Dear Dr. Tobin,
Is it normal for me and my husband to live totally separate lives?
He has developed a whole persona at a job 50 miles from where we live. I have never met any of his co-workers and he has never invited me to his office.
On two recent occasions he half-heartedly asked if I wanted to go to parties for coworkers of his, but since he has become a complete stranger to me, I thought it would be embarrassing to go to a party and see all of these people who know him so much better than I ever did.
I know your advice might be that I just try it and start to get to know one another again, but we’ve really never had a close relationship and I am not at all motivated to start developing one now.
We’re basically only staying together for our children’s sake, but if we haven’t touched one another or talked about anything in a natural or friendly way for years. How can that be a healthy or normal situation for our children to see?
Alone and Unhappy
Dear Alone and Unhappy,
You don’t need me to answer that question. You know it's not normal to be married and have no relationship.
The real question is “Why do you remain in a loveless marriage?”
You say that you’re staying together for the sake of the children. I don’t buy it. Even you question the validity of that rationale.
You make a compelling case for leaving your husband. You’ve convinced me that your marriage has no future and that divorce is the only solution.
More than that, I’m wondering why you didn’t mention the obvious. Are you not concerned that your husband could be having an affair?
Is your marriage that dead that you don’t even bother to ask?
Yet, for some reason, you can’t convince yourself to get out or fight for it.
What’s stopping you from getting on with your life? What’s the fear that’s preventing you from making the break?
Is it financial?
Is there some part of you that’s still holding on to the hope that things might get better?
Does the idea of being alone as a divorced woman terrify you?
I would encourage you to explore these questions. Counseling can help uncover the inner obstacles and fears. Perhaps you’ll even discover that the marriage is not as dead as you thought.
I’ll leave you with this food for thought: Yes, your fear may be stopping you from calling it quits, but I'm wondering if there's something else that you haven’t yet considered.
Perhaps you have a sense, a vague discomfort, that’s telling you that there’s more you can and must do to save this marriage.
Yet to try to engage your husband in a dialogue would be a risk. It would be easier to avoid the pain and humiliation of a possible rejection.
But if I’m correct in what I’m saying, then you owe it to yourself and to your children to find the courage to have a heart to heart discussion with your husband. Deal with the issues—including the possibility that he may be having an affair.
Don’t blame or accuse. Ask him and yourself if you want to remain in this marriage. If he and you both want out, then immediately get on with the business of divorce.
If, on the other hand, neither of you want out, then I would suggest that you and he enter marital counseling immediately.
You don’t end a marriage until you’ve made all efforts to save it.