Help me decide whether to get out of a convoluted relationship.
May 24, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Help me decide whether to get out of a convoluted relationship.

My apologies for the long and meandering narrative that follows.

My husband and I have been married for 10+ years (no kids). While there are many many other issues (financial, health, family) going on, I'm trying to focus on the most worrying one. We never have sex, and this has been the case for most of our married lives (by never, I don't mean infrequently). The one time we went to counseling (quite a while ago), he stated that he was not sexually attracted to me, and we never went back. I find it difficult to talk about myself and didn't want to push, it was also upsetting to hear what he said, and I took the cowardly way out. I did try to implement some of the suggestions such as trying to be more physically intimate (not necessarily sexual, just contact) but he did not reciprocate. Any sexual overtures were ignored, until I stopped trying. Several times I tried telling him how all this was making me feel, but ended up crying in frustration, but his annoyance at my tears made things even worse, so I stopped that too.

I know that couples do have sexless marriages and was more-or-less okay with living in limbo thinking that we were "friends", care about each other, and were otherwise compatible. But lately I've been thinking that even the latter is untrue.

I am geeky, love to read, am always trying to learn new things, and am not very materialistic. He is the opposite of all the things I just mentioned, and we have very few interests in common. However, he does support and does not resent any of my interests. He is a kind person generally (example: gets upset at animals being mistreated) and has shown time and again that he does care about me (examples: doing chores around the house that I dislike, getting excited for me when good things happen, commiserating with me when otherwise, has never forgotten birthdays). On my part, I do care about him too, and make sure I show it in little ways that I know he would appreciate (cooking his favorite dishes, making sure he has nice birthdays, getting him little gifts, and so on). I actually go to extreme "trying to please" kind of behavior that I am actively trying to curb now. On the negative side, examples of things that bother me are: him never taking me to parties (official or social), never having received a compliment from him, his lack of "intellectual" interests and so on.

We are non-traditional grad students, and have been living in different cities for our programs, and meet infrequently. Initially, I thought that the cliched "separation making the heart grow fonder" would work, but it did not. There were no frequent phone calls, no interest in IMing just for the sake of general chatting, and there was no response to my suggestion of using webcams to chat since we couldn't meet very often. I have given up on any form of closeness developing with him, and am no longer physically or intellectually attracted to him. However, quite frankly I crave physical intimacy. I am not the kind to cheat, but have been very tempted, and in very unhealthy ways. For instance, somebody I know is interested in me, but I dislike him as a person. However I can see myself having sex with him just for the sake of having sex. I am an introvert and don't really feel the need for social stimulation, but sometimes I feel so lonely and bitter; and more worryingly, terribly envious of other couples who seem to be so in sync with each other. FWIW, I don't think he is gay (I've noticed him looking at other women, and be sexually excited at het-porn), just that he has a low sex drive compared to mine. I am also quite sure that he is not cheating.

We are still "together" but lately I have been feeling increasingly desperate, hence my questions. Our programs are ending soon -- I now have a job, but he does not, and I do not foresee his getting one any time soon for various reasons. We are moving back in together, but frankly I don't want to do that and feel very panicky and stifled at the thought. However, I would feel very guilty leaving him to fend for himself. What would happen to him without a job? He would probably be able to manage for a year or so, but then what? We have huge loans from (his) family to pay off. I have thought about leaving him, taking on those loans, and sending him money now and then. Would that be a good idea or would it lead to more complications? Is this the right or wrong time to leave? There is also the fear of being alone. I also want to meet other men, but am terrified by the whole dating scene, and don't think I am in good enough shape right now or self-confident enough for all that, not to mention the fear of being in an "unhealthy" relationship.

I am also worried about two different ways in which he may react. I would really hate to see him upset or sad, especially because of something I did (he really is not a bad person). Another way he could react would be with anger or maybe passive-aggressive behavior -- in the past he has been very childish and persistent about even minor things, so I can see him badgering me with emails and phone-calls, or even creating trouble for me at work. What do I do if this happens? I cannot afford that at this point in my career. I have been seeing a therapist, but we have been unable to get to this in detail, and I feel time is running out. I know I am depressed and am on medication for that.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read, and for your comments. I did try to be as concise as possible, but obviously have not been successful! (throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't a marriage. This is barely a partnership. No where in here did you talk of 'love'. You deserve better.
posted by greta simone at 7:39 AM on May 24, 2010 [31 favorites]

God my heart breaks for you reading that description of how you have spent the last ten years of your life. What you have here is not a marriage (at least, not by my definition), and you absolutely deserve more.

I understand your hesitance to deal with the practical issues of separating your lives, but people do it all the time. Divorce is hard, but sometimes it's necessary, and frankly I am in awe that you've managed to stick it out in a loveless, sexless marriage for an entire decade. It is time to move on, and you know this. The details will work themselves out. Find a lawyer and move on with your life.
posted by something something at 7:43 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You've told us all the reasons this isn't working out. What are the reasons to stay? Are there any?

If you're looking for confirmation of your choice to get out of this relationship, I think you're about to get overwhelming support.

Try reading your post and pretend the author is a stranger. What would you think then?
posted by colgate at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know you and I don't know your spouse but what you have written here is cause enough to divorce your husband and move on with your life. Divorce. Get therapy on your own. Live a fulfilling life with a man that will have sex with you. You can care about a person, that doesn't mean you have to live with him and give up basic human needs like sex and affection. You know you do deserve to divorce him, don't you? You deserve sex and intimacy. Please save yourself. Your confidence is so shot that you're making excuses about practical matters. You know you can be practical on your own or with a knew practical partner that will sleep with you.
posted by Fairchild at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leave. Everyone deserves love, intimacy, and connectedness in their lives. He is responsible for his own choices and employment situation and you are responsible for yours. I've changed my life recently and it's made a world of difference. You deserve the same chance.

Please memail at any time or write me at the email address in my profile if you want to talk.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:47 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't think of any reason to stay. You deserve better.
posted by Silvertree at 7:49 AM on May 24, 2010

I would really hate to see him upset or sad, especially because of something I did (he really is not a bad person).

"Upset or sad"?? Uh, yeah, people who get divorced are likely to be upset or sad about it. That's life. That doesn't mean no one should ever get divorced. And you're a case study in someone who should get divorced: a totally unsatisfying marriage with no kids.

You're already upset and sad about the situation. Why should his feelings trump yours?

And surely you don't really think any of us are going to tell you to stay in the marriage because if you divorce him he might send you too many emails!

As for his financial situation, that's his problem. I wouldn't take such a cavalier attitude about this with many marriages, but there has to be some minimum level of being a good spouse before one can expect one's marriage to provide a financial safety net. He hasn't been a minimally good spouse.

I mean, even if you could totally rationalize the lack of sex, still: you say that he has never complimented you, ever. You mention this just once, in a longer list of items, but I'd think it deserves a whole big relationshipfilter question of its own. I don't know how you can tolerate a relationship with someone who never says anything nice about you.

I agree with all the above comments and would be shocked if anyone who comments here disagrees. In fact, it's interesting that you even felt the need to post this question. Either you couldn't predict how simple and unanimous the response would be (which suggests you're in denial about how bad the situation is), or you knew what the response would be -- which suggests you've already made up your mind and are looking for confirmation.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:00 AM on May 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

Sounds like he's a pleasant roommate. That's about it.

You'll feel better if you get the divorce on paper before trying to find an actual husband.
posted by Citrus at 8:01 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

For the record, I have a very wide and tolerant definition of what makes a working relationship, and I often go against the "DTMF!" tide, but in this case, I do not think what you have is a working relationship.

You seem to be no kind of functioning unit beyond friends, except for financial entanglement. And I mean that in a much broader picture than you two not having sex; by your own admission, you are not close to your spouse, and he has zero interest in building intimacy.

The fact that you seem to like him as a person isn't enough of a reason to stay married to him. The fact that you're afraid you won't like him any more because his behaviour may change when you initiate divorce proceedings is also not a reason to stay married.

As to your fears, I can understand what you're saying. There is something nice about simply being part of a couple - it can feel like a social acceptability seal of approval if you have low self-esteem, which I think you do. But for the love of God, please realise:

You are already alone. You are already in an unhealthy relationship.

Consult a local attorney and talk to her about your marital loans and options for dividing your finances and obligations so you have a reality-bound understanding of what divorce might look like for you. Then tell your spouse NOT TO MOVE BACK as unfortunately, you simply cannot stay in a marriage as broken as this one.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:02 AM on May 24, 2010 [11 favorites]

You deserve better. I would suggest consulting a divorce lawyer to understand what your options are before he moves back in and you start your new job. Even if you had to pay alimony and make debt payments, you would be coming out ahead because you would then have a chance at the happiness you deserve.
posted by Forktine at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2010

I personally think that relationships can thrive if something (like sex) is left out of the equation. But for that to happen you need intimacy, friendship, shared goals, hell, SOMETHING. It doesn't read like your marriage has any of that. Sure, he's a nice person. That in and of itself isn't a compelling enough reason to stay with someone.

I get that ten years is a long time, and it may feel like you are throwing something away. But eleven, twelve, twenty and thirty years are even longer than that.
posted by gaspode at 8:13 AM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

You sound like a people pleaser (I feel like that too often). Unfortunately, there is no way to end this relationship without rocking the boat and being, to some extent, the "bad" person who takes something away from him. You will be alone, adrift. Afraid. It will be horrible.
It will also be exhilerating. You will see sides of yourself you never knew existed. You will be strong. You will recognise how much happiness is still out there to be discovered by the new you, a person you have barely gotten a glimpse of.

You sound like you are letting something slowly die inside you. End this.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:14 AM on May 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

You can also ask for a break. 30 days no contact. There's a lot of stuff on your side of the street to deal with, and frankly that's the more important stuff. His joblessness, his behavior and his financial obligations are your distractions.
posted by phaedon at 8:21 AM on May 24, 2010

1. Unless he's completely clueless, this won't be a surprise to him. I'd guess that he would react the same way that one would upon hearing that a 110-year-old relative died.

2. You're already separated. Like "engaged," the word has little legal significance and reflects reality rather than formalism.

3. Anything you (or he) does sexually with anyone else is not cheating. This would be the adultery equivalent of going 66 miles per hour in a 65 zone.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think in complicated situations like this need clarity about 'where you're at'. lIt almost seems like what your question isn't:

"Help me decide to get out of a convoluted relationship"


"I know what I want to do, but help me figure out how to extract myself from my convoluted relationship"

...because all you've talked about are your fears about what might happen, both if you stay or go. (He might not make it, what about the finances, he might negatively affect my career, I'm not sure how I can make it on my own on the dating scene, etc.) I often think what when people have those concerns, they don't have a decision question, they have an implementation question. And I think that's important because while I think some people can just say "F*ck it. It's tuesday, and that's as good a day as any. I'm out the door. I'll figure out all of this from a friend's house, which is where I'm going *right* now", I think other people don't take steps until they see how they can do this, and have a plan. But really, in the end they are no less committed to protecting themselves and moving on with their like. In their own way, deep down, they have decided, though perhaps they wish they could just be more like the "F*ck it, it's Tuesday" crowd.

And so much of what you've written makes it sounds like if you could get satisfactory answers to these questions - perhaps how other people have separated the money, gone back on the dating scene, navigated the partner might behave childishly and I can't have this affecting my work, etc. situations - you could leave, with a heavy heart perhaps, but leave.

So why not give yourself a little time to identify each of your concerns and tackle how you might resolve each of them? Perhaps your therapist could help you lay it all out and see what you're working with? While I think you should listen to your fears, I think it might help to explore them and address them. Don't let fear of the unknown shut you off from living your life. It's your life. The only one you've got. You've tried something for 10 years, and find it doesn't suit you. Why not try something new?
posted by anitanita at 8:48 AM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would feel very guilty leaving him to fend for himself. What would happen to him without a job?

That's his problem, not yours.

Leave. Don't waste another minute of your life in this awful relationship. Do it before he moves back in, especially if one or both of you would be moving to another city.

Absolutely do not continue to support him or send him money or respond to his anger or passive-aggressive behavior; you can autodelete his email and screen his calls. Do not take on the entirety of the responsibility for the loans -- why on earth should you pay for his grad school? Why not the other way around? You do not have any reason to bend over backwards and make things as easy as possible for him. You two will have to work something out there, lawyers will need to be involved, and it will be No Fun At All for a while. And once it's over you'll have your life again.

not to mention the fear of being in an "unhealthy" relationship.

What the heck do you think you're in right now?

Don't fear being single. It will be a vast improvement over this sexless, loveless pretense at a marriage. I have a feeling that once you're freed of this dead weight your self-confidence and happiness will return, and the "dating scene" won't look nearly so scary (nor as necessary).
posted by ook at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

This relationship doesn't seem convoluted to me at all. I think everyone here is right, it's not at all the kind of relationship married folks have. So, in this case, I think you should stop being married to this guy. It also sounds like you have some tough self-esteem issues. I'm not sure why it is so hard for you to turn your back on this guy but I think you really should. Now is the perfect time to do it. You've had some time apart. You know what your feelings are. Don't move back in together. Clean break. I think you might need a therapist to see you through this transition. I just feel like you sound so weak and I don't know why. A therapist can help you through this, give you strength and an ongoing sounding board for when things get tough.

Imagine your life a year from now! You'll be free to do whatever you want. Have a fling! Date! Work on your headspace so that your next big relationship starts out with you clearly knowing your needs and asking for them.

You can do it. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 9:10 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It almost seems like what your question isn't:

"Help me decide to get out of a convoluted relationship"

Well, the OP didn't say that (though it would have been appropriate). She said, "Help me decide whether to get out of a convoluted relationship." Big difference.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:47 AM on May 24, 2010

To say "you sound like a people-pleaser" is blaming the victim here. You don't need any more reason to feel bad about yourself.

I think it's great that you are considering leaving this man who is only your husband on paper. I agree with everyone who supports that decision. You will have a chance to find someone you can be happy with.

And don't take on his loans. They're his responsibility.
posted by xenophile at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2010

I am astonished at your forebearance. This has been said by multiple posters, but it bears reiteration. This man may not be a nasty, vindictive person. He may be kind, generous, amusing... but these things do not amount to a worthwhile marriage, especially if you want to be fulfilled in a way that he is unwilling to achieve, or one might even say incapable of achieving.

Love is a gift, not a responsibility. Give it to someone who will return it in kind.
posted by fearnothing at 10:06 AM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

If I were your sister, your cousin, your oldest and dearest friend, someone who loves you and had witnessed the suffering you describe above, I would be so indescribably elated to learn that you are on the verge of breaking free of this nightmare. And when you raised all your concerns, I would tell you, "Don't worry about the loans from his parents. Don't worry about his job prospects. Don't give a thought to how he will respond, other than to make sure you will be safe when you tell him. See, by worrying about him, you're making the same old mistake of acting as a partner to someone who isn't acting as a partner back to you. But you've tried that role for ten years, now. It's never going to work. You see that now. He has refused to be a partner. So, it's time to start thinking about yourself -- only yourself. And God, it's high PAST time you started doing so. Let's go get you a divorce lawyer and some champagne so we can welcome you back to life as it was meant to be lived!"

Seriously... the details of leaving him seem huge and exhausting right now because this relationship has been a boulder on your chest crushing the life out of you for a while. Awful relationships crush you, bit by bit. You're not thinking clearly and you don't have the mental resources to see the many solutions to the worries you raise. But once you get out from beneath that boulder that's crushing you, you will be surprised to learn how much clearer everything looks, and how much more energy you have when you're not being crushed anymore. With all that new and ever-building energy, you can work out the annoying little details contingent on walking away from him for good, and walking into a future where somebody WILL love you as you deserve.
posted by artemisia at 10:36 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

To say "you sound like a people-pleaser" is blaming the victim here. You don't need any more reason to feel bad about yourself.

I'm sorry, that was obviously tone deaf of me, I didn't mean to insult or blame. What I meant was that I got the impression the OP is the kind of person to give everyone's needs consideration above her own and finds it very difficult to have anyone angry at her choices. I was trying to prepare her for the fact that sometimes this can't be avoided and is ok. I was projecting, as a similar realisation once helped me.

OP, you are not to blame! Be brave because your needs count!
posted by Omnomnom at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

To say "you sound like a people-pleaser" is blaming the victim here.

Eh ... the marriage is moribund, not abusive. There's no way for us to know, based solely only on the OP's own description, if her husband has 100% of the responsibility for the problems with the marriage. But that doesn't matter in the context of this question. What matters is the spark has completely gone out of the marriage (in fact, it doesn't sound like there was any spark to begin with -- I don't see why either of them decided to get married in the first place).
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:00 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This doesn't sound like a healthy marriage to me. This sounds like acquaintances or roommates at best. I think you know what you need to do...and it's OK.

posted by SisterHavana at 11:03 AM on May 24, 2010

Here's some personal perspective from someone picking up the piece

My marriage fell apart for reasons too complicated to go into here. It didn't start out sexless and affectionless, but ended up that way. And looking back now, I realize I was pretty miserable, but still held on. I don't know if I was scared, stubborn, codependent or all those things. And I'm still in a lot of pain and confused emotions (I signed divorce papers about a month ago). But it was absolutely the right thing to do.

You need to have the courage to end it.
posted by O9scar at 11:30 AM on May 24, 2010

Divorcing your husband doesn't mean you are casting him as a bad person. He can still be a perfectly nice person, who has done nothing morally wrong, but you two are not a good match. It sounds like you have tried very hard to work at the marriage, and pleasing him, but it is not working out. He does not return your love or affection, so it is time to call it quits and think about YOU for a change.

Think of it this way: if he has been living happily separated from you all this time, then maybe he will be OK if you get divorced. You two have had a trial separation, and you say you don't want to move back in together. Well, it doesn't sound like he has been calling you all desperate to move back in and have your company, so he can probably function just fine as a divorced man.

Do you have a close friend or relative you can confide in? Someone to help you find a lawyer and start the process? I think you are ready, just scared of the big change. It won't be such a big change, you are already half-way there by the sounds of it, you already live separate lives.

Good luck, and remember to take care of yourself first. You deserve it. Really.
posted by Joh at 11:41 AM on May 24, 2010

This doesn't sound like anything but a paper partnership to me. Are you getting anything out of this? Is this what you want for the rest of your life? Do you ever want to have children, and if so, do you want to bring a child into this?

Divorce happens. It's not the end of the world; in fact, it's boringly normal. You don't have children, so the complication/anguish factor is a lot less than if you had to deal with a child in the mix.

Oh, and: I would feel very guilty leaving him to fend for himself. What would happen to him without a job? If he's a functioning adult, he'd cowboy up and deal. There's a lot of things he could do, but you are NOT his mommy. He is NOT a dependent child. It's not YOUR job to be his safety net. Even in this economy, most people manage somehow.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:43 AM on May 24, 2010

Argh. Picking up the pieces.
posted by O9scar at 11:58 AM on May 24, 2010

Oh honey. I could have wrote this exact question (minus the grad school/living apart thing) about 4 years ago.

I was married for 7 years. The sex became infrequent by year 2, and nonexistant by year 3. And yet I hung on because I thought "He's just depressed/having problems. It will get better. We can work on it. We can do counseling." He gave up trying by year 4...and yes, he did chores around the house and was nice to me and we would watch TV together and be friendly, but it was a roommate situation to him. He told me that he didn't miss me when I traveled, that "sometimes he loved me, sometimes he didn't", and that maybe he wasn't cut out for marriage. And yet, I stayed for 3 more years.

I'm stubborn and I don't give up easily at all. That was a huge reason why I stuck around...I didn't want to admit "defeat" and I didn't want to admit that I failed at marriage. But I started having conversations with some of my best friends that sounds exactly like what you typed above. The same questions. I knew deep down in my heart that we wouldn't stay married. When I thought about my future (I too want to go back to school) and where I wanted to work next for my career...he wasn't in those thoughts. I literally could not picture him there. He didn't exist in those daydreams. That's when I knew.

It took me about a year from that realization to the time I pulled the trigger. We made the mutual decision to end it when I accepted a job in another state (which was planned by both of us) and he said he didn't want to move there. We were actually in a counseling session (I was seeing someone individually and she saw both of us for a few sessions knowing what was coming) and we literally blurted it out almost at the same time. That was a devastating couple of minutes. We made a few apologies to each other, and then we started talking about the logistics of everything...packing, moving, etc. I cannot even begin to describe to you the HUGE weight that was lifted off my chest. I felt like I finally had my life back. I felt free.

I was so scared to tell scared to tell them that my marriage had scared to admit to people that I had followed in the footsteps of my parents and my sister because I sooooo wanted to be different from them. The amazing thing is that when I told my friends (especially the ones that I didn't confide in about the problems) they all said something like "I wondered when that would happen." Sounds cruel, yes...but EVERYONE had seen it. I thought that I was being an Oscar winning actress trying to hide everything, but it was obvious. And those friends were relieved and happy for me because they knew I was about to move on and blossom into the fantastic woman that they knew I had inside me.

That was 2 years ago this month. I'm not gonna lie...the first year was HELL. I bounced around between relishing my new freedom and crying myself to sleep at night because of loneliness. It is part of the process, and I always advise people to "trust the process". You have to go through it to get to the other side. Nowadays I'm feeling more confident and more like the person I was before I got married. I haven't really dated (kinda had a little fling with an ex, but if anything that reminded me that I was still a desirable woman, especially after about 6 years of no intimacy from a man who promised to love me forever and ever), and that's OK. The loneliness is still there sometimes, but I can also honestly say that I'm still not quite ready for a serious relationship just yet. I'm almost there, but not quite. The great thing is that I'm acknowledging that FOR myself, and not for anyone else.

I try not to tell people what to do, especially if I don't know them, but I know your situation. Don't move back in with him. Just don't. If you aren't ready to file divorce papers yet (I didn't until about 5 months after we split, but we had already divided everything so it was uncontested and not complicated) you don't have to. Take the space. I'd also flat out ask him if he even wants to move back in with you and continue things. He just might say no...he may be feeling the same things you are.

I'm also going to tell you to set some boundaries. Define some clear behaviors that must occur before/in order to continue as a married couple. Sex at this point isn't on the table. Conversation and participation in therapy should be. I knew what was coming for me when I talked to my (then husband) about the things that was hurting me in our marriage, and he said "I don't see a problem. I'm OK with how things are going and I don't think we need to change anything." That right there told me he was no longer willing to put forth the effort to consider my needs and meet me halfway.

Bottom's OK to walk away from something that is killing the person that you really are inside. It's gonna hurt, but think of how awesome life will be like on the other side of it. You gotta go through. Trust the process.

(if you've got a Metafilter account, feel free to MeMail me)
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:03 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh please forgive me for the novel I just wrote above!! (And for the double post I'm doing now).

Oh, and: I would feel very guilty leaving him to fend for himself. What would happen to him without a job? If he's a functioning adult, he'd cowboy up and deal. There's a lot of things he could do, but you are NOT his mommy. He is NOT a dependent child. It's not YOUR job to be his safety net. Even in this economy, most people manage somehow.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:43 PM on May 24 [+] [!]

This right here is the truth. My ex did not have a job to go to when we split...he moved back home to family and friends...they took care of him (and bought him a new car, but whatever...). Don't let your decision be held up by money (but definitely find out what your options are and be ready to have your own bank account pronto as soon as the decision is made). I sometimes think that my ex stuck around with me longer than he should have because I was making more money than he was (and he had more debt) and he wasn't sure what he would do. I'm still a little resentful of that...I think he used me a little bit. And besides...shit happens. I was the one who worked my ass off, went on interviews and got a job that netted me a $7000.00 pay raise while he sat on his ass and did everything BUT apply for jobs.

So yeah...he's an adult with a Master's degree. He'll figure it out, just like you will too.
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:08 PM on May 24, 2010

Nothing that you are afraid might happen really matters in the long run. The bottom line is that a relationship should make you feel good about yourself. It should fulfill you. It should encourage you. It should make you happy to be in it. Yes, there are compromises to make in every relationship, but when being in the relationship itself becomes a compromise with your happiness, it's time to leave.

Listen, I really wish you luck with this. This is a hard thing to get a good perspective on while it's happening to you, I know; but believe me, you'll be happier if you just do what's best for you in this situation. That's not being selfish, it's being rational.

One more thing - don't worry about what he'll do without you. He's a big boy; let him figure it out.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2010

It amazes me that there's even a question in your mind. You have to end this marriage. I'm sorry if that will be painful, I guess, but in ending it you will be gaining so much more.

I've never understood why so many people prefer to be with someone who makes them miserable over being by themselves.

But - seriously: end it! There really is nothing to even debate about your situation. From his behavior, he wants to end it to, but seems too afraid of hurting you to actually do it.
posted by Philemon at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you for all your comments.

@anitanita: You are right, I should have added "when" and "how" to the title. I was also wondering if the situation was even remotely salvageable since the plan is for both of us to move to a new city and begin a somewhat new life.

@jaltcoh: I may have made up my mind, but can't seem to take the first step, so yes, I guess I was looking for confirmation that I'm making the right decision (in addition to the when and how). I am also pretty sure that he is not 100% responsible, he may have his own reasons that I am unaware of.

@colgate: Some of the things holding me back from taking the first step are:
1. My Dad is dying, and he would be heartbroken to hear of this, so I would have to keep it very quiet (The "D" word is unheard of in my family)
2. It will be an unpleasant surprise for my husband. I am not sure if he realizes how unusual this situation is (and I have been unable to communicate this to him), or if he does realize but doesn't really care.
3. I know both of us were looking forward to going back to non-student life, and if I do this, he will be left behind.

The first point is also a reason for the "when" question. I also think I would feel better about leaving if my husband had a job, so I was wondering if I should wait until that happened (although I know that several of you mentioned that this should not be my concern). I also have no idea about the legal issues involved (I am not from the US). And I will be forced to change therapists in two months when I move.

@DarlingBri: Thanks for the practical advice, it really helps to have concrete steps to accomplish, when everything else is so vague and seems unsurmountable.

@Omnomnom: You are right about the people-pleasing, maybe it's cultural, or more likely, just me.
@Multifaceted: Thank you for sharing that, your story is indeed food for thought, especially the part about the joblessness...
@artemisia: Nobody has any inkling of what is going on with me, other than my therapist (and if you knew me in person, you would not believe that I posted this, everything looks "normal" from the outside!).
This makes all your comments and suggestions especially helpful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2010

The "D" word is unheard of in my family
It will be an unpleasant surprise for my husband
I also think I would feel better about leaving if my husband had a job

Stop worrying so much about other people. This is your life. It's not theirs.

It's your life.

It's not theirs.
posted by ook at 5:46 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I also think I would feel better about leaving if my husband had a job, so I was wondering if I should wait until that happened

No. Definitely not. Don't wait - there is never going to be an ideal time to leave him.

If you wait until he gets a job, then you'll start worrying about whether he can handle the stress of a new job and a divorce. If you posted this question a couple years ago, you probably would have worried about the impact on his studies. There's always something.
posted by ripley_ at 7:42 PM on May 24, 2010

A year able to support himself is very good, actually, and not leaving him behind in a financial sense. I know it must feel like you are abandoning your shared plans together--one of the most painful parts of the breakup of a long-term relationship, I think, to realize that those things you worked towards and strove for will never happen with each other.

If you're wondering about financial entanglements, loans, possibly supporting him after a breakup, any negative behavior towards you, you might consider speaking to a lawyer. Not to get a divorce, but just to talk to someone who has experience with the practical and legal complications.

It's perfectly valid to hold on to your marriage until your father dies. From what you have described, your main pressure is a sense of a lack of romantic fulfillment (including sex). This is, indeed, a Big Deal and definitely important. At the same time, as your relationship is mostly cordial I think it would be okay for you to hold out for a while longer. It's up to you, of course, and I trust that you will make a good decision.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2010

@artemisia: Nobody has any inkling of what is going on with me, other than my therapist (and if you knew me in person, you would not believe that I posted this, everything looks "normal" from the outside!).

. My Dad is dying, and he would be heartbroken to hear of this, so I would have to keep it very quiet (The "D" word is unheard of in my family)

I'm so sorry to hear about your dad, and also about how alone you must feel, with this unhappiness a secret from everyone.

I don't know what culture you're from. I'll say, though, that your parents' understanding might surprise you. Anecdotally speaking -- I have a friend who entered into an arranged marriage of her parents' choosing. When the marriage quickly turned awful, she feared that her parents would disown her if she decided to leave. Or -- they would be deeply wounded. These fears kept her in that marriage much longer than she should have stayed. But when she finally disclosed to them the extent of what was happening to her, they were shocked and horrified. Ultimately they set aside their own long-held beliefs about divorce and welcomed her back with open arms, because their love for her ultimately outweighed their concern about morality and the neighbors.

There are possible happy endings here. You've got to believe in that! Keeping this a secret must be making the weight so much heavier to bear. If it feels too risky to open up to someone, I understand. But do consider that among the people who love you, there may be a person who would receive this news with shock and concern, and offer you unconditional support in whatever you decide. If you can figure out who that person is, telling him or her might be a good first step in breaking out of this emotional black hole that you've sunk into. At the least, it's an idea to run by your therapist.

Sending you a big warm hug!
posted by artemisia at 8:41 PM on May 24, 2010

Is there any way for you to get divorced without your dad knowing? Alternatively, can you stay separated for now?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:16 AM on May 25, 2010

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