Both Mates Afraid to Commit Fully

Q: My wife of 13 years said she is done with our marriage, though because of our preteen daughter and other factors, we still live together and sleep in the same bed. When I ask for a hug I get one and she squeezes back. We text back and forth a lot and talk like everything is fine most of the time. She said she does not want to talk about us until after my first counseling session (she does not want to go, right now, and I don't know if she will in the future).

I am going to a counselor to try and resolve my issues with relationships. I am afraid to put in 100 percent for fear of being walked all over. I try for a while, see no return and basically stop trying. We both need to try at the same time. She said she is tired of the rewind / play in our relationship. I have done a lot of soul-searching and am willing to make any and all changes. Her reasons for wanting to leave are my past drinking history (sober for 31 days right now) and she is tired of the fighting, and I don't make her feel special. For the past several weeks I have been doing the special things - flowers, family day trips, waiting on her hand and foot, anything to make her feel wanted, needed, etc.

My question is : do I hang in there and try to make a go of it, keep doing the things that make her feel good, with hopes of her giving me one more chance, or do I just sit back and live my life until we can separate? -- Mike, 39

Dr. Susan: Your giving up drinking will make a huge difference on how your wife sees you (as well as being a great model for your daughter). But you haven't been sober long enough yet for your wife to trust it will last. Your entering counseling is an excellent idea, and I do hope your wife will join you at some point. A good marriage isn't built solely on the man being nice to the wife with special gestures. Generous, cherishing behaviors are great, especially if you're trying to change the negative mood around the house. But such effortful gestures naturally tend to slack off after a while.

I would focus on good communication (talk about your own feelings, emphasize the positive, be patient, and assume good-will on each other's part). Don't push your wife to talk about the relationship until you've demonstrated your sobriety for a much longer time. It would be good if you both agree that while you're still in the same house, neither of you will commit adultery. Good luck!

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