Unintended Consequences

by : Wayne and Tamara

Direct Answers - Column for the week of May 26, 2003

My sister is celebrating her tenth anniversary this summer, and I'm concerned she is letting her relationship go. Her husband refuses to acknowledge any problems and doesn't believe in counseling.

At the time my sister married, she was a successful businesswoman with a promising career. She worked through the birth of her second child, putting her husband through school, buying his first dental practice, and making their mortgage payments. She became a full-time mom at the birth of her third child.

Her husband just doesn't seem to get it. He doesn't seem to know how to be sensitive to her need to feel loved and appreciated. He works just four days a week and spends at least one day a week golfing.

She's tried to make him understand, but he doesn't think anything is wrong except he doesn't get to golf as much as he likes, and she doesn't "put out" like she used to. I've tried to be a good listener to my sister, though we live thousands of miles apart.

Once her children were in school full-time, my sister went back to work. The hours she spends on the road (she's in sales) give her far too much time to think, and I'm afraid she's going to make a decision about her marriage and family without any help or reason.

I suggested she get a referral to a therapist. Although it would be great for the two of them to go together, there is no way he would go, and he would only lose respect for her if he knew she was going.

Would it be bad if I called her husband myself and got his take on the whole situation? The way my sister is talking, it sounds like she may just call it quits.


Karen, in the "The Monkey's Paw," a famous short story, a couple wishes for money and they get the exact sum they wanted. It is compensation for the death of their son, who is horribly mangled in a factory accident. The moral of the story is clear: be careful what you wish for.

We absolutely understand your concern for your sister; however, there is no guarantee what you wish for will help. We often get letters from people who were pleased with the course of their marriage counseling. It became individual counseling and led to divorce and the beginning of a new life.

Therapy may only confirm your sister's feeling about starting a new life without her husband. If you call your brother-in-law, he may feel secrets of his life and marriage have been shared without his knowledge or consent. You could be putting ideas into his head.

Your brother-in-law may view your sister's new job as shopping for a new husband, or he may complain about his meddling sister-in-law. Your brother-in-law may become angry, stubborn, or vengeful. He may drive a wedge between you and your sister.

Many of us want to correct everything which goes wrong in our quadrant of the universe, but it is simply beyond our power. You don't want your sister to get divorced, but that is beyond your power. What is within your power is to be there for your sister, as her sister, no matter what happens.

Wayne & Tamara

Method Of Approach

I want to divorce my wife of 10 years for many reasons. My main fear is how to handle such a terrible shock to my 3-year-old son. How do I handle telling him on the very day I tell my wife that I want a divorce?


Payne, it sounds as if your news will shock your wife. The question to ask is how to tell your wife in a way which minimizes harm to your son. The key to your son's reaction is how you, and your wife, handle the change in your relationship.

Wayne & Tamara