After 20 years of marriage, I no longer feel comfortable with my wife. She was a party girl before we got together. Months after the wedding, I found a medical bill and learned that she had been pregnant before we met. I never had total trust in her because of that and other things. She is a good mother, but she’s also selfish (our kids even tell her this). She has started going out regularly with friends for drinks after work and sometimes comes home drunk. After her friends clued me in, I confronted her. When she drinks, she flirts; this scares me. Her company has a lot of retreats. When she called home during the last one, she said that they had been at the hotel lounge having drinks. I found out later that they all got drunk. Since she returned she has been distant. She has been that way before, but says nothing is wrong. We get along, but when we kiss, it’s doesn’t feel like it used to. I am attracted to other women who listen when I talk to them. My wife is a control freak and people jokingly ask how I live with her. Can our relationship be rekindled and trust rebuilt? Or is it time to move on?
Actually, it’s time to be honest about what really scares you. It isn’t your wife’s tendency to flirt when she’s intoxicated. It’s the fear of what might happen next, like an affair or the choice to drive drunk. You also seem to be scared by the realization that you can’t control your wife. So why isn’t she controlling herself? Women who like to have a few cocktails and a lot of laughs are labeled “party girls.” But so are women who use alcohol to dull dark memories or suppress unpleasant emotions—and sometimes end up getting so blitzed that they do things they later regret. Those are the alcoholics. If you fear that your wife is drinking to get drunk, talk to her. She needs to see a psychotherapist who can teach her stress-reduction techniques, determine whether there are underlying problems like depression and support her in battling the patterns of addiction. A twelve-step program is also vital. That’s Alcoholic’s Anonymous for her and Al-Anon for you.
Let’s talk about kissing. It’s normal for the kiss of the long-married to lose its zing. What replaces that thrill is the pure pleasure of familiarity. Knowledge of the other allows you to touch a deep reservoir of intimacy and surrender into profound union. You lack that level of erotic experience because your relationship lacks trust, not because you need someone new. Rebuild trust by telling the truth, to yourself and to your wife. Don’t start an emotional affair with another woman because she’s easy to chat with. Invest your energy into assessing how easy you are to talk to. Do you take time to listen to your own thoughts and challenge the beliefs that cause you stress? Can you listen to your wife without seeing her as someone who has made one bad decision after another? You must view everything with fresh eyes if you really want to invigorate your marriage.
Finally, take care not to use your children to justify your opinions. If you think that your wife is selfish, you don’t need your kids to validate that belief. After all, their name-calling may have more to do with loyalty to you than any reality about your wife. Instead, focus on the things your wife does well as a parent and spouse. Doing so will improve your attitude. Hopefully, that will inspire you to reduce any selfishness of your own (we all have some tucked away somewhere inside us) and help your kids do the same.