Helpless in My Marriage

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Dear Hoopers,
I have been in a relationship for 5 years, married for 2. This is both of our second marriages and we have kids from our previous marriages but not together. It got off to a bad start. He held the kids away from me for almost a year at his ex wife’s request. It hurt. Then his visitation to see the girls was at his ex wife’s home while she was there. This also hurt but eventually stopped when she moved on. He was always a major flirt at work. I used to work with him and would watch him sit all day long with another female coworker whispering and laughing and not work related so I know how he operates and should not have married him now that I think about it but can’t go back.

Soon after getting together and moving in together I started finding women’s items in his car like jewelry and makeup and when I asked I was told the ring belonged to his sister who was never in his car and lived far away and the makeup he said he wasn’t sure who it belonged to. He started acting different to me, didn’t care about my feelings and stopped trying to take me out or anything. I now don’t trust him and have told him. He recently for the past year has started traveling for work a lot. He is now unavailable during the day claiming he is in meetings all day. He will never take a day off to be with me and I have finally after years of this had enough. I can’t leave as I have nowhere to go and finances will not allow me to save up for first and last. I have asked him to leave but he refuses although he can go stay at his mom’s. I asked the travel to stop for now as our marriage is in trouble and I don’t trust him. He agrees he gives me lots to suspect he’s having an affair but won’t stop. He lies and hides coworker interactions and I know he’s having an affair but I can not prove it. Any advice on what I can do to catch the workplace affair or to get him to leave so I can move on with my life? It’s horrible to live this way every day.
-Helpless in My Marriage

Dear Helpless in Marriage,
The fear around moving on can often keep us mired in misery. You are asking the questions, what’s going to happen to me? How will I adapt to a new life? Will I be able to make ends meet? These are all legitimate concerns, especially when you have children to consider.

Catching him in an affair may seem like a way to get the proof you need to move on. But I suspect your observations and intuition is proof enough. Plus, catching your husband in the act of unfaithfulness will most likely lead to additional psychological turmoil, even if you’ve checked out of the relationship.

Reach out to loved ones, create an inner circle of support, get a plan together.


If you’ve had enough, then make a change. This can include working on the marriage together by seeing a marriage counselor. If there is no willingness to change and you want to leave, come up with a plan.

The fear is real. Moving on is hard. But, what is the other option? Staying in this unfortunate marriage and remaining miserable? While this can feel like a big mistake, there is a lot of living to be had on the other side of fear. You can’t go back, but you can choose to move forward. Reach out to loved ones, create an inner circle of support, get a plan together. Sometimes the best life lessons are the toughest.

Dear Helpless in Marriage,
This does sound like a dire situation. You feel stuck in a marriage with a man who you don’t love and trust even less. You blame yourself for marrying him in the first place and are beating yourself up for finding yourself in this position. I must say that from hearing the tone of your question, it doesn’t sound like you have much hope for your marriage and are just looking for a safe way out.

You have made attempts to set boundaries with him including asking him to stop traveling. While he acknowledges that his actions seem suspicious, he neither respected your request or did anything about it. Now the ball is in your court. The only way that boundaries can work is if you establish and follow through on consequences when the other person doesn’t respect them. I know it seems impossible right now, but you have to do something.

While he acknowledges that his actions seem suspicious, he neither respected your request or did anything about it.

-Dr. Ryan

There are many possibilities for getting yourself out of this marriage, but if finances are a restraint, it’s time to brainstorm. Maybe you can ask for help from family or friends, stay with family for a while to get your feet under you financially, or maybe even open up a kickstarter for yourself. Much lesser ideas have been funded on kickstarter before. If you don’t ask for help, no one can give it to you. I would find the space to separate yourself physically for a while to figure out your next steps.
-Dr. Ryan