Unhappy in marriage

All Woman

Dear Counsellor,

I am a 32-year-old woman and I was married to a man for four years. I knew him well, but I didn't love him. I have been in love just once, and when that ended I felt I could never fall in love again. Anyway, I thought I would find contentment in my married life and gave it 100 per cent of my effort, but it turned out to be hell. My husband was not at all understanding and tried to dominate me. My mother-in-law is the worst kind of woman. In short, the situation became so ugly that I left my husband. In the years we were together I could never love him and I didn't even try. Two years later when he tried to convince me to come back, I did only because I was scared of ending up alone. I also found out that he cheated on me with many women and was never loyal before the marriage and even during the time we were apart. I don't love him at all. I still hate his family. I feel very insecure about my future in this marriage. I cry every day.

But I also know that I will not be able to love again. I broke up with my boyfriend and since then I have only loved him. Now he is happily married, and I have stopped all kind of contact with him. Please help me!

The root of your problem lies in two telling statements you made. The first is that you did not love your partner, and secondly, that you reconnected with him because of your fear of ending up alone. These two factors are recipes for disaster in a relationship. If you don't have any affection for your husband, then you won't give him much attention. He in turn will reciprocate, and you both will grow apart instead of coming together.

Your second reason — the fear of being alone — unfortunately drives many women into marriage, particularly those who have hit their 40s and see their biological clock ticking away and would prefer to have a child in wedlock. Their argument is that having a man is better than having none at all, and usually not much thought is put into the selection process. The woman might not particularly like the man selected, but because her love interest has shown little interest in her and the second-rate guy worships the ground she walks on, he reluctantly gets the nod. So the equation would be: he loves her/she tolerates him. But soon her tolerance will run out, as obviously yours did.

I can appreciate your sentiment about falling in love once and the likelihood of it not happening again. You were hurt from that experience and so you are reluctant to make yourself emotionally vulnerable. You have not put any closure on that relationship, and never gave your husband the ghost of a chance in the marriage. But you're only 32, so why resign yourself to the thought of being alone forever?

It's one thing to have a partner you dislike, but when unpleasant in-laws complicate matters, your problem becomes even more complex. Is it that your mother-in-law has observed the absence of love for her son by your actions and behaviour and is trying to protect him?

It is always the man's responsibility to bridge any relationship gap that may exist between mother and wife, and he should not accept any disrespect directed at the other.

You have complained about your husband's domineering behaviour and his tendency to be unfaithful in relationships. Have you had a talk with him on these issues? Have you expressed your discontent, and are you prepared to do what is in your best interest?

I need not tell you to stay out of the life of your ex, and if he reaches out and shows interest in having a romantic fling, please don't consider that path, as tempting as it may be. Just let it go for the sake of all concerned.

You need to seriously assess your marital relationship and not let the fear of being alone be the driving force for you to remain in the marriage. Couples can be physically present but emotionally absent in their relationship. Believe me, you can experience loneliness if you and your partner don't care for each other.

Why not join a community group and focus on a worthwhile project? Romantic involvement won't necessarily lead to happiness. You might find contentment in helping others. Think on these things. All the best.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to agapemft@gmail.com; check out his work overseas on www.seekingshalom.org, e-mail powellw@seekingshalom.org.

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