Anxious in Chicago writes:
I am in a somewhat celibate marriage. We have known each other since we were teens and got back together after my 10-year absence from Chicago. My spouse was married to his first wife for nine years – they have a son. There have been many stresses i.e. verbal abuse from my spouse because of finances and his own insecurities, my mother in-law (now deceased), a volatile ex-wife and the list goes on. My spouse is used to “damsels in distress” who use his heroism to their advantage. Somewhere in my subconscious I know this situation has been lop-sided with me developing resentment and stalling on my own dreams. I am formerly a performing artist and now an independent filmmaker. I have been lonely for awhile now and I am considering a divorce because the situation has been so lopsided. Is there any advice or insight you can share with me? I have found your responses to be both reasonable and kind. My spouse and I were once friends but now there is so much that we do not share.
Before you sit down with a divorce attorney, you may want to sit down with a counselor. While your marriage hasn’t played out with hearts and flowers, you are still trying to hold onto it. This definitely deserves some consideration and attention, even if the result is only one of a clear conscience.
Even though your husband has been failing to meet your expectations, you have stayed this long because you keep hoping that things would change. Take a risk and stand up to him – tell him how you have been feeling, and ask him to accompany you for counseling. Each of you has forgotten how to truly communicate with the other, and with your husband’s volatile nature, a calm voice between the two of you looks like an excellent buffer. You have nothing to lose and your dignity to gain.
Just because you think about divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that you want one. You are tired, and you want to be happy. This is not an unreasonable request, or an unobtainable goal – but you are a woman who strongly believes in doing things right. In order for you to walk away from your marriage with a clear conscience, you need to know that you have done everything possible to first try and improve the situation – and that is why you have put up with the abuse and stresses, plus put your dreams and ambitions on hold. It is becoming more challenging for you to simply toe the line, because all the suppressed emotion and resentments are coming to the surface. This is actually a good thing, a healthy thing – particularly if you face the situation head-on. The divorce option will always be there, just as it has always been there, so you are not giving anything up.
Your husband is an imperfect man, with insecurities and issues. He will never be perfect, but he can be a whole lot better of a man and a partner than what he has been showing you. By trying to keep the peace, do the right thing, constantly putting yourself at the end of the list – you have enabled him to treat you with disrespect and take advantage of you. Things can change, but you have to have the strength to redefine your boundaries and uphold them – even when things are hard.
While I’m not sure that you will ever be head-over-heals in love with this man, you can reform your sense of connection with him – and pursue your dreams.