Is my marriage worth the fight?

Q. Sarah
I’ve been married for 35 years and quite honestly, often wonder why I bother sticking at it. When I met my husband he was handsome, funny, one of the lads, enjoyed going out and was flirty with other girls; I fell head over heels in love with him.

For the first ten years everything was great, we had two beautiful children and my husband worked hard and we enjoyed a good life, often socialising with friends. Then he started going out more, not caring about work and taking me and the children for granted. I stuck at it for the sake of the children hoping that he would change, but now the kids are gone I feel very alone and disappointed about how my life has turned out.

Every time I think I should cut my losses and leave, I’m reminded of the gregarious, loving man I married and am so desperate to have back. He’s still very attractive and fun to be with when he decides to be, but this is usually only when I nag him to make the effort. I’m also frightened of life on my own. Should I simply accept my husband and I have grown apart or should I fight to get back the man with whom I fell in love?

A. Sarah, you find yourself in the same situation many women, and some men, do as they get on in life and the children leave home. While only you can decide if your marriage is worth the fight, I think there are some other things you need to clarify before you make this decision.

From what you say your husband was a real catch back in his day and you probably felt lucky to have married the local heartthrob. But what about you? What has happened in your life over the last 35 years? You have two beautiful children but you don’t say whether you have a career or if you devoted your life to looking after your family. If your family has been your sole purpose in life, it’s not surprising you’re feeling lost and lonely.

Your husband may have started to take you for granted because you allowed him to and perhaps never understood your own worth. I appreciate that marriage is for better or worse, but it’s still important to work at yourself and your relationship. You need to take a good look at yourself, your life and what you want to achieve. Firstly, take some time to pamper yourself; perhaps a new haircut, a few new items for your wardrobe and consider taking a little more time on your beauty regime. I know this will sound superficial but by doing a few things that are just for you, you will start to think more about who you are and what you want. If you need some tips, have a look at the following YOURLifeChoices articles:

Timeless beauty tips
Flattering faces
Putting on a good face

Next, you’re obviously not happy with your relationship but is this simply because your husband has changed? Women can be guilty of devoting all their time to their children once they come along and not only lose the person they are, but ostracise their partner along the way. By concentrating on being the best mother you could, you may have made your husband feel as though he was superfluous. This is not to say what you have done is wrong, it’s only natural and very common.  You can’t improve your relationship until you are happy with who you are. Consider a new career, some courses which interest you, or some volunteering options. A life coach or career counsellor can talk through the options which interest you and help you draft a plan to achieve your goals. The Career Development Association of Australia can help with useful information and to find a counsellor in your area. You may also wish to read the following YOURLifeChoices articles:

Should I return to study?
What study options are available?
Kick start your return to study

Now you have a better understanding of who you are and what you want, you can start to consider if your marriage is worth saving. You and your husband will need to talk about the things which you see as faults in each other and your relationship. But while it’s easy to get bogged down in the negatives, you should also consider the things you still enjoy about each other. To do this you may want to consider a relationship counsellor to help you work through your issues and process the things you may find out along the way. Your GP can help with a referral to a suitable counsellor. Relationships Australia also offers information and support which you may find useful.

I hope that you have found the information above helpful and you and your husband make the right decision for you both.

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Fighting the stereotype