My first day of marriage counseling


We have been together for fifteen years and we have two kids. We have been in couples therapy enough different times for me to know that I hate being in couples therapy with him because he never changes. It’s always been more productive for me to go to therapy alone, where at least I can get things done. But now we are desperate, so I’ve capitulated.

We park the car and walk into the building of the couples’ therapist. I remember one couples therapist telling us that we are in good shape because we drove there together. Today I know that we would have driven in separate cars if we had two cars.

I delegated finding a therapist to my husband. After all, my first book just came out and I blog almost every day. I am busy. I know my penchant for delegating is part of the problem, but I thought this would be one last hurrah.

We get to the office. The sign on the door says “Divorce Law Offices” and there is a list of people with Esq’s at the end.

I say, “We’re going to a divorce lawyer? I don’t want a divorce.”

“It’s Wisconsin,” he says, “It’s not like New York City where there are skyscrapers devoted to therapist offices.”

We see a mediator.

I start talking. I tell him we are not there to get a divorce. We’re there to keep our marriage together. Is there someone else we can see?

My husband says he’s thinking he might be there to get a divorce.

I see we are a parody of a couple who cannot communicate. When I was doing research for a column about divorce law, I talked with a lot of divorce lawyers, and each one said that so many divorces could be avoided if the people would talk. One attorney told me he helps one couple a month get back together, and that’s his favorite part of his job. I tell myself, based on this, that divorce lawyers are good at keeping marriages together because they see so many marriages fall apart.

We talk about our marriage. I think things are difficult because my husband gave up working to take care of our kids and it didn’t work out.

My husband thinks things got bad because taking care of our son who has autism is extremely difficult and we take it out on each other so we don’t take it out on him.

There is truth to what my husband says. Eighty percent of parents who have a child with autism get a divorce. But I don’t want to blame my failing marriage on my cute little five-year-old. Not that I don’t want someone to blame. I do. But I think it is more complicated than that.

I explain how my career is going great. I tell the mediator I have a busy speaking schedule and a six-figure contract for my next book. I even talk about my blog, and the estimated 450,000 page views a month, even though you can trust me on this: Our divorce mediator from Middleton, Wisconsin does not read blogs.

At this point, I think my husband is going to tell the mediator about how he gave up his career for the kids and me and he is totally disappointed. But instead he says to me, “A lot of people I talk with say that I am being abused by you.”

I am shocked. It’s a big allegation. But I say, “A lot of people I talk with think I should get rid of you.”

That’s as bad as it gets, right there. Because the mediator interjects and says that if you want to try to stay together for the kids, it’s worth it. He says, “The research shows divorce is very hard on kids, and especially kids under five.” But he adds, “You won’t be able to hold things together just to parent the kids. You will need some love for each other.”

I say quickly that I have that. It is easy for me to remember how much fun I had with my husband before we had kids. It’s easy for me to remember that every time I look-but-don’t-really-look for men to have an affair with, I find myself looking at someone who is like my husband: I still love him.

My husband is not so quick to say he still loves me.

So all I can do is think while he thinks. I think about the research about how a career does not make people happy. When you are in love and someone asks you how you are, you say, “I’m so happy” even if you are unemployed. When your career is going well and your marriage isn’t when someone asks you how you are you say, “My career is going great.”

The mediator starts talking about how the next step will be a contract to follow rules of engagement. “You have to start being nice to each other,” says the mediator. Right now that seems almost impossible.

We have to wait, though. My husband is deciding if he has any love for me.

He asks the mediator, “How do I know if it’s love?”

The mediator says, “If you care about her life, for right now, that’s enough.”

Finally my husband says to me, “I’m so sorry that life is not better for you when your career is going so well. You’ve worked so hard for this.”

The mediator nods. Next meeting we will move on to the rules of engagement.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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  1. Terry
    Terry says:

    Good Luck, I hope you see some light.

    Interestingly the wife and I come from completely different back grounds. While I was a party animal and living with different women, she was married and raising three daughters at 21. But it’s been 11 years together now and three step daughter later and it’s going great. Why? We share the same core values, we communicate no matter how hard, and I try to understand her feelings instead of words. We have sacrificed much for our website start ups in time and money. But we love it. She is the best thing that hs happened to me.


    • Tgirl101
      Tgirl101 says:

      Your absolutely right, in sharing core values with great communication. I wish I would have figured some of this out earlier on, would have saved some hardships. It really is the little things, I must say. But all and all, it’s definitely a commitment to nurture the environment that first brought us together. I found some great tips that might help: Hope it helps.

    • Talia
      Talia says:

      “…I hate being in couples therapy with him because he never changes.”

      LOL. I know society says the woman is never at fault for anything, they don’t need to change, and there’s a whole industry telling them that, but this is ridiculous.

      • Virginia Ann
        Virginia Ann says:

        …What society is this you refer to? How can I get there? Truly, it sounds like a paradise.

  2. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    You’re brave, Penelope, to share as much as you do. Negotiating kids and work is barely manageble some days, and keeping a marriage alive seems to turn into a third priority for so many of us. Thanks for the kick ass post, and I hope you both get what you need out of this.

  3. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:


    I don’t have any advice for you because I don’t know you or your situation and would never even THINK of trying to counsel you. I offer my hope and kind thoughts that you and your hubby can work everything out.

    Best Wishes, and an e-hug!

  4. Greg
    Greg says:

    Wow, I do not think I could ever be so public or candid about my life. I sat at my desk and cried while I read it. My wife and I are struggling to stay together, are in counseling, and want to stay together. And it is really, really hard.

    I just want you to know i am pulling for you and your family.

    Love and prayers.

  5. Mike Berry
    Mike Berry says:

    I hope you get through this difficult time, Penelope, with your marriage and sanity intact.

    This is one of those instances,though, in which my pre-Internet Yankee upbringing makes me want to urge you strongly to take this discussion OFFLINE. This post may get 450,000 page views this month and will be Google cached forever.

    One of the bedrocks of counseling is its confidentiality. I’m not sure what happens when one partner gets to reveal very private details in a very public forum.

    I’m sure you’ve thought about this. But if it were my marriage, I would think about it again.

    * * * * * * *
    Hi, Mike. Thank you for your concern. Whenever I write about problems in my marriage, the men get worried for my husband. And this is what I always say: That when my husband met me I was writing my master’s thesis about my sex life. In real time. So he knew what he was getting into, and he is used to it after fifteen years.One of the reasons I’m a writer, maybe the biggest reason, is because life is pretty lonely, and I want to be doing life with other people — as part of a community. When I started writing about my life at work, I honestly  felt like I was the only person in the world who thought the workplace was totally nuts. And I found out, by writing a column, that lots of other people sat at their desk sometimes just laughing at what’s going on around them. Writing about work made me feel less lonley in the world. There are people like me.

    And the same is true about marriage. Marriage is very hard, and at time, very lonely. Marriages are intimate, but isolated from each other, because people don’t talk about it very much. Why is there tons of chatter about what people want to talk about after mind-blowing sex but there is not a lot of chatter about what to talk about when you leave the mediator’s office?

    I think it’ll be good for everyone if we talk more about marriage and how to keep it together. I am doing it becuase I want to be part of a community that does that.

    Frank conversation allows us to all help each other — not just about how to have great sex, or how to get a great job, but also how to have a great marriage.


    • AJ
      AJ says:

      It’s 1:24 a.m….another sad and cold lonely night on the couch. I know something has to change. Communication comes to mind. Google: “how to communicate in a marriage.” Two hours later, my eyes are dry and burning. The tears are finally gone. I skimmed through several articles trying to figure out some way to work on my marriage. I was hopeful to find just one little ray of light, and I was left feeling more anxious than before. I tell myself to read one more link under the search and I stumble upon a blog. Not 100% sure what a blog is, this is the first I’ve read and it’s captured my attention. I’ve only began to read your story and feel a sense of hope. Thank you for sharing and prayers for your marriage and family Penelope.

  6. Tim
    Tim says:

    I do hope this all works out for you and your family. I wish I had some magic cure-all advice, but, obviously, I don’t.

    Sacrifice, compromise and forgiveness are hard things to achieve. One party usually feels they’ve done more than the other. Which, of course, may or may not be true. They do need to be talked about…sometimes all at once. Other times in bits and pieces over time.

    I’m not pushing a book, but “The Good Life”
    by Jay Mcinerney, delved into this and it was a painful, but ultimately rewarding novel about love, marriage and sacrifice. This book made me think about marriage in a different way.

    I think marriage is noble and worth fighting for to keep it from breaking apart. I’m very lucky. My wife and I have been together for 17 years and we’re still in love and love to make each other laugh.

    Again, I wish I had some wonderful advice–Just keep working at it and the right answer, I hope, will eventually reveal itself.

  7. Hans
    Hans says:

    I’m sorry to hear that things are…not well and I do hope for the best for you, your husband and your kids. You are quite brave to share so publicly what you are going through. However, I would agree with Mike Berry (post just above) to take this “off-line” – at least until things are settled between you and your husband. You may want to revisit the idea of sharing things again.


  8. lee
    lee says:

    "A lot of people I talk with think I should get rid of you."

    Rarely are people in an appropriate position to accurately make such a pronouncement.

    Good luck to you & your husband, rarely is the grass greener.

  9. Ted Slampyak
    Ted Slampyak says:

    I commend you on your candor here. It’s very brave of you. I would, however, agree with previous commenters and suggest you consider not going public any further with this. If I were going through something like this and I knew my wife would be publishing my comments and actions to so many people — some of whom must know you and your husband personally — I would not feel as free to express myself as I otherwise would, and a lack of free expression seems to be at the heart of this.

    Whatever details you do decide to share with us, I will follow with interest and concern, and hope the best for you both.

    * * * * * *

    I sense a theme in the comments here.

    Hi, Ted.  I noticed that your URL is the  (I remember you from other comments — I’ve been to your blog.) I want to point out that one of the best things about storytelling is that we make sense of our lives by telling our stories to other people. Herminia Ibarra does great research in this area, and she found that people were most secure in where they are in life if they can tell stories about themselves that make sense to other people. As a writer, this really resonates with me. I am not a fan of public and private. I have found that things that I thought would be really bad to say publicly haven’t actually been bad at all. It’s just being real. We are so used to the EXPERTS never revealing anything messed up in their lives that we think that’s how it has to be. I think that striving to be authentic is most important. And it would be totally inauthentic of me to write all the time about how important family is and how careers need to leave room for family and then not reveal that I am struggling with it myself. The career equation is definitely part of the problem with my family. It’s important to write about that on a career blog if I am going to be real here. And if I’m not going to be real, I can’t be here. It’s too stressful to be something other than real.I am certain that this is a part of me that my husband values. We will pull through this bad part in our life. And part of the reason we will is because both of us are totally straight shooters. At home, in the mediator’s office, and on the blog.


  10. Frank
    Frank says:

    Based on the post, I wonder if your husband would have a different perspective. Especially the last part: “So he knew what he was getting into, and he is used to it after fifteen years.”

    • jennifer
      jennifer says:

      That is immediately what I thought. To myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice [and respectful] to hear her husband’s view, too?” Not to mention interesting, maybe especially if you two worked out how you’d each voice this with this blog audience.

      That said, great story, and I’m hooked! I know it is years later, am struggling with my own miserably failing marriage, and am so interested to hear about the continued negotiation meetings, ideally from both sides. Thank you for your candor, though being it seems to me more on your husband’s end of the giving/taking perspective in my own marriage, I’d love to hear his views, as well as yours. Thank you again.

  11. Suze
    Suze says:

    I hope it turns out for the best, for you, for the kids and for your husband. I don’t know what the best is, obviously.

  12. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I wondered if you’ve ever heard of Alison Armstrong? She is a relationship guru, and I’ve found what she has to say very helpful.

    I am not married and I don’t presume to know how to make a marriage work, but I thought I would just put this out there.

    I do not work for her, nor do I have any personal interest in her success, but I have found her ideas helpful.

    If you’re interested, her website is

  13. Matt
    Matt says:

    There are many studies recently that suggest that after a period of several years, both spouses are emotionally and financially in worse shape than when they were together. Just realize that every marriage has it’s ups and downs. We are all imperfect people put together to form an imperfect union. It takes tremendous work to keep something this complex moving. It is always worth it in the end (less abuse).

  14. Ted Slampyak
    Ted Slampyak says:


    Thanks for your reply.

    You’re right, of course, about the value of being open about everything in our lives — the good and the bad. And of course, I agree completely in your comments on the importance of storytelling, of sharing narratives of moments in our lives as a way of digesting them, making sense of them, and gaining insights, both for ourselves and for others.

    As for the directness of your honesty with each other — one observation that caught my eye in your post was how both of you, in one exchange, seemed to be speaking indirectly. He says people tell him you’re abusing him. You tell him people say you should leave him. Does he mean HE thinks you abuse him? Do you mean YOU think you should leave him? The feelings are there implicitly, but not explicitly, instead being couched as the viewpoints of these composited unnamed “people.”

    I’m sure your mediator has pointed this out, or soon will. And I’m sure you don’t need my advice on how to get through this. Thanks for sharing what you’re going through, and again, I’ll be rooting for you and your family.

  15. tim
    tim says:

    It’s hard to talk about your relationships openly like this, and I applaud your ability to be honest.

    I wish the both of you are able to make it continue to work, and to find that common ground on which to rebuild your relationship.

  16. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Penelope if you split up you’re going to have to get full time help with the kids. So why not get it now and let him go back to work. My gut tells me that you’re right about that being a problem. So why not see if it makes a difference now when you have almost nothing to lose.

  17. Nina
    Nina says:

    In my twenties, I recall a male corporate vice president advising me that "having it all" was typically not an option for women. He indicated if I wanted 1. to be a good wife, 2. to be a good mother and 3. to have a successful career that I should pick 2 out of the 3 and be done with it as this is the only way I could guarantee the good life.

    I remember writing him off as a sexist pig, but the older I get and more demanding life becomes, I tend to agree with his point. It's hard to maintain balance and be a success with all three. Not impossible, but your experience reinforces that one can suffer.

    Of course, as women, it doesn't prevent us from trying – this comment being written by someone with a partner, a career and motherhood on the horizon – all pursued with the hope that things will be good forever. No guarantees, but we can certainly try – right?

    And when it doesn't work, we get help. Smart of you to recognize and you're incredibly authentic to share the struggle with your readers. Warm thoughts to you and your family.

  18. Bob
    Bob says:

    My wife and I have been married 12 years, and have one child with autism and one with Asperger’s syndrome. I can relate greatly to what you have written on those challenges.

    You don’t know me, and I only know you via your writing, but I would be willing to offer any advice I can on parenting autistic children. Our youngest child went from severely autistic to a point where he is a very happy, well functioning second grader.

    Please feel free to email me. I’d like to help in any way I can.

    Thank you for sharing this,

  19. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    I’m not as modest as that guy above who said he wouldn’t think of offering advice. Actually, I’ve got a question. You describe yourself as an action-oriented take charge person and him as a more patient and orderly thinker. Way more analytic and slower to act.

    So what’s the balance of power like in your house? Do you call all the shots. Or try to? Does he get a chance to have his way and say.

    The other day you linked to a fight you were having about storing his bike in the kitchen and you identified the speed and approach to decision making as the major problem. Does he ever win? Or is it always a power struggle?

    No answer required.

  20. Heather
    Heather says:


    I appreciate your honesty. In my early 20’s, I spent a lot of time talking to married women. I walked away with the conclusion everyone’s marriage goes through time when you’d rather not be married to each other. Some people get through it and others don’t.
    I have to agree with Sujatha–get away from the passive aggressive communication. My midwestern parents do that all the time. Since there are only two of them, it is really ridiculous when “somebody ate all the cookies”. I became much healthier when I quit talking like that and spoke directly with people.
    Maybe spring from some coaching for your husband with David Bohl since David’s specialty is career/life balance and it sounds like your husband has some career stuff besides the family issues.

  21. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I am glad you shared this. The raw honesty of it all is an inspiration in itself. Thank you, and I hope things work out.

  22. David Wescott
    David Wescott says:

    Wow Penelope. I certainly hope that, together or apart, things work out for you and your family.

    When your marriage is wrong, nothing else is really right. The fact that you and your husband are such straight shooters and are inclined to deal with this seems like a good thing to me.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

  23. Vickie Pynchon
    Vickie Pynchon says:

    He asks the mediator, "How do I know if it's love?" The mediator says, "If you care about her life, for right now, that's enough." Finally my husband says to me, "I'm so sorry that life is not better for you when your career is going so well. You've worked so hard for this."

    A friend who is a mediator sent this to me. I do not mediate divorces OR marital reconciliations. I mediate commercial cases between businesses. I HAVE, however, been divorced from a man who did not work while I was supporting the family. It didn’t work. I have, however, seen it work with other couples. To add autism to the mix is an extraordinary challenge. You seem to be good-hearted people who “love” each other, i.e., you each want what is the best for the other person as well as what’s best for yourselves. The devil is in the balance etween the two. You might want to check out Kenneth Cloke’s The Crossroads of Conflict, A Journey into the Heart of Dispute Resolution. You’re a writer, so I’m certain you’re also a reader. This book will, I promise, be an extraordinary resource for you. Best of luck to you and your family. Vickie Pynchon

  24. Andrea
    Andrea says:


    I truly appreciate your post, and hope you and your husband reach a new level of personal and shared understanding through this experience. However, I am more intrigued with the reader reactions regarding your disclosure of such “private” information. Unless I misunderstood, most seem to be saying that making your “private” life public is in some way unfair or disrespectful to your husband, and therefore, you should stop. I think this illuminates a common misconception about how relationships should function, i.e. if something I do offends my significant other, I should stop doing it out of love and respect for the other person. I think this mindset is jaded.

    I believe that we should stop compromising our own behavior in order to cause less suffering for our SO. If you stopped writing about your relationship now to make your husband feel more secure about his own behavior, this would stifle who you are and reinforce any insecurity he has about expressing himself to you. And the moment we have to stifle ourselves to make a relationship work, the moment our relationship starts to deteriorate. The only time I think I would consider compromising my own behavior for the sake of someone else is for my kids, but I don't have kids, so I don't have much to offer in this regard. (Note: I'm talking about not compromising on BIG issues that are truly acts of self-expression, not mundane issues such as who picks up the kids or whose family Christmas to attend this year).

    Thanks again, Penelope, for your refreshing notions about privacy and publicity. I don't think it is brave of you to write publicly about your marriage; I think it is brave of you to be yourself.

  25. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I think you’re wonderful for working at turning around your marriage in a society that often opts for the easy out, and you’re brave for sharing it with so many watching.

    When I read things like this I always want to post the way everyone else is. But I can relate too well to this to type 20 words of obligatory encouragement. I am not qualified to give advice, but I’m going to give it anyway.

    There are a lot of well-wishers, wishing vaguely for the best. I can tell you what “best” is. Stay together. It’s just like finance. Marriage is your bottom line, the minimum requirement. Stay married, period. As long as you don’t settle for that.

    It doesn’t sound like you are, settling I mean, but you make it seem a little like you are abdicating a bit of responsibility – maybe due to frustration, maybe pride… maybe arrogance? You’re the only one who can know. I like your books and your articles. You’re successful. You probably deserve the success. But is it likely that some of the enormous energy that has gone into your career was fuel robbed from your marriage?

    I know I’m kind of making myself a target. The most common response to comments like mine is anger, probably deserved and probably more than a little from fellow posters who respect you as much as I do. No, I don’t know the situation, and I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. I read a blog post and made some assumptions, and I apologize sincerely if they’re wrong.

    But I do know that everyone has limits. If you have $10 to spend, you can’t buy lunch AND go to a movie, unless you give up all of one or a little of both.

    Love really is the answer, but I think most people get it wrong. Love is a choice, not an emotion. There hasn’t been a single minute since we’ve been married that I haven’t loved my wife, but I don’t always *feel* like I love her.

    That’s why marriage takes work. Sometimes you need to behave in a way that your emotions can’t support, because those feelings slip away too easilly. But there is no “trick” to it. As long as you don’t give up on the marriage, and as long as you allow those feelings to return (i.e. don’t block them by replacing them with negative ones), they will. They always do.

    There’s one other thing I want to mention – communication. A lot of people say that’s the key, and in a way I think they’re right. But a big part of being married is also knowing when to shut up; you can never take back something you say in anger. My wife and I learned that the hard way.

    Forgive my impertinence, and in any case, my prayers are with you.

  26. Greg L.
    Greg L. says:

    Re: your husband’s comment: "A lot of people I talk with say that I am being abused by you."

    Did your husband give any permission to air the happengins between you two in the mediaiton session? One of the tenets of mediation is the confidentiality of the session.

    If you have an inkling that you’d like to work on the marriage, please be careful that you aren’t using your blog (and the audience that comes with it) to air your perspective about the private aspects of the relationship with your husband in a manner he can’t even hope to respond to.

    From his perspective, airing this out in the public manner you are can be construed as further emotional abuse, as this puts him in a powerless position. If he feels this way, then attempting to work on the marriage while the play-by-ply is being posted is counterproductive.

  27. ^Lestat
    ^Lestat says:

    What a gift with words you have indeed. It’s very open of you to share all of this publicly. Have you considered the spiritual side to all of this? I haven’t seen any mention of the spiritual part of your being. Most people agree there is a spiritual part in everyone.

    Hope things get better for you.

  28. LRH
    LRH says:

    Penelope, I hope things turn out positively for you, whatever direction they take. I really appreciate your blog and your candor.

  29. sarah
    sarah says:

    “because he never changes”

    I didn’t need to read any further. You have a big problem right there. He may have problems too, but you have too big a problem. Where’s your open mind?

  30. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I’ve been divorced for seven years, and your post reminded me of how I felt during our marriage counseling sessions. I remember being overwhelmed by the problems we were having and feeling unable to get a clearer and broader perspective on our relationship. I’m not sure whether it would have made a difference for me or not, but here are the things I wish I could have known back then.

    1. You have perhaps heard the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” While some of the problems in your marriage likely stem from your husband, there are just as likely things that you are causing. If you divorce and move on, those issues you have will go with you and will come up again in a future relationship. It’s important for all of us to find out what we ourselves are doing that are detrimental to relationships and to work on improving in those areas. It can be a humbling experience to discover that problems one attributes to another person actually come from oneself. I know this from personal experience.

    2. Divorce does solve some problems in the sense that you won’t have to maintain a marital relationship with your husband and will be free to start a new life. However, while some of your old problems will be solved, there will also be many new problems, including arrangements for childcare, shared custody of children, establishing a blended family that might some day include new spouses for you and your ex and new siblings for your children, new holiday and vacation traditions, etc. It’s good to remember that the end of a marriage doesn’t mean the end of all problems.

    3. Both my ex and I have found new partners. While we are both happier in our new relationships, it has been difficult for the kids even though we had a relatively amicable divorce and get along quite well now.

    This isn’t meant as advice in any way. I don’t think that all marraiges can be saved, but there are some that can. Perhaps yours is one of those. I wish you and your family the best.

  31. Valerie Parker
    Valerie Parker says:

    I have a 14 year-old autistic nephew, Marcus. It is my hope your marriage works out. Having a child with special needs isn’t easy. My sister Karon, her twin Sharon and I are it when it comes to raising/assisting with Marcus. Are parents aren/t physically able to assist with him at this age. I wish that the resources for every autistic child aged with the child. The world is so behind. I’m glad you have a great career. I know one day, resources/curriculum for your five year-old will be great/better than what my nephew didn’t receive. Several special schools in our area were established years after Marcus was already in the school system under the special ed division (which wasn’t called an autism division, like now). Take care of yourselves. Life will get better, for you and your husband.

  32. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    I have to agree with Greg L. It’s wonderful that you want to share and be real and wear your heart on your blogging sleeve, and if you are sharing YOUR thoughts and feelings, this is fine. But you are dragging your husband’s thoughts and feelings out here too. Did he say that was OK? Did you even ask him?

    Have you read “Born on a Blue Day” by Daniel Tammet? He is an autistic savant (mathematically speaking; he also learned to speak Icelandic in 7 days). He is intelligent and articulate and has written a book describing his childhood (in pretty good detail) as an autistic kid. It might help you understand what your son is experiencing. You can get it at Amazon. His URL:

    Hope all works out well for you.

  33. holly
    holly says:

    Hi Penelope.
    I love your column, you’ve become a bit of a hero of mine.

    The question only you can answer is:

    If you were the Brazen Wifeist, if being married was like having a career, what would you do?

    Is there hope this will improve? How are you going to make it better? If he can’t change, can you change to accept him the way he is? How many times are you going to try?

    If you were going to give him a performance review what would it look like? What would yours look like from him?

    Is it time to look for a better situation, even if it means being unemployed, er… I mean single for a while?

  34. Adrian L.
    Adrian L. says:

    You know, a couple things really jumped out at me. First and foremost, allow me to applaud the candor with which you are sharing the dissolution of your marriage.

    And now, onto my thoughts:

    “We have been in couples therapy enough different times for me to know that I hate being in couples therapy with him because he never changes.”

    Did you marry him for who he was? Why should anyone have to change for someone else? Why can’t he be himself? Maybe he’s not the one that needs to change.

    “I delegated finding a therapist to my husband. After all, my first book just came out and I blog almost every day. I am busy. I know my penchant for delegating is part of the problem, but I thought this would be one last hurrah.”

    I. Me. I am busy. I am important. I am pursuing my career. I am following my dream. I thought it didn’t matter if he identified this as a problem in our relationship, its what I want to do, and I’m going to do it. We can see how that’s working out for you.

    “It's easy for me to remember that every time I look-but-don't-really-look for men to have an affair with, I find myself looking at someone who is like my husband: I still love him.”

    No. You care deeply about him. But you don’t love him. You love some concept of what you NEED him to be. There is nothing worse in the world than being needed by someone. Far better to be wanted than required. Seeking an affair should have been a telltale for you. Instead you criticize him because he doesn’t change after couple’s therapy.

    “So all I can do is think while he thinks. I think about the research about how a career does not make people happy.”

    And the end of your marriage proves it.

  35. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    Wow. I think it is interesting so many people are quick to jump to the defense of Mr. Penelope Trunk without really knowing anything about the situation. Lots of concern for his privacy, and his honor, and so on. But, I’d bet the two best people to know that are in counseling. Adrian, didn’t you see any tongue-in-cheek humor in Penelope’s I’ll have one last hurrah comment? Nancy, those observations re: divorce are exactly what keep me trying. Very cool to see….

  36. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Meaghan – Great comment. I was just about to address the tongue-in-cheek humor. What is so refreshing about Penelope Trunk’s blog is that she puts her faults right out there for our review and discussion – she does not write as if she is above her own advice. Her blunt writing style makes it obvious that she is AWARE of what she is doing and thinking, which is so important. I don’t think she needs anyone to tell her that trying to change another person into what you want is a futile and unrewarding pursuit. But she is acknowledging, perhaps, that she still tries sometimes and/or she is also the one unable or unwilling to change. It’s brilliant.

    Lastly, why should she have to ask her husband’s permission to write about her experience? This is her story, her perspective. If her husband doesn’t like it, or suffers because of it, that is not something she can control. Actually, that’s the most important thing I learned in high school: You can only take responsibility for your own experience. I’m certainly not encouraging NOT telling her husband (any communication is good communication at this point, I think), but I wholeheartedly disagree that she needs to check with her husband first when she writes.

    Love the discourse everyone! Keep it up!

  37. Steve
    Steve says:

    I hope you make it this far down in the comments (40 and counting…) to read what I have to say. First, your candor is wonderful – you will help thousands if not millions with what you do through this and all your other writing. Second, my wife and I nearly split 12, 13 years ago – one career exploding and two dying parents and an affair will do that. We fought back and won. How? We learned how to do everything all over again with a single minded faith in getting back to the love we had when we started. We constantly said “we were in love once” so we can be again.

    We won, and that is exactly the word for it. Victory. Hard fought, gut wrenching, but oh so worth it victory. There is no more important battle than the one you are in. God Bless, Steve

    * * * * * *

    Hi, Steve. I got here. I read all the comments. I read all the comments every day, but today especially. I am touched by all the caring and kindness.

    I like how you say that you won. This is how I know I will feel when I come out of this with my marriage in one piece. I will feel like it’s a huge victory. I will jump up and down and tell people how hard I worked at this. I like that you are cheering for your own victory here. You are a good role modle for where I want to be.


  38. wayne
    wayne says:

    Commitment is they key to success. A marriage can work in the absence of love (although I wouldn’t recomend it). Love is a choice, not an emotion. The ‘in love’ feeling is the emotionally warm fuzzy most people think about, but it is not love. I was a stay at home dad with our first child, and I loved it. I was great at it. I would never do it again. On a subconcious level my wife resented me for it, even though it was discussed in depth before I actually quit my job. She stopped respecting me. Men need respect more than love. She would berate me and speak to me like I were her inferior, like I was a child. She would do this in public as well as private. It took almost 7 years for her to finally admit that she did resent me for it. We did survive. Now she’s the stay at home mom and we live on what I make, which is far less than what her earning potential is (she was in sales, I’m in accounting – not a CPA). Do not get a divorce. You can make this work out, and when it does, you’ll love each other more than you did before the trial by fire. Try this: apologize when you KNOW beyond question that he’s in the wrong. What’s it going to cost you? Your pride? Pride comes before a fall. So what if he thinks he won. In a year will either of you even remember that particular fight? But what if apologizing ends the fight? Will your son be better off if you do this or if you keep fighting?
    If a man offers you a gift, but you refuse it, whos gift is it then? So too can it be with insult or offense.

    Peace be with you.

    • Brandon
      Brandon says:

      Awesome post man. You gave me some food for thought. My wife had an affair and we are in the fire. I am a Christian man and dont believe in divorce. I too was a stay at home dad and experienced some of what you shared. Great post.

  39. Dave
    Dave says:

    First off, best wishes for a good solution to your current problem, for what ever value of “good” works for all of you – you, your husband, and your child. From the number of comments, it is obvious you’ve struck a chord with your audience. My initial thought after reading your post was the same as a number of posters – perhaps this shouldn’t be aired quite so publicly. However, as I read further comments, and your replies, I’ve modified my stance. As long as your husband is aware that you are posting about this and gets a chance for rebuttal if he feels the need, then I think you are doing us all a service. It is shocking and somewhat refreshing to see this all under bright lights, rather than whispered about in the shadows.

    We just celebrated our 29th anniversary 2 weeks ago – with a trip to the ER, because she sliped and broke her fibula – how do we top that next year? ;) We often look around and ask ourselves, what are we doing right? We’ve never yet come up with the “right” answer. I don’t think there is a magic answer – do x, y, and z and all will be fine – all I can suggest is to be as honest and open with each other as you seem to be here.

    Again, best wishes.


  40. Mitch
    Mitch says:

    Echoing what so many have already said. Once again I am floored by your honesty and frankness. The only way to deal any issue is to strip off our mask which is something that very few are able to do. I admire your candor and your willingness to strip off your mask and let the world see the things that most of us want to hide. No real advice here, just my thoughts and prayers for you and your family. You are amazing. I cannot begin to tell you how often I am inspired by you. Again today, in spite of your difficulty, I am inspired by your spirit and your willingness to meet your problems head on.
    I wish you the best Penelope.


  41. Cornelius
    Cornelius says:

    I really do not want to be reading about your personal life when I want to read about career advise. with the 200+ feeds that I read a day, I’ll drop your feed like a bad habit if this continues. Yes, I will admit that you touched a nerve in me, making my day really sour.

    Give your relationship real respect, and keep it private, airing it out for your readers to see is an arrogant and a selfish move on your part. Deep and meaningful relationships need intimacy and security of their emotions (which he isn’t getting from you posting this). your counseling should be just you and him only, not you, him, and hundreds of onlookers… just you and him, and that's all if you want this to succeed.

  42. Mary Beth Klatt
    Mary Beth Klatt says:

    I have a hard time understanding why divorce is so hard on children under the age of 5. You can barely understand or even remember anything at that age – you haven’t been out of the uterus that long. I’d find easier to accept that older children, even teens, have a difficult time with divorce than people two feet tall.

  43. Bloggrrl
    Bloggrrl says:

    I blog about whatever the heck I want. That’s the point. Anyway, I feel for you. I have a child who has struggled with the spectrum, and I know it is difficult. As a special education teacher, I see how hard it is for parents to deal with their child’s behaviors, school, etc. Personally, my marriage(s) went kaput. You are a far more patient woman than I am. I would have had a fit about the misunderstanding before we ever made it in the counselor’s door.

  44. Bill
    Bill says:

    I read your blog regularly and this post stopped me in my tracks. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband and you try to work things out. It’s tricky territory posting about this sort of thing, but you’ve been even-handed about it.

  45. JoeDrinker
    JoeDrinker says:

    My wife and I went through counseling, or rather counselors. While it was hard enough for me to air our grievances in front of a trained therapist, my wife’s circle of friends all knew every word in frightening detail. She also wrote about it in her blog, but seeing as how there are only seven people or so who read it, I was able to dismiss it as just venting.

    If I found out that it was being read by thousands of people, I wouldn’t have been so quick to forgive her – in fact, I would have felt even more betrayed, shamed, and less likely to continue to work on the marriage.

    I applaud your candor, but please keep in mind that we men are emotionally closed books, with the assumption that what is said behind closed doors will stay there. Regardless of what we say bothers us or not.

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