Annie Lane: Stuck with one foot out the door

Published 5:59 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been together for nearly 30 years, but we have been growing apart over the past seven or eight, despite marriage counseling that didn’t seem to help. About six years ago, he was diagnosed with an illness that he is on the mend from now. Although I craved divorce, I couldn’t bring myself to leave him while he was ill. During this time — while I’ve been supportive, being the sole breadwinner, taking care of the house and yard, and staying ultra involved in his medical visits and treatments — he has consistently lied to me about things big and small.

He is of retirement age but acts like a child, refusing to take responsibility or accountability for anything. Physically, he has allowed himself to downslide as well. I don’t believe he’s had a physical affair with anyone, but I did find out about a porn addiction. He moved out of our bedroom 12 years ago with no explanation and hasn’t initiated physical contact with me in at least that long.

While his medical condition is improving and he should make a complete recovery, I am still reluctant to leave him to deal with this alone. His very small family and few friends are incapable of helping; my job provides good medical insurance that allows him to see a specialist. He seems to depend on me for all household and financial responsibilities. But I am utterly miserable, and all I think about is how to leave him. I know he has no love for me, he doesn’t appreciate me, and that I’m nothing more than the person who shares floor space and ‘takes care of it’ so he doesn’t have to. Is it wrong of me, just north of 50 years old, to crave peace and want to be alone? I can’t imagine being unhappier than I am right now. But the guilt of leaving him while he’s still undergoing medical treatment keeps me stuck.

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— To Go or Not to Go in the Northeast

Dear Northeast: The decision to end a marriage is a huge one and not to be taken lightly, but what you’ve shared tells me you already know this. Although your husband has been facing an illness, maintaining the relationship you two have is a battle you cannot fight alone. If he isn’t cooperative, and his behavior runs the gamut from lying to potentially cheating to being generally despondent, it makes the hole you two are in that much deeper and harder to get out of.

I would recommend sitting down with your husband and your couples therapist again for the most frank discussion you’ve had yet. It sounds as though you two are staying in your marriage simply for the sake of it, but you can’t spend another number of years being miserable — either of you. Whether you decide to pursue counseling again and give your marriage another real shot or call it quits, you’ve reached an impasse you can no longer continue with. At a certain point, you have to consider what you want for yourself beyond the role of being someone’s wife and honor that.

It’s also possible to continue being supportive and of help to your husband even if you’re no longer married to him. After 30 years together, he will forever hold a special and important place in your life, and you’ll share a bond whether that’s with or without vows. But if things have truly run their course, you both should be free to move into the next stage of your lives and find your joy again.

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