He Wants His Walk-Out Bride Back

Q: I'm 30, she's 20, we met a year and a half ago and were married a half year later. I'm in the Navy and make decent money. She works at Hooters--I know: big problem. She moved out only a few months after we married, even though the night before she left she made me promise I would always be there for her. She keeps sending mixed signals and I don't know what to think anymore. One time she will call and say how much she misses me and wishes things would work out. Then the next time she will be cold and not even let me hug her. She said she still has feelings and this is hard on her. Most of her stuff is still in our apartment, she still wears her ring and wouldn't sign the divorce papers when I had them drawn up, but she is the one who said she wanted a divorce!

I'm pretty sure she's seeing this other guy but I don't get it. He is fat, out of shape, only has a part time job, no car, sleeps on his friend's couch, got out of jail recently, didn't graduate high school, etc. A real loser, but she's always with him. Our problems began when she started hanging out with a group of people who told her she was too young to be married. She started drinking and getting high every day, and she completely changed. When she calls and is messed up, all she wants to do is fight, but when sober she is the woman I married and still love. Is it worth it to try and wait this out or in your experience is there no chance of reconciling? Any advice on what I need to do to reverse this process? -- Ken

Dr. Susan: You don't get it? It sounds to me like your girlfriend, oops, I mean wife (I don't think she ever took her vows seriously), thinks so little of herself that she doesn't feel worthy of a good man. Thus she hangs out with alcoholics and druggies and losers, and is well on the road to becoming one herself. Now, if she had asked me if the process could be reversed, I'd have said, yes, get yourself into a drying out program, cut ties with the loser friends, and get back home and talk to your husband, maybe see a counselor. But she's not writing to me—you are. There's a limit to how much a person can change another person. Your wife may, sadly, be one of those people who has to hit bottom before she wakes up. And even more sadly, what you consider hitting bottom and what she considers hitting bottom may be miles apart. Simply waiting it out may not be the right move. If she doesn't sign the divorce papers and she gets pregnant by the loser dude or anyone else, you'd probably be the one legally responsible for the kid, like forever. Check that with a lawyer, for your own sake. Meanwhile, you're enabling her to continue her self-destructive behavior by maintaining contact with her under these terrible conditions. Ultimatum time.

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