Dear Ellie: I was married for 22 years when I finally had the certainty and courage to tell my husband that we should go our separate ways.
He now tells everyone that I walked out on him. It’s not true. I’d opened up to him over the previous five years about our marriage needing a re-boot.
He went with me to counselling just once, then he said that all I had to do was go golfing with him so we’d have a common interest… his interest.
He was a good father to our two children… again, mostly when they joined him in the things he liked to do… sports and watching TV.
Otherwise, outside of dinnertime at home, he was working late, or out with his buddies, or arranging our getting together weekly with friends.
There’s wasn’t much alone time for us as a couple. Our sex life was sporadic and often one-sided.
To be fair, I began finding my own place in all this by getting a job after spending six years at home with our children until they started nursery school.
At work, alongside colleagues — some from very different and interesting backgrounds — I gained self-confidence as a person. I’d return home to the family full of stories about my day.
It brought a new focus to the dinner table where I could talk about other people’s lives of struggles and successes, and encourage my children to contemplate a bigger world than they yet knew.
But my husband was never interested in my stories. He’d always interrupt with what he thought was a joke.
Four years after my insisting that we divorce, I know I made the right choice. I’m still working, have a wide circle of interesting friends, and am currently dating a nice man but with no immediate plans to become a serious couple. I feel very happy with my current life.
Our now-adult children, ages 21 and 20, are both in university courses. They still see their father, who remarried the year after our divorce.
My question: Have I made myself so independent that I’ll always distrust the possibility of having a real partnership along with a romantic relationship?
Also, I’m so afraid of becoming another man’s sidekick taking care of his needs from old habit. As I age past my current 43 years, how do I also avoid becoming some equally-older man’s “nurse or purse?”
Independent and Wary
You’ve already shown the inner strength and determination to re-shape your life as you wish. Your story’s inspirational to those who feel “stuck” in a life-slot that doesn’t reflect their wider abilities and possibilities.
Independence should be helping you stay wiser and more thoughtful about your choices, not mired in distrust from your past.
Also, at 43, you have years before you and a potential partner will be seniors. Meanwhile, take care of your health and organize/secure your finances now.
Reader’s commentary regarding the wife who criticizes her husband’s weight in front of friends (Nov. 1):
“Criticizing physical appearance in front of others is completely unacceptable in any healthy marriage. The weight problem is a different and secondary issue for this man.
“He should confirm the marital ground rules with his wife!
“Happily married spouses trust each other to have their back. And they communicate on sensitive topics directly, not as entertainment at a dinner party.
“This covers everything from stretch marks to hairy backs, weight, baldness, and sexual performance.
“Similarly, he doesn’t need to critique his own body with friends.”
Feedback regarding the woman congratulating herself for not having to divide assets with the ex-partner she never married (Nov. 6):
Reader – “She shouldn’t have suggested he was a fool because marriage would have enabled him to sue her, the higher earner, for support.
“In Ontario, and other jurisdictions, common-law spouses can be granted support, depending on needs and the relationship’s duration. This was a long relationship. She shouldn’t have given him ideas that he still might pursue further with a lawyer.”
Feedback regarding the sisters-in-law who’ve made the writer feel unwelcome (Nov. 5):
“She should meet with the mother-in-law/sisters-in-law for tea or lunch, one at a time. Bullies are much less brave when with somebody one-on-one.
“Say you’d like to get to know “her” (only her). Then see if there’s any thawing effect.
“I didn’t appreciate my nephew’s wife until we got together and talked. Now, I like her a lot.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
Independence and self-realization are proud achievements. Don’t cloud it with unnecessary worries and distrust.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.