Ours is not to reason why; ours but to do or die.
November 24, 2016 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Did your spouse leave you for "more*"? If so, what was it like? *More = attention, affection, interest in your needs/hobbies, directed goals, assitance, reliability, intimacy, understanding, emotional labour, enthusiasm, connection, time, etc....

I'm struggling with initiating a separation with my husband. He is a good man, and deserves to be happy (as do I) but the last 2 years, all we do is fight (we've tried couples counslling 2x, we are on our third counsellor, and I've been having my own counselling). I feel like I've been worn down to a tiny, confused nub... I need space.

We've moved in very different directions with our lives. When we met we were both grad students, studying the same thing, working towards the same goals. Once those were complete, and we tried on our new selves, nothing seemed to fit right with me. I feel as though the things we have in common are so very tiny compared to the things we used to have in common. And I want... and need... to grow.

He is suffering through this. I feel terrible.

I feel terrible because i feel guilty asking for more, when I know that there are couples that cycle through being in and out of love, and push through anyway.

I want to know what happens when the ties are severed. I'm not interested in continuing to work at reconciliation any more.
posted by Dressed to Kill to Human Relations (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
look, if you want some advice, framing it as "wanting more" and "growing" isn't going to help him. you can be different - want different things, have different aims - without him having to be the one that sucks.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:08 PM on November 24, 2016 [37 favorites]

It doesn't seem to me that OP is necessarily the only one growing, although that may be the case. It seems to suffice that they both need and want to grow in different directions.

This is a thing that happens. If it were me, I like to think I would consider whether we were both able to provide each other with the space and support we needed and still be comfortable with the boundaries, and if we still enjoyed each other's company on a boring Wednesday night.

OP I'm not entirely sure what you're asking. If you want to know what life looks like for you after severing ties, we need to know more about why you're dissatisfied and feeling constrained.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:13 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mother was deeply unsatisfied in her marriage to my father, who was completely incapable of providing some things that were really important to her. It took a lot of therapy and time to even figure out what was important, much less finding ways to make that happen. She was able to fill the voids by actively seeking out new people, places and things - she got a load of emotional support by building a new set of close friends - as example. In the remaining years of their marriage, they were very content together and for sure loved each other very much.
posted by parki at 1:20 PM on November 24, 2016

Response by poster: It is possible my wanting more means I'm the one that sucks and I know this
posted by Dressed to Kill at 1:31 PM on November 24, 2016

It seems very likely to me that neither of you sucks, and that you are just two people with different wants and needs. This is normal and OK. I understand that it hurts, but it doesn't mean that you suck.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:36 PM on November 24, 2016 [35 favorites]

I'm so sad you've been called a "bitch" here. I read your post and it made me sad for you.
Anyone would be sad to find themselves trapped in a relationship that has stopped making you both happy (And I'd also be surprised if your husband wasn't miserable if you guys are fighting every day)

You describe yourself as being worn down to a nub. My god, that sentence made me ache for you.

Relationships end every day for much more minor reasons than you've outlined here. I also wouldn't view the breakdown of this relationship as a failure.... 8 years of a happy marriage should be applauded. Of course it doesn't make you a monster for "wanting more"!! It sounds like you've done everything to try and fix things or make them better.... sometimes people just fundamentally change and there's nothing you can do about it.

I'm sorry you're beating yourself up over this, I truly am.
Do I have any advice for you? Not really - I haven't been on the receiving end of this in over 15 years, and the one relationship I did end WAS because I wanted and needed more, but that didn't seem too much to ask for when I was a 23 year old.

Be kind to yourself. Most people are able to get over the end of a relationship, even if it does seem very bleak at the time. It would be a worse thing not to do anything and sit by idly while you both slowly start to hate each other. Be kind to yourself, be kind to him. Do the right thing and good luck.
posted by JenThePro at 2:08 PM on November 24, 2016 [12 favorites]

We think we want people, usually. What we really want is a particular relationship with those people. It's never just proximity to a particular human with complete disregard to all interactions with that human, you know? You aren't bad. He's not bad. The way you are together is bad. Detaching from that is going to be painful, particularly for the party who felt less bad about the current state of things. This means absolutely nothing about the value of either party, that your relationship itself is not enough to make you happy--or that the severing of your relationship is going to make him unhappy.

You can need to remove a body part but you can't make that a process free of discomfort. It's not your responsibility to make this painless. It's your responsibility to make this clean and as honest as you can safely be. But yeah, he's going to hurt. People take hurt very personally. I mean, surely you've heard people describe dentists and physical therapists as though they're sadists--and they go to those voluntarily. You can't change the human reaction to pain, but you can get out of the way as promptly as possible to let him start healing. If he doesn't know how to heal appropriately at that point, that's his responsibility to deal with with the help of his friends and family. It's not your responsibility to do it for him.
posted by Sequence at 2:11 PM on November 24, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm not interested in continuing to work at reconciliation any more.

So yes, this means your marriage is over and the best thing you can do is end it ethically. This whole thing about growth, tiny, large, whatever, doesn't matter. If you're on your third counsellor it's not news to him.

So, you make an exit plan, get your own place, give him back your set of keys, divide the assets evenly, grieve -- but not by calling him! -- and move on.

You seem to be bargaining with some inner judge here, asking how you can do this without pain (you can't) or wanting to know if you're justified (it doesn't matter. Wanting to leave, after trying counseling etc., is enough.) or if you'll be happy after (probably?)

This is adulthood, making decisions and living with their consequences. If you're done, you're done. Your question seems to be wanting to know what it will be like for him but...it will probably suck, especially if he doesn't feel that the marriage is over. But you do and it takes two.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:18 PM on November 24, 2016 [21 favorites]

You've really given it a shot, here - I don't know what more you could do. Wait for him to come around? Or for you to stop wanting to feel supported or comfortable in your life and home? More used to feeling alone and worn out? Or for some external happening to maybe change the wind in a few years?

People have stuck it out through times like this... from what I've seen, usually because they have some obligation they're tied to, or a barrier to leaving each other in peace. Maybe he'll come around, eventually. But is it acceptable to you to feel alone and lesser in these years, in particular?

He may not want to split up, but I doubt he can be happy, if you feel this way. And if he really can be fine, with you feeling this way - well. I think that says a lot.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:21 PM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

The aspects of a relationship that you enumerate in your OP ("attention, affection, interest in your needs/hobbies, directed goals, assitance, reliability, intimacy, understanding, emotional labour, enthusiasm, connection, time, etc....") are all reasonable. If he's not interested or able to engage in those ways, or even acknowledge that they matter in a loving relationship and that it matters to work or grow toward them, then he is failing you and he does suck.

There are things he gets from being with you even absent those elements and he will be sorry and hurt as you end it. Have compassion for him but. not more than you have for yourself.

I have often recommended Steven Stosny's books on AskMe and think they would help you too. Living and Loving after Betrayal is maybe where to start. Even if your husband didn't cheat, he did betray you in the sense of checking out of your marriage. Patti Henry's book The the Emotionally Unavailable Man may be illuminating.... Also Lundy Bancroft's book Why Does He Do That may give you an understanding of the power dynamics at play in your struggle.

Good luck. MeMail me if you would like a sympathetic ear.
posted by Sublimity at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

you can do it, you should do it, it will hurt, it will suck, and every good thing in your life from the moment you do it will be a direct result of your decision
posted by Sebmojo at 2:48 PM on November 24, 2016 [13 favorites]

I am so sorry. In my experience, the guilt and despair will be fleeting and the weight off your shoulders will give you a clearer perspective to deal with those feelings.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:20 PM on November 24, 2016

It's 2 years or so since my ex-wife and I separated, and while the first year was extremely painful and difficult, overall I think it's been very good for us both. I'm now happy that she decided to end things, despite the pain it caused me at the time. I was in the same position as your husband, and desperately wanted to keep working on things. But she was right - it was the right thing to do, and looking back there were incompatibilities there from the beginning that would only have gotten worse over time. We're both in new and better relationships, still on friendly terms, and both grateful for the time we had together. It'll feel like you've failed at first, but something ending doesn't mean it wasn't worth having in the first place. If you're at the point where you've tried therapy, and you don't have it in you to work at it anymore - then yes, it's time to go. Chances are he'll realise this somewhere down the line, but even if he doesn't - it's still the right thing to do.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:46 PM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

(my point wasn't that either of you suck. it's that "more" is a loaded term, while "different" is not. good luck.)
posted by andrewcooke at 4:05 PM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

If my best friend told me that she and her husband had been fighting for 2 years, on their third marriage counselor, and that she didn't want to work it out anymore, I'd understand and be firmly on her team. What would your best friend say to you? Try being your own best friend.

It's okay to leave a marriage that doesn't work. It's okay. You will be okay. I did this 12 years ago and it is the single best decision I ever made. It wasn't a terrible marriage and we didn't hate each other. No infidelity or abuse. We just weren't right for each other.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:17 PM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I feel terrible because i feel guilty asking for more

but if you leave, you're not asking for anything. not from him anyway, nothing further, which is all that's his business to know. You may get more from someone else someday, I hope you do, but at the moment you are planning to give something up. (that you don't want and that is hurting you. but still), not for more of anything. The way to get this guilt off of you is to leave, so you can stop asking and asking for what you are not getting. Separation isn't something you have to ask anyone for, you take it if you want it.

you can have a reason for leaving that would be cruel to tell him in the particular language you've used here, but still a good reason to leave.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:43 PM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

My then wife wanted more, and it was impossible for me to give her what she wanted in a way that felt true to me. And I hated her for a year. It will probably take another year for all that to go away and heal. But, I also do have to listen to what she did say- her needs weren't being met. We tried therapy. Neither one of us could fix the issue, and there became no middle ground. It was time to end it, even though she was 'the bad guy' in it (and I know she carries a lot of guilt)

The one thing I do wish she had done, was put on her big girl panties and pulled the trigger on her own. She dithered forever, (well, months.) and refused to make a choice... I was darn well ready for her to rip the bandaid off, put the relationship out of its misery, so we could stop fighting, stop hurting, and start moving on and healing. I think you put in your effort at fixing things, you got worn into a nub by reality, and you don't have anything left to try.

So you separate/divorce. It sucks. It takes you a year or two to grieve, to heal, to recover... and then you move on. You find a new life. Hopefully you can look back at the relationship with fondness, from your new, better life.
posted by Jacen at 12:57 AM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm struggling with initiating a separation with my husband. He is a good man, and deserves to be happy (as do I) but the last 2 years, all we do is fight (we've tried couples counslling 2x, we are on our third counsellor, and I've been having my own counselling). I feel like I've been worn down to a tiny, confused nub... I need space.

It might go better than you think if you sit him down and tell him the above:

"You're a good man and deserve to be happy. All we do is fight. I need space. I don't want to do this anymore. I want a divorce."

You don't have to frame it as anyone did anything wrong or inject all this drama into it. If leaving is the kindest thing you can do -- or the only kind thing left -- it doesn't have to be drama.

I want to know what happens when the ties are severed.

If you do it to be kind, it feels fine and what happens is you part ways and start building separate lives that aren't so miserable.

((Hugs)) if you want them.
posted by Michele in California at 12:58 AM on November 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

"I know that there are couples that cycle through being in and out of love, and push through anyway."

Yes, and these couples are sustained by a strong base of friendship and mutual interest that continues in the absence of romance.

Things like attention, affection, common needs and hobbies, directed goals, assistance, reliability, intimacy, understanding, emotional labour, enthusiasm, connection, time...

You are in agony. Shut the book — for both of you.
posted by fritillary at 6:41 PM on November 25, 2016

So the truth sounds like to me that the two of you have done the work. You are ready to say goodbye. With that, you need to be clear. You need to be sure that it is understood, and that you stick to your guns. Give no room for false hope. That may mean being unaturally cruel, but trust me - if you end it and are not explicit with your goal - you are setting him up to try to pursue an unwinnable goal. It may be easier to end things hated than as quasi friends.

That has implications. If there are kids involved, I can't give advice with that contingency; however, without them - Mark your assets the day you tell him. Mark your assets/spending habits for the past 60 days. If your wanting more has put one or the two of you spending a disproportionate amount.of discretionary income, I might reccommend you adjust stated expectations in good faith. If one of you contributes more to their retirement, consider it split. If one of you has taken a loan from a family member, make a plan together how to pay it back. Know each other's assets, income, student debt and 401k. Split your life as evenly as possible: everybody gets a separate account. Set up the joint balances with some level of escrow from both of you. Marriage is a financial institution for you going forward, truth be told.

Return rings, separate household goods, mllawyer up... Yada yada yada. Non contested divorces do not mean you stay friends.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:04 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

We grew apart, I left, it was the right thing. You could say either of us wanted more; in truth we just wanted different. We divorced, we healed, we continued growing in separate directions, we're still friends, our lives improved from the dark times.

You have this internet stranger's permission to end it, anyway. Prolonging suffering on principle -- much less out of guilt -- isn't how you ought to spend your life. Speaking as a very, very guilty-feeling person. There is a difference between guilt that's useful and guilt that's just a toxic sink-hole.
posted by ead at 10:05 PM on November 25, 2016

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