Wife left me
I have been with my wife for 13 years, and we have two daughters aged 7 and 11. I met my wife when she was 18 and I was 26; she has just recently turned 31. Approximately three years ago she had a brief affair and I was devastated, but we worked on it and kept our family together. I had difficulty with trusting her again and this caused a few problems.
My wife and I worked at different times of the day so we didn't get to spend much time together. She was getting restless with the kids and started coming home from work late. I confronted her and she admitted that she was seeing someone else. She stated that she wanted a separation and moved out immediately, leaving me with our two children. She has now moved in with this other man, telling me that I was too hard to talk to.
I don't hear from her that much anymore. She claims that this other man makes her feel things she hasn't felt in years and that she thinks she loves him. She did say before she left that she loved me, but was not "in love" with me.
Since I met my wife at such a young age, do you think she feels as though she didn't really get to "play the field"? Do you think this is a "grass is greener" scenario and that she could really love this other man? Is it likely after the passion has ended she may consider putting her family back together? I know she always did love and adore me, but what do you think has happened?
Dear "Nite Owl",
I can feel your pain. You no doubt feel lost and puzzled about what you might have done wrong and what you could have done to keep your wife's love. I think it is remarkable how you could write a message that is so mature, free of hate and blame. It's fortunate that you have your two children. Many men in your situation have also found themselves cut off from their kids, seeing them only on occasional access visits. For you, although this may cause you severe problems of practicality, your children are also an anchor in your life: two little people who depend on you, and who need you now more than ever.
While I mention them, do make absolutely sure that they don't carry any feelings of guilt and blame. When a family breaks up, young people very often feel that they were somehow responsible, and this is terribly damaging. Reassure them, and if they have contact with their mother, ensure that she does the same. They must fully believe that you both still love them, that they have done nothing wrong and that none of the problems are their fault. The same should also be said about you. I am sure you have faults just like everyone else, but you haven't done anything to cause her affair to happen.
You are not alone - I have seen this sad pattern all too often. In fact, the way you phrased your question shows that you are aware of the pattern. A girl gets into a permanent relationship before she is mature enough for it. This is not entirely a matter of age mind you, because people gain experience and wisdom at different rates. However, although eighteen may be more than old enough for some, it could have been way too young for your wife. Sometimes, even the early twenties can be too young. The problem could also have been that her friends followed a different path. After she got married, had kids and other responsibilities, the boredom that sometimes comes with being settled may have caused her to envy her still unattached friends. Their lives may have seemed far more fun and glamorous, especially for someone who may not have been fully mature yet. She may have given up her dreams for marriage, and now regrets it. Of course, those friends she envied may have envied her as well, but she probably wouldn't have been aware of it. I have offered counseling to a large number of families with this pattern. In her early to mid 30s, your wife may have been at risk for serious dissatisfaction. She might feel as though she missed out on a stage of life - a stage of relative irresponsibility - and she may want it now. This affair is the result.
None of this is inevitable. I have a friend who just celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary, and she tells everyone that she was a "child bride". Mind you, I don't know how she felt at 32, but if she encountered a crisis then, she got through it. However, often women who marry young do so for the wrong reasons. For example, many do it to get away from a home situation they find distressing. Whatever the reason, don't blame yourself for what has happened.
Will she come back to you? I have no way of telling. She may find that the golden glow of escaping from responsibilities will wear off, and she may reconsider. However, she may also be mature enough now to know how to truly love someone, and might decide to make a permanent bond with this other man. Whatever she does, I hope you continue dealing with your family tragedy in the same mature and wise manner that you present yourself in this letter. Look after your physical health, and that of your children. Make sure that the three of you maintain a good, wholesome diet and get plenty of exercise.
You are still young. Even if the split proves to be permanent, you will eventually get through your period of grieving. There are many attractive yet lonely women out there. One of them may be lucky enough to find a guy as decent as you are.
All the best,
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.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com