I think it's time for my wife and I to separate, but I have no idea exactly how to go about it. Help me out, hive mind.
Note: I've anonymised this as best I can; some details are approximate.
Since that post, things have moved on somewhat. I've had an initial counselling appointment (my wife refused to attend, but has since agreed to come with me to counselling, though she is still unsure about how useful it will be). We are now on a waiting list for an appointment with a counsellor; hopefully we'll get an appointment before the end of August.
We've just had a long vacation with little outside-world contact, and it was pleasant enough. We rowed a couple of times, but not quite as terribly as we have in the past. But throughout the two weeks I couldn't shake the feeling that I was treading water, and that for me the spark in the relationship had died.
One of the things that I talked about with the counsellor that I saw was that over the last ten years that we've lived together we've had some horrible, horrible arguments, and that I feel like I've given us a lot of chances to sort things out - another thing that I covered was that, being an optimist, I tend to brush the bad stuff under the carpet; the realisation of just how much bad stuff there has been in our past was a moment of staggering clarity.
A couple of weekends before we went away on vacation I was at a work event. I didn't want to go but having recently accepted a new role it was unavoidable. When I returned, the first thing - literally the first thing - my wife did after greeting me at the airport was accuse me of sleeping with one of my colleagues who'd also been at the event (for the record, I hadn't done any such thing). This blew up into a massive row and I had a back packed and was ready to leave. I can't remember now why I didn't, but I know that this kind of thing has happened many times over the last 10 years.
A couple of nights before we went away, my wife discovered in one of my notebooks the notes I'd made when reading Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay
, and we had another massive row. She told me that I was too good for her, that I would be better off without her, and that I should leave her. She several times acted as though she was about to leave - packed a bag, picked up the car keys, walked to the door, etc. - but never actually left. Whilst we reconciled and eventually went away, I've realised that what I mostly felt when she was moving as though to leave was relief.
When driving home from our vacation another moment of clarity hit me: I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life with this person.
I know, logically, that what we need is to separate, at least for a few months, to work out how we really feel about each other. Tomorrow I leave for another work trip. I don't think it would be particularly fair of me to say "by the way, I want to separate" before I go, but neither do I want to find myself vacillating when I return. As I said above, I've become aware of my tendency to ignore the bad and only look for the good, and I'm scared that that will mean that I'll get home and get immediately back into the cycle of waiting for counselling whilst nothing really changes.
Moreover, when we've had big blow-ups in the past she's hinted at wanting to self-harm or worse, though never in a way that's actually endangered her (taking a safety razor to her wrists and being disappointed that the safety features did their job is the most recent example that comes to mind).
So my question, hive mind, is this: How do I approach telling my wife I want to separate? At the moment she is semi-hopeful about things - in between bouts of certainty that I'm going to leave, which seem now to be well-founded. I do still like her hugely as a person - I'm certain we would have been friends had we not been in a relationship - and I don't want to hurt her more than necessary (I'm aware that wanting to not hurt her at all is a spectacularly naïve desire).
What steps do I need to take to prepare myself to leave? A few considerations:
- I don't have a large local support network. Actually I don't have any kind of local support network. All of my friends are distant from me. The closest theoretically supportive person to me is my Dad, some 60 miles away.
- I earn pretty decent money, but couldn't afford much on top of what I pay in rent for our current home (my wife earns a lot less than me, and couldn't afford our current home on her own; I don't want to screw her over when I leave).
- Whilst I feel terrible for having lead her up the garden path with setting up counselling, I still feel that we should go - not least because we're both going to need help adjusting to the separation.
Any advice would be appreciated. I also appreciate that some of you will think that I'm not trying hard enough to save my marriage, and that I should pay more attention to what I said in my vows. I'm finding this hard to square with myself, too, but I'd counter that I've spent 10 years telling myself that this relationship is all wonderful and fine and have only just realised that I've been lying to myself all that time. It's not that I don't want to save it - if I could be convinced that it would suddenly become the relationship I know that the outside world thinks it is, I would be happy to stay. I think, though, that things have gone too far for that now.