Ask Amy: Spouse considers leaving alcoholic wife
Dear Amy: My wife and I are in our mid-50s. We have been married over 30 years. She is an alcoholic, but is trying to stay sober through AA.
She has been successful for periods of time, but relapses, usually at difficult periods in our lives (like the current COVID-19 crisis).
We have seen several marriage counselors throughout the years. I can honestly say that we have both tried hard to make things work when many relationships would have broken up after going through what we have.
The problem is that I have laid out the criteria for me to leave. (You can’t have ultimatums in Al-Anon).
She has frequently crossed the line, and yet I have stayed.
Like all of us, she has traits that I would rather she didn’t have. But the worst is chronic lying. It is usually related to drinking, but it tells me she may never be able to stay sober for a longer period of time.
It has created a trust issue I fear I may never be able to get over.
She is currently away at treatment — again — and I am thinking of leaving when she gets back. I feel that I don’t have an equal partner in my life.
Do you have thoughts, besides more counseling? — In a Corner
Dear Corner: There are different ways to frame what is basically an ultimatum. One way is: “Unless you stop drinking, I’m going to leave.” This is a way of seeking to control another person’s actions, by leveraging a threat, and tying her drinking to the consequence. Obviously, since you have never been able to follow through on your “criteria,” you have no way of knowing if your own behavior would influence hers, but you should assume that her addiction disorder is stronger than your criteria.
Al-Anon encourages you to find ways to accept your powerlessness over your partner’s addiction, while learning to take care of yourself.
Another way to frame your situation is to basically state your own truth: “Your alcoholism has become unbearable for me. I love you and I want the best for you. But we haven’t been partners for a long time now. I’ll continue to support your sobriety, but I’ve decided to move out.”
That’s it. Continued counseling (for you) would help you to cope with the challenges presented by your own choice.
Dear Amy: I was recently on a group chat with a bunch of friends. One of these people, “Kelly,” “outed” another of our friends, “Kevin,” as transgender.
Kevin has not mentioned this to any of us. I had talked with him the day before and feel terrible because I called him by his “dead name” and referred to him by the wrong gender.
Now, I don’t know what to do, for Kevin or myself. I’ve been dealing with my own questions of sexuality and I’m afraid that someone will “out” me before I’m ready. — Worried
Dear Worried: You’ve learned something important about “Kelly.” Never, ever trust Kelly with any information you might consider private.
You should contact “Kevin” and say what was discussed in the group chat — not to embarrass Kevin, but to get the story straight. Let Kevin respond to you. They might want to clarify things to the group.
You should maintain control of your own story, if at all possible. Only discuss your sexuality when you are ready, and do so with the knowledge that you can’t trust everyone in your circle to respect your privacy.
Dear Amy: “Untexted in Texas” said her husband, “Barney,” is texting with a woman that he knew in high school.
You stated that his wife is correct in wanting this to stop. You state that his anger at her demand is proof that there is something untoward about his relationship.
Is he not allowed friends? What would you say if he demanded that she stop a friendship with a man she knew from high school?
This relationship could be a blessing for the wife. This friend might call the husband on his negative behavior. He might hear that in a way that he couldn’t hear from his wife because of too much emotional baggage. — Upset
Dear Upset: Everybody gets to have friends. But when a relationship interferes with the marriage — as this one did — then it is important for the person conducting the friendship to be open about it.
In this case, “Barney’s” secrecy about the nature of the friendship created the problem, and that is fixable.