Dear Ellie: I’ve been struggling with my marriage for more than 10 years, wanting to divorce my husband. He’s been unemployed for more than half of our marriage, has anger issues, uses weaponized incompetence regarding housework, is addicted to technology and cannabis to treat his depression, etc.
I want to separate from him, but where would he go? He cannot manage alone. He has zero friends or family to stay with because he’s burned bridges. Plus, no job and no prospects.
But how do I push my children’s father out onto the streets?
He takes advantage of this situation, knowing he can live rent-free. He even said he’d probably be dead within a year if we separated.
I barely make enough money to support our family. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to also pay spousal support. I’m too much on the fence about making this decision. Please help me.
Must Get Unstuck
Yes, get “unstuck” for everyone’s sakes in your household. Start with yourself: You have some empathy for your husband, but it’s defeated by your anger at his relying on you financially, and not helping at home.
Yes, he’s the father of your children, but apparently, he’s no partner. Divorce is expensive, but living with mental strain, lack of support and no mention of affection/love/trust is wearing you down.
You don’t say how old your children are, nor whether he’s an involved parent.
This situation won’t resolve on its own. Research online what divorce actually involves. Then consider the alternative of whether there’s any point to enduring another decade in this marriage.
Or, say that the only way you’ll stay in this marriage is if he gets help (find what’s available for him so there’s no excuse), especially regarding his addictions and other mental-health issues.
FEEDBACK regarding the woman who had a brief affair and is now ashamed of her behaviour (August 11):
Reader – “I agree that she should get some counselling to get beyond this, understand why it happened, and help with getting over the guilt.
“But, to tell her husband is ridiculous advice. The reference to exposure on social media is irrelevant as it’s been 18 months, so apparently the man has not blabbed about the affair. Unless he’s bent on wrecking her life, or they were indiscreet, it’s unlikely to appear on social media. Telling her husband would be cruel and upset his life, probably unnecessarily.”
Reader No. 2 - “I’m a happily married woman in my mid-40s” Really? Even though, “About 18 months ago, I started an affair with a married man.”
“She consciously went down this path. Now she’s in a no-win situation of her own making: Say something, and the marriage is over. Say nothing, and her conscience will eventually get the better of her. Which is the worse option?
“She is mid-40s so wasn’t just a high-school fling.
“It’s very likely that her husband was suspecting something. He may just be watching to see if his suspicions are confirmed. But this is the time of social media where very little stays hidden.”
Ellie - The woman’s decision is very frightening to her. As the second feedback-writer noted, what goes on social media stays on social media, and can be found at any time.
If lucky, she’ll get away with it. If not, her husband has to be willing to learn/understand her reasons for an affair, and commit to working together on their marriage.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the mixed marriage of a Japanese man and, (I assume), a Canadian woman (August 16):
“I think your answer to this diverse couple was incomplete. Stoic men, like this man, are abundant in Norway and Finland. Yet this woman thinks more talk with her hubby will make her happy.
“Meanwhile, she still has the option to make herself happy by having the intimate talks she wants, with only one or two of her good friends.
“That done, she can continue her otherwise fine relationship with her husband as is. She’s accepted him for five years already.”
Ellie - The wife is Spanish, not Canadian. So, yes, there’s likely an even bigger difference in her, the emotive partner, and her husband who isn’t culturally comfortable with deeper communication.
Nevertheless, she appreciates his many good, caring, helpful qualities. Since she loves him, she, too, has to adjust what she “needs” from him.
Ellie’s tip of the day
When only you sustain your marriage, it won’t improve unless you insist on changes, or separation.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.