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Parallax - Advice            February 12, 2001

  They promised to do...

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I'm thirty-five and have been married almost ten years. Through that time, we've faced many challenges, including possible adultery on my wife's behalf. Four years ago we separated for several months, but we got back together and rebuilt the marriage (we have children). Two days after Christmas, my wife confronted me with the news that she's not happy. She didn't blame me directly, but most of the issues surround me. She thinks we're too distant and unable to communicate, and she says I'm too serious. I am, with money matters, but she expects an easy lifestyle with limited responsibility, while I believe you have to work to get anywhere. Besides, she's not involved in our finances (even though I've pleaded), and if I died, she'd be clueless about home management. She appears to be lost in some strange land of confusion. And even more confusing is my wife's frustrations with my ways - I'm petrified of this woman because I now know she holds all of these bitter and strange feelings inside. I've made changes over the years to make her happy - I've gone from apathy to being catering and attentive - but apparently it's not enough. I don't think she's having an affair and I don't think she wants to leave. She loves me, but regardless of what I do or have done, she finds fault. What do you suggest?

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Her view:

Dear Over-and-out,

It's so easy to separate isn't it? Even the young folk around me just up and leave when things get a little difficult. Clearly, you are having problems and there are things that need to be worked out. But work them out - you have children and a life together. Figure out how to get rid of most of the bad elements of your marriage and move on. I like the idea of starting over. Tell your wife that you want the marriage to work, the new start, a great relationship, happy kids, etc. Then tell her, 'This takes two.' It's unfair for her to fall into a funk of unhappiness and blame it all on you.

However, if this is happening because she doesn't love you, then you've got an insurmountable problem. But it sounds as though she's just being cranky and fickle. The onus is not on you to deliver happiness - she needs to work on this too. Perhaps needs outside the marriage are not being met. Maybe her work is unsatisfying, or she lacks hobbies and interesting things to do. Whatever it is - get to the bottom of it and work to sort it out together.

If she's not eager to participate in getting things solved, no amount of advice will save your marriage.

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His view:

Dear Over-and-out,

I agree about her being in a 'land of confusion,' and, unfortunately, she's got you stuck there with her. However, what's at the bottom of all these issues is pretty clear to me.

I don't think your wife wants you to change. She's come to realize that the things that truly bother her are impossible to change - no matter how nobly you attempt to adapt to her needs. Even if she doesn't express this, she knows it. This is why there's always some fault with what you've done.

It's also obvious that she doesn't want to change either, probably for the same reason. It's great that you still think she may one day get serious about finances, but after ten years, even the most hopeful person would begin to have doubts...

Of course she says she wants to make the marriage work. Why not? Few people are cynical enough to want their marriage to fail. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean she believes it can work, or that she's willing to do whatever it takes. In fact, she seems resigned to see it end.

It's commendable that you try to save your marriage - I'm not going to suggest you to stop trying - but I do think you should begin to consider other options.

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