“Shall I leave my wife and daughter for my girlfriend?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

“My wife and I are in our early 30s  –  married for more than nine years with a little girl of two. Over the past two years, I have realised that we have grown apart  –  both mentally and physically  –  and we no longer have anything in common. I feel I should continue with our marriage for the sake of our child and also because I’d feel sorry to leave my wife.

I have been seeing someone else for a while and everything I miss in married life is fulfilled by this relationship. My unfaithfulness has brought a strange balance to my married life, as well as to the other person’s marriage. I’m almost certain that myself and my girlfriend were meant for each other in many ways. These feelings are mutual  –  and have developed over a few years. We share this wonderful affinity that we’ve both been missing for a long time in our marriages. But we have no control over the future and I don’t know where we could end up.

This relationship is not why my marriage is failing  –  in fact, it’s made me see things about myself and marriage in a different way. I think my marriage has failed largely because of a natural progression (which I think many married people experience today), though I am aware my infidelity has been a factor.

The question ‘Were we meant to mate for ever?’ comes to my mind when I use the term ‘infidelity’.What do you think? People keep advising me to work on my marriage  –  but I don’t feel there’s anything left to work on. I think we have drifted too far apart. I can’t think of any similarities between us at all.

My philosophy in life has taught me to be concerned about our journeys and worry less about our destinations, but I’m also aware that every action has a reaction and am concerned about everyone’s future here  –  especially my daughter’s.

I do love my wife, but I’m not in love with her any more. I don’t think I will ever be. As much as I feel sorry to leave her, I feel that there is no good reason for us to continue as husband and wife. The only reason for us to continue with this marriage is for our child. But is that enough?

I feel I am denying myself if I stay. Please help me, my wife and our little girl.
This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail

My thoughts:

Firstly, it is fascinating that you wrote to the Daily Mail with this problem. You must have known very well what the advice would be. No Daily Mail columnist is going to advise you to leave your wife and family unless there is very serious abuse going on. This strongly suggests that you want someone to tell you to call off the affair and stay. It suggests that you already know what you are going to do and require a strict mother to tell you to do the right thing morally. In turn, this tells us that you have a strict internal moral code, a powerful super ego, apparently embodied by your mother, since you wrote your letter to someone who is, in fact, a grandmother herself.

You ask for help for your family, you do not ask for advice about how best to leave. This whole letter sounds like an argument with your mother – she is a strict Mail-reading person with strong views about marriage and family. With her in mind (and she is, I think, very much in your mind) your ideas sound wishy-washy and you seem to know it. Philosophy, journey, destination, meant for each other, not in love any more, mate for life.

Between your lines your mother/super ego/Mail columnist can almost be heard shouting hers. “The ONLY reason to stay married is for your small child? Is that not reason enough, young man!” she chides. Your own uncertain voice can hardly get into the debate, tentatively suggesting that your girlfriend gives you what your marriage cannot, but then, fearful of the fantasy matriarch’s reaction, you immediately say you aren’t sure, of course, what the future would bring you if you did leave your current spouses for each other.

So, apart from this rather boyish argument with a domineering mother, your way of talking about both your relationships is strikingly odd. Neither wife nor girlfriend sound very human. There is a strangely abstract quality to the way you describe them and it seems to suggest that both women are somehow symbolic in your mind. One represents a very romantic uncertainty, a kind of breathless suggestion of the forbidden, the impossible, but incredibly tantalizing. It is the uncertainty and the forbidden nature of the relationship that seems to attract you. ‘Meant for each other’ takes the whole thing into a supernatural realm.

This leaves the poor, denigrated wife/mother/’mate’ (!) figure failing at every turn. You have nothing in common (except the glaring fact of a child – my Daily Mail voice) and, most importantly, the future IS relatively certain. This is your life, your choice of partner, your future and, by extension, your death. You would hardly be the first person to have an affair as a defence against annihilation, but my suspicion is that if you do leave your wife and marry your girlfriend she will quickly fall into the denigrated ‘mate’ (gorilla?) role and you’ll be on the look out for uncertainty and supernatural immortality all over again.

Your affair is a rebellion against your moralistic and suburban mother and, perhaps, father, represented by your girlfriend’s discarded husband. Until you sort out your feelings towards your actual mother and come to terms with your inevitable extinction (no easy task, admittedly) you seem likely to repeat the pattern whether you stay or go. Your letter asks permission to leave – permission you already know will not be granted by the mother/super ego, aka yourself.

 Proper Advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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