Ask Amy: A broken couple pretends to be ‘whole’
Dear Amy: I have been married for over 30 years. At our 25th anniversary dinner, my wife told me she was interested in trying an “open marriage.” I was shocked, thinking that we still had a strong desire for each other. Later, at a counseling session, when asked if she was physically attracted to me, she said flippantly, “Not now, never was.”
That opened a chasm in our marriage that has grown, and we no longer see a viable way forward. Counseling didn’t help us figure out how to recapture our love. We decided that it would be better for us if we could try a “trial separation.”
Then our daughter (the youngest of four children and in her 20s) suddenly exhibited some alarming mental health issues. Thus began a journey of hospitalizations, brushes with the law, and significant behavioral issues. Following two years of treatment, and on meds, our daughter has stabilized to the point she can work, but she is very dependent upon us.
We put our separation on hold and worked relatively well together during the height of the crisis, but ultimately, this has not brought us closer.
We are both unhappy. We only discuss our daughter; we have had no intimate relations, and often our tension creates volatile arguments.
If we separate, we are terribly afraid of how our daughter will react. We fear destabilizing her.
What should I/we do? Should we still try to separate and thus create a chance for happiness with another person, or do we just continue to pretend to be “whole” for our children?
– In a Quandary
Dear Quandary: In terms of your daughter’s situation, I am not qualified to predict the impact of your choices on her.
However, broadly speaking, you are not bound to remain together in a volatile and unhappy marriage for your daughter’s sake. Part of your careful parenting through her illness should be the underlying message that she is capable, that she can recover, and that as an adult she can begin to assume responsibility for her health care and happiness.