A Reader Writes…
My husband left 8 months ago. As a background we have had a couple of bad years. His father was diagnosed with cancer and died almost exactly a year after the diagnosis. My husband left me 6 months after his father’s death. The year his father was diagnosed with cancer I lost my job, we brought a flat and we were then renovating for 6 months throughout his father’s cancer treatment.
About 2 months after his father’s death we had my father come and stay with us for a 6 week holiday (neither my husband nor I are from the UK). My father has bi polar disorder and was not very well when he came to stay with us. He was involuntarily hospitalised 2 months after he stayed with us. My husband suggested couples counselling just after my father returned home but I was too worried and scared to go. My husband left me 2 months after this.
When my husband initially left I believed it was due to the stress of his father’s death and also the strain of having my father stay with us so close after the death and dealing with my own father’s mental health issues.
I read your book I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You about 3 months after my husband left and realise that our relationship had a lot of problems that I wasn’t even aware of. Of course when my husband left I thought we had a pretty good relationship, it hadn’t been great over the past 12 months but I thought this was more due to the outside pressures of dealing with his father’s illness and death so it was a huge shock when he suddenly walked out on the night of our 7 year anniversary.
I started individual counselling just before my husband left as I felt I was not dealing with the grief from my father-in-law’s death. What I have discovered is that I had been a very unhappy and insecure person for a number of years. I had not realised the affect that my unhappiness was having on me, my partner or my relationship.
As hard as the past 8 months have been (I still cry almost everyday) I am thankful to my husband for leaving as I feel this really gave the kick I needed to sort myself out. I am now so much happier as a person and have learnt so much about myself and our relationship. I honestly do not believe I could have made these changes if my husband hadn’t left, it was such a life changing jolt and moment of clarity.
So to try and cut a long story short. I have been working really hard on myself and reading a lot about relationships and I accept full responsibility for my part in our disconnection and the breakdown of the relationship. I am of course kicking myself for not reading your book sooner, or getting individual or couples counselling sooner or realising how unhappy I was in myself. I try not to beat myself up about all my mistakes but it is hard when I have driven the love of my life away from me.
My husband will barely communicate with me. For the first 2 months after he left he said he was going to give me a chance but needed some space. Then straight after Christmas after he returned from his family he would not talk to me. I should probably mention that his family have never been very keen on our relationship, we had planned to move to the other side of the world where I am from and they were very much against this as they did not want him to live so far away. Our intended move was to be September this year.
So my husband has barely spoken to me in the past 6 months and I have only seen him about once a month for a very short time (to pick up mail etc.) He is now talking about divorce.
I do not feel that he has ever talked about why he left. He says it is because of my behaviour (I was a very unhappy person and possibly suffering from depression) but he will not give me any details and he has no responses when I ask him why he wouldn’t give me a chance to show him who I am now or talk about what went wrong in our relationship or why he didn’t stay and try and work on the relationship rather than just leave. I understand why he left but I do not understand why he won’t give us a chance to start a new relationship.
When he asked about a divorce I said that I was concerned about going through a divorce when we can’t even communicate with each other. I suggested counselling so that we could talk through our relationship issues first and learn to communicate with each other. So he has finally agreed to counselling, not mediation but counselling. So I now need to find a counsellor.
For him it is over but I am fighting to save our marriage, so what type of counselling do I try? There appears to be counsellors that will help you break up or help you get back together, but what happens when one person wants one thing and the other person wants the other?
I am hoping that there may be a chance for us if we can talk and he can hear how I feel and if he says how he feels. I feel like he is trying to run away from our marriage without even thinking about it as he is very hot and cold around me. I also struggle to accept that he thinks it is over when he can’t see me or talk to me? I would imagine that if someone really doesn’t have feelings for the person any more than they should be able to do this.
So my question is how do I approach a counsellor about this? I realise they will be impartial but I would like to see someone that believes there is a chance of us saving our marriage as well as ending it.
I’m really proud of all the hard work that you have done. Congratulations and keep it up.
So why won’t he give you another chance to try again? In a nutshell, he’s frightened. The hot and cold is because he’s alternating between fear and a bit of hope. Maybe you have changed but then maybe it’s not enough and, well, he’s back in the fear again.
Let’s move onto your question about counselling and whether it is possible to deal with a split agenda? I hold both at the same time and focus on the communication—because the majority of people in your situation are also co-parents and still need to be able to communicate even if they’re going to get divorced. In fact, especially if they’re going to get divorced. I also help couples understand what went wrong so they can learn and move on either together or apart.
However, I have to stress this is really tough work and often the person who is trying to save the relationship panics and thinks nothing is going to change and they want reassurance and that just pushes the other person away. Meanwhile, the person with one foot out and one foot out panics too…. “my partner is never going to change” and stops calling, texting etc. It’s not long before the couple are trapped in a negative circle.
So, how do you find the right kind of counsellor? You’re obviously going to need somebody who does a lot of couples counselling. Most couple counsellors offer an initial assessment where you can discuss the issue of split agendas and ask directly how they cope. You will get a sense if they’re the right person. If you live in the UK, Relate is always my first suggestion. However, you normally get a different person doing the assessment than doing the on-going work.
So you might start the process with someone on your wavelength and be disappointed or alternatively walk away after the initial assessment (and not get to meet the counsellor who might be just right for you). This is not an issue in private counselling and also most private counsellors have a website where you can read their personal philosophy You can also email them and ask: What do you do with split agendas?
So where do you go from here? I would read My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Anymore because it will help you to understand how to approach somebody who has gone past the I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You stage. And in particular, how to make a fulsome apology.
The next job will be to address some of his fears. In a nutshell…. if he talks to you, you will get very emotional, he will feel very guilty and a failure and because he fears nothing is going to change, all he will do is upset, you, him and everybody else.
So explain that you want to listen and understand and will do your up most not to get overly emotional. Afterwards, you will go away and reflect. In this way, I think you have a better chance to getting him to open up. If you fear that you will not be able to contain the tears, you could ask for a short break (and a cup of tea) and give him plenty of feedback: ‘This is hard but I’d rather hear it than be left guessing.’
I hope that and your counselling will help you to build bridges and whatever happens you’re going to continue to learn and grow because that will help you come out with something positive whatever happens.