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February 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Unable to let go

Question:

My husband and I have been separated for almost 2 years. I found out he was cheating on me, with the same woman his ex-wife had accused him of cheating on her with, a few months before we actually separated. I was trying to work things out. We've been living separately but have never really been apart. We were "trying to work things out" the whole 10 month he was living with the other woman. Then when she moved out, he was supposed to move back in with me and the kids. I came to find out he was messing around with his neighbor. Almost a year later, he's still messing around with her and me and talking to the woman he used to live with.

It's been an emotional roller coaster ride. He always says we're working us out but no actions really follow. I know he is unable to commit to us. It's all been lies, broken promises, and continued heartache. He's been physically abusive in the past, even in front of our kids, and he is now constantly verbally and mentally abusive. I am constantly told that, had he known I was so jealous, we would've never been married. I still haven't changed. All I do is talk and complain.

I feel like I've changed and I am constantly changing for him but nothing ever seems good enough. He hasn't changed at all. He is a great provider but when it comes to time and meeting our emotional needs, he's very selfish.

If I know all of the above, then why can't I let go? Am I holding on to a hopeless situation? If I actually take a stand, would he change? What am I scared of? I am doing okay financially. Why won't he file for divorce if he doesn't want to be with me?

Thanks,

L, 30-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear L,

He is not going to change, at least not until the effects of his attitudes and actions lead him to the point that he loses everything he values. He sounds like a spoiled little boy to me. When he accuses you of being jealous, he is telling you (and himself) a lie. You want commitment, which is entirely reasonable. He clearly is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions. Whatever goes wrong for him must always be somebody else's fault. So, yes, you have been holding on to a hopeless situation. Were he to come back to you, it's pretty well guaranteed that the same kinds of problems would continue.

You do what you feel is right for you. But if I were in your situation, I'd divorce him rather than wait for him to initiate it.

Why can't you let go?

Who says you can't? You have been holding on, because you do have a sense of commitment, because you have taken your marriage vows seriously, because you are a responsible adult. You have been holding on until now. You can now choose to change this.

Here is something to help. In our rather silly culture, we take thoughts, emotions, urges, memories, images and other internal events as if they were real. They are not, just something going on in our heads. To show this, think of a tune running inside your head. You can "hear" it, but is there really this music playing?

What you feel, what you think may be painful or uncomfortable, but it's not actually relevant to anything. A thought, an emotion, is neither true nor false. It just is. You didn't ask for it, so you are not responsible for it. What you are responsible for is what you DO.

So, decide where you want to go. Suppose you had a twin sister named Lesley who was in your situation instead of you, and has come to you for advice. What would you suggest for her to do? Well, whatever it is, do that, and ignore the unpleasant thoughts and emotions within your mind. They are there, OK. You don't have to believe them (or disbelieve them either). You don't have to argue with them, run away from them or react to them. It's like having to hear your neighbor's television blaring in the background. You can't turn it off, you can't not hear it, but you don't need to listen. You just get on with your life, and ignore it. If you focus on it and get annoyed, it gets worse and worse. If you allow it to be background, it will fade from your consciousness.

So, do what you know is right for you and your children. Live with the unpleasant thoughts and emotions while they are there. They won't last.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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