Dear Dr. Buckingham,
My husband and myself have been together 15 years, married 10, with two beautiful children. I have had several emotional affairs, two were sexual.He has caught me every time. In the last two affairs though, I felt done with the marriage. I was the working parent struggling mentally and physically. He did nothing but took care of the kids, no housework, no part time job. I always told him when he catches me I am sick of doing the family thing all alone. When we try and work it out, it’s in spurts, about every 2-3 years. I told him with the affair 3 years ago that if he gets a job and helps out, I wouldn’t have to look for attention because I would not be as stressed or depressed. I came back home, and he got a job and hurt his knee at work 2 days later. He never returned back to work and he’s not disabled.
This last affair, I was ready to leave once I got myself stable in my new job. I wasn’t going to run away with the new guy, but was just done doing it by myself. I know I am wrong for the affairs, but isn’t he wrong as well. He told me the other day, “Me not working isn’t a reason for you to go be a slut.”
I don’t know what to do. I am mentally destroyed. He always wants to work on things then he changes his mind. He says I am a lost cause. All I want is a family that wants to be together and do stuff together. Not just be bumps on logs. I am going to seek a therapist for myself, since he insists I am a narcissist and a sociopath. Maybe I do have some demons to deal with, and I will get help then, but I think he does as well. Can Two Broken People Make Marriage Work? I will take any advice you can give.
Thank You, Broken Woman
Dear Broken Woman,
I am glad to hear that you plan to seek therapy for yourself. Your behavior is unhealthy and is contributing to your marital problems. Please note that I did not say that your behavior is causing your marital problem. There is a difference between causing and contributing. I said contributing because you use your husband’s lack of affection and his unwillingness to work as excuses for your loneliness and cheating.
Cause and effect does not work in human relationships because we have free will. When someone does something to hurt or disappointment us we get to make a choice regarding how we cope with it. One behavior does not cause another behavior. However, one behavior might contribute to the expression of other behavior. I make this point because I want to be clear about who is at fault. You are at fault for your behavior and your husband is at fault for his. Your husband’s unwillingness and/or inability to provide for you and the children is a major problem, but you give your husband ammunition. Calling you a slut is emotionally abusive, but unfortunately he probably feels justified.
Healing and/or forgiveness cannot begin until both of you accept responsibility for your behavior and stop making excuses. You stated, “I told him with the affair 3 years ago, if you get a job and help out I wouldn’t have to look for attention because I would not be as stressed or depressed.” Unwillingness to work and lack of affection does not cause affairs. However, poor judgment does. Again, I am excited about your seeking therapy.
Now, to answer your question; yes, I do believe that two broken people can make a marriage work if they are willing to do the work. In situations similar to yours, I often encourage couples to seek both spiritual and professional counseling. Spiritual counseling will help with understanding God’s purpose and expectations regarding the marriage institute. Professional counseling will help with enhancing character flaws and provide insight into dysfunctional behavior that needs modifying. However, I must warn you that emotional abuse is extremely difficult to overcome because a large percentage of individuals do not do well with managing raw and distraught emotions.
Broken is defined as damaged and no longer in one piece or working order. According to this definition, when a relationship is broken, individuals stop working as one because they give up all hope and are typically consumed with feelings of despair. Some people would advise you to run and run fast. While I agree that your husband has some major challenges that he needs to work on, I do not believe that running is going to bring you peace.
Peace cannot be found in a man. Peace is an internal factor that comes with doing what is right in the eyes of God. Work on how you cope with your husband and, if you decide to leave him, do so with a peace of mind. However, if you decide to stay be mindful that it takes two pieces to make a whole. We are whole as single individulas, but marriage only works if two individuals work as one. This is what God expects of individuals who choose to marry.
When a relationship is broken, individuals stop working as one because they give up all hope and are typically consumed with feelings of despair.
Note that I did not write a great deal about how your husband is not a good person or about his irresponsibility as a husband. I did not because I try my best to empower people to focus on what they can control, which is self. If your husband is not willing to do what it takes to make you happy, then the best thing that you can do is focus on you.
I am not recommending that you become self-centered. Once you are in a good place emotionally, you will be able to see what is best for you. Marital despair intensifies because individuals are not empowered. Empowerment focuses on becoming stronger and more confident. Once you learn how to control your life, your life will be yours. Remember that two pieces make a whole. Just make sure that you are healthy and functional so that you bring wholeness to your marriage.
If you decide to stay, please seek therapy and model what you expect from your husband. I am not referring to his work ethic, but his ability to accept responsibility for his behavior. Please keep in mind that two wrongs do not make a right. If your husband is incapable of making you happy then you need to learn how to find happiness within. No one can give you what you cannot give yourself.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.