My Husband And I Live Apart And I Am Ready To Give Up—What Should I Do?

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Dear Newsweek,

My husband and I are childhood sweethearts. This is my second marriage. We had our first child in February 2016. He quit his job of 17 years to stay home with the baby and me while I healed. We got married in June 2016. I returned to work in September 2016. He hadn't worked a real job since, meaning he hadn't worked for more than three months straight. Our second child was born in May 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

We started living in separate homes as of September 2020 and we're still both in New York but each living separately with our mothers. The children live with me and visit him every other weekend. Hubby had a history of alcoholism. He's been sober for over nine months now. I bought a house in December 2021 but he refuses to live with me and my mom. I completely understand that.

I have no interest in being in another intimate relationship with someone else but I dislike catering to him as a wife should for her husband and not getting 100 percent of the benefits of being a wife. No social security is building up for his account. I pay for every date night or family trip. I don't even have the pleasure or luxury of waking up to Hubby's face every morning. I'm ready to give up on his relationship after two years of separation. Please help.

Valtisha, New York

You Need To Accept The Marriage May Already Be Over

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety as well as Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating. Her approach is goal-oriented and emphasizes reaching our fullest potential through a strengths-based approach.

Dear Valtisha,

Thank you so much for sharing so vulnerably. This sounds like a very sensitive situation, and I can understand why you're thinking about giving up. Sometimes that's an important step towards independence from a dysfunctional relationship. I will offer some ideas, with the caveat that you are the expert on your own situation. I may be missing or misunderstanding certain facts, so please feel free to take my thoughts with a big grain of salt.

With that said, you wrote you could "understand completely" that your husband declined your request that he move in with you and your children, but you didn't say why that was so easy for you to understand. From a general sense of social norms, I would say that his refusal to live with his wife and children, paired with his failure to support you in other basic marital ways, could certainly be seen as an extreme lack of commitment to his role as your husband.

You also mentioned that he has been sober for "over 9 months". While I'm glad he has a multi-month period of sobriety, your statement also implies that he has a recent history of active alcoholism. I can't help but wonder if this is relevant to other issues you mentioned, such as a chronic lack of employment. It also doesn't sound like his newfound sobriety is causing him to increase his efforts at supporting you as a wife or a mother since your letter didn't indicate anything along those lines.

From your letter, it seems like your husband is not "there for you" financially, emotionally, or even literally through physical presence. In other words, it seems as if the marriage may already essentially be over; and a divorce would actually consist of revising the legal paperwork to reflect the reality of a defunct marriage.

Whatever you decide, Valtisha, I encourage you to get support for yourself. I also encourage you to surround yourself with friends, family, spiritual leaders, and potentially a therapist. Whether you repair your relationship or face divorce, there is much emotional work ahead. On the positive side, there is also a great opportunity for growth and positive change.

Wishing you all the best,
Chloe

You Have Already Taken The First And Most Difficult Step Of Separation

Jamie Schenk DeWitt, MA, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, based in Los Angeles, California.

Dear Reader,

I am sorry that you are at this place in your marriage. After two years of separation, I understand that you are ready to give up on this relationship. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge what is not working with your husband, and then make the necessary changes to continue taking care of yourself and your children. It sounds like you are wanting a relationship that is more interdependent.

A relationship that is interdependent is a well-balanced mix between partners where each person can take care of themselves while also being reliable, secure, and dependable for their significant other. When you say that "No social security is building up," and you don't even have the pleasure or luxury of waking up to his face every morning you are clearly aware that your needs are not being met and it is time to move on. You have already taken the first and most difficult step of separation and figuring out a visitation schedule that works for both of you. Now, you have some options in terms of continuing to move towards the dissolution of your marriage based upon what you both want, and what is in the best interest of your two children.

I wonder if you and your husband have tried couples therapy. If not, that can sometimes be a good place to talk about your feelings and continue the process of dissolving your relationship. Many couples try to "consciously uncouple," and if you choose that route there are therapists who are specifically trained to work with you and your husband in this manner. In addition, some couples will meet with a therapist to discuss co-parenting options to get guidance on the best practices for helping kids with the divorce and the next phase of life. It can also be extremely helpful for you to have an individual therapist, if you don't already, so you can have someone to talk to about all of this on a weekly basis. Concerning the divorce, depending on how you each feel, some couples will choose to use a mediator who can help guide them. It is important that you educate yourself on your options and consult with someone who can give you legal advice on the appropriate steps to take to end your marriage.

Ultimately, I want you to know that you have options in terms of how you choose to continue ending your relationship and transition yourself and your children into this next chapter of life. As you continue down this road, know that you will experience feelings of grief and that is okay and to be expected. You may also feel relieved that you are moving in this direction after many years of waiting for changes that have not occurred.

Jamie


Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" gathers experts to advise a reader on an issue they're having in their personal life. If you have a WSID dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

woman taking ring off
A stock image shows a woman taking off her wedding ring. Psychologists give Valtisha, from New York advice on her dilemma. Getty Images