Are you waiting for a replacement wife to rescue you from your marriage? Recently, a client told me that the reason he'd decided not to leave his wife was 'I haven’t met anyone else who I’ll want a relationship with'.
It’s not uncommon for men to wait until they've found a new partner before they leave their current one. In my experience, it’s more likely for men to do this than for women. So I'm addressing this column to men. However, whatever your gender, if you are waiting for someone else to come along before you leave your current relationship, read on. I’m not sugar coating this one, so it might make for uncomfortable reading.
It’s possible that the thought won't sit in your mind as starkly as it did in the mind of my client. But his honesty voiced something that many people only half acknowledge or don’t acknowledge at all. But it’s there – in their waiting, in their (lack of) interaction with their spouse, in their irritation and their hard-to-pin-down discontent. I’ve heard it dressed up as ‘But I feel like I’ve been single for the last few years, so I want a relationship.’ Or ‘It just happened.’ (It being that he’s moved straight out of a marital home into a new home with someone else.) It didn’t just happen. He made a choice.
Whether you are waiting or have already met a new girlfriend, this approach is dangerous – for you. By taking the route of being rescued you neatly avoid facing yourself.
Yes, a fear of being alone might be a significant reason for this behaviour. I keep being told that men find it harder to cope alone than women. I don’t know about that, but I do know that the thought of being alone is terrifying. Let’s not pretend otherwise. And I know that the day you move out of a marital home into an ‘alone’ living space is one of loneliest experiences you’re likely to have. I told you I wouldn’t sugar coat it.
But from the many conversations I’ve had with men on this subject, there’s something else – something harder to admit to. For many of you, what you are really avoiding is having to cook and clean for yourself. You may well squirm in embarrassment but that’s the truth. In a marriage, even if both partners share the housework in principle, it’s highly likely that the woman will take more responsibility for housework.
If this is what you are avoiding, it’s not a relationship that you are longing for; and you certainly didn’t ‘just happen’ to move in with someone new. You’re looking for a replacement wife. Someone to look after your domestic space – just as your wife did. So the question becomes, ‘Is that a good enough reason to go into another committed relationship?’ I’ll leave you to answer that.
There’s a more significant question from my point of view, though. I work with individuals, not couples, because I think that the real work of relationship can only be fully addressed on an individual level. Each person’s experience is their own; not theirs and their partner’s. So the question is, ‘Why are you avoiding facing yourself?’ That question opens a can of worms. That’s why people avoid going there. A host of attendant questions present themselves, such as ‘If you can’t spend time facing yourself, why on earth would anyone else want to?’
The thing is that the ‘You’ you are avoiding doesn’t go away. He’s with you all the time and while a replacement wife might be able to rescue you from household chores, she won’t be able to rescue you from yourself. Listen to that hard-to-pin-down discontent. That’s your ‘You’ talking.
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