Limbo wrote:

My wife and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary, but unfortunately it was just when it seems our marriage is about to end. We got married very young – before either of us ever really had a chance to experience life outside of a relationship – and we’re pretty sure now that we made a mistake getting married so early.

Early in our marriage, my wife had difficulties with responsibility – there were many late nights partying and drinking and some nights she didn’t even come home. But she worked hard to change that and eventually overcame it.

I have had problems with maturity throughout our marriage – I procrastinated and let our house get to be a mess and put off simple chores for sometimes weeks. Some of the things that I put off were actually dangerous to my wife and my two daughters – like a tire I kept forgetting to check that was just a moment away from blowing out. I’ve come to realize that I was very selfish and have worked hard to try and get better.

Unfortunately, our problems with each other and our unhappiness with the people we were being led to fights and an instance of infidelity from both of us. A year ago, we separated for about two months, but then got back together. In July, my wife admitted her affair – a long-term one – and my world was thrown upside down. I have forgiven her and I’m trying to trust her again. But we’re in limbo right now, because she isn’t sure she can go on.

She has a great deal of difficulty letting go of my past mistakes. She sees me doing household chores and errands now and she says she feels “like she wants to laugh because you could’ve been doing it for so long.” She felt betrayed by my actions for a long time – as though I took her for granted and didn’t care enough to be a grown-up. In many ways, I totally agree with what she said.

Our problem now is that I want to move on, and she isn’t sure she can. She openly acknowledges that this isn’t fair, considering the mistakes she has made, but she says she doesn’t look at me the same anymore. She realizes that this too is unfair because of how much better I’ve gotten with being a responsible husband. She is resolutely against counseling because of a previously poor experience. She believes that she’ll be blamed for a lot of things and that her rough childhood will be criticized and blamed.

We love each other still, but it feels like the end is near. We have two beautiful little girls and we actually have a wonderful family – we’re both good, devoted parents – but our marriage may be beyond saving. I have a hard time accepting that. My wife is my best friend and I want to be with her forever. I believe we can be happy again – with ourselves and with each other. What do I do?

We are truly sorry to hear about the past negative experience with a counselor that your wife has had. Often one bad experience with a mental health professional can scare away people who would benefit from them for a lifetime. There are alternative to a one-on-one session with a counselor, however, including group retreats, marriage workbooks and marriage conferences. Perhaps she could be persuaded to try one of these options.

In regards to your past actions, forgiveness needs to happen, both of each other, and of yourselves. There needs to come a point when both of you are no longer agonizing over your past immaturity and selfishness. If you are still apologizing for mistakes in your distant past, stop. Continuing to act guilty implies that the other party is right to constantly be thinking about past mistakes.

One other thing we might suggest is developing who you are as a person, independently of her. Emphasize that you love her and want to work with her to create a marriage that both of you deserve, but don’t hover over her or beg. Spend time with your girls, get dinner with your friends, pick up a new hobby, etc. In other words, become the sort of confident, accomplished person that she would want to spend the rest of her life with. Even if the worst comes to pass, you will be a better person for it.

Best of luck on your marriage.

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