A long wait
I am at a crossroad. I have been married to my husband, a minister, for 25 years. For 25 years, I have been waiting for him to change. I have finally realized that he is not going to change. I am tired, fed up with living my life without emotional and mental intimacy. We do have sex. In fact, he has periods where he wants sex all the time. I think that this is his substitute for emotional intimacy. I have sought emotional and mental intimacy in other relationships with men but now feel that it was wrong. I know that my husband is incapable of revealing himself to me, because to do so would require him to look at things about his religious beliefs that he does not want to explore. Please help.
If you are at a crossroad, you are blessed. All possibilities exist in the space before you. To select the right path for the future, acknowledge that while your husband’s behavior has remained stagnant, your behavior has, too. You have been waiting for your husband to change from the person you married to the person you now think he ought to be. It’s wonderful that you can see his potential, but it’s best to direct that laser toward your own life. Honestly assess your ability to be emotionally and mentally intimate with your husband. For example, do you have a concrete idea about how emotional intimacy should sound, feel or occur? If so, your expectations may inhibit you from seeing how your husband does share. However, if he is completely shut down, insist on counseling to save your marriage and to practice what you preach: faithfulness.
Faithfulness in marriage is more than sexual fidelity. Theologian Joseph Stoutzenberger writes, “True marital faithfulness goes beyond only sexual exclusivity to encompass these four characteristics: permanence, constancy, loving confrontation and lived values.” He describes permanence according to the traditional marriage vow “until death do us part.” Constancy, he writes, is “fidelity to love through all the ups and downs of life, in times of joy and hardship. This fidelity is not a couple’s simply resigning themselves to feeling stuck with each other, no matter what. Instead, it is their commitment to grow together in supporting and caring for each other.” Lived values means that “the couple puts a priority on their relationship by giving it the time and nurturance it needs to grow.” Loving confrontation is “caring enough about the relationship to confront problems honestly and struggle through them together. The ability to confront lovingly assumes that the spouses believe in each other’s inherent goodness and lovableness, even when certain behaviors or personality traits are annoying or even hurtful.”
Marriage is a unique bond that provides opportunities for each partner to shed whatever is not genuine and learn to be their authentic selves. This journey may take a lifetime.
You often recommend psychotherapy. How do I choose a good therapist?
Ask a lot of questions before you set the first appointment. For example, if you are in recovery from an addiction, ask if the therapist has extensive experience working with addictions and is deeply familiar with the 12-step tradition that you are working in. It’s also helpful to know why she or he entered the field. If the answer is “I want to help people,” you may be encountering someone who has a compulsion to fix others or who has not cleaned up their co-dependency. Also ask how therapists handle difficulties or crises in their own lives. Unlike spiritual directors, psychotherapists are not required to be in therapy themselves. If they think they can solve their problems by themselves, they’re not advocates of their own field.