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Selfish or selfless? I can't tell.
November 23, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm ready to leave my unhappy, borderline-abusive, caretaker-y marriage (details in a series of posts, most recently here). Do I just wait until I've got all my ducks in a row and then go, or should I be kinder, and give my spouse some kind of notice period.

I've been round and round in circles about this many times, several times on Ask MeFi. After my most recent question, and several reaffirmations that I can't stay here any longer I've done all the hard stuff: I've found a place I want to live, I can move in next weekend (1st December). I'm just waiting for references to clear.

So when and how do I tell my wife? We've got a big social event this weekend that we're both due to attend, and we've both been looking forward to it (for separate reasons) for months. Do I tell her that I'm leaving now or do I leave it until after the weekend?

My gut is telling me that this weekend will be enjoyable for me as an individual, and for my wife too, and that I shouldn't spoil it, but other parts of me tell me that I'm being unfair to my wife by dragging things out. My counsellor has said that my desire to minimise my wife's pain is "admirable" but I don't know whether I'm just trying too hard and should instead get on with it and rip the band-aid off already.

Tell me, MeFi, am I doing the right thing by waiting a couple more days? Should I tell her in a couple of days and then not move for a couple of weeks, in order to let her adjust to the idea?
posted by six sided sock to Human Relations (69 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your counselor is dead-on. When it comes to getting out of an abusive relationship, you come first. You are #1. You meet your needs -- in this case, getting the hell out of Dodge -- and then you can worry about everything else. Because any delay you make in this situation is inherently self-destructive. You are in a zero-sum-game right now as far as emotional safety is concerned; any notice period you give your spouse is time you are taking away to getting your life going.
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on November 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and good luck. You're doing something right now that requires a lot of strength and character and emotional resilience and it is working. Keep going.
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it were me, I'd wait till after the weekend, and leave immediately afterwards. You are in for a shitty time for the immediate future no matter what you do, so you might as well grab that enjoyable weekend while you can.
posted by empath at 10:03 AM on November 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


If you're in therapy for cheating on her, I'm sure that you leaving is not going to be a surprise. Do it now so she can go to the social event with a friend.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:04 AM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Depends, how much does it impact her once you tell her?

Does her financial world crumble? Are there kids?

Treat her as you'd like to be treated.

Personally, I'd rather not go to an event with my husband as a couple, if we were splitting up directly upon returning. But everyone is different.

She ain't going to like it no matter what. So immediately upon your return, don't unpack your bags, just go to a hotel until you're able to move.

At this point don't worry about letting her adjust, she's a grown up, treat her like one.

If there are financial things to deal with, deal with them.

Do you have a lawyer? If not, get one now.

There are a lot of ramifications to a divorce, don't put yourself behind the 8-ball.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:05 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd wait until after the weekend because it's a big social event and things could get awkward with friends if you both attend together knowing you're leaving after. One of you might feel as if you can't go now and it's something you've both been looking forward to.
posted by Autumn at 10:11 AM on November 23, 2012


There will always be another big social event. Or a family dinner. Or a birthday. Or a holiday. Or a Tuesday... or... or... or...

Furthermore, there is something significantly more damaging about knowing that someone was keeping you in the dark about something major - whether to spare your feelings or to protect themselves from you. If you're concerned about her feelings, then letting her blissfully enjoy something before her world comes crashing down around her head isn't the way to do it. If I were your wife, I can guarantee that whatever the enjoyable social event is, it would be ruined for me in hindsight and moving forward I'd have a very hard time enjoying something similar.
posted by jph at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, come on, she's not going to go to this event with a friend, she's going to stay home and cry all weekend or something, that's how breakups are. I'd just wait.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


the much married artie shaw once said that when you know a marriage is over, call your lawyer and call a cab.
posted by Postroad at 10:21 AM on November 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


gracedissolved, her husband cheated on her. Chances are, she knew the marriage was over long ago.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:22 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were your wife, I can guarantee that whatever the enjoyable social event is, it would be ruined for me in hindsight and moving forward I'd have a very hard time enjoying something similar.

If he dumped her before hand, she'd resent him for making her miss it. There's no win/win way to divorce someone that doesn't want to be divorced.
posted by empath at 10:25 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't tell her until you are able to leave, and then I would leave as soon as the conversation was over. Get a suitcase with a week's supply of stuff into your car at some point, and then don't tell her until the morning of December 1st, and then leave. Telling her you're going to leave and then not doing it for a week seems needlessly cruel -- "getting used to the idea" is not a thing that is good or that requires your presence, in fact it works better with your absence. If you are prepared to leave now (stay at a friend's house or something), then go ahead and tell her now, but again, as soon as you tell her and have that conversation, you are done and need to get out.
posted by brainmouse at 10:27 AM on November 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


gracedissolved, her husband cheated on her. Chances are, she knew the marriage was over long ago.

Reading back through the previous questions, it would seem like there's a lot more to it than that - for a start she appears to have physically assaulted him in the past, as well as exhibiting controlling behaviours.

OP, you say that your application is pending references; I'd be inclined to wait until you know for sure you have somewhere to go before going... That said, i don't think that there's any way to win in this situation, and you may be trying too hard to make an inevitably sucky situation less sucky.
posted by gmb at 10:29 AM on November 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


Unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime event that both of you will regret missing and never have the opportunity to attend again--and I'm talking on the level of being invited to the President's inaugural ball--I think the right thing to do is to tell her as soon as you can.

Empath is right: there's no way to tell her or not tell her that is going to end with no pain or upset. Don't prolong it any longer than you need to in the hopes that you can make it easier, because you really can't.

Please also don't tell her that you want a divorce and then stay in the home for weeks. It won't help her adjust to the idea, it will send her the mixed message that you don't really want to leave. If you can't move into your new place until December 1, is it an option to move into a hotel or stay with a friend until your lease starts? I think it's probably best if you can leave immediately after you have the conversation with her.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 10:49 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You seem preoccupied by leaving, and I think you're holding out for something. Something has made you stay in spite of our counseling you to go a hundred years ago, and you need to be honest about what it is to yourself and your therapist so you can figure it out.

Because my gut says that in another month, you'll be asking about leaving again.
posted by discopolo at 10:49 AM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know it's not always the best idea to go back through posting history, but on this question, I'd encourage anyone thinking about responding to go back through at least the questions that were posted for the past few months. It will make a difference in your answer.

I think you should wait until the apartment is definitely locked in and you have somewhere specific to go. And until then, hang in there and keep making plans.

Good luck. I'm glad you decided to leave.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:50 AM on November 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


You guys aren't a couple anymore. Skip the event, move out ASAP.

The hardest lesson from my big breakup was realizing the other party was going to be just fine without me.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:11 AM on November 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't think that the social event should figure into your planning, but based on your posting history, I think remaining in the house with your wife after you have told her your marriage is ending is a very, very poor idea. Your wife has reacted very histrionically to conflict in the past and you acknowledge that you have trouble maintaining boundaries, so I think that the sanest thing for both of you would be to have the conversation and then leave the house. This doesn't mean cutting her off and never speaking with her again, but frankly, having to continue to brush teeth and watch TV in front of each other for days after a marital breakup would make me completely miserable and I bet it would make both of you miserable as well.

In general I'm in favor of the idea that once you make up your mind you should just rip off the Band-Aid, but your apartment will be ready in a week--that's not that long. Wait until you have somewhere to go and spend your time in the interval getting things set up so that you can move in an organized way--get an individual checking account set up if you don't have one already, meet with a lawyer if you haven't already, make a plan with your therapist about how you're going to deal with the fallout--because there will be fallout--and consider moving anything you can't live without (birth certificate, precious photos from your family, etc) out of the house ahead of time in case it ends up being unwise for you to be there for a while.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:18 AM on November 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Forget about the weekend and get out right now. Pack a suitcase and stay at a hotel or with a friend until you can move into your new place. Hire an attorney next week. Your marriage is over. No amount of dithering will assuage the inevitable emotional distress each of you will experience. It's time for you to move along.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:20 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since you don't have your new place yet, you should hold off on telling her until that becomes a certainty.

Then, you should tell her your plans the day you move out/in. If possible (if you both work during the day, for example), I'd even go so far as to take the day off, do all the moving during the day, then have "the talk" when she returned from work. Preferably with something to eat already prepared (even if just a pizza). No one will eat the pizza, but it takes just one more minor stress out of the scenario.

This has nothing to do with your weekend plans, or your long-term plans, but just simple logistics. Minimize the awkwardness of needing to continue to live with someone (who probably won't feel quite so composed about the situation) for almost two more weeks. Not to mention the awkwardness of trying to pack and move your stuff for 4-6 hours with her alternately sobbing in the corner and throwing things at you.

Not gonna go well no matter how you do it, but for both your sakes, you can at least minimize the duration of the awkwardness.
posted by pla at 11:23 AM on November 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


It seems like you may be looking for a reason to postpone having the conversation, which is understandable. But I don't think you're "dragging things out" by waiting a week to tell her. I also don't think that telling her now, versus telling her after the party, would minimize her pain in any way. Either move out to a hotel now, as some have suggested, or don't tell her until your apartment is ready to go (and ideally, like pla said, you could move in before having the talk). Better to do it in one fell swoop.
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the pre-story, so just commenting on how this situation seems to be just now.

1) like gmb says, if there's still a faint chance that you end up not having anywhere to go, that would be a reason to postpone the tell-ya-a-story a few days.

2) Otherwise, you should skip the social event and go. Procrastination is your enemy at this stage. Heck, you would rather attend at that event together with her and socialize and have chats and drinks and stuff (or whatever suits), and drop the bomb on the following day? Would you enjoy your weekend any more that way? There is just so little that's enjoyable about this very stage of a separation no matter how matters are turned. The good stuff comes later, with new perspectives. Get it over with, soon.

And good luck.
posted by Namlit at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree with the commenters who think you're finding a reason to drag this out. I see that you are trying to do this in the nicest way possible, and have admirably given a lot of thought on how to spare your wife unnecessary hurt.

I absolutely agree with the commenters who think you should wait to tell her until December 1st, then leave immediately.

Be very careful: frequently when abusive people hear something they don't want to hear (and in this case, can't do anything about it), the abuse escalates. I know you want to be kind to your wife, but you need to take care of yourself first. If she gets verbally abusive, please do not stay and try and discuss things with her, just leave.
posted by Specklet at 12:46 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read your posting history. It seems you are doing the right thing. Just do it. The most important thing is just getting this done the minute you have somewhere to go. This is the biggest thing in your life. It might be easier if you have less on your plate and aren't worried about letting people down, the weekend, etc. I know it's a big holiday. Hopefully this time next year, you'll be in a much better place and be able to enjoy it without also coordinating an escape.

Leaving is hard and could very well be stressful and lonely. But the act of leaving is a good way to practice just putting yourself first. Don't worry about the weekend. Don't worry about your wife. It's time to just go. There is no way to negotiate a happy leaving-- if it were up to her, you would stay in that orbit forever. From this point forward, sorry if it sounds cold, but your interests are directly opposed.
posted by kettleoffish at 12:58 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Contact a lawyer and take their advice.

2. Move all of your important documents and necessary items out of the house while she is not there (or with a witness).

3. Break it off with her. I personally would do so in writing and never contact her by phone again, but if you'd like you can do it over the phone, with a script, with someone there to sit with you and keep you company. DO NOT break things off while you're in the same location as her. You DO NOT want to face a domestic violence charge if your wife attacks you, nor do you want to be assaulted or screamed at.

4. Meet with a mental health professional ASAP. Ideally you would have a meeting with your counselor (or a phone call with your counselor) IMMEDIATELY after you break things off., because your wife will try to do as much damage as possible and/or fuck with your head in order to manipulate you into staying.

5. Forward all further contact from her to your attorney. Do not continue to interact with her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:59 PM on November 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


You'll notice that the event this weekend has nothing to do with my above advice. That is because it is irrelevant.

You are not seeing the VERY REAL and serious physical, emotional, and legal risks that come from breaking things off with a manipulative and unstable partner. Please take this seriously and put your safety first.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:00 PM on November 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


Look, as gently and compassionately as possible, you've had a huge struggle with a lot of moments of doubting to get where you are today. You need to judge your resilience against the potential onslaught of your wife when you tell her you're going. I'd advise you to decamp while she was at work on December 1st and leave a note because that is the best advice for all abused spouses and I firmly believe your wife is victimising you. If you can't do that, move all of your stuff out on the day, and then be waiting at the door when she gets home.

Verbally or in writing all you need to say is "I'm sorry, we both know this isn't working any more. I'm moving out. I'll call you in a few days." That's it. You do NOT NEED TO DISCUSS IT because the decision is not up for discussion and anything else can be discussed first.

Remember: put on your own oxygen mask first.

I'm very proud of you, if that means anything coming from an internet stranger. Run, six sided sock, run!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


If you tell her in advance, then either one or both of you will miss the event, or you'll attend together while keeping your pending breakup under wraps. Neither is a great option, IMO.

My soon-to-be ex decided to drop his request for a divorce on me on the very afternoon of an extremely important career event for both of us. I was devastated; he was indifferent and even seemed surprised that I wouldn't still want to go to the event anyway. He attended alone, and I stayed home and cried (and missed all the benefits of attending). Not a good situation, and I really resented him for handling it that way.

And a few weeks later, we mutually agreed to attend another career event together, with no one else aware that our separation was taking place. It was extremely awkward, I felt shaky and self-conscious and miserable throughout, and every time I saw a married couple, I was triggered to excuse myself and weep in the bathroom. Again, a crummy situation all around.

I say wait. Especially if there's a good chance you both will still have a decent time. I totally understand the rush to have your liberation start now, but sometimes kindness is the better choice.
posted by justonegirl at 1:16 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If she's been abusive (physically and/or emotionally) in the past, I would say you are putting yourself at some risk of harm if you stay after you've told her you will be leaving. I think you need to leave as soon as you tell her. And you will feel great relief and never look back. It will be very hard to do, but it sounds like it's the right thing to do.
posted by Dansaman at 1:17 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with all the advice to tell her on Dec. 1 and be prepared to leave immediately (or as close to immediately as possible). This means getting as much together as you can ahead of time, so that it's quick, definite, and as safe as possible for you.

I also strongly agree with the young rope rider's suggestion to let your therapist know ahead of time exactly what your timing/plan is, and set an appointment (at least by phone, if not in person) for checking in immediately following. This will help steel you to get through the actual act of leaving (and its immediate and likely unpredictable emotional aftermath) immeasurably.

I'm really glad to read that you've made this decision. I know it can't possibly have been easy, and I know you've still got some struggles ahead of you (divorce is never easy), but by taking this necessary step you're showing great bravery and resilience -- two qualities you should be sure to remind yourself you possess as you go through the ups and downs of this journey. I wish you all the best.
posted by scody at 1:27 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the priority here? The event on a sinking ship or the liferaft?
posted by roboton666 at 1:27 PM on November 23, 2012


So, I've read your backstory.

I think you should move out while she is at work, and tell her after you've moved out. It's best if she doesn't know your new address. You should make sure she doesn't get it from anyone (probably easier said than done... you probably leave a paper trail) and she can't follow you home. I could see her giving you grief in the future at your new residence, coming over uninvited, etc.

She's seems to be in a bit of denial that your marriage is over. It's not going to be pretty when she realizes that it is, and how soon it is.

That being said, I read your post from Nov 13 and you had all my sympathy before then, and then you wrote that you had sex with her that weekend. Prior to that, she sounded halfway crazy in saying she loved you and asking if things were going to work out, when the marriage was obviously ending. But if you've been having sex with her, I can see how she might have been getting mixed signals. Plus you wrote that you told her you're, "not sure" about your future.

The best thing for her, going forward, is if you are 100% firm and you tear off the bandaid fast. I'm leaving, I'm not coming back, I've made this decision permanently, I am not changing my mind, I'm sorry. 100% firm and complete. No listening to her cry, no talking, no sex, etc.

It will be best for you too. If you were unhappy and felt abused by her controlling behavior, then it's not helping you, either, to drag things on at all. So you should tell her on the day you're going to leave, and make as clean and complete a break as possible.

Whatever happens, it'll all be over in a few weeks. It can feel like a long time and might seem scary, but it's actually a short time. Those two weeks will pass by no matter what, and you'll be living somewhere else. I'd focus on her not having the address so she won't bother you in the future. I'd also focus on the practicalities of getting your valued belongings out as quickly and completely as you can, so she doesn't hold anything hostage. Maybe hire movers during the day when she's at work. It's worth $1000 or whatever you spend.
posted by kellybird at 1:46 PM on November 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh and the party doesn't matter at all. I can see why you'd focus on that, but it's a distraction. Your marriage is ending. That's what is happening here. You can't avoid hurting your wife by going to a party. Those two things are not in the same category of importance. Tear off the bandaid.
posted by kellybird at 1:50 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone, and I also relish the opportunity to relay my own experience.
20+ a little years ago, I realized I could not be in our marriage anymore. As you have told, violence was part of it. Something I'd call near-insanity was part of it. My friends were openly laughing at my feeling of obligation. I found a lawyer and a new place to live. I had the means to move on.
And on that last night, where I told him what was going to happen, we fell into bed. I still had feelings for him, and when he asked for one last cuddle, I couldn't say no. Also, we hadn't had sex in more than a year, and before that, all sex had been for me too kinky - the promise of intimacy and kindness seduced me. So I fell in, and I became pregnant! Because I hadn't had sex and wasn't thinking of birth-control. Immediately I told him he needed some sort of help if we were to remain a family. Immediately, he started a relationship with one of his students and obviously, the kinky sex or no sex dualism returned. After years of his violence, for the first time, I slapped him. He fainted (I'm a sports-person). But still, I stayed on for the baby. In the end, we were divorced and it was the right thing for me and for our baby. Our life has been great ever since. She sees her dad and has a realistic understanding of him, and we all know how to live.
What I want to say with this is, staying on beyond reason made me do things I had never, ever thought I'd do. And it was borderline criminal, and I still feel guilty. I should have left right away.
In the aftermath, I made a lot of similar mistakes, always trying to give to my former partner, because I had loved him. It was neither good for him nor me. Move on. Life will continue. There will be new parties, business opportunities, homes. Move, move, right away.
posted by mumimor at 2:03 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


and anything else can be discussed first. Later! I meant to say later.

Trust me, that was not a Freudian typo; it was a very tired dyslexic typo.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2012


If you tell her before you actually leave she's going to do everything possible to keep you around longer, to get you to agree to one more chance, to make you feel miserable for wanting to leave, etc etc and going through all of that isn't going to help either of you one bit, so yeah, I say don't tell her, just get out.

Feeling guilty about all the pain isn't going to change anything - you have to realize that what you are doing is actually better for her as well, not just yourself.

You need to leave so you can get better, and remember what it's like to free of being controlled, and she also needs to experience what it feels like to not be able to control - otherwise she'll never get better.

Do what gets you out with minimal damage. They'll be more drama later, but at least you'll have a little more control. She got herself into this mess as well, and she knows it, and you don't have to feel guilty anymore.
posted by Locochona at 3:39 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having read all your questions as you posted them over the last few weeks, I agree with the young rope-rider that you should leave, then either let her know the situation via note or phone call. I'm sure you can't imagine such a thing happening, but I worry she might get violent and then you somehow get accused of being violent towards her. Please don't feel you need to somehow explain or rationalize the situation so that she understands, she never will. All you need to convey to her is "You know we've been having trouble. I've decided to leave. I'll be in touch."

Be strong. You are doing a brave and scary thing, but there are so much better days ahead for you.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 6:03 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Get a lawyer. He or she will advise you. That's what they do.

Why you are thinking of doing ANYTHING that is not directed by a divorce attorney, I don't understand.
posted by jbenben at 10:22 PM on November 23, 2012


jbenben: The thing that's really tricky here, is that even going to see a divorce lawyer without first acknowledging the relationship is 100% finished may cause a a potentially violent situation ending up with someone's going to jail. That on top of going to see a divorce lawyer in secret being interpreted as cheating on the relationship via "deception of omission" could create the fear of a potentially violent situation so great that the abused party in the relationship does nothing, as emotional paralysis is seen as a better outcome than violence and potential police action.

I think the best option for someone in this situation is for someone (family or friend) really close (yet geographically far away) to rescue them out of this situation with a one way plane ticket and one years' worth rent and living expenses lined up.
posted by roboton666 at 11:23 PM on November 23, 2012


FWIW the OP's previous posts indicates he saw a lawyer the week of November 8th. I assume he got the appropriate advice and at this point simply needs help making his actual exit plan.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you all for your responses and kind words.

I have spoken to a lawyer, yes; luckily the majority of our assets are separate and always have been, and I've made steps to protect those of mine that weren't separate from my wife's.

I decided to stay over the weekend. I had nowhere else to go - hotels and suchlike would have worked but I would have had to come back for my stuff and I foresaw that being a horror show.

I will wait until my apartment is ready (all the paperwork and referencing is done; the hardest part was telling my current landlord, who's a friend of ours, and asking him not to mention it to my wife yet).

I still feel that I am being grossly unfair: my wife asks me every day if I'm happy, and if I'm leaving her. She threatened to leave me at the weekend but told me she didn't mean it after I said "if you're going to go, go." I try to avoid answering the question as I don't enjoy lying about it.

At the weekend, at the party, she grabbed my wrist and dragged me through a crowd because I wasn't moving fast enough for her. When I confronted her she told me that she was sorry, but that I should have realised how important it was for her to introduce me to the person towards whom she was dragging me at the time.

So yes, I have to go. I'm almost ready in a practical sense. In an emotional sense I've already left, I think. It's going to devastate her, and I don't like doing that; I don't like suddenly making all her prophesies of me leaving her - she's said it roughly weekly at least for the last 16 years - come true, because I know she'll use that against me later. But it has to happen.
posted by six sided sock at 11:43 PM on November 26, 2012


...she grabbed my wrist and dragged me through a crowd because I wasn't moving fast enough for her. When I confronted her she told me that she was sorry, but that I should have realised how important it was for her to introduce me to the person towards whom she was dragging me at the time...


...It's going to devastate her...

God, man, by the sound of it she's already devastated in a totally different sense, there's little you're gonna add. Make sure you have someone to go to to deal with your feelings of guilt afterwards.
posted by Namlit at 4:56 AM on November 27, 2012


I observe that you worry constantly about her feelings. But I see little indication that she thinks in any comparable way, ever, about your feelings.

Yes, she's going to be hurt and angry by all of this. And yes, it will prove all of her prophesies correct about you leaving her -- because she essentially forced upon you a pretty terrible choice: prove her wrong by staying (and thus being miserable for the rest of your life), or prove her right by leaving (in order to assert your right to be happy, supposedly at her expense). This is a game you were never going to win. It was a closed system in which staying and being mutually happy was never an option. And that is not and has never been in your control, nor your fault.

Please do make sure you have an appointment with your therapist set up for immediately after leaving. Again, I wish you all the best. You have the right to be happy.
posted by scody at 8:18 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


One spectre that raised itself today in my counselling session was that my wife might in fact try to harm herself once I tell her I'm leaving. I was going to leave tonight (my parents have offered to put me up until the weekend) but a combination of worry about this particular scenario, and the fact that I didn't sleep at all last night, meant that I ended up having a mild anxiety attack and didn't feel able to go through with it.

scody:
I observe that you worry constantly about her feelings. But I see little indication that she thinks in any comparable way, ever, about your feelings.
I think she does worry about my feelings; she's spent most of our marriage saying that she thought I would be better off with someone other than her, and that she can't make me happy, so I don't think it's as cut-and-dried as all that. But I do think it's fair to say that I have altered my behaviour a lot to soothe her fears over the last decade or so.
posted by six sided sock at 1:00 PM on November 28, 2012


I think she does worry about my feelings; she's spent most of our marriage saying that she thought I would be better off with someone other than her

This is not called worrying, it's called emotional blackmail.
posted by Namlit at 1:34 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


That wasn't about your feelings. If it were she would have gotten better significantly over time and she would not do things like dragging you because she would want you to feel happy and respected by her. Telling you she thinks you are leaving was about her and the control she got out of acting like you were victimizing her by having a life outside of her control.

If she threatens to harm herself it's OK to call the police. My ex threatened suicide all the time until I stopped responding and involved third parties instead. He didn't do a thing, by the way, he just threatened all the time to punish and control me. It was not my fault or responsibility, and it's not yours either.

I mean seriously, nothing indicates that she's happy or satisfied or that your relationship is happy for her. She won't be losing any sort of happiness or feeling of security (according to her statements). She threatens to leave. So why would she imply that if you left you'd be ruining her life and causing her to self-harm? Because she wants to be in control and if you leave she'll lose that and that pisses her off. Doesn't scare her. Doesn't hurt her. Pisses her off. And that anger and entitlement are what drive her behavior. That's why she doesn't get genuine help for her issues or treat you nicely, because she thinks the problem is not her, but your unwillingness to let her control every aspect of your life.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:37 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes - her saying you'd be better off with someone else is NOT worrying about your feelings. Comments like that come from her feelings of shittiness and insecurity (she knows she's a mess) and are intended to provoke a reassuring response from you.

When you worry about someone else, you share your feelings and put your needs aside for a moment - like this:

"I worry that you are not happy in our relationship. How do you feel? I wouldn't want us to break up, but I really want you to be happy. What do you need to be happy?"

She also keeps asking her if you are going to leave her because she senses things have changed.

Please remember!!! She is also an adult, and she is responsible for how she has treated you! She has made many choices along the way, she has chosen to continue controlling you, even though she knows it's wrong, she has chosen to resist possible solutions, even though she knows they could help, and she has chosen to let you believe you are responsible for her feelings, even though she knows otherwise.

Feel guilty or remorseful about yourself having stuck around for so long, about letting yourself be treated so badly, about putting up with something so painful - and stop feeling guilty about what she may or may not feel.

She's not helpless, she's not a victim any more than you are, and feeling guilty only continues the painful dance you both have been doing for so long.

My best wishes for you.
posted by Locochona at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Saying that you'd be better off without her isn't concern for your feelings, it's verbal self-loathing and reassurance-seeking.

I hope you are well and still on-track to go to your new apartment.
posted by feets at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2012


So, I told my wife tonight that I was leaving. I didn't tell her that I had a place lined up, just that I'd made my mind up and that it was time to go.

Somehow, I allowed myself to fall into a discussion about the whys and wherefores of my decision. My wife was begging me to stay the weekend, to give us one more chance. I felt like I was being ground down, that no matter how many times I said "no" to her pleas, I was slowly being worn away like a rock being hit by wave after wave of pleading and reasoning.

My wife promised to find a counsellor and to stop doing all the things that have hurt me (in fact as I write this she's just emailed three of them; she said that one of the reasons she hadn't done so far was that the counsellor she would have preferred to see is the one I'm seeing, and that she wanted to wait until I'd finished seeing her before becoming her patient). She told me that she could change and that we shouldn't just throw away all our time together; that walking away from that was a waste of a life.

She also said that I was the only thing that mattered to me, and that she'd die without me.

In the end it was too late for me to leave (we live in the middle of nowhere and there's no public transport at night). I was exhausted and I simply said that I had to sleep on it all (not in the same bed).

I feel like I've been talked into a corner almost. I don't feel like my decision has been altered at all; I still want to leave and I don't see a future here. I took the only way out tonight that I could find, though I know it may look to some like I'm taking advantage of my wife's fragility. I know she's promised to do all the things I've been asking of her, but I knew she'd do that. I don't know how to trust that things would actually change now; I don't think they will.

I've considered just leaving tomorrow whilst she's at work, but she asked me to promise not to. I think the only avenue left to me is to tell her my decision tomorrow night and then just go; the rest of my things I'll just come back for.

Thank you for all your support so far; I'm sorry to have to be dragging you all along this road with me.
posted by six sided sock at 2:02 PM on November 29, 2012


*the only thing that mattered to her

Sorry.
posted by six sided sock at 2:26 PM on November 29, 2012


I've considered just leaving tomorrow whilst she's at work, but she asked me to promise not to. I think the only avenue left to me is to tell her my decision tomorrow night and then just go; the rest of my things I'll just come back for.

Honestly, I would reconsider this. If you do what your wife says and don't leave while she's at work, there's a window there in which almost anything could happen.

I watched an interview the other night with a woman who told her husband she was leaving. He asked her to stay for one last meal, which she agreed to. He drugged her meal and raped her. Because they were married, no one would believe her that she was raped.

Any number of things could happen in that window, six sided sock. To you or to her or to both of you.

So please protect yourself and go.
posted by heyjude at 2:29 PM on November 29, 2012


If you don't realistically see anything changing, why are you still there? Just go.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on November 29, 2012


This was all predictable. The dynamics of her interaction with you, and your interaction with her have - according to your story - such a long history that unless someone breaks the pattern, it just will go on like that. She won't break the pattern, so unless you will end up having to berate yourself for having wasted all the time, it will have to be you.

THAT - and nothing else - is the reality you are facing. That's why I talked earlier about emotional blackmail. This was not a cheap quip, it describes the very essence of what (seems to be) going on.
Realize that the discussion you're referring to in your latest contribution is all backward. People are shattered by breakups, but no person with a last grain of sense in her body would claim to "die without" the leaving partner and use this as a kind of glue, during a final testing weekend, to mend what has been doomed for years and years. You are looking at a totally lop-sided balance here, but you've apparently been immersed so long in this nonsense that you seem to have difficulties to see what's going on.

For example. "One spectre that raised itself today in my counselling session was that my wife might in fact try to harm herself". Spectres (whatever) don't raise themselves; issues are taken up by persons. The formulation itself is an evasive move. Did you come with this option or was it your counselor? What did your counselor say when the issue "raised itself"? Did you get any tips about how to deal with this kind of "what if"ity? Did you sketch a worst-case scenario and develop strategies to face even that? Or did you just walk away from the session with some basic fears verbalized and reconfirmed?

The problem is, nobody, neither some random people on the best Internet forum of the world, nor the niftiest counselor, can predict what happens after the break, can take over responsibility for whatever will happen, can prevent anything that will happen from happening, and can decide what load you should bear.
One thing seems however predictable enough. If you don't go now, you will end up having wasted pretty much most of the remaining time, your time. That's a responsibility, too: it is a fundamental flaw of our education to re-cast that responsibility for one's own well-being as egotism. Do not make this mistake. Think, please think.
posted by Namlit at 3:36 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tomorrow while she's at work is the perfect time to pack all your stuff and get it out of the house. Then, if you really truly feel like you need to talk to her about it, you can be there when she gets home, have the conversation, and leave. You are not taking advantage of your wife's fragility -- I'm not sure why you think that. She's taking advantage of you, completely. She's lying and telling you things will change -- when you both know they won't -- because you finally had the guts to tell her something she didn't want to hear. If that were really the reason she was waiting to see a therapist, she would have told you, but actually she just made that up because she needed an excuse, and I think inside you know that. But it's time to go. It might be helpful to have someone there with you, or waiting outside in a car if in the room is too uncomfortable, so you can't fall into "it's too late" again. Please do this, for her and yourself.
posted by brainmouse at 4:40 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife promised to find a counsellor and to stop doing all the things that have hurt me. She told me that she could change and that we shouldn't just throw away all our time together; that walking away from that was a waste of a life.

She can do all of these things while you are living apart. YOU MUST MOVE OUT. Do it tomorrow, whether she goes to work or not. There is never going to be a good time to leave. Now is the time to leave.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife promised to find a counsellor and to stop doing all the things that have hurt me

It's funny how she's repeatedly claimed that she thinks you're leaving her, yet she hasn't attempted to do any of this yet. Sounds like she was feeling very secure and this insecurity thing is a ruse to keep you feeling like the bad guy. I mean, remember this:

Most recently, my wife told me that she'd considered driving to the counselling office whilst I was scheduled to be in a session to see if I was in fact having an affair with my counsellor.

How does that square with this:

the counsellor she would have preferred to see is the one I'm seeing, and that she wanted to wait until I'd finished seeing her before becoming her patient)

She is not trying to change, she is pretending to try to change while continuing to make things your fault and continuing to try to keep you from the one source of solace that you have refused to give up on her behalf.

Claiming you were having an affair didn't work. Berating you to tell her what you talked about didn't work. Now she's implying that you having a counsellor is somehow keeping HER from having a counsellor. It is more of the same. It is not changing.

I took the only way out tonight that I could find, though I know it may look to some like I'm taking advantage of my wife's fragility.

She doesn't sound fragile at all. Even while you're trying to leave her, she's pursuing her agenda of keeping you from going to counseling! That is ballsy, man. That's not fragile at all.

DO NOT leave your things there. At the very least you need to get your most valued possessions somewhere safe.

I am very worried for you right now. Please, please, please put your safety and well-being first.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Still leave. I hope you are in the process right now. If you feel guilty and think that would mean lying to her, just call her and tell her you have had a change of plans and are leaving immediately. Then it is no longer lying.

Also, as has been said, she can go to counseling, etc. once you have moved out. Don't let her use that to keep you there.

Because she is manipulating you it is going to be difficult for you to take action in your best interest while she is present. She will watch your moods/reactions and use her words accordingly to get the reaction she wants. This is why it will be best, for both of you, actually, to leave now, when she is gone.
posted by Vaike at 1:10 PM on November 30, 2012


I left today, cramming as much as I could into a rental car and taking it to my parents', before returning to have the last conversation.

It was horrible. It's clearly shattered her. She begged me to stay, promised me that things would change, and was devastated when I left anyway.

I had an appointment with my counsellor immediately afterwards and she warned me against just going back out of guilt, but the guilt is so very strong right now. I feel as though I've done my wife a massive disservice, categorised her behaviour as controlling when it wasn't, and thrown away a wonderful future over a bad year.

I know that these feelings will pass as long as I man up and face them, but right now that looks very far away. Right now I need sleep. Tomorrow I can sign the lease on the apartment, should I wish to - I'm less sure about that now than I was as I was moving my belongings today.

Thank you for all your help, MeFites. You've given me the courage to do something I'd never have thought possible.
posted by six sided sock at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2012


You did the right thing, it's okay to be sad. I think she was controlling, for what it's worth.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2012


I had an appointment with my counsellor immediately afterwards and she warned me against just going back out of guilt, but the guilt is so very strong right now. I feel as though I've done my wife a massive disservice, categorised her behaviour as controlling when it wasn't, and thrown away a wonderful future over a bad year.

Here are some things to think about:

1) The guilt is strong because she's made you responsible for her feelings. I do not even have the words to explain how unhealthy that is in a relationship. That is not how good relationships work. You just don't know that because you're in a shitty relationship. Read back and count how many people who are not in shitty relationships have told you that.

2) Please note that when you were repeatedly saying "this is fucked up, we need help" she was hostile, rejecting and refused to get help. She was fine, your feelings didn't count, and there was no problem. When it was important to you that things change, they didn't. Now that you've left, she's suddenly oh-so-willing to get help and promising everything will change. Where was that willingness and where were those promises when it was YOU in distress?

3) Unless you're a fantasist, her behaviour is controlling and way worse than that. Go back and read your posts. Every single poster and your therapist have all validated that your wife is victimising you and is at least borderline abusive.

4) Remember the happiness and relief you experienced in your two weeks apart for that business trip. That can be yours again. You don't have to live with someone who even occassionally treats you with contempt and belittles you during sex or at any other time.

5) Leaving is not the same as divorcing. You can get help together while living apart. But the reality as I see it is that you are not currently strong enough to live with this woman. Remember how resolved you were today and then how all of that fell apart after even just an hour with her? You're going to need time and a place to go away and think clearly for yourself after any kind of interaction with her, including joint therapy. Maybe along the way you'll gain fortitude against her and be able to advocate for yourself within your marriage, but you're not there now.

6) You've made a stand and said you're moving out. You have to move out or else she'll just use it as ammunition, throwing it back at you later. She'll also know you lack the strength to go and I'm going to guess she'll belittle you for it.

Go back. Read your posts. Sign the lease. Make a stand for yourself.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:42 PM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Speaking as an internet stranger, if what you've told us in all these other entries is true, you are definitely doing the right thing. Breaking up is hard to do (as is temporary separation) -- but your relationship as it was going was bad for you and unsustainable. I wish you peace and freedom in your new apartment, and hope you'll keep us updated as you see fit. Take care sock!
posted by feets at 11:06 AM on December 1, 2012


six sided sock, how are you doing? We all want to know you're safe - maybe you could send a PM if you don't want to update the thread.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:32 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, I've yet to sign the lease on the apartment due to there being a leaky pipe when I viewed it before signing - I refused to sign until it was fixed.

I've spent the last few days away from my parents' house for work, seeing friends and generally enjoying myself. My wife and I have been in touch via email on occasion - I think she wanted to check that I was okay, though some of her questions have seemed like passive agression.

I'm going to sign the lease on Wednesday (assuming everything's fixed; it should be by then). Telling my wife that I'm definitely going completely, and that I'm moving the rest of my stuff out, is going to be hard, but it needs to be done.

I feel a lot of sadness about leaving, and about letting my marriage go to waste. I'm looking forward to eventually moving on to enjoy the memories of the good times for what they are, rather than seeing them as nostalgic artefacts that I've somehow tainted.

Thank you for your continuing support, folks. It means the world to me.
posted by six sided sock at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2012


Thank you for updating! I have been checking this thread about 2x a day to see if you were o.k.

You didn't let you marriage "go to waste." Things just don't always work out the way we want/expect them to. The good thing is that something new and wonderful will come out of it. Allowing change to happen allows for you to find a life that works even better, brings you happiness, and lets you thrive. It can happen for your wife as well, so keep that in mind. You were holding yourselves in an untenable situation, and it takes courage to make that change.

Again, thanks for updating.
posted by Vaike at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It hurts because it was meaningful - if it wasn't meaningful, it wouldn't hurt.

But all relationships end - that doesn't mean that everything that went before those endings was a waste. You just both seemed to be stuck - becoming unstuck can only happen through change. Good luck.
posted by heyjude at 1:47 AM on December 11, 2012


I feel a lot of sadness about leaving, and about letting my marriage go to waste.

First of all, I'm really proud of you for putting one foot in front of the other, staying strong and making progress. Yay you!

Second of all, I completely understand about sadness but I am not understanding the idea of the marriage going to waste. If you want to explain what you mean, maybe some of us will have helpful feedback or commiseration for you.

Stay strong on the hard days.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:12 PM on December 11, 2012


Second of all, I completely understand about sadness but I am not understanding the idea of the marriage going to waste. If you want to explain what you mean, maybe some of us will have helpful feedback or commiseration for you.

What I mean is this: we had some great times; some really great times. I've seen my wife twice times since I moved out (for logistical reasons; we met for coffee) and she's been sweet, kind, funny... all the things that I loved about her. She promises me that she's changed in the week and a half since I left, and that the things I'd told her triggered my leaving will never happy again. She says that my walking out was exactly the right thing, but that I would be able to come back now and be happy.

And I wish I was a less cynical person, a more trusting person, because I just can't trust myself to move back in. I've signed the lease and made that commitment because I felt it was what I had to do. I do miss being at home, and I do miss my wife, but not as much as she misses me.

When I say I've let my marriage go to waste I mean that I could have done something sooner and worked to fix these things instead of torpedoing it, but torpedoed it I have.

We've agreed to a separation period of at least a month. I don't know if I'll feel different after that, and I don't know if I hope I'll be ready to go back or if I hope I'll want not to.
posted by six sided sock at 7:02 AM on December 13, 2012


Six sided sock, I think you are blaming yourself for the end of the marriage with whatever the opposite of rose coloured glasses is.

She promises me that she's changed in the week and a half since I left, and that the things I'd told her triggered my leaving will never happen again.

Nobody makes substantive changes to their behaviour in a week and a half. Additionally, nobody knows they've made substantive changes until their issue is challenged. Your wife is aggressive and abusive in confrontations, and until the two of you have another angry confrontation, neither you nor she knows how she will choose to deal with it in the moment. What she's saying to you now is simply what she wishes to be true.

I could have done something sooner and worked to fix these things instead of torpedoing it, but torpedoed it I have.

As far as I can recall from previous posts, you showed willing and she did not. You begged her to go to therapy with you. She refused. You asked her to address her behaviour. She refused. While you carry your part of the blame, she's manipulated you, accused you of wanting her to be raped, threatened to stalk your therapist, belittled you during sex and basically refused to progress anything in case you left, essentially putting your marriage into a high-stress holding pattern.

I don't think you're the one who torpedoed things.

she's been sweet, kind, funny... all the things that I loved about her.

Well yes honey. She didn't want you to leave, you left, and now she's on her best behaviour because she wants you to come back. See the part about how people don't make real change in 10 days. This is not real change. This is appeasement.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:47 AM on December 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Six sided sock, I think you are blaming yourself for the end of the marriage with whatever the opposite of rose coloured glasses is.

Shit-tinted sunnies, as they say in these parts.

seconding what DarlingBri said here. I think that one of the things you're going to find yourself working on with your therapist is letting go of the blame you've put upon yourself.

Perhaps your wife has changed; you won't know until you're in the right (or wrong) situation. But either way, there's nothing wrong in taking a break from all the pain and suffering that you've been going through. To go back now is like scratching at a wound as it's starting to heal: it might stop the itching that's driving you mad, but only for a while. And the wound's more likely to fester.

Heal; give yourself time. You said that you've been enjoying yourself whilst you've been away from your folks' house - that's you enjoying yourself on your own terms. Get used to it; it's exactly what you're allowed to do.
posted by gmb at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2012


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