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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1165
Experience:  Licensed as a Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist.
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Married 20 years and have been main breadwinner; my husband

Customer Question

Married 20 years and have been main breadwinner; my husband now wants to find himself and make it on his own, but says he doesn't want to divorce. I still love him and don't mind how our relationship has evolved. How do I handle this?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. L replied 10 months ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question

Dr. L :

What your husband is proposing is a major change in your relationship. You say that you don't mind the evolution in your marriage. Can you tell me a little more about what that mean? Does that mean that you would be fine with a separation? sharing the house today?

Dr. L :

I see you are typing...I will wait for your reply..

Customer:

I actually didn't state that correctly - I meant that I haven't minded becoming the major breadwinner; it really doesn't matter to me, but he feels I've become more of his mother than his wife. He is very disorganized and I have largely taken over his life.

Dr. L :

And do you agree that you have become more of a mother?

Dr. L :

Okay...I understand.

Dr. L :

Or has he just been taking advantage of your willingness to be the breadwinner by becoming complacent...

Customer:

I understand where he is coming from, but I will not do well with a separation or sharing the house. I'm trying very hard not to be black and white, but if he moves out, I know that I will end up divorcing him - just to protect myself. That probably doesn't make sense, but I'm a really nice - almost too nice - person and I'll end up rejecting the relationship first to protect myself from him rejecting me....does that make sense?

Dr. L :

I hear you completely.

Dr. L :

Being roommates after 20 years of marriage is an unpleasant thought...and hurtful as well.

Dr. L :

It sounds like you have been a devoted wife, the rock in terms of finances and stability in the relationship...why would you want to continue to give and give and give without having your own needs met.

Customer:

I do agree with him that I've become a mother-type. I really would like him to grow as a person and I'd like to give up much of the life responsibilities that I've taken on...I just don't know how to do it without feeling like I'm waiting around, always available, for when he's grown up.

Dr. L :

What your husband is proposing is very selfish...it is about what he wants and does not appear to take into consideration what you want.

Dr. L :

The one thing that comes to the top of my head is whether he would be entitled to spousal maintenance, half of your pension, and so forth.

Customer:

I've told him that - but he feels that I'm just being controlling.

Dr. L :

I encourage you to see an attorney asap so that you get a handle on what the financial impact would be for you if there were to be a divorce.

Dr. L :

Do you see this as a mid-life crisis on his part?

Dr. L :

It would seem from what you have said, that your "mothering" came as a reaction to his desire to shrug responsibility and your desire to keep the marriage functioning. Thus...you both have a part to play in this evolution. That's not to assign blame...but to clarify.

Dr. L :

While he accuses you of being controlling...you can accuse him of being lazy. The point is that blaming isn't going to get either of you any where here. As I said earlier, you both contributed to this situation in your own way and now you are faced with having to make some very tough decisions.

Customer:

Yes, I do see this as a mid-life crisis on his part - and I also can't figure out why I am so unwilling to go my separate way. He can have half of everything; it means nothing to me. I agree that I have been a major contributor to the problem. I'm just trying to figure out how to stop doing that while working on other aspects of our relationship. I want us to work on the problem, but not have it be so prominent a part of our lives....we can't just keep talking about it; we need to do something and then move on with the fun that life can be.

Dr. L :

I agree that waiting for him to grow up....especially after 20 years together...might be a huge gamble.

Dr. L :

The way to stop being the responsible, on the ball, do it all person is a) to be aware of these behaviors b) to make a conscious decision that you will stop these behaviors c) to devise alternative responses to these past behaviors/words/thoughts

Dr. L :

In addition, it would be very important for you to consider individual therapy as a way to better understand your own motivation and behavior and get the support and understanding of a professional to change.

Dr. L :

I'd like to circle back to this statement:

Dr. L :

I can't figure out why I am so unwilling to go my separate way...

Dr. L :

Is that about fear? Is that about not wanting to be alone?

Dr. L :

Is that about undoing a 20 year lifestyle?

Customer:

Actually, I do know why - I am a commodity trader; trading for myself, working from home. I've been very involved in a charity my husband and I founded for 13 years and have very few friends - if any - from that, mostly because, as much as I like the cause, I don't really care for others that share that passion (It is animal related and most animal people are involved with animals because they don't like people all that much...that's not really the case with me, I just love animals, but I don't feel any connection with those who don't like other people....I know that sounds like I'm just like them, but I'm really not) . And, I'm feeling old, I guess....and not really wanting to start over, but not really wanting to be alone.

Customer:

So, I did consider talking with someone - and will do that. I was just hoping to figure out how to cope in the meantime....sort of one of those "can this marriage be saved," things.

Dr. L :

Yes...this marriage can be saved.

Dr. L :

As a clinical psychologist of 30+ years (I'm getting old to by the way), I can assure you that from what you have written there is still hope here.

Customer:

Thank you.

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1165
Experience: Licensed as a Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist.
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