Dear Dr. Love, I have been married for 10 years to a man who is 7 yrs my junior. (I am 40.) When we met, he had just received his bachelors degree in English and expressed ambitions about law school or perhaps getting his master’s in English and teaching at the university level.However, none of this has materialized. He is still working in a low-paying (under 20, 000/year) job. I make twice his salary and it seems I end up paying for all his sports equipment, clothes, music, cigars, etc.We recently (last June) bought a house and are barely making ends meet. I also make extra money by selling things on eBay, but all he does is spend it as fast as I can make it. Also, he has been fired from 2 previous jobs and has gained 75 pounds since we met.I have tried to encourage him (gently – he’s very sensitive and takes the slightest comment as an attack) to get a better job, take some classes, and get in shape, and he seems interested at first but then nothing happens. Or he wants me to do the job search for him or blames my cooking for making him fat.I feel more like his mother than his wife. I have developed a lot of resentment and this has affected my libido. I have met someone on the internet who wants me to leave my husband and move to Europe to be his mistress.He’s my age, kind, romantic, and a very successfull business man. We are extremely compatible and I’m actually considering his offer. But my husband could barely support himself on his income alone, and I would feel guilty if I abandoned him.I have asked him to get counseling but he doesn’t want to share our problems with an outsider.What should I do? Thank you.
It sounds like your guilt is the only thing that ‘s keeping you in the marriage. He knows that you are immobilized by guilt, so as long as you are stuck, he doesn’t need to shape up.The only way to move past this impasse, is for you to confront your guilt right between the eyes. You need to figure out why you feel so responsible for a grown man. You also need to ask yourself how this sense of obligation ties in with your family of origin.Did you watch a mother caretake your father? Were you expected to caretake your own parents?When you figure out where your sense of abnormal obligation comes from, you will understand why you feel so guilty at the idea of not caretaking your husband. To stop taking care of him is to deviate from the role that you were taught to play, which would naturally arouse strong feelings of anxiety and guilt.Once you liberate yourself from this role, you will be ready to take the next step. To put your foot down. Up until now your guilt has immobilized you from demanding that he become more responsible. Your guilt had you tied in knots and he knew that he could wrap you around his finger.Once you feel freer, you will be able to tell him that you are considering leaving if he doesn’t agree to marriage counseling. He doesn’t have to like sharing his problems with a stranger, he simply has to do it, like it or not. When you aren’t shackled with guilt, he will know that you mean business.If he gets help and changes, then you can see whether or not your feelings for him return. You can postpone your decisions until then, unless you feel that there is so much water under the bridge and so much resentment on your part that there is no way to revive your feelings for him.In which case, you won’t need to do marriage counseling, you will simply decide to end the relationship. By the way, in addition to examining where your guilt stems from, you will want to examine what you may be doing or saying that lets him know that he can sit back and be cared for by you.One thing I see is that your taking on more and more work and responsibilities tells him that it’s all right for him to be dependent on you. Even if you end the relationship, beware of how you might paint yourself into the same corner with the next partner.