Dear Ms. Peirano,
I am devastated. My husband suddenly and unexpectedly separated for me after 23 years together. We have a 13-year-old son who is also currently losing ground under his feet. He told him that he stayed with me for many years just because of him. I can't describe how much this sentence hurts me! In summary, he said to me that I'm too structured - in everything, but what probably bothers him most is that I'm also structured in my everyday life when it comes to budgeting. I never asked him to help me and clean according to schedule. I always thought he was helping me voluntarily. We both work full-time in managerial positions. The child, household and school just have to be organized, at least from my point of view.
He also says I patronize him. It would always have to go my way. I don't accept anything else. From my point of view, we discuss everything, but he always leaves the decision up to me and makes me feel like it's the right thing to do.
Then I would be bitchy and moody and take out my professional stress on him. Yes, I have a lot of stress at work and when I get home after a 10 to 12 hour day I'm also moody. I admit that and I should change it, I just don't know how.
The harshest sentence was that he had more contact with his right hand than he had with me sexually in 23 years. I can't even describe what this sentence makes me feel.
I have severe endometriosis. I discovered this when I was 18, I told him and he chose me. I always had severe abdominal pain, and everything hurt during sex. The pregnancy was a miracle and the worst time of my life, I almost died. That's why I often didn't feel like having sex. But closeness is also not possible because my husband wants more and I didn't always want to "reject" him.
But I ask myself a question: Why didn't he approach me directly to talk to him? Direct – and not always puzzling. I admit that there have been little arguments between us over the last few years about the topic of stress and sex. But for me it was never associated with the idea of separation.
Did I just ignore the signals? Can I do better and win him back? Or is there more to it than that with another woman? He behaves very strangely with his cell phone. I'd say he's hiding it from me.
Can you give me some advice please? Thanks.
Kind regards, Elisabeth T.
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
Dear Elisabeth T.,
I can imagine that your world collapsed when your husband left you from one day to the next!
And I agree with you: it would have been much easier to cope with if the two of you had previously had conversations over a longer period of time in which it would have become clear how critical the relationship is. It would also be easier for your son if he hadn't been so surprised by the decision. Children love both parents and when there is stress between parents, they feel torn. Your husband also burdens your son when he tells him that he only stayed in this supposedly painful marriage because of him. And also by taking away his family and the security that comes with it from one day to the next.
Especially after 23 years together, you owe your partner the respect to work on the relationship. And that means: having conversations, looking for solutions, sharing how (dis)satisfied you are. It sounds like your husband has been quietly unhappy for years: with his sex life, with the mood at home, with the division of responsibilities. From my point of view, it sounds like you both have achieved quite a package. You and your husband both work in managerial positions and you also have a son and a household.
It seems like you did a lot of the work at home and did the planning while your husband "helped" you. This is also the crux of a problem: household and childcare are actually your shared tasks if you both work. There is a clear imbalance when your husband and you feel that it is your tasks that he has helped you with.
Your husband seems to have a problem with taking responsibility. He didn't stand up for his own interests, he didn't communicate his needs to you clearly enough, and he seemed to say "yes and amen" to everything and swallow things instead of looking for alternatives. It would probably have been the right time to go to couples therapy years ago, which again confirms the therapists' impression that many couples come too late.
I share your impression that your husband probably already has another relationship going on. The following signs speak for this:
Chances are, after a while (however long that lasts), your husband will start to think and question what he has done to himself, your son, and perhaps you too. It's not that easy to just leave your partner of 23 years, and the consequences will probably dawn on you little by little. Maybe the family or friends around him (e.g. his or her parents) are outraged, maybe your son will tell his father what he thinks or distance himself. Financial issues will arise, and he may also miss some of the things you two had.
I would advise you to leave your husband alone until he adopts a more respectful tone towards you. Only if you let him go can he reflect and find out what he actually wants.
And my second advice is to take good care of yourself! Therapeutic support, advice or coaching is absolutely necessary. Take time for your feelings, write in a diary and go for a walk alone or rest. Think back to what you used to enjoy doing: a sport, meeting friends, reading, traveling? Are there any wishes that have been neglected in recent years? Maybe now is the time to deal with it.
Because one thing is clear: the way your husband is behaving at the moment, he is not a good partner. They also seem to have often suffered from the relationship and borne a lot of the burden. I'm sure that after a while the separation can have something good for you if you develop a vision of how you want to live with your son. Actively think about the future and imagine beautiful situations: a long table with your friends, yoga classes in beautiful nature. Get inspired by how single mothers manage their lives.
I hope that you can use this terrible situation as an opportunity to get your life on a good path. And if your husband comes to his senses and wants to accompany you, you can still consider whether you want to. Or whether one day you can casually say: I've outgrown our relationship.
Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano