Dear WholeFamily Counselor ,
I have been married for five years now and together thirteen years. Things have been close to perfect for us. We very seldom ever fight or argue. We want the same things out of our marriage and life that was until this computer and the chat rooms came into our lives.
My husband is obsessed with the chat rooms and he has found a woman on there that he talks to all the time and it is causing many problems in our marriage. She is telling him she wants to be with him and that she loves him and I'm not real sure he's not telling her the same thing. He hasn't gotten very cold towards me and he doesn't make love to me anymore. It has been months since we have made love.
He was also talking to her on the phone but says now that he has stopped, which I do not believe. He talks to her for hours and hours and he use to be very busy around the house always improving things but I can't get him to do anything now. All he thinks about are the chat rooms and talking to her.
He tells me he doesn't want her or love her, that he loves me and he wants to stay married to me but it's like I tell him, "Actions speak louder than words". And his actions are telling me he wants her more than our marriage and me.
I have caught him in so many lies lately that it is so hard for me to trust him anymore. I just can't believe anything he tells me. I try to not talk about the situation because it just makes him angrier with me and he says that's why he is cold towards me. He says that if I would just stop talking and worrying about it that things would get better. It's so hard to believe that because he just keeps talking to her and spending hours with her. How can I stop worrying about it when it is thrown in my face everyday?
I love him with my whole heart and soul and don't want to ever be without him. He is my whole life. I have tried to leave but I can't. It is too hard. How do I leave what I want most in my life? I am in such a state of deep depression. All I do is cry and wish I wouldn't wake up each morning because I know what the day holds for me and I can't take it much longer. I feel like I am slipping away more and more everyday and I don't know what I can do about it. I don't have the strength to fight it anymore. I just want our lives to go back to the way they were before the chat rooms.
Am I asking for the impossible? I keep thinking that I am fighting a lost cause. It seems like he wants to be with her and there's nothing I can do to stop it. So, why am I trying so hard? I feel like I am on the edge of a nervous breakdown and it scares the hell out of me because of the thoughts I am having. I don't know what to do about it anymore. I don't really have anyone I can talk to about it. All I have is him and he doesn't want to hear it anymore. Please help me if you can. I need some answers on what I should do or what I should try.
A very lonely and confused wife
Dear Lonely and Confused,
I'm really glad you wrote. It shows that you have not given up hope in your marriage and that's a good sign for a promising future together. If that is what you want in your heart of hearts, there is every reason to believe you can and will achieve it. A renewed love between the two of you can be yours if that's what you both want it. It sure sounds like that's what you want.
Your marital record so far looks good, after all. You write that you were together as a couple for eight years before you married. Those years must have taught you a lot about one another and knowing what you did about each other you wanted to spend the rest of your lives together as a married couple. You've come to a temporary slump in your marriage now. You are right to want to get back on track immediately and proceed to reap the benefits of a happily married couple in sync with one another again. In the end, your relationship will have been strengthened because of the crisis the two of you faced and overcame together.
Let me address the details of your letter. When you call your husband "obsessed", do you mean like a hopeless gambler that is ready to throw away his life's savings for the sake of his addiction or do you mean like someone who is mad about a passing fancy? If the latter, do you think this is a temporary fascination that will wear off when he realizes how seriously threatening his flirtations are becoming to your marriage? If the former, don't you think you'd better seek some professional counseling right now before it's too late!
Cyber romance is surely alluring, mystical, bewitching and seductive. You are right to be alarmed. You write that you wanted the same things for your marriage at the start. Did that mean monogamy, faithfulness and fidelity? If not, you need to review that initial understanding between you and reevaluate the meaning of your marriage. If so, you both need to recommit to that original reason you are together: your love of one another! That your intimacy has been compromised because of this extramarital distraction reinforces the seriousness of the matter and cries out to you both to "get it together" again and soon.
The good news is, of course, that your husband tells you he loves you. But what does he mean by these precious words? Loosing trust in one another is a sure sign that the fortress of your love is being bombarded and besieged. Take care to nurture the love between you with tenderness and good will, compromise, acceptance, and an unconditional kind of love that will see you through every crisis and challenge, disagreement and misunderstanding.
Here's a concrete suggestion for approaching your husband initially: Write him a letter, a love letter. In it, tell him exactly what you told me, that is, "I love you with my whole heart and soul and don't want to ever be without you. You are my whole life. I have tried to leave but I can't. It is too hard.
Tell him vividly, in as many emotional terms as you can muster, what it is that you are feeling about his obsession with the chat room and with this woman in particular. Dig deep inside to try to express your pain, your fear, your anxiety. But don't forget to emphasize your love for him and how you really want to make this marriage work. Lastly, after you have looked over what you have written, tell him what you feel about having written this letter.
Affirm your hope that he will accept this as an invitation to write back, his love letter to you, telling you exactly what he is feeling. Reassure him that you will not judge his feelings, for feelings are neither right nor wrong. All you want is for the two of you to renew that decision to love you made to one another 13 years ago when you met and again five years ago when you married. With such a sincere and passionate effort, you can't help but touch your husband's heart in a way that is bound to get him to stop and consider what a gift he has in you and in your shared life together!
Rabbi Klein-Katz has served as a spiritual leader and counselor to marital and pre-marital couples for nearly twenty-five years and is co-founder of a nationwide Marriage Encounter program and is an active partner inter religious dialogue.