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Words And Actions Can Heal, But They Can Also Hurt Deeply

by Steve
(USA)

My wife is 11 years older than I am. I am now 48 and we have been married for 3 years. Even when she was still my girlfriend she found she had to deal with my ex wife drama in my life, especially when my ex wife severely attacked two of my three children. They lived with us for a year which put an early strain on our relationship.

During all of this I began having anger management issues. Though I feel it came mostly from my past relationship with my ex wife and the 15 years of verbal and physical abuse I had to live with, I know now that it doesn't matter where it came from as I allowed it to continue to be in my life with my new wife. I was also a serious collector and so I would at times spend money on stuff I didn't really need, and a lot of my wife's money was spent by me. Each time I promised never to do any of these things again, but of course, because both of my anger and my spending habit--well, we all know bad habits are hard to break. The build up of all of this was too much at one point for my wife.

The first time before we were married and she sat me down and said she wanted to leave me for a while and have some time to herself to try and deal with everything and see what she wanted to do. I found myself totally breaking down and sobbing as I had become overwhelmed with the terrible thought of possibly losing her and I begged her to stay.

Probably against her better judgment she decided not to leave and so we went on. Through it all this beautiful and truly amazing women would always unselfishly set aside her feelings, her hurt, her pain and the effects that all of this was having on her for me. She did the one thing that you should never do and that was to keep it all pent up inside and kept it all to herself. Even her sister who she is extremely close to never knew what she was going through.

We then got married and our life has been a pretty darned good one but as I have learned, all of the happiness of a thousand great moments can be totally destroyed by just one or two stupid mistakes. Thanks to being my wife's idea I got a book deal on collectibles but discovered that I could only use images from my own personal collection. So I started obtaining additional items I knew needed to be in the book to make it successful. Sadly, I went way overboard again spending a lot of her money she had in a bank account. I had done it again and she was very upset.

After the pictures were taken I then sold off everything to try and pay back at least what I had taken out of the account this time and to truly show her how much I cared about our relationship and take responsibility for what I had done. She finally seemed to accept the situation and once again we moved on.

My wife and I then decided for a fresh start somewhere else. We decided to move very far away from all of the ex wife drama and things that reminded us of what I had done. But during the move my wife now admits she didn't really want to make the move with me. She says now that she was seriously contemplating breaking up with me. I am still dealing with that as I type this.

But once again she didn't break up, and instead kept it all to herself hoping things would get better. Finally I got a clue and listened to her enough to see what I was really doing with my spending habits and in a show of commitment I sold off 99% of everything I had. I also got rid of a beautiful car in an attempt to pay back the rest of what I had spent out of her account in collecting. I was finally on a road to getting better now but sadly a few more very small slips recently on my part finally broke her. She says she doesn't know now if she wants to go on with me now.

The good thing is that I have finally seen the light. I had what you would call an epiphany and I now know better and everyday I have been better and better. I only buy things we need. My anger is down to almost nothing now and I don't do any of the other bad things at all anymore. None.

The past few months have been really good but yes, the anger snuck in a couple times recently before I caught it. The worst one was we had just gotten home from a long trip with her kids and since no one else felt like another road trip I volunteered to go and pick up the dog from a friend. I was very tired when I got back home and it seemed no one was around. I called her on the phone and asked where was everyone and then snapped at her for not leaving a note.

As fate would have it my phone apparently died just as my voice raised and I got out the statement of why no note, though at the time I didn't know when it had died but I did quickly catch myself but she says she never heard that part. She has a hard time believing the fact that my phone disconnected on her right at the moment I was sounding upset. She has since decided that even the little slips now are like big ones.

She doesn't seem to think she can move forward anymore with me. She has told me she has tried to heal and move forward but is not sure if she can anymore. she says she isn't a switch that I can just flip back on. I explain to her that I am also not a switch that makes me perfect and I will make a few mistakes as I continue to get better now. Each week and now each month I am even better.

I don't know what else to do now. She is really upset with me this time, more so than I think I have ever seen her before. She won't even smile at me anymore. She doesn't want to be close to me, or let me kiss her, even touch her or anything. It is hard for me to even get a good night sleep now. I have also lost my appetite. Up til the past few days I felt great and I was the best I have been in as many years. Now I just feel sick.

I fear I am losing her even with all of the many positive changes I have made. Even through all of this I am not angry with her nor lost my temper.

Please, I don't want to lose her. She is my world. She is my true love. We are soul mates. I know we have had a great life together so far. We have some truly amazing and wonderful memories and it is sad that my past periodic breaks in sanity can ruin what is overall been a wonderful life together.

How do I help her to look back and remember the truly wonderful moments we have shared together so far? How do I help to get her to focus again on all of the many positive things in our lives and not on the negatives? How do I help her appreciate again the things she likes about me and see that I am truly a better person now?

She just seems to get more distant each day now. I know that she needs to heal and she needs her space. I want to make sure I don't do or say anything that might trigger her thinking, "Here we go again." I tell myself, "let her be alone and heal. Let her have the space she wants and needs and at some point she will come back to me." But I fear that the longer the hurt goes on it will get worse and not better. I fear that I can't go on like this for too much longer or it will hurt me and I will feel towards her like she feels towards me.

When we make love it is the most magical and amazing moment I have ever experienced. I have seen the Eiffel Tower with her, walked on a Caribbean island with her and experienced and seen so many other amazing places thanks to her that many people still just dream about experiencing and yet I would trade back all of those amazing experiences for just one loving kiss again from her.

Please, any help or advice you can offer me is greatly appreciated.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Steve. Thanks for telling your story on this site, so that others may benefit as well as you.

You obviously love your wife very much. That's good. You are also very aware of your problems and you're working on getting better. That's also good. There are some painful realities that you are facing, and I know that's difficult.

Trust and love in a relationship is slow to build, and can be destroyed in a split second. This is not anyone's fault, it is just reality. You're exactly right in your assessment of your situation, as far as I can tell.

Here is where I can help: You are going to have to shift your focus away from "getting her back" or get her not to leave you. The only way that things have any chance at all of getting getter, in my opinion, is if you take total responsibility for yourself and your healing--and keep your focus there, and off of her and what she's thinking and feeling.

You wrote, "I tell myself, 'let her be alone and heal. Let her have the space she wants and needs and at some point she will come back to me.'" I agree, and yet there is no guarantee that she will come back to you. You have to let her go, and focus on your own healing and recovery.

This is going to require that you get serious and take the very mature action of learning what you need to do to recover from your spending addiction and your anger problems. My biggest concern for you right now is that you seem more focused on getting her to change her mind about you than you are on your own issues.

Here's the bottom line: To succeed in your life, and to have any chance of succeeding in this relationship, you have to:

1) Work on your issues for yourself, not in order to save the relationship.

2) Let go of the relationship. It may be too damaged to recover--no one knows right now.

3) The only chance that this relationship has--or any future relationship for you, by the way, is for you to get seriously committed to your recovery.

Steve, you cannot do this on your own. Try to find a counselor to work with, and get into an addiction recovery program.

And never, ever, spend another dime you didn't earn.

I hope this helps. Get sober and focused, and make up your mind you are going to be a healthy man, no matter what. And then believe in yourself and don't let anything stop you from reaching your goals.

My best,

Dr. DeFoore

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