Midlife Crisis or Not?
Dear Margo: I’ve been married to a good and honorable man for 22 years. We have two children, 21 and 11. We married young and had our first child a year later. We waited until we were more stable to have our second. We had a solid marriage, but there was always a lack of affection from him due to a dysfunctional upbringing. I learned to live without the outward affection because of his tender and thoughtful actions through the years. He was always doing nice and considerate things for me, making sure I knew I was loved.
That has changed. For the past couple of years, he’s become increasingly distant, spending more and more time away from home. Then, out of the blue, he tells me he isn’t in love with me anymore and doesn’t feel like he has a partner because I don’t like to do outdoor things with him. We started marriage counseling, but a couple of weeks after the first session, he admitted he was in love with a friend of ours. This friend does enjoy the outdoors and shares more of his interests than I do, but she doesn’t return his feelings and just wants to be friends.
I have moved out and don’t know if we should continue the counseling or if this marriage is over. He says he doesn’t know what the future holds and is feeling very lost right now. Should I give him more time and put my life on hold, or cut ties and get out of the marriage knowing that I can’t accept being his second choice? I am still in love with him, and the pain is almost unbearable. By the way, he still talks to her every day and wants to remain friends with her. –Heartsick
Dear Heart: It is hard to know if this is a midlife crisis and whether he will, at some point, see the light, see you in a different light or decide that the light has gone out, period. Do know that some of the best marriages are between people who do not share all the same interests, so don’t be too fast to hop on a Harley or strap on a pair of skis. And the reverse can be true, as well: Some relationships are built on a lot of togetherness.
My own feeling is that a marriage (a good one) really depends on mutual affection, comfort, chemistry — not outdoor activities. His announcing, by the way, that he no longer loves you and is in love with what’s-her-name, but it’s not reciprocal, would probably encourage me to call it a day. Furthermore, his wanting to torture himself by “remaining friends” with her is another reason I’d split. Try more counseling if he’s willing, but my hunch is that he’s emotionally outta there. I am sorry. –Margo, realistically
When Understanding Can Be the Key to Survival
Dear Margo: Like someone else who wrote to you, I, too, am middle-aged and have a sister who flies off the handle at imagined slights. Just last year I found a website and finally understood the wellspring of the abuse. She is a narcissist, and some reports say this is caused by the male role model being absent during a crucial development period in a young girl’s life. This website has helped me, and I learned that my sister thinks she is perfect and will never change, so I limit my contact with her to group settings only, where I can avoid her or move on when she decides to throw a tantrum so the day will be about her. Limiting contact is the only thing that works. For anyone else who has my problem, I offer this website. — Figured It Out at Least
Dear Fig: I pass this on to whomever might find it useful, with your compliments. A way of handling unbalanced friends or relatives can be a lifesaver. Understanding is a great tool for managing someone else’s disturbances. I have never believed in being victimized by either relatives or friends. — Margo, sympathetically
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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