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Pamela Georgette, MFT, ATR Headshot
Todd Sawyer Headshot

What Do I Owe My Wife?

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Dear Pamela and Todd,

I am in a world of trouble and need guidance! 18 years ago I got an 18 year old pregnant; I was 10 years older and just having fun. We married after the child was born. We were a normal couple for about 12 years, having 3 more kids. I was deployed overseas when she turned 30 and started exhibiting very strange behavior (lost a bunch of weight, cut her hair, had breast implants, started smoking, drinking, going out with single friends, putting her needs first). The complete opposite of what she once was. I suspected infidelity, but didn't push; I thought it was a phase.

Fast forward 5 years, once again, I deployed overseas. She filed for divorce. When I asked what was going on, she said she had met her soul mate...he was married. My kids told me she pulled the eldest daughter out of school to care for her siblings. I received emergency orders back home to put our life back together.

Before we divorced, she repeatedly broke up with her new lover and came home but continued wanting to be single. She gladly told me the details of 5 previous affairs.

Since the divorce, she sees the kids only when it is convenient, usually when her man and she are fighting. She has uncovered his multiple infidelities and told all that would listen that he is gay, a drug user and buys prostitutes.

Last November she came home for a month and wanted to remarry. After trying to reconcile and fix her, it was obvious she didn't love me; still wanted him, so I asked her to leave. It was hard for me, but harder for the kids.

Now, here is the problem...she came to my door last night crying and begging for a place to stay. I let her spend the night.

She doesn't love me, blames me for everything (stealing her youth, never respecting her, breaking her and her boyfriend up) but I still love her. Not who she is, but who she was.
How do I get past this? Am I still responsible for fostering a relationship between her and our kids? If I don't allow her in my house, she won't see them at all! Again the drama is harder on the kids than me, but still.

There is a lot of mental illness in her family, her parents divorced when she was young and her dad was very abusive, physically and emotionally, telling her that he hated her. She has said the same things to our oldest.

She won't go to counseling; scared they might tell her she is crazy. At times, she says she did a terrible thing by abandoning our kids, but never apologizes for cheating or destroying our marriage.

I know that's a lot to digest, is only one side of the story, but I would appreciate any advice you can give me as soon as possible as she is in my house and I don't know what to do.

Respectfully,
Confused Sailor

Dear Sailor,

I love that you tell us: you're separated, she's had numerous affairs, she's seeing a new guy that's into drugs and prostitutes, kids stuck in the middle...then you say "Now here's the problem." Fantastic! Like that's all workable. I can't stand when Pamela puts the peanut butter back in the fridge in the wrong spot.

I really get the "I love who she was" line. But who she is sounds awful.

As you Navy men like to say, "Beyond my pay-grade." When in doubt, I make a pros and cons list.

Pros: new breasts.

Cons: everything else. (especially the happy telling of past affairs)

The fact that you can look past all this and still love her makes you either a saint or an idiot. I'm guessing saint. I say take care of yourself and the kids first. If she wants to come along, she'll pull herself together.

Best,
Todd

Dear Sailor,

This is a lot to digest and it sounds like you need the assistance of a professional in your area. I would highly recommend seeking some sort of help for the family.

That being said, you are absolutely right in your awareness that "the drama...is even worse for your kids." With regards to your responsibilities to your ex-wife, that is a personal decision you have to make, after you put you and your children first. You are most definitely responsible to care for and protect yourself and your children.

As you said, this is just one side of the story, but it does sound like you run the risk of enabling your ex-wife. Sometimes with the intention of helping someone we are actually protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions, subsequently perpetuating the problem. When we shield someone from the responsibility and awareness of the harm they are doing (to themselves or others) there is no pressure for them to change. Allowing someone we love to experience their pain is one of the hardest, most loving things we can do.

I wish you the best of luck with finding the strength to continue to ask for help and beginning to put yourself and your children first.

Pamela Georgette, LMFT, ATR


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