I am unhappy in my marriage. Our relationship was once good-ish, but my wife and I got married too young, and things have been not good for a long time. If I were dating today, she’s not the person or even the type of person I’d chose to be with. We sometimes fight, but even when we’re not fighting, things aren’t good. My wife has never said so outright, but I think she must be unhappy, too. The main clue is that her drinking has slowly but surely increased over the years we’ve been married. That’s its own set of problems.
I’m at the point where I want to leave but haven’t for so many reasons. One reason is I feel guilty for even thinking about it. Putting this all down on paper feels disloyal, especially since she and I have never even talked about splitting up. She also does not have many friends or much of a support network. That is one thing that’s been a problem, actually. For a long time, I’ve felt like I’m everything in her life, and that’s too much pressure. It’s limited me doing anything on my own and even having friends. So that’s something that makes me want to leave our marriage, but also something that makes me worry about leaving.
About eight months ago, I met a woman kind of through work. We got to know each other, flirted and have hooked up a couple times. I really enjoy her and would date her in a heartbeat if I were single. A couple times, thinking about what I’ve done, I’ve felt so guilty and conflicted I’ve actually thrown up. I hate that I’ve done this, and I hate that I’ve confused the question of leaving my marriage with this affair. Like, if I was truly unhappy and wanted out, I should have done that before I cheated. I really have no idea if I would be happy with this other woman, but I know I’m not happy with things as they are now. Can you help me at all?
Paralyzed, you’re right in saying that your affair confuses the issue of how to proceed with your marriage. This affair is bread and circuses keeping you occupied and distracting you from your unhappy situation. You need to recognize that you’re not going to have any peace of mind or quality of life if you continue with things as they are. Ending your flirtation with this other woman will clear the way for you to begin truly sorting out what to do with your primary relationship—the relationship you had before you met her and the relationship you’ve made the biggest commitment to.
I understand feeling guilty about your actions, but I don’t blame anyone for doing what they have to do to get out of an unhappy relationship. That doesn’t mean you should continue seeing this other woman, but it does mean you should recognize why you had this affair: You’re desperately unhappy in your marriage and confronting that head-on is too painful or scary. So have a little compassion for yourself in that regard.
You don’t have to stay married, but you do need to be truthful and open with your wife. She needs to know that you are unhappy, that you have been for some time, and she needs to hear why. She needs to know that you’re thinking seriously about ending the marriage. These won’t be easy conversations to have, but the only route to making things easier and better goes directly through this difficult work.
I suggest making yourself an appointment with a therapist. Tell him or her what you’ve told me. I also suggest asking your wife to go to couples counseling with you. Even if your goal isn’t necessarily to save your marriage, a counselor can help you communicate openly about what’s happening in your relationship. Having a third person to witness and facilitate those conversations can be helpful.
So, to recap: Forgive yourself a little bit, end the affair, initiate the conversation with your wife and continue the conversation with the help of a counselor. I don’t envy you the next months or year of your life, but if you can get through this rough time, you’ll be in a position to build a much happier life. The alternative is years of the same unhappiness.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve gotten myself into some trouble with my credit card—not terrible trouble, but I do have about $5,000 debt that I don’t really have the money to pay off. I’m able to make the minimum payment each month and sometimes even a little more, but I’m not really making much headway against the total amount due. And every time it seems like I make a little dent in it, I have to charge something, like a car repair or unexpected bill, so I’m back where I started from. I keep thinking that when I get some extra money, like from a gift, or tax refund, or whatever, I’ll use that to pay it down, but that money always seems to get used up or it doesn’t do much against the total amount. Should I be worried about this? Or does everyone have some debt like this? Is there anything I can do?
Other people do have credit card debt, Indebted, but that doesn’t do anything to alleviate your monthly bill. You need to acknowledge that this situation is serious. Five thousand dollars is not a small amount, particularly if you don’t have it. And you don’t want this hanging over your head for the next several years. You want to pay it off, so you can do other things with your money. You also want to get your financial habits in order, so you can avoid incurring this kind of debt in the future.
Unattractive as this option is, I think you need to find an additional source of income. You don’t have to work 18 hours a day, but if you make $200 additional dollars a month to put towards this debt, you’ll start to see real progress. The pain of this additional work will also make using the card a less attractive option in the future.
Secondly, find a place to cut $50 out of your current spending and apply that towards your debt. Again, unpleasant, I know, but addressing this head-on right now is the best way to move forward.
Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman both have great plans for paying off debt and building a solid financial foundation. I suggest you get one of their books—for free from the library, of course—and see what they have to say. Good luck.
Co-Worker’s Baby Shower
Two of my co-workers are organizing a baby shower for a third woman in our office. I’ve been invited, but I’m not close with the honoree, and I’m not really interested in spending an afternoon at her shower. One of the hosts of the shower seemed to assume I was coming (even though I haven’t RSVP’d yet) and asked if I wanted to contribute money for a group gift. Will it seem rude or unfriendly if I don’t attend? If I don’t go, do I have to contribute money or buy a gift anyway? Should I just deal with it and go?
You definitely do not have to attend this shower. My rule for attending parties, showers, weddings and any other event, really, is to go only if you’re 100 percent excited about going. Leisure time is for doing things you truly enjoy and want to do, with people you want to be with. RSVP “no” to the shower .
You also don’t have to contribute money for the gift. If you want to contribute and can afford to, go ahead. It’s not necessary, though. You’re not obligated to give money just because someone asked you for it. If you want to acknowledge and congratulate the mother-to-be, you can buy a small gift on your own, give her a card or just say “congratulations.”
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