Need to decide whether to get separated from my wife
December 1, 2015 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Will it be best for my kids in the long run? Will the inevitable guilt and loneliness be better than staying with a seemingly unchangeable loveless unhappy marriage? 

I'm In my mid forties, have been married for 12 years and we have three wonderful kids ages 5, 8, and 9. My wife is younger than me and physically very attractive. 

By all outward appearances my wife is a "super mom". I have a decent middle management job which has allowed her to be a stay at home mom since the birth of our first kid. She is extremely involved in the kids lives and the Mom role has become the essence of her being. 

We've been in couples therapy for close to two years and it hasn't seemed to help at all. 

Our main problems:
- No intellectual connection. This has never been there as she is a very simple-minded person. Doesn't read the newspaper or have interest in current events. Her mind is focused on organizing/making plans, our kids, and other people's families. When we have time together, this is all she ever has to talk about. I am someone who is a news junkie, has many passions and interests and am always trying to engage her in conversation on interesting topics to no avail. She just doesn't seem to have the capacity to relate to me on any significant intellectual level and it's frustrating. 

- No physical connection / passion. Again this is something that has never existed in our relationship in a way that's been fulfilling to me. I'm a very passionate guy who had some intense loving relationships before meeting her. I know what a loving touch and passionate physical contact feels like For some reason, despite her being beautiful and having a good body, sex with us has always been missing the feeling of a deeper connection. Even kissing deeply was always awkward as it felt hollow to me, and after a few years we just stopped kissing in that way. Sex became something we'd have on special occasions if we had a rare couples weekend. But it's never been truly enjoyable. She's had no complaints but never has had an orgasm and just kind of "does it". 

- She has many traits associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- Authoritarian and controlling. A huge source of conflict in our household as she is very rule focused and directive and is constantly ordering the kids around and preventing them from relaxing. She has a need to control the kids activity and direct who is doing what, when, and this makes me feel generally on edge and uncomfortable in my own home, and prevents me from being the kind of Dad to my kids that I want to be. 
- Overly critical to the kids. Uses shaming rather than loving-kindness when correcting them (I realize that sounds very new-agey, but I feel she is just too harsh and doesn't have empathy for the way small kids think) 
-Hyper-sensitive to criticism or different points of view. Conversation turns into argument if I dare to have a different opinion or point something uncomfortable out to her. I walk on eggshells. 
-No sense of humor or ability to be self-deprecative. 
- Can be verbally abusive with a nasty tone of voice. 

Because of our differences and lack of connection, there is an overall coldness to each other pervasive in our household. We both love being with the kids, but since we tend to argue so much about little things, we often engage with them independently. I think the kids sense this and I worry about what this is teaching them about how a husband and wife should relate to each other.  They just don't experience a happy couple that communicates effectively.

I have been struggling with what to do for many many months. I think about it every day and pray every night on whether to move towards a divorce. I recently read the book "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay" and the result of the book's diagnostic indicators was pretty clear that I should leave the relationship. Last month in therapy, I revealed that I was feeling completely "out of gas" and that she needed to make some changes to her behavior in the next month as I was truly considering a separation. For the past few weeks she did make an effort on some small changes that I'd requested such as being more flexible to not freak out on the kids or me if circumstances dictate that the kids get to bed 10 minutes after their prescribed bedtime. But, I haven't seen improvement on other things I've said were critically important for her to work on such as expanding herself to be able to have meaningful conversations with me about things other than the kids, plans, and out friends, and to work on not taking such a hostile tone of voice with me and the kids. 

In our weekly therapy session yesterday I made a clear statement that after a lot of thought and prayer, I think that a trial separation is what is needed at this time and want to start that process. She reacted by calling me a quitter and saying that she isn't giving up on this and that we should continue to work on US as she doesn't want the family to be broken up. 

So I need to decide quickly whether to follow through to get the wheels in motion for a separation. My biggest questions/concerns:

- Do I acknowledge my gut belief that this will never be a fulfilling relationship and that it might ultimately be more harmful to the kids psyches if we stay together? OR do I fight that feeling and stay with her out of responsibility to my vows and the value in  keeping a family intact? 

- I'm not sure that initiating this major move to separate won't turn out to be my greatest mistake. While I feel very unfulfilled, lonely, trapped, and unhappy, she does represent stability for me and my kids, and there is value in her loyalty to me and unwavering commitment to staying together. I've regretted ending relationships with a couple of girlfriends back in the day, and maybe don't trust myself to make the right choice when it comes to breakups. 

- We live in a smallish size major city and I worry about being alone and lonely for a long time. I'll be just an ok-looking 47 year old guy with a decent job paying child support for three kids. I'm pretty introverted as well and not the kind of person who can approach a woman to strike up a conversation. When I look around my town, there seems to be no attractive unmarried women my age. Plus, I don't really have close guy friends anymore, and the guys I am friends with are all husband's of my wives friends - so I don't really have a "support network". I expect many nights and weekends of loneliness. 

As the Clash once asked... Should I stay or should I go now???
posted by thrasher2399 to Human Relations (79 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Boy, from this, you don't seem to like her very much. So you want to divorce her, but you think she's swell for wanting to stay with you, and you're worried about being lonely? For her sake, just go.
posted by xingcat at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2015 [55 favorites]


Can you see yourself being married to her for another 13 years? (When the 5 year old graduates high school)
Look yourself straight in the eye, speak the question out loud and answer honestly, and without any caveats or hypotheticals.
If the answer is "No", then you have your answer.
If the answer is "Yes", then you have a metric shit ton of work ahead of you, along with 13 years of misery.

The environment sounds awful, and it can't be doing the kids any favors. Kids are more resilient than you believe. They will adapt. Some therapy would be good for them as well, if they aren't in it already.

You deserve happiness.
The kids deserve happiness.
Hell, SHE deserves happiness.

And it doesn't sound like anyone is happy in this house.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:06 PM on December 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


I am sorry you are going through this. I am wondering what supports are in place for your wife, who sounds like she has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. Some points to consider:
- the division of labour in your home, including emotional labour
- how much time your wife has free from child and household duties
-whether you have supports such as childcare, housekeeping, food preparation, etc - even if you were childfree and working, you would have these responsibilities - are you stepping up now?
- what time you have as a couple
- whether you see her role in the home as valuable and a choice you made together. You say your job has allowed her to be at home. This phrasing stood out to me.
- whether you feel too much pressure from being the sole income earner
- whether you could take more of a role with the children so that your wife could pursue schooling, work or even a break
-whether you attempt to engage with her on topics of her interest
-whether you care for her or if you are simply staying because you worry you will be lonely
-whether you have any spark or interest in her - the way you describe her sounds more like a trophy and some of the phrasing you used sounds dismissive of your wife
- what does each member of your family need to be happy?
- where there are any health care issues that need to be addressed

I don't mean to suggest your wife is without faults. But the above are all points that will need to be addressed, even if you separate/divorce.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2015 [108 favorites]


You don't respect her, you don't enjoy her company. Your interactions are guarded and toxic.

I think the kids sense this and I worry about what this is teaching them about how a husband and wife should relate to each other.

I am very conservative when it comes to marriage, and I take the sacredness of those vows very seriously, but this is a big concern. One person can end a marriage, but it takes two to mend it, and it doesn't sound to me like she's doing what it would take to mend it with you. I would definitely move to at least a trial separation, but probably the best outcome here is to divorce.
posted by KathrynT at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't know what you should do, but I would like to point out that the issues you have with her parenting aren't going to improve just because you two separate. If anything, you'll have less input into how she handles the kids. I don't know that that's a reason to stay together, but you should know that one of your big issues with her and the marriage isn't going to get any better just because you aren't living with her. Be honest with yourself about that.
posted by Area Man at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


You should talk with a lawyer and/or some divorced friends. You should get a sense of what divorce means financially and logistically, especially becuase your wife doesn't work. For example, you said you'll be paying child support. In my state it is assumed parents will have 50/50 custody and child support is only to even out cost of the child.
posted by k8t at 1:13 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless the question contains elements of domestic violence or otherwise any obvious abuse, I find these kinds of questions impossible to answer. Based on what little information we have here, it feels crazy to expect internet strangers with zero invested in your life to be able to counsel you on whether or not to leave your marriage.

Why did you want to marry your wife in the first place? Is the unspoken thing here that you married and had three kids with someone because you thought they had a really awesome body? Is she hyper focused on family and kids and planning because...she's a stay at home mom of three kids so that's literally her primary, extremely time-consuming, neverending job?
posted by cakelite at 1:13 PM on December 1, 2015 [114 favorites]


If you don't like how she parents it is only going to be worse when you aren't in the same house. I'm not saying you shouldn't divorce but that divorce isn't the solution to that problem.
posted by k8t at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would also recommend taking parenting courses together. It's possible that your wife is overwhelmed and shifting to an authoritarian position because of that overwhelm. If she carries more of the burden of childcare, it may take more for her to fill her bucket, whereas perhaps you're on for a few hours at a time or not having to do all the background work at the same time. I would also consider screening your kids for any special needs, as this could be affecting her overwhelm too. Again, all things that would help if you separate/divorce.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


This does not sound like a good marriage. The internet can't tell you whether you're evaluating all of this correctly in terms of how you view your wife, since we're not there. But I think you're right to worry about how seeing this relationship is going to affect your kids.

Assuming that you're describing your household dynamic accurately, I definitely agree that being quickly hyper-corrected with a lot of shaming is harming your kids, as is the repeated use of any tone of voice that can fairly be described as "horrible".

A thought: what is your wife going to do, employment-wise, when you split? Does she have a work history to speak of? While it sounds like she gets a lot of satisfaction from staying home with the kids, she's also put her financial future at considerable risk by staying out of the workforce. Staying out of the workforce has, in fact, saved you a lot of money on daycare and has had considerable material benefit in terms of having much of the daily work of the house done readily and routinely at no financial cost. How are you going to make her whole there?

Honestly, whatever the root causes, you and she seem really poorly matched, and it sounds painful.
posted by Frowner at 1:15 PM on December 1, 2015 [19 favorites]


I agree with Area Man's point about your wife's parenting. If the situation is as you described, your children are also walking on egg shells and probably suffering a lot of anxiety and other detrimental effects. Your focus should be on making things better for them rather than on whether your wife engages in your choice of conversational topics, in my opinion. Can you discuss this in therapy, or maybe also introduce family counseling, or take parenting classes together? Also, read carefully through Chaussette and the Pussy Cats 's first comment and honestly think about each point. Best of luck to you and your family.
posted by JenMarie at 1:17 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Try to maintain the status quo, during the holidays. If you are going to do it, then find a time between birthdays, not at the winter holidays. Otherwise, your beautiful children will hate this time of year, forever. I would say your wife's authoritarianism is uncalled for, and make it clearer to her this is the case. Maybe she hates everything, maybe she was raised that housekeeping and wifing is her unpleasant lifer job. However please make the effort through the holidays. You will be much poorer having to maintain a second residence. So make a contingency fund, for the expected, unexpected, and the legal fees. You will be shocked at the cost of this. Your older kids will understand some of it. Make sure you have great communication with them starting this instant, and all the way through. Have the relationship you want with your kids. Make it clear to her you will have this and if there are repercussions and you learn of them, you will have discussions around the dining table and set family rules.

Your happiness is important, your children will be happier in moments with you alone, but it will be more difficult to find them. Your wife will not change, her relationship with the kids may worsen, without oversight.
posted by Oyéah at 1:18 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're not doing anyone any favors by staying if you're tried everything and just don't want to be with her anymore. You're prolonging the inevitable because being in a marriage that isn't meeting your needs isn't sustainable.

I do have a couple of questions for you:

1. Why did you marry your wife, if you had no physical or mental connection? That's baffling to me. I think you really need to understand how and why you got into a marriage with a person who was never going to be able to meet your needs.

2. What is she getting out of this relationship that she wants to hold onto it? Does she love you? Is she afraid to be on her own? Does she just want the family to stay together?

Trust that you will be lonely and alone for awhile. You probably should be. You need to understand how your relationship changed and to understand how to have a better relationship in the future. I'd also recommend counseling for each of you separately, so you can process your feelings as your life changes.

...despite her being beautiful and having a good body... When I look around my town, there seems to be no attractive unmarried women my age.

Wow. Those statements strike me as really shallow. It makes it seem like you got dazzled by your wife's beauty, and didn't like anything else about her, but married her and had a family with her...why?

I really think you need to re-evaluate what it is you're looking for in a partner. Because if you're looking for an attractive, unmarried woman such that there are NO such women currently in your ken, I suspect that you are setting the bar ridiculously high on looks, and stupidly low on other factors. (Hence being in a marriage with a controlling, stupid and sexually repressed woman.)

What makes you think that you'll have no friends if you divorce? That seems unlikely. What's to keep you from making new friends now? Get a hobby, volunteer, join a singles group, take classes, do the things that put you in a social milieu.

You don't seem to get that you have as much hand in how your marriage turned out as your wife has, or maybe you just don't want to get into it here, it is after all your question not hers. I'd just be more comfortable if you didn't dump on her so much without acknowledging the ways in which you fall short as a husband and father.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:18 PM on December 1, 2015 [87 favorites]


I agree with chausette, here. It sounds to me like you expect her to do what you want, I.e., be interested in your topics of interest, but you have no interest in hers. You actually used the words simple minded, which is mind blowingly paternalistic and demeaning.

What options have you provided that allow her time to not be performing emotional labor for you or the kids? How often do you thank her for everything she does without a paycheck? Have you ever counted up what it would cost to replace her labor with a housekeeper, a chef, a nutritionist, a driver and a personal assistant?

I also note that you automatically assumed child support payments, rather than assuming you might have to take responsibility for the kids, again assuming that she will do the vast majority of the emotional labor of your leaving.

My point is this, if you really want to save this marriage, then I think perhaps self examination is in order, because demeaning and devaluing those around you isn't healthy for anyone.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:20 PM on December 1, 2015 [113 favorites]


I am a divorced dad of 3. I had some of the same issues with my ex regarding child raising. I actually think it got better for the kids when we separated. We had/have 50-50 custody. The weeks the kids spent at my place were far removed from the helicopter weeks at hers. The kids knew there were different rules and practices at each house. They knew that we both loved them very much and that we had different parenting beliefs. Kids are not stupid. They are actually very perceptive. They know what is going on now. There will be some relief from the tension.

Yes, you will be lonely for some period of time. Yes, finding a new partner if that is what you want is a daunting task. But it is not a reason to not leave a shitty marriage.

If it were me, and it was at this very time of the year several years back, I would wait until after the 1st of the year and make your decision then. In the mean time, talk to a few lawyers for advice and feedback.
posted by AugustWest at 1:24 PM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


I worry about the "No intellectual connection" factor. Are you sure there has never been any such connection between the two of you or are you re-writing history to make this decision seem easier? What did the two of you used to talk about before you had kids? Weren't there times when you were dating when you had fun talking to each other? I've sometimes seen this dynamic in which a couple agrees the wife will stay home full-time with the kids, and then later the husband decides she is boring and limited because she is so focused on the mundane concerns of the house and family. There is something so unfair about that.
posted by Area Man at 1:24 PM on December 1, 2015 [72 favorites]


you sound very fed up but also completely unsympathetic towards your wife. i've been through ups + downs in a long relationship (but no kids) and, to be honest, i've been like that too, at times. but it's generally got better when i've realised where i was at fault. i don't have any specific advice, but in general terms i'd really try to question what i (you) could do better, and try to understand more what my partner (your wife) is going through.

(generally i find askme's to be too pro-woman in relationship questions, but you sound so much like me on a bad day that i am kind of rooting for the other side here).
posted by andrewcooke at 1:24 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Let's imagine your wife wrote this question.
I'm a stay-at-home Mom of 3. I work hard to manage our household with 3 busy kids, homework, food, cleaning, activities. I have to run a tight ship just to get things done.
When I have a bit a of a break I just want to relax... Not think about politics or world affairs.
My husband has a decent job but it is really frustrating when he walks into the house and disrupts the order I've created. He gets the kids out of their routine and doesn't do anything to help me manage things.
I never really understood how to enjoy sex and my husband has done nothing to help work with me to enjoy it. Plus with all the kid stuff I'm way too tired anyway.
But we depend on his paycheck and the bit of help he does pitch in is better than nothing.
But now he wants to leave me. I am so scared. Will I have to get a job? Will I have to get an apartment in the bad side of town and Anaya from our friends and the kids' school? How will I manage to run this household? Will the kids be with him part of the time? He doesn't even know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Will anyone want to date a mother of 3?
posted by k8t at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2015 [162 favorites]


IMO if you're asking the internet if you should leave your wife you already know the answer to that and this is part of the building-steam-to-make-and-follow-through-on-that-decision process. Certainly, I don't get the sense from this question that you like her very much. There's no guarantee you won't end up broke and lonely if you leave, but staying in this when you clearly don't want to is just going to end up increasingly dire for everyone involved.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:32 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


you like the stability of the unpaid labor your wife provides and her loyalty? you think she's hot but can't figure out why a woman who isn't haven't orgasms with you isn't terribly interested in feeding your passionate side? you're upset that she doesn't take an interest in things you want to talk about but at every turn trivialize the stuff that she's interested in that actually impacts your life? you should leave her for her sake.
posted by nadawi at 1:36 PM on December 1, 2015 [106 favorites]


I'm a guy a lot like you. I'm 40-ish, married about 15 years, couple of kids. I think part of what you're missing is the perspective of your spouse as an individual with her own hopes, dreams, and desires.

1. Have you asked yourself about your wife's happiness? You know that you're unhappy. But have you considered that part of what's making you unhappy is that she's unhappy? Did you two discuss her being a stay at home mom before it just sort of happened? Because maybe that wasn't her plan, but she didn't want to rock the boat, and now it's 10 years later and she's miserable.

2. Have you read the emotional labor thread? Really read it? Because it opened my eyes to some stuff, and I thought I was a pretty enlightened, new-age dude. Women have a culture of putting up with a lot more crap than guys do before they complain. Being a stay at home parent sucks, even if it is "the most rewarding job in the world". She's so busy chasing kids and appointments and keeping house that it's little wonder she doesn't engage with you intellectually.

3. You've been married for 12 years, your wife has never had an orgasm when you make love, and you think she has "no complaints"? You need to do some serious thinking about that. Then you need to decide how you're going to fix it. Sex is an important part of marriage. Using toys to please her don't make you any less of a man.

In short, I'm sorry you're unhappy, but I suspect a large part of your unhappiness is due to you not considering the feelings and desires of your wife. Figure out one thing a day you can do to improve her mood, and see if it doesn't have a positive effect on the mood of the marriage. Divorcing is not going to make either of you happier in the short term.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2015 [106 favorites]


In a way, I'm on the "don't ask the internet"-team on this. We are only getting your side of the story, and you might as well be going through a depression (not saying you are, just from all I know..)
However, I do want to say that from all my life experience including close family and friends, it is easier on the children to separate/divorce when they are young.
This is both in terms of the here and now, of the healing proces and the problem you are already indicating: their understanding of a healthy relationship. From now on, nothing will be perfect, but it already isn't.

I've written this before somewhere on the blue I think but I don't remember the wording, so can't find it: when I divorced, I went through all sorts of guilt and doubt and fear. And to this day, I probably haven't recovered - I haven't ever regretted either. The first day in my new home, I heard a Christian talk radio thing (I am not Christian, I just couldn't be bothered to find another channel), where they interviewed people coming out of church about Hell. Everyone - literally everyone - told the reporter that we all create our own hell. Not one person believed in a metaphysical dark hole out of our control. This taught me to take responsibility for my life, not blame anyone, and literally saved me, if not in the religious sense.

Good luck with whatever you do
posted by mumimor at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2015


My best friend's parents and my aunt and uncle both stayed together "for the sake of the children" and in both cases, it just made them AND the kids miserable for ten or fifteen years. You're not modeling healthy relationships to the kids, and unless you *both* are seriously on board with fixing things, I don't recommend staying together until the kids are older. In one of the above cases, the kids were seriously traumatized by learning their parents, who had been together for thirty years, loathed one another.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:40 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Being alone is far, far better than wishing you were. My parents divorced when I was about 8 and thank god for that. They both went on to find people who were perfect for them.

I'm not going to lie, divorce sucks, a lot. I got divorced about a year ago (no kids) and it was emotionally very rough for awhile. But it's soooo much better than being married to someone you can't stand. Two years in therapy is enough of an effort, in my opinion.
posted by desjardins at 1:58 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are you sure she's uninterested in news and current events? Or is it possible that she feels that she does not have time to keep up with news and current events because she spends all of her time managing your household and the education, health and social lives of three children? Has it occurred to you that the reason all she has to talk about when you talk to her is everyday needs and social experiences of your family and other families is that dealing with those things is her full-time job?

I mean, if she were the CEO of a software company and she came home and talked about software all the time, would you consider her to be simple-minded?

Also, you say both that she has "never had an orgasm" and has "no complaints" about your sex life in the same sentence. Note: "My wife has never VOICED complaints about our sex life" is not the same thing as "My wife has no complaints about are sex life." Are you sure she is actually incapable of orgasms? Or have you just, in all this time together, not found the right buttons to push? Maybe your sex life is also boring and unfulfilling for her. Maybe that does bother her. Maybe she doesn't feel comfortable telling you what she would like to change about that.

Maybe instead of looking at her lack of pleasure and/or enthusiasm during sex as a problem that needs to be solved for your sake, you could reframe it in your mind as a problem that needs to be solved for her sake, and talk to her about it from that perspective.

I don't mean to cast this situation as all your fault, by the way, and I hope you won't take my advice that way. You have some serious and legitimate complaints. Hypersensitivity to criticism and authoritarian snappishness are not cool and are not easy traits to live with in a spouse, especially when there are children in the mix. But I wonder whether her own unhappiness in this marriage is contributing to this behavior. You say you see NPD-like traits in her, but is that your own armchair diagnosis, or something said to you by the counselor(s) you have seen? Does she have other traits of NPD? People with NPD are nearly always pathological liars, for example, and you don't mention that she is a chronic liar.

Figuring out whether she actually has some form of NPD is really important, because people with true NPD almost never change, even with professional help. They are largely genuinely incapable of admitting to and correcting their own faults and also largely genuinely incapable of feeling authentic love toward other people. If your wife truly has NPD then my advice to you as the daughter of a father with NPD would be to leave YESTERDAY and find a way to take the children with you.

But if she's just a controlling, snippy, and easily annoyed person, if you want to try even just for another month to make this work, then I think it would be useful for you to stop thinking of her behavior as stemming from some serious mental illness like NPD, and start thinking about other possible motivations for her behavior, and what the two of you might do about them. Does she make the kids adhere to rigid bedtime schedules because she's tired and overwhelmed in the morning and hates dealing with slow cranky kids who put their shirts on backwards and forget to pack their homework? Because that's a potentially solvable problem (you could help more in the morning; you could change the rules so that bedtimes are negotiable on weekends but not weekdays; you could find tricks-- like premaking breakfasts and setting out clothes the night before-- to help make the morning routine so efficient a zombie kid could do it, etc.). Does she boss you around because she feels like you don't really know what's going on with the kids as well as she does? Does she have reason to think that? How much do you know about those school and activities schedules she "obsesses" over, anyway?

Also when it comes to her being overly negative toward the children: have you considered, in addition to couples' counseling, looking into family counseling, or parenting classes that the two of you could take together? I totally get why her negativity towards the kids bothers you so much-- that has actually been a source of arguments in my own marriage. I agree with others though that it will actually be harder to solve that problem from a distance if the two of you split. So if you wind up calling off the separation for a bit, I would make working on parenting as a united team a priority now while the two of you are still together.

I hope that whatever happens the two of you can find a way to be happy, whether that's happy together or happy separately.
posted by BlueJae at 1:59 PM on December 1, 2015 [41 favorites]


As a former stay at home mom who split with my husband when my kids were 4 and 7, I have to say it was the very best thing for me and my kids. We did therapy, and tried to get things to work, but they did not. For me, it got to the point where I felt like I would rather spend the rest of my life alone then be in my marriage. I was hyper focused on my children and our home, and I loved being a stay at home mother, and I had no desire to work. I had never had a career, and I didn't realize how much satisfaction and self worth come from having a job one loves. My divorce forced me to find that career, the child support and alimony helped me to have a buffer to not only develop my career, but also to pursue the education I needed to get to a point where my job will support me eventually. Now with my kids in their teenage years I am positioned to be done with graduate by the time they are both out of the house. There have been a lot of awful times, and my ex and I don't have a lot of fond feelings for each other, but I am thankful he didn't fight our divorce agreement, and that the agreement gave me everything I needed to have the life I wanted for my kids and me. My point is, there is a way to leave and have your wife's life not totally fall apart- you can make sure to support your kids via your divorce agreement. I struggled with leaving my marriage, but I got the advice that my kids would get to know me in the context of my relationship with my husband, and I did not want them to grow up to believe that was who I was.

Marriage and divorce are hard, and I agree that the ultimate choice lies with you. You are not an awful person for wanting to be happy. And while dating when you are older can be hard, it also can be a lot of fun, and online dating makes it little easier. Both my ex and I have gone on to find partners much better suited for ourselves, and our kids are much happier then they would have been had we stayed together.
posted by momochan at 2:22 PM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. Please keep it constructive folks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:24 PM on December 1, 2015


Thanks so much for all the feedback. Please keep it coming. To address some of the comments...

She very much has chosen the stay at home mom lifestyle. She actually has a Masters degree that she hasn't put to use. In fact, I and her parents heavily urged her to bring in some kind of mother's helper support when we had our third kid knowing how taxing it would be, but she refused as she wasn't comfortable with another woman helping with "parenting" (control).

For sure part of getting us to this point is a lack of creating a healthy amount of couple time and I share responsibility for that. That said, when we do get away we only semi enjoy each others company.

Regarding the NPD, this is my diagnosis alone after reading much on it. There are several other traits on the list she definitely displays. That said, there are times when she can be very unselfish so there are some contradictions.

To the comments about my references to her good looks. Sure! Of course that played a part in my initial attraction, but I'm not that shallow to have gone this far on that aspect alone. What kept me with her despite the compatibility challenges was our shared religion, her extreme nurturing side (which I appreciated as an unmarried guy in my 30s, but now see the dark side of as she over controls the kids), and her sticking with me through some troubled times (loss of a job and another traumatic experience). After dating for a few years and being in my early thirties, I decided that fate had determined that she was the one. She wanted to get married too and that was it. She was adoring to me and I was content.

I'm very aware that this is only my side of the story and that my description sounds harsh and judgmental. That's kind of why I posted here so that I could be blunt and truthful about my feelings. It feels terrible to describe my wife and the mother of my kids in these terms, but it is the truth. I do know that a relationship involves two people and I'm certainly not the perfect loving husband for her, particularly not these days. I know the phrase "simple minded" sounds demeaning, but it's true. She's just not into sort of real world type things. She's been described as emotionally and intellectually immature. This is what I struggle with - maybe the problem is my high expectations for a more meaningful intellectual/physical/spiritual connection. This is where the guilt comes in. Maybe I'm just selfish for wanting more. I just don't know. Less interested in blame for the apartness we both feel, and more interested in what to DO about it since therapy and working on better communication techniques blah blah blah hasn't seemed to change these fundamentals.
posted by thrasher2399 at 2:25 PM on December 1, 2015


One more thing to be clear - if I leave, I will be wanting 50/50 custody of the kids and will move somewhere within a few miles. I have no intention of ever not being a big part of my kid's lives.
posted by thrasher2399 at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Look, it sounds like you want to separate. I don't think the internet can change your mind on that. And it sounds like you two just don't work together. (And I too wonder why you married her if you think so little of her.) But I wonder, you're going to therapy, have you actually done the work? I mean YOU not just you as a couple. Have you taken what your therapist or wife says to heart and tried to change? You can only change yourself and your own dynamic, but you may find that when you work on your own dynamic then the family and relationship dynamic changes, too.

I'm not saying that you can magically "fix" any of this, but it sounds like you each have behaviors contributing to an unhappy marriage and family life and so far in this thread I haven't seen what actual steps you've taken to change it. I mean have you tried to pleasure your wife the way she wants? How can you expect her to meet your fantasies if she's not having fun, too? Have you tried actually giving a shit about her day or do you just ignore it because it's not the news or politics?

You literally said " communication techniques blah blah" about therapy but have you honestly, really tried changing your behavior?

Because here's the thing, if you separate and you want 50/50 custody you need to be an even BETTER communicator than you are now to give the kids the best chance. You need to meet your (ex) spouse's needs and support them even MORE when you're separated. So even if you want to separate, you will need to do a lot of work on yourself to be a better co-parent. Because right now, it really sounds like you both have faults, but it doesn't sound like you've even tried beyond being in therapy. You sound very dismissive of it, like just showing up will make things better.

Being IN therapy is different from doing the work. You have to do the work for therapy to change anything. What's going to be best for your kids is a father who does the work and becomes the best parent and partner possible, especially if you separate from your wife. Separating without doing the work will only make these issues larger, because even if you find a new partner that fulfills you (and even if she does too) you still have kids together and need to be on common ground for their sake.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:36 PM on December 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


Are you 50/50 parenting now? 50/50 may come as a shock to you.
Are you doing everyone's laundry 2-4 times a week? Do you buy your kids' socks and underwear? Do you take your kids to their after school activities from 3pm until bedtime? Do you have a carpool network when the kids' activities conflict? Do you plan out the activity calendar? Is your work cool with you leaving early often and taking the day off when a kid is sick? What about to volunteer in their classrooms? Do you grocery shop and plan meals? Do you pack lunches and make breakfast and dinner? Do you clean the house? Do you buy and wrap birthday gifts for their friends? Do you know their friends' parents' names and numbers? Do you do this for days, weeks, months, years in a row with little break?

I'm not trying to pick on you here but I suspect that you don't know what full time parenting looks like. If you're 50/50 and Susie has cheerleadering at 4, Bobby has chess club at 5, and Sammy has karate at 530, and then you gotta feed them and help them with homework, then showers, then bed, then pack lunches and do laundry, I hope you're prepared for the impact this will have on your life and career.
posted by k8t at 2:44 PM on December 1, 2015 [89 favorites]


I have nothing to say about the relationship. I do, however, have something to say about the amateur NPD diagnosis.

You seem to misunderstand NPD, which is pathologized by egocentrisim: self-importance, aggrandizing, entitlement, attention seeking behavior and lack of empathy. None of these traits appear in your description of your wife. All armchair psychology accomplishes is allowing you to dismiss your wife's behavior out of hand as evidence of a 'syndrome', instead of working through situations or problems on an individual basis.

This behavior won't serve you well going forward regardless of what you choose to do. You should rethink it.
posted by givennamesurname at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2015 [85 favorites]


Have you been seeing (pardon the expression) a "normal" couple's therapist or a religious/church-affiliated one? Have you tried more than one therapist?

Your marriage does sound deeply unhappy. Whatever you decide to do, I would encourage you to find and consult a good divorce lawyer now. Wanting 50/50 custody and getting it are two different things.
posted by purple_bird at 2:53 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm just going to play devil's advocate and also let you know upfront that I am biased against divorce. My parents are the prototypical should-have-divorced couple - domestic violence and severe unstable behavior - who did eventually divorce when I was an older teenager. Despite the chaos, I think that was better for many reasons. Children of divorce don't do as well as adults reassure themselves, according to studies.

I think it's unhelpful to diagnose someone based on reading. It's very othering and blame-placing, which is a narcissistic trait. Personality disorder diagnosis depends on a lot of things, including evaluating the severity of impact. Almost everyone has a couple of narcissistic traits. Others have pointed out that your question gives her perspective very little room and is downright mean about her. This is pretty narcissistic.

I think it is possible to help someone be more open to criticism, if your words are not harsh. To help someone recognize that their words are hurtful. You can't go in hating someone as it will come across. You go in modeling the behavior yourself and being present in the interaction to notice the point where she starts to feel unsafe/unheard and says something regrettable, and gently intervene. This is what you are talking about when you say empathic interaction.

I honestly don't think intellectual connection is a good enough reason to break up a family. I have very deep interests in politics, religion, psychology, etc that my spouse does not share. I talk about these subjects with friends. You knew this going in. Marriage is a partnership and all of the romantic ideals attached to it are very recent fairy tales. It's about digging deep, self-examination, and putting up with things sometimes. I've read studies that most people who stick it out see their marriage improve, as conflict tends to be cyclical or based on temporary stresses, like having three young children.

What you view as authoritarian may just be more structured. I work with children and see really poor outcomes from a lot of the loving-kindness types. There has got to be balance - if it's all empathy, the kid starts to think the world revolves around their feelings when it definitely does not. If you were around all day, you might appreciate why she has a strong structure in place and doesn't negotiate with the kids. Even though my school is the hippiest of hippie schools, structure is an important part of how we teach.
posted by decathexis at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


In fact, I and her parents heavily urged her to bring in some kind of mother's helper support when we had our third kid knowing how taxing it would be, but she refused as she wasn't comfortable with another woman helping with "parenting" (control).

I dunno, it sounds like you're in a place where you are reading her every action in the least charitable light possible and presenting it to us as such. I agree with the above that you definitely sound like you want to separate. If you are legit looking for alternative avenues, you are going to need to consider as Avenue #1 changing your own shitty attitude toward your wife and attempt to see things from her perspective here. That's before anything else. Otherwise it seems like you're just gesturing towards fixes and then hoping that validates the decision you've already made to separate/divorce.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2015 [37 favorites]


The traits you describe as NPD sound to me like someone who is extremely stressed, anxious and depressed and exhausted at hiding how deeply unhappy they are.
posted by kitten magic at 3:11 PM on December 1, 2015 [48 favorites]


I've no input on the rest of your query, but to address:
I'll be just an ok-looking 47 year old guy with a decent job paying child support for three kids.
I'm 47. I wrote a response to an Ask question last year that might be pertinent, in which I discovered that middle-aged guys are apparently hot. The year plus since I wrote that has been roughly similar.

My friends who've gotten separated, several of whom are older than me, have quickly found sexual partners. They haven't necessarily found long-term romantic partners in those people, but the nookie is there.

However, I'd turn this around a little bit: Would you be happier without a partner than in your current relationship? Would it be better to come home to an empty apartment? Do you think you could do a better job for your kids if your time with them was just you? Don't make it about potential relationships, make it about this one. And maybe the answer to that is "yeah, I'd be happier to just come home to a microwaved meal and some porn a few nights a week", no points off for that.
posted by straw at 3:11 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some things to consider:

1) Your youngest is getting to an age when parenting demands shift. They're still huge, especially with three kids, but they are different. This may change a lot of things about your wife over the next couple of years.

2) All the research shows that statistically, unless parents are abusive to each other, kids do better if their parents stay together. The "I don't want this to be a model for my kids" thing may help you feel better about your decision, but odds are that it's not true.

3) You mention changes you demanded your wife make for you to consider staying with her. What changes are YOU making?

4) Have you encouraged your wife to take the time to do things she's interested in, and made it easy for her to do so? It's very hard for the primary parent of small children to manage this, both emotionally and logistically, and she may need a lot of help to do it. But it also may improve her life pretty dramatically over time.

5) Have you thought about what would be fair to pay her in child support and alimony? Have you looked at the numbers and figured out how that would affect both her and your standard of living? Make sure you factor in the additional child care you will need to be paying if you have 50% custody.
posted by metasarah at 3:12 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


You sound miserable and lonely. Lack of attraction, lack of connection, major differences in personality - none of it overcome by two years of sincere effort. I think Kirshenbaum didn't steer you wrong.

It sounds like your wife's been living in a tiny world - ruled by it as much as she rules it - and it does sound like that is playing some part in her unhappiness (and yours). Nothing can be predicted, but it might be that given freedom from that (even if unwanted by her), she might figure something else out. That's extremely patronizing to say, and I wouldn't ever mention it, but it might be true. (It might also not be.)

I haven't been through a divorce myself, and have no children. But I can tell you the tremendous relief I felt when my own parents finally divorced when I was in my teens. I'd hoped it would happen much sooner (I thought about it and wished for it before I was eight years old). Not everyone came out of that happy, but at least one adult's life stopped being ruined, and as I say, the relief from relentless tension at home was the biggest gift to us kids.

(And leaving my toxic LTR saved me. I am sure.)

Your children are all school-aged now, that's something to be grateful for.

Parenting three on your own for the time you have them will be hard, no doubt; you'll have to pick up the (huge) slack she's been taking up. An adjustment. I don't think less parenting work is worth staying for. (For what that opinion is worth, and it's just an opinion.)

Guessing the financial (and temporal) cost to you will be huge if she's not intending or able to work, given her time out. I think she'll probably have to try, though, because it's just impossible to get by without it, even with a big chunk of help from alimony.

Dating for you - yes, it'll probably be hard. But not impossible, 47-year-old part-time dad of three isn't universally unattractive on the face of it. It will take work.

All of it will take work. Would that work be harder than staying in this marriage? I don't know, but it sounds worth it to me. The rest of your lifetime like this, imagine it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's really great that you guys are seeing a therapist - that at least indicates a desire to work on the marriage. I am worried, however, that your therapist isn't a good fit or isn't really helping you guys with your goal.

I'd like to second the question someone else asked above - is your therapist from your church or a secular therapist? I worry that the former might bring a moral bias rather than helping you both figure out if you can actually make this work.

I have never been to a marriage counselor, but if I were in your situation, I would want a counselor who takes an active role in the therapy - someone whose job it is to help you and your wife meet in the middle. I would NOT want a therapist who just sits there and listens to you both complain about each other, which is kind of what it sounds like your therapist is doing. You need a neutral third party to help facilitate conversations, for sure, but they should also be helping you both see each other's perspectives and come up with actions to take. What can you do to find that kind of therapist?
posted by joan_holloway at 3:42 PM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you do decide to try seeing a different/better therapist, I recommend finding one that has been trained by The Gottman Institute. Or you and your wife could attend one of the weekend workshops together.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


A thought about the intellectual connection thing. I think it's really a problem you appear to have no friends. No person can be everything to you and you appear to expect your wife to fulfill all of your needs. You need some friends or a hobby. I have less than zero interest in sports, but has this stopped me from dating men obsessed with sports? Of course not because they had friends who liked sports who they could watch the game with and talk to about it. Or whatever one does when watching sports. I understand wanting to have that type of connection with your wife, but you have three kids and this is a need that can easily be met by making some like minded friends.

I understand what you are talking about in terms of how she parents the kids, but this will get exponentially worse if you split up. Working with a counselor and staying in the marriage is far more likely to result in her changing her parenting style.

Your contempt for her is palatable. I don't think you can hope to save your marriage unless you find a way to change your attitude about her. She may not be your soulmate, but that's not her fault. She is your wife and the mother of your children. If you can find a way to be more empathetic and generous about who she is as a person, you might find other positive changes follow.
posted by whoaali at 3:52 PM on December 1, 2015 [40 favorites]


Also - if she's going to have to start over, better now than in ten years.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


No intellectual connection. This has never been there as she is a very simple-minded person. Doesn't read the newspaper or have interest in current events. Her mind is focused on organizing/making plans, our kids, and other people's families. When we have time together, this is all she ever has to talk about. I am someone who is a news junkie, has many passions and interests and am always trying to engage her in conversation on interesting topics to no avail. She just doesn't seem to have the capacity to relate to me on any significant intellectual level and it's frustrating.

Let's retell this from her perspective.

No intellectual connection. This has never been there as he is not a practical person. He doesn't seem to have much interest in the kid's soccer practice or how they are doing at school or their friends or birthdays or anything. His mind is focused on his work and Syria and global warming and the presidential elections and when we have time together, that's all he has to talk about. Hello?!? We have three young kids. I'm always trying to engage him in what is going on in their lives, but he just doesn't seem to have the capacity to relate to me or them on any significant level and it's frustrating

You said that she needed to make some changes and she tried. What about you? What changes do you need to make? It can't all be up to her.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2015 [59 favorites]


Read this article about default parenting and the thread associated: http://www.metafilter.com/144189/the-default-parent

It sounds like your wife is solely responsible for keeping the chaos under control and you're dismissing that as simple mindedness. (She has a master's degree. She is NOT simple minded. Let go of it, and all your justifications for thinking it. That attitude is toxic toxic toxic.) Keeping everything organized and running smoothly is an all consuming task, and you are ready to leave her for being good at it.

Has she gone out of town for a week or two and left you in charge of the house and kids? What seems controlling to you may just be what it's like to keep three kids under ten in line. Have you tried? Do you know?

If you leave, be prepared and happy to pay not just child support but alimony. Your wife has been out of the workforce for ten years keeping your life on track. She's given up the prime of her career to sink that into you and the family. She can't just start over when you trade in for a new model. She's placed her faith in you, and you need to honor that and make it right. If you leave the mother of your children to live in poverty, I can guarantee that they'll think poorly of you for it. Because it's despicable behavior.

I grew up with a mom with NPD or BPD depending on the therapist. Absolutely NOTHING you describe sets off my alarm bells. Let it go.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:06 PM on December 1, 2015 [43 favorites]


> She very much has chosen the stay at home mom lifestyle

Dude. It's not a lifestyle. It's a life.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:08 PM on December 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


Thanks again for all the feedback. I will respond to some of the individual points in a little while when I have more time, but I do want to address one thing. I suppose is is to be expected due to the harsh description I've painted of her, but there are some assumptions being made here that are not accurate. I have been extremely interested in learning what I could do to make this equation work better. I have invested time and energy trying to get with her program, overlook the parenting differences, and be submissive to her hostile behavior. I have nudged her to become more engaged to discuss things that interest me, and I have certainly not expressed no interest in the things of interest to her (which are my kids). While yes, at this point I am rather hopeless and focusing on the negative, that does not mean that I am some insensitive male only thinking about myself. In our therapy (with both a counselor and clergy) I have been very open and acknowledged my faults and how I could be better. For much of the time it has been her that has not accepted responsibility to acknowledge her faults and how it affects me. Without getting to into the psychobabble about victimization, it is her need to control that I believe is mainly responsible for the hostile environment that's been built up. Could I be more attentive and understanding of where that originates from? Sure. I've tried empathy and it's not fixed anything.

Sorry to get defensive, but please don't jump to conclusions that I am insensitive and haven't dug deep to try to overcome the challenges I have in being married to her. That's just not accurate.

That said, please do keep the honest feedback coming.
posted by thrasher2399 at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


[Hey, OP, AskMe isn't intended as a back-and-forth. If you have major clarifications that's ok, but otherwise just take the advice that's relevant and ignore the stuff that isn't.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:19 PM on December 1, 2015


the default parent and emotional labor threads could be invaluable to you. even if you still decide to separate, they will help you see all the "invisible" work your wife engages in that you'll be expected to shoulder if you go 50/50 custody. you should also absolutely expect to pay alimony even if you do 50/50 custody. you and your career has benefited greatly from her staying at home and she deserves some of those perks.

as you're thinking about things it might be instructive for you to consider why, when you're describing the good qualities of the woman you have promised to love and cherish, you seem to be describing a pretty picture, or a sturdy table, or a dog. you don't seem to view her as an equal. she can jump through every hoop you set up for her, but she can't solve that problem.
posted by nadawi at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


You've been "extremely interested in learning" but have you actually done anything? Because those are not the same things. Have you put as much effort and time into it as you've put into learning about NPD? Have you just been expecting her to inform you without taking any proactive steps? Because what you wrote is so incredibly passive that it just doesn't make me think you've actually tried.

Everything you've written, including in your follow ups that you characterize as defensive, has been incredibly passive on your part. You try to be "submissive" (passive) to her style. You try to acknowledge your faults, but haven't asked her how to do better. You've nudged her to move towards your interests, but you have only "not expressed no interest" in her interests. That is the most passive phrasing possible. If you were taking up your share, the phrasing would be "I talk with her about our kids and take care to listen to what she knows, since she spends far more time with them." But you're merely not not interested. You're not expressing engagement.

You are divorcing yourself from responsibility and acting like an emotional martyr. She is probably coming across as controlling to you because you are refusing to make any choices or decisions about the home life. You're just passing all that work off onto her and then acting like a martyr about going along with it.

You seriously need to read the emotional labor thread top to bottom before you make any decisions about leaving your marriage. Because what you are describing is very common, and you are continuing to contribute to it. Not as a victim, but as a passive participant that's working against your wife and your relationship. If you read that whole thread, and the whole default parenting thread, and you still feel like you've done everything you could possibly do? Then it's possible that you just expressed yourself poorly in this question and the follow ups. I think it's far more likely that you'll find out how to save your marriage and have a happy fulfilling relationship with the woman you are married to. But YOU are going to have to do the work. Stop thinking she just needs to change enough and that all you need to do is go to therapy once a week.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:33 PM on December 1, 2015 [52 favorites]


FWIW, I believe you that things are really wrong, and that it's not all down to you being ignorant about or dismissing your wife's work (which you are, a bit). People are being unsympathetic to you because of the structural inequality in your marriage (justifiably so, on that point), and the potential cost to your wife. It's not clear to me that things are that cut and dry.

I think you are naive about the amount of work she's doing, and what it's possibly taken from the marriage, and agree with nadawi that the threads linked to above will be useful to you. I also give you the benefit of the doubt that she's chosen it and think it's possible that she's wielding this against you (and maybe against herself). Especially if her parents are concerned about her singular focus on parenting.

You didn't elaborate with a lot of detail about the nature of the verbal abuse, and there's of course room for a number of interpretations, but IME, I haven't heard anyone say "I walk on eggshells" without things being pretty seriously off-kilter.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Has your wife ever been evaluated for anxiety? Controlling behavior and an extreme reluctance to have anyone else involved in your kids' lives pings me for anxiety. Anxious people try to lock down any moving parts in their lives because unpredictable things are freaking terrifying. Just the base state of having kids for a healthy person is low grade background terror but add in an anxiety disorder and the compulsion to try and control for every possible variable that might cause harm to your children can become really debilitating.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:53 PM on December 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


In an effort to transition more easily for your kids, I'd suggest you start learning how to run a household. You may be able to swing it for a long weekend when your wife stocked the fridge and the laundry, but it is so much more than that.
- get yourself on the class and school and sports and activities email newsletters and read them
- know the names, numbers, and emails of each of your kids' best friends' parents
- learn what your wife's laundry pattern is (gotta do a load between soccer games for the uniform)
- find a female friend or relative with kids to figure out the bare minimum you need to set up a kitchen, bathroom, and medicine cabinet
- get all the info on doctors and dentists
- have your kids' schedules be a shared Google calendar so you can get a sense of how things work
- Find out how your wife meal plans, where she grocery shops, how often you'll need to go
Doing this now will make setting up your household easier.
But importantly go to a lawyer to figure out exactly how this is going to work financially.
posted by k8t at 5:30 PM on December 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


If she has anxiety, that should be addressed. Also though, anxiety doesn't make it ok to be verbally abusive. If she's anxious (and agrees that she is) and seeks treatment, that'll be one thing. Unchecked, out of control, unwilling to work on it - something else.

Reading again...

What kept me with her despite the compatibility challenges was our shared religion, her extreme nurturing side (which I appreciated as an unmarried guy in my 30s, but now see the dark side of as she over controls the kids), and her sticking with me through some troubled times (loss of a job and another traumatic experience). After dating for a few years and being in my early thirties, I decided that fate had determined that she was the one. She wanted to get married too and that was it. She was adoring to me and I was content.

It sounds you both marched right up on top of a 1950s wedding cake to try to solve whatever your respective problems were.

Neither of you have been served by her "adoration" and "extreme nurturing" (or by your wanting it).

If you do divorce, and date again, 2nd nadawi, you need to be looking for an equal. Can your wife come to be a partner to you, maybe, with a lot of work (on anxiety, if it applies, and probably a few other things). Can you become a partner to her, maybe, if you're able to wait through her work and reevaluate your perspective on issues people have talked about at length… I do think this will be hard, no matter what you do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Get out of marriage counseling and get into individual counseling. Both of you need guided help with self-reflection and developing emotional maturity.

I do not doubt that your wife is controlling. I am witness to several marriages where the wife browbeats her submissive husband. In response, he tries to please her by being even more of a doormat, she loses even more respect for him and the cycle continues on. In each of these situations, as I suspect in yours, the husband plays just as much of a role in perpetuating this cycle as the wife. It's much more comforting to play the martyr than to do the difficult work of fomenting real change.

If you do divorce your wife, you must get into individual counseling to figure out how your beliefs and attitudes about relationships contribute to dysfunctional cycles like the one you're currently in. Without therapy, I am absolutely certain you will end up with another woman who is almost exactly like your current wife. She will seem like the woman of your dreams! You'll likely get married again! Only to find out five years in that you are in the exact same place you are now, just with a new face.
posted by scantee at 7:18 PM on December 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


The marriage generally sounds quite over (and yeah, contempt out the wazoo), but I do think there's gonna be issues with a woman who's been out of the workforce trying to find a job that can support herself and three kids in this climate, when far more qualified people can't get jobs. If you want to split, you should reasonably plan for the fact that you may end up having to support two separate households financially, with little or no money coming in from her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:20 PM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm going to really honest: your entire situation is full of mid-life crisis cliches. Like, bursting at the seams with cliches.

You know "fun uncle" syndrome, yeah? Where Cool Uncle gets to spoil the kids rotten and let them do whatever because he only sees them once a month or year? This is a pattern with grandparents and yes, even fathers who are not the primary caregiver. It is virtually guaranteed that the primary caregiver is much more concerned with rules and routine because, duh, they're the primary caregiver! Divorcing your wife will NOT help your kids in this regard. I question whether you realize that kids TRULY NEED routine and rules. Trust me, you'll figure out VERY QUICKLY that kids do better with routine if you actually divorce your wife! First, the kids will be shuffling between homes so routine will be even more important in their lives. This WILL have a stressful effect on your kids, no matter how much you make up for it by beng amicable, a good father in other ways, etc. Second, your wife will start doing whatever she's inclined to do without any input from you. So it won't solve the problem you have with her parenting whatsoever.

The intellectual connection thing is also kind of a red herring. You married her. You obviously agreed on something before the kids came, and talked to each other on your dates. I also think "intellectual stimulation" can be just as much the sort of naive wish-fulfillment fantasy as "sexy hot young thing" stimulation. Of course new people are exciting- they're new! You haven't already talked about every book she's ever read! 12 years is a damn long time to have a fascinating intellectual conversation every day, man! I mean, people do run out of things to talk about, especially if they aren't having new experiences. This is ENTIRELY predictable and is not rocket science. I also question the true value of intellectualism in a mate (male or female) as the older I get, the more I realize pompous bullshit and talking about Proust really doesn't fucking matter that much when we're all going to die. Do your friends "intellectually stimulate" you? If not, why do you expect your wife to? And if so, why do you expect your wife to? You know?

The sex thing is the one valid complaint I think does actually really matter to the health of relationships. But if it hasn't changed over time, what did you expect? Why did this never come up as an issue sooner? And if it has, then you can get back to where you were- the vast majority of couples have dry spells without spelling the end of the relationship.

I honestly believe divorce, for you, will be a mistake. Especially without serious, real work and compromise beforehand. It sounds like you sort of just told your wife "change or I'm leaving" and she responded with attempting to accommodate you and then telling you to work on your relationship. Jeez, man, that's petty good! Are you just so checked out you don't care? You seem almost offended that she wants to work on the relationship, as if she should just give up right away.

Consider it's possible that your wife is right about some things. Not everything. But it's pretty clear to me reading this that you have a distorted perspective right now in which she is just overall Wrong and that's not a good sign. It's generally a sign of over-emotionality, over-ego. A third party would probably say she's right about some things and wrong about some things, and so are you. Until you can reach that place of truly impartial observation, and still want to go separate ways, I think it would be a mistake and an act of emotion and not reason. I also think you need to explore your hurt and resentment safely and HONESTLY, perhaps in therapy.

Tl; dr : I think you're contemplating divorce for the wrong reasons right now.
posted by quincunx at 7:59 PM on December 1, 2015 [24 favorites]


I'm baffled by the people who are telling you that you don't appreciate your wife's emotional labor. From your description, your wife's over-controlling personality has created deep, long term anxiety and tension for you and for your children. That is not emotional labor, it is a form of abuse, albeit perhaps unintentional. It's unhealthy. It's not something you should learn to appreciate, it's something that needs to change, either by working with your wife or by separating from her.

I don't want to tell you that you should divorce your wife. I don't know you, her, your kids or your situation well enough. No one here does. And I'm generally one to say that marriages are better mended than ended. But from your description it certainly sounds like it could be healthier for you, and healthier for your kids long term if you do separate.

Good luck to you.
posted by alms at 8:10 PM on December 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


My husband and I are good friends with another couple. In both of our relationships, the wives (my friend and I) do most of the emotional labor. This friend and I have both expressed concerns that as parents, we are going to have to be the disciplinarians because while out husbands are wonderful people, we don't see them as the type to enforce bedtimes, let a baby cry it out, put a kid in time out, etc so friend and I are worried we'll have to do that, or face a future of sleep-deprived, undisciplined children. We don't want to be disciplinarians. We want to be loving, fun parents who share discipline responsibilities. But we're concerned it won't work out that way and that we'll have to be The Mean Parent while dad gets to be The Fun Parent. This is all just speculation but it sucks. Why should they get to just do the fun parts of parenting while we have to do the not-fun parts?

This is all to ask, OP, whether your wife is harsh because she wants to be or because she has to be, because you came home late and now want to watch a movie with the kids so they're going to bed later and you get to go to work in the morning while she has to put three sleep-deprived crabby children on a school bus, for example, then try to help three sleep-deprived children do homework the next night. Do you discipline the children or is that exclusively her job? Because that's one of the hard things about parenting and if that's all on her, I understand why she's possibly resentful of you (independent of your belief that she somehow isn't interested in sexual pleasure). Also, I'll just put this out there - several members of my family are stay-at-home moms and I would never describe them as simple-minded. The fact that you comfortably describe your wife that way sounds so disrespectful.

You repeatedly describe your wife as controlling. I wonder if that's because she's learned that she can't trust you to not feed the kids ice cream for dinner or get them to gymnastics on time. To again use my poor husband as an example of what not to do, he once told me he could plan a birthday party for me if I just picked a day and time, told him who to invite, got a venue, and ordered a cake. So he could plan the party if I would just do the planning. Could you plan a birthday party for your kids? Have you ever tried? Could you, right now, take over holiday shopping? Grocery shopping? These things might sound simple-minded but if that's the case, why can't you, with your complicated mind, do it yourself? I don't know you or your wife but while you think you're describing someone who is controlling and narcissistic, I think this might be someone who knows her husband doesn't respect her or even like her even though she's raising his children, a task that he might not know how to do.
posted by kat518 at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2015 [63 favorites]


This does not sound like a mid-life crisis to me, it sounds like a legit, actual crisis, for everyone, and I think you're contemplating divorce absolutely for the right reasons. Also that there are some dynamics and issues you haven't considered, which to me sound like a consequence of this whole arrangement having been set up in unfortunately gender-traditional ways, with unfortunately gender-traditional dynamics, but you're not wrong to deeply question this marriage.

A "cold" and tense atmosphere in the home, verbal abuse, hostility, intractably opposed and lonely factions, no place or time for your kids to relax and be loved - vs shamed and criticized! - and be themselves - it's complete bullshit to say that's good for them. It's not. No one's doing well, here.

Deal with this mess, for all your sakes. Either through separation or individual therapy (although that takes a long time, and might not work; it's also time that's precious - for your wife - and after two years of joint counselling - nutty to me to suggest you're some ridiculous man after a corvette! - I'm leaning against that. For whatever that's worth).

Staying with the status quo is untenable.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:58 PM on December 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


You need to take responsibility for this mess. You married a woman you didn't respect, or even particularly like, because she was hot and adored you. And now she's raising your kids and you have nothing but contempt for her.

Your marriage sounds miserable, but you sound like at least fifty percent of the problem. Your insistence on Web MD diagnosing your wife with NPD makes you sound like the one with a problem, honestly. She might be controlling, but you seem controlling in a passive aggressive way that, conveniently, forces her to be the bad guy.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:32 PM on December 1, 2015 [42 favorites]


I'm just not sure how divorce is going to solve the "short-tempered with the kids" problem other than putting it out of sight, out of mind for you. The stress of being a single mother is not going to help this issue.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:50 PM on December 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


I know the phrase "simple minded" sounds demeaning, but it's true. She's just not into sort of real world type things. She's been described as emotionally and intellectually immature.

So…the bar has been set, I guess. Being into “sort of real world type things” means you’re an intellectual. Cool. And you also used that phrase journalists do when they want to quote their friends without attribution: “She’s been described as…” Basically, I like how you can’t even describe with any precision or perspicacity the sorts of things you want your wife to engage with you on, and you’ve apparently been cool with people casually demeaning your wife, yet you seem to expect a high level of discourse and consideration from her. I mean, plank, meet eye. Maybe it feels like if you explained what you wanted, you’d be made to feel lesser somehow, but I think whether you choose to stay the course or get divorced, you’re going to need to work on clearly stating what you want. You should think about what your answers here reflect, and consider the many excellent questions in this thread. I understand it might be frustrating trying to explain yourself to a bunch of strangers who don’t know you and your situation, but guess what, this is just the first wave of people you’re going to have to explain yourself to. Being too much of an intellectual for your wife just doesn’t really read as your actual problem when that’s your level of response.


I have nudged her to become more engaged to discuss things that interest me, and I have certainly not expressed no interest in the things of interest to her (which are my kids).

This somehow reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons when Homer gave Marge a bowling ball (his interest) as a present. Expressing your needs in a relationship is good, as I noted above, but I’m also having trouble figuring out what she gets out of this. I’m trying to imagine how this nudging occurs.
You: “Oh that’s great, Joey! I hear you did a great job at soccer today… Oh, did you hear what they said about Syria? I can’t believe it. … Do you have any thoughts on that, honey? …"

Wife: [shakes her head and takes a bite] No, I didn't see that.

You: "No? OK…”

You eat in silence for a bit, and she mentions a woman who complimented the paper roses she made for the PTA craft fair.

You: “Oh cool. Man, stuffing sure is great. Hey, did you see that the lieutenant governor resigned? … What do you think about that? …"

Wife: "Oh, I don't know..."

You: "Oh, well, don’t you ever want to talk about some sort of, like, real-world type things, sweetie? … I just wish we could talk about things in, you know, the real world, rather than these…people I don’t even know.”

Wife: [thinking to self] "You don’t know these people because you don’t go to the kids’ soccer games, PTA meetings, playdates, doctors’ appointments… You know, in the real world. Sometimes I feel like you spend more time thinking about what’s going on in the governor’s office or Syria than in our kitchen." Aloud: “Oh, I guess I’m just not very up to speed on what’s happening in politics. Could you pass the butter?”
Obviously this is fiction, and not particularly charitable fiction at that, and I don't know what you talk about or how you go about it. But I'm wondering if she’s perhaps not willing to commit the effort to expressing interest in the things you’d like to talk about because while you love your kids, you’re not engaging with her about the things that are most relevant to their lives.


I have been very open and acknowledged my faults and how I could be better.

Well, talking is cool. Action is better. How have you shown her that you understand the situation and put the things you talked about into practice? A mea culpa is only part of the solution—and too often guys stop right there, because “Hey, I said I was sorry, what do you want? Seriously, are you still mad about that??” [storms off] Anyway, you should definitely try what k8t recommended, not least of all because beyond prepping for divorce or whatever, it might actually help tip the balance in favor of your understanding how things work and contributing more equitably to the household. Maybe that will make a difference in itself. I don’t have enough information to know for sure, but it almost sounds like your wife might be in a position where she thinks it’s actually easier to take on everything than rely on you to do what needs to be done. I’d feel pretty anxious if that were the case, too.


Without getting to into the psychobabble about victimization, it is her need to control that I believe is mainly responsible for the hostile environment that's been built up.

I’m not denying that people can sometimes be controlling, but to reframe this in what might be her terms: “It is his need to feel like he’s ‘free’ somehow that I believe is mainly responsible for the hostile environment that’s been built up. Yeah, I do resent it when we’re on a tight schedule with the kids and he just wants to talk about what’s going on in Syria, or wants to play. I’m tired of letting his need to feel somehow unencumbered eat into what little free time I have to relax or get the kids off schedule. But I feel like every time I express my needs and ask him to respect my wishes, it gets reframed as me being controlling and hostile.”

I’ll also say this: Just because she chose and embraces the work of raising children doesn’t mean that it’s fair to pile on the criticism when she falters. She didn’t volunteer to be faultless wonder woman who cooks, cleans, and takes care of the children, then smoothly shifts gears to stimulate you intellectually and in bed without pausing to take a breath. I doubt that person exists except in your dreams. I completely understand what it’s like to be the bread-winner and just want to relax after work, then feel exasperated when your partner’s ideal evening is doing the dirty dishes and undertaking a forced death march of cleaning the house. I also understand what it’s like to feel like your partner is totally uninterested in what you’re interested in. But as others have noted: Having fun all the time is what friends are for—and even then, if you’re really doing it right, friendship isn’t always all fun and games, either. Serious relationships take serious work. I also know what it’s like to be a primary caregiver for someone else and be at home with them all the time, and how anxiety-provoking that can be—and the stakes are so much higher when you’re the primary caregiver for three little people. I mean, c’mon.

Anyway, she may be mired in the domestic, but that’ll only get worse if you get divorced, because then she’ll be mired in the domestic and even more anxious about making ends meet, while you get to keep playing the fun dad. You think you have it tough, sometimes not getting to talk about stuff you want to talk about—now you’re going to have kids who don’t feel like they can ever truly relax and or fully focus on their own development and desires, because now they’ll be the ones helping support a single mom in doing the chores and putting domestic things first. And yeah, they might complain about that, and then you'll get to again jump in and be the Totally Cool Dad! So actually maybe you'll be fine, right? But yeah...if they figure out that this is because you didn’t pony up to do your share of that stuff before you jumped to divorce as the solution, you have a surefire recipe for resentment, Dad.

Don’t be that guy. You have to do more than stare off into the sunset and furrow your brow really hard thinking about it. You have to be the man your kids and your wife need you to be, and unless you never want to see your kids, divorce will not relieve you of that duty.
posted by limeonaire at 10:04 PM on December 1, 2015 [43 favorites]


One thing to consider is that even if you aren't a stereotypically checked out dad, she may have a narrower tolerance for deviations from routine that she can handle. It's still you changing the routine and her dealing with the fallout, but you're not doing something objectively bad, and she's partially responsible too.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:18 PM on December 1, 2015


I get it. Your wife's a controlling bitch and you're the hen pecked husband. But conduct a little experiment for me, if you will. Send her on a holiday for a fortnight and in that time, you get to be the stay at home dad. That means pick ups, drop offs, laundry, meals, bed time, birthday parties, melt downs, all of it. And no calling your mum/neighbour/nanny in for help.

At the end of that fortnight, when your wife is home that evening, all rested and relaxed, I want you to put on an amazing meal for her, talk about Syria and her holiday for two hours and fuck her six ways til Sunday.

Something tells me that after two weeks of experiencing her life, sex and a long drawn out conversation will be the last thing on your mind, you'll just be wanting to hand those damn kids over and to pass out in bed. If you're lucky, you'll have developed a real appreciation for your wife's contribution to your marriage. If you're unlucky, she'll realise what she's been missing and she'll be the one asking for a divorce. Sincerely, someone who gave their husband a similar reality check. It only took four days. Best thing we ever did for our marriage.
posted by Jubey at 2:25 AM on December 2, 2015 [95 favorites]


I think some people are being a little harsh on you, here; being in a bad relationship - whoever's fault it is - when you have a life and kids together is super tough. But you should be aware that a lot of people in your actual real life will likely be just as, if not more, tough on you. You will lose friends through divorce, you may find yourself missing that as much or more than partnership.

No one here knows better than you how much you've tried, what the division of labour in your household is, what your awareness of how much parenting is needed is; anything we say is reflecting our own experiences. I'm sure your testimony here is quite distorted - you sound upset, depressed etc; and when people are sad they are not good judges of things, generally. Because of this, definitely take on board what people are saying, I think, but also, you know, ask someone like your pastor or counsellor or whatever, who actually knows you if anything here is accurate - they'll do better than a bunch of strangers. That said:

One more thing to be clear - if I leave, I will be wanting 50/50 custody of the kids and will move somewhere within a few miles. I have no intention of ever not being a big part of my kid's lives.
-
This is very important. Whilst my own parent's divorce was not great for me at age thirteen, what real damage they dealt was in their post-divorce parenting. Where determination to make up for lost time, throwing themselves into a new relationship or new lifestyle, or just abrupt changes (often good changes, for them), led to some shitty selfish - or simply superficial - parenting that missed some important things and left a legacy playing out for years later for all four kids. Don't forget your kids man, that shit hurts, if they feel you're throwing them under a bus for your new life.

This is my personal experience coming to the fore, but the fact you're thinking of doing this for your kids, in addition to yourself, puts you on better footing than my parents. You might have to give up a lot to truly put your kids first, including some of your post-divorce dreams, including maybe the kind of relationship you want. I hope you mean it. Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 3:18 AM on December 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Close your eyes for a moment, and visualize your life post-divorce. Where are you living? Where is she living? Presumably, you are both in places with room for at least one adult and three kids. But probably not your current family home-- it's likely not in your budget any more. So maybe you've both moved to cheap, cramped apartments. You wake up on a Monday morning with the kids- what do you do? Dig through the laundry pile for clothes, pour cold cereal, yell at the kids because they're not getting ready for school fast enough, miss the bus and have to drive them to school. Now you're late for work, and just as you settle down at your desk, you get a call from school to pick up a sick kid. You pack up your laptop and pick up your kid, trying to work from home while he watches TV. Except he won't watch tv. He keeps asking you for water, food, medicine, attention. You're missing an important deadline. What do you do? You can't call your wife, she's at work and it's your week. You can't call a sitter because you don't have the disposable income. Now it's time to shuffle your other kids to soccer and gymnastics. (No, wait, do they get to do extracurriculars any more, or are you too time and cash poor to afford it?) Your kids miss their hypothetical extracurriculars, and they are whining and yelling. You're trying to fix two dinners-- soup for your sick kid and...frozen dinners for everyone else? But the homework isn't done because they all wanted to watch TV, they've missed their bedtime, and now one of your other kids is starting to look sick, so there goes your entire week. What do you do?

If you don't value the 24/7 job your wife is doing right now, you are going to be sadly surprised and really, really overwhelmed when you start having to do it PLUS your current job 50% of the time on 50-75% of the money. It's great that you want a better life for your kids, and I'm not (as much as it sounds like it) saying you shouldn't get a divorce. But if you think it's not going to make your life a LOT HARDER, you are in for a shock.
posted by instamatic at 3:42 AM on December 2, 2015 [27 favorites]


Regarding your wife's simple-mindedness, someone pointed out above that you mentioned you don't really have friends. No one, not your wife nor the imaginary attractive woman into divorced dads in their late 40s who you want to meet, can be all things to all people. I like working out and volunteering. My husband doesn't. Instead of complaining that he doesn't like those things, I find people who do, do the things with them, then come home and tell him about how cool it was to do the things. So find some other people with whom you can talk about whatever it is that doesn't interest your wife. And encourage her to do the same. It sounds like you both would benefit from having friends and hobbies.
posted by kat518 at 3:56 AM on December 2, 2015 [18 favorites]


Nthing you and your wife may need individual therapy. Having no friends and feeling helpless to improve your home situation, combined with your semiambivalence about divorce, makes it seem like you might be struggling with depression. Maybe your wife is struggling with stress and anxiety.

It sounds like empathy is lacking a little bit from both of you. You don't seem to be hearing your wife when she tells you she isn't huge into current affairs. Be empathetic and stop bugging her about it. If there is some part of home management you can't stand like that one super annoying friend of Tommy's, ask your wife to stop telling you about it. And then really listen to her. And maybe she'll listen more if she feels heard and you aren't constantly pushing a topic you know she doesn't like.

You can totally get a divorce if you want. Trying the above first may be WAY easier.
posted by Kalmya at 7:54 AM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed; if you find yourself apologizing for posting a lot in an Ask thread or speculating about what other people think about a question, it's probably past time to just let the thread be.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:37 AM on December 2, 2015


I'm willing to take you at your word that your wife is rigid, unengaged outside of motherhood, and not working towards resolution in therapy. Enough people are arguing with these points here that I don't think there's any more to be gained from that.

So, I'm on your side.

What I would say is that you need to figure out what divorce in your state would actually look like. There is the question of how custody is typically divided for children of your kids ages, plus state guidelines for child support, plus there is zero chance you will not also be paying (and should be paying) alimony of a set duration. You will need to factor in the costs of, presumably, two dwellings with three or four bedrooms each. If your wife is re-training or working, there will be the cost of childcare. Finally, there is the question of asset division and the hit of losing half your savings and pension (presumably, and fairly.)

So: I would very strongly urge you to consult, independently and quietly, with a well-regarded local divorce attorney so that you have a real rather than theoretical picture of what divorce will mean financially. Divorce is the #1 predictor of poverty for women in America, but it isn't great for anyone really.

I will also agree with other posters that if your wife has been running the domestic sphere while you have been in charge of the income sphere, you may be in for a very real and abrupt awakening as to what looking after such young children 50% of the time actually entails.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 AM on December 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Your wife is abusive. End of story. You can end it. You will feel guilt. It is okay that you do and doesn't make it wrong to split up the family.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You sound like you have serious distaste for your wife. I'd even go so far as to say that you sound like to can't stand her. Unless you can figure out how to at least sympathize with her and understand/accept her as herself, your marriage is done. I'm not saying that you are the reason the marriage has gone sour or assigning blame in any way but, unless you can pack away your distaste, it'll poison any chance of change.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:29 PM on December 2, 2015


I wonder whether you have any fulfilling hobbies or male friendships that would lessen your need for conversation about topics you and your wife don't share an interest in? I imagine caring for three children 24/7 without a job (or substantial hobbies/sports/other social outlets) to take her out of that world on a regular basis is going to create a very narrowed perspective and become all-consuming. You must have engaged on some kind of meaningful level before marriage/children, so I do think your comment about her being 'simple-minded' is probably harsh.

These last few years, with your youngest of three growing through early childhood must have been the hardest for both of you, and I can't help but think this time in your life is not the best reflection of what the next ten years or more will be like. Depends on how unbearable it is I guess. If you're wanting to be a Dad to your children on your own terms without your wife's influence, could you maybe take them out on your own now and again? Or could she take regular time out to see friends and family on her own? That's got to be better than removing yourself from the household and trying to parent from afar?

It sounds as though you still have an active sex life in spite of these difficulties, which is something positive you could perhaps build from? Maybe if she knew you were re-committed for the long haul you could get to a point where you could broach new activities in this area to help you both enjoy it more?

I would steer well clear of any attempted 'diagnosis' of personality disorder. The use of diagnostic labels is a massively contentious area, and is only really useful in trying to formulate treatment plans and other interventions. Ultimately, these labels are just ways of grouping together individuals into suitably sized populations that comparisons can be drawn and progress made in understanding and treating the presenting issues. Everyone is an individual and I don't see what positive purpose could be served by trying to lump your wife into some sort of psychiatric category. You might enjoy reading The Psycopath Test by Jon Ronson, when you've got more time to reflect on all this perhaps.

For what it's worth, I think I'm coming down more on the 'stick it out' side, but it would have to be backed up by some much greater acknowledgement of your own role and responsibility in your marriage. I see zero evidence of you having considered that properly in your question, and I'd suspect that if you leave you may come to regret not having made more efforts of your own first, rather than insisting on your wife making so many changes. This is all coming from a guy in his late 30s with no kids, separated for about a year.
posted by Sevenisamagicnumber at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Will it be best for my kids in the long run?

Unquestionably yes. Staying in a loveless marriage is modeling that kind of relationship for your children. Divorce now while it can be amicable.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:05 AM on December 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Try a Discernment Therapist, if there's a trained one in your area. Or, find a much more active therapist -- necessary for there to be any chance of salvaging the rxp.

You get to decide when you're not willing/able to persevere any longer.

BTW, your posts have a... distance to them. Are you clinically depressed, by any chance? That's going to get in the way. Hard to know if you'd just bring it with you if the marriage splits, or if you'd blossom without it. Just not enough data points for me to predict.

Best wishes, whatever you decide.
posted by dancing leaves at 4:51 PM on December 3, 2015


I think the harsh judgement you've gotten in this thread is over the top, even though I semi-understand it based on the specific terms you used to describe your wife. But I think based on your post and subsequent comments, you are actually a good egg: a concerned father who provides for his family, who cares enough about his marriage to seek counseling, and who struggles internally enough about making the right decision to go so far as to solicit advice from strangers. :)

I could feel your angst coming through and I empathize. I do believe your situation is a perfect candidate for a trial separation. In fact, it's probably why that idea was even invented. You feel trapped, that much jumps through the screen as I read your post, and you want to know if leaving will make you feel less trapped. You and your missus seem to have exhausted virtually all options traditionally thought to repair a union except for separating. I know it's not a popular opinion, but I firmly believe that sometimes in life, you just need a break. You need a way to reconfigure your way forward. You can't see ahead and you need some space to gain some perspective. I do think some time apart will be beneficial for both you and your wife.

Ideally, my hope is, you all can reconcile afterwards, come back with renewed commitment to fill each other's voids to the extent possible. But if that's not the case, if you find after six months or so, that you don't miss your marriage, that you find yourself in a more mentally and spiritually healthy state away from your wife, so be it. It will then be time to make the difficult permanent decision and be okay with it. But take an informal break first, allow yourself that. Allow her that. Sometimes wounds just need some air to really mend properly. Good luck to you. You will be okay.
posted by GeniPalm at 11:05 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't usually like The Book of Life essays, but here's a good one about this very conundrum.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2015


Divorce will not only NOT solve your problems, but given your stated desire to be a "50/50" parent, it will likely exacerbate them in ways you haven't even thought of. All because of what? Think long and hard about this before you leave.

I can't help but feel like you are simply looking for permission to make a decision that you have already made it your head. If leaving is what you want, go ahead and do it.

Just don't expect a divorce (and all of it's collateral damage) to solve all of your problems.

Good luck.
posted by PsuDab93 at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2015


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