My wife’s crisis leaves me feeling helpless.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 49, a successful and well-respected professional in my field, my wife is 37 and has half-heartedly worked her way through several jobs and schools during our ten year marriage.

Eighteen months ago she began attending a medical school which would have provided her with the ability to obtain a well-paying job in a very in-demand specialty and take care of herself should anything happen to me.

During her between term breaks she travelled quite a bit with a mutual friend (male). They are both Buddhist and would attend teachings, etc. together. Although she had an extra-marital affair four years ago (we attended counselling together and seperately and she quit because the therapists were “against” her and “mean”) I decided it was in the best interest of our marriage to trust her and I do not think that anything physical has occurred between my wife and our friend. She has, however, invested all her interest and emotion in her life outside of our marriage. Following her most recent trip she quit school, informed me that she was unhappy with me, our house, my profession and everything about her life… she felt that life was “passing her by”.

Needless to say… I’m beyond upset. She will not talk about it with me, refuses counselling but seems at least temporarily content to spend her time reading and watching movies.

Fortunately, we do not have any children – only pets. I do 99% of the cooking (she only cooks for herself), I clean house almost daily, do almost all of the laundry and dishes, care for the pets, grocery shop, etc…. and I have always been faithful. This is a real issue for me as I have a very healthy libido and we have only had sex 5 times in the last 18 months… when I attempt to initiate any physical contact, a hug, a kiss on the cheek, etc. she pulls away from me even though she says she is still atracted to me (I’m not a couch potato type.. I’m an avid cyclist and am in pretty good shape for 49). I will not cheat on her though. My personal integrity means too much to me and I abhor lying.

I have become angry, depressed and withdrawn which is very problematic but I am trying to give her the “space” she needs to figure herself out. Frankly I’m at my wits end about the whole thing and although I would not be happier divorcing her I’m definately beginning to think that I would be less unhappy by myself. (Another problem there as well – I’m an introvert and she is highly extroverted. A complaint I hear all the time.)

She suggested a seperation upon her return from her last trip and I told her that if we seperated instead of trying to work out the problems I would just go ahead and file divorce papers.

I need someone to help me make sense of all this!

A. This is very, very painful for you. The fact is that it takes two to make a marriage work. By your description, you are trying to make a marriage all by yourself. Your wife has never committed herself to the marriage any more than she has committed herself to a career. Apparently the fact of being married has been enough for you up until recently. You are finally asking yourself if this is all there is. No one can guarentee that you will find a more compatible partner but I think I can guarentee that your marriage to this woman is what it is and is not likely to change. Please consider moving on so that you can find a woman who is willing to be a real partner in marriage.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Mar 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). My wife’s crisis leaves me feeling helpless.. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/03/09/my-wifes-crisis-leaves-me-feeling-helpless/