Pam, 41, marketing manager
Ross, 45, lawyer
Married 19 years
Kids: Lauren, 15; Jacob, 13
Marc D. Rabinowitz, Norfolk, Virginia
The Background: Pam and Ross had been drifting apart from each other for a while, but it got worse three years ago. Pam went back to work full-time but says she’s still stuck doing all the parenting. Between that and caring for her elderly mom and dad, she’s overwhelmed. Meanwhile, her coworkers make her feel appreciated — something she doesn’t get from Ross. Last year she was so lonely she wound up having an emotional affair with a guy at the office.
Ross and I were in the middle of a huge fight and I told him I almost cheated on him with someone at work. It was a terrible way to do it but I’d had enough. I’m pretty sure I want a divorce. There’s just no marriage left. We don’t have time to go on dates or hang out together at home the way we used to, but that’s not really the problem. It’s that we never talk about anything deeper than the grocery list. I used to tell Ross about what happened at work, but he started interrupting me and comparing what I said to something he did. After a while I stopped talking about myself. Now we just bicker constantly.
Ross works 60-hour weeks, so it’s up to me to help the kids with their homework and get them to soccer on time. I’m sick of it. If I complain enough, Ross will take over for a few days, but then he’ll start working late and everything will fall on my shoulders again.
He’s not just checked out in terms of parenting — I have to be in charge of everything. It’s been ages since he had an idea or opinion. And I’m tired of him acting like an employee, waiting for directions. I want a partner. Why can’t he look at the family calendar and do what needs to be done?
I have my parents to deal with, too. I’m an only child, so I have to be on call 24/7 to take them to the ER or doctor’s appointments — and they live a half hour away. My mother had abdominal surgery last year; my father has Parkinson’s and can’t be left alone for more than three hours. Some weeks they need me every day, no matter what.
I tell Ross I feel overwhelmed, but he just says it’s a phase, it’ll pass. Really? When? And whenever I complain that we’re not close anymore, he says our relationship “isn’t that bad” and leaves the room. How can we fix what’s wrong if we don’t talk about it?
For the past few years I’ve been feeling more connected to people at work. I’m around them more and they appreciate me and talk to me. And then last year, when I was assigned to a special project with this guy, Scott, we clicked immediately. He was take-charge and opinionated. He wasn’t afraid to challenge me when we disagreed. We had deep conversations about everything, including our bad marriages. I felt like a whole person again, not just a co-parent and household manager. We knew that our feelings were dangerous, so we ended our friendship, and Scott transferred to another office.
I stayed faithful to Ross because I still love him. But the fact that I nearly cheated was a wake-up call that I can’t be married to someone who feels more like a roommate than a husband.