I don’t know if I should go or stay.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I was married very young and have three children, one who is only 7 weeks old. I remember getting married because I had a baby with him already and felt obliged. I started getting depressed with my situation when we had our son because he didn’t work and smoked a lot of marijuana. I tried to leave but always felt guilty and stayed. It’s been 10 years since then and things have got a lot better, he only smokes on weekends and is studying although he still has managed not to work most of our marriage. He is involved with the kids sports and is a good dad but I feel like the love is not really there. I want better for myself but still have huge struggles with guilt and I don’t want to upset our lives with the kids and his parents. When I say to him that I don’t know if I love him and I would rather be on my own and move on, he either talks of how I would be messing up the kids or he ignores me and says yes I do love him and stop being stupid. I could quite easily keep living like this and put up with a lot of crap like him spending money on drugs and being so selfish or I could leave and get over that hard greiving part and move on. I want to know if Im feeling like this because its been ten years and many marriages need to work harder to create love between them at that point or if I just don’t love him because of all this selfishness. I dont’ know if this makes sense but any advice would be useful.

A: You say you married a man you didn’t love because you had a baby with him. Then you went on to have two more despite your doubts, his unwillingness to support his family, his drug use, or your own unhappiness. When your husband tells you your concerns are stupid, you back off. You don’t insist on getting some counseling together and you don’t leave. Neither or you takes your threats seriously.

I’m worried that you have fallen into a pattern of codependency. Although his habit uses money that should go to the family and is killing his ambition as a breadwinner, you tolerate it. You resent his selfishness but feel guilty when you think about leaving.

The result is a marriage that leaves you feeling empty and sets a model of adulthood that isn’t healthy for growing kids. His drug use and your tolerance of it is modeling for your children that the use of illegal drugs is a normal and regular part of adult life. The two of you are modeling that a mother works to support the family while a father focusses on himself, and that marriage is full of bitterness and conflict. I have a guess that one reason you are writing to me now is that your children are getting old enough to notice and you want better for them when they are adults.

You can’t make your husband take the first step for change but you can take that first step yourself. A helpful place to start might be an Al-Anon meeting. The program offers you practical help and other people who are trying to extricate themselves from patterns of codependency. You might also find yourself a therapist who specializes in substance abuse. A look in the Yellow Pages or a search on the web will help you locate a nearby Al-Anon meeting and therapists who can help.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Mar 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). I don’t know if I should go or stay.. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/03/31/i-dont-know-if-i-should-go-or-stay/