Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I have been married for 25 years and have two kids. Getting married wasn’t in my plans until Bea got pregnant and told me she was going to have the baby whether I wanted to be the father or not. I’m not the kind of man who can walk away from a situation like that, so I decided to stay. We got married when Bea was 7 month along.
I have been unhappy, but in a holding pattern, for a long time now. I’m not sure I was ever happy in the marriage, but in the beginning, there was so much to deal with I didn’t have time to think. After that, my business took me on the road a lot so I could keep the marriage in the background if I wanted to, except for day to day chores, tasks and house maintenance.
Recently, I have had more time to think. The result is that I feel like driving my car into a tree and ending it all. I have never had a close emotional tie with Bea; we’ve run our family like a business. It all feels empty and meaningless, but I don’t see how I can abandon my family at this point. I would feel so guilty that it would undermine my self-confidence and energy. In addition, I have my own business and my wife takes calls and helps with the schedule while I am on the road. A new assistant is out of the question since business has fallen off in our bad economy. And how would I pay for a divorce?
I would like to find out what else is out there before I’m totally over the hill- I’m 65 now. But at this point, the idea of starting over makes me feel exhausted…and I just don’t have the financial resources for it. I feel trapped. I can’t afford therapy because my minimalist Medicare doesn’t cover it. Do you have any ideas for me? Those trees are looking better and better all the time.
Dear Mr. Tree
You can’t solve a bad decision by another even worse decision. If you kill yourself not only is it abandoning your family and any sense of responsibility you had in the first place- it’s the surest way to screw up your kids forever.
Life is not an all or nothing proposition. It seems that is how you have been making your decisions from the get go. All or nothing people always have more difficult lives than those who can negotiate the gray areas.
You don’t have to start over and you needn’t throw out what you have built over the years. Marriage is a business and you have to invest in it. This is done by investing both in the relationship and in yourself. You need to create new experiences with your wife- travel, explore. And you need to join a group and develop friendships for yourself. A full life isn’t dependent upon any one part but rather a balance of all of them.
The real point isn’t that you knocked up someone you didn’t love and did the responsible thing. That’s over half the relationships in the known world. The real issue is that you have no skills at creating balance, investing in yourself and others, negotiating or communicating.
Marriage isn’t magic; it involves skills, building respect, communicating, working together and dealing with all the shit life throws at you with a partner you can rely on. The idea of a magic marriage is really Disney BS.
You’ve been with this woman and she has put up with your nonsense for a long time. She is as least as tenacious as you. You are probably equally matched. This could be the makings of a relationship or the setting for war. Either choice takes work.
Medicare does pay for therapy but requires a co-pay. A licensed therapist has the option to take Medicare; most don’t but some do. Look for one. They can help you identify and work on the skills you need before you can have a successful relationship with anyone.
I recommend reading The Death of Cupid: Reclaiming the Wisdom of Love, Dating, Romance and Marriage by Shimon Apisdorf and Nachum Braverman available used at Amazon. It might be out of print otherwise. This will help you start the conversation with your wife that you need in order to build a relationship based on skills and intent vs. one based on fantasy.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: You’re 65 and you are just now thinking about what is else out there?
I would like to spare you a whole lot of regret over what you did not do and what might be out there. Your life so far has been your choice- the marriage, the kids and the work that takes you away from home. Another person might have made other choices. The life you are living is the life you preferred over whatever alternative you could think of.
I don’t think you are being entirely straight with us- I suspect there is another woman in this mix somewhere, because a man in his 60’s doesn’t think about changing the habits of a lifetime just out of curiosity. If I am right, this would be a BIG mistake.
My guess is that you have never fully participated in your life…what makes you think that if you weren’t married you’d suddenly jump in and start LIVING? What makes you think it is your wife that is holding you back?
Changing the scenery is not going to change YOU. If you want your life to be more fulfilling, you have to participate in it. I don’t think you’ve even begun to know what is possible between you and your wife; but if she has stuck by you this long, you have something that most single people would kill for- a partner who is going to stick with you until the end. Don’t throw that out…or I promise you- those trees will start looking even better than they do now.