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Planning Retirement Online


Relationships 68    

                             December 2007

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


 

IT COULD BE YOU….

I’m attracted more to another woman than to my husband.

Should I leave him?

By Maggi Stamp

I’m attracted more to another woman than to my husband. Lately, a divorced friend from work and I spend more and more time together. I’ve visited her home and have occasionally spent lovely relaxed evenings in front of the fire, talking and sharing a few drinks. We agree that our lives feel much easier without men around.

She has been much happier since her divorce and I am increasingly withdrawn from my husband. He is a critical and dominant man who never notices any of my achievements but sees every mistake and reminds me of them at any opportunity. I’ve been either ignored or bullied by him throughout our marriage.

Our sons say they have never felt he was interested in them unless they were doing what he wanted them to do. They are now 28 and 31 and only visit out of duty and to see if I’m ok.

My friend tells me how talented and special I am and my confidence is growing as I begin to accept that she really means it. She is most affectionate and says I can live with her if ever my marriage breaks up. My sons have met her and say they are glad I have such a good friend to support me.

Should I leave my husband? I don’t feel anything for him, that’s for sure.

Am I having an affair?

Sandra.
 

Maggi Says:


Sadly it sounds as though your marriage has never given you what you needed. Your husband has acted as an intellectual bully to you and to your children. The sad result is that neither they nor you feel any affection for him. It is likely that he is not capable of expressing himself emotionally and that has left you feeling unloved and unappreciated. His constant criticisms have eroded your confidence over the years.

It isn’t surprising therefore, that when you meet someone who is interested in what you say and feel and is happy to listen to you and accept and appreciate you, your confidence increases and so, in turn, does your own appreciation of the friendship offered.

I have a feeling that it could have been either a man or a woman who gave you this ‘soul food’. You don’t say if you have talked to your husband about the state of your marriage. Understandably, that will be very hard to do, given your experience of his attitude towards you.

Perhaps it is time to talk, first to your friend to clarify the nature of your relationship and the possibilities in future. Then, having considered what you want to happen next, speak to your husband.

Think these questions through;

  • Do you want him to change?

  • Do you want to leave him - or want him to leave you?

  • Where would you go, to your friend or another place for the time being?

  • Are you sure that this isn’t a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the hill?

  • Do you have financial security?

  • Would your sons and other family and friends be supportive of any changes you make?
     

Remember, physical, emotional, intellectual or financial bullying is unacceptable in any relationship. It needs to be addressed, as the bully is often unaware of their effect on others. Bullying can be a sign of someone’s own, untreated insecurity or fears, so defining it with the help of a counsellor can give them the chance to take a look at their own needs and make changes.

That could be his chance to make amends, if not to you then to your sons, who will benefit, even as adults, from an improved or ‘aired’ relationship with their father.

Now, to your questions. Your friendship, mutually warm, affectionate, easy and accepting, though not sexual, is becoming as absorbing as an affair and therefore could have the same effect as one, gay or straight. I’m pleased that you have found such pleasure and that your confidence is growing at last. But take this very carefully. Think long and hard about turning your back on such a long, albeit cooling, marriage before burning your boats.

Give your husband time and the opportunity to go to counselling with you in order to understand what has happened and what part he has played in things. I suspect he might refuse of would find it hard to do but it really would help him move towards a deeper awareness of the effect he has on those close to him and increase the chances of his finding greater satisfaction in future – either through an improved relationship with you, or with someone else.

Having said all of that I feel you are beginning to look forward to change of some kind and a happier way of life already. Be strong and good luck.


Email me at the usual address, maggi@laterlife.com


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