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Putting wife's needs first is his best shot at staying together

Putting wife's needs first offers best shot at staying together

Q: My wife of a decade is leaning toward filing for divorce. I think our problems are easily surmountable, but she is less hopeful. Despite her skepticism, she thinks reconciliation is possible. We've begun counseling, we're communicating reasonably well, and we express love for each other.

For months my wife has said she wants to get separated, for "space" to help with reconciliation and as a possible prelude to no-fault divorce. She's finally getting her own place. I'm strongly opposed to her moving out because I think it will sabotage the progress we've made, but my efforts to persuade her to stay have failed.

Separation presents logistical challenges: moving, reallocating responsibility for household expenses. I see two extremes for my behavior: (1) going out of my way to help with her move, or (2) doing nothing and making her bear all the consequences of her decision. I know my approach should fall in between, but how do I decide where?

Confused husband

A: The easier you make her move, the harder it will be for her to leave. Counterintuitive, but true.

From your description, she appears to be just over the fence, wanting to go but still tied in a few places to the idea of saving the marriage. She's likely seeking a separation and "space" because that's easier to ask for than a divorce, and so once she's on her own, no matter what you do, she'll cut ties without looking back. It's a common arc.

But. If you're at a point where your actions can still affect the outcome, then you'll make the best case for yourself by helping and showing your willingness to do the exact opposite of what you want just because you recognize it's what she needs. It's neither begging her to stay nor hoping the door hits her butt as she leaves. It's neither weak nor bitter. It's strong and it's right in between.

Decide as a couple if demanding new job is good for both spouses

Q: A fabulous potential job situation came up where I would be making more in overtime, and would have more perks and support, but I would be required to work 60- to 80-hour weeks for five months of the year. While I think I could handle this, I worry about the effect on my marriage. I am already untidy and disorganized at home.

My husband has been encouraging me to pursue this job, so I asked him if he would be willing to do more around the house. Answer: no. His solution is that we hire a housekeeper every two weeks with my extra money. I was really upset at this response. He accused me of wanting him to "suffer" if I had to. I think that if I have to give up my weekends and free time to help us get ahead, he could sacrifice some of his spare time, too.

Overtime and free time

A: This is about laundry, not feelings. Hire the housekeeper and drop the me-pro-quo.

That is, if you want this "fabulous potential job situation" for your own reasons. If instead you're just excited about the extra money and feeling resentful that your husband wants to spend (some of) it on housekeeping, then tell him that explicitly, factually, and without the dusting of personal pique. That way, you prop the door open for him to state his version of the facts. From two such statements of fact, you'd be able to decide, together, whether accepting the work upgrade would in fact "help us get ahead." It is, after all, a subjective goal, one you can't sensibly pursue unless your husband agrees it's good for you both.

Putting wife's needs first is his best shot at staying together 10/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2011 5:49pm]
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