I sometimes hear from wives who have just heard a very painful confession from their husband. Sometimes, he admits that he’s not happy and is considering a separation. Other times, he admits that he isn’t sure if he is still in love with his wife. And finally, sometimes, for whatever reason, he will tell her that he never wanted to marry her in the first place.
In this situation, you might hear a comment like: “for the last seven months or so, my husband I have been fighting non stop. His personality has changed. Once he hit fifty, he started to question everything. My husband has always been a dependable and responsible guy, but now his motto is ‘what about me?’ Now he feels that he has worked hard and cared for everyone else, so now it is his turn to enjoy life and to do whatever he wants. My husband now sees his responsibilities as optional. If he doesn’t want to do something these days, he simply won’t. The other day, he was talking about the obligation of going to a family reunion in another state. To be honest, no one in my family enjoys going. We have to burn our vacation days and we only see these cousins and other extended family members once a year. My husband announced that we aren’t going to the reunion this year. He said that ‘life was too short to do things that you don’t want to do.’ And then he simply whispered ‘I never wanted to get married in the first place either.’ I was incredibly hurt by this. I was pregnant when we got married but I lost the baby later. We went on to have two beautiful children and to hear him speak of this as an obligation like a family reunion really breaks my heart and makes me think that my husband is really lost. I am starting to realize that my marriage is in serious jeopardy. What can I do about this?”
Putting Mid Life Changes In Perspective: I know that this is a difficult blow, but I’d like to help with some perspective. This is actually very common at about middle age. People are quick to label it mid life crisis and assume that you should just wait it out, but I think that this is a very risky strategy. The truth is, when both men and women are going through this (because women go through it too) they will sometimes discard the things that they feel are no longer working for them. So you have to be careful that he doesn’t eventually put your marriage into this category.
Now, it is possible that he will eventually come to his senses and be able to see things a little more clearly and to determine that he is overreacting. But I wouldn’t want to just sit back, do nothing, and count on that. Instead, I’d suggest taking inventory of your marriage and try to determine if there are any improvements that might be made. And I’m not talking about improvements only meant for him. I’m not talking about making changes only to satisfy him. I’m talking about potentially making improvements that are going to make you both happier.
This Can Be Understandable And Even Normal When It’s Used With Restraint: Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with realizing that you only have a certain chunk of your life left and wanting to make the most of that life. I actually agree with that thinking. We are given these days to enjoy them and to experience them with pleasure instead of obligation. However, some people can take this too far. And there is always the risk of discarding the people or things that are the most important to you because you’re seeing your entire life as one big obligation or you aren’t being realistic.
In truth, it’s impossible to erase every inconvenience or obligation from your life, even in middle age. All relationships take work. And it’s easy to think that you will start over again without realizing that any relationship is going to require a great deal of effort. I believe that it’s a mistake to group your spouse in with things like family reunions and home maintenance.
Focus On The Now: As for him saying he never wanted to get married, he might have said this in haste and he may even think that he means it, but the truth is, you’re married now. That is the reality. So no matter how the marriage came to be, it’s here now and it should be dealt with now. I doubt very much that this husband truly means that his children and the life that you have had as a family wasn’t worth it. He is likely caught up in trying to minimize his obligations and the family has been lumped into one broad category.
So how do you try to remove yourself and your marriage from that category? Well you might want to fashion a response followed by some action that attempts to address this. You might consider something like: “that hurts to hear you say that. I know that we married because of the pregnancy, but I’ve never felt that it was something that was forced upon me and I’ve never regretted one second that I’ve spent with our family. I think that fate ensured that things turned out beautifully. Sure, there are times when things aren’t perfect and there are times when this feels like more work and less play, but we are at a point in our lives when there is no reason that we both can’t play more. We’ve worked very hard for the opportunity to experience this together. The pay off is here. To me, it would be a real shame to jeopardize the life that we have built together. I’m perfectly willing to look at our marriage and see what might make us both happier. Will you do that with me?”
I know that this is easier said than done, but try not to take anything that he says right now too personally. People often regain perspective again as they begin to see that they aren’t going to have the perfect life no matter how dramatically they try to change things. Sometimes we can make the process worse when we overreact to it.