Dear Dr Victoria I’m in my late 50’s and my soon to be ex husband is 61. We don’t have any children and have been married for nearly 30 years. That was until recently, I decided I didn’t want to be married to him any more and instigated divorce.
When I met my husband I suppose my desire to be in a relationship, be loved and adored and ultimately have a husband, led me to believe that we would have a loving and lasting marriage. It soon became apparent that he was neither loving, affectionate or even wanted to act as a couple. After about 10 years of marriage the physical side of our relationship fizzled out and we co-existed for the next 20 years. I focused on work and carved out a successful career. He continued to plod on.
Then, six months ago we were both made redundant, mine was voluntary and his was not planned. In fact his redundancy was rather a shock to us both for many reasons. Spending so much time together after living our own lives made me realise that I didn’t get anything out of our relationship and if anything I was just his skivvy; I decided to leave him. I stress this was not for another man, it was for me.
On telling him of my decision, I was truly shocked by his response. I expected him to show some hurt, but he didn’t. He just was angry that he’d have to move and how would be cope with everyday life, such as cooking and washing for himself.
This just proved that I’d made the right decision, that was until recently. We’ve since separated and in the main it was the right decision. I’m active and busy in my life, yet I miss him dreadfully, even though we have nothing in common.
Could I have made a terrible decision ?
Dr Victoria replies:
It's human nature – you think the grass is greener on the other side but then you get there... Now you've split up with your husband, you have mixed feelings and you're not sure if you've made the right decision. To feel like this at the end of a relationship is normal. No one goes along for years, completely satisfied in their relationship, only to wake up one day and decide it's all wrong. The mixed feelings you are experiencing now are normal and don't necessarily mean it's the wrong decision but if you have serious doubts about the split, you need to think very carefully. Only you can decide if your marriage is worth fighting for.
It's not unusual to have more in common with a partner than you think you do. After all those years of living together, you start to get irritated by small things, you focus on how you are different from one another – you with your career and “active” lifestyle and him plodding on; you taking on the domestic responsibilities and him showing little interest in such matters. You've drifted apart and the passion has gone, but still, your husband was your friend, companion and partner in life. And probably the person who knows you better than anyone else.
His initial reaction, with talk of having to fend for himself isn't particularly unusual. He was hurt and angry and rather than saying the obvious – the he loves you, that he's devastated, that he can't imagine life without you – he skirted round the issue. This could mean he doesn't care but not necessarily. Undoubtedly he felt hurt, angry, shocked, rejected and vulnerable. Perhaps he's not accustomed to talking about his feelings, hence his reaction. If you were looking for some sign that you'd made the wrong decision, you should have told him. But backed into a corner and believing that you'd made your final decision, maybe the most he could muster was to mutter something about who would do the cooking.
You will only get to the bottom of how he feels about you leaving if you ask him. Many men of this generation are extremely proud and would find it humiliating to beg their wife to come back. So whilst there are many sensitive issues here – you've felt emotionally and sexually neglected over the years and you felt you were taken for granted – if you keep ignoring how you feel and keep brushing things under the carpet, you're never going to be able to work through this. You may well have every right to feel hurt and angry at how he has behaved over the years. If this is how you feel then tell him, but if you do manage to work it out, sooner or later you're going to have to let go of these strong negative feelings. At the back of your mind, try to see things from his point of view too. At least be willing to listen to what he has to say. Remember that it takes two for the physical side of a relationship to fizzle out – could his side of the story be different to yours?
In short – yes, you could have made the wrong decision to leave your husband. At least, to leave without trying to make things work first. You may never get the perfect relationship, but if you're now both motivated to try, things could be a whole lot better than they were. Talk to your husband. Tell him how you feel. Tell him why you left and explain to him why his reaction left you feeling hurt. Tell him you miss him – see what he says and take it from there.
I'm not suggesting you simply go back to how things were. If certain aspects of your husband's behaviour were unacceptable, you need to make this clear, but don't be surprised when your husband tells you there are things he'd like you to do differently too.
Sometimes, just the short break from one another can be enough of a wake-up call to get people talking again. If you seem to get stuck on resolving some of the issues, if you keep blaming each other or if you're both retreating back into your shells again, don't be afraid to seek professional help from a relationship counsellor.