Ask A 40-Something: Am I Wrong or Is The Marriage Wrong?

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This is where my 40-something panel provides their perspective on readers questions. This panel is made up of women who I have interviewed for 40:20 Vision who agreed to weigh in with their perspective and wisdom gained through experience and observation. Today we have one woman’s answer to a woman who is lost in her marriage. This answer pretty much summed up all the answers I received. Tough question and tough and thoughtful answer.

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I didn’t know at the time I married what type of partner I wanted or what exactly I wanted to do in life. I was never happy from the day I got married. I always felt my husband wanted a partner who was confident, smart and able to make decisions on her own.  I on the other hand was shy and didn’t have many goals. We never had an intimate relationship either.

He was constantly asking me to get involved in activities, take some courses, always criticizing me. He said he was doing this because he cares for me —  if it benefits me eventually it will benefit him and the family as well.

After 5yrs I wanted to get out of this relationship but was hoping that if I did start doing more things it could be better.  During this phase of my life I met someone at work. Initially it was just work related talks and coffee but somehow things started getting serious. I ended up in a relationship for 2 years and then my husband found out. He has forgiven me and we are still living together… but at times he still brings that into the conversation as leverage to say the he expects me to do things and have some goals.  He is not working. I am not sure if I really committed a crime. Is he the good guy for accept me? At the moment I feel like doing things someday and someday I want to be alone. I find myself totally lost. Any wisdom appreciated.

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To “Lost in a marriage”: your husband is manipulative and I think you should take immediate steps to get out of the marriage. It sounds like you married before you had access to information that might have led you to a different decision about this relationship, which isn’t anything you should feel bad about and is definitely something you can fix. Everything you describe in your letter seems consistent with an unhappy partnership in which neither of you really feels satisfied — you will both be happier with other people. The sooner you go the easier it will be.

Get excellent legal advice before you talk to your husband, because he will try to push you around in this process exactly the way he pushes you around in every other scenario. If you don’t know anyone who you can trust to ask, look online to your state bar association for information on how to find a lawyer, or look up legal zoom dot com. Pull all of your financial and tax info, make copies of your bank records and property documents if you own a house together, and hire the best lawyer you can afford — do not try to save money here (This advice comes courtesy of a family friend who works as a divorce lawyer. If ever there is a time where you need the best possible advice, it is in the midst of a difficult divorce).

If you have the ability to do so, I really recommend a therapist too. Talk to your friends and family members if you can’t find a therapist. Don’t bottle it up. There is NOTHING shameful about leaving a bad marriage — and you can’t think straight when you’re around him. If you ever find yourself thinking, “I’m not sure I can do this to him” please say to yourself that you are not doing anything TO him — right now you need to think about what you can do FOR yourself.  When you talk about it, you’ll find the people around you who will pull you through it and validate you. (You’ll probably find one or two who won’t, but there are assholes everywhere, and it’s often useful to flush them out during rough times, because some of them are good at pretending to be normal people. Don’t let them bug you too much.)

To me, your infidelity right or wrong (no judgment — I’ve made tons of mistakes and I will make more, and I admire the fact that you’re owning it as your decision, recognizing your responsibility for it, and trying to do the right thing) seems like additional proof that your marriage isn’t a happy one. Infidelity isn’t a crime for which you must atone indefinitely by staying married to a man who says he has forgiven you. (But he hasn’t, because otherwise he wouldn’t keep throwing it in your face.) If he were a loving, supportive, fun and devoted partner, you wouldn’t have been inclined to get involved with someone else.

Life is too short to spend this much time with someone who makes you feel bad about yourself. Good luck. Don’t forget to get all of your legal facts straight before you talk to him. It will be very hard, and it will be sad, but it will be worth it. There is a lifetime of positive experiences waiting for you after you get through this. - Member of 40:20 Vision Go-to-Panel. 

Note: The advice offered in this column is intended for entertainment and information purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice.