She's Splitting While He's Overseas
Q: I'm in the Air Force and currently deployed in the Middle East. My wife of 10 years told me a couple of weeks ago that she is moving out by the time I return. We have two kids. I love them and her and had no idea that she felt this way for years. She tells me nothing is wrong with me, it's her and she is not happy. She says that she is not in love with me and hasn't been for a long time. I'm devastated because before I left our life seemed really good to me and I'm very sensitive and affectionate and always caring and faithful. She doesn't dispute any of these things about me. Her family is also all confused. What can I do to win back my wife who I wanted to grow old with forever? I'm lost, hurt and willing to work this out at any cost but she has her mind made up. She is being amicable with me about the kids and bills and what not. Where did I go wrong? -- Jack, 33
Dr. Susan: I hate to be the one to break the news, Jack, but the usual catalyst for a breakup like this is a new love interest. The fact that you're out of the country makes it even more likely that your wife has fallen for someone else for whom she has that infatuated feeling she used to have with you. It's a common story in the military, isn't it? All relationships go through stages, and apparently your wife hasn't learned to accept the normal changes. It's quite possible that you didn't do anything wrong at all. Your wife may have been craving more excitement than she was getting in her daily life, especially with two kids and you being away for a long time. People rarely leave a marriage just because they've supposedly been "unhappy," especially when there are young children involved who are bound to feel the repercussions. What makes it easier to leave an unsatisfying marriage is finding a third party to offer what seems like an attractive alternative.
That said, what can you do? Aside from reminding her that she's destroying your marriage without giving it (and you) a fair chance to adapt to her changing needs, there isn't all that much you can do, especially if she is having an affair. People in the throes of whatever she's in the throes of rarely listen to reason. It's too bad that her mind seems to be made up, because she owes you and the kids a chance to work this out before bailing. She needs to talk to you honestly, or she needs to see a counselor and talk about what's really going on with her, because I don't believe she's been telling you or her family the whole story. Perhaps you could ask for this one last thing from her before you give up: that she wait until you get back and then see a therapist together, even if it's just to work out how you're going to remain good parents after this. I'm so sorry for what you're going through, Jack. Try not to blame yourself in the absence of any evidence that it's your fault.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.