Is it too late to break up with my wife?!
February 20, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Is it too late to break up with my wife?!

My story sounds crazy but it is true. In my culture couple gets married straight away without even knowing each other very well. It is more or less like buying a watermelon form a seller who insist that you just buy it without even grantee that it is good and sweet!. I should not have agreed :( . Any way, that what happened to me. I got married to a girl without knowing much more about her. I know her family. My mum saw her and told me that she is good for me. – Sounds crazy but honestly that what happened. I did ask about her. They told me that she is a good very well educated beautiful girl. As soon as we got married I found that she is not the right person for me although she is not bad. She lacks of self confidence and got a social phobia and has no plan for future. However, I worked very hard to avoid harming her by jumping to a decision to get divorced. I decided to give her some time in hope she will change. I was there every time to help her. I encouraged her to move on till she got her degree form a UN. Things got worse when she got pregnant. I felt that time there is no way back and I must accept her as she is a mum of my baby. Therefore, I decided instead of break up with her I would do what ever I could to make her change. She kept promise me that she will change. Nothing really changed. I couldn’t divorced her for many reason; divorce is not good for my baby life; finding another partner to marry is not easy as I have to get married again which means a lot of money need to be invested, around $ 37. 000. Also, I was very busy with my Master degree as I was part time student working and studying. Later on, I got a chance to study abroad. Many people around me said to me it is your and her chance to make change. Now, she is with me abroad with my tow kids. I encouraged her to open her eyes to learn form the new place, to learn new language, culture and got change and get rid of things at home that might holding her back. She has been here in the UK with me around three years. She has not changed that much. Now, I feel really guilty because I did not get divorce before I had my first kid; I kept dreaming that she will change and lied to my self; I don’t really lover her; she is scared of divorce idea; I lose my time coz im not in mood of studying because of her. What im concern about now is my kids 5 years and 7. I’m studying a PhD. My kids need care. They go to school. I m happy that they are here they learn here. I’m not sure how to break up with her. Peaking up according to my culture has to be official and no way back. I’m really sad, Frustrated and a afraid of making my final decision I don’t know what to do.
posted by kitkat09 to Society & Culture (44 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Professional relationship counseling from someone intimately familiar with your culture, both as a couple and individually. Whether divorce is the end result or not, you want to get to that decision in as healthy a way as possible and set yourselves both up to be better off in the end.
posted by padraigin at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2009 [20 favorites]

Break up with her, making clear that "It's not her; it's you."
posted by wabashbdw at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2009

[more inside] is your friend.
As are paragraphs.

It's never too late to break up with someone, you just have to be willing to accept the consequences.

That said, you can't change people's basic personality, so trying to is an exercise in frustration for both of you. Successful marriages, arranged or love-based, come from both partners working together to understand each other, and accept each other as they are.
posted by nomisxid at 10:50 AM on February 20, 2009

1. If you base a relationship on the hope that your partner will change, you are doomed to an unpleasant relationship.

2. It is never too late to end an unpleasant relationship.

3. Sometimes there are unpleasant consequences to ending an unplesant relationship.

4. You and only you can do the cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the unplesant consequences of ending the relationship outweigh the unpleasantness inherent in the relationship.

5. [More Inside] and line / paragraph breaks are your friend.
posted by dersins at 10:50 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Stop beating yourself up with "I should have done this, I should have done that." By my reading, you have acted honorably under very difficult circumstances. I'm not sure the way out for you, but it's time to release how many things you didn't do right so you can focus your energies on going forward. Do you have a mentor or experienced relative or friend who may be sympathetic? You can't be the first person this has happened to, under the circumstances. Find a role model, continue to act honorably. Good good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:53 AM on February 20, 2009

This is a very difficult question to answer- I strongly back padraigin's response.

You might also try to understand and empathize with your wife a bit more- this was an arranged marriage for her as well. I hope she doesn't compare your marriage to watermelon shopping.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:59 AM on February 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

You can't change other people. You can only change yourself. Accept her or break up with her, it's your choice.
posted by valadil at 11:00 AM on February 20, 2009

I have to get married again
What? No, you don't.
posted by ook at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2009

Is it too late to break up with my wife?!

Yeah, it is.

You're asking your wife to change, hoping to wave a magic wand and have her change into the person you want her to be. But, you have kids. And it sounds like she moved away from her home culture to be with you in the U.K. You seem to be partial to the pop/social/political culture of the UK while your wife might not be as such. You took your wife and dumped her into a strange new world, asking her to change her perspectives on what being a wife is, while at the same time not helping her along the way. You say you support her but how? Is she depressed? Have you taken on all the chores, pushed your wife to embrace new things (and not just tell her to do that but actively make the personal sacrifices necessary for that to happen), and have you done all the things necessarily to give her the time and space necessary to learn a new culture and language? It doesn't sound like it.

People don't change magically. People change through hard work, time, and sacrifice. If you want her to change, and think that she should change because it will make her happier and a better person (and not merely want her to fit some ideal that you envision rather than what makes her happy), then you need to make the sacrifices to do that. If you don't know how to do that, contact a therapist that is familiar with your culture, a religious leader (if you're religious), etc. Not once in your post did you mention what makes your wife happy, what makes her tick, what brings her joy. All you focused on was '"me, me, me". And if you're unhappy, and it sounds like she's unhappy, there's no way your family life is happy and your kids understand that.

Marriage is a big deal and it's never easy. It takes time, effort, and personal sacrifice. It sounds like you need to learn that as much as she does. Seek couple counseling, put in the effort, and if things don't work out after all that effort, then maybe divorce should be on the table. If you're not willing to put the effort into your relationship now, how do you feel getting a divorce and finding someone else will make your life any better?
posted by Stynxno at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2009 [20 favorites]

I agree with the advice above that you should seek counsel from an open-minded therapist/adviser that is intimately familiar with your culture. It's difficult to give advice about your specific situation because we don't know, culturally, the impact of this decision on you, your children, and your wife. However, I do want to point out that you repeat your hope/expectation that you wife will "change" many times during your question.

I understand that you probably didn't feel as though you had much of a choice about whether or not to marry your current partner. I don't think anyone would blame you for making the choice that you did at the time. The simple truth is, though, that people don't often change the fundamental aspects of their personality. You can't make an introvert extroverted. You can't make her interested in things that she's not. Yes, it's completely possible for people to change their behavior and make a true effort to become involved with things that are important to their partner. This is different, though, than hoping to change the way she engages with the world. What you're asking of her may not be entirely possible.

Have you considered the fact that she may not love you, either? She is very likely just as miserable as you are. Still, it's understandable that she is very scared about the prospect of divorce. She has two children and she's living in a completely foreign country so that you can pursue your education. Even in the best situations, it's scary to discover that you may be about to become a single parent. And this may be the least of her concerns. Without knowing the specifics of your background, it's impossible to know if she may be worried about the effect of getting divorced in your culture. Is there a stigma? Will this be accepted by her family? Could she ever marry again?

As I said, you very likely need to seek the advice of someone who knows your cultural background and is open minded enough to talk about all the possible solutions with you. You can't be the only person who is in this situation. Also, I encourage you to spend some time thinking from her point of view as well. How many things would she want to change about you if she could?
posted by theantikitty at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Culture is not an absolute. Just because your culture dictates it doesn't mean you have to do it.
posted by kldickson at 11:13 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you think it's so easy for your wife to change, why don't you just change? Or at least meet her half-way?
posted by Maisie Jay at 11:20 AM on February 20, 2009 [10 favorites]

It seems your personal expectations and the social expectations don't match. Or else, you seem to have a romantic ideal whereas you're culture is probably more concerned with practicalities.

I guess what I'm saying is that this is more than a relationship question. I totally agree with the marriage counsellor who knows your culture but I'd also recommend trying to meet people from your background who live different lives than they were expected to (who divorced or got some sort of stygma for not complying with tradition) or who, despite living abroad and probably being influenced by the local culture, still comply with the traditions. Talk to them and try to get an idea of how they cope in their different ways. They won't hold the answers to your problem but just knowing that there are people in the same situation and how they are living will probably be helpful.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2009

People generally don't change. Especially after 7 years or more. Simply telling somebody to change will definitely not make them change; you have to help them change, you have to change with them, and you have to be positive about the change.

I wouldn't recommend divorce, necessarily. Please find a therapist or counselor that has a good understanding of your culture. You both need to go. Together. Soon. You need to do it for you, for her, and for your children. If you are going to a PhD program, you might be able to find good counselers through your school administrators or academic advisors. Counseling does not take that much time out of your schedule, and its benefits typically outweigh any commitment you make to it.

It sounds like your wife might benefit from a social support network. Does she have many friends in the UK?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a very difficult question for someone without your background to answer kitkat, but I hope that you take all the best advice from this thread and find someone (a counselor or clergy member) who is trustworthy and knowledgeable about both divorce and your culture to discuss your options with. Nobody here can tell you the right answer, especially nobody who recognizes how confusing your situation must be.

One thing I'd like to emphasize is that it sounds like you are being patient with her. Please continue to be patient and don't leave her without recourse. If you are frustrated by her lack of ambition and ability to care for herself, keep in mind that she did not ask for you either--she could be much happier exhibiting the same traits in a different relationship, if she had been able to choose her own mate. So ask her what she thinks about you leaving, if you can do so gently and without making a big drama out it. You may be able to negotiate a trial separation that could end in the two of you being friendly. Presuming that she is the mother of your two kids, you're going to be involved with her for the rest of your life, so treat her like you would any other member of your family.

Good luck.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:30 AM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

For centuries, some marriages have not been built on love. That is OK. Can you live with a marriage without love? You seem to have no problem having sex with her, which is fine. Could you be friends who are married? You have to decide what you want.

Here's a question: Would you feel anything if she was with another man? Thinking that through might clarify things.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

You cannot change her, but you can encourage her to be happier. If she is happier, then your marriage will be happier and perhaps at least tolerable.

It's a good idea to find a marriage counselor who is familiar with your culture. If your wife recognizes that counseling is needed, then she will go with you and you will both work towards solving some of the problems that are making you both unhappy.

You owe it to your kids to try and make it work. A counselor will be able to help you identify things that you both are doing that could be causing the problems. A counselor might also be able to convince your wife that she needs therapy herself in order to overcome her social phobia and self-confidence issues.
posted by camworld at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2009

PS - please try to avoid another pregnancy until you figure this out with your wife.
posted by tristeza at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I felt that time there is no way back and I must accept her as she is a mum of my baby.

Well.... This is kind of the case.

You don't tell us whether your wife is employed or not; it seems possible that she might be completely dependent on you. That means that there are three people (your wife and two children) who depend on you for their well-being. As a responsible adult, it is those people you need to consider first.

Given the current state of affairs, can you and your wife provide a healthy home environment for your children? This can mean a lot of things, but it certainly means that you two aren't fighting in front of the kids and that there is no violence in the home. If you can provide this healthy environment for your children, then, I'm sorry, but your happiness is secondary. Suck it up.

It's really impossible to know whether or not you should get a divorce without knowing what the environment is like for the kids.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2009

If you divorce her, your kids will be end up with separated parents, one of whom will still have social anxiety and other issues. Nobody will be happy.

If you get counseling (for her, for you, for both of you as a couple) you've got a chance to help your wife become a more open, brave, and happy person. Your kids would have an intact family, with loving and cooperative parents who work together to solve problems instead of just "hoping" that things will change. Everybody wins.

Of course there's a chance that things won't work out. But for your family's sake you need to make a genuine effort to fix things before you declare them irreparably broken.
posted by stefanie at 12:00 PM on February 20, 2009

I agree with the others that you should seek counseling with someone who will be understanding toward your cultural background. Again, it would help to know what background that is.

One thing that I think is evident in your post is your willingness to move on to a new life, and you are frustrated and unsure as to why your wife is not so willing. My opinion is that she may not really have any social phobia at all, but her attitude may be part of the culture you come from.

If you are coming from a culture that believes in arranged marriages, neither you, nor your wife, were given much, if any, choice in your love life. That's tough. However, that being said, women often draw the shorter end of the straw in cultures that support arranged marriages, regardless of how good their chosen husband turns out to be. (And you do seem like you care for her, which is good!) Her social fear is likely very based in a culture that has not given her much choice.

It would probably benefit your relationship with your wife (no matter what happens to it ultimately) for you to ask her why she is so afraid of some things, and why she's having trouble adapting to what you see as a good change in location and culture. You may be surprised by her answers. They could range from telling you she is unsure of her rights in another country, to her wanting/trying to preserve cultural traditions for you and your children. You can't know until you ask.

As for your children, I am not so quick to jump on the "don't divorce for the sake of the kids" bandwagon, particularly having lived in the turmoil of a household that very, very much needed a divorce to restore sanity. Sometimes divorce is the only option, when mom and dad have too much trouble getting along, to the point that this affects the kids. That being said, divorce really doesn't seem necessary at this point, from your post. You seem to care for her, and even if that's just out of habit and good form at this point, it really doesn't matter. You two share a common history in more ways than one, and with good counseling, that can probably be nurtured into love.

What your children need is a loving household where they feel safe. If they are getting that now, under the conditions you and your wife are providing, they are experiencing what's best for them. However, if there's lots of tension boiling beneath the surface, arguments roaring at all hours, etc., you and your wife should still try the counseling, but make an effort to take care of those negative aspects of your relationship as soon as possible. In the end, keeping peace for your family may end in a divorce. Again, though, this doesn't seem necessary at this point, unless you've left out critical details.

So, talk to your wife, get to know her dreams and fears to better understand her; be open enough to allow her to do the same with you. Go to counseling to nurture what you have, and to encourage love and understanding to grow between you. And, finally, love your children and remind them, in the event that they feel the tension and uncertainty in your household, that you and your wife will always love them.

Best of luck to you and your wife.
posted by metalheart at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you know what your wife wants from you? Does she know what she wants? I'd go with that first suggestion of counseling for both of you. Not to "fix", not to "change", but to understand.
posted by lysdexic at 12:14 PM on February 20, 2009

Culture is not an absolute. Just because your culture dictates it doesn't mean you have to do it.

Although that's a nice sentiment, it's also hopelessly naive.
posted by incessant at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

Especially living in the UK, it is only by your own choice that you live "according to [your] culture". You and she must figure out what is best for yourselves and your kids. Do not be afraid to find your own way. You and your wife are adults and you get to choose, together, the direction of your lives.

I disagree with others' assertions that, if you decide to get counseling, the counselor you choose must have intimate knowledge of your culture. Maybe you need a fresh look at what all your options really are.
posted by fritley at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2009

Things got worse when she got pregnant.

She didn't just "get pregnant." You got her pregnant.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2009 [17 favorites]

I disagree with others' assertions that, if you decide to get counseling, the counselor you choose must have intimate knowledge of your culture. Maybe you need a fresh look at what all your options really are.

Let's not forget that there is a bit of a culture clash here. If I had to guess, the OP and his wife are from India, where arranged marriages are fairly normal and they are now living in the UK, a Western-centric society with a Western-centric culture.

I would also guess that the OP has adjusted better to living in the UK than his wife has, which could be exacerbating some of the issues, especially if his wife already had a social phobia. I can easily see her locked in the house for days or weeks on end, afraid to go out and having no friends she can talk to who share her culture and heritage. But I am just speculating...

So yes, a marriage counselor who is trained in matters of Western culture is relevant here but this counselor also must have some knowledge of the culture shared by the OP and his wife. It's not an absolute requirement but it would help tremendously with the culture gap being experienced and also would make the wife much more comfortable about opening up and communicating, which is the counselor's primary goal.
posted by camworld at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2009

It strikes me as very strange to meet, marry, and live a family life with someone in a very culturally traditional way but then at the same time expect that spouse, who signed up for a culturally traditional marriage and family life, to act, plan, and socialize as if she were from an entirely different (UK) culture.

I do think the solution lies in counseling, ideally with someone who is familiar with your culture (but perhaps not from your culture--that way, you can have both cultural understanding AND a fresh perspective), but I just wanted to point out this disconnect that seems to be happening--it's like you hired a math tutor and are upset she's not teaching you about literature. People who marry in a very distinct culturally traditional context are likely to have very distinct cultural expectations of marriage (even you seem to retain a certain traditional perspective on marriage). You should stop expecting your wife to change and start acting and thinking like a British woman just because you've moved her to the UK.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

From your description you have all the power and control in your relationship but you blame her for what has gone wrong (she got pregnant, she has not changed much, I lose my time coz im not in mood of studying because of her).

Marriage is a practical economic arrangement. She has made major decisions (getting married, having children, moving internationally, supporting you in your education) because you promised her you would keep up your end of the bargain.

If you divorce what happens to her? Should she stay in a foreign country with no support network or does she go home to a culture that will probably blame her alone for the divorce and limit her choices in future? What about the children do they stay with you or her, and who will make that choice? If she leaves the country will you follow your children and remain in their lives or will you be too busy with your new wife and children? Are you prepared to support her and your children financially or are you expecting them to make do with less?

Instead of expecting her to change I think you need to work on changing yourself into an adult that accepts responsibilities for your actions rather than blame others.
posted by saucysault at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2009 [12 favorites]

You didn't buy a car, you married a person. You're treating her like an object. Why can't you be nice to her and take care of her instead? She's your family now and she seems depressed from what I can tell about your description of her "social phobia." Why can't you be more understanding and give her more time or, at least, the benefit of the doubt. She's not beating you or spending all your money or hurting you mentally or physically. You're hurting yourself by being childish and having childish expectations.

For the record, you got her pregnant, btw. That's your fault. Say it to yourself, because I think it's worth remembering.
posted by anniecat at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You're in grad school. You're educated. Let's look at this like a math equation.

   I decided to give her some time in hope she will change.
+ I would do what ever I could to make her change.
+ I was very busy with my Master degree.
+ Now, she is with me abroad with my [two] kids.
+ I’m studying a PhD.

= She lacks of self confidence and got a social phobia and has no plan for future.

You're blaming her for a very wide range of things that you yourself could be causing. Of course she's not immediately comfortable in her new surroundings. She married someone she didn't know, moved away from her home culture and family, and suddenly ended up with two kids. And while you're busy pursuing your own dreams, she's stuck at home, in a strange place, taking care of two kids for a husband who, above all else, thinks that she's fundamentally broken and should change.

I know there are cultural things at work here that I probably don't understand. But take that out, and how this comes across is that you are a very, very selfish man. Stop spending your energy on trying to change her. Unless YOU can change, yes, you should divorce her. And that's for HER own good, because it doesn't sound like there's anything about this situation that benefits her.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

I agree with mudpuppie. Why don't you ask her what she wants out of life and try to support her interests. Show her that you accept her for who she is. That might make her more comfortable in the long run.
posted by starpoint at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2009

How can a person be expected to make plans for the future when her husband may or may not be divorcing her and she's (thousands?) of miles away from her home?

You don't speak English all that well, so I can't imagine she speaks it any better, and you moved her to an English speaking country. No wonder she's not very confident and is afraid of social situations. Plus she has a husband who resents her for his choices. You chose to get married; you chose to have children; you chose to move. These are the consequences of your choices. Seek counseling to understand this from her perspective.
posted by desjardins at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You must be missing something out here... your question doesn't add up. She lacks of self confidence and got a social phobia and has no plan for future does not equal divorce. I really don't see how any of these things has a negative impact on you, particularly not to the point where you can't study because you're in such a bad mood because of her.

What have you done to try and 'make her change'? Anything supportive or just keep telling her she needs to change?

From your post you seem to have done everything you can to exacerbate her problems.

1. lack of self confidence - telling her she needs to change (for 7 years!!) is not going to help her self esteem.
2. social phobia - moving her across the world to a country where she doesn't know anyone, doesn't understand the culture or speak the language, how was that supposed to help?
3. no plan for the future - what plan is she supposed to have? She has a degree, she's married and has 2 kids, (you don't say whether she has a job), as far as major life goals go she's checked most of the boxes, what more are you expecting from her?

Reading between the lines I'm guessing these are not her problems and that she's actually depressed, which can put a strain on a relationship and would explain how her problems could affect your mood. You also said it got worse when she got pregnant which would be another red flag. I would suggest a trip to her GP but getting useful therapy might be difficult if she doesn't speak english well.
posted by missmagenta at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of you. Just to clarify something very important. When i said she is in the UK with me, i mentioned that to give some details of my current situation. I moved to the UK as a student 30 months ago. I’m backing home after 15 months. In the UK, I did not ask her to stay home and look after my kids all time. It is my duty to spend sometime with them as well and I do. My problem with her is before we moved to the UK. i believe that there is nothing to do with the language and culture here. Where i live now - in the UK- there are many people form my country. She dose not want to be with them. "self confidence and social phobia is not a new problem. it is her problem since i know her. Last month i convinced her to go the GP. She did it. i went with her. her doctor gave her a drug. He asked her to take it as he asked her to do. She did not do it. he gave her another appointment. She refused to go. Few days ago i ask her to attend a course in London. The course was about "how to achieve what you want in your life?. It was in my language! I paid for the course and for the trip. She did not go with me. Even when we home she dose not care of such course or any kind of self development courses.

Few points to answer some questions:

Don not expect that I became a British and want to apply the British style of life on my self and my family. Yes I changed my mind towards many issues but not every thing.
I’m not saying I m perfect without any mistake, but ate least I m trying to be better.
I’m not honestly blaming her. I already said I feel guilty of my choice. Honestly I regret that I got married.
It is quite shame to get divorced, but it is acceptable anyway.
If she decided to take care of the kids, I m willing to support her and my kids.
She has not got a job now. She might got a job if she back home.
She came here with me without any pressure. it was her decision .
I m willing to take care of my kids by myself if she wants
She can get married again.
posted by kitkat09 at 5:40 PM on February 20, 2009

Wow, you are a jerk. How about, instead of paying for courses she obviously has no interest in, you ASK her what she wants to do, and respect her choices?
posted by Maisie Jay at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2009

I totally fail to see how her "lack of self-improvement" is grounds for divorce. If I assume that she is depressed and troubled - of which I am not convinced - a spouse, in my opinion, should be supportive and compassionate, not threaten to leave. It would be a different matter if she was an unrepentant heroin junkie who was endangering the life of your children. You have not indicated that she is a bad mother, or even a bad wife, just that she is not living the life that you want her to live. She has the right to make her own decisions regarding what she does or doesn't want to do. Perhaps she is perfectly content to stay home with the children and not pursue a career. We don't know, and it seems neither do you.
posted by desjardins at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2009

I don't think he's a jerk, exactly. It sounds to me like these are just two well-meaning but very incompatible people.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:34 PM on February 20, 2009

I’m not saying I m perfect without any mistake, but ate least I m trying to be better.

That's good. Maybe you can start by being a better husband to your wife. Have you even talked to your mother or father about this? You seem to imply that you're from an extended family culture. I have a feeling they could advise you better than a bunch of strangers like us. They are certainly more affected by it than we are, because the vast majority of us think it's better to save a fairly ok marriage and make it better than trade a spouse in for a new model.
posted by anniecat at 9:15 PM on February 20, 2009

Best answer: Yeah, this is a clear case of two people who were married together who just did not click.

Frankly, I am a bit surprised that people have been coming down so hard on you. I agree that her being in the UK is probably an added stress, but I pretty much read from your initial description that it sounded like social phobia was a preexisting problem before the move to the UK.

Before your followup post I was already wondering if she might actually have genuine social phobia and if she was looking into therapy/meds. Her behavior -- a lack of interest in going out and connecting with other people, if your picture is an accurate one -- suggest depression or some other similar problem. I think it is a problem that she is not willing to go to the GP. It sounds like you have had honest discussions with her about how you are unhappy, and her unwillingness to meet with the doctor a second time shows classic avoidance issues.

I think it is definitely a mistake to pay for a class that someone does not want to take, but I don't necessarily see it as a jerky move. It sounds to me like you have been trying to find out things that she could do. But it is a good point...have you sat down and actually asked her what she loves, what she would enjoy?

Here's the problem: anything you do in your effort to make her have less social phobia or more ambition is going to be viewed through the lens of you wanting her to change into someone you like better.

So, for example if you go to couple's therapy the only way I think you could get her to go is by saying something like, "Look, I feel terrible about this, but right now I can't see how we can be with each other; it's just too difficult for us. I want us to meet with a couples therapist so that to help me and you work through our problems with each other." In the session, listen to her. If she won't open up, tell the therapist that what you're most upset with is that you feel like she isn't happy and you would like to spend more time with her outside of the home.

A fundamental problem is you did not marry each other because you loved each other and were a good match. In a normal marriage you could say something like "I love you and want to spend the rest of my life. Right now I feel like I'm not getting all of the spark or joy we had when we first dated, and I'd love to get some of that back." That pre-marriage reality just did not exist.

If you did not have kids I would say to break up. But I think that in the context of the culture in which you were married I think it would be difficult for them to go through a divorce. I'm not sure what traditions your culture has concerning divorce, but it might lead to problems socially for your kids. For sure it will be a problem with your wife...I imagine it would be difficult for her to get remarried, at least with someone from your culture.

My recommendation? Start loving your wife. You have two kids, which means there must have been some physical affection between you two (I hope it wasn't just mechanical!). If you don't "love" her emotionally, you can start by doing the things that a person does for someone they love: do nice things for her. Give her backrubs, find ways to appreciate the things she does and offer praise. Does she take care of the kids most of the time? Let her know you appreciate this very much. If you don't usually cook, make her a nice meal (or buy one if you're a lousy cook). Find a book in her language that you think she would enjoy and buy it for her...or check it out of the library if money's tight. Gifts aren't necessarily about getting her something tangible that she can permanently own. They are signs that you are thinking about her during the day, and not in negative ways, but positive ones. As you engage in loving behaviors towards your wife, you may find that your feelings change, that you actually start loving her.

On the other hand, re-reading your first post I see you say that she is scared of the idea of divorce. So it sounds like you have brought up the idea of divorce with her. I would strongly suggest you not get divorced for the sake of your kids. Ironically if you had been raised in a culture where divorce was easier you probably wouldn't have gotten married to begin with, but because of your culture I would be concerned for the kids and for your wife. But if you really are at the end of your rope, you could say something like, "You know how I brought up divorce earlier? It is because I am so unhappy. I am worried about the fact that you're not interested in interacting with other people and it upsets me that you seem unwilling to take steps to change that. I am upset that you won't see the doctor again like they asked and that you won't take the medicine that they prescribed. I think we both need to work on this marriage. Please tell me the things I can do that would make you happy and I will make an effort to do them. In return, I would love to see you make an effort to meet some more people and be willing to go out more..."

Right now, the last thing you need are more children. Is there a reason you have not been using birth control? I would recommend starting to use it if you can. Now that you are studying and have two kids, I think it is reasonable that you not have more kids. So, first, only have sex if she is interested and in the mood; don't do it only because you want to. Second, use protection to keep from having another kid.

This is such a difficult situation. I hope that she has the strength to voice what she needs out of you, and that you are able to offer her an environment where she feels loved and supported enough to make positive changes for her life.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is my duty to spend sometime with them as well and I do.
I'm not getting a feeling of love or affection towards your children; you seem to consider spending time with them one of your "duties," just like going to work or attending classes. I don't have children, but it seems to me that any time someone posts with a relationship question and there are kids involved, they always go on about "I love my kids and don't want to lose contact with them if we split up..." You, on the other hand, mention that if you divorce your wife and she "decides" to take care of the kids, you'll suport her and them. That just sounds very cold.

Last month i convinced her to go the GP. She did it. i went with her. her doctor gave her a drug. He asked her to take it as he asked her to do. She did not do it. he gave her another appointment. She refused to go.
Does she know why you took her to the doctor and why he gave her pills? Perhaps she confused/frightened/distrustful. I recall when Princess Diana was very depressed and weepy just months after her honeymoon, Prince Charles "sent" her to a GP in London who gave her anti-depressants. She refused to take them because she feared she was being coerced into remaining in a "drugged" state so that she would be more "manageable." Perhaps your wife has similar fears.

It sounds as if you've already made the decision in your own mind to divorce her and that you're just looking for some validation. If you're not willing to go to joint counseling and to meet your wife half-way (spending time at home with her instead of forcing her to go out and socialize, etc), then probably both of you would be better off if you ended the marriage.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:00 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Frankly, I am a bit surprised that people have been coming down so hard on you.

Basically, I think this is because an abstract of the question would be: He didn't know his wife before he married her and he doesn't love her, which is her fault because she is doesn't have a different personality.

kitkat09, I think you must give up the idea of changing her into the sort of person you have in mind; she's not that person, and your efforts and expectations are just frustrating and painful for both of you. You can't re-create her and you can't carve away bits here and there, add other bits and magically make her into the wife of your dreams. Even if she went along with all your ideas and tried to transform herself, this wouldn't make you love her.

You're spending so much psychic energy trying to figure out how you can change her so that you can have a happy marriage... maybe you should think about how to change yourself so that you can have a happy marriage. Instead of thinking about how she could become the sort of woman you could love, think about how you could change yourself to become the sort of man who would love her exactly as she is.

If you recoil from that, if you think that it would mean changing some of the most fundamental elements of who and what you are, if you imagine it an impossible idea - well, now. You see how she feels, yes?

Let's say you aren't willing to totally change your personality and become a different man... and that you also now understand that you can't make her a different woman. Why not try to become friends, and work it out together. Concentrate on just getting to the point where you can speak honestly with each other about what you each want and hope for, and put your combined energy into becoming a team working towards the greatest possible happiness for you both, and your children - whether that will be divorce or staying together. Open hearts and minds, kindness, honesty, communication and cooperation - these are your tools.
posted by taz at 12:05 AM on February 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure what your religion or personal beliefs allow, or what kind of support she might be able to find in your community in the UK. But I do know that there are mechanisms within cultures with semi-arranged marriages to help with this kind of incompatibility issue. I'm only familiar with the options within the Pakistani and Indian communities in the US & UK... given I'm not sure what your home culture is, I'm not sure if this advice will help.

How well do you know her family? Any chance you could ask her family for help? Does she have a brother or sister, a cousin, or someone from her village nearby? In the UK at all? If you appealed to her family for help, they might be able to find someone nearby who could help you help her build a network of support. They might also be willing to talk to your family and arrange a kind of settlement whereby she and your children could go back to your home country and be supported.

Would you divorce her under UK law? Or would you be able to cope with letting her live in a separate house? Could you appeal to your own family for financial support to allow this to happen? It's not ideal, yes, but I know people who have done this without having a religious or legal divorce. You'd be on the hook to provide her with full support and a place to live... not sure if this would be possible for you, as a graduate student.

Are you religious at all? Is there any chance you could appeal to someone in your local mosque/temple to offer advice, or to intervene? They might be able to refer you to a sympathetic doctor in your area who might be able to perhaps help her with medication for her condition... if that's possible. My doctor is a very observant Muslim whose staff is multi-lingual (parsi, pashtun, urdu), and is very sensitive to the needs of his observant female patients. Seeing a doctor in this country on the NHS doesn't have to be scary or shameful. I'm white, and non-muslim, and I'm comfortable in his office as well. I appreciate his kindness and clinical acumen. He'd be perfect for someone like your wife.

Are there any womens groups in your community? Aside from any language issues, it would be a safe and relatively familiar sort of place for her to go.

I don't think that having a legal divorce is a good choice right now. She's in the country because of your student visa. You divorce her in court, you're forcing her to fight to stay in the country with your children. Given what you've said about her social anxiety, it would be cruel to force her to take up that kind of fight.

You might want to wait until you're finished with your education before you divorce her, religiously or legally - or even just separate from her. But I'd find a culturally friendly doctor for her as soon as you can, and go from there.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:42 AM on February 21, 2009

Best answer: I'm sorry, I just think so much of this is a language issue. I think that the way he is writing is making a different impression. Between the lines, it sounds like he is trying to do the right thing for his family and is frustrated by what he sees as a partner who is stuck and unwilling to improve themselves. If this was a native speaker, who said something like, "I was in an arranged marriage and didn't get to choose who I marry. I don't get along with my wife. She takes care of the kids, but she also seems depressed and is unwilling to leave the house, make friends, or do anything to change his mood. Her doctor even prescribed medication for her to take and asked her to come back, and she has refused to take the medicine or see the doctor again" I can't help but feel that there would be a different response. Oriole Adams, I agree that his phrasing sounds cold. To me, he sounds like someone who was not taught or allowed to be emotionally expressive. If you read his question it's mostly a description of facts rather than feelings. Notice his main concern about divorce wasn't being alone or finding someone new; it was the potential costs of a new wedding. This person, either by culture or by nature, is a bit emotionally stunted. That appears to be his problem, just like social phobia may or may not be his wife's problem.

I agree with Grrlscout that now is not the time to have a divorce. I would get in touch with your family first rather than hers. If the marriage was arranged, then you and your wife's parents may have a longer connection with each other than you do with each other. Maybe they should discuss the situation together before addressing your wife directly. If a divorce is inevitable, it might be better for it to happen back home, where it will be performed according to your customs and laws. Even if divorce is somewhat shameful in your culture, having it performed that way may be at least somewhat more acceptable. It also sidesteps a whole slew of legal issues as well. I would encourage you to stay together for your children. People can learn to love one another, but it takes a lot of work. You can demonstrate your commitment by taking first steps: showing (non-sexual) affection towards your wife, doing thoughtful and caring things for her, and for now giving her space to do whatever it is she wants to do, even if that is just staying inside and being moody.

If these problems are really affecting your ability to study, a good idea might be to find a therapist for yourself. It may be useful to vent your feelings about the marriage so that when you leave you can focus on being a diligent student, affectionate and responsible father, and a compassionate husband. If you are open and honest with your therapist and describe specific actions (yesterday I asked my wife if she would go to the store and she refused and said she wanted to stay in) instead of generalities (she never wants to leave the house), he or she might be able to offer context and a reality-check on whether her behavior is normal or suggests a real problem.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2009

I'm a very reclusive woman, married to a very gregarious man; we love each other desperately and have made our arrangements to allow each other our own ways of being. If my husband tried to force me to take medication to make me more like him (or vice versa), I don't imagine we would have together happily for nearly 20 years now.

All we know about kitkat09's wife is what he has told us; if he pressured her into seeing a doctor to change her unacceptable personality and she refused to take the pills, well, good for her, really. Not so long ago men could put their wives into asylums/prisons at the drop of a hat. This is a different time. I hope.
posted by taz at 9:39 AM on February 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

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