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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

My wife and I have been married for 5 years. Our relationship has had many ups and down and lots of stress. The main causes of stress are: my wife being too close to her parents, being too jealous of each other, wanting to control each other, and my wife not being able to find a job. My wife feels overwhelmed by all this even though she knows that I love her and am willing to make things better. She now feels confused and that she may not love me. She wants us to be separated until she makes a decision. She says that she needs space and time to make sure she loves me. This is devastating to me. Also, she told me because of all our problems that she has looked at another man as better and let him flirt at her. She said that is not the reason why we are splitting, but I think it added to her confusion. She said there is nothing I could do to get her back, it will be her decision when she feels ready to make it. I am giving her the space, what else can I do?

Answer

I can sense your pain and feeling of devastation. Your marriage has been difficult. Despite loving each other, there have been many issues that seem to drive you apart. Recently your wife has made a decision to separate in order to give herself the time and space to think things through. In the meantime you are feeling helpless, feeling that you have no alternative but to give her the time and space she needs.

You might want to use this time as an opportunity for you to evaluate yourself. You might want to examine the role you played in creating the stress between you. Marriage is like a dance, each partner making a contribution. When one person begins to change, the dance changes. You can change some aspects of your behavior and thereby change the nature of the interaction between you.

The issues of jealousy and control can be very destructive to any relationship. You state that you both have difficulties in these areas. What contribution has your jealousy and wish to control your wife played in creating the current situation? How can you change in these areas to be more accepting, trusting, and loving? What can you do about being more of a "best friend" to your wife and less of a critic? Perhaps you could suggest to your wife that you would like to seek professional help together to learn how you can be a better husband.

Most men have few good role models for relating to women. What we learn, we learn in the street, from observing those around us, and from our friends. Given the high proportion of marriages that end in divorce, it becomes clear that these are not good sources of information.

Since both of you have invested five years into your marriage it might be a good idea to seek some expert guidance from a licensed marriage counselor before you end the marriage. Time and space, without intervention, may not be sufficient to get your marriage on track.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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