Dear Uncle Mat

I know this probably isn’t the normal way to write you for advice, but I’m depressed and confused, and can’t wait for Thursday’s publication. My wife asked me last night to take a six-month trial separation, whatever that means, but also told me she’s been seeing someone (non-sexually).

I have my faults, and some are bigger than others, but none that can’t be fixed, and they are changes I’m willing to make. I can be pretty emotional is a big one, and she said in so many words that it’s emasculating. I think it’s a shitty world where a guy should be ashamed of feeling.

I’ve known something was wrong for a while, but she can be difficult to approach and shuts down if you try to get her to open up and discuss an issue. I’m not willing to throw in the towel yet, and I am going to move into my own place for a while to give her some space, but six months is a lot of time to let another relationship ruin what I think is a salvageable (and HONESTLY not that bad) marriage.

I’m willing to accept that it may not work, and I can move on with my life. But as long as she hasn’t slept with someone else, I can’t help but feel like the love is still there buried. How can I get her to open up to counseling or talking?

— Not the Best with Depressed

Dear Not the Best,

No one is particularly good at or with being depressed. Sure, the movies and TV make it look sexy, but on the inside it really sucks for anyone who is depressed for any reason. Do not feel guilty or ashamed for being sad and troubled about your situation. As a self-proclaimed emotional person, you need to pay close attention to your feelings and not let the depression get the better of you. You cannot work on your relationship without taking care of yourself.

Start by communicating directly with your spouse about your expectations and feelings. Let her know that you still believe in the relationship and wish to continue pursuing reconciliation even though you are agreeing to move out. Tell her you plan to see a counselor and ask that she do the same, both individually and as a couple. You can’t make her share her feelings or force open conversations about your relationship. Counseling should help, and she should be willing to go at least once for herself and once together, if she has any intention of trying to save the marriage.

You don’t have to be “emotional” while speaking about your feelings or intentions. Overly expressing or being dramatic in the presentation of your emotions can create a barrier between you and others. This is especially true if the individual is less expressive, as you describe your wife. For now, attempt to remain calm, even-tempered, and try to match her emotional pitch. Making the initial compromise of communicating on her level will demonstrate your willingness and dedication to work on the relationship.

The fact that she is already involved with another man is troubling news. The trial separation might be more definitive for her than it is for you. She has already been seriously thinking about not only the end of your relationship, but the beginning of a new relationship. It is great that she respects you and your marriage enough to not sleep with the other man at this time, but she still acknowledges that their relationship is of a romantic nature. This may be a sign that she wants to escalate their relationship, not just reevaluate yours.

You describe the marriage as “salvageable” and “not that bad.” Neither of those describe what I want in a relationship. Cars and computers are salvageable and my day job or a colonoscopy is not that bad. I wouldn’t even accept “good” as an adjective suitable for love. I think it is time to start re-imagining yourself and your wife. She brought home the first surprise, and it pretty much sucks for you. You need to top it, for both of you.

The next several months will be very difficult. Don’t just rent a room and put a mattress on the floor. Make your temporary place a home. Pursue and enjoy other aspects of your life such as your career, friends, and hobbies. Remember that you are starting a new life, no matter the outcome.

Much love and happiness,

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at
[email protected] or Your true identity is safe with him.

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