Saturday, October 10, 2015

Guru Jane: Growing Apart in Marriage

"Cigar smoking woman in Cuba" by Tibor Végh - Kuba 996.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Dear Guru Jane,

I am so confused? I have been married for 8 years, and we have twin 6 year-old boys. Over the last 2 to 3 years my husband and I have begun to grow apart. I know there are ups and downs in relationships, but we are so far apart I just don’t know what to do. A large part of the problem is my views on life have changed. I have worked really hard in the past few years to overcome some issues from childhood, and while doing that have learned to become a more positive and “glass is half full” type of person. I like the person I am becoming and am proud of the changes I have made. The problem is my husband is exactly the opposite he is constantly negative. Something is always wrong or going to go wrong, and the glass is not “half empty” it has tipped over and spilled. I feel guilty for being happy. 

What breaks my heart the most is how I see our sons change when they are around their dad. They go from being excited and happy 6 year-olds to quiet and cautious little men. It’s like they are afraid that, if they are happy, he will get mad or start lecturing them. I love him, but his negativity is killing me. I just don’t know what to do!


Trying to Stay Positive

Dear Trying to Stay Positive,

It sounds like you are in a really difficult position!

Before we start I will ask you these questions:
  • Are you or your children in any way being abused? 
  • Mentally? 
  • Physically? 
  • Emotionally? 
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, I want to strongly advise you to take yourself and your children to a safe place. In many cases this means moving away from your husband. If you do not have a safe place to go, please call a local women’s shelter. Typically, a local resource information number is available with 24-hour information. In many areas, the number is 211.

Now, if you and your children are safe, we can talk about a few other things. You said that you have grown and changed, and it seems your husband has not. It seems like you have a few (more) very important questions to ask yourself:
  1. What are the wants in your life/marriage?
  2. What are the needs in your life/marriage?
  3. What are you willing to do to save your marriage?
  4. What area(s) are you willing to bend on?   
  5. What area(s) have to be improved?
  6. What is your "point of no return?"
  7. Do you want to stay married?
  8. Is divorce an option?
These are really questions you have to answer for yourself. You can't let anyone else answer them for you. Having clear answers to these question will help you navigate the next steps.

If you want to work on your marriage, therapy can be very helpful. Hopefully your husband will agree and you can attend couples' therapy, but individual therapy can be helpful too.

This is probably going to sound weird, but when was your husband's last full physical? You are probably thinking, WHAT? But as we get older our bodies change, including our chemical balances. Chemical imbalances can cause things such as depression, anxiety, anger, and more. It is always worth checking out.

Now for you. I will almost always recommend setting boundaries. This is your "line in the sand." You should figure out what your boundaries are in order to be the best you (in the marriage and in life). See Boundaries in Marriage. 

One of the things that concerns me the most is what your children are learning. "Modeling" is the term used to describe what our children learn from what we do. Basically, the opposite of "do as I say, not as I do." From what you are describing, it sounds like your children are learning to be afraid, and ashamed of their true feelings. This is not healthy in any way! Your children are also possibly learning they have to bow down to the power figure in a situation. I'm also curious about what the children are learning from seeing that it appears to be okay for their dad who "loves" their mom and them to treat you all badly. If they are seeing this, they might think it is okay for them to treat any significant other and/or children in the same way. Do you want your boys to behave that way as adults? Here are some resources to consider:

The final concern I have is what is living with this doing (has already done) to your self-esteem? Do you know that you are worthy? Do you know that you are amazing? Do you know that you deserve only the best? Do you know you should be happy? Do you know that real love does not cause long-term pain?

I hope you know these things, and if you don't, please reach out for help from good friends, supportive family, therapist, minister, and/or therapy support groups.

I know I've asked more questions than I have answered, but in the end only you can make this decision. So my final question is this...if your best friend was in your position, what would you tell her?

Be safe! Be happy! Be loved! Love yourself enough!

Guru Jane

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