Can This Relationship Be Saved Archives

Vickie and Ben: Grew Up and Grew Apart

Vickie and Ben have been married since they were teenagers. Vickie became pregnant when she was 16, but had a miscarriage. They married when Vickie was 17 and Ben was 18. They have been married for 10 years and have one child, Brad (4). Ben has been a hard worker, but has not been able to keep a job for more than 2 years at a time. He starts out okay, but soon becomes disillusioned and feels taken advantage of. He usually gets in an argument with his boss or coworkers over a perceived injustice and walks off the job. He is a skilled mechanic and soon finds work elsewhere. Vickie works as a secretary for a small business and has had the same job since she was 19. Even though she has no college education, she has worked her way up to a responsible position and is well paid.

Ben started another new job and was away at a specialized training when Vickie realized that she felt more relaxed and happier when Ben wasn't there. She was able to work, take care of the household duties, and have fun with Brad and still have energy left over. She got together with friends a few times and enjoyed relaxing in a social setting. When Ben got home, Vickie asked for a separation. She told Ben how relaxed and happy she had felt when he wasn't there, and started complaining about how he couldn't hold down a job, never helped around the house, and was almost a stranger to his son. Ben defended himself by saying he is trying, he loves her, and he's tired all the time from working so hard. He promises to be a better father and help more around the house. Knowing he had promised this before, Vickie says she'll give him one more chance to change....or she's leaving. After a brief attempt to fulfill his promises, Ben falls back into his old habits. One day he returns from work and there is a note from Vickie saying she's moved out to stay with a girlfriend to "see what she wants to do about the marriage". She leaves 4-yr-old Brad with Ben and asks Ben not to try to contact her....she'll call him when she's ready to talk.

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Poll Results: 100% Say "NO"

If the question is simply, "Can a couple who met in high school and got married very young make it?" The answer would be "yes" and it would depend on the circumstances. However, in this particular case, there are quite a few "red flags" for trouble.

One of them, of course, is that this couple did meet well before they reached maturity. Adolescence ends at age 26, and these two had a relationship 10 years before that! They would have had a child at that early age had Vickie not miscarried. These are tremendous odds for a young couple to overcome. Even though Vickie was not pregnant when the couple married, the lost pregnancy may havecontributed to their decision to get married. And Vickie did get pregnant again shortly aftertheir marriage and the couple now has two children.

As with many couples, both Vickie and Ben have had to work to support the family. Vickie has had the same job with increasing levels of responsibility since she started working. Ben, on the other hand, has not been successful in mastering the level of responsibility and maturity needed to maintain and grow in his work. He appears to be stuck in adolescence and is still defying "authority". This leads to him being self-centered and irresponsible and unsuccessful as a stable support of the family. This has fallen to Vickie who resents it. On top of that, Ben is jealous and controlling and feels threatened by Vickie coming into contact with other men. He is insecure and immature as a man.

The basis for the marriage dynamic is that Vickie is the mother and Ben is the adolescent. This dynamic could be changed, but it would require a psychological transformation in Ben. Vickie can't win because the more she nags and complains that Ben is not contributing equally, the more Ben resents it. He says he wants to change, but it is only to try to please Vickie so she won't leave him. He really has not yet seen the value in being a fully participating husband and father. Because he doesn't value it, he fails to keep his promises to Vickie to change.

The frosting on the divorce cake here is that Vickie has had it! She got a taste of what it would be like if she didn't have to worry about Ben and she liked it. She gave him a chance so that she could say she tried, and then she immediately took drastic measures when Ben didn't follow through by leaving the kids with Ben and moving out. It doesn't look like she has another relationship, but my guess is that she would like being single and finding out who else is out there for her. Under these circumstances, it doesn't look like this young couple will make it. Ben would really have to step up to the plate as an adult, fully-participating partner, and I don't think he will accomplish this without a lot of help. Vickie is not likely to wait any longer. This marriage is very likely to end up in divorce court.

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