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Ask Ellie: Resolving marital difficulties requires an open mind

Marriage and parenthood require a broader view of everyone’s needs within the immediate family

Dear Ellie: We’re married for 16 years, with two daughters, 12 and 10. We’ve had no sex during my wife’s long all-consuming illness, which requires regular treatments and creates physical/emotional changes.

I’m having financial troubles as well. So, we can’t afford to split up and live on our own separate salaries. My wife still works, and I now work from home, earning much less than previously.

I could move anywhere to live cheaper, but that would require taking my daughters away from their mother. She says we have to stay together, so that our daughters can be raised in a normal middle-class home.

My wife goes to bed much earlier than me, while it’s still evening. I don’t need sleep until midnight.

Our mismatched pattern means we wake each other up. She turns on lights in the early morning, noisily opens and closes drawers, etc. I’m tired all through the day.

I’ve tried going to bed early but have never made it work. Also, I watch adult-themed shows after my daughters have gone to bed.

I recently moved into my home office and now get a good night’s sleep.

But my wife is concerned about how sleeping in separate rooms will affect our girls. She wants me to come back to the main bedroom again solely for that reason.

Should I do it? Lack of sleep affects my work. I feel so much better now on a good night’s sleep. Do I give that up?

Sleepless at Home

Most people have spent their growing-up years seeing things from their own perspective, as in, “I need,” “must have,” “can’t manage without.”

But adult marriage and parenthood require a broader view of everyone’s needs within the immediate family.

Your wife’s very serious illness assaults her physically, psychologically and emotionally. She’s given up or been unable to have sex (these two premises may be one and the same).

It’s no surprise, given her condition plus holding down a job, that she can’t stay awake late at night.

You could have tried harder to join her bedtime, but you didn’t. On the other hand, she worries about your daughters’ perception of parents sleeping apart … though her illness is an easy explanation that young people can understand.

So, both of you are allowing a major breach between you as a couple, focusing on avoidance rather than adaptation and solutions.

Why would you think that moving somewhere cheaper would have to mean “[you] taking away my daughters from their mother”?

Why would your wife think that only “a middle-class home” is normal and acceptable when the current situation isn’t working or affordable?

A major dent in finances is tough, but your wife’s illness is far harder to experience. She needs your emotional support, care and comfort.

One small gesture can launch a solution: Go to bed earlier to try and reconnect. As a team, you’ll have a far better chance.

Reader’s commentary about dating sites:

“They all want you to “buy credits” so you can talk to women whose pictures you see on the site. You never talk directly to that woman. Usually, the site’s offices are somewhere overseas.

“Many people answer your requests and make you think you’re talking to that person, using up your credits.

“Meanwhile, she never talks to you directly. It’s a scam and thousands of people get sucked into these sites.”

Ellie: If other readers have experienced this same situation, write your accounts. They could cause legal authorities in this field to come up with stronger standards.

Dear Ellie: I enjoy and learn from your columns but please address pandemic concerns. Families/friends are facing terrible situations.

Hard Times

Yes, these are very hard times for many — economically, mental health-wise, and in their personal relationships — the area of my career experience.

Some pandemic issues require specific help from specialized fields — medical, scientific, mental health especially.

I urge readers to acknowledge their need, and start a basic search for help through their family doctor or other trusted source.

I’ll continue to address readers’ specific pandemic questions whenever I receive them.

To all people struggling through these difficult times, I urge you to stay safe and get vaccinated, which medical/science experts say currently offers the most possible protection, plus boosters.

For those exempted or otherwise committed to remaining unvaccinated, I must accept your choice. But I hope you’ll respect others’ choices by staying distanced from vulnerable elderly people and crowd gatherings.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Resolving marital difficulties requires a fresh look at what’s possible and needed by everyone involved.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.