You have to make a choice about your relationship, then stick to it.
Once I was pregnant, I tell Doherty, Jason started hitting the bars every other night, and I morphed into a nag: "Why are you acting like a frat boy? When are you going to grow up?" These confrontations highlighted our growing divide — I'd be left in tears while he stormed back to the bar. I felt abandoned, I explain to Doherty, and envisioned giving birth alone.
Jason was there for the birth of our daughter, but the night he brought me home from the hospital, he insisted on going out for a drink. When we got married a few weeks later, I told myself it was the right thing to do; we had a child now. But my heart, which had been incrementally closing off to him, wasn't in it. In the months that followed the ceremony, I began to funnel all of my attention into our daughter, leaving my husband alone on the sidelines, confused and angry.
Doherty asks Jason to leave the room so he can talk to me alone. "A lot of couples fall into this trap of sliding into marriage," Doherty says. "It's not the same as really thinking it over and coming to a decision." He gently points out that a lot of my unhappiness has to do with my not being really "in" our marriage. Yes, Jason's partying was out of line, but why didn't I ever tell him how close I was to leaving him? Doherty asks. The answer is uncomfortably clear: I didn't speak up because I had one foot out the door.
While I was pregnant, I thought, Hey, we're not married. I can leave if I want to. I thought I'd created an escape hatch. But really, I'd fashioned a trap: I felt that his partying was his problem, not ours, and therefore it wasn't my place to tell him to fix it. Even after we married, I didn't consider us a unit forever — we tied the knot because that was the next logical step. But now I see that not fully committing to Jason is what's really hurting us.
Doherty tells me I need to decide: Do I want to be with Jason? I think back to the man I first met. A guy who on our first date whipped out a photo album and introduced me to his entire family, a guy who would regularly pluck construction cones off the street and use them to announce to the block that he loved me. Do I want to be his wife? I realize that, yes, I do. And for the first time, I'm 100 percent invested. But does Jason feel the same?
Once my one-on-one session is done, it's Jason's turn. Then we're both called in for a wrap-up. "First of all, I'd like to apologize for my behavior during your pregnancy," Jason says. "It was selfish." He's going to make an effort to curb his drinking, so he can be the partner I need. After he's done talking, I apologize to him for not speaking up sooner about how unhappy I was. I vow to stop nagging him and instead tell him what I want: "I'd really like you to stay home tonight." Jason and I both decide to go all in and do whatever it takes to make our marriage work.
Doherty agrees that this is the right decision. "You've got a lot going for you," he says. "It's amazing how much this one issue — commitment or lack of it — can hurt a relationship. People think it's all about love, but love isn't enough if you aren't truly in it together."
Jason and I leave Doherty's office holding hands. But our work isn't over: For the next six months, we see a counselor regularly to help us rebuild and strengthen our bond. It's a work in progress, but just taking divorce off the table has helped. After all, if you're on the fence, it's hard to put your heart in it and try. To do that, you have to make a choice. Then commit.