Q & A Forum - Rejection or Separation
A Frank Discussion With Dr. Kaye
Tina from Newport Beach, Ca
Q: My husband and I have been married for 6 1/2 years. We have 3 children and live far away from family. My husband has a very demanding job with many hours and lots of travel. I am very lonely, raising the 3 children practically alone. I keep urging him to change jobs because I am emotionally, physically, and mentally fatigued and our marriage and family are falling apart. His job has become more demanding in the last 2-3 years and I feel I'm at my wits end. Recently he told me he needed time apart, time to think, and that he was very unhappy. I am scared to death he wants to leave me. I had never felt this way till now and it's been four days and he will not talk to me. I don't know what to do! I need to know what he's doing but he won't talk. I have needs too! I almost feel like he's going through a midlife crisis but he's only in his 30's. I've heard of the 7 years itch, could this be it? I don't know what to do since this has gone on longer than normal?
A: Tina. Try to get into marriage counseling fast. If your spouse is unwilling to talk to you about what's really going on, then there's real possibility that he's trying to sort out whether or not to stay. You would do well to give him another avenue of hope other than the two he's probably juggling. I'm sorry to cause you discomfort but your fears sound realistic. - Bryce Kaye
Dana from Freehold, N.J.
Q: It has been over a year that me and my ex boyfriend broke up. We were together for 3 years. We met at college in Delaware. He lives in Delaware and I live in New Jersey. The last year we were together, I graduated and moved back home. The beginning of our relationship, he used to talk about us marrying, then something happened and the last year and a half his views changed. He is against marriage and doesn't see himself getting married. He stopped saying "I love you" even when I said it first. He said he felt bad if he said it. We still talk and hang out and recently we had a talk and he said he does love me. He said the divorce rate is high so why marry. A lot of his friends have marriage problems. I tell him to look at the marriages that are good like his parents. Why did his view change? The reason why we broke up is because he knows I want to marry and he doesn't think it would be fair to stay with him. He said he doesn't know where his life, career is going. He is unhappy at his job. He is a psych nurse. He wants to be a cop but is having trouble. The last year and a half we were together, he stopped being affectionate. He used to be very affectionate. He said he is confused and doesn't want to let me down. He told one of his friends that he could see us married and he knows if he moved I would go. This was in January when I told him I couldn't hang out anymore because it was hard. That didn't last. I missed him. I try breaking ties but I love him and don't want to lose him. I don't want him to be with anyone else. I don't see myself with anyone else. How can I get him back? Thank You, Dana.
A: Dana. The main problem is that you don't just want him back....you want him to fit into your vision of your future married life. To his credit, your man has been straight with you. He is unhappy with his career and the direction of his life. He's confused and unwilling to take on additional responsibilities until he can feel better about himself. He's been honest with you about how he feels. His lack of affection is likely tied in with not wanting to imply his acceptance of responsibility for your agenda. Your agenda is an OK one, but it just doesn't fit this man's needs at this time. Dana, you will need to weigh several factors about whether or not to continue the relationship: 1) Is it too painful to continue while reassuring him that he has no permanent obligations to you? 2) Do you want to spend much of your life span (and missed opportunities) with the hope that he might just change his mind and marry you some day? 3) Are you willing to endure the pain of eventual separation if you deepen your involvement with even more years together and he chooses to not marry you? These are tough existential questions that an outsider can't answer. Life is full of these tough choices where right and wrong don't apply. Whatever you decide, make sure that you respect that he has a right to be confused and to prioritize getting his own life in order, even over your relationship. - Bryce Kaye
Henry from Cape Elizabeth, Me
Q: My wife and I have been married for 17 years. Now that our two children are getting older, we are having trouble making ends meet. I work very hard as the primary wage earner. My wife has entered the work force again, but we seem to be falling farther behind. Last month, my wife informed me of her plans to go to college to earn a degree. When I protested because I couldn't figure out how we can pay for this, she told me that she wants a divorce because she hasn't been happy for a long time. Looking back, it hasn't been easy or much fun trying to pinch pennies to survive, but I guess I must have turned a blind eye toward any symptoms. Since this announcement, I have been struggling to hold on to any sign that we still have something left between us. I have suggested counseling, the answer is we'll see. I've asked her to fill out an emotional needs survey so I can figure out what I haven't been doing for her, but she has not found time. Today I asked if we would ever have sex again; she told me I should find someone to have it with. She told me that she is not there for me anymore, and it will take a long time before anything is different between us. I have asked what I can do to work at it. She tells me there is nothing I can do because the problem is with her. On the plus side, she seems to want to live in the same house until she gets her degree, maybe because we can't afford to live apart. We have always been good friends to each other and we still have that and we are still there for our children. I feel so lost and lonely its almost unbearable. Can you please help me?
A: Henry. I doubt that I can help you towards getting your wife back. You describe very consistent and clear messages from her that she wants out. What help I can provide is to clarify that you run the risk of wasting your time with misguided hope. It is likely that she will still want to use this relationship to build a foundation for her later independence - when she finally leaves you. I strongly suggest for you to not buy such a cheap deal for yourself. You don't need to spend a lot of time supporting her with the misguided hope that she'll change her mind. You may want to spend 4 to 6 months to see if she really wants to work with you with a marriage therapist. However, if she doesn't choose that, then don't hold on because of desperation. Your life is too important to be a footnote to someone else's - someone who has already emotionally left. Sorry. - Bryce Kaye
Omshanti from Quezon city, Philippines
Q: My husband and I have recently separated. He has moved out of our home. We have our differences and he has been living with a lie about his mistress. How long should I wait till I formally file for a divorce? Child custody is with me. Thanks & sincerely, Omshanti
A: Omshanti. Your first consideration should be your local laws. Get legal advice first. From the personal side, how long you should wait depends upon how you view your situation. If you want to wait to see if he will come back, then I'd suggest giving it no more than 6 months. I wouldn't waste too much of my life waiting on the slimmest chance that he will come around. In six months, most ambivalent men will have returned if they're going to do so. However, if you already know that you've had enough of this relationship, there may be no need to wait. It really depends upon what you want. - Bryce Kaye
Anna from Las Vegas, Nevada
Q: I'm torn between two people who I deeply care about. One is my ex-husband and the other is my current boyfriend. I live with my boyfriend and really want it to work- but at the same time I feel guilty about my ex waiting for me to come back to him when I shouldn't feel guilty at all- but I do anyways since I want to make both of them happy and I'm not happy by this. How do I choose what's right for me and them ? I just want it all to work out and I'm tired of pressing for answers to this dilemma of mine - I understand I am the only one to decide but it would really help to hear your opinion. Thank you for listening- Anna
A: Anna. You are too focused on managing the feelings in your ex from whom you've supposedly separated. You need to focus on responsible management of whichever relationship you're in. Your feelings of guilt are stoked by your misplaced sense of responsibility for your ex's happiness. Actually, it may be more humane to give him a hard edge at this point so that he can get on with grief and then the rest of his life (and you too). You may want to look at the possibility that your supposed kindness is a type of selfishness to maintain your comfort level. In this case, the more loving route may actually be one that has more initial pain but a later opportunity for quicker healing.
Lynn from Indiana
Q: My husband and I have been married almost 2 years. We have had a lot of problems in those 2 years and he has moved out twice. The first time was because we were fighting constantly and I have to admit, I was being very difficult to get along with because I was also miserable. But when he actually left, I was also miserable as was he and we got back together with promises of going to counseling, but we didn't go. The last time he left was just 2 months ago. I found out that he had gotten a credit card and maxed it out behind my back. We have debt problems anyway and were trying to get out from under them when this happened. I was very upset that he lied to me and instead of working it out, he left me again. After about 4 days, he called saying he was miserable and wanted to get back together but he wanted to go to individual counseling first to get his head straightened out. Eventually he moved back in and we've been getting along pretty good although neither one of us has been to counseling in about a month. The problem is my insecurity. I'm so scared that he'll leave and hurt me again, that I'm not allowing myself to relax and enjoy our life. I'm very anxious all of the time and constantly worrying that he's not happy and is going to leave. I look for signs that he' cheating on me, even though that has never been a problem. I tend to say hurtful things to him because I figure if I don't allow myself to get too close, it won't hurt the next time he leaves. I feel like I'm heading toward a nervous breakdown. I've been diagnosed with an ulcer and am having problems sleeping because I lie there and wonder if he really loves me. What can I do to relax and not worry about this? What can I do to just enjoy life and believe he's not going to leave again?
A: Lynn. It's unrealistic for you to have that much trust right now. You are going to have to see him consistent over a much longer period of time before you rebuild trust. He's been too inconsistent in the recent past for you to rule out the possibility that he'll leave. Also, he's probably too anxious and mixed up, from the sound of it, to have such delicate feelings as love. He may feel more dependence and anxiety but not the more delicate feelings. Your better bet would be to let him know that your anxiety is getting in the way of your being as relaxed and pleasant as you'd like to be. However, be sure to let him know that HE'S NOT RESPONSIBLE for getting you less anxious. Both you and he need to accept that your nerves will be frayed for awhile. Meanwhile, you can ask him if you can periodically visit with him in therapy just to check in and help reduce your anxiety. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Maria from Weston, Fl
Q: My husband wants to leave me because he feels we have grown apart and that we fight a lot. We both love each other and I can't accept his decision. Please help me find a solution to save our 19 year marriage.
A: Maria, you can only invite him to get professional help with you. You will have to accept whatever his decision is going to be about that. If he is saying that he wants to leave, then you can't afford mistakes at this point. See if he'll go with you to see a marriage counselor. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Tom from Charleston, SC
Q: My wife and I have been married for 22 years and I thought everything was wonderful. However last August my wife asked me to leave. She is going through menopause at an early age. She started at 39 and she will be 46 as of 5/25/2000. Four months prior to her asking me to leave the house I lost my job of 24 years. It was a good paying job with many perks. We moved "down" in home and possessions and it was a strain on the entire family. We have a 14 and 17 year old in a Private Christian school. My wife and I are Christians and have been active in the same church for the length of our marriage. I was dealing with the family in a "harsh" and stressful attitude as my career came to a close. I have always had a problem with my temper and realize now that it was immature and a lack of spiritual growth. This lack of self discipline coupled with a mother who kept in too close of contact (which I allowed) closed my wife's spirit towards me. I did not realize there was a problem until she asked me to leave, then I was shocked and in disbelief! After 8 months I have totally changed and corrected all of the wrong ways in which I operated. My wife agrees that I am a "changed" man and that she cares for me and does not want anything to happen to me. She invites me over for special occasions and calls me when something needs to be fixed or if there is a problem with the children that needs my attention (she is a weak disciplinarian). However, she says that she can not let me back in the house. She says that she could not think of ever being intimate with anyone ever again. She feels guilty and is suffering many health problems due to stress in her life. I don't know what to do and she doesn't know either. We are both miserable and there is definitely no one else involved. She said she wants to do the right thing, but can't make herself. HELP!
A: Tom.. The situation you describe is very complex without an obvious route to me. Nowhere in your discussion have you explained how she attributes her loss of affection in her own mind. Perhaps you might invite your wife to choose a Christian based counselor to help both of you. - Bryce Kaye
Gary from Cinti., Oh
Q: I've been married to my wife for 5 years on a 7 year relationship. We have a wonderful 3 year old girl. One night about one month ago my wife breaks the news to me that she can no longer live in a marriage like ours. I was always out of the house working, helping other people, and on a volunteer fire dept. usually working most weekends. My wife never told me that anything was wrong. Other people also told her that i was away too much and she would reply that it was alright. When she first told me that it was not working out, the reason was because i was never around and that our friendship was lost. That i was not there for her or to be with my baby growing up. Well of course i needed to change my ways to keep the marriage going. I started to stay home more to try to fix it but there was too much tension. After two days my wife started sleeping in our daughter's room. I would ask her what the problem was and if we could fix it. Her reply is that she does not know what she wants and needed time. Well after 10 day she decided that one of us should move out. So i did. Two weeks went by trying to stay away except to be there for my little girl. And still she can not decide what she wants. She has stated that she no longer wants the marriage, but she is afraid to go out on her own: That she did like living by herself the past 10 days and does not need anyone. Said that she did not feel lonely and did not miss me being there and sleeping in the same bed and holding her. She is afraid of making any decision because she is afraid of making a wrong one. Says that she still loves me but not for marriage. Says that i was a good provider and husband but there is no feelings. I don't want this to end. This was everything i ever wanted in life. Now i'm out with nothing at a friends house and she is a home with it all, and of course for my daughter i'm paying for half the bills. She is seeing a psychologist but no marriage counselor. Any clue!!!???
A: Gary. Sorry but this is one of those can't read another person's mind situations. I would suggest that you respect that she needs work this one out for herself. You can't do it for her and shouldn't try to be heavy-handed despite all you have going. It's sad that she didn't speak up earlier about her needs but some people try so hard to be responsible that they shove their needs down until it's too late. I hope it's not but you'll have to wait on her decision about whether she wants to risk re-working the relationship with you. You might consider telling her what responsibilities you're willing to give up in order to be more available if she wants to try to work it out. But don't belabor it in a heavy-handed manner. Perhaps a letter might be best. In the best of circumstances, you both might well use a marriage counselor if she decides to try to work it out. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Dawn from Westminster, Ca
Q: My best buddy, and family member (brother-in-law) is going thru the most difficult time of his life. His marriage is up in the air, his life is living out side the family and so on. The marriage has been for 5 years and 2 children belong to the previous marriage/divorce. And the 2 smallest children under the age of 5 years old, are his. He and his wife work alternate hours of each other, one works the morning shift and the other works graveyard shift. It is like two ships in the night that constantly pass each other without comment. The father works mornings and is the babysitter and evening cook. The wife works part-time graveyard shift and seems to do less and less in regards to the children's needs. They both argue constantly about everything and anything. At this point she now has drawn lines within the marriage. She now told the husband to leave and reside outside the family home. It has been 6 weeks since the father has been staying with us. He constantly has great hope, great outlook, and still smiles occasionally. He has been sleeping, and living with us in our home, as crazy as it may be too, I am sure he wants to go home soon. BUT in the mist of all the bull---, she has told him, that she had an affair on the side of their marriage. He now has continuous doubts of everything she does. She has not answered any questions or given up any names! The husband is totally left in the dark!!
What advise can I offer this guy besides the clear one: Of getting help counseling and/or therapy of some type?
Please he is going to read this information, and only he needs to know, I can only tell him time-and-time again. To get professional help of some type. Thank you for your ear, Dawn .
A: Dawn, I actually wasn't thinking about marital counseling or therapy because you describe the wife as breaching good faith in the marriage. The first thing that came to mind was a good lawyer. If the wife changes her mind about working on the relationship, then a marriage counselor can be considered. I would suggest that you ask your brother in law how long he will put his life on hold for someone who isn't willing to work with him. You can ask him if he has set a date when he will choose to stop waiting. I say this because there is never a definite point when there's no hope. Some people assume that as long as there's the smallest bit of hope, they will wait to see if the other person changes. Unfortunately, that's a prescription for wasting your most precious resource: your time. - and time is life! - Bryce Kaye