Wifely Power

2 Sep

Dear LetterBalm: My husband of 25 years had an affair that lasted for three years and devastated our family – our two children hardly see him. I did take him back after he was gone a year, regretted the relationship, returned and apologized. Meanwhile, I had taken a hard look at myself, lost weight and enrolled to finish my college degree. My kids were out of the house by then, so I joined a gym and a travel club and made new friends. My husband hasn’t taken this well. He’s needy and whiny; he hates my school schedule and social life. (“I came back, and you aren’t paying any attention to me.”) He has health problems but refuses to take his medications. He comes home from work, eats dinner and watches TV. I’ve made a million suggestions about doing things together, but he refuses. He also refuses to go to family counseling – I’m in therapy, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I used to think my husband was the most wonderful, honorable man in the world. But now I just want him out of the house. I feel guilty telling him. This sounds terrible, but how can I find the words to unload him?

–Newborn Wife

You were cruelly betrayed. Rather than giving in to self-pity and despair, you set about doing the difficult work of remaking yourself. In the process, you grew strong and confident. Ms. L.B. cries “Brava!” You have no reason to feel guilty – your therapist is probably echoing this. Your husband is manipulating you into feeling sorry for him using his medical problems as an excuse. He was always able to count on keeping you in line, but that is no longer happening, and he can see that you no longer love, respect and need him. He is in a deep hole of his own making, and he’s probably depressed and afraid of counseling. When you have everything ready (including legal and financial plans), sit down with your husband. Don’t be deterred:  

Kenneth, we’ve been on a long journey with many ups and downs, haven’t we? Married almost 30 years, two terrific children and grandchildren. But I don’t think this will come as a surprise to you: We’ve come to the end of the road. I’m moving ahead, and you seem to want to stay in the same place. I’ve offered so many times to help you, but you won’t take care of your health, you won’t get counseling, you won’t do anything we used to enjoy. I don’t want to be married anymore. I want a divorce. It’s been a difficult decision, but I have to consider what’s best for me. I’ll stay here in my home while everything is worked out. I have no problem living as roommates – we’ve been that way for a long time. I suggest you get a lawyer. There’s nothing you can say; we’re beyond talking, and I truly hope you find the strength to begin improving your life.


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