badly want kids. And she does too now. But I'm tired. It's so easy for me to love another woman.

I met a woman manning a counter at the local driving range the other day. She had cute little girl with her. I asked, "Is she yours?" She replied, "I wish." I asked "How many kids do you want?" She replied, "As many as I can have." I found that soooo attractive.

I grew up with my Dad, who is a disciplinarian with high expectations. Life growing up was about keeping silent and not making mistakes. I crave warmth and affection. I think I'm a little broken on the inside. When I was in college, I did my thesis on what makes marriages work.

Before we went for marriage counseling, my wife had never once..not once...asked me how was my day (after all a young girl is not expected to ask her father) or asked me about my childhood (she knows my father and knows my childhood must not have been easy).

OK. Decision time. Currently separated. Living the life of an emotional monk. Trying to figure out if I can change my heart.

I can try to assume love, but there are a lot of painful memories, and the proposal itself is haunting.

She has changed in some ways. She is now more open to sharing her feelings with her friend. She needed her emotional support to survive and she says the right things to me.

She is emotionally intelligent, but just not emotionally mature, if that makes any sense. I think the difference between the two is empathy/warmth.

I can give her the benefit of the doubt and say, she's changed. But, I just can't bring myself to go back. It would be so so easy for me to just find a simple kind woman and start anew.

I could even wait for her to find someone to can make her happy, and then move on.

I've been to a number of personal counsellers. They tell me the same thing. Move on. Even my wife's best friend has told me to move on. She too treats my wife like a daughter....

I've left and then gone back before. And then left again. My wife is still waiting for me. I'm stuck. Assume love?

Peter, thank you for taking the time to explain your situation. I want to start by explaining that Assume Love does NOT mean "act as if you are loved." It is a tool to use when you spouse's behavior upsets or confuses you and makes you wonder if you are loved or not. Because your fear that you may not be loved (or safe or free to be yourself) focuses your mind to help you escape a threat, trying on another explanation often reminds you of information you've temporarily forgotten or gives you a different perspective on the problem. You look for explanations of what might make someone who still loves you (which is more likely than not) act this way.

One of my favorite examples is getting hit in the Achilles tendon with a shopping cart in the supermarket checkout line. If your first explanation is carelessness, you feel devalued and get angry. Now your finely tuned old brain kicks into action to protect you from this and all other violations of your rights and boundaries. So, if I tell you it's not carelessness, your second guess is likely to be intentional harm. You might even shove back the cart that hit you before you even take a look.

But if I ask you to assume the person who caused all that pain is a gentle, kind woman of good character and come up with a different explanation, your self-protectiveness melts away and it just might occur to you to check if the person who did it is having a heart attack or a fainting spell or being attacked by someone behind her. And it occurs to you because you override that old brain's life-preserving narrow focus with a new brain skill of putting yourself in another person's shoes.

So, you might want to Assume Love and try to think of other explanations for your wife's reluctance to have children sooner. And other explanations for why she never asked about your childhood. And why she pushes you to nurture her and doesn't nurture you. Set aside all of your fears about her (just for the moment) and explore the story that she's a woman of good character, doing her best in this relationship, and wanting badly to show you her love. I'm not saying it's a true story, only that when you look at the problems through this story, sometimes some amazing stuff pops out, just like it does in the supermarket example, and you suddenly feel a lot closer or see the solution to a long-standing problem. At others times, it just gives you better questions to ask. And if you're not loved, and there is no loving explanation that makes sense in your case, this makes it clearer.

I understand why a lot of people say just leave. If you felt completely okay with just leaving, you probably would not be writing here. So let me give you the downside of leaving.

The first is that we are all human. There really is no perfect match out there for you, even if some might be better. When you find the woman who wants kids, she may be looking for someone to foot the bill and administer the discipline, not to hold the babies, coach the kids' rugby team, or be her playmate and lover. Or she may come from a rougher background or have less education than you and end up seeming like a bad influence on your kids.

The second is that every time you find such a woman, she might turn down your proposal; I know at least one person who left to have kids and never found anyone willing to join in.

The third is that you will lose almost 15 years of your personal history. I am a remarried widow, and I hate that those 14 years of my life are largely off-limits. I am fortunate to have a husband who doesn't flinch when I do talk about them, and I have the advantage of zero reason to ever suspect I might go back to him, as there is after a divorce. But it's a loss.

The fourth is that the dating pool at your current age (I was widowed at 34 and met my second husband at 45) is nothing like the one you were in the first time. While there are some really wonderful people in it, the percentage with really awful relationship skills, STDs, or pre-existing kids with joint custody or bad role model fathers is a lot higher at this age.

The fifth is that the men in highest demand in that dating pool are the ones who can tell the story of what they did that contributed to the problems in their first marriage--not the "I had an affair" story or the "I married her despite my misgivings" story, but the story of why they might have been difficult to nurture or why their early moves might have created expectations that went unfilled later or how their unresolved differences might have given their wives misgivings about having children together. But most of those have been through several long-term relationships, enough to see the patterns. The ones who figure these things out with their first spouse generally want to stay after figuring them out.

I have been married for almost 10 years now. My husband has been telling at me and Turkish almost daily now. I feel like a doormat. He don't help me with the kids, I can't talk to him about my feelings without him becoming upset. I'm really lonely. he has cheated on me. Just recently I meat a man who I talk to about anything. He asks how I am and how the kids are. I feel myself bonding to him. He a God fearing man. And tells me not to give up hope. The more I talk with him the more I grow to love him. I son know if I Should stay in this marriage gg or the kids sale or not. Please help me I'm troubles.

Falina, if you feel like a doormat, bonding with another man is the worst thing you could do.

It is easy for this other man to encourage you and give you hope. He has no responsibilities for you or the children. He's not yet experienced the rebellion of most step-children. He does not need to negotiate things like who does what around the house or what's clean enough or how much money is enough or when it's OK to miss dinner or a gathering with relatives. The vast majority of such relationships do not progress to marriage.

More importantly, you are once again putting your happiness in someone else's hands. Take up a hobby or resume one you left behind. Dress to please yourself. If you are lonely, get out and meet other women with children. Then trade childcare with them to do more of what you love. Yes, your husband is likely to yell at you about all this at first. I know this because he's already yelling at you. But it's actually your best chance at winning him back or at finding a man who will love you, not your problems.

I'm not married but I have two children with this man. We've been together for almost 8 years because I got pregnant after knowing him for 1 year. He really makes me mad and upset when we fight. I have to admit that when I am really angry I can say the meanest things and I yell.... A LOT! I am loud and he hates it. I was only 21 when I got pregnant and now I'm 28. I feel sorry for our children with all the screaming and yelling in our household. I want to stay because he is the father but sometimes I want to leave because I'm not happy. I feel like he isn't a good partner. He doesn't carry his own weight when it comes to the responsibility of our kids. Sometimes I wonder, why hasn't he proposed to me? Maybe he feels the same that I'm not "the one" for him. I'm just "the one" who have him two kids......

Dear Young Mommy. Somehow I missed your comment when it first arrived. Just noticed it today.

You are caught up in some thinking that will get you nowhere.

First, this man will always be your children's other parent, a hugely important person in their lives and their children's lives. Wanting to leave because he doesn't carry his own weight when it comes to the responsibility of your kids is like wanting to shoot yourself in the foot to stop the pain in your ear. Leaving won't relieve you of the weight you are carrying. It will increase it. And it will add the responsibility of coordinating two separate lives with the man you don't want in your life but your kids need in theirs.

Leaving sometimes makes sense, but never because you're feeling overburdened as a parent. That's just part of being a parent.

It's very likely their father also feels overburdened. We all see the burdens of parenthood differently. One parent can live with dirty clothes on the kids but not with a diet of processed foods. Another can live with a diet of processed foods but not with five-day-a-week childcare. Another thinks childcare is a plus for their kids but can't stand how hard he or she must work to pay for it. And the one who loves his paid job thinks changing diapers and cleaning up vomit is a job he's simply unable to stomach.

All of us do the things we think are most important for our children. And somehow that always adds up to just past what we believe we're capable of or ought to have to bear.

You also ask why he doesn't propose to a woman who says the meanest things to him and yells a lot, loudly, even though she knows he hates it and it harms their children. Would you really want a husband who chose this madness?

Yelling and saying mean things when something angers you is a choice. You can learn to make a healthier choice, one that leaves you happier, your children more secure, and perhaps their father more loving. One source of such instruction is Dr. Stosny at http://compassionpower.com, especially his boot camps, in person or by phone. You can also ask almost any psychologist, social worker, or clergy member to refer you to local anger management classes. If your man notices the difference in you, let him know where you learned to deal with anger. He might choose to take a healthier approach, too.

I believe an awful lot of the anger in marriages comes from the awful frustration of believing we must do it our way or your way or meet in the middle with a compromise. Only one of these gets us what we want, and having it our way requires denying the same satisfaction to the person who matters most to our wellbeing. But the two alternatives we argue about are seldom the only ways to get what each of us is looking for. And some of the others give us what both of us are looking for, because what we don't like about the other alternative is not often what the other wants to get from it. Check out the Find Third Alternatives category on this blog for lots of help finding them.

One more thing. If you are expecting your man to make you happy, it's not going to happen. Happiness is an inside job. With or without him, you will need to restructure your life, probably several times over your lifetime, to make room for what makes you happy. You don't need to change your man, your figure, your job, or your wealth to find happiness, unless one of them has you walking on eggshells to avoid pain all day every day.

I hope you'll stick around and read more of Assume Love. Let me know how it's going in the comments. I wish you lots more love and lots less yelling.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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