Dear Annie: I have been married to a caring, sweet, very cool woman for the last 13 years. We have four children. Like all marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I thought we were solid.
A few months ago, she started spending time with an old friend, “Jimmy,” who is a shady guy. One night after spending time with Jimmy, she came home, sat beside me on the couch, and calmly told me that she wanted to separate and that she had already set her Facebook status to single. She claimed that I was manipulating her. While I’ve seen how manipulative her family can be, I’ve never been manipulative toward her, at least not intentionally. I’ve always supported her emotionally, and I’ve never withheld money or anything like that.
But when I told her that I didn’t think I was being manipulative, she said she really had just fallen out of love. She talked about how I wasn’t affectionate with her; I didn’t hold her hand. Well, I have been sleeping on the couch a lot of nights the last few years, only due to my not wanting to roll on our 3-year-old, who slept in our bed almost every night.
We have not been intimate the last few years except when she was tipsy and wanted to. I was not into it but went along with it. But if it was more affection and handholding that she’d wanted, I wish she had just told me. I guess I overlooked the little things.
I think about our four children and what our splitting up would mean for them. I worry about my wife’s stability and, consequently, our youngest daughter’s safety. I refuse to initiate the divorce on my end because we took a vow. Or should I just give up? Do you think I could find someone who would like me for me and accept the kids? I am probably one of the easiest people to get along with, and I always try to do the right thing. -- Heavyhearted Husband
Dear Heavyhearted: I commend you for taking your wedding vows to heart. But being a good partner isn’t just about staying in it; it’s about staying present for it. Of course, your intimacy has suffered when you’ve been spending nearly every night on the couch. But if this is really the first time that your wife is raising any of these issues with you, then you both owe it to your marriage to try to work through them. Ask her to attend couples counseling with you. And if she insists on divorce, don’t rush into your next relationship. Work on developing your self-esteem and communication skills first, so you’ll be bringing your best, healthiest self to the table.
Dear Annie: You recommend Al-Anon a lot in your column. It’s a good idea in theory, but in the small town where I live, when you walk into those meetings, you walk into a cohesive, preexisting group whose members just sit and talk to each other. I wish it would be better managed so that we could all benefit. -- D.K.
Dear D.K.: From what I know of Al-Anon, your experience is the exception, not the rule. I encourage you to give it another try. Al-Anon suggests trying six different meetings before deciding that the program isn’t for you. If there aren’t six meetings near you, you can find telephone meetings on their website (al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/telephone-meetings). Another support group for families and friends of alcoholics is SMART Recovery (smartrecovery.org). I hope you find the help that you’re looking for.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.
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