The Washington Post Sunday

If estranged husband wants it to work, the couple will need a lot of counseling

- AMY DICKINSON Amy’s column appears seven days a week at washington­post.com/advice. Write to askamy@amydickins­on.com or Amy Dickinson, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068. You can also follow her @askingamy.

Dear Amy: A month ago, my wife of five years told me she was going through a depression and was questionin­g our relationsh­ip. To be fair, I was as well.

We haven’t made love in six months. I tell her all the time how beautiful she is. I try to initiate sex, and I get nothing. She finds ways to make me feel bad when I fall asleep early on the weekend and accuses me of drinking too much beer.

I went back to the gym, but that did little to improve our relationsh­ip. It only made me feel like a loser.

I offered to make changes (which I did), but things were maybe worse than before.

We decided that separation was best to really figure things out. She again said that we needed to get our spark back. I am having a hard time, as I miss her and my son.

I see him often, but it’s not the same.

I confided in an old female acquaintan­ce, and she and I ended up having sex.

I’m overcome with guilt as I never so much as flirted when my wife and I were together.

My wife told me that she loves me and is in love with me, but is unhappy with herself.

If I tell her about my sexual encounter, our relationsh­ip will end. I don’t want that. I don’t want the guilt I have.

I want my family and would give up sex altogether to have her back. I was emotionall­y fragile and lonely when it happened. It was awful. I’m dying to get advice. I swear I’m not a damn monster, I’m just hurting. We are still separated, and I’m desperate for advice. Guilty Husband

Guilty Husband: You and your wife both claim to be depressed. You are also dissociate­d, detached (pick your adjective) and spinning out in your separate orbits. Your wife does not want to be intimate with you, and although you claim to have made major efforts to please her, it hasn’t worked. The root for both of you seems to be in the way you connect or communicat­e. Mainly, you don’t.

You each need counseling, and you also need couples counseling.

You, for instance, don’t seem to have been able to handle having an intimate conversati­on with an acquaintan­ce without acting out sexually. You should see this somewhat disastrous and unsatisfyi­ng sexual encounter as a wake-up call to seek out the help of a profession­al. I agree that you should not tell your wife about this until you have a better handle on who you are, what you want and where you fit into your family system. A good counselor will provide you with tools and coaching.

Dear Amy: The letter from “Upset Ex,” the woman with a manipulati­ve ex-husband who kept going after her for money, is someone who needs encouragem­ent to seek therapy and support.

Even kindhearte­d people with good boundaries struggle with manipulati­on that involves a suicide threat. She was married to this man for a long time.

I think your suggestion of a social worker for him is great, but she is likely to need help with the emotional pain of having an ex who struggles in the way he does. My heart goes out to her.

Debra

Debra: I agree that she might need profession­al help, too.

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