Goodbye Wife

How Love Ends


A tragedy walked into my office.  This man arrived a year late.  His wife is leaving.  She’s decided she doesn’t love him anymore and she can’t go on living this way.  And he’s devastated.

Last year she came in to see me alone.  She wanted him to come but he wouldn’t.  In fact, he became rather outraged over it.  What she had to tell me convinced me that this marriage wasn’t going to last unless something changed, radically.  She was completely frustrated.  There was no affection, little sex and hardly any fun.  He was all work, work, work.  On top of that he abused her, verbally, calling her nasty names and criticizing.  To me he sounded perfectionistic, compulsive, driven by materialism and achievement needs.

I told her I wanted to contact him by E-mail or phone, to invite him to see me alone or join us or, at least, to warn him that he was losing her.  She asked me not to.  She was afraid he would take it out on her and it might make things even worse.  So, naturally I didn’t call him.

As of our last session she was still determined to stick it out.  She had already had one divorce, felt bad about failing again, and had persistent ideas that she could or should, somehow, make it OK.  For years she had operated from the delusion that if she just loved him enough, cooked the right dinners, did what he asked, he would come around and love her the way she needed him to.  But he never did.

Then one day he got mad and called her a nasty name again.  Suddenly she gave up.  He wants to change everything now.  Too late.  She’s over it, down the road and around the bend.

It can seem, at times, that love is durable, that it will stand up over the years to abuse and neglect.  Well, it may appear that way when people don’t look closely at the emotional undercurrents.  We tend to see what we want to see, what we expect to see, what we’re used to seeing.  But love that isn’t nourished rots from the inside.  Hurts and insults pile up.  When the positive is neglected the negative can over-balance it.  Then one day the illusion crumbles.  It was just a shell.  What was inside has disappeared.

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