Dear Dr. Romance:
I came across your name in an article on Yahoo titled "More Couples Sleeping Apart: Is This Healthy?". I am a thirtysomething man living on the West Coast. My wife and I have been together for ten years, married for six. We have three small children, and my wife has a pre-teen daughter from a previous relationship. We've been seeing a marriage counselor because my wife has been unhappy with me for years. A few months ago, she told me she wanted a divorce. She claims that I pushed her away with my behavior (anger, mood swings, etc.) and has fallen out of love with me.
I begged her to stay. I promised her we would seek counseling and that I would change my ways. She has stuck around and has been telling me she is trying to find it within her heart to want to continue with our relationship.
A recent argument has put us back to what feels like square one. She told me she is leaving to live her life without me in it. I am desperate. I love my wife tremendously and I am willing to do anything and everything it will take to save our marriage.
Counseling at this point does not seem to be helping us. Lisa has said during counseling sessions that she doesn't understand how anyone can make her love me again. I can certainly change counselors and see what that will do but I feel like we are at a very critical point. I believe she truly wants to leave me for good but struggles within herself when it comes to hurting me.
I have been pouring my heart out to her constantly until she made me promise to stop and to just give her some time and space. I don't know who to turn to at this point. She has moved out of our bedroom and into the spare bedroom for the third time now. Our child for the second time has asked why mommy isn't sleeping in our bed anymore.
Lisa cannot forget all of the hurt I have caused her. I feel like we need strong intervention to help us heal the pain in our past so that we can start to rebuild our relationship.
From what you're telling me, I think couples counseling is not the right way to go. You need counseling for your "behavior (anger, mood swings, etc.) " As long as you have an anger problem, you won't be able to sustain a relationship, with your wife or anyone else. I recommend you get individual counseling immediately, and be serious about it. If you can't manage your own moods, emotions and reactions, your wife will never reconcile with you.
"Anger: Cleansing Squall or Hurricane?" "Fair Fight Guidelines" and "How Not to Fight" are all about how to stop angry outbursts and fighting. "How to Be Irresistible to Your Mate" has guidelines you can follow to try and repair things with your wife, but, you can't just use that and then lose your temper again. You have to change permanently.
Couples counselors differ in expertise. If your counselor hasn't insisted you get help for your anger and mood swings, then he or she is not the right counselor for you. Get individual counseling for yourself only, and find a counselor who will be very tough and interactive if you want rapid change. The counselor should give you homework. If you fix this quickly, you might have a chance to save your marriage. You may have waited too long, but at least you can fix the problem so it doesn't destroy the next relationship.
It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction will help you understand yourself and the root causes of your anger.