Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared in 2004.
Dear Carolyn: My wife feels unfulfilled in our relationship and wants to move on. We are great friends, and I’ll admit our marriage has gone flat.
She will seek counseling, but I feel she has already made up her mind.
I have put in writing the changes I need and want to make. I have addressed her complaints — that I am stubborn, unalive, undriven in my career, emotionally dependent on her and have too few friends — which are valid.
I’m seeing a career adviser, volunteering, contacting old friends, turning off the TV, buying her flowers and cooking her romantic dinners. Already I feel more confident and alive. I fear I am too late. When do marriages become irreconcilable? She is the love of my life and I am determined to earn her love and respect.
Carolyn says: Earn your own love and respect.
To answer your question, a marriage becomes irreconcilable when one of you decides it is.
That’s apparently up to your wife now, and while everything you’ve undertaken to lobby her sounds healthy and productive, the fact that you’re lobbying her is anything but.
You’ve jumped from depending on your wife to be your entire purpose in life to making it your entire purpose in life to win back your wife. If you’re having trouble seeing the distinction, good, because I have no idea what it is myself. Maybe codependence updating its résumé vs. codependence eating a bag of chips.
You say you feel more confident and alive. Good stuff. That has to be what drives you now, and braces you.
Not only because your marriage might be beyond saving, but because its only hope is for you to save you — enough to become an entity unto yourself vs. a satellite of your wife.
Wedding vs. funeral
Dear Carolyn: A close friend is in a wedding next weekend. She just found out the bride’s mom died and is to be buried on Monday.
They are going through with the wedding. I think that is incredibly tacky.
Five years ago, my brother got engaged to a great girl. Her family planned an elaborate engagement party at some real expense. My mom died, unexpectedly, six days before the party. It was horrible. The bride’s mother canceled the party and sent a letter that my dad held while he cried. It said that in light of the tragic death of the groom-to-be’s mother, this special but ultimately trivial party will not be held.
My dad and I still can’t believe how thoughtful his daughter-in-law’s parents were. Am I just weird about this, or do you agree a funeral should — um — stop a wedding?
Carolyn says: I believe both hosts acted appropriately.
In the past case, the loss wasn’t suffered by the host, but instead by a guest of honor — so the host was, I agree, most gracious to cancel the event out of respect. In the present case, the loss was suffered by the host (and guest of honor) herself, and so it was up to her and her family entirely to decide how best to honor the mom’s memory. If it were my daughter whose wedding was six days after I died, then I’d want the joyous event to go on.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.