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 in the marriage. 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 on the marriage. 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 of the marriage. 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 in this marriage 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