Should I Stay or Should I Go?

My husband and I have been separated for over a year, due to (in my opinion) our lack of connection and emotional intimacy. He now says he is willing and able to learn to connect emotionally and desperately wants to make things work. I love him and the life that we shared very much. During this separation, I have had two sexual relationships with women which were very emotionally and physically satisfying. I am struggling now to decide whether to work on my marriage or accept that I am now going in a completely different direction. This indecision is making me crazy.
Dear Confused,

It sounds to me like you have distilled your decision down to two clear options, but you are not quite ready to dive headlong into either one of them. You probably, deep down, have a leaning one way or the other, but taking the plunge must be a very frightening prospect at the moment. Is there a need to rush this decision? It is quite a weighty one.

It might be helpful to know that you can either work hard at trying to figure out the best next step, or you can relax and let Life take care of it. Sure, if you don’t actively choose, you may have to deal with the effects someone else’s decision has on your heart and mind. But sometimes letting go of control and allowing Life to lead the way can take us places we may not have chosen for ourselves, but which turn out to be exactly what we need.

I’m hearing that the biggest difficulty for you at the moment is frustration with your own indecision. You can change this situation from a struggle to a growth opportunity by embracing your lack of clarity rather than fighting with it. It is perfectly ok that you are not quite sure what to do next. Whatever comes next in your life will require good stores of energy and vitality to aid you in starting anew. What a gift that you have foreknowledge that a major life change is on the way! So often we are blindsided by Life without time to prepare and shore up our resources.

Perhaps you can ease the pressure you are putting on yourself and let go of trying to force a decision. The “right” answers will come from within you when you give your heart and mind some time to process it all at a calm pace. From gentle self-inquiry and contemplation, a phenomenon I call “the third option” often arises. So often we boil our choices down to two possibilities, a representation of black and white thinking, a struggle between opposites. Life is actually much more complex, gray-hued, and mysterious. When we take a step back and let life’s less-obvious forces play a role in our decision-making, we may find that another possibility enters the picture, one we hadn’t previously considered.

It may be that you are feeling indecisive because neither of the options you have identified is exactly right. Your thinking may be too pressured at the moment for you to come up with a next step that feels just right to you.When we release our stress and open our minds to the possibility that a situation might have an unexpected resolution, we make room for magical things to happen. Granted, there may not be flying elephants or fairy godmothers, but relief from your distress may come when you least expect it, from the most unlikely source. And, believe it or not, this happens frequently, as I have witnessed over and over again. But it requires patience and the knowledge that most decisions can be made more slowly than we are often encouraged to believe. Slow and steady wins the race.

Kind regards,

Karen D. Kochenburg, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in San Jose, California. Her areas of interest and expertise include transpersonal psychotherapy, LGBT issues, adolescent psychology, spiritual development, clinical supervision/mentoring, nonviolent communication, and conflict resolution.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Marlon

    June 22nd, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Sure, if you want to stay then stay. But I have to believe that if you are even having to ask then it is probably time to cut the ties and go.

  • Laurel

    June 22nd, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Um, hello, she is experimenting with relationships with other women.
    Don’t you think that her husband who I assume to be straight and who probably thought that she was too might have some problems with this that could cause him to change his mind about the reconciliation?
    I think that there just might be too many problems in this marriage that won’t be overcome simply because he has now decided he wants to emotionally reconnect with his wife.
    I am not saying that it can’y be done because I have seen relationships that I di not think had a snowballs chance in you know where that have survived, but this one leaves me to wonder how much of a basis for respect and trust there is left.

  • Kyra K

    June 23rd, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    If I was in a marriage and it had hit the skids, but I really did want to try to work it out, I think that the last thing that I would do while I was in that phase would be to get involved with someone else. Those kinds of relationships can cloud your views of what you really want to do and whether you do want the marriage to succeed. That is a far better time instead to learn about who you and are and the person that you have evolved into since you got married. And a perfect time for reflection! Is this something that is important to you and are you better off with this person than you are without him? When you add a nother person (or in some cases multiple people) to the equation it confuses everything leaving you feeling more vulnerable and undecided than before.

  • Keilani

    June 23rd, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    I am married And pregnant ilove my husband but all he does it’s make me cry and he gives more importance to his friends and Facebook should I leave him

  • MsBest

    October 31st, 2012 at 2:02 AM

    Talk to him! Communication is key!! If you love him and he loves you. You can work it out but u both have to be will and the lines of communication has to be opened

  • Nan

    June 24th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Her frustration comes from more than her own indecision.
    This sounds like a woman who has probably been in the wrong relationship for a while who is now seeking ways to figure out who she is.
    Personally, with the other relationships (?) that she experimented with while estranged from her husband, maybe this is who she really is and finds that her marriage keeps her from being her true self.

  • Melinda

    June 25th, 2012 at 12:36 AM

    I have found that being worried and in a hurry hardly let’s me make any decisions,ever.

    I am better able to assess and evaluate things and come to a much writer decision when I’m relaxed and laid back.

    I just wish I was able to get the luxury of time and composure everyone there was an important decision to be made!

  • blaine

    June 25th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Doesn’t anyone want to make a marriage work anymore?

  • MsBest

    October 31st, 2012 at 1:59 AM

    Yes!!! I have been fighting for the last 4yrs for my marriage. Now I’m sitting here at 5am my husband hasn’t come home and I’m told he is just out talking to a friend(lesbian). How can I trust that? But still in all I want to save this marriage. I feel stupid for sitting here like just waiting to see what happens when ever bit of me wants to drive out n find him, but we have 3 children n don’t want to leave them home even though they r sleeping.
    Fool for Love!????

  • Lisa

    November 12th, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Yes … He should be at home with you at 5AM????!!! You and your three children!!

  • Junebug

    June 25th, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Marriage is such a sacred institution that I would at least hope that couples would give therapy a try before giving up on it so easily. I know that for most couples they do try at least once to make it work but I hate to see those couples who choose to throw it all away so easily. Most of them are just like ok, I tried, it didn’t work let me cut my losses. It would just be nice to see a little more effort to try to keep things together these days.

  • MsBest

    October 31st, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    I totally agree. Marriage is a commitment for better or worse. Commitment means you fight you hold on tight to it. You do what it takes to fix it.

  • joan

    June 26th, 2012 at 12:40 AM

    I’ve been in a situation so many times when I think there r two doors in front of me n I need to choose one but time has proven that there really was a third door there and that in fact the third door is the better option.

    this happens in our everyday life too actually.if we pay attention to and practice it a little everyday then we will not really be awestruck when we’re in a situation where we need to choose.

    like whenever I need to go to several places in one trip,it makes sense to first it may seem like there is only one or two ways you can cover all the places and that it will take a lot of traveling.but proper planning may well show up a route that covers all places while still reducing the total distance travelled!

  • Kat

    July 12th, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Give it a try before giving up so easily Junebug says? I see alot wrong in that thought. How about the one committing the affair? They thought and knew the damage they were going to inflict and didn’t consider anybody but themselves??? So why should the one betrayed work SOOOO hard once they have been hurt so deeply and intimately? They trying and working on the relationship should have been done long before the betrayer entered into another relationship. If they didn’t want to work on the marriage and have another person to be intimate and love they should have divorced the spouse FIRST. This would have at least showed respect, some dignity and caring for the years they were together which in my case is 24 years. I owe nothing to this sacred institution. He threw it away on a 3 yr affair and destroyed my feelings for him in the process. I will never look at him or feel for him in the same light I did during our marriage. Never. What I held sacred he DID NOT so I owe him nothing. I owe myself happiness and freedom from such a selfish, disloyal, lieing man. At 24 yrs together he entered into the affair. At 27 years I found out. What a wasted life of love and devotion and support I gave him.

  • Dr. Mark

    October 5th, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Dear Confused. . .
    You said you “love him and the life you shared–very much.” That says a lot! If he is willing to work on intimacy and connection (a rare thing for men to realize and admit), and you love him, part of your personal healing, and the healing of your relationship is realizing that you both have personal work to do to create what you want in the future, and that going back to the way it used to be is not okay. You’ve spent years investing in this relationship, and Im guessing you’ve already worked out a lot of ground-breaking issues along the way that would require starting over in any new relationship.

    Your husband’s lack of intimacy and connection is a red flag that indicates you both could benefit from pursuing Personal Work with a good therapist, whether you remain in the relationship long term or not. His issues are likely a result of early childhood “stuff” possibly related to unresolved mother issues-fear of the feminine, enmeshing overbearing mother, absence of healthy feminine nurture, depressed anxious and needy mom, overwhelming women, a million possible issues. You may be triggering him without intending or realizing you do so. Personal work on both of your parts may offer a great deal of clarity and resolve, and growth for your future life together, or for another significant relationship that transpires.

    And, I might add. . . some men and women, when in a place of vulnerability, experience same-sex intimacy that feels “right” at the time because of the rush of instant connection, but may not be an indication of a life-defining identity, or a true central core desire. And, if you were to go in that direction, the long term result would still require personal work on your part. A same-sex relationship has many challenges of it’s own once you get past the newness of the connection and the infatuation stage.

    Best of luck to you!

  • Lisa

    November 12th, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Ok so how do you get back the “want” after being betrayed? There are fleeting moments that I feel how can I fully love this man who thought so little of me to be with someone else?

  • Josie Majcher

    November 19th, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    After 28 years together I found out about my husbands affair—with my best friend—yes, I was talking to her and crying to her and it WAS HER!!! We are in therapy (ok, have only had 3 sessions) and he missed the 3rd one (he thought it was at 7 when it was at 6–(he made the appointment). I found out about his affair in February 2012. He has just found out how much we have in credit card debt. I have been a stay at home mom until 2008. Three weeks after finding out about the affair—I go fired. I was out of work for 8 months. How do you feel strong enough to go on with this huge of a set back? Insurance only covers therapy every 2 weeks. We dont go again until after Thanksgiving. I know I was wrong in using the credit cards but we did not have my income. He now isnt speaking to me—ok, I get that he is angry and hurt and to be honest, part of me is glad that he feels so betrayed. I think: “good-now you know how I feel!” Our kids are older 20y, 18y, and 15y. On a good day–I feel strong and handle the mean things he says and the being ignored. On a bad day—I wonder how to go on. In therapy I was working on dealing with him being a verbal abuser. Thanks for letting me vent—it helps!!

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