Relationship Advice

A Long Shot

unhappy young woman

My husband and I have been married for three years, together for eight.  We met in college.  We have a set of twins 15 months old, and they are too much for him to handle, even though they are not a handful.  They are great.  They are happy babies.

We, on the other hand, are miserable.  We've been separated for a month.  I just found out he's been having an affair with a coworker on and off for the last six months.  We already had enough problems, and now she's possibly pregnant with my husband's baby. 

I feel betrayed, disappointed, and broken-hearted.  He keeps telling me he's sorry, but he is unreliable--a pathological liar who likes to party with his friends.  When he tells me he wants to prove he can be the man I need, I tell him he should have thought about that before straying.

It may sound like I'm making excuses for him, but I hope I'm not.  He has emotional baggage from childhood.  His mother raised him.  She is an alcoholic, and during his first 10 years she was also into drugs.  His mother always had to be with some man, and I think she failed to attach to my so-called husband during the most crucial years, birth to age five. 

According to him, he was a scapegoat because he reminded her of his father.  That's what his mother would say while she smacked him around.  I feel like I have paid for all his baggage. 

Does it make a difference if he gets professional help?  A couple of weeks ago he obtained a referral for individual counseling.  I can't help but wonder, if he is able to get himself straight, wouldn't it be worth it to move forward together, because we would then have 50-plus years of a healthy relationship?


Lily, it's almost as if you are asking us to handicap a horse race.  You've given us past performance, running style, and track conditions, and you want us to let you know where to place your bet. 

We would not deny anything you said about your husband's background.  In the first few critical years of life, his mother did not attach to him, and as you know, kids with that background are likely to struggle with relationships all of their lives.  Everything else about his home life was a horror as well.

That's a given, and as you say, you are paying for his baggage.

But the empathy you have for him as another human being is not the best guide for what you should do.  His behavior, character, and habits have been formed almost in the same way you form a statue by pouring plaster of Paris into a mold.  They can be changed only with great difficulty. 

It's hard to take the familiar away from someone.  It works for them.  Chances are he won't change, and where will you be if you wait for him?  It's like using the lottery as your retirement plan.  Some people do win the lottery, but nearly everyone else is better off putting a little money aside each paycheck.

Change is a long, slow process.  With his past history, counseling may be just another ploy.  If he sees your threat to leave as toothless, he may go back to his old ways.  In short, things will revert to the pattern of settle-her-down, do what I want, settle-her-down, do what I want, etc. 

The problem with waiting for someone else to change is that your good efforts are likely to reap no reward.  Your children will grow up and see no matter how good mom is, it doesn't get her anything.  The other problem with therapy is this: if he changed his basic patterns of life, would he still want to be with you? 

We have to remind you that long shots don't usually win. 

Wayne & Tamara