Carolyn Hax: Job change moves couple apart

Carolyn Hax:

March 31, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My wife and I have been together for 20 years. We've always had a very close and loving relationship.

A few years ago I found myself unemployed, and ended up taking a second-shift job that keeps us apart during the week. I recently turned down a day job because it pays less.

My wife, who is a fairly shy person, has been lonely, and she's started to develop a life without me - going to the gym, attending music functions with friends and so on. I have encouraged her to do so. Last week, I was beginning to sense something was different, and after some discussion over a few glasses of wine, she told me she was "infatuated" with a guy from the gym. They've become friends. She later said it was nothing, just a crush.

I don't think she'd really cheat on me, but I can't shake the feeling that our once-close relationship has been compromised.

SAD HUSBAND

You "can't shake the feeling that our once-close relationship has been compromised" because it has been. You and your wife spend less time together and lean on each other less for emotional nourishment now.

That is the bogeyman here - which also means, by process of elimination, that your wife isn't the bogeyman, nor is the object of her crush, nor are you for taking a second-shift job or encouraging her to socialize. You're all just doing what humans do, which is adapt to the circumstances you're given.

You have options: You can take the day job, trading a pay cut for a marriage boost; you can make more purposeful use of the hours you share; you can agree to meet each other halfway by adjusting your sleep schedules …

And you can be as understanding as you can muster. Instead of being upset with her for her new attraction, for example, you can express gratitude that she shared with you, say that you miss her and feel a little hurt, and suggest working to get your closeness back.

You'll know whether you're making too much of this based in part on how much she makes of it. I hope she rallies in kind for you.

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