My wife and I had been married for 16 years. We both have had demanding jobs but were lucky that we both still enjoy our work. We also have two very active teenage sons.
As a couple, we didn’t always have time or energy for romance and even sex was sporadic, but I never considered that we’d split up.
My wife called that move 18 months ago. I agreed with her insistence that we to go to counselling, but I told the therapist that I saw no reason for us to separate, and that there had to be a different solution.
My wife said, “that’s the problem.” She implied that I was unaware that we’d been growing apart for years.
I still believe it wasn’t the case. I’ve always been an involved father and very active with our sons - we played tennis a lot from as soon as they could, and I’ve encouraged their love of golf.
My wife would use that time for whatever she wanted - seeing her friends and/or going out to a play, as she’s never been sports-minded.
During the marriage we had very nice family vacations. I think they were our happiest times with everyone relaxed, having fun. I miss that.
I never expected marriage to be a honeymoon forever. I thought we were a very good match when I proposed, and the early years when the boys were born just 20 months apart were very exciting.
My wife took maternity leaves but rushed back to work when that ended, and we had excellent babysitting help.
Can you help me understand what went wrong? I’m now dating a woman I like a lot and may eventually marry. But I’d like to better understand what happened in my marriage.
A Second Chance
I empathize with how difficult it must be to be told by a spouse that the life you enjoy is seen entirely differently from your view. It’s hurtful, even shocking and undoubtedly feels unfair.
I have read similar stories of surprise calls for separation/divorce by a spouse - whether wives or husbands - over the years. And in many cases like yours, there’s just no stopping the other person’s insistence that the marriage has come to an end.
Not even experienced counsellors can turn around that drive to end things, if one party is already determined with a foot out the door.
Without more information, it’s impossible for me to know what went wrong. I can only guess in these cases that the partner wanting “out” may’ve found someone else, or never communicated clearly what he or she perceived as missing in the relationship.
Yet it’s still possible for you to try to get a clearer picture of your previous marriage by 1) asking your ex (don’t scoff yet); and 2) taking that information plus your own perceptions to a counsellor (online for now) for overview. And if your ex brushes you off, then go anyway because a professional marital therapist can pick up clues very quickly and offer an objective view.
It’s wise of you to try to understand what went wrong in the past and be aware of some pitfalls you and a future partner can avoid.
In most breakups, it’s not so much about one person’s fault(s) as about a lack of open and honest communication about feelings and situations that are left to build up and come between you.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman’s husband who keeps talking and doesn't listen to what others respond (February 18):
Reader – “He may have never been properly diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome, which is a peculiar form of autism. Perhaps he had learned how to be socially more aware of his tendencies as a younger person, but in later years he's lost this ability.
“Asperger's Syndrome folks appear to be very self-centred - they can easily miss the social cues that enable people to have back-and-forth conversations. They get very upset when they sense that someone else is interrupting their lengthy assertions.
“High intelligence is often associated with this type of person, and that causes further social difficulties because they have so much to say, to help others to understand their viewpoints. Another trait, is to get involved in extremely specialized hobbies or careers that require expertise in a huge number of trivia.”
Tip of the day:
Even after a divorce, it’s wise and helpful to a future relationship to seek deeper understanding of why the former marriage ended.