Trying to figure out what to do about my marriage
September 22, 2017 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Basically, what it says on the tin. At a crossroads in my marriage and not sure what to do, and I'd like to get some perspective on how it looks to other people.

My husband and I have been married for 12 years, together for about 16. I (a woman) am the breadwinner, and in fact, since we've been together, he's been employed in regular white-collar jobs only very briefly -- perhaps three years total. The rest of the time, he freelances, which is about as irregular as you imagine it is. There are times when he's bringing in no money at all. I make a decent salary and we have no children, so there's no serious financial strain.

I love my husband, and there are many good things about him; he's very affectionate, supportive, mostly does his share of the housework, and is very good to me. I'm not always easy to live with because I've had some relatively serious mental illness problems over the years, including one brief psych hospitalization. But there are things that really bug me: the fact that he isn't contributing financially is very difficult for me, and I feel resentful over it. Part of the problem is that he works in an industry that's *extremely* competitive for jobs, and he's in his late 40s, which makes it harder. I've suggested that he try to switch careers, to no avail. (I would be totally fine with his doing any job at all, as long as it was legal and ethical -- no MLM schemes, for example, but I'd be totally fine with his working at Trader Joe's or something.) When I bring these matters up, he tends to get defensive and say he's applying for jobs and he's trying, what more can he do, etc. (Applying for jobs consists generally of looking for listings on the internet and sending in a resume and cover letter. I will say he's gotten a few interviews this way, but they never pan out.)

We pretty much have no sex life anymore. We haven't had sex in several months. To make matters worse, the last time we had sex, I actually felt physical revulsion and had to sort of do deep breathing through the whole thing to just tolerate it. I realize this is not a good thing, to put it mildly. We used to have decent sex, but that hasn't been true for years now. A few years back I talked to him about the fact that I wasn't happy with our sex life, and he took some steps to make things better, but that didn't last long.

The other night things sort of came to a head and I told him I wasn't happy with the way things were going, and why. He pretty much responded, "Ok, I guess I'd better get a job, then" and left the room. He's pretty much cold shouldered me for the past two days -- not exactly not speaking to me, but mostly speaking in a very snippy way about practical stuff like changing the lightbulbs.

This is my second marriage -- my first lasted about four years. To be honest, a large part of the reason I don't just pick up and leave is that I would feel so humiliated in front of my family; I'm sort of the black sheep already and I feel that everyone would be rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, god, Anon can't sustain any relationship. What a loser." Ironically, none of my family is terribly crazy about my husband, but I still think they'd blame me if the marriage ended, or take it as evidence that I was horribly damaged in some way.

As I said above, I do love my husband and I'd miss him if we were to split up. But I don't know that this situation is sustainable as it is. I will also mention, not incidentally, that I would horribly resent having to pay him spousal support, which I definitely would, at least for a few years. In the state we live in, spousal support doesn't go on forever because the courts usually take the position that the ex-spouse can jolly well get themselves a job if they're healthy and well-educated, which my husband is.

Thanks for reading this far. Curious to hear thoughts.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your husband's only going to get a job as an absolute last resort to keep you. So in other words, he could have got one before now but didn't have to however now that he thinks he might lose his meal ticket, he's finally going to get off his behind. Do you really want to be with someone who only puts in any effort at the last minute and was quite happy to put all the financial burden for years onto you?

This would irritate me enough to be the final nail in the coffin, and it does sound like you're done. If you are, don't let him play you. Wait til he's had a job for a few months, then pull the pin and hopefully you won't have to pay support. I'd check with a lawyer first though.
posted by Jubey at 11:19 PM on September 22, 2017 [17 favorites]

Work on getting to the point where your own happiness and wellbeing is more important than what your family says or thinks. Do they pay your living expenses? No? Then their opinion doesn't matter.

If they want ANYTHING other than for you to be happy, they don't matter.

About your husband...

I'm sorry you voiced your concerns and he's giving you the cold shoulder because that is so much less than you deserve. You deserve to be heard and respected. Since you're already paying spousal support, see a good lawyer about getting an end date for this financial obligation.

Therapy for any complicated grief or guilt. Your husband treats you kinda like an ATM, and with all the time and resources he has not put any effort into being an equal partner. I'm sure he has problems and feels shitty about himself, but fuck that. He's emotionally and financially abusing you instead of getting himself together. Cut bait. Reclaim your life and find someone to value you! This is possible if you put yourself first.
posted by jbenben at 11:26 PM on September 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yeah, you're already paying spousal support but there's no cut off date - I'd just kind of formalise an ending and be friends, if possible.

And, regarding your family, do you want to be in control of your own life or do you want your family to be?
posted by heyjude at 11:40 PM on September 22, 2017 [17 favorites]

What's the split on household chores? Is he making out up by running the house and social life, taking care of pets and you? I get the emotional support when you were sick is a big deal, but have you in turn supported him when he's been down, even for normal life things like family and friends drama.

I really recommend logging things in a spreadsheet. It sounds cold but quantifying your actual contributions to the marriage makes you search for everything you both bring to the marriage. Look for all the things you give, all the things he gives from cleaning out the car to foot rubs to who organises holidays, that he's never forgotten your birthday, that you are the one who manages all the medical appointments etc.

Either the lists will be very unbalanced and it's time to file, or you'll realise that there is a lot he's bringing to the table besides money, and couples therapy has a shot.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:59 PM on September 22, 2017 [32 favorites]

If your major hesitation in leaving is what your family will think, leave. Your happiness comes before family rumor mongering. And, heyjude makes a great point, you are already paying spousal support.
posted by AugustWest at 12:35 AM on September 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

I always thought that my family liked my boyfriends better than they liked me and was consistently surprised to find that wasn't true. And now I've realized that being unmarried and childless makes me look super hip to my niece, which really bugs my sister who thinks that *she* is the super hip one, so there's a little revenge for any negative thoughts my sister may have had about my marital status. In recent years, I've blithely told members of my family that, as per men, I've instituted a Catch And Release policy and the sell by date is 8 years, give or take. I haven't said as much to them, but I quite frankly think of myself as being very successful and happy in the relationship department -- many people have not had the joy and love that I've experienced and the fact that it is never Until Death Do Us Part doesn't alter that.

It turns out that my family thinks of me as funny and quirky and doesn't hold expectations about me that are unreasonable. And it also turns out that every time I've thought thst it would be a bummer to end a relationship because my family would look down their noses at me, that thought has been a symptom of the situational depression of being in a relationship that had become unworkable.

And just as a side note, it also turns out that each time I've thought "well, it's a drag that this relationship is ending because it's unlikely I'll have sex this good again" I've been wrong. And you don't have that concern, in fact, you know that whatever sex you have in the future will be better than what you've got now so on that fact alone, I myself would call it quits. Life is just too damn short to spend it miserable.
posted by janey47 at 2:18 AM on September 23, 2017 [42 favorites]

Oh hey also I paid spousal support for 6 years after my marriage ended and I couldn't think too hard about it or I would become livid, but I could and still can talk myself down off that ledge with the mantra "being free from that marriage is worth a lot more than I paid." By the time the spousal support ended, our lives had drifted so far apart that we now communicate only once every year or two, and he and I had been friends or partners for 17 years before we were married.

Divorce -- even this relatively friendly one-- opened my eyes to some unpleasant truths about his willingness to use me as the cash cow, which put into perspective the reality of our "friendship". He occasionally tried to guilt me by telling me that my leaving him ruined his life, and I kind of fell for it for a while until I took a step back and saw that he wasn't talking about his love for me -- he was talking about creature comforts and his own status in the world from being married to a lawyer. So yeah, no, that friendship wasn't what I thought and it was certainly something I could live without.
posted by janey47 at 2:34 AM on September 23, 2017 [21 favorites]

I don't think unhappy people get to chuck out a marriage without trying everything to honour the commitment they made, and that includes joint marriage therapy, and individual if that would be helpful.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:52 AM on September 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

You bring up a lot of issues that are worthy of discussion, but just to zoom in on one of them:
The fact that he isn't contributing financially is very difficult for me, and I feel resentful over it. Part of the problem is that he works in an industry that's *extremely* competitive for jobs, and he's in his late 40s, which makes it harder.

A few questions that might be worth considering:

• Would you be less likely to have your current well-paying job if it hadn't been for his support (emotional as well as practice) during the times you were dealing with mental issues?

• Would he be better established in his extremely competitive industry if he hadn't been devoting energy and time to giving you emotional and practical support? Did focusing on you during his thirties cost him professional opportunities that, in his late forties, he is unlikely to see again?

• Does your current job tie you both to a specific geographic location, thereby narrowing his employment options? Has he nonetheless continued to give emotional support and to encourage you to pursue professional success?

• Does his chosen profession seem more interesting and meaningful to him than others? It sounds like to you, a job is simply a marker of being a responsible adult, and any legal and ethical job will tick that box. Does he have a different view of the role a job plays in a meaningful life? Has he generally been supportive of you finding meaning on your terms, rather than trying to impose his views on you?

Again, I'm just zooming in on one issue. Relationships are complex, and there's obviously a lot going on. The answer to some or all of these questions might be "no." And even if the answers to all these questions is "yes," you still might decide to end the marriage. But if some of the answers are yes, it might help you feel less resentment towards him. (And if you do end the marriage, it might be worth contemplating these questions again when you think about how much spousal support would be fair.)
posted by yankeefog at 3:37 AM on September 23, 2017 [43 favorites]

I was the largely guilty party in a not dissimilar situation. I don't really want to discuss particulars publicly, but yes, it ended in divorce. Yes, I'm leaving out a lot of backstory. This was not a rash decision.
posted by O9scar at 3:40 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Married 30+ years here. Went through a similar rough patch (for different reasons which don't matter), including the physical reaction and cold shoulder to initial attempts to talk about it. Sounds like you tried once? Try, try again. Because you say you love him. Love is a decision. It took a lot of work and time and self-reflection and time and growth for both of us. For us it was so, so worth it.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:19 AM on September 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

There are time when I wonder if I've been posting questions to the green in my sleep. OP, I could have written this question 4 years ago (other than we weren't married, but we'd been together for 10, owned a house together, etc). He was employed fairly steady state during the first half of the relationship, got fired 6 years in, and never got a job the last 4 years. At first it was fine - work on the house, I told him, write the book you've always wanted, do some freelancing. It took more than one job on my part but we were doing okay. But none of those things happened either and eventually I begged him to at least get something part time (I felt like he'd do better with structure to his days), and he said he would, but it was always something ("we've got that trip coming up, they're not going to want to give me time off for that" "oh, here come the holidays, I'll look after"). Our sex life died. He drank a lot. It wasn't the lack of contribution for me (though that would have been helpful, as I was working multiple jobs), it was the saying he was going to do something and then not doing it... if it wasn't an outright lie, it was very close.

There were other issues (and I'm sure he has his list about me), including not respecting my wishes to not be groped randomly when I was, saying, doing the dishes (yes, I realize how absurd it is now...) My family didn't much care for him but kept pressuring us to get married because that's what you do, and I stayed but didn't get married as some kind of compromise.

However, it wasn't all bad, lest I pretend it was. We had a lot of fun together, he made me laugh, he introduced me to a lot of music and culture that I would have missed out on, he was very supportive of my pursuing my education and during my mother's multiple major health crises.

Eventually, his mother moved out, and he got a job - or rather, his exboss (not the one who was responsible for firing him, that came from further up the chain) called him up and said "we're starting a new company, come work for us." I was like, finally, things will get better. But they didn't. I realized that 1) our long term goals were not compatible and that 2) he didn't care about my input on those long term goals, he wanted me to support us in pursuing his goals. I told him there were issues and that we needed to work on them. He once again assured me he would. He didn't. So I left.

Other commenters have good points about, if you feel you're still in love with him (and I didn't even like him all that much by the time I left, but maybe I would have if he'd been putting any effort in? I don't know), about seeking counseling, giving it one more good shot, seeing if he can change, seeing if y'all can sort out how to be long term compatible. All I can tell you is that a person can have good qualities and can have been supportive during past issues, but now not seem to a be a person that you can count on in your old age, that you know you want to be the person doing the heavy lifting when you're 65 and have cancer or you're 80 and using a walker and the bed pan needs to be emptied. If you decide it's worth another shot, then good luck to y'all - and I hope it does work out.

Meantime, all I can tell you is that my only regret is that I didn't leave sooner (that I hadn't fallen for the sunk cost + "he will change" fallacy), and that my life (while often stressful, life always happens) now is better than ever.
posted by joycehealy at 5:12 AM on September 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

One way to think about it is he has a mental style and personality that don't really work for you; he has no drive. I was once dating and then engaged to a guy who was perfectly happy waking late, playing golf and then sometimes doing a part time gig. Work was never a thing that satisfied or interested him and he got plenty from life by going for walks, sometimes cooking, but never felt the interest to do anything challenging or solving problems and working on a team. It just wasn't his thing and it seems like your husband has the same mindset.

I didn't stay with this guy as long as you have because after a bit, I started to feel disgusted by his life view, which I saw as childlike and just too lazy for my way of being. I dreaded coming home because I knew he'd always be there in his sweatpants/pajamas, lying on the couch and reading a book.

The thing of it was, he was perfectly happy with all of this. He had a roof and a bed and food (all of which I paid for) and combined with his utter lack of drive and superficial interest in everything, he was a baby I was taking care of.

I don't know what to tell you--I realized I couldn't spend my life with a person who had so little drive and maybe that's where you're headed. I would talk it out with a friend or therapist. You need to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life with a person this unambitious and frankly, lazy.

**'re already paying spousal support. Don't be so sure a judge would order you to continue this nonsense if he's perfectly capable of working.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:14 AM on September 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Having " physical revulsion" during sex males me think your body has given up on the relationship and is waiting for your brain to catch up. Make a roadmap for the path you would want to take to have a happy marriage- I'd personally start with individual and couples therapy for both of you ASAP- and see if he is willing to commit and follow through on working on things.

Your psych issues might be totally unrelated, but it's also possible that he exacerbates them in some form or fashion. I'd seriously examine the value of his support vs the negatives of his everything.

And as for chores, maids are cheaper than husbands.
posted by Jacen at 6:28 AM on September 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

I don't think anyone can comment negatively on your husband's job situation until they know what your husband does. "Freelance" sounds like writing which is CERTAINLY erratic but we just don't know.

I'm in my late forties, had massively rocky parts of my marriage, not out of the woods yet, first marriage, married to a woman with a previous marriage. My view on divorce (unless there is abuse involved) is like that of suicide--a long term solution to a short term problem.

Therapy didn't work for us but maybe it would work for you. You have "mental issues" and have been hospitalized for it. Before you get a divorce every stone should be turned especially THAT stone. You have a difficult time living with your husband. Let me assure you, he also has a difficult time living with you.

I do love my husband and I'd miss him if we were to split up.

Then don't. I think it's clear from that statement that divorce would be a mistake. You need to come to grips with everything that's at play here: This is your second marriage. Were your parents divorced? Does that make it "easier" for you to get one? Should it be easy?

And here's the big question: Wouldn't you AND your husband be eternally grateful to each other and whatever higher being there is if you saw each other through these incredibly difficult times and LEARNED how to deal with each other and helped each other GROW and mature and LOVE each other once again? It requires more than mere commitment to staying married. It requires commitment to the other person. That means getting inside their head, their history, their motivations, their "why they do those things that piss me off." It requires forgiveness and understanding. Put yourself 10 or 20 years in the future. Imagine really loving each other again. And imagine how happy you two would be knowing that the two of you clung to each other in the most difficult of times and helped each other get back to sanity and love.

That kind of thing is priceless but possible. In fact, it is what marriage is all about.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 7:16 AM on September 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

To be honest, a large part of the reason I don't just pick up and leave is that I would feel so humiliated in front of my family; I'm sort of the black sheep already and I feel that everyone would be rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, god, Anon can't sustain any relationship. What a loser."

A lot of people have hangups about relationship status that they project onto other people. Caring too much about what these folks think can keep us stuck in situations we might be better off leaving. Leaving a relationship that is no longer healthy for you to be in does not make you a loser. It means you are being smart, strong, and making healthy decisions for yourself. If other people don't get that, that's their problem and an example of an opinion that does not matter.
posted by jazzbaby at 7:34 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey Anon, if you want to MeMail me from your account I have some thoughts to offer privately as a breadwinner female who struggled with resentment.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:03 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you believe, at least on a fundamental level, that a male partner should be at least equal to or greater in their share of financial contributions, or striving to do so - and that a guy working on an infrequent 'prestige occupation' is far less respectable than someone who's at least stacking groceries, doing what he can to contribute to his family. I say this with no judgment - I tend to believe this as well. Your situation would have been intolerable for me far earlier than you have discovered it.

He may equally believe in this or not: what seems clear is that his ego is tied up in having this prestige occupation, and that's why he's unwilling to leave. Maybe he doesn't have anything else to boost his ego - he knows he can't make more money, so holding on to this more prestigious occupation makes him feel like he's not a failure.

There are two ways to approach this. You can try to work on getting him other ways to not feel like a failure - only you know whether or not this is worth this - or you can leave. I just don't think this is going to get better otherwise.
posted by corb at 8:37 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is incredibly stressful to be the sole breadwinner - how much of your mental issues are tied into the lack of support from him? If you needed to take a sabbatical for your mental health (which most people do need, regardless of any official diagnosis) is he capable of allowing it to happen?

Even if you were not planning on divorce right now, make appointments with lawyers and financial planners so you know what he is entitled to (your retirement saving for example) and what steps you should take now to protect yourself. (Such as timing a divorce during a period of him being employed)

Armed with that info I would then choose a time to give the ultimatum: he stop thinking of himself as underemployed in a prestigious profession and recognise he is actually not capable of performing at the high level required in that profession. Which ties into a lot of issues around masculinity and employment but those are issues adults have to deal with - unless they view their wives as parental support figures instead of partners. Does he want you to be his partner or his mom? Because I don't know any women that think having sex with their child is sexy. Which explains your body revulsion. Good luck, I hope he thinks your relationship is worth it for him to grow up.
posted by saucysault at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm sort of the black sheep already and I feel that everyone would be rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, god, Anon can't sustain any relationship. What a loser." Ironically, none of my family is terribly crazy about my husband, but I still think they'd blame me if the marriage ended, or take it as evidence that I was horribly damaged in some way.

Let their eyes roll. Let them blame you. Let them think you're damaged. With family like that, who wouldn't be?

You deserve better. Better sex, better communication, better returns on your investments of time/money/effort. For me - my family's lifelong scapegoat who's been married and divorced twice - the key to it all was no longer giving a good goddamn what my family thought about my choices. It took some doing but once I really separated *their* opinion of me from *my* opinion of me, the whole world opened up. I'm incredibly happy and fulfilled in every way at age 52. You can be too.
posted by headnsouth at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

As an underemployed, intermittently employed, and often unemployed person who used to be the breadwinner in my marriage, let me just say that I hope you grade your husband based on his effort rather than his employment status. When I first got married, I had a job, my husband didn't, and I had to nag the hell out of that guy (which I would not do now) before he got off his ass and found a job. But he found a job back when there were jobs.

Where I live there are a ton of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who are unemployed or underemployed (I'm one of them) because journalism has been hollowed out by technology and it is fucking hard to find a new job that replicates the one you used to have. But that's not an excuse to give up. That's a reason to move on and shift your focus. So if he's not working he should be volunteering as well as keeping the house clean, cooking dinner, etc. I mean, you're not the boss of him, but you can absolutely say that you are only paying the bare minimum of expenses and if he wants more money he'll have to figure out how to get more because you are no longer willing to underwrite whatever it is you are no longer willing to underwrite. You have that power as the breadwinner.

Note: I'm not suggesting that you be deliberately mean or humiliate him. Just figure out your limits and tell him that things feel unfair and what would feel fair to you. And ask what would feel fair to him, etc. Try to remember that you love him. Try to be compassionate. Work on your resentment toward him at the gym, not by shitting all over him verbally or otherwise. You'll be grateful later for your restraint.

Also, consider a trial separation. That's what I did. I took a 10-month sabbatical from my marriage. As we had a child, naturally I saw my partner weekly (often more) and over time we negotiated an agreement. So I came back. And after 3 months I realized that he had said he'd do various things but didn't do any of them, so it was time for me to leave permanently. One of the reasons was because he just didn't want to have sex. And for me, that's a relationship killer. It's fine if you are satisfied with a companionate marriage, but I wasn't. Also, my husband did not owe me sex. Nobody owes anyone that. So if it wasn't his thing, fine, but that was another huge area of incompatibility.

Your husband was and probably is still a good man. He supported you when you really needed him, during a terrible health crisis. He was the opposite of Newt Gingrich, which is awesome. But that doesn't mean you are obligated to be with him forever. Seriously, you've been supporting him financially (and perhaps other ways?) for ages now, so you can call it even.

Finally, it's possible you can work this out but you have to get over wanting him to be nice when you set limits. Guess what? People who have been doing whatever they want get pissed when they suddenly face limits. Toddlers don't like limits and neither do adults. But to take care of yourself, you need to set appropriate limits. And he needs to do that for himself as well. What he doesn't get to do is just cruise on your efforts and enjoy the ride. He has to contribute his share. So sure, try marriage counselling. Perhaps ask him to read Come as You Are to better educate himself about what you need sexually. Maybe try that trial separation. Maybe start going on actual dates to have fun again. Like, take sex off the table entirely for 3 months and go on weekly or biweekly dates just to have fun together. Marriages are like bank accounts--if you don't regularly deposit fun, loving, trust-building experiences eventually the account is overdrawn and there's just nothing left.

Most importantly: Don't give a fuck about what your family, friends or community may think about whatever you eventually decide. No one knows about your marriage except you and your husband, and the two of you don't agree. How can outsiders understand? They can't and don't expect them to. Do whatever you need to do anyway.

When someone is considering a separation or divorce, it makes others people anxious and uncomfortable. They may say mean things because they are afraid, often about their own relationships. I say this from experience. It happened to me and I'm glad that didn't stop me from leaving my husband to build my own life. We are both doing well now, years later, because I had the courage to say enough already. It wasn't easy but it was the right decision for us. That may not be the right decision for you. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:12 PM on September 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would also caution against not giving a fuck about what other people think. It depends on the person. Consider the source. Good sounding boards and mentors are worth their weight in gold.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 1:03 PM on September 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here's what I don't understand: If you've been together for 16 years, why is it only recently that his level of financial contribution has become an issue? I also wonder if your family (the one that questions your ability to sustain a relationship) feels similarly about his employment history. You don't say what kind of mental health problems you've had but to me, I don't believe what's going on between you is as simple as you describe it. 16 years is a long time to be together and I'd hesitate to throw it away without investigating what your resentments are really about.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:07 PM on September 23, 2017

To make matters worse, the last time we had sex, I actually felt physical revulsion and had to sort of do deep breathing through the whole thing to just tolerate it. I realize this is not a good thing, to put it mildly.

maybe the following is what you mean you already realized. but what's worse than feeling this way is that, feeling this way, you reached for a mental distancing technique to be able to tolerate it instead of feeling able to stop it. I don't know if you thought about stopping and deliberately decided against it, or if that didn't even seem like an option -- like once you'd started, you couldn't just stop and be done; you felt bound to keep going until he stopped and was done.

because. because you love him? because you couldn't bear having to explain yourself, or reassure him that it wasn't his fault, or have a fight? because it's just how the power's settled in your marriage? because. I'm sure there are other possible reasons. I don't say this as criticism of anything you did or didn't do. but I think knowing you tolerated a revolting experience for the sake of his pleasure and that he doesn't know it is knowledge that will choke you with justified resentment.

because of that, I don't know how women manage to continue intimate involvement with men after this happens. intimate meaning love, not just sex. I do know that they do, very often. I don't think that they should. I especially don't think they should try to sort of auto-hypnotize themselves into rekindling lust for a man whose person or whose behavior physically repels them, in the interest of saving a marriage, or trust the kind of marriage counselors who recommend scheduled appointment sex. even if you do decide to stay married, you don't have to harm yourself to make it happen, that's not the fair price of making a commitment. boredom can be fixed; apathy and disinterest can be turned around; revulsion is all the way across the continent into another country.

for a massive tonal shift, what is this about: Applying for jobs consists generally of looking for listings on the internet and sending in a resume and cover letter.

well, yeah. applying for jobs really is how you apply for jobs. that's how I do it, and I'm pretty much always employed (not in a fancy career, I just have jobs.) I have even been involved in some hiring decisions and when we had a position to advertise, the internet is where we did it. he clearly doesn't apply to enough positions to end up hired, or else isn't good at selecting likely listings. but other than that --?

(but just because he applies for jobs correctly doesn't mean you can't leave.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

What if you were to lose your job and be unable to get another one, would he leave you and find another provider or would he stick with you? I'm not asking you to base your decision on this, just something to think about.
posted by 445supermag at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Counseling -- for you individually, and the two of you as a couple. Whether you break up or not, you need to talk it out.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:58 PM on September 23, 2017

People bring a lot of history, preferences, ideals, values, etc...into their long-term relationships. Best to talk these things through with a good friend who can be unbiased or a counselor. I mean, personally, I'd be upset about a partner not wanting to contribute much financially. I have a good friend whose husband did the free lance not make much money thing for many years until they divorced. Then, all of a sudden, he could work full time and for good pay. Imagine that! And, personally, when I lose respect for a man, I no longer want to sleep with him. But you say you love your husband and find many of his qualities good/attractive. That, to me, says it's worth exploring by yourself and with him if the relationship can mend.
posted by DixieBaby at 9:21 PM on September 23, 2017

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks, everyone, for the responses. I have a lot to think about. Couple of brief points:

Obscure Reference, this has become an issue now for a couple of reasons. First of all, I just hit a milestone birthday and maybe it's partially midlife crisis, but turning X age brought up a lot of stuff for me, and this was part of it. Second, a particular financial thing has come up -- not going to get into details here, sorry, but it just sort of threw our income disparity into relief. Basically, this thing wouldn't really be a big deal to me at all if he were bringing in money, but since he isn't, it just sort of highlights the issue.

Also, we're both in individual therapy. I've discussed this at some length with my therapist; I have no idea if he has with his, but I assume he has. I definitely agree that we should have couples therapy. I will mention, though, that we were in couples therapy before we got married, and some of these same issues came up. I'm not sure what else to say about that, except to note that this issue has existed throughout our relationship.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:48 PM on September 23, 2017

I don't think unhappy people get to chuck out a marriage without trying everything to honour the commitment they made, and that includes joint marriage therapy, and individual if that would be helpful.

This internet stranger gives you permission to leave a marriage that isn't working for you without investing the time and energy it would require to "do everything" to save it.

Seconding all the above advice regarding seeking counseling, with the priority being finding a therapist for you before you worry about couples counseling. Frankly, I think if you were in a better place mental health-wise, you wouldn't have to ask if the marriage is viable.
posted by she's not there at 9:52 PM on September 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm reminded of a friend of mine who was the breadwinner while her husband did fuckall and they had two disabled children. She got a job in another country for a few years (did not take the kids with her to do it) and oh, look, NOW he can find a job, because he had to. They're divorced now.

Lord knows I have felt similarly to this post once upon a time. This sort of situation would make me very nervous had I married the guy. But. You can't force someone to get a job. You can't force someone to really look and you especially can't force someone to hire him.

If your telling him how you feel and how you no longer want sex with him isn't making him bust some hump to make things better, which it sounds like you did and he definitely got the "I need to get a job" message.... well, you are already doing spousal support, but maybe leaving would be the kick in the pants.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 PM on September 23, 2017

I'm a person who felt like I had to do everything to save my marriage, in part because of feelings of shame surrounding a potential separation. I was also a female breadwinner, and in a family with a legacy of divorce and women marrying the wrong kinds of men. My husband was also chronically unemployed and underemployed, and not making much of an effort to secure work. He only seemed motivated to change anything by a threat to upend the status quo, and being a person who constantly had to resort to threats to get what I needed out of my marriage was exhausting and dehumanizing. We sound similar. I found two books helpful to read while working on making my decision: "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by Lundy Bancroft, and "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" by Mira Kirshenbaum.
posted by juniperesque at 8:13 AM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been on several sides of your situation. I've been the only breadwinner, and I've been supported by my spouse. I've been in couples therapy, and I've been the therapist working with couples. I've even broken up a 16 year relationship (in which I had been the primary breadwinner but was at that moment unemployed and resented). I've been the dependent child in a relationship in which my mother supported my father financially.

Based on these experiences, my conclusion is: it's easier to find a fair partnership then it is to find lasting love. And part of finding lasting love is to work out one's resentments in a context where you think lasting love is possible. It's your call whether your current relationship is such a context. And also, whether economic fairness is more important to you than than love. (It may be and you're allowed to feel that way.)
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

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