Saturday, May 20, 2006

Chapter 20 -- Commitment and Withdrawal

Another great question:
In one of your earlier posts you said that you have now found out that your
wife has had other men in her life pretty much throughout the marriage. Has your
wife now come to terms with the fact that this is probably one of the reasons
that your marriage was in trouble? I am sure that you were able to sense that
there was not a full commitment and you probably reacted accordingly. Do you
think this caused you to pull back from the marriage? Have you ever discussed

I did sense that our commitments were not the same. My own parents divorced (after the kids were grown), and my attitude was marriage is for life no matter what. Only the four A's -- adultery, abuse, addiction, abandonment -- justified ending the marriage. I was determined not to follow in the footsteps of my father, who had a string of affairs, so I put guards up to keep from putting myself in a situation where an affair might develop.

My wife did not have that history and I think she had different attitudes about divorce. That's had, past tense. It was an option if things got bad or uncomfortable. She was not as guarded about opposite-sex friendships.

The tension showed itself in a variety of ways. I became resentful about her jobs because of the role I thought they played in her life. The work was not something she did to support the family or to develop herself as an individual. Rather, it seemed to me that work was an escape from the family for her, and in the battle between work and family, work would win every time.

Again, that's the way it seemed to me. Maybe those attitudes made her more likely to decide to have an affair, maybe not. Maybe I read her correctly about the role work played in her life, maybe I didn't.

I think my wife has a different attitude about divorce now than she did before we worked through the affair. I am certain she has a different attitude about boundaries with men, appropriate language, etc. I see it in her behavior.

Rightly or wrongly, the difference in her commitment, whether real or perceived, caused me to withdraw. But here's a question for you -- was the resulting damage to our relationship caused by her commitment level, or was it caused by my withdrawal? Had I not withdrawn, would her commitment level have continued to deteriorate?

I'm on the hook for my share in all this. She is no more responsible for my own failings than I am for hers.


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