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