Dear WholeFamily Counselor,
My wife is leaving the house to move down the street to live in an apartment. She says that she is still going to meet all her responsibilities to our two boys, David (13) and Jeffrey (11). She claims she can't live with the children's father anymore and this means me. The biggest reason she gives is that we fight all the time and she has told me this many times through our marriage. I think the last fight I had with her was sometime in 1997.
My wife was brought up in a family with a father who was an alcoholic. From what I understand, she battled with him for several years. He now is sorry for this but my wife is still upset with him. She has always thought her mother favors her sister, and her mother has told her that at one time this was true. This also bothers my wife now. My wife is 45 years old, I am 41 years old. We have been married for 15 years.
Getting back to the fighting in our family, there was very little between my wife and I, but a lot between my wife and my oldest son David. Just before David turned two years old, he all of a sudden had this inner anger and frustration. My wife and David have been fighting with each other almost every day since. Most of the time I would try to stay out of it, but sometimes my wife would find something to get mad at me for. Many times when I would try to discipline David, my wife would step in and stop me. Whenever I would get involved in the fighting, my wife would end up getting mad at me. I believe this has caused there to be very little show of affection and intimacy between my wife and I.
Before David was two years old, he started to show natural abilities and intelligence. David has been extremely successful in anything he has done when he puts his mind to it. David may be the finest soccer player in his age group in our area. School is easy for him and he doesn't put much of his mind to this. He could easily be an A student if he wanted to be. I'm working on this. All college soccer coaches who have seen David play soccer can't say enough about him. He is the #1 player in his class. But the hardest thing is to keep him calm and focused when he plays. This has also caused a lot of stress in my family.
And now me. I was far from being perfect. Many times through the years, I tried to bring my wife and me close to each other, and I will say that my methods for doing this were not the best many times. I sometimes did and said things I really didn't mean out of the frustration of trying to bring us closer together. Many times I didn't feel very good about myself or confident as a man.
I love my wife and have for many years.
Dear I Love My Wife,
My first reaction upon finishing reading your letter was "What about Jeffrey?" It seems that so much emphasis has been focused on David, both his abilities and difficulties, that Jeffrey appears lost in the shuffle. And I think that all the arguing about David has served to keep you and your wife busy and deflect the discussion from your real issues.
It appears that you and your wife have been growing apart for a long time. Did your wife's announcement about moving out come as a surprise to you? When most relationships end there is usually one person who makes the announcement and the other person who feels caught off guard by it. The second person often says things like "I knew that she was unhappy but I never thought she'd move out." You see, by that time, the first person feels like she's has tried everything and she has nothing left to give.
Try to reconnect with her. You two got married because you saw something in each other and wanted to be together.
I don't think there is anything that you can do to convince your wife to move back in at this point. I think that you have to respect that this is what she needs to do right now. I'm glad to hear that she plans to continue to meet her obligations to your sons. You both need to put aside your own conflicts for the moment and sit down and make plans for sharing the responsibility for your sons.
Try to look at this as a trial separation as it doesn't appear that either you or your wife are rushing forward with a divorce. You say that in the past you haven't been very sensitive towards her feelings so maybe you can use this time to rethink your part in this marriage. And you need to ask yourself why you've felt a lack of confidence as a man. Take a look at your childhood and the other relationships in your life for clues about this.
Perhaps in a month or two you can suggest a "date." Call her up and ask her out for dinner. Try to reconnect with her. You two got married because you saw something in each other and wanted to be together. Look at this as a potential second chance.
One last thing, you need to make it very clear to your sons that they are not the problem or the reason that their mother is moving out. Children often tend to blame themselves in these situations. Be prepared to reassure them many times.
Also be aware that there may be some acting out behavior, or they may experience some problems in school or a lack of interest in their usual activities. This is normal when experiencing such a large disruption in their lives. If problems arise you may want to speak to their teachers or school counselors and let them know what the situation is at home. And try to spend some extra time with your boys.
Dr. Louise Klein