Marriage Worth Saving?
Q: My husband and I have been married for 19 years and have two teenagers. Our marriage has been in crisis for the last 10 years, and we have been on the brink of divorce twice before. I was always the one to seek professional help. The main problem is that my husband doesn't like my father, but he passed away over two years ago. I admit that my father was a difficult person to get along with, but I didn't have any problem with him, and I loved him. I think he has been very hurt by a past incident with my father, but I can't confirm this. During any fight, he brings my father into it and compares me to him. I cannot convince him that my father has nothing to do with our problems. I am so tired of all this. I feel like I want to move on without him. Is it worth trying to save this marriage? -- Shiloh, 44
Dr. Susan: It is almost always worth fighting for a marriage, if both of you value the relationship. You're gotten stuck in some unfortunate habits. Two years after your father's death, he should not be the focus of your marital issues. Perhaps you do share bits of some of the personality traits that made your father and your husband not get along, but it isn't at all helpful to toss that at you during a disagreement. In fact, it breaks one of the primary rules of fair fighting. Your husband doesn't seem to WANT to understand how upsetting it is for you to have to defend someone you loved. Anyway, none of that is relevant to your ongoing family life.
Try again to bring him to counseling with you, if only to learn how to talk more sanely about issues. I'd say something like, "I realize that in some ways I'm a little like my father was, and that you two didn't get along. But I love you and want to get past all that old stuff. So let's get help moving forward."
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Advice for Her
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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.