Dear WholeFamily Counselor,
I want to save my marriage! But I feel lost. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and we hardly say anything other than: "What's for supper?" "Where is my underwear?" and basic everyday life stuff. We NEVER sit down and just talk, laugh, or joke together anymore. I feel as if I am losing my marriage (that I have worked very hard to keep together).
If I leave, my children will be hurt and if I stay I'm the laughing stock of town because I think he's having an affair. How do you work on a relationship when you work days and he works nights (his choice) and on the nights that he is off he stays out till all hours of the night running around?
Dear Feeling Lost,
You write that you want to save your marriage and that you feel lost. What I feel in your letter is discouragement, disbelief in any possibility of change or improvement, tiredness and almost giving up on your relationship. It is very hard to save a marriage when one feels that way!
You write that "you never sit down and just talk, laugh, or joke together anymore." This sentence shows me that there was a time, maybe a very long time ago, when things between you and your husband were different. My question is, "What happened to you and to your marriage?"
From your letter, it is difficult to understand the different components of your relationship. You just mention and describe facts -- facts that show how far you are from one another. How did you get to this point? It doesn't happen in one day and I am sure that it is the result of a very long period of:
- lack of communication
- accumulated anger
- and indifference.
You mention in your letter that you have worked very hard to stay together: If this is the result, then something has not worked, even though you have made efforts. And indeed it seems that you are close to losing your marriage, so it is about time to wake up, open your eyes, and look around you. You won't be lost, you'll just see what you have tried not to see before: that you are extremely unhappy and that maybe your husband is having an affair. This is not a reason to be afraid of becoming the laughing stock of the town -- this is your life, not the town's.
My advice to you is:
1. Speak with your husband immediately: Open up the subject of saving your marriage or not, and relate to what is going on now. The present situation is very unhealthy for all of you, including the children. Better to open up the wound and let the pus come out rather than keeping it inside and infecting the whole body. I believe that you are the one who should initiate this talk since you are the one who wants to save the marriage. I hope that your husband will listen, and if he agrees with you, you should both go to marital counseling.
2. Let's focus on you: What kind of person are you? Do you have friends, hobbies, or interests? What do you like and dislike? How is your life outside of the marriage? Do you like your work? Do you spend enough time doing things that interest you? Do you let yourself do and enjoy activities like eating good food, reading, listening to music, going to the movies, meeting with friends?
The bottom line is: start to take care of yourself in any way that you can. Learn to like yourself; be with people who make you feel good about yourself; improve your physical look; take an interesting course.
Save yourself as much as you want to save your marriage.
Then you will have the strength and self-confidence to find a solution to your marital problems, whether or not the solution is to stay together.
Arlette Simon, MSW