I have been with my husband for 16 years, and we've always had a pretty good marriage. In the past few years, though, things have gone downhill. My husband prefers that I stay at home and not work. I know he's tired when he gets home from his job, but he's like a small child I constantly have to wait on. He hasn't bought me a gift in a few years. He doesn't touch or hold me at night. Sex is almost nonexistent. As a result, I have become really close to one of our friends. We have been having an emotional affair, and we want to take it to a physical level. He is also married but says that his wife is a lot like my husband. I don't know where things will go; the other man says he hopes to one day marry me. He's never been with anyone besides his wife. Am I wrong to feel tired of my marriage? I tried to talk to my husband, but he says it's all my fault, that I'm changing. In a way, he's right: I feel like I am growing and he's sitting still. -- K.N., 41, Raleigh, NC
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You're absolutely not wrong to feel tired of your marriage. It sounds miserable, and there's no reason you should merely tolerate it. But continuing with your affair, emotional or otherwise, is a sure road to disaster. Now, maybe you're hankering for a disaster; sometimes we feel so stuck in our lives that a guerrilla attack on a marriage or two (in this case yours and his) feels like just the pick-me-up we need. But it's never the good time we imagine it will be. After the relief of being away from your husband wears off, all you've got is a huge mess on your hands, complete with weeping, lawyers, and property disputes. It's ugly. If you want to leave your marriage, go. But don't muck up the works by getting involved with someone else.
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If you genuinely want to see if your marriage is salvageable, you need to talk to your husband about everything that's preventing you from being fully engaged in it -- you feel like you're living with a child, you don't feel appreciated, and you'd like to have a sex life. Keep the emotional affair to yourself. To bring it up would take the focus off what you both need to do to get your relationship back on track.
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Rejuvenating your marriage may also require you to rethink your basic arrangement. You say he prefers that you not work. Do you want to work? A job might make you feel less dissatisfied in general, and it has the extra benefit of helping you empathize more with your husband's situation. Sometimes, if we're able to move toward our partner just a little bit, it makes things a whole lot better. If you were busy with your own work, you might also be less inclined to wait on him, which is only fueling your resentment.
Sometimes marriages end, and yours might be over, but in honor of the past 16 years and the fact that you once loved this man, you owe it to him and to yourself to talk to him from your heart (it'll probably take many conversations) to make sure that leaving this marriage is truly what you want to do.
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
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