I get many, many emails from readers who tell me their stories and then ask me whether or not they should get divorced. I usually have a pretty good gut feeling on whether or not I think the situation still has hope, and sadly, most of the time I don’t think so.
But, in this woman’s situation, I 100% feel she should stay with her husband. Here is her email, along with my advice:
I’m in a situation where I’m married to a great guy. He’s handsome, he has a good job, he’s a great dad, and our sex life is great or it was until recently. The only thing is that over the last 25 years that we’ve been together I have always had to fight to be a priority for him. His friends are a priority. The sports teams he plays on are a priority. His work is a priority. Our kids are a priority. I am not. Our entire relationship has been a cycle. We’re happy, then he starts prioritizing everything else over me and I am miserable. I finally have enough, I tell him, we fight, he realizes I am not being unreasonable and we start it all over again. It was even a fight to get him to walk beside me instead of 10 feet in front of me!
Recently, I realized I’m exhausted. I feel like although I still love him, I can’t do this anymore. This time, I didn’t tell him to change. I told him to go stay with a friend of ours. I told him I was done and I’m not in love with him anymore.
Now suddenly he is saying he gets it. He understands. He is going to change. NOW he wants to go get counseling. NOW he wants to spend time together. NOW he wonders why I am not responding to his overtures.
I wish I could say I wanted to work on this. I enjoy my husband’s sense of humor. I enjoyed our sex life. I just don’t have the energy or the desire to go through this cycle all over again. How do I know it is time to throw in the towel? Should I hold on until I know either way 100% or is a gut feeling what is needed to make the right decision?
So, after reading the first paragraph, I wanted to blast this woman and tell her to stop whining! I know dozens of single women who would die for this man. Good looking, good sex, good job, good father…
Not feeling like a priority in someone’s life is the worst reason, in my opinion to get a divorce. I’m thinking, maybe this woman needs to be more independent. I don’t know if she works, but if she does, maybe she needs to focus more on her job, or even if she doesn’t work, maybe in her life she needs more things that are for her—just as her husband has things for him (his friends, sports, etc.) Maybe more girlfriends, maybe a hobby, volunteer work, a mission. Anything so that her husband isn’t the center of her universe. I truly believe that when you are busy and happy and productive, you don’t have to time to focus on whether or not you are someone’s priority. You aim to fit everything in—everything you love—your career, kids, spouse, friends, hobbies, vacations, etc. So, you don’t feel resentful because you are too focused on enjoying all the aspects of your life, not just your romantic relationship.
On another note, this woman should not ever feel like her husband is prioritizing the kids over her. I think that sounds very insecure and a little selfish. After all, don’t we all prioritize our children over everything? If you answered no to yourself, you are most likely lying.
If this woman becomes a single mother and starts dating, her situation with her ex prioritizing her kids over her will seem ridiculous, and she will wish she was back in those days. I say that because divorced, single parents have a very hard time seeing each other because of kid obligations. Case in point: I had breakfast with my boyfriend this morning after having not seen him for almost a week and we live 5 minutes away from each other. The reason: kid stuff.
The worst thing I’ve heard about this husband so far is that he walks 10 feet in front of his wife. That is no small thing and it bugs me big time. It is disrespectful and embarrassing, and he looks like an ass to other people. But, that said, he listened to his wife’s request and it sounds like he now walks next to her.
In fact, it sounds like he listens to his wife a lot! When she tells him she is not happy, he listens and tries to change. Foolish of her to think she can change him (maybe he’s just a little selfish by nature, which isn’t the worst thing) but at least he changes temporarily, which shows that he truly cares about her and the relationship.
So now, she says enough is enough and again, and once again he’s trying to change. So, this is really no different than her regular “cycle” only this time she is threatening to end the relationship.
Here’s the thing. I’m not in this marriage, and my advice is coming solely from this woman’s letter. But my gut says that this couple has a lot going for them in that the husband wants to work things out and is bending over backwards to try to stay together. That’s huge. If he didn’t love her, this was his out!
This woman’s problem is that she is trying to make this man into someone he is not, instead of deciding either to stay with him and take what he can give, or just leave and don’t look back.
I’m sure it is very hard for her to stay because she doesn’t trust that he will change. In other words, what’s different this time? And I am going to agree with her that he probably won’t change for more than a few months. But, I’m saying so what? I’m saying make it work by compromising and enjoying what you have.
I’m saying that she should “get a life” and I mean that in a really really nice way. She should find independence and happiness in other aspects of her life and that might accomplish not only her increased self-love and self-esteem, but her husband’s attraction to his wife. There is nothing more irresistible to a man than a woman who has a full and happy life. No man wants to feel like he is everything in his spouse’s life.
The last thing I want to address is the end of her email: Should I hold on until I know either way 100% or is a gut feeling what is needed to make the right decision?
I think that knowing 100% and a gut feeling are the same thing. So, if her gut says leave, than she is 100% sure and should. But, I hope she doesn’t. Look, no one should have to live in an unhappy situation, so I’m not telling her to stay if she is miserable. But, I just feel like this sounds like a good marriage that with counseling and some self-improvement from both spouses could really be saved.
If she is willing to expect less and let go of the resentment she has towards his past behavior, and he is willing to try harder and walk with her (as opposed to in front of her) I think that’s a really good start.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.