Sage Advice: Marriage at Midlife Is One Long Slog


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Dear Amy: I’m a 42-year-old man who has been married to my wife for 14 years. We started out fairly well, but over the years, more and more arguments emerged.

Now we have three young kids, and have devolved into the Odd Couple. She is a downright slob (really bad, even by her own admission) and I’m more of a normal clean-type. I can’t keep cleaning the house all by myself, and it gets so disgusting that I’m embarrassed by it. We do have some great times, but I just feel like I love her as a friend and can’t stand living with her.

I’m somewhat into staying fit and I work out to maintain a good look and heart health. She does not. She can’t keep up with me even on a short hike. I fear that she’ll die way before me or eventually become too heavy for me to find attractive.

The other day our oldest – a 6-year-old girl – told the story of our meeting and marriage at an extended family dinner. She concluded with: “…then they found out they didn’t like each other. The End.” I know that if I announce divorce it would be devastating to her. She still loves me very much.

I feel that if I stay I won’t be happy, and it’s not healthy for the kids to hear us arguing, but I also feel that a “broken” home could be equally devastating.

– Stay or Go?

Dear Stay or Go: Staying in – or leaving – a marriage is not really a binary choice, certainly when you have young children.

You say that you can’t keep cleaning the house all by yourself. Why not? It sounds as if you are probably much better at it than your wife is. You care more about this than she does.

You have three children under the age of six. If she agrees to handle the majority of the daily child care and manages to get meals on the table, can you be in charge of cleaning? Can you hire someone to clean for a few hours a week, to lighten the load for everyone? If you can financially afford to leave your marriage, then you can also afford to pay for some of the help you need right now.

Some of what you two are dealing with is what most couples in the shank of their marriage and parenting have to cope with – that feeling that life is passing by in a blur, while spouses become detached from the relationship, and, in a way, from their own lives.

Yes, arguing in front of the children is not good for your household, but you two can learn how to communicate differently.

Therapy is ideal for getting unstuck from entrenched thought patterns. You should commit to trying to change things at home before you decide to simply pack it in.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

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