Me vs. My husband's family
July 30, 2016 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I just had a big blow up with my husband's "mother" and while he's taken my side, the more I think about it, the more it seems his story doesn't hold up, and I feel he kind of provoked the argument, but maybe not on purpose. Looking back, this seems to be a pattern.

My husband and I have been in a rough spot lately, largely stemming from an emotional affair he was having with his ex-girlfriend. We're working that out, but we're having some trust issues stemming from that, and we're going backwards at times. I asked my husband to take a polygraph test to find out whether he'd been physically cheating with her as well and it determined he had not. The big reason I asked is because he admitted that he lied about being at her house only when her parents were there. She lives in another house on her parents' property, and while they mostly met at her parents' house, I specifically asked him not to be alone with her. He said "her parents were always there," and though he DID go to her house alone a few times, he tried to say he didn't lie, because he didn't say that he only went to her parents' house. She lives two hours away from us, so I also thought the travel was excessive.

He admitted that they talked about sex, usually at her instigation, but once, he asked her if he thought they'd get together if they were both single, if she still loved him, if she were sexually interested in him. His justification was he thought we weren't compatible and we were fighting a lot, and he thought we would get divorced. Before I knew all this, and I was getting uncomfortable with him traveling up there and taking phone calls out of earshot and talking about how great she was, how they'd been best friends for 10 years, I asked to meet her. He hadn't met her boyfriend, and they'd been dating nearly 2 years at that point. First he resisted, but when I said I wouldn't tolerate him seeing her again without meeting her, he asked, and she refused. That pretty much put an end to it, and he later sent her a no-contact letter.

My husband has also been working away from home and having to sleep overnight, which I told him I was uncomfortable with, because he told me he was attracted to one of his coworkers (had a crush) and "found" a few more attractive. This lasts two more weeks. I agreed to it before the EA was revealed, and am (I think) understandably upset, but husband goes back and forth on validating this feeling. As a compromise, he's been sleeping at his foster mother's house, which is about 15 minutes away. We've been arguing on the phone some, and she noticed. He told me that she said:

-we're being immature
-I'm being controlling
-he has the right to be friends with whoever he wants, and she's friends with some of her ex-lovers (who I'm pretty sure don't live in this country)
-I'm crazy for "making him" take a polygraph
-he's been so depressed since we got together
-I'm being abusive to him
-I spend all my time on the computer "brooding" over things and not letting them go
-we've made affair books our "bible" (when he disagreed with her advice and cited a book he was reading)

He said he didn't agree with most , but the polygraph "scared" him. He wanted us to meet up and she wouldn't, saying that she didn't want to get involved, but that she would continue to give him advice if she saw him upset.

He admits that he's called her mostly when he's upset, but insists that he's not giving her any one-sided story, and has "tried" to balance all the negative things he's said with the positive. He said that when he disagrees or gives more information, she digs in her heels, and is determined to stick to her viewpoint. He admitted to her that he lied to me, and that it was an inappropriate relationship, but she repeated that he can be friends with whoever he wants, and he wasn't having sex with her, so it's okay. She assigns him this only fault: he's immature. Everything else is my fault, because I'm the devil.

But it's not adding up. They're mentioning stuff that happened weeks ago. From her reaction and what she said, it seems like he was finding every thing I've ever done wrong or that he's disagreed with and telling her at that time. And the more I think of it, the angrier I get. Because he does this.

Before we were married, his sister wanted to borrow my car after she totaled hers. I had JUST quit my job and was moving in a month, so I told her she could, and I'd share with her brother. I thought she should pay a little to use it, so I asked my husband if he thought $30 / week was fine, and showed him the text before I sent it. He said it sounded fair, so I sent it (at the time she was paying $150/week for an insurance loaner). His sister, however, got pretty upset about it, and said "we're almost family, none of my other friends would charge, Husband agrees with me!" And he did. I asked him about it and he said he thought it was fair when I asked, but once she talked to him, he saw her side, and he spoke too soon, and didn't want to be "in the middle." He never admitted to his sister that he had originally agreed with me. I don't know what his final resting POV on it is.

Since then, though, he's also done the "run to her when we fight" thing, to the point where she wouldn't even speak to me when I saw her last year. He has almost successfully smoothed that over (I had to tell him to) and I've seen her once since then. We had lunch and it was awkward, but at least she tried. She did say that she was surprised we're together since we seemed so incompatible and she hadn't thought he was happy.

There have been several people he's trash talked me to during arguments (he'd call 2-3 people each time, one after the other until he got tired of it or couldn't reach anyone else), including the ex-girlfriend who said things like "you don't seem compatible, I'm surprised you're with someone like her," but didn't tell her why he loves me or is with me basically because he wanted to leave the door open between them at the time. He did a kind of divisive thing with another older friend who was like a mother. I told him that her behavior was clearly inappropriate, and he agreed with me, and talked to her. Somehow I got dragged in and vilified, she started crying, and he took her side for awhile, but that really ended once we talked to our counselor about it, and he said I was right.

Although we have a really good couples counselor, it doesn't feel like enough. I feel like I AM turning into a crazy, controlling, abusive person, because I insisted he cut the ex-girlfriend and the inappropriate "mother" out if he wants to stay married to me, and he's said he won't talk to foster mom unless she's more fair. I've always been clear that it's his choice, but I won't have those people in my life, and won't be married to him if he does.

I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why?? Shouldn't he want us to get along? I've offered him any number of options to get out, even to legally divorce and continue living together, in case he is married just so he won't be lonely. I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it? What can we do about it?
posted by serenity_now to Human Relations (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, um, just reading through this, it was pretty clear to me that your marriage is over. This person is not working with you and doesn't want to be married. I'm really sorry.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2016 [148 favorites]


I feel like I AM turning into a crazy, controlling, abusive person, because I insisted he cut the ex-girlfriend and the inappropriate "mother" out if he wants to stay married to me, and he's said he won't talk to foster mom unless she's more fair.

You are correct in your self assessment.

Either you trust him or you don't. You don't. If you can't trust him, I don't think the relationship can be saved.
posted by maggiepolitt at 6:32 AM on July 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm crazy for "making him" take a polygraph

I wouldn't use the word crazy, but if this was asked of me or I asked this of my partner, it would be the point when I realized it was over.
posted by paulcole at 6:41 AM on July 30, 2016 [179 favorites]


What could he be getting out of it?

What are you getting out of it? You don't need to drag this out to be an episode of Jerry Springer - you're both unhappy. Don't offer him divorce, take that step yourself.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2016 [40 favorites]


I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why?? Shouldn't he want us to get along? I've offered him any number of options to get out, even to legally divorce and continue living together, in case he is married just so he won't be lonely. I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it?

There's a certain point where you have to stop worrying about why he's doing something or what he's getting out of this. The status quo and arrangement is working for him, and he is happy to maintain and manipulate people around him to meet that need, especially since the other parties are happy to participate.

This is the point now where you need to worry about your own happiness and whether all of this drama is worth it. Why would you need to offer him anything or worry about his loneliness? It's time to leave and stop accommodating.
posted by Karaage at 6:48 AM on July 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


You also lost me at polygraph test. Things are very much not right between you and it seems that he doesn't want to work this out.

I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why??

Because working things out with you isn't important to him.

Shouldn't he want us to get along?

Ideally, yes. But it appears he doesn't.

I've offered him any number of options to get out, even to legally divorce and continue living together, in case he is married just so he won't be lonely.

Forget about offering him options. Forget about ensuring he's not lonely by divorcing him but still living together, which is an epically bad idea.

What do YOU want? You want this nonsense to stop, right? So forget about what he wants and try to get some clarity about how you can move forward without this clusterfuck of lies and polygraph tests and sleepovers and pulling his family into arguments which are none of their business. Do you want this to change? Then be the change.

I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it? What can we do about it?

I know it feels crazy-making, but from what you've written, he does not want to be married. And that's on him and it's not your problem. People who are invested in their marriages don't pull this kind of nonsense on their partners, full stop. There's no Team Us between you two. it's his side versus your side and from your question, no areas where he's trying to create a Team Us. Team Us is really critical.

You need to figure out what you need and how you're going to make that happen. I think the first step is an actual separation while you consider your options.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:49 AM on July 30, 2016 [33 favorites]


"Although we have a really good couples counselor...."

Ahhh...no, no you don't.

I agree with others that it sounds like this relationship is at the bottom of the barrel and probably over. But, if you want to give it one more try find a couples therapist that is actually helping the two of you move this relationship into a healthy zone. But, honestly, I doubt that he's interested in doing that.

No one has said DTMFA yet..but that's probably where you're at.
posted by HuronBob at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why??

Why does 'why??' matter? What reason would be OK? What could you do about it?

I don't understand why *you* feel like this marriage is worth saving. To me it sounds like he just doesn't care whether he's married to you or not, or whether you're happy or not. Some people are too conflict-avoidant or lazy to actually break up with you. Your husband sounds like one of those people.

Do you have, like, financial or immigration reasons for staying in this marriage? Because otherwise, I just can't see why you would stay. Saving this marriage seems way more unpleasant than finding a new partner who suits you better or just not living with a partner.
posted by mskyle at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: We did have a bad couples counselor from March last year until this month. We switched to a good one and have had only two sessions so far.

Yes, why matters. I know the marriage is shitty, but I'm really concerned with why he's doing this.

I have financial reasons for staying in the marriage as of now, and my support system is about 2 hours away so I'm not sure where to find a job yet, and need to figure out where I'm going to live before I do that. He doesn't need me. He can end the marriage and end up just fine with no disruption, so I'm not understanding why he doesn't do that, if that's what he wants.
posted by serenity_now at 7:05 AM on July 30, 2016


I'm really concerned with why he's doing this.

Because he's an ass.

And so is his mother.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:11 AM on July 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


It sounds to me that he's doing it because he doesn't care, at all one whit, about you. Your marriage is over, you need to find your own counsellor to work through your self-esteem issues and start prioritising you, and make and act upon your exit plan. Why are you waiting for him? Why isn't your happiness important to you?
posted by goo at 7:11 AM on July 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


He is ending the marriage, just extremely slowly.

What can you do to address the financial reasons for staying? You'll never have a satisfactory answer as to why he's acting like this, but you can get yourself out of it.
posted by RainyJay at 7:17 AM on July 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


Best answer: Gutless people often run to someone who they know will take their side and get them to voice their criticisms of you. That way, they get to avoid conflict yet still have a dig at you, with the added bonus of making you feel ganged up on.

Aside from this, my response to her (his) criticisms:
"We're being immature" - least of your worries
"I'm being controlling" - hardly surprising when this situation is totally out of control
"He has the right to be friends with whoever he wants" - irrelevant, that wasn't a friendship, it was an emotional affair
"I'm crazy for making him take a polygraph" - and who drove you crazy?
"he's been so depressed since we got together" - due to the guilt and stress of maintaining this level of duplicity and the fact that you are cramping his style by not letting him get away with it
"I am abusive to him" - aaaaargh calling someone out on unacceptable behaviour is NOT abuse, if anyone is being abusive around here it is him.

but yes it all adds up to: get out of this relationship, this man is cheating on you and chipping away at your sanity and self esteem and this is so far gone there is no way on earth you can save it.
posted by intensitymultiply at 7:22 AM on July 30, 2016 [48 favorites]


he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network..... why??

It's more than likely a form of control: since apparently none of you have bothered to speak directly to each other --- you to his foster mom or her to you, you and his girlfriend, etc. etc. ad nauseum. He's got you all so bamboozled and angry with what he reports each of you say about the others (note that: not what you yourself know for a fact other people have said, only what he claims they said) that now none of you are willing to even try speaking directly to each other.

Think about it: you know for a fact that your husband is a liar: see the parts about seeing his ex, lusting for his coworkers, where he is or was. So, why should you believe him when he claims his foster mother or ex or anyone else says something about you? Answer: you shouldn't, its just more lies on his part. And here's the kicker, that "why??" part: because it keeps you all separated, not communicating with each other, and therefore his ass is covered when (not if, when) he wants to hide things.

DTMFA, now. Your marriage is all over except for the paperwork.
posted by easily confused at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2016 [28 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if your husband is trying to get you to be the one to leave, so he won't be the Bad Guy. If you are financially dependent on him, and have an inadequate support system, he might feel that divorcing you would make him the Bad Guy, leaving his poor helpless wife like that.

Yes, it's gutless, cowardly, and shitty, but you really can't change him or make him cowboy up and do what he wants/needs to do.

When I read "polygraph test" I thought, this marriage is dunzo. It's over, or at least on life support. I would advise getting a counselor of your own, to help you disengage, and take steps towards being financially and emotionally self-sufficient. Even if your marriage somehow caught a miracle and resurrected, you are still better of if you are not utterly dependent on the other person.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:49 AM on July 30, 2016 [41 favorites]


Best answer: He sounds like an incredibly passive person. He doesn't have his own opinions, he just goes with whoever's opinion means the least amount of work for him, and seeks out validation from people who tell him he doesn't need to change. He's not going to leave because that'd require him having some form of initiative.

I don't see how you are gaining ANYTHING by being with someone who makes you feel this terrible and who is clearly not interested in changing his behaviour. Stop focusing on the why as if this is a puzzle you can solve, as if answering that question will mean saving your marriage, and start focusing on getting out of this relationship. Asking yourself "why" is a distraction that is keeping you trapped. Put your analytical skills and anxious energy towards crafting and executing an exit plan.
posted by buteo at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2016 [22 favorites]


Best answer: I've said this before in similar threads - he wants out but he doesn't want to be the "bad guy" who ended his marrage, so he's trying to back you into a corner where you have no choice but to do his dirty work for him.

He's already made you the bad guy in the eyes of everyone who matters to him. But none of that matters. What matters is that this relationship is not providing you with what you need in a relationship. Better to move along now rather than drag it on and continue to have your heart broken. Don't add any more drama to the situation. Take the high road and conduct yourself in a way that you feel proud of when you look back at this chapter in your life a few years down the line.
posted by vignettist at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


It doesn't matter who did what to whom at this point, the marriage can't come back from this. Unless you have kids that would be put in jeopardy, just leave. You will figure out the financial stuff. Poverty and debt is better than this constant turmoil, trust me.
posted by AFABulous at 8:16 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if your husband is trying to get you to be the one to leave, so he won't be the Bad Guy. If you are financially dependent on him, and have an inadequate support system, he might feel that divorcing you would make him the Bad Guy, leaving his poor helpless wife like that.

This. I watched a friend stay in a terrible relationship for a DECADE because she was with a guy who didn't want to be a Bad Guy (I mean, she also could have left at any time, and didn't, but you didn't ask why you're doing what you're doing, you asked why he's doing what he's doing).

There is no reason to think this will get better. I'm sure we all know miserable couples who have "celebrated" their 25th or 50th anniversaries because neither of them was strong enough to rip off the freaking band-aid and recognize that they were fundamentally unsuited (and, judging by my recollection of your previous asks, you guys do not seem like a good match).
posted by mskyle at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


Best answer: I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why??

Because it feels like taking action. Because drama is exciting. Because he gets what feels like positive attention and love from them, and only negative attention and feedback from you. Because the feeling he gets from doing this is better than the feelings he's getting from you.


Shouldn't he want us to get along?


Ideally, yes. But none of this is ideal. The decisions you two are making, and the actions you two are taking are not getting you any closer to ideal. Nothing either of you are doing is making progress toward a stable, loving, respectful marriage of equals. Wanting is all pie in the sky. Taking actual steps toward both of you behaving better in this marriage is hard work that needs to be performed under skilled guidance.


I've offered him any number of options to get out, even to legally divorce and continue living together, in case he is married just so he won't be lonely. I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it?


Whatever he is getting out of it he is okay with, or encouraging, or is such an ingrained pattern in him that he doesn't know any different. He doesn't sound like someone who has an understanding of boundaries or thoughtful, supportive decisions and truthful discussions. This may not necessarily be his fault - but it doesn't have to be your problem.


What can we do about it?

Don't hang onto this marriage for the sake of being married, or because of the time and energy invested, or because of the idea of "love" as a feeling you have. Work with your counselor on identifying what a good marriage for the two of you would look like. It doesn't have to look like anyone else's marriage.

But if you identify things such as fidelity, loyalty, trust, privacy, accountability and respect being important to you, and he just wants to do what he wants to do without catching flak from you about it, well - you each have a long way to go towards meeting in the middle.



Pretend he is using his mother as a beard, reporting these things as something she said when it's how he really feels:

-we're being immature
Being called on his actions instead of treating him like a grown-up who can run his relationship the way he wants to feels like being a kid.

-I'm being controlling

It sucks to have to answer to someone who's stricter than his mom!

-he has the right to be friends with whoever he wants, and she's friends with some of her ex-lovers (who I'm pretty sure don't live in this country)

Sure he does - and girlfriends have the word friend in them, why are you making such a big deal? Other people can do things, why can't he?

-I'm crazy for "making him" take a polygraph

He would have gotten away with more if it weren't for that pesky accountability!

-he's been so depressed since we got together

Marriage should be fun! Things should be easy! Having to behave and show respect and conform is not as fun as the idea of marriage.

-I'm being abusive to him

Having to do anything he doesn't want to do feels abusive to him.

-I spend all my time on the computer "brooding" over things and not letting them go

Just go with feelings! Friendships with ex-lovers feel okay to him, so why do you need guidance and confirmation and advice and outside opinions?

-we've made affair books our "bible" (when he disagreed with her advice and cited a book he was reading)
He's being proven wrong by sources! Ack! More accountability. More work with this person with the sources and the demands. Why is it only with this person? Mom was right. I'm fine!


And he probably is fine. For someone else. I'm sure a lot of these flags were there, but you married them anyway. You can't change him. You can't fix him. It won't be better if he just changes these few things. He is all of his good qualities, and all of his bad. His good ones aren't enough to keep you happily married, and his bad ones are bringing out the crazy in you.

This is not the relationship you want to have because you know better. Maybe he does too, and he is trying to fire you because those above are right - he's passive, and he can't give you what you want.
posted by peagood at 8:20 AM on July 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


Best answer: I have no doubt that he's pitting me against people in his family/friend network. The question is, why?? Shouldn't he want us to get along? I've offered him any number of options to get out, even to legally divorce and continue living together, in case he is married just so he won't be lonely. I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it?

He doesn't want to be married to you. But it is obviously very important for his own ego / sense of self / self-image that he not be the bad guy here. He is doing his level best to build a narrative among family and friends about how shit you are while simultaneously making it impossible to stay with him.

The inevitable outcome is that you finally leave and then everyone will tell him he's a saint for everything he put up with and that the end of this marriage is totally not his fault and poor, poor diddums did the mean lady break your heart?

I have financial reasons for staying in the marriage as of now, and my support system is about 2 hours away so I'm not sure where to find a job yet, and need to figure out where I'm going to live before I do that.

Please stop investing your emotional energy into his bullshit and focus on building your exit plan. Please see a divorce attorney in your state so that you are planning with a fully informed deck and understand what you are entitled to under divorce law in your state.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yes, why matters. I know the marriage is shitty, but I'm really concerned with why he's doing this.

You'll never know for sure and I know it's crazy-making. But because it IS crazy-making, you need to let it go. There will never be a reasonable answer for why he's doing this.

People here have speculated he's probably acting this way because it's a passive way to get you to end the marriage because he, for whatever reason, can't. It's probably the best answer you'll ever get, but he won't cop to this and will keep twisting things and getting his family involved and have crushes and emotional affairs with others until you pull the plug.

(You can ignore this part but I'm going to tell you a little story about trying to understand crazy-making behavior to no purpose: I was engaged to someone and they moved in with me. Within a few weeks of moving in, they met up with an ex they hadn't seen for years and didn't tell me. They started communicating and flirting regularly and I only found out by handing him his phone and seeing a text from her where she was excited to see him later that day.

I spent WAYYYYYY too long trying to discuss this and figuring out WHY he would do this. I mean, Jesus, we were making wedding plans and he was having an affair, although he insisted they were friends, etc. and I was the one being insecure and jealous.

The point I'm making is he did this stuff because he wanted to. Feeling sad, insecurities, medication issues, underemployment, whatever - none of that mattered.

This person behaved atrociously because he wanted to behave atrociously. I broke up with him and he moved right in with her.

That's the end of the story but I want you to see I could have wasted far too much time and mental energy and emotion wanting to know reasons.

The only reason was this person made choices about how they wanted to live their life. These choices were not respectful or kind to me or our relationship and the relationship ended.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2016 [22 favorites]


I don't even understand the question, but I think your marriage and both of your lives would be improved if you saw individual counselors in addition to your marriage counselor. Both of you need to work on a lot of things. I am not sure which is worse, you asking for a polygraph or him agreeing to take it. The amount of energy being spent on this relationship is beyond healthy.
posted by AugustWest at 8:30 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


It sounds to me like your husband feels, rightly or not, powerless in the relationship (and possibly in his life) to solve problems and act of his own accord. So he is acting out by having secret emotional affairs and when you're not around, complaining about your relationship. He may not even be lying when he says he tries to present the matter in a balanced way. But people are probably picking up on his feelings of powerlessness in the situation. They are responding as friends and family would, by protecting his interests first. This is behavior that I have seen from passive aggressive partners in relationships before.
posted by lieber hair at 8:56 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: The only other person I've ever heard of whose partner made them take a polygraph test over cheating was my sister. She passed the test...and was actually cheating. Please don't put too much stock in that polygraph test - get an std test and don't have unprotected sex with your husband.

He has turned his family and friends against you. They're not the bad guys here, he is. I mean, it's possible they are as well but the beauty of it is that as soon as you're rid of him then, as if by magic, you'll be rid of them, too.

I think the best thing you could do right now is take all the energy you're focussing on him and turn it towards yourself. Put your efforts into finding a job, finding a way to move closer to your support system, and mentally distancing yourself from him. You'll be better able to do this now while he's still working away, so get on it. You can do this. And you pretty much have to.
posted by hazyjane at 8:56 AM on July 30, 2016 [30 favorites]


Best answer: He is a drama queen who loves the female attention that he gets when he plays the victim. That is why he is doing this to you. When you get the strength to leave him, and, you will someday, he will replace you with someone else and continue the cycle. You are his victim, not his wife.

A good man protects the women in his life. He does not speak badly of his wife to anyone, certainly not other women. A good man doesn't flirt and have crushes while married. A good man doesn't run to his mommy and complain every chance he gets. You do not have a good man. You can get a good man. Rid yourself of this one, take some time to recover and remember who you are, and then commit to only dating men who are the complete opposite of this guy.

It is good that your support people are two hours away. When you leave, you need to go far. He is going to play the victim to the highest degree when you leave. He is going to turn everyone you have ever known against you. He will spend the next few years trying to destroy everything that you hold dear, because it pleases him to do so. Anything that you do in life that doesn't fit in with his story of you, he will try to destroy. He will try to get you fired from jobs and he will try to stir up mess with your current boyfriend. Protect yourself by going stealth. Cut ties with everyone, close your fb account, and move away. It is the only way you will have a life.

Research narcissistic personality disorder and look for support groups. The stuff that he will do to you will sound so crazy that most people won't believe you, playing into his script that he is trying to write for your life, casting you as the crazy person.

You can escape and recover from someone like this only by getting as far out of their way as possible.
posted by myselfasme at 8:56 AM on July 30, 2016 [16 favorites]


Sorry, it's time to make your exit from this mess.
posted by so fucking future at 8:57 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Your marriage is over. Please stop putting your energy into examining his family dynamics or how they treat you. You need to focus on:

1. Getting a way to support yourself. There's no rule that you can only get divorced if you can move to where your support system is (phone! Weekend visits!) Figure out alimony and rent a room near your current job, or get a job. If he could just easily end your marriage so can you.

2. See #1. It is really really hard to have to land back on your resources as a single adult. But that's the only way.ask him if he'll pay your rent for 4 months up front...it's probably about the same as two years of couples counseling.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:03 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Weak-willed, passive-aggressive, manipulative weasels often drive the people around them to crazy lengths. Your husband is an asshole and is doing this to you. Your life will get so much better once he is not in it. He just wants the security of being like, "I don't know why she divorced me! She's crazy! I was so nice and perfectly behaved!"
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 9:07 AM on July 30, 2016 [23 favorites]


After you exit--and you should--please don't waste the next x years of your life re-litigating this marriage and trying to disentangle all of the many crazy-making incidents. Don't let him keep living in your head; get individual counseling to help you move on. Similarly, don't leap into another relationship right away; you don't know what a healthy relationship looks like, yet, and sequential monogamy will only delay your evolution into a self-aware and self-respecting adult and individual. Take care and good luck.

PS Have you ever met someone who tells you all about a trauma--a divorce, a death in the family, an illness or car wreck, whatever--and it sounds like really fresh pain... but then you suddenly realize that it happened 10 or 20 or even more years ago? That's a wasted life that could have been much improved with therapy. Don't do that to yourself.
posted by carmicha at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


He's a little twit. You think you care what people will say about you when you divorce, but you don't-- once you're back with your support network, you will not care who is stroking the feelings of this immature turd. Just leave, get a job, and frankly once you don't care about him hopefully he's embarrassed by how transparent his bullshit is.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:22 AM on July 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


You married a baby. He is a needy, spineless person who goes from impulse to impulse like he has an electrical discontinuity that can only be grounded by whoever is around. He is still nursing. I am not sure how you initially confused him with an adult, but predators often have a way of making you feel connected, but it is by their need. You would have to have him in your arms at all times to keep your relationship. Let his mother finish up the job, she didn't do, initially.
posted by Oyéah at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


The why doesn't matter. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he presented as a normal adult at the outset of your time together. It's only been, what, two years, based on a previous ask of yours. Consider yourself lucky that you have only spent this much time around him. Get a lawyer, move out, put your stuff in storage, do whatever you have to do. Tell the people in your support network you need help, and they'll step up, whether it's a couch to crash on, a van to borrow, or a garage to store your stuff. In six months (hell, probably even less!) you'll wonder what the hell you were doing with this person.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:40 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I know for a fact his foster mom said all those things. I talked to her on the phone and she confirmed. When we talked about things he admitted, like lying, she denied he'd done anything wrong. Even when he said it. He had the right to see who he wanted to see, period.

He does it with male friends, but much more and in depth with female friends.

I thought the polygraph was a good idea because it was recommended on Marriage Builders a lot, and mentioned in a book we were reading. I did have an STD test (all negative). Those to me are definite signs of a broken marriage, but I'd hoped to reconcile, as it seems many couples have been able to.

This is all good advice, however. Thanks so much.
posted by serenity_now at 9:40 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everyone here has nailed different aspects of the answer to why he is doing this. Is that sufficient? Seriously - now you know why*. What is your next step? If I were you, mine would be researching divorce proceedings and lawyers.

*If you are thinking "No, that can't be it; no, not that or that or that; I need more/different reasons why he's doing this," then you need to come to terms with the fact that you are not going to get the answer from people on the internet. And you're not going to get it from your husband, either. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on July 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


It doesn't matter what she said. It doesn't matter what he said. You're not going to crack this case and suddenly everybody's going to act like a decent human being, so stop trying.

You've invented this limit so that you don't have to admit the marriage is over and get on with the next steps until you've gotten a PhD in it - written a dissertation in what went wrong and why, defended it before a committee - which is conveniently impossible to do.

You will never know why, because he does not know why, and he doesn't fucking care why so he's never going to figure it out. He wants to do what he wants to do, regardless of the consequences or who he hurts or even common sense! Some people are just low quality. This guy is low quality, and his mama is too.

There is no amount of effort you can make to hold up both sides of the relationship, because that's not how the physics of relationships works. You cannot be his conscience for him. You can't even appeal to his desire to make you happy, because he does not care about making you happy. You *are* being controlling, because you're trying to be his nervous system for him. It's just not possible.

That's not love. It's not even like. He doesn't like you, and there's no way for you to like him when this is all he has to offer you.

Don't ever talk to his mother or friends again. That'll rid you of that annoyance. Do talk to a lawyer and figure out next steps.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2016 [24 favorites]


Divorce is still tantamount to being a complete failure at life in a lot of people's eyes. I've realized it's an old-fashioned way of thinking, but these perceptions still persist today.

When my first marriage was coming to an end, I really didn't want to be with my husband anymore BUT what held me back was the very idea of marriage being "sacred" and a promise not lightly broken, divorce seeming like the absolute end of the world.

I was afraid of everything getting divorced would entail, and that I would feel like it was a huge failure. How hard it would be emotionally, fearing I would be villainized by our friends and (catholic) family and have no support, fearing my ex would try to ruin my life in the process, fearing I would be some kind of social outcast afterwards. Also how difficult it would be to separate our stuff and assets, how long it would take, how much it would cost... it seemed like a huge painful ordeal, impossible to get through - it would destroy me.

It was as if my relationship with my spouse and my marriage were two separate things. At one point I'd honestly thought I'd just end up with a marriage "in name only" to my husband and we'd lead separate lives in the same house, and I'd secretly have a string of lovers and affairs to get my emotional/sexual needs met over the coming years. Because I simply couldn't get "divorced".

Eventually I did get divorced, but it was so hard to get to that point (I was seriously considering suicide before finally mentally breaking through and deciding my life was worth getting divorced... fucked up, I know). Divorce is still one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, but it was 1000% worth it to be free of him.
posted by lizbunny at 10:20 AM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Your marriage is (to be blunt) a shitshow. Your husband is clearly begging you to divorce him. For whatever reason you've decided to knuckle it out and try to change him instead. He wants to be divorced. He wants to move on. Whatever else he's saying is a lie. His behavior says loud and clear he's psychologically ready to divorce and is hoping to passively provoke you into it so he's not the bad guy.

His foster mom is not wrong about you. The polygraph was crazy. You can't see this because you're in so deep in so much crazy that crazy things are starting to seem normal to you. Nothing about this entire situation is normal. The proper response to this is to divorce your husband and give up on trying to force/argue/guilt/strong arm him into being the non-terrible husband you want.

I'm really sorry. There is no other answer here.
posted by stockpuppet at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why he wants to be married, but acts this way. What could he be getting out of it? What can we do about it?

There's nothing in your post or in your follow-ups that says what you want from this marriage. It sounds like it's gotten so bad that you've lost sight of the fundamentals. What do you want from a relationship? What do you want from life?

Do you want to keep living like this? Are you happy living with a man who sets people against you and lies to you about things you tell him are important to you? Are you happy having to investigate his life? What about your life? How much time are you dedicating to things that are important to you? How much time do you have to spend with your friends and family?
posted by fraula at 11:17 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Would proof of physical cheating make it more clear to you that the marriage needs to be over?
posted by crunchy_cereals at 11:53 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anything that says to use a polygraph test is a terrible book. Polygraph tests are a bunch of bullshit, easily faked and give false positives.

Educate yourself through professionals like a therapist, get books recommended by professionals in the field, not the self help section at a local bookstore.

It sounds to me you have very specific preferences about monogamy, emotional relationships to others and honesty which is fine!

Not all relationships (even marriages!) Are like this. My wife and I agreed to the possibility of open relationships (including sex) as long as the both of us were honest. Upfront and could communicate our needs. I encourage my wife to have close emotional ties to others, and I have close emotional ties to others as well.


You can have and seek out relationships with people who have the same ideals as you. Your values are not compatible with his style of emotional attachment to others.yes, he could choose to be loyal and curb behaviors but it doesn't sound like that's going to happen.

Take gentle care and find someone you can trust.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:00 PM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be surprised if your husband is trying to get you to be the one to leave, so he won't be the Bad Guy. If you are financially dependent on him, and have an inadequate support system, he might feel that divorcing you would make him the Bad Guy, leaving his poor helpless wife like that.

Yeah. So here's what you do: you start protecting yourself.

If he doesn't want to divorce you right now? Great! Start socking away money somewhere that he doesn't know about and can't access. Because the question is not "are you going to get a divorce?" The question is "When are you going to get a divorce?" Because eventually even he won't be able to play the good guy anymore, and he'll do it. It might be five years from now, it might be five months from now. Start socking away resources to protect yourself from what will happen.

This man can't be a good husband to you. He doesn't have any interest in doing so. Put the load of trying down.
posted by corb at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think it might be helpful for you to read this brief but insightful essay on untangling the skein of fuckupedness on the Chump Lady blog.
posted by Sublimity at 2:33 PM on July 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


OP, looking back at your past questions, you have had very tumultuous past few months, and I really feel for you. It must be incredibly stressful to have such a disconnect with your husband, who is supposed to be your biggest supporter and life partner. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the consensus that your marriage is no longer viable, and you need a plan to salvage yourself instead of marriage and begin building your own happiness away from your husband. I'm sorry because I know how painful that is to hear, especially repeatedly in a variety of ways and tones, but I also know that if you can accept that answer and start down a different path, you will be so much happier for it.

I understand wanting to fully comprehend the "why" behind his actions and words, but you are rejecting the answers you are hearing. While some people have said there's no way of knowing, plenty have posited it's his passive aggressive way of killing the marriage, or he is satisfying some sort of pathological need. Understandably, you don't like any of these answers, probably for more than one reason. While any and/or all of these could be on the money, I'm going to say that he has ineffective coping skills and is not capable of being in a marriage right now. He may wish things, and maybe even himself, were different, and is blind to the fact that they aren't going to be, at least anytime soon, if ever. While it doesn't sound like it, he very well may be acting in good faith and furiously trying to change things, but that has become very much beside the point. This isn't working and hasn't for a long time. You both deserve a calmer, more fulfilling life, and it doesn't sound like either of you can have that if you remain married. There doesn't have to be a bad guy or malicious machinations on anyone's part. You can, however, quietly begin to form an exit plan while putting aside a bit of money and start organizing help from your support system. Two hours away may feel far, but even without access to a car, it really isn't. A lot of things can feel impossible even when they are completely feasible. You just have to tackle it one tiny step at a time and take care of yourself along the way.

I suggest asking your husband to press pause and have a cooling off period where you don't discuss *ANY* of these issues or the future. Instead, the two of you will keep it light and just live your daily lives being kind and friendly with the idea that after a predetermined amount of time, you will revisit all of this. In the meantime, start planning your exit strategy and get your ducks in a row. When your cooling off period is over, you will have a solid plan in hand and feel so much more powerful, regardless of what happens. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 4:43 PM on July 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


You're locked into this game with your husband, I understand. You want resolution, redemption, understanding. You want him to see that you're right - and to recognize your right, as a spouse, your claim to his affections. But he's not going to give you any of that. He just doesn't want what you want. He may not even know all the reasons why (even if others can probably guess at them more or less correctly). You can't reason or force him into loving you again, or not having affections for others. Probably for the reasons described above - and I know you want to dig into the specifics, because that's what your mind's been gripped with all this time, but the bottom line is, he just doesn't want what you want.

One of you is going to get fed up soonish. Since you've got more to lose than he does, it would be wise to plan for the end now. You have to take your attention out of the back and forth in order to do that. You can't make him love you again, or go back to the beginning, but you've got rights to property and alimony, by law. You've got to trust that you'll figure out how to fill in the gaps. Pointing you towards A Terrible Llama's response to another recent question, as for why.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:15 PM on July 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the question of "why" is partly a way to try to find closure. I had to come to terms recently with the fact that closure isn't something I can expect of anybody, especially not people with whom I'm not on good terms. Closure, where people sit down and express their reasoning and hug it out, is something I'm more likely to get at the close of a good relationship. Why would you expect good closure from a bad relationship? Messiness and loose ends and uncertainty are part of the reason you're considering leaving. They are part of the pain. They will likely be part of the process of getting out, if that's what you choose.

In my case, I felt more free once I recognized closure as something I had to find for myself. I mentally released the other person from giving it to me, and as a result I found I wasn't as impacted by their actions and words. I now tell myself, when something comes up: "They can't do this for me or won't do this for me, so all that remains is to do the best I can for myself."

This podcast on ambiguous loss helped me think through it.

All that said, it can be helpful to have some reason to hold to, so I brainstormed possibilities: He has a conservative cultural or religious background that tells him divorcing is morally wrong, and he can't imagine himself doing it. He's afraid of what it will mean about him -- he wouldn't be able to live with thinking of himself as a divorce-instigator. He is conflict-averse. He is getting energy or affirmation from the drama. He had a poor example of marriage set for him and actually doesn't see this as a bad situation. He's lazy. He'd prefer not to take even a small financial hit because money and property are important to him. He likes your cooking/laundry skills/shampoo scent/presence and wants it to stick around. He is interpreting your frustration and anger as engagement and attention to the relationship, and prefers that to being alone (conflict as love). Your universe revolves around him, in a sense, and it makes him feel important. He did something awful and this is his penance. His guy friends are all married and he wants to "keep up" with them. He knows it hurts you personally, and enjoys that fact. He hates women in general and likes to see you downtrodden. He is confused. He is out of touch with his emotions and hasn't figured out he wants to go.

For me the main purpose of identifying a motive would be to free up the rest of my thinking to figure out what to do. It doesn't have to be true, just true enough to satisfy that "Why?" itch and move on.
posted by ramenopres at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


What can we do about it?

Nothing. Your husband doesn't love you and doesn't even like you anymore. And he's cheated on you repeatedly (regardless of what the polygraph said).

The real question is: what are you getting out of it and why are you waiting for him to initiate the divorce?
posted by Kwadeng at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


The real question is: what are you getting out of it and why are you waiting for him to initiate the divorce?

Yes, I think you need to figure out why you're staying, and either come to a place of peace with that ("I'm staying in the relationship because of money, so maintaining harmony so that I have access to money needs to be my primary goal") or (my recommendation) figure out ways to eliminate that barrier (get your own financial house in order, get individual therapy to figure out how to cut emotional ties, etc.) so that you can end the relationship. Because right now, it sounds like you're both torturing each other, and that's no good for anyone.
posted by lazuli at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, why matters.

The only why that matters is in this question: Why are you still there?

Yes, you'll take a hit. But as 99 out of 100 askme females will tell you, it was sooooo much better to finally DTMFA.

Hire a lawyer, get your ducks in a row, and leave this week. Call it a trial separation if it makes you feel better. Spend at least a week NOT talking to anyone involved in this mess--especially him. Ask yourself at the end of the week how you feel. Yes, you might feel sad, lonely, regretful, etc., but I'll bet the overwhelming emotion will be relief.

If you continue to wallow in this, I would be suspecting that you are secretly enjoying the drama.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:12 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


The polygraph test is junk science - where the hell would you even go to get one done, anyway? - but whatever the outcome your marriage is over.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:02 PM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice, even those that didn't happen to answer the central question. Many of those that I didn't favorite or mark as best were also great answers, and I'm taking them into advisement.
posted by serenity_now at 6:08 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


One more note: see a lawyer before you do anything, especially if you own property --- moving out of a jointly-owned house (or simply changing the locks and refusing him entry) could cost you, so check your legal rights beforehand.
posted by easily confused at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am sorry you are dealing with this. But you will never be able to heal and move on (and maybe eventually find a good partner) as long as you are frantically twisting the Rubik's Cube of Crazy(TM me), chasing the why. It doesn't matter why. The why is HIS problem. Toss that cube behind you and never look back.
posted by cyndigo at 7:14 PM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


When we talked about things he admitted, like lying, she denied he'd done anything wrong. Even when he said it. He had the right to see who he wanted to see, period.

It sounds like part of the reason he does what he does is that he was raised by people who think it's OK to behave this way in a marriage. This doesn't sound like the type of person who raised children with discipline and respect for the feelings of others.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:37 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Step back.

You're so deep in the fight. So entrenched in the details, the tactics of the moment that you can't see this. This stopped being a fight or a battle or a war. This is a tragedy, a catastrophe.

There is no winning a catastrophe. You can only walk away and rebuild.
posted by French Fry at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


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