Have you pulled your marriage back from the brink?

My wife and I are in a sad state. I’ll avoid the entire he-said-she-said stuff. I’m sorry, I know that prurient details are fun to read but for now I’ll leave them out and add them if necessary. They’d be slanted in my favor, of course, even given my desire to be deliberately un-biased in my presentation.

We’re at the point where very conversation is either mundane information exchanges necessary to run a house and family or they’re near-shouting matches. Everything said is evaluated through our patented “Is this the end of the marriage” filter or is turned over in our heads to find whether the other is attacking.

We’re getting professional marriage counseling right now, just completed our third visit, but I’m still fighting feelings of hopelessness. I don’t want to divorce and, unfortunately, not all the reasons are noble:

  1. We have young children and their well being is important to both of us.
  2. I really do love her, even if I seem constantly at odds with her, and I’d like to stay with her.
  3. (Not Noble) I already have an ex-wife and being 0 for 2 would make me feel even more like a loser that I already do.

Any of you pull your marriage back from the brink of divorce?

Did you do it with marriage counseling?

How long did you go through counseling until you felt you had it all back together? (Right now an hour a week just seems like throwing spitballs at Godzilla.)

How long have you been married? And how long has your marriage been … less than ideal?

Not looking for intimate details, but could you tell us why you’re on the brink? Was there infidelity? Abuse? Just a general idea of how you got to where you are will help us point you in the right direction (hopefully).

That said, my husband and I just went through a rough patch of our own (not close to divorce, but the most serious we’ve had so far), and I don’t think you should give up if you both are committed to staying together.

I’d suggest reading “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard Harley.

He examined the state of marriage counseling and found that overall, marriage counseling made very little impact on marriages. From this, he analyzed what the problems were and tried a new analysis system.

The book comes out of that. It has a very slight “Christian” background I think, but it’s quite minor and this book is ideal for any marriage.

I think when he says “an affair proof marriage”, he’s referring to a marriage that won’t produce, but would survive an affair.

I was kind of in the same place as you about 10-12 years ago and I wasn’t able to save my marriage. For a marriage to work, almost more importantly than love, there has to be mutual respect, and if you’re at the point at that has evaporated rescue efforts are pretty much doomed.

If there is still respect you can build on that otherwise it’s time to move on unless you’'re both sincerely committed to some higher ideal like staying together for the kids, which shouldn’t be sneezed at, kids don’t care about yelling nearly as much as they care about Mommy and Daddy being there.

It did not work for my first marriage. I’m afraid it’s much like CPR…something desparate to try but most of the time it doesn’t work.

It didn’t work for my first marriage. It did for my second marriage.

First off, saving a marriage is hard work, and counseling is only a part of it. You and your wife will have to take work home with you.

Second – and this is why counseling didn’t work in my first marriage – you both have to go in with the attitude that the marriage is worth saving, that living apart is not a better option and that, despite the problems you’ve run into, the reasons you got married in the first place are still present.

Third – once you work through your problems, you have to move on from them. There are always new problems you’ll need to work on.

With my wife and me, it took about a year just to work through the immediate situation that got us into counseling in the first place. And we’ve gone back a few times to clear the air since then.

I’ll talk about my parents’ case. They been married 26 years. Last year Dad moved out of the house and was almost ready to demand a divorce. Now they’re living together again and at they claim that divorce is not longer on the table.

Here’s my main observation. In a relationship there are fundamental issues and small issue. People are usually afraid to confront fundamental issues, so they bring up other things to serve as proxies. In my parents’ case, for instance, the big issues were the house and employment. They own a house in Kentucky where they’ve lived for a long time. Mom likes the house and has poured a lot of effort into it; she also owns and runs a business in Kentucky. Dad hates the house and is always looking for other jobs in other cities.

All their disputes were related to these facts, but they never confronted the real issues at stake. For instance, I remember one big fight about whether to spend money adding insulation in the attic. Mom said yes, Dad said no, of course. But from a relationship perspective the fight was pointless because even when it was resolved they still didn’t agree about keeping or leaving the house.

So that, to me, illustrates that facing the big issues is the key. Of course you first have to honestly assess what the big issues are in your case.

OK - some details.

Nope: no affair (at least sexual), abuse, etc.


I always said there were two major stressors in my view of our marriage. My wife’s apparent disinterest in keeping the house clean (she’s a stay-at-home mom) and her inabilty to control her spending.

Over time, our house has gone from cluttered to dirty. And by dirty, I mean laundry everywhere, mold in the sink and floors so dirty that your feet turn black. She’d wipe here and touch there and declare that it was too big a job to do. If I attempted to do it she’d get mad at me because, IMO, I was pointing out that she wasn’t doing her job by me having to do it.

She’s also a compulsive spender. I make enough money to have a decent lifestyle if it’s not wasted. She, however, seemed to buy whatever she wanted whenever she wanted it. The family was in constant financial binds because, again IMO, she couldn’t control herself. She doesn’t seem to to be able to delay gratification. This flies in the face of both our financial concerns and my basic frugal nature (although I feel I have to be overly stingy to compensate for her spending).

I’ve alway had it in the back of my head that this is due to basic selfish nature. I know when I married her that she was fairly self-centered but I also thought that she’d age away from it (She was 23, I was 30). Just youthful behavior, thought I.

Recently she’s been spending a lot of time with a male friend. She says it’s all innocent and she’s got a reason for every hour spent. I, however, am jealous. This man is in the middle of a bad marriage situation himself and she wants to help. This, to me, is a problem. She once had a bit of an “affair of the heart” with a mutual friend - I worked a lot in the early days and she spent time with my friend. She says that she started to see him as much more than a friend but never took it to the physical level before she sort-of broke it off with him. I worry that she’ll do the same with this guy. I’m, as her husband, am supposed to have a specific role in her life. I don’t want this guy to move into that role, even if their relationship stays non-physical.

What she says of me, is of course, harder for me to enumerate.

She claims I never accept her apologies easily. I agree in that I don’t just automatically accept any apology offered - I take a semi-christian view that an apology should come from a genuine wish to change and be forgiven. I also view that my forgiving the offense should indicate that I’m over the issue and it’s gone. I tend to hold grudges a bit and it’s hard for me to cool right down and forgive. I also tend to feel her apologies are just to make herself feel better and there’s no real intention to change.

She says that I always tell her what to do. Perhaps some truth from her point of view. Sometimes when I voice my opinion she feels that I’m telling her that she’s supposed to agree with it. Example. She wants a new tattoo that I’m not thrilled with. I really don’t like the idea of her getting one there. She’s mad that I don’t approve. I hold the official view that I cannot tell her, an adult, what to do. She can get one there if she wants but if she does then I am not obligated to like it afterward.

However, I can be a bit of a “Cliff Clavin” authority on subjects and she may see that as attempted dominance. I’ve got this on my “things to improve” list.

There’s probably more but this is waaaay more than I intended at the start.

Oh - married nearly 11 years, quiet problems for much this time. Overt problems the past two months or so.

I did not read everyones posts, as I have no real advice. I hope it works out for you, I really do. I got married super young and divorced a few years afterwards. I had a son, who I was (and still am, thank God) super close with. He would call me crying the saddest cry asking where his Daddy was, even if I just saw him two minutes prior.

Once again, I hope it works out. It is definitely possible.

Have you written about your wife here before? I seem to recall reading a thread of yours about her not cleaning and her compulsive spending. I remember thinking it was an extremely difficult situation. It’s going to be really hard to get her to change her habits. If she doesn’t like to clean, she will never like to clean… And if she is a spending addict, then she needs help for that.

Here’s what I would do. Figure out how much a weekly maid service would cost and take that amount of money out of her stipend or allowance or whatever.

She should not be free to just spend the family’s funds as she pleases. She should be given a set amount for her own expenses, and a set amount for family expenses such as groceries and gas. You should pay all the bills and if she has credit cards, get them cancelled. If you have a joint account, cancel it and set up one fo rher that your transfer her stipend into.

She is acting like a spoiled brat by not contributing to the household duties (cleaning) then spending money irresponsibly. That is like me showing up for work every day and doing nothing and expecting to get paid for it.

It’s like that little motto stay-at-home moms always like to say: being a mom is the hardest job there is! Well, let her know that it is a job and she needs to do her job or she won’t be paid - just like the rest of us who work outside the home. It’s completely unfair to you to have to “bring home the bacon” and have it spent willy nilly without her completing her portion of duties.

And the whole thing about her hanging out with the married guy and the previous “affair of the heart,” to me that is a huge red flag, and sets alarm bells off in my head.

I recall a similar thread as well. Sorry to hear it hasn’t gotten any better.

To me it looks like she’s more to blame than you are. If she doesn’t want to work as a team, what choice do you have? If she won’t go to counseling, won’t clean the house, and won’t stop emotionally intimate relationships with other guys, it sounds sort of like you’re single already. Can it be salvaged? Sure. Anything can, depending on how much you’re willing to bend. You need to decide what your breaking point is. Let her know that you will not compromise any more than X, Y, Z, and if she can’t do that, you can no longer be married.

What does your wife do at home if she isn’t cleaning the house but has enough time to hang out with some random dude and go shopping? Did she work before the kids and/or command a decent salary? Because if she likes to spend money and isn’t doing the work that SAHMs are generally responsible for-why not suggest going back to work, and putting her salary towards a cleaning service, childcare and whatever is left over she can have to satisfy her spending? Get your own separate accounts and put your money towards the investments/family funds. Cancel her credit card and if she runs her debit balance down to zero she’s out of luck till the next paycheck (also her salary should go towards paying down the debt that she has already rung up).

At least you won’t have an active depletion of funds if you give her no access to your income.

My sympathies-does your wife understand the financial problems? Has she made an attempt to go to some financial counselling together and stick to a plan? I hope things work out for you.

How old are your kids? Would putting them into daycare while your wife gets even a part-time job be an option? Some people are not cut out for managing a household, and it sounds like your wife is one of them.

Good luck!

Getting away from the specific, if order for it to work you both have to sincerely want it to work and you both have to sincerely try very hard and you both have to be willing to make changes. If all of that is not true, you may as well file the papers now. As for the specific situaion, I like the idea of getting a house cleaner to come in once a week as a start. This will remove one major stress area and shouldn’t cost too much. It’ll be well worth it.

Well, part of her recent behavior (past three weeks) has been to clean the house. It’s not perfect but it’s paradise compared to what it was and it’ll probably continue to get better. She’s working her way into the back corners of the house metaphorically.

A while ago we implemented the MOMO (Money Of My Own) method of money management. I did figure out what she needed each week for food, kids needs, play money, etc. and give it to her as a lump sum each payday ($480 semi-weekly). It’s an allowance but it sounds nicer to call it something else. I get one too, by the way, $80. I don’t have any expenses other than a lunch out with coworkers, clothes, gifts, etc. so mine is less.

Her’s sounds like a lot but she’s supposed to feed the family, buy soap, etc. on that amount.

This week, though, in addition, she spent $35 on shower-curtain rings on ebay (so cute :rolleyes:), $31 in a grocery store check kited the day before payday, and $50 on new jeans.

She deleted the jeans cost from her MOMO draw at the bank but neglected the other two things. I talked her into returning the shower curtain money three or four days ago but the cleared kited check just cleared yesterday. I just don’t have the will, after this past week’s arguments, to try to get that money returned.

I’m starting to think that I need to reduce her MOMO, too. The estimates were just too generous, in my opinion, and we could use the money elsewhere. I’m scared to death to even begin to discuss that with her.

The spending beyond her allowance has been a common problem since we implemented the MOMO method. It’s $10 here and $20 there but I’ll bet it adds up to another $200 a month from the budget. She’s trying harder since the big blow-up. I’m hopeful but wary.

My mother tells me the story of a couple she knows. The woman carries no cash, no cards, etc. She’s not on the accounts. If she needs groceries, she gives her husband a list. If she needs shoes, he asks “How much”, and he hands her that amount. My mother wants me to do that with my wife. I want to trust her more than that so I’m resisting.

It’s easy to say that I should forbid her *this *and limit her to that. It’s harder to enforce - if she breaks the agreement there’s little to do. There’s no good “or else” other than the threat of divorce and I really don’t want to go that far. I’m trying to save the marriage, not end it.

I want a partner not a prisoner. Somebody who’s cooperating with me and our limitations, not doing it because of some threat.

I’m sorry for the way I worded my suggestion-I was only trying to indicate an option that might have taken the stress off of you regarding the financial worries because it seemed like it was becoming really overwhelming.

From your update it sounds like she beginning to make an effort. Sorry for the initial offense. I hope you guys can keep the lines of communication open because it does sound like you are very committed to her.

I don’t like to pry too much, but this is IMHO, and you are asking for other’s views and opinions in a way. Your question is about pulling marriages back from the brink. I will say again I hope it works out and it seems you really do want it to. Counseling is out, so be it. I am personally not a big fan of it anyway.

I am the product of divorced parents and it really messed me up. My son is a product of divorced parents, and my wifes daughter is the product of divorce. Hopefully they turn out alright, as we show them a lot of love, so it is possible to come out of divorce okay.

But you don’t want a divorce, right? Giving her a budget is a good idea, but I would be afraid of rebellion in some sort, perhaps leading to divorce anyway. If she rolls checks, perhaps no checkbook. If you want to limit her money, perhaps pre-paid credit cards?

The generations prior to ours survived problems that our generation use as excuses for divorce. They all say “we made it, we worked it out” but in reality a lot of people lived miserable married lives.

I know of one couple that pulled their marriage from the brink. They went down the wrong path (swinging) with the husbands pushing. They should not have been doing it, as it was not for them. They were close to divorce, but neither one let it happened, and they are together still married and going strong, although I know the resentment is there and will NEVER go away. Personally I still think they will get divorced when the kids get old enough to move out.

My aunt’s husband did this to her for years. She had to calculate what she needed for the house to the penny. He would give her exactly that amount and nothing more. The lawyers (his and hers) in the divorce called it abuse.

No offense. Believe me, all your questions are things I’ve been thashing about for years.

To answer your earlier question - she worked outside the home before the kids were born. It was hourly work and, unfortunately, it’s a skill that fades so there isn’t much chance of returning to it.

She’s considering a very-part time job (10 hrs/week) right now that’ll allow her to earn a little bit but not require childcare (our youngest is preschool). It’s a good option and I support it, even given the small return. It’s a chance for feeling like a contributor and a good step to, perhaps, allow more hours as our kids are all in full-time school. I’m tempted to wait the whole MOMO reduction discussion until I see if she gets that job and perhaps work income into the equation.

I’ve also agreed, by the way, to not discuss our problems with our friends anymore. I do hope I’m not breaking our agreement by discussing this with this anonymous community. I am one, however, that works through things via discussion. If any of you suspect you know me or her, please pretend you don’t. 'Kay?

Apologies to all for my odd typing, too. No good excuse other than my thoughts are out-stripping my typing skills and I don’t proofread worth a damn.