DEAR AMY: My husband had an affair with another woman for more than six years. We’ve been married more than 25 years and I’m sad to say that we haven’t had sex for almost 20 years. He says this other woman is the love of his life and he will never not love her. He’s also said that he loves me but is not “in love” with me. Amy, what does that mean? After he said this to me, I told our adult children. They told him that if he leaves me, they will have no contact with him. I’m miserable. I feel he’s only here because of what the kids said. What should I do?
DEAR MISERABLE: When your husband said that he loves you but is not “in love” with you, he meant that he loves you as a family member, but does not feel a romantic and passionate attachment to you.
Regardless of his feelings, YOU may not want to remain in a marriage with someone who claims to be passionately in love with someone else. You have a choice to make.
When your adult children promise to sever their own relationship with their father if he leaves the marriage, they are putting themselves in charge of your marriage. They might be reacting from shock, or because they sense that this is the best way to show support toward you. But your marriage can’t continue if others are placed in the middle of it. This includes the “other woman,” of course, but also your children.
You and your husband might be able to ignite the flame of a loving marriage from these lumps of coal, but it would take a lot of work and commitment from both of you.
If there is a lack of will or commitment from either side, you should focus on separating peacefully and lovingly, without your children dictating the terms.
DEAR AMY:At what age will divorce be less painful for the children? I have been married for more than 20 years. The marriage has never worked. Nevertheless, there was a time when we thought we could work things out, so the result is that we have three boys in middle and high school. We tried counseling, without success. My wife and I have little intimacy and no sex life. I have known for years that I wanted to divorce but thought my boys were fragile when they were young and so I stayed in this painful marriage to spare them the pain of a divorce. I thought I could hang in there until they graduated from high school, but I also feel that I would like to let them see the real me, before they leave for college, rather than the person I have had to become to keep peace in the household. How would divorcing while they are still at home differ from divorcing after they have left for college?
Dad Hanging In
DEAR HANGING IN: I think the tenor and tone of any parting and divorce has a greater impact on all of you, than the specific ages of the children. You must imagine that your three children have observed at least shades and shadows of the dysfunction of your unhappy marriage for most of their lives.
However, I need to remind you of a truism I discovered over the course of my own decades as a parent: Our children do not necessarily care if we are happy. They care if they are happy.
If you choose to leave the marriage now, you must do everything possible to maintain regular, involved and loving contact with your children, as well as behaving discreetly and respectfully toward their mother.
I know adult children of divorce who claim to have been traumatized by their parents’ divorce, even though it happened after they were fully grown.
Each child is different and may respond differently. Your job as a father is to make sure they feel safe in their lives and secure in their relationships, no matter the status of your marriage.
DEAR AMY: I was very disappointed in your answer to “Helpless,” who said his wife of 16 years was having severe mood swings. You should have mentioned that she could be having perimenopause — the precursor to menopause. You did suggest that she see a doctor, but many doctors don’t know about this.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: I try not to offer medical diagnoses. But yes, if your physician doesn’t know about perimenopause, then it’s definitely time to find a new one.