"We Keep Tearing Each Other Down"

Nikki and Steve's relationship has dissolved into a string of arguments. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"We've Been Having the Same Fight for Years"

"Two weeks ago I told Steve to move out," said Nikki, 35, the mother of two boys, Justin, 9, and Jeremy, 6. "I've said it before, but this time I meant it. Our 10th anniversary last month was my wake-up call. I realized we've been having the same ugly fights for years.

"Steve found a condo near our home in a Philadelphia suburb. I thought I'd be relieved but I'm devastated, and so are the kids. Justin has been acting out in school and Jeremy is inconsolable. I feel overwhelmed. I know I've threatened divorce many times but deep down I love Steve -- even if it is hard to remember why I fell so hard for him in the first place.

"He Can't Be Bothered"

"When Justin was 12 months old, we saw a therapist for a month. But we stopped because Steve didn't like the counselor, and it seemed pointless for me to go alone. Three years later, when Jeremy was born, we tried therapy again, then quit four months later. Once again, Steve couldn't be bothered. He thinks he's the only person on the planet.

"Steve is the kind of guy who walks into a room and the current shifts. He's funny, charming, and sexy. I met him at a real-estate conference we both attended. I noticed him right away, and when he sat down next to me at lunch and started a conversation, I was smitten.

"It turned out we had grown up near each other and had several friends in common. They warned me that Steve was known as a party guy and a ladies' man. I of course saw his 'deeper' side and was confident that he would have no trouble committing to someone who understood him so well. In any case, our chemistry -- sexual and otherwise -- was amazing. We dated for eight months before getting married, in a small ceremony at my parents' country club. We were both 25.

Fitting All the Pieces

"My parents liked Steve immediately. My dad, who's a charmer like Steve, is a successful real-estate developer, so they enjoy talking business. Mom taught elementary school but stopped working to raise me and my younger brother. She's a screamer who spared no one. If my room was messy, if Dad forgot to do something, if my brother didn't put away his lacrosse equipment, she'd launch into a tirade. Everything aggravated her. Still, I love my parents and know I can always count on them.

"I was an English major in college and after graduating had no idea what I wanted to do. I spent two years jumping from job to job -- ski instructor, waitress, lifeguard. Fortunately, my parents provided emotional -- and occasionally financial -- support. At 24 I took my real-estate licensing exam and started at a small firm. Having grown up in the business, I immediately felt comfortable.

Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued


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