How do you know when your marriage over?
April 11, 2016 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Wife and I have been having been in couples counseling for past 5 months for issues that started 2-3 years prior. How do you know when you should stop putting effort into saving the marriage?

No children, no cheating involved, some very minor financial issues that will be resolved easily over the next 4 months. Both mid/late 40's, both employed. I've been in therapy for 6+ months and thought that would help resolve things, then we started couples counseling 5 months ago. Communication is way up, but essentially we're great roommates. 2 weeks ago the couples counselor said that we both need to be "100% in the marriage" and I wanted to bolt. I am waiting for a sign that says "clearly you should get divorced" or not, but things don't work that way. The wife and I had a conversation the other day where she said essentially if I want out I should say so, and part of me said "just pull the trigger and get out" but I said I wanted to work on the marriage more. Is this just my fear of being alone? Am I just a 45 year old guy who wants to sleep around? I don't trust my motivations, and when people quote Dear Sugar to me ("Leave because you want to leave") it doesn't help. If I was at the "I hate the way she chews her food" stage I wouldn't need to ask, but I'm not. Honestly I feel like posting this question is like calling an on-radio psychic - you know the answer, but want to be validated. I'm just not sure I know and/or like the answer. I don't want to be asking myself "should we get divorced?" for the next 6 months let alone the next 6 years.

For full honesty: I had an emotional affair with a long-term friend for a few months that has ended. Nothing physical happened, we just got way too close way to quickly and we've both walked it back. I think this was a result of the issues in the marriage. I haven't seen/spoken to her in several weeks and won't until the dust has settled. I don't want her clouding my judgement about the marriage any more than she has. Note - if I end up single she will likely NOT be part of my life.

I would like to know:
1. Was there a clear Go/No Go sign that you can share?
2. If there was no clear sign, what made you decide to either leave or go "100% into the marriage"?
3. Any thoughts on what it means to be "100% in the marriage" are also helpful.

Note - we both have great support systems in terms of friends, lots of people know what's going on, we live in a big city and will both be OK one way or the other.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Dude, you're not even 5% in the marriage, she doesn't want that. If you're committed, then commit. If you don't want to, there's your answer. If you're waiting for the checkered flag...there isn't one. The other thing is, what happens if she pulls the trigger? If she decides

Do know that divorce will suck just as much at first. You will be lonely. You'll miss the closeness and familiarity of your spouse, and you have to remember that you found that part of your relationship stifling.

There's no perfect. But if you absolutely want out then get out. But when she's rebuilt her life, and she's got her friends, and perhaps a new man in her life, you may end up regretting your decision. And the worst part is, she may not.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:07 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

I know this game. I'm younger then you and I was only married (albeit too young) for four years but we recently realized we were better as friends then partners. There isn't a clear sign, but if you are feeling like roommates and one or both want more, that's something. This is a really hard choice and it's not easier to get divorced but it's better to end it now on good terms then later on bad.
posted by Marinara at 3:07 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

i think for anyone to be of help to you we need you to update on what exactly the issues were that derailed your marriage to begin with? did you always feel like roommates since you tied the knot? what about while dating? and if not, if before you felt mushy and she's the one and pitter patter heart and all that, when did it change? can you pinpoint when and/or why?

basically as written your question lacks enough detail to provide useful advice. staying vs going is a lot about your views on commitment and love as an emotion and as a deliberate act as well as the facts and history of your relationship.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 3:07 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

2 weeks ago the couples counselor said that we both need to be "100% in the marriage" and I wanted to bolt. I am waiting for a sign that says "clearly you should get divorced" or not...

Put the second sentence first, put it in the past tense, and you may have answered your own question.
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on April 11, 2016 [46 favorites]

Do you want to be married to this person? I honestly can't tell.

Sounds like things are good for you both now. You have friends, jobs, health, money. If you're not into being married now, how is it going to be when things are bad? It sounds as though you are there because of apathy and inertia. Those are really bad reasons to spend your life with someone.
posted by 26.2 at 3:18 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had been married for 21 years. My lawyer, a friend for many years, knew both of us, and when I told him I felt a fool for having waited so many years to divorce, he wisely answered: you only get divorced when you are ready to be divorced. Do not count years etc.

I am also a believer that a trip to marriage counseling is but step one toward divorce.
Is there good news? Yes. I remarried and am now married 32 years and love each day of it.
posted by Postroad at 3:19 PM on April 11, 2016 [16 favorites]

I wouldn't want to be married to someone who felt that way about me.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 3:23 PM on April 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

Your question is a bit strange because you don't address what the core set of problems are. I'd agree that an emotional affair is a sign that you're not getting what you want out of the marriage and that you've become emotionally disconnected, but what's the issue? Not enough sex or attraction? Not seeing eye-to-eye on ethical issues? Being stuck in a boring pattern? Midlife crisis? It really could be any number of things and whether they're fixable is anybody's guess.

I do know that if my husband sounded so blasé about leaving our marriage, I'd just leave it myself. If you can't really articulate why you're with your wife and why you'd want to be with her for the rest of your life, let her find someone who does know that they'd want to work for that. You sound like you've long-since checked out.
posted by quince at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2016 [44 favorites]

You wanted to bolt? I think you have your sign. (That and the prior emotional affair and the part of you that said internally to get out and the fact that the best you can say after a half years counseling is that you two are great roommates.)

By contrast, my husband and I knew when we went to marriage counseling during our first (rocky) year together that it would rip us both up to part. And so now our 20th anniversary is in sight.

You have to want to stay with her. If a big part of you doesn't, and both your wife and counselor have picked up on that, I think you need to pack it in.
posted by bearwife at 3:39 PM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Well, why do you want to stay married? There's nothing here that hints at why you married your wife in the first place. What would you lose if you got divorced? You say you'd both survive, but what would you mourn?
posted by smirkette at 3:42 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

You are asking strangers on the internet for permission to leave, that's as much of a sign as anything. If only because your wife deserves better than someone that has already given up on the marriage, make it clean, quick & kind (ie don't keep giving her false hope).
posted by wwax at 3:42 PM on April 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

You posted ~5 things about wanting out.

You posted ~0 about what you value about her, and the relationship and what it is giving you, other than perhaps security, comfort, and not feeling like the bad guy here.

I agree you left out some details..... but I seriously suspect you want us to tell you to pull that trigger, get out, and move on.

Some mefites recommend the coin test. Heads, you stay, tails, you leave.... if you flip that coin, while its in the air, examine your emotions for what you hope it lands on.
posted by Jacen at 3:51 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Why did you get married to your wife in the first place? What has changed since then? What about committing to your wife and marriage makes you want to "bolt"? What do you want for yourself? What do you want for your wife? And will stay or leaving give either of you a better chance for those things?
posted by cecic at 3:52 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best book to help with this question is called "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" It won't answer the question for you but it will give some clear questions to think about along with guidelines for how to make sense of your own thoughts. I highly recommend it.

On the other hand you say, I feel like posting this question is like calling an on-radio psychic - you know the answer, but want to be validated. If you know the answer then use your individual therapy to figure out what is blocking you from doing it.
posted by metahawk at 4:02 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

When you said you wanted to bolt, it sounded to me like you got scared. That's really different than being indifferent. If you were indifferent or contemptuous, I'd say absolutely, leave.

If it was me, I'd want to know what I was scared of before I left. And if it was intimacy that I was scared of, I think I'd be asking myself if I really am seriously wanting a life without intimacy.

I don't know what 100% in the marriage means, but being 100% in couples counseling means that at your very next session you say, "I need to confess that when we talked about being in the marriage 100%,something happened inside of me and I felt like I wanted to bolt. And I don't know what to make of that and I've been struggling with the question of whether to bolt or not ever since."

And then you learn what happens next.
posted by jasper411 at 4:07 PM on April 11, 2016 [29 favorites]

Make a detailed list, not pro/con just pro, everything you remember liking, loving, appreciating about her, all the way back to when you first met and every good thing including, "does not make bad mouth sounds mostly", "sometimes a nice person". Really everything at all positive. Then go look at a bunch or photos of the two of you having fun. Review. Then if there's nothing left, just not interested, you're close enough to 100%.
posted by sammyo at 4:28 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

You said that there's been no cheating, and then went on to say you had an emotional affair. That's cheating.

Just get divorced already. You have nothing good to say about your marriage. You are not doing your wife any favors by cheating on her and lying to her about wanting to be with her.
posted by a strong female character at 4:32 PM on April 11, 2016 [32 favorites]

My partner and I joined up in very tense, weird circumstances. I was: much younger than him, had been out all my life, didn't want kids. He was: married to a woman, had kids, and was just on the verge of coming out. We lived on different coasts, but he had work that brought him to my city for about half the year. We found each other at that precise moment in time and felt The Spark. After about a year of trying to to a 3,000 mile LDR, we crunched the numbers and I moved to his city (because I didn't have kids or a high-power immobile job). That led to a very, very tense few years while our two universes merged. Crises were constant.

Speaking honestly, there were a few times when he questioned our relationship and I didn't. I was prepared for the bumps and bruises of merging lives, and he wasn't. Or, more accurately, he seized on those bumps and bruises as evidence that he should get out because somewhere out there was an experience that kowtowed to his precise needs. I knew myself, he didn't know himself. He got personal therapy, and toyed with the therapy-approved idea of exploring his needs. That wasn't a comfortable process for either of us, but I gave him his space and he got to test the waters and find out that there's no relationship in which everything serves one partner's ego.

Cut to years later, and we're a pretty solid couple. There were points when neither of us had much certainty about what we wanted, or how we felt, but we forced ourselves to articulate that. If you can articulate that--if it's something like (from your ask) you want to sleep around--then articulate that. You can't worry about it being a point of no return if your other option is getting out of the relationship. People are constantly surprised that the conditions of a relationship, spoken or unspoken, can change, but those changes are predicated on finally speaking about them.

Give that a shot, put your wants into words. No one has a psychic solution. Take the psychic element out of it and just be frank with one another. First, be frank with yourself.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:39 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

When you are feeling lonely and neglected by your current spouse or long term partner, it can feel like divorce will be the worst, the most isolating thing. Divorce, even when warranted, fair, or inevitable, just seems like the worst choice.

But it can be freedom. It can let you start again. And it can help you find a better partner, or make yourself into a better partner, and induce the change you may very well need.

But stick with therapy if you can. Couples' therapy can help move things along and help you both find the peace you need, even if the transition is inevitable.
posted by kalessin at 4:39 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

How do you know when your marriage is over?

Probably when you pose this question (along with a laundry list of reasons why you're not that into her) to Internet strangers.

If I were your wife and saw this, I'd be devastated. It's over, man. You already know.
posted by chestnut-haired-sunfish at 4:43 PM on April 11, 2016 [19 favorites]

Why not do a trial separation and see how you both feel? I do know a couple (long-term but not married) who were in therapy for a while and one of them realized they were not sure if they wanted to stay. They moved out and then realized pretty quickly they wanted to make it work. They stayed separated for a month or two, moved back in together, and ended up getting married.
posted by radioamy at 4:44 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can't have a relationship without honesty or trust. You have provided neither to your wife (you haven't mentioned that she also cheated and lied about while in counselling so this appears to be on you). Whether you decide to stay or go, you are always going to be one half of any relationship you are in. Continue with your counselling until you can figure out why you can't be honest or trustworthy in a relationship, otherwise this pattern is just going to keep repeating.
posted by saucysault at 4:52 PM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I stayed a long time because I wanted to be sure I understood what part was me, what part was him and what part was "us." I felt that if I left too soon, it would be a case of "new face, same old crapola." What I am hearing is that you do not have that answer. So, I think you need to work harder on therapy to understand what is going on here.

I knew it was time to go when I finally got a name for my medical condition and it was clear to me that staying with him would help keep me sick while he and the doctors blamed my genes. I felt my life was literally on the line.

The other big thing in my mind was that I stayed as long as I had fantasies that Prince Charming was just waiting for me to be available so he could swoop in. I was terrified of being alone. I left at the point where I could honestly say "I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than spend it with him." I think that was the wisest thing I did. It means I did not leave him and then go hurtling headlong into some new, worse relationship.
posted by Michele in California at 4:52 PM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you had an emotional affair that only ended a few weeks ago then counseling or no, you have absolutely not been working on your marriage for 5 months. Ask the question again after putting 5 months of real effort in. If that doesn't appeal to you, there's a(nother) sign.
posted by headnsouth at 4:56 PM on April 11, 2016 [49 favorites]

Have you ever thought about giving some kind of ultimatum? If you want something that you're not getting, ask for it now. Leaving without even asking for it seems dishonest.
posted by amtho at 5:18 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had an emotional affair with a long-term friend for a few months that has ended. Nothing physical happened, we just got way too close way to quickly and we've both walked it back. I think this was a result of the issues in the marriage.

Mmm, I think you had an affair because you didn't love your wife enough not to. IMO, that was your first hint that you are no longer committed to being in a marriage with your wife, and you weren't honorable enough to admit it to yourself at the time, or even now, really.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:31 PM on April 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

I knew I had to leave my marriage when I realized I would rather be all alone for the rest of my life then be married to him. It took about two years to get there from the point where our marriage was clearly in trouble. I tried hard, did couple's therapy, individual therapy etc, etc. He didn't want to be married and could not pull the plug, did not really participate in couple's therapy in a real way. He also didn't try to meet the requests that I outlined as needing when I really did work hard to meet his requests. I always joke that I mastered Indian cooking when I was trying to save my marriage. There was a time before I got to the breaking point where I could honestly see it going either way, leaving or staying, but in the end I don't think he did.

I am so much happier not being married to my ex. I have had much better relationships. I feel like I have been able to become the person I was meant to be. It is the most transformative experience I have had in my life.

I would say that the two key things that make a relationship work in a healthy way is being able to communicate your needs, and being able to make some compromises for your partner's sake. If you can't do both of these thing with your wife, I would say you should leave.
posted by momochan at 5:40 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Many years ago, my then-partner told me that he realized he was ready to be done trying to work on our relationship when he realized that he was starting to get excited about the possibilities that opened up for him if we broke up. I've always thought that was a pretty good metric. It's not one that's always going to be relevant, but for him it was a sign that he was starting to look outward and forward to the next stage in his life, and that he was simply worn out from the labor of us trying to fix what had gone wrong between us. It's come in handy for me in a few situations.

I once also broke up with a lover when, in therapy, I had the experience you did: I said I was willing to keep working on the relationship, but quickly realized it wasn't true. I wanted out.

My current partner and I have been together almost 23 years. I think that a thing that has made that possible is that when we've hit rough spots, we're both willing and able to set other things aside to work on the relationship, including a long hard stretch of couples therapy about three years in. For us, this has been what it means to "go 100%." It can be really time-consuming because, if you're doing a lot of hard work on your relationship, it's also helpful to make sure you're spending enjoyable time together. Otherwise your relationship just starts to feel like it's nothing but work. But making time for therapy, hard conversations outside therapy, and doing things you enjoy together is a big commitment that can mean giving up other things for awhile.
posted by not that girl at 6:30 PM on April 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

You sound like me, except I just got out of a 22 year relationship. In many respects I thought it was a good marriage and we loved each other through some hard times, so I felt guilty whenever I wasn't totally at ease within it. Looking back, I had very good reasons to be unhappy but I was completely wrapped up in the role of "good, supportive partner/husband" and didn't have enough self esteem to gain proper perspective. Like you, I had a gut feeling but kept telling myself the sensation was only a neurotic impulse towards self-sabotage.

Don't wait for a sign post. That sort of clarity only comes at the worst possible time.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:09 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wanted to thank you for posting the question, because I was able to read it to my husband and discuss it with him. We're in our 50s and our kid is grown now and having my husband just fall out of love with me is probably my biggest fear (ok, after Alzheimer's). I've looked at the numbers and my partner and I really need to figure out how to be happy together because tearing our savings in two and giving some of it to lawyers is a quick ticket to dire straits for both of us.

When you say you feel like roommates, I imagine that you mean that your sex life has dwindled. If I'm wrong, ignore me. In my house we're doing it less often, but still enjoying it a lot. Yes, being bored with doing mostly the same things with mostly the same person does happen. If that's how you feel, I'm not going to judge you (much) and I'm pretty sure no god is going to hit you with lightning bolts. Friends and family might hurl guilt bolts at you, though. (Oh, and the reddit r/deadbedrooms subreddit is interesting reading if you want a peek at how other people feel.)

How happy were you in the beginning of the relationship? What changed? Do you and your spouse work well together as a team? How good are you at finding solutions together that make everyone happy? Are there other factors in your life that are making you unhappy? (Irritability is a sign of mild depression in me.)

If you were happy together before and if you have (or can get) good negotiating skills, then I believe you can be happy together again, even if right now all you feel is blah (plus guilt).

However, without those two things, you'd likely be better off leaving.

I'm not sure I really believe your framing that you had an emotional affair because of deficiencies in your relationship. I'd say it happened because of deficiencies in your relationship that you didn't know how to fix. I'm not sure what else you tried to make your life better.

I didn't like how your counselor's "100% statement" sounded. Switching to a different counselor is a thing you might try as a step before "Go". Do you dread your counseling appointments? Are you getting anything out of them? Are you learning helpful stuff about interpersonal dynamics in your marriage?
posted by puddledork at 7:19 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know why, but the fact that you didn't mention how long you have been married for bugs me. It's as if the natural ups and downs of a marriage don't count, rather what you just feel now.

Also, you just lied to your wife about wanting to work on the marriage. So that is what her belief is now. Does it hurt you to know she has false belief based on what you said? Or do you feel like you just bought yourself more time?

And the emotional affair. And the not wanting to look at if your marriage is salvageable or not for the next 6 months. And not giving specifics in the question, so we can't actually address details, which makes it seem as if you don't actually want to work on it. Each of these things alone is fine, normal even. But all together, it makes you sound like a very unhealthy partner. You don't really sound like anyone that should be married in general.
posted by Vaike at 7:43 PM on April 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Your marriage is over when one or both parties refuses to try. It sounds like you aren't interested in trying. Leaving her will be the biggest mistake of your life. Letting her go will be the biggest blessing you can give her. She could find someone who loves her the way she deserves to be loved. You might try to be that somebody and save a lot of misery.
posted by myselfasme at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've been there. We were pretty young - no kids, no real assets, not married for a long time but we didn't want to just give up so soon (embarrassment). I felt nothing for him anymore, but felt obligated to stay and genuinely afraid of the fall-out and what everyone else would think if I left. It was only when work sent me abroad on assignment for a few months, I had the opportunity to live apart from him for a while - I didn't miss him at all, I almost immediately felt liberated and far happier. I knew then I couldn't stay with him any longer, damn the consequences.

If you really want to know for certain, move out for at least a month or two. Try returning to dating each other if you find you do want to keep trying.

My current marriage has benefitted greatly from that failed one, plus other relationships in the interim. We've worked hard on our relationship over the years, gotten through some rough relationship times together and made it stronger as a result, and generally do good maintenance on it. That is what being in it "100%" means -- I am in this relationship by active choice, not feelings of obligation and fear, and I'm willing to work* on the relationship with him.

*Working on the relationship means finding ways to rekindle and fan the flame of the connection (being more adventurous via traveling, sex, activities, getting out and doing new things together); talking to understand each other on a deeper level; discussing the problems as something we both need to compromise on addressing and resolving if possible, for our mutual benefit; doing extra things for each other out of sheer kindness and generosity; actively trying to romance each other.
posted by lizbunny at 8:28 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

It seems to me like the question you need to ask yourself here is what you want, and how to get it. There are a lot of reasons in the world to be dis-satisfied, and not all of them are rooted in your marriage - though some of them may be worsened by the expectation that a good marriage should be "enough". Are you fulfilled in your work, do you have good friendships, do you feel like your life has value? Where are you relative to where you wish you were?

These are questions for personal thought and personal counseling. If you stopped your personal counseling for couples counseling, I recommend you start it back up again, with the specific goal of determining what you want in your life and whether you want to get a divorce.

I was daydreaming a year ago about all the good things I could do if I just left my dead-weight lazy selfish husband. After some counseling I realized he wasn't stopping me from doing any of the things that mattered to me, and sorted out a lot of what I wanted and valued and wasn't getting - started doing better at work, finding purpose, spending time with friends. It didn't take a divorce to address those. And once I did the relationship started to look a lot better - it just hadn't been able to carry the weight of my entire life happiness.
posted by Lady Li at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

How would you feel if, right this moment, she walked into the room and said she'd decided she wanted out? No guilt, no blame, just she's done and out.

Relief or pain?

There's your answer.
posted by stormyteal at 9:28 PM on April 11, 2016

How do you know if leaving is going to be better than where you are? What new sensations would you have that would make it better than now? Do you think the novelty of a new partner will magically transform into a committed relationship? How many new partners will be enough? Why do you think you cannot find 'enough' in the relationship you have now?
If there is truly nothing left to admire, appreciate, be grateful for, or be glad to have in your life because of your partner, then yes, go now. If there is, then all the rest is basically your own brain creating a reality of lack and relationship fail that makes you go seek elsewhere. What did you think would happen after the romance chemicals start to wane and you are left with this basic person to appreciate and be with for the rest of your life, if you choose to do so.
Maybe if you suck it up and understand it's your own brain that creates your reality, not the 'relationship', then eventually you will get to the other side where you appreciate your partner again as they are. If you don't stick it out and find out who is really living in that other person's skin, how much time will you spend with a new person before you get to the same level of closeness you already have?
My two cents worth. I struggle with these questions too, only it's been 22 years and today is a good day to be married.
posted by diode at 9:32 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the answer to this question is in the fact that you asked how to tell when the marriage is over, not if.

If you already know it's over, and your only issue is how long you owe it to your wife or to your marriage to go through the motions of making an effort, it would be doing both of you a favour to call it quits yesterday.
posted by emilyw at 1:43 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You owe it to your wife to be honest with her. You are coasting along and that is deeply unfair to her. Don't coast. Don't hmm your way for another few years. I cannot tell you what your decision should be, but I can tell you that you are stringing your wife along right now. Grow up and decide.
posted by kariebookish at 4:24 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need to figure out why you aren't 100% committed to the marriage. It might be more a you-thing than a you-and-her-thing. It might be because you want to sleep around, because you're not in love, because you're bored, but whatever it is you need to figure out what is going on with you.

You also need to be 100% honest about this with your wife and in counselling. Right now you are hedging. This is why the counselor said you both need to be 100% committed to the marriage. Because you aren't and this is the problem. You can't be one foot in the door and one foot out. You both need to be 100% committed or the relationship will not work. If you aren't or can't, then you need to say this and probably the relationship will end. 100% commitment means your priority is making the relationship work. You love and care for your wife absolutely, want to protect her, want to share everything with her and do not hide things or treat her as the opposition. If you wouldn't want to do that with anyone then maybe relationships aren't for you. If you could do that with someone but it just isn't her, maybe it's time to move on.

There isn't going to be a clear sign to this. Don't wait until you find someone else to leave your wife for or whatever. Figure out what it is that is giving you pause now. If the reason you don't know what you want is because you don't know which alternative is better, that means you are not into this and are de facto using your wife. If you don't get anywhere thinking about it on your own, bring it up in counselling, discuss it with your wife. Your wife should be your partner and the person you can't live without and who you want to work together with, not the person you keep secrets from and aren't sure whether you want to be around her and may drop at any minute.
posted by Polychrome at 5:00 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of good comments and thought-experiments in this thread--even so I am going to second the recommendation for Mira Kirschenbaum's book "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay". It's thorough and systematic and very, very wise.

I will say that I went through that book a few times in the long slow grinding failure of my marriage and the things I saw and understood at the end were pretty different than the things that I saw and understood at the start. It can take a while for the dynamics to really come clear. Denial is a powerful thing.

As to your question, though: my marriage was over when I realized that what my husband was getting out of staying married, was the sense of personal power he derived by ensuring that I was hurt and disempowered in our relationship. I had been hurt and struggling in our marriage for years, and when I finally realized that truly was exactly what he wanted and that he would never, ever be kind or loving again, I was released from every sense of obligation to hold things together, including for our kids. It was like a key turned in a lock and I was Done.
posted by Sublimity at 5:06 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seems like a situation that a trial separation could help resolve, and that can be done without attorneys. Just give yourselves some space to think.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2016

Reading the answers, I note that a lot of noting that the OP for not saying more about his spouse, or what he values, or what specifically is wrong. But what was he asking? He didn't ask if he should leave his wife. He asked how other people decided.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:28 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

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