Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Family Wants Me to Get Back with My Husband For Our Kids’ Sake”

I’ve been married for five years. We were together for 13 years before that. We share two children under five years of age, and we have been separated for one year.

Our marriage was awful. He started a new business and had absolutely no time for me or the kids. He also resented that one of my younger siblings lived with us and said that was one of the reasons he didn’t want to spend time at home. He was neglectful and unsupportive, and he became so distant. I threatened to leave daily and sometimes he’d laugh. Eventually I found out that he had an online dating profile. He swore he never met anyone and said he was just talking to the girls for attention as we became strangers to each other.

I moved back home with my family and that’s where I’ve been for a year. However, everyone — my family and his — has pushed for me to try again for the kids’ sake. They said I’ll regret it if I don’t give it one more chance since he’s apparently changed and sorry and wants to be better. His business is more on track and he has more time.

My heart says it’s not worth it. I was so unhappy and honestly can’t remember anything good from those years. But my mind says try again because of the kids and because our relationship prior to marriage was good.

So confused. Please help. — Give It a Second Chance?

I wouldn’t get back together with your husband for the kids’ sake (there’s very little benefit for kids to grow up with unhappily married parents), but if you feel like you miss your relationship, you could try marriage counseling for a few months to address some of the issues that broke you up. It sounds like your relationship didn’t adjust well to parenthood, which can be an enormous stress on a marriage. You have to learn how to juggle all the new demands on your time and attention and energy while still prioritizing your marriage (and the way you make a living) and you didn’t do that.

The stress of becoming new parents is amplified when there are other new stressors in one’s life, like starting a new business and dealing with additional changes in living environments (like having an in-law/family member move in with you). It’s telling that one of your younger siblings lived with you even though your husband was not happy about it. Did you know he was unhappy about that? If you did and you simply didn’t care, then it’s understandable why he’d be resentful and would want to avoid being home.

Going to marriage counseling will give you the chance to address these issues, as well as get stuff off your chest, and process what went wrong in your marriage so that even if you two decide to stay split up, you’ll have some perspective and better tools you didn’t have before which will make you a stronger partner in any future relationship. Even if you decide to pursue counseling together – which is an absolute MUST if you are entertaining the idea of getting back with your husband, I definitely would NOT move in with him during this time or even consider yourself reconciled. A good marriage counselor can help you decide when and how to move forward in either reconciling or divorcing, and he or she can also help you make the next steps as smooth as possible for your children in a way that will make them feel loved, supported, and safe. Your kids’ well-being is not dependent on you and their dad remaining married, but it IS dependent on you two learning how better to communicate so you can be a strong parental unit, even if no longer a married couple.

I am 48 and have two kids – 20 and 13. I have been alone seven years or so (with no sex at all during that time). I don’t like being alone, but at the same time I really don’t want a relationship either. And, no, I am not gay. Sometimes, I masturbate and then feel worse off than before. I guess I am tired of everything. Easy solutions are to get another job or go have sex, but for me I know that’s not enough. If I wanted sex that badly, I could get it. I am not sure what advice you can give, but I know something isn’t right. — Tired of Everything

 
It sounds like you’re lonely (and maybe bored and unfulfilled and a little depressed), and you’re right: sex alone (no pun intended) isn’t going to make you feel better. You need companionship, camaraderie, a support network. And if the idea of a relationship is unappealing to you, you don’t have to have a relationship to get those things. You can have friends fill the space. You can go on dates and keep things casual without the demands of a serious relationship. Yes, you can certainly try to get a different job, too, if you’re feeling unfulfilled and bored at your current position and that may help, but it won’t address your loneliness and your unfilled need for intimacy. You need actual emotional connections for that, and that’s only going to happen when you invest time in being social.

If you have trouble making friends, here are some tips. If you don’t know how to start casual dating, there are literally dozens of dating apps you can try that let you specify exactly what you’re looking for — like friendship or casual dating — and to weed out anyone who isn’t looking for something similar.

It’s also worth mentioning that you’re at an age where it’s totally normal to question what you need for the second half of your life to feel happy. As your kids get older and more independent and you can see an empty nest not too far off in the distance, your time is going to become more your own again. You have to decide how you want to fill it – what will most excite you and inspire you and make you feel alive. Taking a class in something that has always seemed interesting would be a great way to explore your options (and to meet new people!).

Forty-eight is firmly middle-aged, and that can be a hard pill to swallow. Just as in puberty, your body is changing, your hormones are fluctuating, and you’re probably facing upcoming lifestyle changes — especially if you’re a parent of adolescents — that can feel both liberating and scary. You aren’t alone in feeling the way you are. Connecting with people — especially those who may be experiencing similar emotions — will go a long way in helping you feel less lonely. Meaningless sex isn’t going to fill the void, but true intimacy – the kind that builds on an emotional connection, shared time spent together, and mutual respect — will go a long way in doing so.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

31 comments… add one
  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark August 20, 2019, 8:18 am

    Yeah, I would love to know about this younger sibling moving in with you and exactly how that came to pass…

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      MP August 20, 2019, 9:18 am

      Right – I feel like that’s important information and you sort of buried the lede there LW..

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      LisforLeslie August 20, 2019, 10:59 am

      With two kids under the age of 5 I’m wondering if the LW was working or not. Putting the financial health of 5 people on one person’s shoulders – who has just started a business does not sound smart. As if he wanted to start the business and she wanted to start a family and neither actually talked to one another about how difficult both of those choices are.

      And not for nothing, but maybe, just maybe the LWs world turned into KIDSCHILDRENFAMILY where he’s an afterthought. So if she put all of her energy into not him, he may have put all his energy in to not her.

      Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Then decide if you can pick up the pieces.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom August 20, 2019, 1:58 pm

        Maybe that would be Kids/Sibling/Family with nothing left for husband.

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      Confused August 21, 2019, 1:26 pm

      I raised her on my own since she was little. It was wrong of me not to cut the chord, but she was also the only help I had with the 2 babies since he was never around.

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    Fyodor August 20, 2019, 10:20 am

    I think that the super long work hours can create a very toxic dynamic. The other partner is resentful and angry that the long-working partner isn’t around and the working partner feels that he’s/she’s making huge sacrifices that aren’t appreciated. He/she has to work miserable hours and then comes home to be yelled about it.

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark August 20, 2019, 10:25 am

      Especially when those long hours are needed to — you know — house and feed the freeloading sibling of the complaining spouse… 🙄

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        Katmich15 August 21, 2019, 12:24 pm

        Exactly!

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        Confused August 21, 2019, 1:35 pm

        I know I was a complaining spouse. I’m sure that made things worse and I own that part. I did work though and paid for more than my share. It definitely didn’t fall all on him by any means. I helped him financially where I could as well since he was just starting his business.

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    anonymousse August 20, 2019, 11:11 am

    Your family and his family are pushing it..but is he? It’s sounds like both of you were incredibly unhappy, unsupportive of each other and resentful. You threatened to leave everyday. He (at the very least) took steps to cheat.

    If you don’t want to try with him, don’t. You don’t owe it to him, your kids or anyone to give it a shot when you are not interested. What are the next steps? Divorce? Get moving on that.

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  • avatar

    RedBlue August 20, 2019, 12:28 pm

    Dies he even want to get back together except to have someone to clean house?

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 20, 2019, 1:57 pm

      Where does it say he wants someone to clean his house? What a way to add something that doesn’t exist.

      She says his family and her family want them to get back together for the sake of the kids.

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    Nicole August 20, 2019, 12:40 pm

    LW1 – What have you done in the year you’ve been separated to make plans for your future? what about your kids and their uncertainty or feelings of anxiety over their parents (maybe?) splitting up? Leaving them in this limbo is not ok. They may be little, but they are able to feel stress and tension coming from the adults around them and that’s not healthy. You’ve had a whole year to decide whether to work on your marriage or not. Do you see a future with your husband or not? Have you talked to him about what he wants or not? It’s time to shit or get off the pot.

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      Nicole August 20, 2019, 12:43 pm

      I want to make clear, I’m not advocating getting back together for the kids. I’m advocating making a decision so the kids can have some stability, whether it be together or as coparents.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 20, 2019, 1:51 pm

    LW1 I suggest you go to couples counseling. Not so much to try to put the marriage back together again but to understand how it failed.

    I don’t see you taking responsibility for the failure of your marriage. You seem to feel that it was all his fault. It’s almost never the fault of only one partner. If you don’t begin to understand your role in this failed marriage you will almost certainly repeat.

    You put your younger sibling ahead of your own husband. You made your sibling a higher priority than your husband so a higher priority than your marriage and children. When you have priorities like that you will always damage your marriage. You need to own that. Can you see that in that way you were distant and unsupportive of your husband? You weren’t listening to him and his unhappiness. I’m sure you will come up with excuses for keeping the siblings in the home but a marriage counselor would call you on that.

    What if instead of telling him daily that you were going to leave you asked him how his day went? Telling him you want to leave lets him know you are unhappy but doesn’t at all touch on the problem. What if you then told him about your day? What if the two of you sat together and reconnected a little at the end of the day. That builds marriages. Telling him you are going to leave lets you vent and dump your anger on him but it does nothing to repair or rebuild the marriage. Your communication was terrible. A marriage counselor could help you with that.

    If the two of you just got back together with him assuming all of the blame and the two of you repeating the same patterns you’ve developed over the past five years you would get the same dead marriage result. Consider your failed marriage a joint failure. I think you would benefit from hearing your husband’s memories and feelings for that time. You need to begin to see this from his point of view as well as your own. You need to see how the two of you, together, destroyed your marriage.

    If you can’t or won’t evaluate your role in this failed marriage you will probably repeat the same patterns in your next relationship and it will fail also. Children are hard on marriage. Young children are very hard on marriage. Mixing children from one marriage with a new partner is even harder. The new partner doesn’t come into the relationship loving the children. They won’t necessarily even accept the children or like them. They may even resent the children and the time they take and the money they take and the way they dominate an adult schedule. If the new partner also has children then you have an extra layer of difficult.

    At the very least, you need to learn better communication skills so that you can have a more successful relationship in the future. I’m doubtful whether you can put together your current marriage. It’s probably dead. I do think you would benefit greatly from counseling unless you want to have a series of dead relationships. There is a reason that second marriages have a higher divorce rate the first marriages.

    Go to counseling for the kids so that they don’t get drug through one bad relationship after another. Or, skip dating until your kids are adults.

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    Oracle August 20, 2019, 6:14 pm

    Why are you still staying with your parents after one whole year? Are you working? If not get going on that . It’s way past time to see a lawyer. Staying together for the children is not going to work. Want to be unhappy? Way past time to move on. You need to put a lot of distance from your family. They do not have your interest at heart.

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      Confused August 21, 2019, 1:24 pm

      Thanks for your advice. I moved back in because I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew it was temporary but I didn’t know if I’d go on my own or go back. Everyone is pushing us back, including him. I do work. Always have.

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    Sarah August 20, 2019, 7:42 pm

    Were you supportive when he started his business and was financially supporting you and the family??

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      Confused August 21, 2019, 10:29 am

      I tried to be supportive. I made a decent income and I was financially supporting myself an the family and him where I could. Even through Mat leave.

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    Confused August 21, 2019, 10:24 am

    Just to clarify some things being brought up in the comments that I didn’t add to my initial post to Wendy…

    1- I worked full time through the whole marriage (except during Mat leave but I still had my income coming in). In fact, I was the one paying most of our bills and supporting the babies financially on my own. I also helped him financially where I could, as my husbands business was just starting out and it was difficult.

    2- my sibling lived with us because I raised them since they were 7 and at that time, 20. They were working but would assist me with the babies / chores since he was never home.

    3- I did ‘hear’ his complaints about not wanting my family to live with us, but every time I sent them home he’d bring them back a few days later to help out because he couldn’t and he said he felt bad. So it was a revolving circle.

    4- he ended up cheating. When I found out I was devastated and that’s when I stopped caring so much about his complaints. I felt I was doing absolutely everything and with the help of my family and though I was begging him to be present he couldn’t care less. Not even at the hospital (one of our children were born with a health issue). He’d bring my mom or sibling to stay with me. I understood he was busy but it hurt. Then he made time to go away overseas for his friends wedding, leaving me at home with our sick baby. Things like that built a lot of resentment.

    I do own my end of the failure. I yelled and cried a lot. I’m sure I stressed him. We both had flaws. I feel I owe him another chance because he said not having us around this past year made him realize what he’s lost and he wants to build a relationship with the kids. He said he’ll make more time and because our relationship was pretty good over 10 years I feel he’s deserving of another chance. I also feel I owe it to our kids. Everyone is saying how important it is to stay together because we have children and that worries me. I don’t want to be selfish. They also say you can fall back in love. So although my trust for him is gone and so are my feelings, I’m hoping it can get better. I don’t know.

    I think these were all good comments and very insightful. Thank you all so much!!

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      MP August 21, 2019, 2:20 pm

      Oh man, thank you for the additional information. I’m sorry I wasn’t more sympathetic in my earlier comment. Hang in there LW… .I hope you’re taking good care of yourself. You should like an awesome mother and sister.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 21, 2019, 2:29 pm

      Thanks for the extra info.

      I wouldn’t just get back together. At the very least stay where you are and start attending marriage/couples counseling. At the very least he needs to address why he turned to an affair, express remorse and be able to say what he would do different in the future. It’s easy to say that the difference is that he won’t cheat but what will he do to cut out the temptation. What was he getting out of the affair and how will he meet that need or needs in another way.

      He needs to be present for both you and the kids. Leaving a sick kid behind to go overseas to a wedding is pretty inexcusable. Sometimes you make sacrifices when you need to meet the needs of an immediate family member. The sick baby and his wife both needed him more than the friend did at that time.

      He needs to figure out his priorities and get them straight.

      Only get back together if you are thoroughly satisfied that he will be a better partner the second time. I’d start with counseling and then if that is going well start dating and only if that has gone well for a year or two would I get back together. Take your time. You need enough time to pass so that you can see that he has changed and that takes years.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 21, 2019, 2:35 pm

    All of that is only if you feel that you want to try again. Only if you think he would be better the second time. Only if you think he would strive to be trustworthy and only if you feel he would prioritize his family over friends. Only if you think he wouldn’t cheat. Only if he is willing to prove himself and he agrees that he must prove himself. Only if he doesn’t whine about spending years proving himself.

    It wouldn’t hurt to get counseling for yourself. Figure out where you are in all of this and what you need from him and how to ask for what you need and to decide if this relationship is worth it for you and salvageable for you.

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    anonymousse August 21, 2019, 4:59 pm

    He should be making an effort on his end to have a relationship with his kids. That’s the bare minimum for being a dad. That’s not you’re responsibility.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl August 29, 2019, 10:09 am

    Looks like our letter writer #1 sent the script to multiple advice outlets.
    https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/08/dear-prudence-husband-weight-gain-sexy.html

    obviously wendy’s advice is more thorough.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 29, 2019, 10:32 am

      Daniel has no parenting experience so has no idea how much stress two young children add to a marriage. His life experience is too limited in important ways.

      I think Daniel would do well with an LGBT column because that’s where he has lots of experience but not with marriage, child or work questions.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl August 29, 2019, 11:12 am

        I’ve noticed that the majority of the questions he answers relate to those topics whereas former prudie was more marriage/child/general etc. All interesting and have a place. I do like that Slate has had columns dedicated to childrearing as well as sex etc.

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        Allornone August 29, 2019, 11:32 am

        While I agree his limited experience with children puts these kinds of questions a little out of his depth, as a fan of his column and podcast (where he usually has a guest to provide additional insight), I think it would be a shame to limit him only to LGTBQ questions. Yes, he’s very good with them (which is why there’s quite a few of them in his column), but I’ve found he has insight into a lot of other areas too. I’m a (childless- so there’s that) cis woman, and most of the time, I really agree with his advice. Yes, growing up a lesbian woman before later transitioning to a man (and getting engaged to a trans woman) has certainly given him LGTBQ expertise, but that doesn’t mean that’s all he’s experienced and is capable of giving advice on. I like his column that way it is (though the old prudie, Emily Yoffe, was great, too).

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        anonymousse August 29, 2019, 12:17 pm

        I don’t th8nk someone needs to have direct experience with something in order to give fair advice. I generally like Daniel’s advice for the most part. I don’t think he needs to stick to only LGTBQIA topics. He founded The Toast with Nicole Cliffe, the child and parenting columnist at slate. He probably knows enough about how stressful family life can be.

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        Allornone August 29, 2019, 12:55 pm

        I forgot about Nicole! They are still good friends. She’s joined him on his podcast several times and every Friday, they have a conversation about one of his letters. Plus, he does have siblings. I imagine at least one of them have kids. I mean, I may not have experienced the stress of kids myself, but I’ve certainly witnessed my sister go through it.

        Sorry, I’m a little defensive. I’m just a fan of Danny. I do think he gives good, thoughtful advice all around.

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      Allornone August 29, 2019, 11:38 am

      I love when that happens! I swear, a few months ago, there was one that was on ask a manager, ask amy and a third one (which I’m forgetting- I read a lot of these). It’s always fun to see how the advice lines up across columnists. I admit, though, I’m a little jealous that these people can get multiple replies to a question. I’ve sent in a few questions in my day, and have to receive one!

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