October 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Throughout the 57-year history of our Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, only five times has a couple thrown in the marital towel at the conclusion of the column. Yup, five times: twice in the ’50s and three times in the ’70s. The reasons varied, from a couple who married far too young to another in which the husband turned out to be gay, but it’s definitely not often that our couples don’t give it a go after they’ve been through counseling.
One of those unhappy unions appeared in our June 1977 issue. Angela, a 30-year-old mother of two described in the column as “thin as a bed slat but exuding overpowering sexuality,” is all set to divorce Lyle, her second husband, a tall 46-year-old with “a grim, sad expression.” (No, they are not pictured at right. Those are models. That guy is more squinty and creepy than grim and sad.) Read through their stories and see if you agree that they should call it quits.
Angela’s side: Lyle is completely boring. He works in a low-paying, dead-end job that he refuses to quit and won’t splurge on anything, including their honeymoon, while she describes herself as materialistic, liking expensive clothes and restaurants. Angela thinks they’re polar opposites in their beliefs, goals, dreams – basically everything – and that the only thing holding them together is their “fantastic” sex. When they met, she had come out of a quickie marriage with a baby and a high-school diploma and was feeling pretty lousy. Now, Lyle is stingy with her son and their daughter and, when Angela wanted to go to college and get a job, made her pay for it herself by selling cosmetics door-to-door. She got a job with her new degree and her boss, Harry, is everything she wishes Lyle was: “strong, masculine and decisive,” and he helped her flourish at her new gig. He’s married, but she’d like to have a relationship with him anyway and stay married to Lyle, as her “friend”. She used to see Lyle as mature and wise, but now she sees him as a boring fuddy-duddy who totally misunderstands her.
Lyle’s side: He hates her. She’s 14 years younger than he is and when they met, she was so forlorn and lost that he felt he had to help her. She was so grateful and happy that he took care of her, and he took to being her substitute pops quite easily. He knows he’s an ordinary guy and not ambitious, but he doesn’t care to change and is totally uninterested in the “dog-eat-dog business world”. He once wanted to get into a new business and almost did, but his boss had a heart attack and he stayed out of loyalty. And as for her, she’s got nutty mood swings and has horrible nightmares. Lyle was “proud as punch” when she graduated from college and hoped she’d settle down in her new job, but she’s gotten into a bad crowd there. He’s also not thrilled with the Harry situation and thinks she’s totally out of her gourd for suggesting they stay married when she has feelings for someone else.
The counselor’s take: Divorce was inevitable from the get-go. Their personalities were totally opposed and impossible to compromise. Angela found a father figure in Lyle, and he found someone to take care of and took pride in her total dependence. He liked to stick with the status quo and Angela longed for change and excitement. He unintentionally encouraged her freedom by forcing her to pay her way through school, and when she accomplished it on her own, without his help, she saw that she didn’t need a faux father anymore.
So what do you think? Should they have divorced or tried to work it out? Tell us why in the comments!
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