Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m devastated and I don’t know how to start repairing my life, which I
may have to start over. This will be complicated but here goes: I’m 35.
I met David my first week of college. We married five years later when
we both headed to Boston for grad school. After grad school we
decided to put off a family until we had each gotten more established
in our careers. I’m a planner and he is a techno-communications
specialist. We got good jobs, bought a house, and casually started
family planning. A few years in, without even one miscarriage we
investigated our apparent non-fertility issues. The problem turned out
to be his low sperm count, and after much agonizing, planning, and
saving, we started a complicated program of in-vitro fertilization.
Amazingly both of the fetuses that we implanted were viable and two
plus years ago we had a pair of fabulous twins (one boy, one girl). Like
most couples with newborns we went through long periods of sleep
deprivation, exacerbated by not only the twin thing but the fact that
David and his best friend had decided to start their own business, a
decision the other wife (not a parent) and I agreed to.
The past five years have been a non-stop stress ride, punctuated by
occasional moments of bliss but mostly characterized by stress, tears,
arguments, and lack of sleep. Today David told me that rather than
going for the vasectomy we’d agreed might improve our absent
intimacy, that he’d decided he wasn’t ready, because he might want to
have more children, but not with me!! In the ensuing conversations he
said his “best friend” is a young woman from work whom he hired a
year ago, that he “hasn’t felt close” to me for a very long time, and
that he’s looked into how much alimony/spousal support I might have
to give him!!! Where do I start picking up these pieces????
Shocked and Scared
Dear Shocked and Scared:
Not every marriage lasts; far too many do not. That’s not the kiss of
death, but it is a reality you may need to confront. David sounds far
less mature than I’d want for the father of my children, and a much
worse communicator than I’d expect from someone you’ve been
relating to half of your life. Your summary doesn’t sound promising
from a stay-together point of view. But it also doesn’t ensure the
outcome is divorce.
The real question is whether both of you want to work on repairing the
marriage and trying to stay together. Even if both people enter
couples counseling with the intention of healing their relationship, the
process may not get them there. But if either or both are just going
through the motions, and secretly have a foot or more already out the
door, then the process is not good investment of time and money.
That said, you should begin by asking your friends for referrals to a
good couples counselor. Refrain from citing all the hurtful things he
has said. Hard but important. If your employer has an EAP (employee
assistance program), you might start ASAP to share aloud the
conversations David’s been having in his head. Listening will be hard
but educational and revealing.
In addition to actively trying to understand what he’s thinking, get
your own head and heart into individual counseling. That’ll help you
understand your own values and life priorities. It’s critical that you
don’t go through this next period of your life merely being reactive to
what he brings to the table and what he wants. Your vote counts too.
You should also, gulp, consult a good divorce attorney. That doesn’t
mean you’re going to file. But you do need a brisk and thorough
education on your rights and responsibilities from someone who’d be
prepared to be your advocate. Divorce attorneys have seen this horrid
drama before. They can protect you and reassure you that lives and
hearts torn asunder can also be kept ticking and be legally protected.
There’s potential spousal support at play as well as child support, not
to mention your common assets of a home, savings and/or debts.
Mostly you need to know that you haven’t been a blind fool to stay in a
relationship that may now be dying. If you could have anticipated your
current problems you’d have done things to keep them from erupting
as they now have. But you don’t need to feel like a victim of his anger
or unhappiness or your own confusion or shame. Focus on figuring out
what you most want, and then see how close you can get. Not just for
your own sake, but for the kids’. Give healing and reconciliation your
best shot. And know there are many ways in this world to be happy.