I am 73 years old, and this is my third marriage. My husband recently told me he hadn’t been happy in years and then promptly moved in with a friend of his.
Now I find out he has a girlfriend, yep at 70!
I am just having a really hard time moving on and not hounding him about what it was I did wrong to make him have to look outside for his happiness. Of course, he has no answer to that.
I asked him to go to a counselor and his reply was, “I tried that with my first wife, and it just cost me a lot of money and didn’t work
I just need some help moving on, I don’t know how to do that at 73.
I can only imagine how discouraged and overwhelmed you must feel after losing your third marriage. You’ve highlighted an assortment of reactions and questions. Since getting your bearings right now is your biggest priority, let’s sort through your situation and help you get some clarity about what to do.
First, please recognize you aren’t responsible for your husband’s affair. Even if you had been the most difficult wife on the planet, he still could have chosen dozens of other ways to handle his marital pain. All marriages have struggles and all marriage partners make choices about how they’ll respond. Your response was to seek counseling. His response was to replace you with a girlfriend. You can’t be responsible for his response to his marital complaints. The only person responsible for cheating is the one cheating.
I recognize it’s easier said than done, but please don’t spend one more minute of your life blaming yourself for his infidelity. The reason your husband has no answer about what you did to make him cheat is because the question is pointed at the wrong person. You didn’t make him cheat. Period.
Instead of fixating on the dead-end question of what you might have done to make him cheat, I recommend you work on gradually accepting what he’s been showing you. It’s agonizing to accept this, but he’s making it clear he doesn’t want to be your husband. You’ve invited him to explore his choices. You’ve invited him work with a professional to salvage the marriage. You’re the one who is motivated to save this relationship, not him. He’s moved on by starting a new relationship and isn’t leaving the door open to repair it.
Please remember that acceptance is a process, not an event. The journey of acceptance will free you up to see your situation more clearly, attract support from others, and allow you to feel peace. It’s normal to worry about your future, especially future romantic relationships. Because you’ve been married multiple times, you’ll likely wonder if you will feel secure with another person. We all need the reassurance that we can find security with another person. It’s hardwired into us by our wise Creator. Thankfully, as we work to figure out our human attachments, we can experience a secure attachment with our Heavenly Parents and the Savior. I hope you can find great comfort in this reminder from President Harold B. Lee:
There are forces that work beyond our sight. Sometimes we think the whole job is up to us, forgetful that there are loved ones beyond our sight who are thinking about us and our children. We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can. [i]
You’ve been surrounded by contempt, criticism, and betrayal in your marriage. I encourage you to surround yourself with love, kindness, and support. Hopefully you have friends, family, and neighbors who can buoy you up during the difficult time. I also recommend surrounding yourself with the healing peace and light found in our temples. President James E. Faust taught:
Our temples provide a sanctuary where we go to lay aside many of the anxieties of the world. Our temples are places of peace and tranquillity. In these hallowed sanctuaries God ‘healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’[ii]
You’re wise to focus on the future by moving on. I realize you are uncertain about how to do that at the age of 73. As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The temptation is to go fast and quickly get out of this painful place in which you’ve found yourself. Instead, I recommend you stay close to your loving relationships and allow that support to help you go far.
It will take time to quiet down the critical voices in your mind that tell you you’re too old and unwanted. Like Adam and Eve, you can push back against the accuser who wants to shove you into isolation. You can step into the lives of others who need your wisdom, compassion, hands, heart, and mind. Your marriage isn’t the only thing that defines you. There are plenty of ways you can show up to build and bless.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
Download Geoff’s FREE guide to help you quickly end arguments with your spouse: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/3-steps-to-end-your-marriage-argument
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.
[i] “A Sure Sound: Quotations from President Lee,” Ensign, Feb 1974