To sow or not to sow is the question
February 16, 2009 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Marriage Madness: Is it better to be single or to waste away in a bad marriage? (long, but uniquely personal details inside)

Short story: somewhere around November I began having some physical problems where I seriously thought I was going to die. Seriously. Luckily, I ended up living, but the experience has left some serious scars.

I'm a healthy guy, and I have never had health problems. And here I was, believing I was going to die. And, at the time all my life was flashing before me. I've never been religious. In fact, I'm a second gen atheist. And, even on the steps of death I did not find the big calling to God, but, a strange, and likely more expected thing happened: my eyes opened. I realized that I have been living in a major depression... a haze of life for a good 5 years at least.

Amongst other things, one major thing that I'd realized was that I did not love my wife and further, I began to believe that she was a large part of my depression. Although we had shared great experiences together, I realized I had no feelings for her. And, I'm a VERY emotional kind of guy. In fact, as I went on believing the reaper was coming, I realized she actually annoyed me, and I felt she had been keeping me from achieving my dreams. This, while she had been struggling to support me during all of this. Yes, very selfish...

Now it's several months later, and my world has been effectively turned upside down for me. I've awakened. I've re-discovered a lot of my old joy and interests. And, I've since reconnected with some old friends whom I felt I was not allowed to associated with in the past. Some of these friends are women, and I have re-kindled some strong feelings toward them. I've been re-thinking a lot about the Human condition in relationships. Is marriage a natural state? Or is it an out-dated custom, created for a different time? Did I get married out of pressure to social norms? Or do I really believe that marriage is a sacred state?

I had gotten married very young by educated, western standards. I had loved my wife at the time, and I had thought it was the right thing to do. But, I had been dating my wife since I was 19, and I had never had another comparable serious relationship since then. I am extremely frustrated, and lonely. If I divorce, I want to run out onto the world and date as many people as possible. I do not EVER want to get married again.

I have been talking with my friends about my recent feelings, and they provide no positive support. In fact, I've been surprised because they've all been pressuring me to stay. "You have a fabulous life," they say. "Why would anyone in your wonderful situation seek change?" But I do want change, I so do. They believe I have this beautiful marriage. But, I look at myself as a sucker who's been playing the part of the ideal person for 15 years. I truly believe that a large part of my last decade or so has been living a life that I felt I had to live. But, it's more complicated. I have a 4 yr old child, and that bothers me. But, I've also come from divorced parents, and my life had been OK. I love my son, and I know I will still be involved in his live, albeit a smaller amount of time. Is the pressure to stay "just because of the child" a rational pressure? Or is it just unhappy married people fearful that someone will live .

Another thing that my single friends tell me is that I would never, ever want to be single. My wife is so beautiful and smart and fun, they say. Single is lonely and torturous. These guys peer into their beers every evening, or play video games - whatever they can do to escape. Woman are evil, and they just play games, they say. Even if I hate my wife, yes, hate, I should stay.

My previous questions are largely rhetorical, to provide some background and context. The real question is this: at 33 years old (but still somewhat fit, attractive, but bald and possibly boring), is it better to stay married, even unhappily? Or is it better to be single and dating for the next 40+ years of my expected life?
posted by brandnew to Human Relations (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Give it a lot of time. Depression is bad enough, add in an extremely stressful medical episode and you do not have a healthy base for rational decision making. Especially big rational decision making.
posted by fire&wings at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thik you need to give you wife a chance to make you feel something. In other words before you go out and romance all the strangers in the world spend the time and effort to romance you wife. We change and grow together. You've changed don't cast her away before you're sure you can't bring her with you.
posted by Rubbstone at 5:57 PM on February 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think your recent medical history has had an (understandably) polarizing effect in your life. But I think you should ask yourself why this situation seems so black or white. Why do you seem to feel this pressure to make up your mind about your marriage? Essentially, without the external pressure of someone cheating or some other "deal breaker" behavior that may force a quicker decision, I think you should take some serious time - and seek therapy - to attempt to unpack some of the feelings you're having with your wife and marriage. And once those are identified, I think you do owe it to your wife and marriage to make a good faith effort to work on them. And THEN, once you've exhausted other options, you can make the call to stay or go.
posted by smallstatic at 5:58 PM on February 16, 2009


Is the pressure to stay "just because of the child" a rational pressure?

My very personal view? You owe your child the very best you can give them. And in most cases, that would mean staying married to provide a stable environment for your child.

My own parents divorced when I was nine, turning my own life upside down. And I'm now a married man with two kids. If it weren't for my own kids, I would probably be divorced.

So, to me, your whole long askme boils down to one thing. You need to do what's best for your child.
posted by cjets at 5:59 PM on February 16, 2009


And, I've since reconnected with some old friends whom I felt I was not allowed to associated with in the past.

Are you nine?

I don't know you, but your question seems so bleaty that I can't resists giving you my two cents.

The only person keeping you from your dreams is you- unless that is your dreams are impossible for a 33 year old bald guy to achieve.

The road of relationship must be littered with men (usually) thinking their wife is somehow keeping them from their dreams. Then they leave- or their long suffering spouse leaves them, and it's three years later- no dreams are being fulfilled and you don't have clean shirts.

Why don't you try achieving your dreams regardless of your marital state - unless your dream is to live in a lonely guy apartment - then see how life is. Put your foot down about the things you aren't allowed to do and just do them.
posted by mattoxic at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2009 [24 favorites]


There's no bright line rule for this.

You could find that being single allows you previously-unattainable happiness and freedom. Or you could find that it is the loneliest lifestyle imaginable. *You* shape your future, whether it be with a loved one or solo.

Picture yourself a year from now. What is the most invigorating fantasy you imagine for yourself? Sailing with a group of single friends? Having a romantic dinner with your new love? On a spiritually-uplifting outing with your child? Or renewing vows with your wife? That is your compass.

Typically, no outsider (other than a relationship counselor or therapist) can accurately gauge the health nor predict the future of a marriage. Its participants determine these.

You may be answering your own question in your opening line, which implies that you can't envision happiness reawakening in your partnership. If truly this is the case, then seek support (therapy) for your choice and begin to take steps towards your goal.

And please do so as a loving, responsible parent.
posted by terranova at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2009


I'm inclined to say give it some time before you reach any conclusions, but I see no reason your wife should spend another day married to someone who hates her, and I don't see any good reason your child should have to grow up in that situation either.

When it comes down to it though, whatever you do, you really need to work through the idea that you hate your wife. Even if you end up divorcing her, you shouldn't leave your kid in a situation where his/her father hates his/her mother. So, start there.
posted by Good Brain at 6:09 PM on February 16, 2009


The way that you prefaced this whole question leaves me inclined to recommend speaking with a therapist about almost dying. It appears to have left you in a situation where you can't see anything besides extremes in all situations.
posted by kirstk at 6:16 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


However it works out, don't use your child as an excuse to stay in a situation you hate. It's not a kid's responsibility to hold their parents' marriage together. If the kid has any inkling that one or both you is basically lying to give the appearance of a solid, "happy", family and that they're the main reason you're doing it, they'll be saddled with an enormous amount of guilt for which they did nothing to cause and will probably resent you for it. And you'll seriously be undermining their ability to trust people. Don't do your child this kind of "favor" unless you're also planning to pay for their therapy.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:16 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


To clarify: I don't hate my wife. I'm sorry that wasn't clear. I like my wife a lot, actually. She's rather interesting. I just don't 'feel' anything, and I believe that she stifles me. That said, my single friends believe that one should stay with a spouse that they hate rather than do the single experience. I think that's a little bit harsh, but I've never been there.
posted by brandnew at 6:18 PM on February 16, 2009


I think it's better to divorce and to open yourself to new possibilities than to stay in an unhappy marriage. But just be very sure of yourself before you make any decisions, especially given that you have a child.

If I divorce, I want to run out onto the world and date as many people as possible. I do not EVER want to get married again.

Who knows what will happen? Maybe you will find somebody else that you want to marry. Don't discount any possibilities. It's not necessarily the case that you and marriage are incompatible, it may just be that you and your wife are incompatible. You might be confusing the two.
posted by number9dream at 6:20 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, being single can be great. If you can learn how to be happy by yourself, that is, in my opinion, a great foundation for being in a fulfilling relationship. It means that you won't depend solely on the other person to provide happiness for you.
posted by number9dream at 6:22 PM on February 16, 2009


Have you talked to your wife about this?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You have a son, so your life is not strictly your own.

Talk to your wife and explain what's going on with you. Try to work it out, really try.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Leave now, if you have any feelings at all for your wife, you will allow her to create a stable life after your departure.

Self indulgence is what you seek, 15 years? That poor woman, your child? You'll see it off and on.

GO. RUN BOY RUNNNNNNNN!
posted by Max Power at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2009


Also, are you sure it's your wife stifling you? Maybe it's you and your perceptions holding you back.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 PM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you've been through a lot in a relatively short period of time. Please keep in mind that when you're depressed and/or going through a physical illness feelings can seem more intense. It may seem easier to attribute your depression to external rather an internal issues, and it would probably help to speak with a therapist. You also appear to be framing your question in a very narrow way - either you are unhappily married forever or single and dating forever. There are many more options out there, as others have mentioned, and I recommend taking some time to fully consider why you want to make such a drastic change before going forward.
posted by macska at 6:32 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, I've talked to my wife about this. Actually we've had some marriage therapy sessions in Dec. and Jan. One of my old (girl) friends is a counselor, and she recommended it. But, the therapy quickly fizzled after three sessions after my wife decided she could figure this all out on her own. My take is that she does not like to see herself in a negative light - she's a very 'A' type personality.

Yes, it could be that I'm stifling myself. However, since the health issue, I believe I've been very proactive and engaged in my life. But, I've gotten very little support from my wife, and I only see pressure to take it back to the way things used to be.
posted by brandnew at 6:38 PM on February 16, 2009


It seems to me that you're very unhappy with your life, and you're blaming your wife for your unhappiness. She may not be the cause of it, and ending your marriage may not be the answer to your problems. Seems to me you are still emotionally reeling from your health scare and I think you should get counseling to get a better handle on yourself before making any drastic changes. Best of luck.
posted by emd3737 at 7:06 PM on February 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm uncertain as to how one grownup stifles another, unless the other is a willing participant. Please explain further.
posted by availablelight at 7:12 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


No decision has to be permanent. Everyone has heard stories of people who have divorced and then remarried the same partner later. You could always try separating and exploring the things you need to explore (hopefully including therapy) and postpone making a permanent decision until you feel more grounded and centered.

I'm going to buck the trend here. I wish my parents had divorced when I was younger. Our family would have been a lot happier and healthier and a lot less toxic. Children of divorced parents are not necessarily always damaged and I know plenty of families that have two healthy families - mom and stepdad and dad and stepmom or single dad or single mom or whatever. Just saying. There are a lot of variations of happy families.

Good luck. I think you can be single and still be a good dad.
posted by gt2 at 7:15 PM on February 16, 2009


Just a cautionary note from the other side. My boyfriend of four years and I split up for similar reasons. His father died and he became deeply depressed; when he climbed out of that depression, he found everything and everyone more captivating than me. He started cheating on me, and when I found out I left. Nearly two years later, he has plunged into another depression, drinks heavily, and has been through several unsatisfying relationships. I think in the end that the problem wasn't me. So before you take your wife and child through all of this, really work hard to figure out if the problem is within you rather than your marriage. I second emd3737 in encouraging you to examine who you are and what is holding you back. I think you owe that to your family.
posted by fiery.hogue at 7:15 PM on February 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


Rather than doing a bunch of copy/paste, I'll just link you to my story. Hopefully you will find something in there that is useful to you.
posted by netbros at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2009


And for all the people saying how can someone else stifle a grownup - of course grownups can try to stifle other grownups. People settle into expected roles during relationships, especially long relationships, and sometimes when one person starts changing, the other person really puts the pressure on to keep things the same. That is completely different than being supportive and sometimes it's just obstructive.
posted by gt2 at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no way to answer this question. We don't know you, or your wife. We don't have any idea what a day in your life is like, how you interact with your child, how much you work, how often you interact with your wife, your friends, etc. Maybe you're a self-indulgent asshole who wants to sleep around with a bunch of women and have no responsibilities. Or maybe your wife is a control freak who is bringing you down and stifling your life and is draining you of energy and spontaneity. We have no way of knowing. Every relationship tells its own different story, and it would be impossible to tell you what you "should" do with the very limited amount of knowledge contained here in this question and this thread. I would say it's a bad sign that your wife skipped out on the therapy sessions - perhaps she's also not as interested in this relationship anymore? There are just too many unknown variables here. To my ears, it sounds like you've probably already made up your mind (dumping your wife and moving on) and are feeling out opinions on the internet to either reinforce what you're feeling now or talk you down off the cliff. Either way, once emotions are set in place they're usually tough to reel back in. Be sure you always keep in mind the feelings of your child, and his perspective. "Daddy got real sick one day then stopped seeing me and mommy" is not an imprint you want to leave. Anyway, you'll make your own choice, good luck with it.
posted by billysumday at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


To be honest, the way you worded your question is very you-centred. You describe your wife in such a reactionary, distant way that anyone reading the description has no idea what she is really like or how she might feel about all this. It was a number of paragraphs down before you even mentioned you had a child.

You need to talk to your wife about this and find out what her perspective is. Don't tell her you don't feel anything for her or anything along those lines. But do tell her your illness has made you see your life in a different way. Find out why your wife seemingly isn't giving you support. She may have very reasonable grounds for objecting to these changes, such as that you're leaving her with too much of the childcare and housework, or that you aren't spending time with her anymore, and she feels that you're distancing yourself from her.

I'm not going to tell you to stay in your marriage no matter what. That's terrible advice. If you and your wife are miserable together you can't make your son happy. Being single is definitely better than being in a horrible marriage. But you *are* married, you did make certain promises to your wife, and you and she had a son based on those promises. So think about repairing and renovating the house you're living in rather than tearing it down. It'll be easier and far less disruptive for all concerned.

And by the way... dating lots of people fucking sucks. It's one let down and disappointment and waste of time after another until something works out. Since you've already got something that sounds like it could work out, stick it out until you can honestly say you've given it all you had.
posted by orange swan at 7:28 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:28 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The couples therapy didn't work out, but have you been in therapy on your own? If not, it would be to your advantage to do as much as you can to sort yourself out regarding your depression, your health scare, and your feelings about your wife before you assume leaving the marriage will solve any or all of your problems. Being attracted to female friends doesn't really matter to your situation, nor does wondering about your chances out with the ladies as a semi-fit, bald, possibly-boring 33-year-old. Those are things happily married people (who can, or even should stay together) experience. What matters are the questions about your love for and relationship with your wife. If you haven't found a good therapist to discuss these questions and their connections to your depression with, you should do so before making a decision to end or stay in your marriage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:45 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The road of relationship must be littered with men (usually) thinking their wife is somehow keeping them from their dreams. Then they leave- or their long suffering spouse leaves them, and it's three years later- no dreams are being fulfilled and you don't have clean shirts.

Amen to that. Your situation is a cliche. You had a near-death experience, now you want to "live," and you've conveniently aligned "not living" with the biggest commitment that you've made in your life so far. It's a perfectly natural thing to do, and it's also not a feeling that's going to last. You'll leave your wife and date hundreds of other women, only to find that you've only made your life more complicated and frustrating, but now in ways that you're not used to dealing with.

Let your wife help you live the new and better life that you want. Or at least give it a good try.
posted by bingo at 7:53 PM on February 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


A few thoughts:

1. You obviously want to leave-- just go. It's your life, stop asking everybody else what to do.
2. Why haven't you left yet? Are you trying to avoid seeming like "the bad guy" and being as judged as selfish? You are what you are, own up to it.
3. If you don't love your wife, staying is extremely unfair to her. You both deserve better.
4. If people you know think your wife is so great, why not fix them up with her?
5. Anyone who tells you it's a good idea to stay with someone you hate is insane.
6 "Staying for the child" is bogus. If you resent the fact that they exist and go around wallowing in misery, believe me, you're not doing them any favors. The mental toll it takes on a child who knows he or she isn't wanted is absolutely devastating.
7. Being single rocks. Your escapist, misogynist "beer and videogames" friends are losers. Being single isn't the problem, it's their lack of an interesting life. How would being married magically transform them into winners? If they had anything going for them, they'd attract women who aren't stupid manipulators. If you really want to change your life, dump them too. Life's too short to waste on people who have nothing to offer.
posted by aquafortis at 7:54 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, it's more complicated. I have a 4 yr old child, and that bothers me. But, I've also come from divorced parents, and my life had been OK.

You're fine. Except that whole, you know, serious depression, and now belief that your whole marriage has been a terrible mistake that's crippled your life.

Now, whether or not your parents' divorce plays a part in that, I don't know. But your own description of your relationship sounds about a million miles away from someone who has been OK. Either your current situation is a mess, or the rest of your adult life has been.

My previous questions are largely rhetorical, to provide some background and context. The real question is this: at 33 years old (but still somewhat fit, attractive, but bald and possibly boring), is it better to stay married, even unhappily? Or is it better to be single and dating for the next 40+ years of my expected life?

The idea that abandoning your wife will automatically lead to 40 years of wildly enjoyable dating is pretty... unproven, shall we say. Set in those terms, ditching your marriage looks great, but what makes you imagine the latter will actually occur?

The bit I find most curious about all this is... beyond dating (read: fucking) a vast number of women I don't actually see you talking about what hopes and dreams you're missing out on because of your wife. It's hard to see how a marriage breakup is likely to improve your quality of life.
posted by rodgerd at 8:01 PM on February 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ask yourself this question and make your decision:

Pretend your wife felt exactly what you are feeling right now, and you weren't. What would you tell her to do?

Do that.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:02 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Staying for the child is bogus?" Maybe he could just drop it off at the pound, if it's not too much trouble.

Brandnew, I don't know what to advise you and wish you the best. But you do have an obligation to your child, and presumably your wife did not envision life as a single parent when you both had the baby. Saying "it's better for the kid" is a rationalization for dismissing that obligation. Would you still want to leave your wife if you were to have primary custody of your child, with all that entails?
posted by txvtchick at 8:28 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


6 "Staying for the child" is bogus. If you resent the fact that they exist and go around wallowing in misery, believe me, you're not doing them any favors. The mental toll it takes on a child who knows he or she isn't wanted is absolutely devastating.

Quoted for truth.

Whether you stay or go, realize that ultimately, you are the only person who is responsible for your happiness. When you have an epiphany of sorts and realize that you want to make major changes to your life, it's tempting to blame someone. But harboring this sort of resentment towards your wife and child isn't going to help anything.
posted by arianell at 8:41 PM on February 16, 2009


Decisions arrived at as a result of a traumatic situation are often seen as a result of some sort of transformation at the hands of the trauma.

I am a lot more skeptical of those than I am of decisions arrived at slowly through realization that one has changed.

Because of this, I recommend that you explore your feelings with a therapist first.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


If all things were equal, I would say that no, you should not stay in a marriage that is not successful.

BUT -- and this is a very, VERY big BUT -- I do not think all things were equal in this instance. You have had a very, VERY big trauma that has knocked you off plumb, and until you let the dust from that settle, there is no way of knowing whether what you feel now is an epiphany about the true state of your life, or is just a temporary scrambling of your brain as it tries to adjust to what happened.

Personal story with possibly a wee bit of TMI: when I was in my mid-20's, I went through a freak medical incident that -- well, let's just say that my chances of ever becoming a mother were exactly and precisely halved. Now -- I had had no incination of ever becoming a mother anyway before this. But for a couple months afterward, I went through a bit of an obsessive "baby" period -- should I have one, was it too late fo rme, should I find a husband and make sure I have one, etc. etc. etc. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to keep a lot of this to myself and a couple close friends, rather than trying to bring it up with the guy I was seeing at the time -- because after a couple of months, those feelings started to fade, and were replaced with the realization that it had all just been chalked up to my brain trying to make sense of what had happened, and getting a little funny in the process. Once I had let the dust from what had happened to me all settle, I came back to my tjhen-default "...A baby? not now" state.

You went through a lot, and it may be having more of an impact on your emotional state than you think. Make sure that what you choose to do is really "you" talking and not "your angst", is my advice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


6 "Staying for the child" is bogus. If you resent the fact that they exist and go around wallowing in misery, believe me, you're not doing them any favors. The mental toll it takes on a child who knows he or she isn't wanted is absolutely devastating.

Quoted for truth.

Whether you stay or go, realize that ultimately, you are the only person who is responsible for your happiness. When you have an epiphany of sorts and realize that you want to make major changes to your life, it's tempting to blame someone. But harboring this sort of resentment towards your wife and child isn't going to help anything.


As an adult, you have the ability to decide how you will act and, to a large degree, how you will feel. Sorry, but staying committed to the child and acting accordingly does help the child. Making a decision to believe that your happiness and your commitments are mutually exclusive, and then making a decision that your happiness is more important, is bogus.
posted by txvtchick at 8:57 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


dating lots of people fucking sucks.

Sorry Orange Swan but I disagree. Being single and dating, especially in your early 30s when everyone else is getting divorced too, is pretty great from my point of view. Not to say everyone loves it, but its not as clear cut as you make it out to be, if one doesn't see dating as the quest for a LTR but a fun game to play for it's own sake.

As to the question, it sounds like the OP has already made up his mind and wants some justification for his actions. Now MetaFilter is stifling him too. Shame on you guys--Permission Granted...Go Ahead OP, I 100% guarantee that getting divorced will solve all your problems and make you so much happier than you are now that your brain will explode and you will turn into a rainbow sunshine apostrophe king of Mars, or your money back.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:28 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some people have touched on the width and breadth of emotions involved with the health issues, and the short period of time that's passed.

The former was/is a matter of emotions, fears, feelings, perceptions being thrown into a warp-speed blender and the top-blending-speed button pushed. Hard to imagine that's sorted out in a handful of months.

Oh, Nthing that your friends sound disturbing, really unhealthy.
posted by ambient2 at 9:46 PM on February 16, 2009


You sound like you are in a very similar situation as I was a few years ago (except that I have no children). I had reconnected with friends and old hobbies and found new friends and interests. My husband was not supportive of any of this, and didn't want to be involved at all. I too felt like I got married because of societal norms. I was looking to everyone who would listen for answers, for the OK to leave my husband. Some would tell me what your friends are telling you and some would tell me what I wanted to hear. I wasn't satisfied with anything anyone told me.

No one can tell you what to do, and if you listen to anyone but yourself you will never be sure you made the right decision.

Go talk to a counselor on your own so that you can answer all those questions you just posed on your own and with confidence. Whatever you decide won't be easy but if you feel really confident about your decision you will get through all the ugly and painful stuff.
posted by sadtomato at 9:58 PM on February 16, 2009


Stuff that is bullshit:

"I felt she had been keeping me from achieving my dreams."
"Is marriage a natural state?"
"Do I really believe that marriage is a sacred state?"
"I do not EVER want to get married again."
"Is it just unhappy married people fearful that someone will live?"

Most of all what's bullshit is anything your friends have to say about it.

Stuff that is not bullshit:

"I realized that I have been living in a major depression"
"I realized I had no feelings for her"
"I had been dating my wife since I was 19, and I had never had another comparable serious relationship since"
"I have a 4 yr old child, and that bothers me"

The big not bullshit thing that is missing is any communication with your wife or the slightest indication that you are considering her experience or position in all this at all.

This isn't complicated. You perceived the inevitability and not necessarily remoteness of death and it made you look hard at your life and you don't like what you've got. What you want to do is escape and run around. Observed history tells me you will most likely end up disappointed (and, guess what, married again) but you know, live and learn. What you ought to do is talk to your wife honestly and try to decide whether to try to rediscover what brought you together in the first place, for the sake of the kid. What is probably prudent to do, if you are, as you seem to be, pretty much one hundred percent checked out on your relationship with your wife and not exhibiting the slightest belief or interest in her value as a person or in the salvageability of your marriage, is get yourself a lawyer. You don't sound like a very nice guy and she might just kick your ass to the curb once she gets wind of what you're up to.

The ideas you should most assuredly disabuse yourself of is that your wife is responsible for your depression or for your failure to achieve your dreams. Those things are your responsibility and whether you get divorced or not won't change the fact that you have to take responsibility for your own mental health and your own dreams and aspirations. I don't generally envy guys like you who lock in a relationship initiated at such a young age. But you're coming from a very selfish, self-centered, unsympathetic place with this. Your relationship with your current wife is going to be a serious factor in your existence for the rest of your life due to your child, so if not for your child's sake for for your wife's (if you're capable of recognizing at least her right as a person to try for happiness and fulfillment as well) then for your own future peace, start acting like a grown-up and confront the crisis in your marriage head on by engaging your wife in a dialog instead of fooling around with training wheel infidelity with your old flames and polling your stupid ass friends about whether you should get divorced and try to spend 40 years behaving like you should have been behaving when you were in your early twenties.
posted by nanojath at 12:32 AM on February 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


"Staying for the child is bogus?" Maybe he could just drop it off at the pound, if it's not too much trouble.

Do you have any idea what it's like to be eleven years old to have your own mother scream at you for "ruining her career and fucking up her life"-- and scream back she should have got an abortion? Do you know what day after day of absorbing the message "you were never wanted" does to a person? I used to pray to God I could somehow be sent to boarding school or get adopted. My dad physically abandoned the family at 13, and I'll be damned if I wasn't relieved when he was gone. Anything is better than physical and psychological cruelty. So yeah, I *totally* wish I'd been dropped off at the fucking pound or orphanage or anywhere else.
posted by aquafortis at 12:42 AM on February 17, 2009


I think you should definitely do a trial separation. I did it - I went away to another country for three months.

But I took the 4yo with me, and so should you.

Hey, suddenly leaving doesn't sound so awesome, does it?
posted by daisydaisy at 12:49 AM on February 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


However it works out, don't use your child as an excuse to stay in a situation you hate. It's not a kid's responsibility to hold their parents' marriage together. If the kid has any inkling that one or both you is basically lying to give the appearance of a solid, "happy", family and that they're the main reason you're doing it, they'll be saddled with an enormous amount of guilt for which they did nothing to cause and will probably resent you for it. And you'll seriously be undermining their ability to trust people.

Can we get an amen here!? Well said.
posted by aquafortis at 12:50 AM on February 17, 2009


Sorry, but staying committed to the child and acting accordingly does help the child. Making a decision to believe that your happiness and your commitments are mutually exclusive, and then making a decision that your happiness is more important, is bogus.

If he cared more about the child than his own happiness, he wouldn't be here looking for justifications from strangers on the internet to support his decision to leave. Yet here he is.

Telling him he's "wrong" isn't going to change the reality of the situation, i.e. he's living with a wife he doesn't love, a son he wishes he could see less, and his main priority in life is to run around getting laid by lots and lots of women. The truth might be ugly, but it's far better to face it head on than to live a lie. Besides, it's not like anyone here is telling him not to pay child support. If he stays and is perpetually resentful, frustrated, annoyed, and miserable, it's likely he'll do more harm than good to all three of them.
posted by aquafortis at 1:04 AM on February 17, 2009


Sorry to be harsh but you sound really immature. You made a commitment to your wife and were happy to have her support you financially and emotionally while you were ill but now you are all better and you want to run off and date your high school crushes. The two of you have a child but you'll be a good parent and just see less of him - is that what your father did to you? You are very extreme in your thinking and very emotional without being rational. You sound very emotionally draining to be around, I wonder if you provide as much support to your wife as she does to you. Have all your conversations lately been about what you need - maybe you should look at what she needs for a change in perspective. While you have re-discovered old passions who is looking after your child - does your wife have a similar amount of time to socialise and pursue her interests? Or is she busy financially supporting the family, cleaning the house and doing most of the childcare while you drink and play videogames with your friends and crushes? You said you thought you were going to die, did the doctors and your wife think you had a fatal condition as well? I wonder if this extreme thinking predates the illness.

As to your final question, at 33, with two important commitments you have made you should be responsible enough to work towards maintaining your responsibilities before you throw everything away on a dream of what you think your single life will be like.
posted by saucysault at 1:29 AM on February 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


On non-preview. Whoa, I wish I could favourite nanojath 100 times. He said it much more eloquently than me.
posted by saucysault at 1:32 AM on February 17, 2009


Sorry to be harsh but you sound really immature. You made a commitment to your wife and were happy to have her support you financially and emotionally while you were ill but now you are all better and you want to run off and date your high school crushes.

Exactly. She deserves better, good riddance. If he's been sponging off her money and "doesn't love her" or "have feelings for her", when he goes, where's the downside? The less time and money she wastes on someone who doesn't appreciate it, the more time and money she'll have for the child. He's every bit the drag on her that she is on him.

Or is she busy financially supporting the family, cleaning the house and doing most of the childcare while you drink and play videogames with your friends and crushes?

Telling him he's selfish and wrong isn't going to make him change. Some marriages aren't worth preserving.
posted by aquafortis at 1:53 AM on February 17, 2009


You've just come out of a long slide. Making a major life move now would be just as destructive as if you'd done it at the depth of your depression. Talk to her.

Let me say that again. Talk. To. Her. If you have to do it in the office of a qualified couples therapist, then do it there. If you have to do so from the comfort of a trial separation and a crappy studio apartment where you get to figure out what "being single" is really about these days, then do it like that. But talk to her before you walk out that door forever. You owe it to her, and you owe it to the child, and you owe it to yourself.

However, I have to agree with those who have said "Don't stay just for the kid." I suspected (and it was later confirmed) that my parents only stayed together because of me. I am still untangling the knots it tied in my psyche, half a lifetime later.
posted by Etrigan at 3:52 AM on February 17, 2009


I suspected (and it was later confirmed) that my parents only stayed together because of me. I am still untangling the knots it tied in my psyche, half a lifetime later

I hear that opinion often and it would seem that modern received opinion is to never stay together just because of a child. However who is to say that if your parents had not stayed together that you wouldn't be now untangling equally difficult knot dealing with that. I think parents, assuming that daily life together is not creating an abusive environment for the children, should do their upmost to stay together and that nostalgia for a lost zest to life is not enough of a reason for disrupting your kid's life.
posted by foleypt at 4:47 AM on February 17, 2009


I say try couples counselling first. There is a reaso nwhy you got married to your wife.

PS if you dont id expect her to get a ton of your money in a divorce and she woul;d deserve ALL YOUR MONEY.

She supported you financially through your Supposed life flashing and shouldnt be screwed over liek what you want to do.

PS i Have been in 3 comas (life support for 2 of them) and cancer so your story will not get any sypathy from me.

IT souhnds like you are trying to take the easy way out and to have people feel sorry for you.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:49 AM on February 17, 2009


Is it better to be single or to waste away in a bad marriage?

Hm. That's quite a poser, that one. It's no wonder you required help with this nearly insoluble dilemma.

I'm teasing you, but ... really? It's obvious from your framing of the question that you know exactly what you want to do... so, I suppose you are looking for encouragement from outside? I can't imagine why else you would post.

The truth is, you're already gone. I don't know if it's a new thing or not, but you are obviously already mentally disassociating yourself from this family. People don't normally refer to their own kid as "the child", even when asking a question like "Is the pressure to stay 'just because of the child' a rational pressure?" And the ambiguity of the statement "I have a 4 yr old child, and that bothers me" stands out like a sore thumb.

Clearly, you need to talk to your wife. You may be pleasantly surprised; perhaps she has been wanting to cut you loose, but felt obligated to stick with you during this difficult time. Whatever you two decide, though, you need to know this: your wife did not keep you from achieving your dreams. That's nonsense, and you need to drop that idea if you hope to have any kind of life at all, with or without her. The fact that you are thinking this way makes me suspect that you are going to be in for a bit of a brutal surprise on your own, or that you will find the urgent need for replacement scapegoats to blame your failures on. Or that you will continue to blame your wife, even if you divorce. Don't be low and sniveling like that. Take responsibility for yourself; this is what you are saying you want, so do it.
posted by taz at 5:30 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, this is such a childish question. I know it's childish because I've felt the same way at one time. Thank god I didn't leave my marriage because I thought my husband was holding me back... he wasn't good enough for me, we didn't have any fun, wah wah, pout, pout. What a bunch of foolish crap.

You think your wife is bringing you down, but you're the reason you are down. Is your wife overbearing or manipulative? Does she have a gun to your head? Is she extremely jealous or possessive? Probably not. Even if she is, this is no time to throw in the towel without serious efforts to save your marriage. I don't want to sound harsh or insensitive but believe me when I say you are the reason you are unhappy.

All of these questions, "Is marriage a natural state?" are chump questions. You're married now, these questions are useless and destructive. You want someone to say, "Oh marriage is a social invention, you deserve to be happy, etc." What you really want at the deepest level is to be desired and appreciated. You think this dating of many women will leave you desired, loved, and appreciated. I'm betting you can get that at home if you allow it.

Your question has a very narcissistic tone. You are only thinking of yourself and your own happiness. You sound very entitled, as if your "happiness" and freedom are the only things you're thinking about. You deserve it, right? You deserve to be happy? Your wife is holding you back from leaving this great big life? Wrong. Have you thought about your character? Have you thought about your responsibilities to your child? Have you thought about what kind of example you are setting for your son? Get out of your childish head and start owning up to your responsibilities you created. Work on saving your marriage and actually liking yourself. Because right now, you don't like yourself. Give attention to your wife and child, not your juvenile feelings of being held back.
posted by Fairchild at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


Do you have any idea what it's like to be eleven years old to have your own mother scream at you for "ruining her career and fucking up her life"-- and scream back she should have got an abortion? Do you know what day after day of absorbing the message "you were never wanted" does to a person? I used to pray to God I could somehow be sent to boarding school or get adopted. My dad physically abandoned the family at 13, and I'll be damned if I wasn't relieved when he was gone. Anything is better than physical and psychological cruelty. So yeah, I *totally* wish I'd been dropped off at the fucking pound or orphanage or anywhere else.

As I said, as an adult you have a choice in how you act. What your mother said is abhorrent and I'm sorry you went through it. But you're presenting a false choice. Acting out of love and commitment to the child does not lead to experiences like yours.

What OP should do, I don't know. But the sop "it's better for the kid" is just rationalization, and he should realize that before making a decision based on it.
posted by txvtchick at 6:56 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's strange to me that you say you don't feel anything towards your wife. Have you thought about her perspective or cared to do so? She's a human being, too, you know. The least she deserves is your trying for some sense of appreciation towards her. I mean, she's your family. You haven't described her as a horrible person who is abusive and unkind. A lot of people don't want to deal with other people's illnesses and problems. Another woman might have easily just left you, and may leave you again in the future.

If you want some explosive feelings, try experimenting with drugs.
posted by anniecat at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2009


You're fine. Except that whole, you know, serious depression, and now belief that your whole marriage has been a terrible mistake that's crippled your life.

yeah. I think my parents' divorce left me with some of this stuff in the background that I never took very seriously either, but a level of comfort or trust that some people seem to have more naturally.. this is the kind of thing you could address in one-on-one therapy.

But basically it sounds like you're having your mid-life crisis a little early, thanks to an early face to face with death. (and I do mean mid-life, because that's the one that is about dying and not having enough adventures, rather than earlier "crises" about 'what will i do with my life'). Nothing you talk about is unusual, except that it's happening to you, so of course it's entirely unique in that respect. But you feel trapped, your wife doesn't understand, you wish you were free like a teenager, running around without responsibilities, able to just have fun and be crazy and creative and exciting and untouched, completely untied down, unbonded.

That is the weird thing about life - we love and hate our bonds. They enslave us, and yet they are what give meaning to us. If you grow old and die without bonds, you float out of life without anything - unless you are of a particular sort of philosophical mindset (and some people are) this is a hard way to live. But to live with bonds can seem difficult as well - to be tied down, to be trapped in... when we wish to be free!

That's not to say it isn't possible you married the wrong person, or that you're one of the few of that mindset who could be happy alone. But don't let your immediate emotional responses make that choice for you; explore the deeper elements of where this comes from, and keep in mind what you lose when you cut ties.
posted by mdn at 10:10 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


What are these dreams that your wife is keeping you from achieving? Your question makes it sound like your dream is to date lots of different women for the next 40 years.
posted by yohko at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2009


(I think that was meant to be "lack of comfort or trust")

Also: I wanted to note, when I went through a semi-near-death type thing myself (treated for lymphoma in my late 20's) I had a very "who gives a shit but in a good way" kind of attitude toward life for a little while. I think I still do at some level, but it has ebbed a bit. What I mean is, I felt like who the hell knows what will happen, so you may as well go bungee jumping or go into debt or get a motorcycle, or whatever... It's all about the moment, not the long term.

This is an understandable response, and if you've been a conservative person in parts of your life, not a bad thing to explore, but don't let the pendulum swing too far, because it is not an easy way to live for very long. (ie, if you do break up, do it with a long term plan of some kind)
posted by mdn at 1:43 PM on February 17, 2009


The least she deserves is your trying for some sense of appreciation towards her.

The least she deserves is for someone who "doesn't love her" to stop sponging off her money. If she's "struggling to support" someone who dreams of running around and getting laid, why wouldn't she be better off if he left?

The bottom line is he just doesn't care, and all the finger-waggling in the world about social bonds and and responsibility and commitment and maturity yadda yah isn't going to make a stitch of difference.

That is the weird thing about life - we love and hate our bonds. They enslave us, and yet they are what give meaning to us. If you grow old and die without bonds, you float out of life without anything - unless you are of a particular sort of philosophical mindset (and some people are) this is a hard way to live.


We all grow old and die and float out of life without anything. You find meaning in bonds, I find meaning in freedom...but no matter how we individually define "meaning" or "happiness", in the end, we're all just whistling in the dark.
posted by aquafortis at 2:24 PM on February 17, 2009


All you people saying that staying together for the sake of the child is stupid and harmful aren't thinking things through.

You have no business forcing someone into single parenting because otherwise you'd be living a lie.

Living a lie is just not anywhere near as bad as single parenting. It's not even in the same universe of badness. If single parenting weren't unbelievably grueling Mr. I Almost Died would be asking for advice on getting custody. But hell no he isn't - he doesn't want to be the one dealing ALONE with a puking child in the middle of the night.

Marriage is not about your feelings, dude, it's a business arrangement. Hold up your end.
posted by daisydaisy at 6:15 PM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Held off commenting...pitching in now.

You are in a very self-centered place now. I'm not saying that judgmentally, there are times in life when it's all right, and also necessary, to be self-centered. You had the near-death experience, and so now you are worried about YOUR life, not your wife's, not your child's, YOUR life.

And you're wondering what might have been. You're seeing friends, celebs, people on TV, all going out and having orgies, and you're home with your wife, and you think that just by walking out the door now YOU will be in the fast lane, living that high life. But by your own description you're only "Somewhat" fit, bald, and boring. Those AREN'T the people who live the high life, those are normal people who lead more normal lives.

Now maybe you can get more fit, make the shaved-head look work for ya (or get a toupee), and find a way to talk up the ladies. But those are all things you have to work on YOURSELF about.

Which is what it comes down to.

Personal story time (skip this paragraph and read below if you want, but this will give perspective): growing up my parents stayed together (I wish they hadn't...it was hell). At one point my father decides the pressure is too much. He doesn't leave his family, but he unilaterally makes the decision we will all move to Florida. We do, tears up my life, I have to "reboot" with no friends, etc. But guess what? My father was STILL my father. He left everything behind, and it fixed nothing. Likewise I was still me, left it all behind and the same problems persisted even at 12. Three years later we moved BACK, another total uprooting. And the problems came back with us just like our Tupperware.

So I want to be sure you know: walking out that door and leaving your wife, leaving your child, will NOT solve your problems. You will NOT immediately find yourself living the high life and the life that you think you COULD have had were you not married. Odds are things will just get a lot worse as you divide up all of your assets, and work out custody. And from reading your question it seems as if you won't want custody, since it is all about you right now, but you'll likely have to have some (and also pay child support, natch) so your wife can move on with HER life.

(Oh, and in the "guaranteed irony" category, you will watch as your wife appears to blossom without you, ALSO dating and ALSO trying to live the high life without you, and you will think that she has it better. She may or may not, but I guarantee that at least once you will think she "won" the divorce by improving her status more than you've improved yours).

So let's get to the basic question: should you stay or should you go now?

Well, Step 1: Stop living in a fantasy land where fortune and women and all your dreams come true are right outside your door. Wake up and smell some reality. CAN you have all those things you want? CAN you sow some wild oats and achieve your dreams? Yes, we all can. But damn if it don't take some hard work.

Step 2: It's been suggested above, but get therapy. Not couples therapy, you're not there yet. Get therapy for yourself. I'm not saying that in a "dude, you need help" way, I'm saying it in a "you need a place where you can go and explore your thoughts and feelings in a no-judgment atmosphere" way. You need to think it through.

(and as part of Step 2 I'm going to go against the grain here...DON'T talk to your wife about it. Not yet. I think to say these things to her right now would be hurtful, and you don't seem as if you've thought it through well enough to cause her that pain right now. Get the therapy and if it turns out that this really IS what you think you want, then talk to her. Try couples therapy if you want to make it work, and if you don't then don't).

Step 3: After the therapy, if you have thought it through, talked it through, and you STILL think everything you want in life is just waiting for you to leave your wife and it will come to you, then do a trial separation. Get your own place, and see how it feels. I'm thinking the cold splash of reality on your face will make you realize that you have it pretty good pretty quick. Or maybe I'm totally wrong, life's doors open and you walk through. Either way, I wouldn't lawyer up just yet...

It seems like you are in a selfish place, and your wife is allowing for you to be there. But to be honest, I don't fully believe half of your harshest comments, and those that are true I think may be a result of where your head is more than where your heart is.

So good luck. You're gonna need it.
posted by arniec at 2:30 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


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