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Love Letters

Considering a second divorce

Q. I’ve been in this second marriage for five years. When I first met my husband I was married, but because I was so physically attracted to this other man (and there were other problems in my first marriage), I divorced and ended up marrying him. Jeff is uneducated and is a self-employed contractor. Although he had his flaws, I overlooked them. I was attracted to his brute look; he is a total opposite of my first husband. After we got married, we had two children together.

I bring in a good income. His income wasn’t as good as mine, but it didn’t matter to me at first. Over the course of five years, my business bloomed and his went the opposite direction. He wasn’t willing to stay home to care for the children and always relies on me to discipline and play with them. He was a gambler when I knew him, but stopped gambling for a long time because he said I changed him. I hired a nanny full time when I got very busy earlier this year and he spent three days away alone in a casino, never answered my calls and never called home to check on the children. I was enraged. His excuse when he came back was, “You hired a nanny — I had nothing to do.”

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I pay for everything, from the mortgage to children’s clothes and family vacations. He says he owes a lot of credit card debt and can’t afford to give me money. Of course this annoys me.

Not only do we have children together, I have two other children from my first marriage and he has another child from his previous marriage, so this means we have five children in the family, four of whom are mine and all are under 12 years old.

Jeff has a temper and it flares when he comes home tired from work. My children know not to bother him, but our children need lots of attention. He attempts to put our young ones to bed, but he falls asleep first most of the time. Last year, he pushed me to the ground because he thought I was seeing someone else, so as you can read, he has trust issues with me.

So why don’t I get a divorce? I went through it once. My older kids cried when they had to leave me to see their father on weekends because that was the court order. I cried with them. I told my ex that I wanted to be selfish — that I wasn’t attracted to him and that I was physically attracted to someone else. I don’t want my younger children to go through the same thing.

I’m an optimist. Sometimes I cry but I get over my negative emotions in a few days. My friends hear me whine; I hear myself whine. Am I still in love with him? Should I be selfish again this time? I no longer want another companion although I’m 36. My children and work keep me busy. I don’t think I’ll ever find a person who can meet my expectations of a good husband and father. Perplexed

A. Wanting to be in a happy and healthy relationship doesn’t make you selfish. Your children would benefit from having comfortable parents. It’s tough for kids to go through a divorce, but living with miserable adults can be just as bad — or worse.

Not surprisingly, I want you in couples therapy. Tell your husband that you need him to do this with you. Remind him that you’re an optimist and that you want to make this work. When you bring this up (in a calm and cool voice), ask him how he’s doing on a daily basis. Is he satisfied with his work? Does he have his own issues with his day-to-day lifestyle? I’d be curious to hear what he expected from the partnership.

I don’t like to tell people to get a divorce based on a 500-word letter, but if your husband isn’t willing to get help, you have to consider leaving him. You mention addiction issues and the fact that he pushed you to the ground. You can’t live in fear that things will get worse. Again, it’s not selfish, it’s healthy. Meredith

READERS RESPOND:

It sounds like you want a partner, someone who contributes to building your life together, not only financially but emotionally. It doesn’t sound like (from the way you describe him, anyway) that he is doing that. Why does that make you selfish? HIDETHESILVER

I have little to no sympathy for you and the bed you made yourself. However, if you want my honest advice, I think you need to start communicating better with your husband, because it sounds like you two just live together and sleep together without really ever talking about your life. SMASHATOMS4

More than anything else, I agree with your lack of desire to have another companion. You clearly need to work on your selection skills before going down that path anytime soon. MAT2NC

1. Get a divorce. 2. Get therapy. 3. Get some maturity. 4. Raise your children to have better decision-making skills than you have. MABBITTY

Disagree with MG: Therapy isn’t going to help this. It sounds pretty awful right as it is. Of course, you’re going to end up paying alimony to him since he’s the one without an income next to yours. Game over. Get out before the physical abuse and credit card debt, not to mention the gambling, get worse — and you end up in a hospital or having your credit rating wrecked.
JAKELNHIDE

I don’t get this selfish thing. You don’t see how STAYING WITH THIS GUY is actually the selfish thing to do? DRUNKWITHLOVEAGAIN

You seriously married someone just because you thought he was hot? Please divorce this deadbeat and think next time you get involved with someone. And to be honest, if he can’t afford to pay for anything, then he won’t be able to afford a good lawyer for custody hearings. Your kids probably won’t have to cry about it this time around. KATEB

I’m not sure counseling is going to solve this for you but it might help shed some perspective on what you are truly seeking in a healthy, happy relationship. I think your husband needs separate counseling to deal with his own issues apart from the marriage. Just my two cents. Best of luck. PATSFAN79

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com.
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