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Please help me avoid a major marriage crisis
January 30, 2011 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Please help me avoid a major marriage crisis

I got married to a great guy last month, who I had been with for nearly three years. Prior to him proposing (in November 2010), we lived together for about a year. We are, or at least used to be, a great couple: we travelled around the world together, enjoy a lot of the same music and authors, and share the same tastes in terms of going out, having a drink, etc etc. We were living in Europe and we decided to move together to South America and spent most of last year planning for the relocation.

However, things have not been always very easy for us. During most of the year we lived together, he had to deal with a really stressful divorce (he was legally separated for nearly two years, then pressed ahead with the divorce when we met), which consumed him to the point he nearly had a nervous breakdown. The detail here is that he used to hide a lot of the things that were going on regarding the divorce (such as the fact that she wanted *all* of his money and valuable belongings, as well as "custody" or his two pets that he loves so much, or the fact that his financial settlement could potentially be affected by the fact we were living together. What he told me later is that he wanted to protect me from all the nastiness that he had to deal with.

Towards the end of November last year, I was about to publish a book and was super stressed out. At the same time, his divorce was reaching a critical stage. He didn't talk to me about the details, as I mentioned above.

I might add that we used to have a pretty active sex life, but since the divorce started, he was always so stressed out that having sex was the last thing on his mind. Gradually,making love became a rare occurrence.

I then found out that he was sex texting someone. Long story short, I left him and told him all our moving plans for later in the year were cancelled and the relationship was over.

Just to summarise this bit, after a week away I gave him a chance to tell me what had happened. It turned out that he didn't have sex with the woman in question, but allowed the texting to continue because he desperately needed attention and I was so absorbed in my book (and he wouldn't share anything about the divorce with me), so it was a case of me not giving him enough attention and him not being transparent with me. The real causes of this have been identified and I have forgiven him and the woman has never been in touch again and he hasn't been contacted her (or anyone else) since. I have forgiven him, although I would be a hypocrite if I said that the thought of it happening again doesn't haunt me to this date, despite his reassurances that it will never happen again, that it was the stupidest thing he's ever done, etc.

Two weeks after that happened, he proposed. It was a wonderful setting and the whole weekend was perfect. This was always on the cards and we talked several times about marriage before, so I didn't feel it was a way to correct what had happened - and he reiterated that - but a real desire to stay together. I said yes and we got married a month later, in a simple but truly wonderful ceremony.

We have since relocated, and are settling in Colombia now. There is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with and we are starting from scratch. The adaptation for him is even more difficult, since he doesn't speak Spanish, doesn't have friends and is not used to the local culture and systems and ways of doing things. And because of that, we constantly have arguments. He seems increasingly impatient, drinking every day and the sex (or lack of it) problem still continues. On that last point, I think I hardened up as well...if he gets closer, or tries anything, I move away, I don't feel comfortable, or sexy, or worth the attention.

I wonder what I should do to turn this situation around? I know that getting some routine in place would help...He is starting a Spanish course soon and we plan to join the local gym...

But what do I do to get back to the loving relationship we used to have before all this divorce situation came about? I know it is a two-way thing, so how can I open up for sex again? And how can I be more understanding and patient in this time of adaptation? I am scared that I might resent my husband so much for everything (past and present) that our marriage will collapse. I don't want to turn into one of those old women full of hatred and grudges against their partner. I love him very much and want to save our relationship.

Thanks for reading this, suggestions from people who encountered similar situations are very welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
It feels like you're taking on too much. Realistically, you don't have enough control over yourself, himself, and the world to make everything better on your own.

I think you need to set your cards on the table and say, "babe, i'm noticing that we constantly have arguments. You seem increasingly impatient with me, maybe for good reason I don't know, you're drinking every day, and we're not having sex. I know it's a two-way thing, and I find myself hardening up as well. I love you and I want us to turn this situation around. What can we do? What can I do? I want us to get back to the loving relationship we had back in the spring."
posted by salvia at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no idea how readily couples therapy is available in Colombia (let alone English-language couples therapy) but some therapists work with long-distance clients by Skype.

As salvia says, you don't have to try to make everything better on your own. Yes, maybe you were inattentive to your now-husband while you were immersed in work, but the majority of the issues between you seem to stem from his poor choices: problem drinking, inappropriate sexualized behavior with someone else, dishonesty about the divorce process.

You can't fix any of those things. Your seeming belief (based on what you said here) that your behaviors caused those things, and that changing your behaviors will fix those things, makes me think that you would be greatly helped by reading Facing Co-Dependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller, and perhaps by individual therapy (again, don't know how easy it is to find therapists in Colombia, sorry!)

To be very honest, I have known many divorced couples who tell the story that "everything was so terrible between us and then one of us proposed." Marriage is not a solution to a couple's relationship problems, except when those problems come directly out of lack of legal recognition. I hope that your husband is willing to put the work in to make this marriage more of a success than the ones I am thinking of here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:33 PM on January 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, it seems like you're already having a major marriage crisis. Daily drinking that seems like a problem, no sex, constant arguments--that's a major crisis. You can't really avoid it; you're in it. My best wishes to you both on finding a way to get through it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


First off: The things you have described can and do happen to many couples. We can go into specifics, but the general idea of stress affecting a relationship is pretty common. If you have a problem, then try to reduce it to the lowest common denominator (stress) and then see how many things are a direct consequence of it.

Further, you love this person. Again, strip away the grudges and concentrate on that. In any new setting, if you dwell in one place then all-the-things-that-go-wrong will seem a thousand times worse. Get busy. You said classes, gym -- great, but always be on the look out for more stuff to do. I am not familiar with Colombia, but I am sure there are things going on that you can both occupy yourselves with -- books, music, art, whatever.

Once you are take problems at face value and not attribute fluff that makes them more unmanageable, you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it won't be New Jersey.

Now, sex. Again, stress does miracles to killing all things awesome. Sex being one of them. But I get a feeling once both start actively seeking out things to do other than dwell on problems that you faced in the past (yes, give it time), you will feel closer again and sex will cease to be that-thing-that-we-have-a-problem-with.

Oh, and talk. Talk to him about how you feel. Not in a way that will make it seem like it's you-versus-him, but on the contrary, that you are indeed feeling what he is feeling through him, and you would like to take an active role, with his help, to get yourselves out of this dump.
posted by mooselini at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2011


Was there a reason you chose to move to Colombia? Was there any sense of trying to leave the past behind and start fresh? Oh course, any problems in the relationship wouldn't be left behind in the move. They will show up wherever you are until you deal with them.

If there are second guesses now or regrets, can't you guys decide together to give it, say, a year, and if it's not getting better to move back to Europe?
posted by Windigo at 2:30 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


As Sidhedevil points out - it seems like you are already having a major marriage crisis.

It sounds like the move has added a lot more stress to an already stressful situation - is there any chance you could move back home (or back to Europe)? Maybe being in a familiar environment again would take some pressure off?

Also, it sounds like when you guys have anything difficult going on, you turn away from each other. So far that has led to you both being miserable (hello constant fighting!). How can you guys work to fix this together?

I know that there hasn't been a lot of sex lately, but for the love of god do everything you can to avoid getting pregnant when/if you start having sex again. Just like getting married doesn't fix a relationship in trouble, a baby definitely won't fix anything.
posted by RosiePosie at 2:32 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? You were having a stressful time because of his divorce and your book, and then he did the sexting thing, so things were worse, and then before all the problems were resolved you decided to get married and move to Columbia?

Are you TRYING to make life hard for yourselves? Moving internationally is a big relationship stressor at the best of times, because you have to rely so heavily on each other, and the outside world becomes so strange and complicated.

Can you move back home and try the Columbian thing in the future once you are in a better place?
posted by lollusc at 4:19 PM on January 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


This sounds not so great.

It turned out that he didn't have sex with the woman in question, but allowed the texting to continue because he desperately needed attention and I was so absorbed in my book (and he wouldn't share anything about the divorce with me), so it was a case of me not giving him enough attention and him not being transparent with me


Is manipulative. If he desperately needed attention, when didn't he say so? If you weren't giving him enough, why was he withholding, of his own accord?

This:
he had to deal with a really stressful divorce (he was legally separated for nearly two years, then pressed ahead with the divorce when we met), which consumed him to the point he nearly had a nervous breakdown. The detail here is that he used to hide a lot of the things that were going on regarding the divorce (such as the fact that she wanted *all* of his money and valuable belongings,

Doesn't sound right.

This sounds like a relationship fueled by initial relationship giddiness followed by high drama (divorce, book, texting, marriage).

It's possible he's a great guy, and so we shouldn't judge by a sentence, but this has some jerk flags:

And because of that, we constantly have arguments. He seems increasingly impatient, drinking every day and the sex (or lack of it) problem still continues. On that last point, I think I hardened up as well...if he gets closer, or tries anything, I move away, I don't feel comfortable, or sexy, or worth the attention.


So, all that said, if he's a great guy and this post was written at a low point and I'm bringing my own baggage, my sincerest apologies, but on the off chance that he's not so great: narcissistic, manipulative assholes sometimes do this sort of thing and benefit from the erosion of self-worth that they leave in their wake. If that's not the case here, if he's really a good, caring, person capable of true intimacy I agree with those who have said get out of Columbia, with him. If he's the former, then just get away from him.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on January 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Are you sure he's divorced?

I missed where the divorce was crazeee, but then was suddenly settled within a month allowing for your marriage. Did I miss that??

Timing in your story is, um, troublesome. Unstable foundations make for unstable relationships. Let's say you've seen the paperwork and the divorce was final... While your husband was embroiled in a divorce, he was STILL embroiled in the (ending) marriage. Getting married again right away was a pretty big switch to flip, don't you think?

I think my initial question refers to the simple fact that even if your guy is legally divorced and now legally married to you, people just can not switch lifelong partners THAT easily. It's not possible. I'm sorry.
posted by jbenben at 9:04 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you should seek out the English-language-speaking expat community in whatever city/town you're living in in Columbia, since that will give him an opportunity to make friends, plus other Americans/Canadians/Brits/etc. who have been there longer can give him some perspective on the culture shock and other issues he's having adapting to his new home. If there is any sort of English-language counseling or couples counseling available they can probably help you find that too.

However, given his history with the sexting, you should accompany him to any initial meetings with other expats and beware of him befriending any expat women on their own (instead of as part of a couple) lest he falls into his old pattern of seeking attention and comfort from another woman.

(Although really I'm wondering WTF you were thinking putting yourself in this whole situation to begin with! But, given that you're already in it and want to make it work, the above might help make it better.)
posted by Jacqueline at 10:30 PM on January 30, 2011


Oh and when I lived in Costa Rica I noticed that a lot of new expats would have trouble adjusting, start drinking a lot, fighting with their partners if one person was more happy than the other about the new home, etc., so having these problems doesn't necessarily mean that you're doomed since they're pretty typical and many/most people eventually get over it.

Just knowing that what he/you are going through is so common can help because then instead of wondering "what's wrong with him/us?" you can move on to "oh, this is a common problem, what solutions have worked for others?"

So I'm very serious about encouraging you to seek out your local expat community. If you have any problems finding them, MeMail me your details and I'll give you some additional advice on how to find them.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:35 PM on January 30, 2011


Reality check filter: you did yourself a disservice by not taking it upon yourselves to seek counseling prior to getting married. Infidelity, no matter how small, is a serious thing. It sounds like this engagement, no matter how perfect, was poorly timed and even worse, poorly thought out. Being in love with someone isn't enough to patch up holes like dishonesty and passive aggressive behavior. He blamed you for his infidelity, and there is nothing more immature than pinning inappropriate shortcomings on the person you're betraying. I agree with the above posters who say "Something is not right", and I think that in addition to seeking out your local expat community, you should also try to find a marriage counselor who can help you to determine whether or not your relationship can belatedly establish the foundation it sounds like it so desperately needs.

Good luck. If it's meant to be, a great deal of mutual hard work and dedication is ahead to make it all happen.
posted by patronuscharms at 12:26 AM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Being in a foreign country with no ability to talk to anyone except the person you're with is very frustrating, especially when your only contact speaks the local language, has things to do and people to see. This was me and my brother, he was being impatient with me, acting super-cool with his foreign-friend-making ability, and conveying that he'd be happy to spend time with me if only I would(could) do all the things he wanted to be doing. Your husband is in a genuinely tough place right now. I'm sure you're excited to be in Colombia for whatever reason you went there, and maybe he is too, but this is the kind of situation that could sink a battleship, much less your rickety marriage canoe.

You have a lot to talk about. Make time. Make it a priority. Talk. Talk some more.
posted by aimedwander at 7:05 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


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