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         Decision Time

Deciding to Divorce

Literary Fiction

I loved my husband when we married three years ago, but I've grown in confidence and maturity and don't have patience for him anymore.  He's always been verbally abusive and opinionated.  I thought I'd be able to live with it, as I know not every relationship is perfect.

We are now thinking about children, and I stopped taking birth control.  Two years ago I met a younger man at work, and we became good friends.  Something sparked and I fell in love with him.  I feel he is my soul mate.  He does not know how I feel yet.  He is about to get married, but I know they do not have a good relationship.

I feel obligated to my marriage and don't know if I could hurt my husband enough to leave him, but every day for the past few years, before this new man came into my life, I haven't felt happy.  My husband continually puts me down, and now that we are thinking about children, it's made me wonder if I want to bring a child into our marriage.  I also wonder if I could put up with him for another 50 years.

I know my husband won't change.  I look at this new man and think how happy I could be with him.  Should I try and fix my marriage, or follow my heart and tell my friend what I feel?


Debra, literary novels often involve a woman in a terrible situation, about to make choices which will devastate her life.  Nonetheless, the heroine plunges ahead.  The novel ends with neither growth nor enlightenment.  As USA TODAY book reviewer Deirdre Donahue notes "most literary fiction reads like an endless meditation on how many neurotics can dance on the head of a pin."

While there is something to be said for a writer who can evoke negative emotions, such a work isn't profound.  Watching car crashes will have the same effect.  Stories which leave you feeling hopeless and at the mercy of life are not wise.  Stories which show you how to live a satisfying life are.

Your story reads like the opening of a literary novel.  If the heroine hopes to be rescued by meddling in another man's engagement, she's not likely to find happiness.  If she creates children with an abusive man, she'll begin a 30-year saga of frustration.  But if she frees herself to be with a man who loves her, the novel may yet have a happy ending.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Wanting To Be Caught

I’m hoping you can give me some advice.  I have been married four years.  There is another couple that we spend weekends with, and I developed a flirtation with the husband.  I told myself to do nothing.  If my husband found out, he would be devastated. 

Well, last weekend we were away with them and I kissed the other man, in front of my husband, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time.  Now, quite justified, my husband is very hurt and very betrayed.  I am sorry that I have done this to us, but at the same time I am numb, like I just want to go to sleep.

My husband brought it up this morning, and I think he was hoping I could explain it away.  I told him the kissing had happened once before, but nothing else.  He wants to know why it happened, and I don’t have an answer.  This is a big problem for him because if there isn’t a reason, he doesn’t know how to avoid it.

I know I have to give him time, but is there anything I can do now to take his pain away?


Giselle, we may let a child get away with saying, “I don’t know why I did it.”  But “I don’t know” doesn’t play with adults.  People who engage in risky behavior almost always want to get caught.  Getting caught puts the problem in someone else’s hands.  Now it’s not your problem, it’s your husband’s problem.

He is wondering when this will happen again, with whom, and whether the marriage is over.  He doesn’t know how to understand what happened.  He doesn’t know if the cause is him, you, or the other man.  “I don’t know” prevents him from finding out. 

Why do you take a book back to the library?  You are done with it.  Why do you buy a loaf of bread?  You want bread to eat.  Why do you kiss another man?  You want to kiss him.  You acted out what you couldn’t put in words.  It’s time to find the words to explain your actions.

On your own, you were afraid to take the first steps to disrupt your marriage.  So you set in motion events that will take you there.  You can’t act as if you had no wish to end the marriage when you undertook marriage ending actions.

Wayne & Tamara
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Cognitive Dissonance

I still love my wife and am committed to our marriage, but I believe she no longer loves me.  Over the past few years we’ve become more distant, to the point where we no longer share any intimacy.  She is a decade my junior, and we have been married for nine years.

Many factors contributed to our situation, but one major issue was children.  She dearly wants to be a mother, and we’ve tried for years.  We’ve come to learn that I’m infertile.  This was quite a blow for both of us.  We investigated adopting, but were both overwhelmed by the hoops we needed to jump through, as well as by the intrusiveness of the whole process. 

I don’t want to suffocate my wife in a dead-end marriage, but at the same time I feel a moral conflict about ending it.  I attended church schools for 12 years and consider divorce taboo.


Ed, sooner or later each of us must decide what we believe.  You can’t be a vegetarian slaughterhouse owner.  The two are mutually exclusive. 

The decision about your marriage is not solely your own.  But to the extent you have a voice in what happens, your experience and your upbringing seem to be in conflict.  Whenever two elements in life are in conflict, we need to take a thoughtful look at them, then rid ourselves of the one which seems wrong.  That is the only way to end the struggle.

We can’t make this decision for you.  You have to decide which value is higher.  But once you establish the habit of pruning contradictions in your life, your life will gain a force and a focus it never had before.

Wayne & Tamara
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Domestic Help

I am so fed up with my husband I am ready to strangle him.  He is totally lazy, selfish and self-absorbed.  We both work, and we have two children ages two years and 10 months.  Chores are difficult with two little ones.  I find myself doing all of them by myself on the weekends while he lays on the couch "watching the babies."

I have to ask him to change diapers, put away his dishes, or pick up his clothes.  I am trying to set a good example for my boys, but he is hindering this.  He doesn't even mow the lawn.  He pays someone to do it.  It seems the less he has to do, the less he wants to do.

He makes such a mess I dread walking in the door.  He never completes a task.  I make $1000 more a month than he does, work more hours, and come home two hours later than he does.  Still I have to do most of the work.  We cannot afford to pay someone to clean the house. 

I have been struggling with a root canal for the last two weeks, and he can't manage to take care of the boys so I can take pain medication and rest.  I can't take this.  Please help me before I am arrested for spouse abuse.


LeAnn, you cannot afford to let this problem continue year after year.  It is time to budget for a solution.

Take a look at all your bills and decide which items you can reduce or live without.  Plan economies which fall equally on you both.  If there are chores you don't mind or actually enjoy, reserve those for yourself, then make calls to find out how much it would cost to hire out the rest.

Talk to your husband, tell him what you have in mind, and set a deadline for a solution of the problem.  With his attitude he may totally agree with you, or he may be willing to contribute more effort.  Either way it is time for him to decide to do, or to do without.

We know.  You are going to say you cannot afford this, but this is the only solution which is under your control.  There is a price for enjoying a clean house and having some leisure time.  If you begin fantasizing about divorce, the money may not seem like too much a price to pay.

Wayne & Tamara
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Course Of Treatment

My husband is 45.  We are getting ready to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  He now tells me he has fun when he is out of town in a group of people drinking, talking, and laughing.  He says we don't have a "spark" anymore.  But our sex life is good. 

He swears he hasn't met anyone or been unfaithful.  He says he can't have fun with me.  He feels we are "just coasting" and is not sure where to go from here.  Any advice?


Grace, whatever your husband says, it looks to us like the old story of the iceberg.  Ten percent is visible, and 90 percent is not.  You know the 10 percent. 

What has he been thinking about, planning, or flirting with for the last one, two, or three years?  He may be on the progression which goes like this: I have fun drinking and laughing with others--we've grown apart--I love you but I'm not in love with you--I need more space--I'm out the door.

You need to keep talking about this issue with your husband.  If he believes your marriage is in a rut, it is a "we" who are in a rut, not a "you." You don't let the surgeon say, "We found a lump," and walk away from you.  You have to buttonhole him and find out what the next step is.

As you discuss your husband's feelings and the future of your marriage, you must, as distasteful as it seems, keep one thought in the back of your mind.  What is in my best interest? 

You are approaching your 25th anniversary, and it would be wonderful to celebrate the length of your union.  That may be where you would like things to go, but it may not be where things are headed.

Wayne & Tamara
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On Stand-by

My wife of 35 years has fallen in love again with her old college boyfriend.  I am 61, and she is 58.  We have three grown children.  Her boyfriend is 59, married, with two grown children.

They had not communicated since college.  A year ago they met at a class reunion.  Since then, they have constantly talked on the phone.  I know about their communication because my wife told me.  However, last December my wife became secretive.

One night I heard her saying "I love you" to him.  When I confronted my wife, she admitted she loved him but she still loves me, too.  She said she's not going to leave me and break up the family.  She begged me not to leave or stop loving her. 

As a compromise we agreed he can call her once in awhile if he has important news about their classmates.  She would not call him, as I reiterated to her that would be a violation of trust.  However, a month later I overheard them talking.  Again she begged me not to give up on her.

I talked to my wife's boyfriend, and he assured me he's not trying to break up our family.  He can wait until she is free, meaning if I die.  If that happens, then they can pursue their dreams together.  If not, then it's not meant to be.

I love my wife and trust her with anything but her long distance love affair.  He lives halfway across the country.  They haven't had physical involvement yet, but despite its absence, I am deeply hurt.  Shall I leave her, give up on her, or wait and see?


Harry, your wife has shattered your world and your relationship with her.  Even if she stays, you will wonder about her reasons.

She didn't wake up the day of the reunion a different person.  She was already at a point where there was room for this to occur.  When your wife talks to her boyfriend, you are not there.  She and her unrestrained feelings are there.

Relationships can become a habit, like putting your hat in the same place each time you come home.  That does not reflect some deep emotion.  It's just a habit.  Habits can mask many feelings, the lack of feeling, or the longing for something else.  That is why you may not feel you saw this coming, because she was maintaining most of her habits as your wife.

Love is like a race.  We all want to finish first.  You cannot be forced into second place and feel good about yourself.  The longer you are passive, the worse you will feel because you will be letting two other people decide what your life will be. 

You must decide how much contact, if any, you can accept.  You must decide if certain boundaries are crossed, what you will do.  You must decide for yourself what is acceptable for you, or if a boundary has already been crossed from which there is no return.

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Sitting By The Phone

My boyfriend and I are in an on-again, off-again relationship.  We love each other, or at least I really love him, but lately all he does is hurt me.  We make plans, then he finds something else to do and doesn't let me know.  I end up stuck home all day waiting for him to call or show up. 

I don't know what to do.  We just got into another fight because he makes plans with other people and keeps them, but he can't seem to do that with me.  He says it slips his mind.


Clarice, on-again, off-again relationships are always really off.  The only time this relationship is on is when it is to your boyfriend's advantage.  He is not your problem.  Sitting around waiting for him is your problem. 

You need to realize that waiting around for a guy who treats you badly is waiting around to be treated badly.  You can't honestly say it is anything else.

Do what you like, be with your friends, go to the places you want to go.  You hope he loves you, but if you are not in his mind, you are not in his heart either.  Don't waste time with people who fail to treat you with respect.

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