My wife's first love returned from prison and now she wants a divorce. They met when they were both 16. He's a gang member who, at 17, committed first-degree murder and served 15 years in prison. When he returned, she then told me he's her true love and soul mate. She even feels he'd be great raising our kids with her. They're in contact but don't see each other much because he's still under house arrest, though she's come home at 5 am sometimes. She's refused marriage counselling. The psychologist told me we have no chance of saving the marriage as long as this guy is involved. We have two children - ages two and six months - and her daughter, 11, from a previous relationship, whom I helped to raise. Can this marriage be saved?
Save your children's interests, first. You need legal counsel about how to assure, if she leaves you, that you get joint custody and unchallenged access to the children. Make sure you discuss what recourse you have should she and this guy want to take the children out of your present jurisdiction, or leave the country. After informing yourself how to handle a divorce if necessary, you can then deal more confidently with your wife. Try to convince her that counselling is wise for her own sake, since she's planning to hook up with a man who's proven violent as well as irresponsible, and whose prison life has surely affected the character she knew when they were young. Encourage her to explore, with an individual therapist, why she seeks this kind of risky future. Then, if she does proceed toward divorce, insist on seeing a professional mediator to work out the issues involving the children.
My boyfriend and I have broken up after six years of bitter courtship. We used to take salsa dancing together; now we dance separately. However, I've had to put up with his nasty comments in class. He laughs when I miss a step, or, when the teacher suggests something, he blurts out "do it." Recently, he approached me after class and announced that he'll not quit, and asked me to leave indefinitely. Of course, I will not leave. I've tried to ignore him but he's really annoying me. Should I say something back? Ignore him? Should I continue dancing or stop for a while to avoid him?
- Salsa Mis-steps
It's not hard to see why a "bitter courtship" lasted six years - you're both stubborn mules! He's making adolescent comments, but your refusal to leave is equally childish, and inconsiderate of others. Your salsa teacher likely has other time slots; there are dance classes available elsewhere. Having spent so long in "courtship" battle, you should be eagerly looking for fresh spaces and new faces, and the opportunity to practice dealing with real grown-ups, so you can respond as one yourself.
My 87-year-old mother-in-law is a tough cookie who's selfish and uninterested in anyone else, including her own daughter and me. Yet she needs us around, as she can't live on her own without frequent checking. She also needs help getting to see her doctor for several serious ailments like a heart condition and diabetes. My wife and I gave up our mobile lifestyle to move closer to her mother and supervise the hired nurse and housekeeper who each come for a few hours, on several days, weekly. But she's so rude, we can't bear her company more than minutes. And her nasty criticisms hurt and anger my wife - the reason why she'd previously stayed distant from her mother for years. What can we do to change this situation?
You both need professional counselling about handling Momma Misery. Your wife needs to address her feelings from the past towards her Mom, in order to make peace with herself about the present, and before it's too late. Otherwise, grief can have a miserable way itself of carrying guilt, long after someone has passed. This woman needs care - and whether you provide it hands-on, through hired help or a nursing facility, depends partly on your/her financial means. So long as you meet your responsibility to her, you aren't obliged to love or even like her. But for your own sakes, you need to understand the roots of this relationship, and try to change your own reactions. You won't be able to change hers.
Tip of the day:
When divorce is unavoidable, look to the children's best interests first.