Question: My husband and I have major marriage problems, which have turned me into someone I don’t even recognize or like. While I don’t care about what others think of me, I’m mad that my children think I’m the crazy one in the relationship. I feel like they avoid me and they act scared of me. When my husband is around, they go to him and prefer to be with him because he’s the “calm one.” They’re pretty little still, so I can’t tell them what really happened in our marriage and why I’m acting so crazy. My husband has been unfaithful to me and has lied about money and other things over the years. If they knew that he’s really the crazy one, even though he looks normal and calm, they might feel differently about things. I hate that he’s the favorite and can hold things together better than I can because I’ve been so hurt. What should I do?
Answer: I can imagine how crazy-making it is for you to have so much hurt showing on the outside with no real way of explaining yourself to those who matter most to you. I want you to know how much I honor you for working hard to protect your children from the details of your marital strife. Let’s talk about how you can deal with this painful dilemma.
First, recognize that what you’re really seeking is understanding. You want someone important to you to really get what you’re going through. You need them to see how painful this is for you and understand why it’s been difficult for you to hold yourself together.
Ideally, that person would be your husband, even though he’s the source of the pain. If you knew that he really understood what this was like for you and could care about the impact he’s had on you, chances are you wouldn’t feel so crazy. However, if he’s not willing to work through this with you, to attend couples counseling and own up to his own responsibility for the chaos you are experiencing in your relationship, then you’ll need to find the validation and understanding from someone else that is safe for you to be open with as you navigate your own troubled waters.
Because you’re having difficulty giving your family your best self right now, it’s important for you to have adult support from someone who can help you reconnect to your best self. This might come from a support group, from trusted female friends, from selected family members, from some in your church who are wise and encouraging.
I love Paulo Coelho’s counsel to “[not] allow your wounds to transform you into someone you are not.” Even though you’re hurting tremendously, you can heal and be your best self for your children.
This isn’t about competing with your husband to be the “favorite.” Instead, it is about you working to build your own relationship with your children that is separate from your husband’s parent-child relationship.
I’m thrilled that your husband is willing to connect with the children and build a relationship with them. That is in their best interest, regardless of his personal failings. However, if he continues to act out and betray the marriage, then he may force a situation where he ends up divorced and apart from his children. And that is rarely in their best interest. I hope, for everyone’s sake, that he’ll take full responsibility for his behavior and work to repair things.
Take charge of your mental and emotional health and get the help you need to heal from the trauma of betrayal. Your children deserve to have you back at full capacity.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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