Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have an okay marriage. It’s not terrible and it’s not wonderful either. We don’t really fight but we don’t really connect. I had basically accepted this situation as my lot in life – until recently. I started attending a small discussion group on topics related to Israel and the Jewish people. In that group I met a divorced man and we really clicked. We could talk about anything. It’s so easy and it’s so much fun. Now I’m thinking that I could have more than what I’ve accepted and I’m trying to decide what to do. I forgot to mention that I have 3 children, ages 4, 8 and 10, so they are also a consideration in my decision. Should I spend the rest of my life holding my so-so marriage together, particularly for the sake of the children, or should I see where this new relationship will take me?

Re-Imagining My Future

Dear Great Imagination,

Let’s forget about our imaginations which are great distorters of reality – for good and for bad – and let’s focus on reality. I’m going to begin with the new man, about whom I know few details other than that he’s a good conversationalist. I don’t know if he’s kind or loyal or thoughtful or reliable. But it really doesn’t matter whether he is or not because that isn’t the point. Not only is he exciting because he is new – and the early days of any relationship are always heady – but also because the situation you are in with him has a very tenuous relationship with reality.

You aren’t figuring out who’s doing which chores, you aren’t paying the bills and trying to determine what to sacrifice in order to make this month’s mortgage, you aren’t going to parent-teacher conferences and dealing with difficult children or non-academic children or special needs children together, you aren’t even asking him to take out the garbage! In other words, you aren’t dealing with the real world. So you have no tools for evaluating this relationship or comparing him to your husband.

Not that I’m suggesting you should. I’m just trying to highlight the role fantasy is playing here.

Additionally you don’t give me any clues about what’s wrong with your marriage and what efforts you have made to fix it. Have you gone to counseling? Do you work hard at focusing on your husband’s good? Do you make an effort to give to him, to respond to his needs, to be sensitive to his wishes? Have you asked him if he’s happy and if there’s anything you could do to improve the situation? If you haven’t put your all into this relationship, then you don’t even know if it could soar or not. And if you aren’t prepared to put your all into your marriage, then your next one won’t be any more successful than your first.

While there certainly are situations where a marriage is unsustainable, that shouldn’t be triggered by meeting someone else. And you need to feel confident that you’ve really tried your best to create a successful marriage. I don’t wish anyone to be unhappy in their relationship but if you do a little introspecting, you should find that your happiness is internally triggered. You can choose to be happy with your husband and unhappy with your new “friend”. It’s really up to you.

Additionally, you have three young children to consider. You don’t have to stay in a terrible marriage for the sake of the children (It’s not clear whether that would actually be good for them) but you owe it to them (and yourself) to at least first give it your best try. It will not be easy for them if you make a change, and while children are resilient and learn to roll with the punches, you only want to deliver the punch if absolutely necessary.

The bottom line is that this is not a casual decision. It requires a lot of thought and honest introspection. I would hesitate to throw away a marriage and family that I was already in for such an unknown quantity. And I would hesitate to make a commitment to someone who would so easily walk away from a family she spent years building and who hadn’t tried her best to save it. You owe it to your husband, your children and most of all, yourself, to go back home and give it your all. Best of luck.