Q. I didn’t know my husband was involved with a young woman until she emailed me last summer and told me that she has been his girlfriend for the past four years. She then sent 14 more emails to me in 13 days and texted our 25-year-old daughter twice.
As you can imagine, I was blown away. My husband said he wanted to end this relationship, rekindle our marriage and would go to a marriage counselor with me. His therapy efforts were minimal however, and after two weeks, his behavior became bizarre. He said he wasn’t over this woman, he didn’t think therapy was working, he didn’t want to go any more and he might move out of the house. He finally took a place for four months and moved out, saying he would still see this woman “as a friend.”
This wasn’t my husband’s first extra-marital relationship. He left me in the 90s when he was involved with another woman and then came back a year later for the sake of “the family.” This, I now realize, was a pretty bad reason to move home.
This time, my husband left me as well as our 28-year-old son, who is bright, kind — and schizophrenic. He volunteers regularly; sees an excellent psychiatrist every month; takes his meds every day; abstains from drugs and alcohol and has even graduated from college. He hears voices, however, which get really bad when his stress level goes up — and, as I told my husband, it really went up the week after he left. My son kept telling me how mad and sad he was which must have made the voices get terrible because his screams in the night were loud enough to wake me up.
I have been taking care of myself throughout this ordeal, however. I exercise every day; I’ve met with our pastor; I see my therapist, my family and my friends regularly, and I know that I don’t want to be in a marriage if my husband won’t give me the love and respect I deserve. He gives time to himself instead, but how much time should I give to him?
A. How much time? Probably more than you want to give and less than he thinks he should get.
He does need time to make a decision and so do you, if only because your son is mentally ill and crushed by this situation. Your husband’s anguish, however, must be even more unbearable. You can talk about your problems with your friends, your family, your pastor and your therapist, and your children can talk about them with you. Your husband, however, can’t tell anyone how much he hurts and why because — like so many men — he can’t express his feelings, even to his wife.
This may have made him look for someone who could help him do that but infidelity has other causes as well. Some spouses are unfaithful because they are simply immature. Although almost half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, this rate drops to seven percent if couples are at least 35 when they marry.
Some spouses stray because they want to feel young again or because their marriage has gotten boring, while other people run for the hills and the honeys if they’re afraid that they can’t support their families, financially or emotionally. Their sense of responsibility is so big and their fear of failure is so great, they simply skedaddle.
While divorce can be a heaven-sent answer for some couples, it can be absolutely wrong for others, but only you and your husband can decide. You should, however, take at least a year to make up your mind because your decision will change again and again — and so will his.
After making sure that your assets are protected, you should see one more marriage counselor, but only if you both agree to go for at least six months so you can get somewhere. However, if you think your husband would pay more attention to a book than he does to you — or to a therapist — you might also give him copies of “Why Marriage Matters” by Glenn T. Stanton (NavPress; $15) and “For Fidelity” by Catherine M. Wallace (Vintage; $15). These books could be quite helpful.
Finally, you need to ask yourself some painful questions.
— Can you care for your schizophrenic son by yourself, year after year after year?
— Do you have enough money to do that if you get a divorce?
— Will your husband take care of him if you get sick or incapacitated or die?
— And if he remarries, will his wife treat your son with the kindness and respect he deserves?
Questions? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.