Don’t settle for partner’s bounderies
Q: I’ve known my wife for 13 years, married 11 years, with two beautiful kids and countless memories from the day I met her till now.
Last year, she told me that we were done, that she’d lost respect for me, that she may have never loved me, and there was nothing I could do to change her feelings.
She refused to consider counselling. Above anything else, she wanted to set out on her own.
For many reasons, while it’s almost a year later, we’re still together.
Our home life is still more than solid. We still have fun together as a family.
But nothing’s changed between the two of us, and she hasn’t seemed to change what she wants in life.
I feel that I’ve improved my approach to life and am more motivated, more useful, and even sometimes more happy, which she’s mentioned she’s noticed.
I feel I’m lucky that things are still stable to allow me to show her that.
I understand and respect her feelings, but I wish she’d try some professional counselling before change makes that option too late.
But I need her to choose counselling out of her own heart, not by me convincing her.
Everything that makes me happy in life I already have, which makes me feel like my best option is to hang in there, improve, and be strong as a person every day and hope for the best.
Am I fool-hearty?
— Hanging In
A: A lot of people over the years have sent me their stories of sudden pronouncements by one partner or another of being “done” with their relationship and wanting out.
Yet there’s a “Wow” factor in this case, for many reasons:
“Wow”, that she said all that to you, yet didn’t leave. “Wow” that you didn’t just listen, you actually heard her and made changes in yourself.
But there’s also a worrisome “wow” that neither of you have sought some counselling for your own sakes, let alone for the marriage nor how her bombshell pronouncement could affect your children.
In some ways, I find you have more courage than she’s shown.
She chose hard-core truthtelling but just dumped her load of negatives on you. Yet you asked yourself what you could do about some of them and set to work.
No, I don’t think you’re “foolhearty” but I do think you should bolster yourself for the future.
Get counselling for yourself. Learn how far you’re willing to go to keep the marriage together, and discover too where your boundaries exist.
Would you accept her having an affair, in order to stay together? Are you okay with having a sex-less marriage? (You don’t mention intimacy here at all, but I suspect there’s not much when you say, “nothing’s changed between the two of us.”)
Your getting counselling may encourage her to do the same. If not, her statement that “nothing you could do” would change her feelings remains a threat overshadowing your relationship, implying that she could walk out any day.
Despite your desire to hang in, you should also privately seek some legal advice. While you’re making your own changes, she may just be biding her time.
With children involved, you need to know your rights as a parent and your financial responsibilities to her, should this holding-period fall apart.
If all she wants is to “set out on her own,” she’ll be looking at the legal side of it, too.
Understanding and respecting her feelings is important, but make sure you respect yourself, too.
: I’ve had a three-month whirlwind romance with a man who’s older than me and a successful businessman. We’ve discussed a future together.
Recently, when I was too busy to see him because I was doing my taxes past the deadline, he became angry and yelled at me.
He said I’m irresponsible, handle money like a child, and too immature for a serious relationship with him.
I was shocked. What about our having said “I love you,” to each other? Is it fair to judge me from one small part of my life where I’m less organized (and have less money to afford accountants) than him?
What can I say or do to get our romance on track again? — Harshly Judged
A: Ask him to help you organize your tax process or recommend someone who will, so this past-due approach won’t happen again.
Meanwhile, watch for other signs of flash-temper and harsh judgement.
TIP OF THE DAY: A partner’s criticisms deserve to be heard, but set boundaries on what you’ll accept.