Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Q: My wife and I have two children: my 9-year-old stepson and our 2-year-old son. She recently took a job in another city so she is only home two days a week. Her answer to the child-care problem is that she asked her mother to move in with me. Her mother and I very openly hate each other. I did not agree to this arrangement but my wife did it anyway. She told me it would only be for six months but now she is telling me that it will be for as long as she feels like it. She also stopped having sex with me at the same time she moved away. When I pick her up at the airport every week she doesn't even say Hi to me. She hugs the kids and walks right by me without a word. I asked her if she was having an affair and she said no. She is verbally hostile to me, so I told her that if she didn't want to be married to me anymore that she should tell me. She didn't say a word. I am at my wits' end. If it weren't for my son I would have divorced her at the beginning of this mess, but I can't live without my son. I also cannot live with the current situation. As far as I can see this is a lose-lose situation for me. What do you think I can do to turn it around? -- Gregg
Dr. Susan: Your wife flounced off without a word when you asked her if she wanted a divorce. Does that sound to you like a recommitment to an open, loving, and fair marriage? Yup, it doesn't to me either. All the signs, and I mean ALL the signs, are pointing toward one conclusion: your wife has no more use for you. She has finagled your despised mother-in-law into living with you, she has stopped having sex with you entirely, she's hostile and uncommunicative: how much clearer could a message be? As much as I admire your desire to "turn it around," you may be facing an impossible task. Obviously, you can't go on living in separate cities for "as long as she feels like it." Functional couples make these decisions together. Consult a lawyer about your legal options regarding custody of your son. I know you don't want to lose him and it would be tragic if you did. Urge your wife to attend counseling with you. Of course, she may indeed be having an affair and show no interest in counseling. If she continues to behave as she is, you must make plans for yourself, and that includes figuring out what's in your son's best interests. Start arranging for other child care. Only a wimp would let his mother-in-law call the shots.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.