Over the course of my marriage, I’ve dealt with my wife’s weak to nonexistent boundaries. Six months ago, after a lie, I found out her relationship with her best friend put her in another boundary-testing environment.

Every year for the last seven she and her friend, along with five other married women, went on a girly weekend. My thoughts were great for her. It’s an annual retreat.

A dance floor, beer and a camp trailer later, my wife and her friend slept with two men. Further discussion, not offered but uncovered, revealed they’d known these men on and off for five years.

My wife cried profusely that day saying she wants to go back to the way our marriage was. Counseling, plus agreement to cut off her friend and other triggers to unacceptable behavior, were made and kept. I think.

Currently she says little things like, “I don’t email much anymore.” Yet recently from work she sent me a follow-up to a question. In her haste she copied it to a personal email address, an address I am not familiar with.

She and I spent copious amounts of time together since the initial day. She responds to me with smiles, kisses and hugs. The problem is I seem to be in the paternal position and I hate it. In many of our long discussions (me talking, she listening—wrong I know) I hear the voice of a little girl.

I want to trust her, yet she has not shown any attempt on her own to find out why she has weak boundaries. I believe her boundaries are defined by the one she is with at the time. Even contemplating that is mind belittling.

Our counselor said, “There are people mentally around 15 or 17 years old. The ones mentally 17 and physically in their 40s still have a chance to grow.” The question is, “Is there enough time to save the marriage?”

We have not been back to counseling. She needs to want to go by herself. If I suggest it, I am playing the fatherly role.

When discussing things with her, on the surface it all comes up roses. When I read between the lines, small things like the email surface. I no longer want to be anyone’s moral compass.

Irv

Irv, when we talk about boundaries, we are talking about kids. Boundaries go along with house rules and curfews. Boundaries go along with parents and teenagers. Boundaries don’t apply to a person you have chosen to be with and a person who has chosen to be with you.

A legal maxim says a man without assets is free to break contracts with impunity. Why? Because, while you might be able to get a financial judgment against him, you will never collect it. He has no assets to seize.

In a similar way, if your wife knows you won’t leave, she can do whatever she wants.

If she goes to individual counseling, change may take years or it may never happen. Counseling might only help her figure out her next move, not bring her closer to you. It is not clear your wife dislikes who she is. You dislike who she is.

There is a reason marriage is a public ceremony before witnesses. It signifies these two people are no longer part of the dating crowd. The ceremony is so elaborate that it requires a license and the creation of a public record. If that weren’t enough to set boundaries for your wife, what would be?

You married someone who thinks she can do whatever she wants and stay married to you. The only boundary she will ever recognize is the front door, with you on one side and her on the other.

It is time for you to decide: who should be in my life? who loves and cares for me alone? who shares my best interests?

Wayne & Tamara