"When My Mother Died, Our Marriage Fell Apart"

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His Turn, continued

"My mother-in-law's illness was a real turning point, for the worse. I started to feel increasingly helpless. I didn't know how to help Debbie cope and I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Considering what she was dealing with, I didn't think it was fair to tell her how sad and scared I was about her mother, too. After work she was always on the phone with her family. The late afternoon and early evening had always been our time, but to insist that she pay more attention to me felt selfish and childish.

"Everything came to a head the day her mother died. She called around 5 a.m. and I remember saying, 'What do you want me to do?' I was scheduled to give my oral PhD presentation that day. I didn't mean I wasn't going to come. I didn't mean I cared more about my career than her mother. What I meant was, 'Do you want me to come this afternoon? Tonight? Tomorrow?' I was seeking input so we could make a plan. I had every intention of changing my schedule. The whole conversation was just a colossal misunderstanding, yet typically, Debbie attributed negative motives to me.

"It happens constantly. If I'm not in the mood to talk, she concludes that I'm angry at her, when in fact I might just be tired. When I try to explain, she snaps, 'I know what you meant!' and storms out of the room.

"I treasure my relationship with Lily. I love watching her grow and change. Most nights I'm the one who puts her to bed and reads stories. I've suggested that Debbie read to Lily or simply sit on the bed with us, but she's adamant about getting the laundry done or the house cleaned. I do not, and never will, think it's more important to wash clothes than read to my kid.

"She treats me like a child, orders me around and makes it clear that I'm falling far short of her expectations. We're both reduced to taking potshots at each other. At this point, all I can do is hope that therapy can help turn things around."

Continued on page 5:  The Counselor's Turn


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