Divorce or reconciliation?


Divorce or reconciliation?


your avatar   Jek (59 year-old man) from Ohio, USA

My wife and I have been married l8 yrs, she is 54 and I am 59. She recently regained her job at a basic industry after a 14-year layoff.

This May she decided she was unhappily married and wanted to be single again. She moved to an apartment and started an affair with a married man. She has filed for divorce and the papers that charge me as the defendant came today.

We have been to a counselor only twice together. (She refuses to work on the problem while I attend weekly sessions). She told him she doesn't want to work on the marriage "at this time" because she is heavily involved with another man. Later she told me she needed time to sort out her strong emotions against me. She said it will take time before she thinks she is ready to reconcile if ever.

Meanwhile I am waiting for the divorce to be processed and she is still having an affair with a married man. She doesn't feel guilty about the affair although it bothers her a little.

She also tells me that the divorce process can be stopped at any time. Even if we do divorce she believes that later we may still get back together if we are both still single. It seems she wants it both ways. But she doesn't see that she is doing anything wrong. All of the counseling we've done together was centered on my problems (as she saw them). According to the counselor, my issues are petty and can be fixed - the real problem is miscommunication. Normally these problems are not the ones that one would leave a husband for under ordinary circumstances. But there is also the affair, which she claims is a separate issue (Even though that is why she refuses to reconcile at this time).

What do I do now? Do I let things ride as they are and the divorce process continue to the point of dividing assets and splitting the marriage? Do I hope that she will sooner or later come to her senses? Even if she does feel remorse and wants to reconcile will I be able to forgive? Should I move on to another relationship and abandon her?


    Laura Russell, Ph.D.

This question is an excellent example of what can go wrong in relationships. You say that your wife "wants to become single again." You go on to describe all the ways she has sent you this message and wonder if you should wait for her to "come to her senses". You mention marriage counseling, but then tells us your estranged wife has refused to work on the problem.

With only a few changes this question could apply to many I hear during relationship and marriage counseling. There are many possibilities as to the underlying problem. The one I wish to discuss is only one aspect of the dilemma. It is seriously painful to love someone who does not have your values or who doesn't return your feelings. One person alone cannot build a relationship. It takes two people and is hard work for both parties. Once your spouse has decided to quit your relationship, it is futile to wait for them to return.

The best way to handle a circumstance like this begins with prevention. Many times people get caught up in their fantasies of romance and fall in love with their own feelings. You can hear the birds singing, feel the sun shining, and the entire world feels friendlier. Only you are in love by yourself. You are in love with a fantasy born of Hollywood and romance novels.

In the future, take a good look at the people you date. Listen to who they tell you they are. People tell you who they are in the early days of a relationship. They tell you in words and actions. Many people make the mistake of ignoring the early behavior of a potential mate. If she stands you up, you might think, "She made a mistake." Maybe she did, but maybe this is the way she is. If she lies about where she was last night, you may make excuses for her. In this fashion, you totally ignore these early warning signs.

I have asked the following question to each of the thousands of people who have sought marriage counseling with me. "Look back in time with the benefit of your current information. When was the first time you sensed this about your partner?"

Invariably, the answer is "very early in the relationship". My next question is, "How did you ignore this information?" And the answer always is that you have ignored yourself, overridden your good judgment, and made your awareness a fault of yours. Thus you commit yourself to a relationship that cannot work for you.

Laura Russell

This question was answered by Laura Russell, PhD. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and National Certified Counselor with a Clinical Mental Health Specialization. Dr Russell has specialized training in play and art therapy, trauma, child abuse treatment, chronic illness, grief and loss, relationships, marriage and family counseling.


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