Relationship Connection: Is my son justified in ending his marriage?

Marriage Road Sign with Stormy Sky Future Ahead , Photo coutresy of YinYang/Getty Images, St. George News

Question

Our son got a girl pregnant when he was 18 and they eventually married and now have four children together. After his girlfriend got pregnant, they continued to live together and had two more children, even starting a business together.

The marriage has been troubled since the beginning.

They continued counseling, which they started almost immediately in their long troubled marriage. My daughter-in-law’s main problem was that she felt she had missed out on her teenage years and she loved the nightclub scenes, drinking and partying. There was always trouble when her husband declined to join her in these pursuits. For a time to keep the peace he did take up drinking socially with her family to try to improve relations with her. But he soon found that he did not find happiness in this pursuit so he let her do it while he refrained from doing so.

But I knew the time would come when she would leave her marriage to search for her own brand of happiness. And it did come. She decided to leave everything – house, business, children and husband. She had advertised her availability on dating sites, and she has had a few liaisons with other men.

Our son was miserable but he wanted his wife to find herself and hoped she would miss her family enough to return. He had tried everything to save his marriage, but 12 months after she left him, she still did not want to return.

Our son has finally called it quits. In the last couple of months he has now found an emotional connection with another single mother – she has three children (they met because their children were friends). Despite the problems that come from being a lone father, he is making a go of it.

Now that our son appears to be moving on with his life, and has cut emotional ties with his wife, she appears to want what she has lost and has become very bitter and nasty.

Is our son right in letting go of his marriage after all that has happened? I feel divorce is justified, am I wrong? I’ve told him that even though his marriage cannot be saved at this stage, their relationship can be. Is this right advice? Am I right in voicing this opinion? I know it’s not up to me but I would like your thoughts and I really value your opinions.

(answer follows below)

Answer

All marriages have multiple opportunities to heal from the injuries and devastation caused by spouses. If each spouse is willing to take personal responsibility for the injuries they’ve caused and injured spouses are able to forgive and open up to trust, marriages can become reinforced and stronger than before. I’ve worked with couples for almost 20 years and I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. I’ve also seen what happens when one spouse refuses to take personal responsibility for their behavior.

Your son isn’t in a marriage anymore. His wife has left, started dating other men and is forming a new life. She has no personal accountability for her actions. Even if your son was a terrible husband, her leaving and starting a new life effectively ends their marriage.

It doesn’t sound like his wife wants to fix the damage she’s caused. Perhaps she’s upset that he’s moved forward with his life. It’s one thing for her to ask for a separation as a way to save the marriage. It’s an entirely different thing to separate and begin a new life dating other men and abandoning the marriage and children.

She might have legitimate concerns and grievances with her marriage. However, unless she’s willing to come back home, face her husband and take responsibility for her infidelity, there is no way their marriage can be whole. If her way of showing she wants her marriage back is by criticizing and complaining, then she will never achieve the change necessary for lasting change.

Your son needs to be careful about starting a new relationship as well. I imagine the friendship of this new lady friend is a comfort to him in many ways, but starting a new relationship before he’s divorced isn’t a healthy way to build long-term stability. If you have any influence with him, encourage him to make a decision about his current marriage status before he over commits to a new woman.

Your son and daughter-in-law built a family and a business, but they weren’t able to build a marriage.

Her absence makes it impossible to work on repairing the marriage. Your son has a decision to make in response to the decisions she’s made to terminate her involvement in the marriage. It’s ultimately not healthy for her or the children to believe that this represents marriage.

Stay connected!

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.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer    

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • ladybugavenger November 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Absolutely divorce her!

  • Sapphire November 2, 2016 at 9:50 am

    He should get custody of the kids, finish raising them and stay out of relationships until they are grown. They already have had to deal with a mother who doesn’t want them and a broken home, a father who was too stupid to prevent more pregnancies until he was sure he was in a committed, stable relationship, and now he is bringing another girlfriend and all her kids and drama into their lives. If they have more children together then that will make his other children outsiders in this new relationship. If the new girlfriend doesn’t work out then there will be more and more for the kids to deal with. There comes a time when you just have to grow up and be an adult, deal with the consequences of your choices, and do what is best for your children. This is their only childhood, their time of learning by example of what is important, their time to be loved and protected and directed to do good and productive things. They need their dad to be their champion and put them first.

  • Hataalii November 2, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Hmmmm, I’m always concerned when a mother writes in to ask what her “child” should do. While I’m thinking that you do have the best interest of your son, at heart, I have to wonder about a few things.
    Please ask yourself the following questions:
    1) Did my son ask me to try to seek outside counselling on this matter?
    2) Does my son ask for my opinion about things?
    3) Is it possible that I never liked his wife, and let it show, which led to her being dissatisfied with the marriage?
    4) Could this be the reason “she appears to want what she has lost and has become very bitter and nasty?”
    5) Are you aware of just how difficult it will be for your son to gain full custody of his children?
    6) Are you aware of just how much money child support is going to cost him, should he lose a custody dispute?
    These are very real questions that need to be asked and answered of yourself. By yourself. I know how hateful and vindictive a spouse can become, in a divorce. If everything you have posted is accurate, and if you can honestly say that you have not interfered in any way in their marriage, then perhaps it is time that he goes for a divorce.
    OTOH, if, when you ask yourself “have I been an interfering mother/mother-in-law,” then it is time for you to step back and cut the apron strings. Young adults who have a parent running interference for them, never really get a chance to grow up. Please don’t do this to your son.

  • Paul November 2, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Who writes stuff like this? It’s as obvious as the nose on a face what the son should do. Get the hell out!

  • 42214 November 2, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Must be Wednesday.

  • Bob November 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    they should all get back together, grab them kids and relocate to a shoddy trailer park in Oklahoma. They will be right at home

    • Bob November 2, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      seedy was the word i wanted, lol

    • ladybugavenger November 2, 2016 at 9:11 pm

      Ok Bob settle down and send them to Arkansas not Oklahoma lol

    • .... November 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      and another moment of stupidity from boob

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