Advice by Chuck and Jae

Divorcing Second Wife?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reader writes:  After many unhappy years, my 12-year marriage broke down. I realize I may have been depressed the majority of the marriage. I was a trailing spouse to a corporate executive wife, and provided the majority of child-raising work - even with a career of my own.

When our third child was born, I stopped working, and within 2 years of that birth, she was involved in an affair. It took 3 more years to get through a divorce that left me scarred. My therapist advised that I had been emasculated early on and lost myself while married. I tried to get back on my feet in a new town (my ex relocated and I followed), but had no support group or family nearby.

I dated throughout our separation for companionship and a social life, and got involved with a lovely woman (never married, no kids) about the time my divorce was finalized. Although I didn't feel this woman was "the one," and I had many personal issues with her, we stayed together. She helped me fight a lengthy postdivorce custody battle, when my ex decided to relocate again, and we were married about the time we received the court order that my children would live with us during the school year and fly to spend summers with their mom.

My remarriage has consisted of disagreements, negativity, stress, and hurt feelings on both our parts, although we have shared some good times too. I don't like the manner in which my wife handles my older children, and she coddles the youngest. I have had difficulty getting back to work full-time during this period, and finances are extremely tight. We never joined our finances, and she had a great deal of debt that came into the marriage, much of which I have paid off. She hasn't contributed much to our shared living expenses since her house sold. She also has many issues stemming from childhood. I have been unhappy and have been considering divorce for some times. We seem to clash in so many different ways.

I have finally made the decision to divorce, move my children to the town where their mother lives (my home state, where I have been yearning to move because my family lives there, so I will have support), and start my life over. I know I was not ready to be remarried when I did. My wife thinks we can fix everything through counseling, but I assured her it is about me becoming the man I haven't been for decades, not doing the healing necessary after my divorce. Plus, and more important, it is about my children being close with both biologicals.

We have way too many issues and disagreements for me to feel that I will ever be "in love" with her, which I don't believe I ever was. I don't see myself growing old with her. I feel I married out of convenience so I wouldn't be alone and would have a partner in raising my children, and someone to support me in my fighting my ex. I now regret my decision to remarry. My wife feels I can find myself, get my career of the ground, get through our financial difficulties, overcome depression, and become a happily married couple if we stay together and seek counseling. She wants to "help" me. I feel it's time to throw in the towel and do what is going to make me and my children happy and me a productive, self-respecting man. I feel I need to do this alone.

I don't wish to fell like I am a quitter, but before I ever consider another partner, I need to address a number of issues on a personal level to move forward with life and find my happiness. Depression, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and overall unhappiness is no way to go through  life, especially if I am tied to someone else. If she were the children't mother, then I would consider trying to reconcile, but because she is not, I feel the need to love on and learn to be along, while raising my children and being the best father I can be.

Chuck and Jae reply:  A key point in your letter is "...not doing the healing necessary after my divorce..." It's often the case that, when someone gets seriously involved in a relationship too soon after the breakup of the previous one, it's not long before major problems pop up in the new relationship. Sometimes, these problems turn out to be a repeat of (or very similar to) those that existed in the previous relationship. In our experience in working with couples, we have learned that it is important to allow sufficient time between relationships for grieving, healing, and self-examination. Unlike many individuals who, too early after the end of their marriage, are convinced they have met their lifelong soul mate, you sense early on that you were probably making a mistake. It sounds like you chose to stay in the this relationship for convenience's sake and out of a sense of obligation to her for the support she provided to you while you were going through the aftermath of the divorce.

It's clear from your letter that your mind is made up. You want to stop being so dependent on others and to reclaim your sense of self. You believe you will not be able to achieve these goals while remaining in this marriage, because there are too many hurdles to be overcome by both of you. Your wife disagrees with you, believing that current obstacles can be overcome with professional help.

As you go through this process, you will want to bear in mind the depth of attachment your children have to your wife, and deal with that accordingly. We assume you are having ongoing discussions with your therapist about these matters. If not, we encourage you to do so. We wish you the best, whichever decision you choose to make.

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