The slow numb horror of it all
October 26, 2017 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I'm having a panic attack and my mind just goes blank when I try to figure out what the hell to do next with regard to my marriage. I'm experiencing total decision fatigue and paralysis when it comes to making any choices here, and I feel weary of running this by my friends and therapist over and over from various angles. Can you help me think this through?

This was me in May, June, and August. You've all helped me a lot already. I feel like I know the things to do, as I outlined for someone else recently. I just can' them. As someone else once asked in a similar situation: How do I break out of indecision that makes any choice feel like dying?

Here's what's new (or not). I'm just going to lay out the trajectory of things thus far. I'm sorry if this just seems to fulfill what some of you said would happen if I returned or stayed. I felt like I needed more data, and boy have I gotten it. Forgive me for not writing a shorter question. If I knew how to make sense of all of this I wouldn't be writing this.
Return, late August: I feel like I returned from this summer's separation with a fairly open mind, although with some doubts. I'd gotten in better shape and gained confidence. But as soon as I came back, I felt like I'd fallen into some isolated intergalactic slow zone or something. I immediately noticed that my spouse had gained weight, then felt judgmental for noticing it; I didn't say anything. When we got home, nothing at the house seemed to have changed. Despite putting on a brave front of humor and civility on phone calls and in texts with me, they did indeed fall apart a bit over the summer, it seemed. They're in the habit now of staying up late and binge-eating and drinking a lot of caffeine into the night. I felt dismayed, then guilty for feeling that way—I'm sure this isn't uncommon behavior for someone after their spouse leaves them for a time. I also felt angry, because I thought the deal was that we were both supposed to be working on ourselves during that time. That was the premise: I would go clear my head while continuing remote therapy for myself, and my spouse would try on a new work role and work through some issues with a new therapist. The therapist is apparently great, but my spouse only started seeing them toward the end of the summer, so not much had happened yet. One of the things I'm working on in therapy is speaking my mind and telling my spouse what I want clearly, so I did start to express a few small things I wanted done differently, so I wasn't saving them up for later, e.g., can you make sure to cover your food when you microwave it, can you check the dishes actually got clean before you put them away; etc. My spouse has expressed that they think I'm nitpicking when I request these things.

Next steps, early September: Well, there weren't a ton. I immediately noticed things that had fallen by the wayside over the summer. For instance, the only thing I specifically asked be done before I return was that the microwave be cleaned (after asserting some bravado about plans to clean the whole house while I was gone, which I said was unnecessary, my spouse had promised to clean the one thing I did ask about specifically). It clearly had been cleaned, but then stuff had been put in it again without a cover, getting it dirty again. My spouse said there was no way to avoid it. Likewise, all the things I'd discussed trying with my spouse—going back to couples therapy, scheduling a dinner with one of my parents to talk about a project of my spouse's they'd been financing before my spouse's illness struck, trying to propose events to go to together each week, trying to eat together, trying to be even marginally closer physically—quickly fell by the wayside. My spouse has made a few meals for both of us and we both proposed a few things to do, but it seems like there's frequently been some reason why my spouse couldn't do the things I proposed (though my spouse recently said it feels like I haven't been trying). My spouse snaps at me when I ask the smallest things of them, though, and says to quit putting pressure on them. I also don't want to automatically fall into the role of facilitator of this stuff—it's as much my spouse's job to propose and execute plans as it is mine, and I already am the go-to person with repairs that we've needed to the house, as my spouse snapped about even the possibility of my needing them to handle one repair appointment. When I got back, my spouse was in the midst of a difficult period at work, but even since that ended, there's always been some reason why we couldn't take next steps. We watched a new show together that my spouse proposed for a couple episodes, but then my spouse fell behind on it and stopped watching it with me. I proposed things to go out and do fairly regularly for a couple weeks, but mostly my spouse found reasons not to do them. I asked for a backrub in early September, after I got a little sore playing tennis, and my spouse found reasons not to do it or scarcely even touch me at all until giving me a very brief backrub this week (and getting frustrated with me because I was in pain from a shoulder problem and couldn't lie the way they wanted to give me the backrub). Meanwhile, I've been giving them regular backrubs to take their mind off of their nausea and pain. My spouse also started to clean one of the bathrooms per my request after I returned, but never finished the job—2 months later, it still reeks. I've been using the other bathroom. Apart from my spouse having been sick a lot lately, I feel like this is some of their fatalism at work—why put in work to take care of a house that you don't feel like will be yours long-term?

Travel, mid-September: One reason my spouse didn't want to schedule anything was because we were going out of town in mid-September, to a wedding in my spouse's family. I hate viewing everything like a test, but this did seem like a good opportunity to see whether our collective ability to navigate travel together had improved. Short answer: No. From the moment our plane touched down, there were issues: My spouse was driving, but was nervous about being late to dinner with family, so refused to take any time to get both our phones plugged into the car to help with navigation. When I tried to correct this when we were en route and asked my spouse to make sure their phone was charging, my spouse got huffy with me. My spouse second-guessed the directions I read them straight off the phone navigation. Then my spouse kept restarting the same song on a CD before passive-aggressively making a remark about how they were trying to listen to a song but someone kept talking—they never came out and said, "Hey, I just want to listen to this song; could we talk after that?" Then we hit a massive delay on the road, standstill traffic for about an hour, which the entire family was stuck in, so it wasn't just us. My spouse got totally stressed and road-ragey. When we arrived at the family dinner, my spouse got food and immediately sat down and started joking with family. Meanwhile, per an in-law's suggestion, I was on the phone with the hotel, double-checking our room was still available. My spouse was oblivious to my being just as hungry and tired, never once thought to bring me some food. Despite my urgings, my spouse took no "me time" during this trip except on the next to last day, and I feel like we paid dearly for it. The drive back was similar, full of road rage and second-guessing the navigation's narrated directions (I turned it on in the hope that my spouse would respond less personally, as they had in the past, to the impassive robot woman's voice). In the airport, my spouse panicked about a small medical issue, then got sick on the plane with a separate attack of their chronic illness, then ended up in the hospital after we returned home.

Sickness, late September: So my spouse was in the hospital for the rest of that week in late September. Because they got sick during our trip, I didn't get any chance to express my dismay and concern about what had happened otherwise (the road rage, the berating me and second-guessing me, not taking any time to themselves, etc.) My spouse hasn't been super great healthwise since getting out of the hospital, and so wasn't up for any of the things we'd talked about doing, and I still didn't feel like there was a good opportunity to bring up the issues that had arisen during our travel. I tried a couple times and something always came up. Also, there was no follow-through on one thing my spouse had claimed during our trip, which was that they were ready to be intimate with me again whenever I wanted. At this point, given all the other issues, I'm not feeling very attracted to them right now after all. Then 2 weeks later I was traveling again anyway, for a conference for work.

Travel, early October: I traveled with colleagues to another city. On the way out, I asked a small favor of my spouse, who was also slated to go out of town for work a couple days after me: Could they stop at the post office and pick up a package with my slip before it was sent back? My spouse acted as if this was unreasonable, and I tried to just approach the situation with equanimity; I said if it didn't work out, no big deal, because I didn't want to get in a fight on the way to the airport. Well, my spouse waited until about an hour before work that Friday to try to pick up the package, and when they got to the post office there was an issue finding it because I'd had mail held. I'd had mail held because I had a few packages coming and didn't know when my spouse was going out of town exactly. I didn't know that because my spouse hadn't told me, because they hadn't pinned it down with their employer until about a day beforehand. In any case, my spouse became very upset and texted and called me multiple times about this while I was in a work session, then texted me that they didn't want to speak to me after all. This one simple favor had somehow become a huge problem, as there always seems to be when I ask for the smallest things. Otherwise, I had a great time away—probably overdid it, as I feel myself tending to these days when I go out of town away from my spouse. I found myself feeling sad during colleagues' discussion of traveling with their spouses and kids, and I went back to my hotel room and cried afterward. My spouse recently started discussing travel to another country to visit friends who will be there next year, and I realized I just completely couldn't imagine wanting to take that trip with them, even though it's a place we'd always talked about wanting to go together (we'd wanted to honeymoon there). My spouse hasn't taken any steps to get their passport renewed either, though they'll need it to travel next year. Regarding kids, I'm really having trouble imagining having kids with my spouse, given all the microaggressions and outright aggressions, all the small things that become huge things, etc. I don't feel like I can count on them to handle things at all while I'm away (or even when I'm present).

Sickness and rumination, mid-October to now: I got sick before I even flew back, as keeps happening to me this year when I travel. I worry my stress is making this more frequent. I find myself worrying about a lot of things, and I know I often get a little bit morose and seasonally affected this time of year. I'm also still waiting on a follow-up appointment to nail down the second part of a treatment plan for my ongoing hormonal issues, which aren't making this easier; I spent literally half of September on my period. I'm still going to therapy, though, and my therapist doesn't think the hormone issues have significantly changed my outlook. I've also got a big work project looming, I recently volunteered to help organize a recurring local event, and a friend just decided to move to my city, giving me a lot of really mixed feelings about the notion of separating and moving and dealing with storage and getting the house cleaned up and trying to work with my spouse to assess things and take next steps. I worry I'm going to stay here in this stasis forever, and I don't want that. But I also fear that there is no good time to go through this, that any time will be bad for me financially (were we to divorce right now, my spouse would almost certainly be awarded significant spousal support, as they're barely working due to illness—which is also stressful, since they're always home) and workwise (I've had so much trouble this entire year to date concentrating on my work with all of this going on—but I'm sure it could get worse, and part of what I'm avoiding is the endless cold war of fighting with my spouse, which is a terrible scenario and could make their illness worse). I find myself avoiding my spouse in general, although they can still make me laugh with their wit when we're actually engaging with each other, because in so many conversations, I simply don't know what to say anymore about all the negative things—I tried earlier to talk about even some small part of this, my concern about their unhealthy habits that may be contributing to the ongoing flare-up of their chronic illness, and my spouse dismissed it as nitpicking and was too impatient to listen to me express the entire thought before leaving the room. My spouse is currently doing the late-night eating thing they claimed earlier they weren't doing anymore.
So yeah, I don't even know. As Jack Kerouac said: "Where go? what do? what for?—sleep." That's kind of how I feel right now. But I know that's not the answer. Those of you who are divorced or separated long-term, how did you deal with this interim period of purgatory and limbo? Especially those who have dealt with this as the primary support to a partner who has a serious illness—there have to be a few, because the statistics on this scenario aren't great—I would love to hear your thoughts. In my mind, I feel like I'm moving toward separation at very least (given the political climate regarding healthcare, I fear divorce and the corresponding change in coverage could literally kill my spouse, or at very least cost me a lot more money than I'm paying now). But I haven't been able to express any of this to my spouse, we haven't gone back to couples therapy (do I really have to be the one to organize this yet again?), I weary of going in circles about this with my therapist, and I feel like my spouse is kind of slowly killing themselves the way they're going (which, despite how it may sound, I do care about—I just can't be the only one who cares). What to even do?
posted by o_O to Human Relations (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Christ, there's no relationship that should need this many paragraphs. Your spouse is garbage, you need to go. You have my permission to go. Just go, just go.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:43 PM on October 26, 2017 [77 favorites]

Spouse is not in this with you. Spouse needs you to make continued effort so Spouse can enjoy the fleeting thrill of shooting down whatever you send up. This is the dynamic, and it hasn't improved significantly.

You are worried that Spouse might die if you leave, but...sometimes you have to make sure the drowning person doesn't pull you under. You can't save them if they drown you first. Sometimes you can only save you.

Remember how separation felt? Even with the nagging guilt, it was better than this, right?

Reread the answers on your previous asks. A consensus is emerging. It isn't going to get any clearer.
posted by armeowda at 10:02 PM on October 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

Almost everyone here told you not to go back because it was clear you didn't miss your spouse while you were separated. You even said you felt better without them. Now you've tried to go back and it's clear you don't love this person. You haven't mentioned ONE warm feeling towards them or any enjoyment or even respect for them. There aren't kids in the mix, right? You get one life, why are you spending it this way?

Edit - with regard to your spouse - they dislike you, too. They really do. Otherwise they'd muster an iota of decent behavior to incentivize you to stay and keep paying for the healthcare. But they haven't. They are acting the way people who want to break up act.

Edit 2 - I'm married to someone who got before we were married. He did love her and he worried a lot that she wouldn't be able to take care of herself, who would pay her bills, blah blah. You know what? She's fine, and he's much happier now. It's all ancient history.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 PM on October 26, 2017 [19 favorites]

"My spouse recently started discussing travel to another country to visit friends who will be there next year, and I realized I just completely couldn't imagine wanting to take that trip with them, even though it's a place we'd always talked about wanting to go together (we'd wanted to honeymoon there)"

This is one of my deal-breaker red flags. I think you know your own answer already. Start with the assumption you want to leave and deal with the "how" in a fair way later. You can negotiate solutions around health care, etc.
posted by frumiousb at 10:30 PM on October 26, 2017

Leave, leave, leave, leave.

Yes, it will be difficult. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel. Right now, you're just sitting in the dark.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:41 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Why are you still doing this? If you seriously think you can find your way back to love them, by all means, try, try, try again. But right now it just seems you're in it because you like torture. I doubt very much you're going to get answers that are any different to the last three times you asked this question. You already know the answer, you're just scared to do it. I guess you could hang in there until you hate the mere sight of them but that's really unfair to both of you. Do the kind thing and end it now.
posted by Jubey at 10:41 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

So yeah, I don't even know.

Yeah, actually, you do.

I say this as someone who divorced years ago, and knew in my gut for the majority of my marriage that we shouldn't have gotten married, but I just kept kicking the can down the road because I didn't want to make the decision that I knew all along I was going to have to make.

I finally did it because one day I decided the dreadful feeling of my life slowly being siphoned away as I stayed in the gray area (as you mention) had to be more soul-killing than ending my marriage and getting on building a life I actually wanted to live. So I ended it, and god knows it was tough for awhile, but then it got better. Both my ex-spouse or I are a thousand times better off, hands-down, absolutely no question.

Stop kicking the can and do the thing you know you have to do.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:48 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

You say your spouse could die if you leave. Well, guess what, you're both going to die whether you stay or leave. What are you doing with your one precious life? Are you really going to keep throwing it away on this awful marriage - exhausted, miserable and obsessed with whether or not food is covered in the microwave to avoid dealing with the bigger picture? Your previous question proved you can go and be happy - so go and be happy. You should never have gone back and you should not stay.
posted by hazyjane at 11:04 PM on October 26, 2017 [31 favorites]

You are worth so much more than this. It sounds agonizing - hyper-analyzing each gesture, word, spat, discussion, eyebrow lift, clothing choice, even how refrigerator doors are opened and closed or where keys are left. As though you are wearing yourself out with details and minutiae to avoid realizing how you really feel and what you really want to do.

Even if your spouse miraculously came through on the microwave issue, do you really, really want to spend the rest of your life with this person? I don't see anything of delight or enjoyment or simple liking or even plain contentment in your posts. You sound miserable.

I hope you find the strength to separate again and to move forward in your life.
posted by dancing_angel at 11:14 PM on October 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

You mentioned in one of your previous questions that you wanted children very much. You already have PCOS as a challenge to getting pregnant. If you still want kids, I really urge you not to waste more of your fertile years with this spouse whom you know is not a suitable coparent. If you stay, I think you will regret it for this reason alone, never mind about all the other reasons you've laid out above.

I'm with Lyn Never. Start the process of getting divorced. You've posted several questions about leaving, you have actually gotten separated, you were happier when separated. Go. We give you permission. Like hazyjane said, you get one precious life and this is it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:38 PM on October 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

I'm trying not to be unsympathetic here, because Lord knows I've been in hard situations that it's really hard to get perspective on. But:

- You've now asked a string of questions all of which made clear that this is a loveless and despairing marriage and you are utterly miserable
- You described your marriage in the title of your question as a "slow numb horror"
- You did a trial separation and loved it. Spouse did not follow through with any of their promises or efforts for change.

I know it's hard to make a big decision like this, but on some level, you're actively choosing to be this miserable. YOU CAN GET OUT. Do so! Your spouse will survive. If they have a hard time, that's not your problem; they are an adult who is making their own choices here.

You need to choose too. And you need to recognise that every second you choose to stay is another second you are wasting your valuable life in misery, despair, and "slow numb horror."
posted by forza at 1:31 AM on October 27, 2017 [31 favorites]

If you think you regret this relationship now, I can't imagine the heartache you'd feel if you stay too long, only to eventually go and realise it's cost you your chance to have a child. I'd think that's the kind of thing that stays with you for life. Leave. Leave kindly, but leave.
posted by Jubey at 1:32 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, you will leave. You’ve already done it once this summer so you know what to expect...what makes you think leaving this time will be any different? At the very least, get out the door. You don’t have to say “I want a divorce” right this second...just get separated and in your own space again so you can breathe. Don’t call the husband for a week...see if he reaches out to you (he probably won’t). Then when he doesn’t and you get your legal ducks in a row, you tell him you are filing for divorce. And do it. The ball is in his court and he’s not even playing the same game as you.

You sick and tired of being sick and tired yet? GO.
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:21 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Marriage is supposed to be about being a team. You guys aren't a team. Your spouse isn't listening to you, supporting you, or even acting with basic kindness sometimes, by your account.

You've spent a long time in limbo on this. Start moving forwards.
posted by greenish at 2:58 AM on October 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hey, I just want to pop in and send you a virtual hug because some of the answers above are a little blunt/tough-love like, or at least they feel that way when you're in a situation like this. I remember being in a similar, not exactly the same but similar, situation and I was in so much pain and despair that it did no good for people to speak bluntly and plainly to me and say what was self-evident--it only "made any choice feel like dying" even more, because it felt like what people were saying to me was that the answer was plain and what was wrong with me that I couldn't see it. It made me feel like no one could empathize with the depths of the pain I was in and so no one could understand and so I couldn't trust their advice and oh god the world just felt so incredibly hard-edged and hurtful.

In a similar situation, I left. I loved my ex deeply, still do, probably always will, but what ha become of our life together was going to kill me. I left, and my ex survived. It was horrible, and it was horrible for a whole lot longer than people predicted it would be. ("In a year, you'll feel so much better!" No, after a year, I still mostly felt despair.) BUT. The acute waves of pain that threatened to overwhelm me after leaving (but ultimately did not) were still not as bad as the hellish "period of purgatory and limbo" that you describe, that long ongoing chronic pain. Once I finally left, there was great relief along with the pain.

And several years later, I am happy. Life is still hard in certain ways because of how I left and because I stayed longer than I should have, but I'm living the life I want to be living, and although I regret that things went so terribly wrong between us, I do not regret doing what I had to do--leaving. What you have to do as well.

I'm so sorry you are going through this. I wish you lots of strength and all the best. It's really hard, but you are going to do the right thing and come out alive on the other side--both of you are.
posted by tiger tiger at 4:21 AM on October 27, 2017 [17 favorites]

I've been following your posts. You don't like or respect this person. You are not doing them favors by staying with them. You like life way less with them. Please make plans to leave as soon as possible.

This post makes it obvious you need to leave now. I am just going to assume you've read all these great comments and are onboard with divorce now.

You need to meet with a lawyer next week. Figure out what's reasonable for your spouse to receive and try to make a reasonable offer with your lawyers help.

You aren't going to need to pay this man for that long. Just rip off the bandaid. This tax on divorce is not going to get cheaper and you have no other options. You don't habe a child together so this is going to be pretty short and painless. You can probably also find a banker to handle any support payments you need to make so you don't have to deal with it.
posted by Kalmya at 5:09 AM on October 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

You write beautifully and capture the pain in everyday moments so poignantly. But it’s clear that the resentment has seeped into every aspect of your relationship. Every little interaction is intolerable. I think you know it’s too far gone to bring back.

Contrast this with the sense of freedom you convey when you’re away for work, when you imagine travelling without your spouse, in your earlier question when you had separated.

From one over-analyser to another: there is no amount of data that will make the right decision easy. Just listen to that voice saying ‘go’. And go.
posted by wreckofthehesperus at 5:31 AM on October 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I remember that painful sense of stuck. Getting out of it was so hard, but so so worth it.

One thing that may help ease the pain of it. All the ways your husband fails, doesn't follow through, doesn't keep promises--all of those things that are bewildering and hurtful to you--are all a reflection of him and his lack of capability, and no reflection whatsoever on you or your value. You do deserve respect and care in your marriage. That he can't bring that is his shortcoming.

Being so starved for these things can undermine you so profoundly, and every time you ask and are again denied it cuts you down more. It seems logical to follow that with "so stop expecting anything, stop asking" but the thing that keeps you paralyzed is believing at some level that what he's doing is somehow about you. That's part of the mechanism of love--we believe what our partners reflect of us. In healthy relationships this is powerfully supportive but in bad ones it is what keeps you paralyzed.

So my advice to you: root yourself so powerfully in your own worth. You do deserve love, affection, respect, an equal partner, the truth, promises fulfilled. You are beautiful, desirable, a powerful and loving person. You have tried valiantly in this marriage. You cannot make a healthy loving marriage alone and your husband simply is not capable. This does not reflect poorly on you.

You can break away. It's worth it. I promise.
posted by Sublimity at 5:53 AM on October 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ending a relationship is hard but imagining the life you want is easy. I think you should take more time to think about the life you want. Think about all the wonderful details of the part after the divorce, when you are single or in a new relationship. What will you be doing, where will you go on vacation, what clubs will you join, what hobbies will you have, what will your friends be like, what will you do when you get home from work (bubble bath, work out, go out to a museum with friends). Just skip thinking about your spouse for now and concentrate on good things to come. Imagine your life in lovely little details. Don't stress about whether or not it will happen, just think about it and enjoy the feelings.
posted by waving at 5:56 AM on October 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you aware this guy is emotionally abusing and manipulating you?

He doesn't take care of himself, then blames it on you. Get a lawyer. RUN.
posted by jbenben at 6:25 AM on October 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can see from your reading your posts that you have worked very hard to make this marriage work.

I can see that you that you are still trying, although the effort is painful and unrewarding.

I get the sense that you feel you could not forgive yourself if you ended the marriage without giving it every chance.

Please hear this - you have tried enough. You have worked very hard and given it every chance. You have this internet stranger's permission to stop trying and feel secure in knowing you have tried enough.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2017 [12 favorites]

My spouse snaps at me when I ask the smallest things of them, though, and says to quit putting pressure on them.

You won't be putting pressure on them once you've left. It's win-win!
posted by flabdablet at 7:56 AM on October 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Run away, run away. You know the answer. Plus, if you have to badger or nag someone to do something for you, then spend every waking moment ruminating about it, get away from this person. Someone who you are partnered with will do a good majority of those things without asking, or will do it promptly when asked. If not you are just asking for passive-aggressiveness to kick in.
posted by PJMoore at 8:05 AM on October 27, 2017

I gently suggest that in your therapy, you broach with your therapist the topic of what psychological obstacles stand in the way of you making a choice on separating from vs. staying with your spouse. Based on your previous questions, the current question and details, and the feedback from everyone else on this and previous questions, it does seem like this relationship is on, if not past, its last legs. At the same time, I can tell there's obviously a lot of conflict about committing to one direction or the other; what are those conflicts for you? Recruiting your therapist as an ally to sort out these ambivalences, figuring out what you want to do with them, and then helping you muster up the strength to do whatever choice you come to--this is what might benefit you right now.
posted by obliterati at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your relationship sounds exhauting. Reading about it was draining. Part of you may be used to this as business as usual but I assure you this is not normal, and it is not okay.

Your spouse is deeply unpleasant, selfish and self-absorbed. I have read all of the questions you reference and really, why you are still in this relationship is completely beyond me. Honestly, what is literally ONE positive thing about this arrangement?

For you, I mean. He gets to be a full time manchild who has to be nagged and coaxed to do basic housework (and doesn't), who snaps at you, who eats crap and does not give a shit while you try to improve yourself for the sake of your marriage. Who is so pathetic they can't even drive without lashing out at you or at life in general. Who can't even give you a fucking back rub without making it about him.

Like I think I have established that he is a mess...but now I am wondering about you?

I see that you mentioned one of your parents was emotionally abusive, and I think this is significant in that you don't seem to have a healthy sense of dignity (I don't mean to insult you, I have had similar issues in the past). Like, why do you want to force him or beg him to spend time or watch shows with you? In a good relationship, your spouse would want to hang out with you, it should not be a chore. The fact that you think he's justified in not cleaning because "why put in work to take care of a house that you don't feel like will be yours long-term? " I dunno, because human decency? This is roommate standard. People don't have to be married to you to keep your house clean.

You also don't have a duty to be married to this buffoon just because he could use the health coverage. He clearly does not give a shit about his health, and even if you want to be his martyr nurse (as you are already tracking his eating and sleeping habits), chances are he will still do whatever the fuck he wants to do. Honestly why do you think you have a duty to live with a fucking douchebag just because of this? You say you want to divorce but this is your main concern, so we know it's not love that's keeping you from leaving. For that matter go find a more pleasant person in need of healthcare and marry them. Then at least you will have companionship!

Your questions read like the proverbial patient who keeps hitting their head with a hammer and wonders what is wrong with them. Your spouse. Your spouse is what's wrong. Stop hammering your head. And then run to your therapist and learn the difference between being supportive and being codependent.
posted by Tarumba at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2017 [10 favorites]

Hey, I've been divorced, and I was the one to pull the plug. You've clearly decided in your mind you're not invested, and neither is your spouse. Maybe this will help, because I don't think admonishments of "JUST DO IT ALREADY" are what you need.

So, how do you put this in motion? Answer: Break every large insurmountable-seeming thing down into smaller things. A potential plan:

Right now: Write on a post-it some talking points about what you would say if you were to have the "I want a divorce" conversation. BRIEF. Just talking points. Start with how you've made the decision and you're not going to change your mind.

Later today: Rehearse that conversation. Out loud. Multiple times. You're clearly going to have to be somewhere you can't be heard by your spouse.

Even later today: What happened when you rehearsed? Did it feel like you hit the right points? Did you imagine how you would feel afterward?

Report back!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:27 AM on October 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I’ve been in a relationship where I was unhappy but the other person had significant health problems. It’s really, really hard to separate “this is a bad partner who treats me poorly” and “I can’t be mad at them for not recovering/dealing like I would want them to.” It doesn’t make you a bad person for breaking up with them if they are not considering you as a partner. You’ve given it a lot of time and it seems he’s made it clear.

I also have a friend who was in the same situation (and she was married so it was also a divorce, which has more weight than the relationship I was in, for sure). For both of us, there was a moment where it became clear that it was them treating us poorly and not the illness/injury talking. DONE. It made it clear. It can be hard to sort out and there’s a lot of guilt and feelings of responsibility, but if he hasn’t done something that makes it clear he’s not in it with you, I’m sure that moment will come.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

The other week I found a diary from when I was 18 or something and flipped it open at random to a page where I listed a day's worth of disappointments dealt to me by my boyfriend. It was as granular in detail as yours above and as agonized, and the solution to the problem as obvious. I laaaaaughed and laughed at my dear, kvetching miserable young self. The end of that thing was absolute agony and we didn't speak to each other after about 1998 until last year when we got back in touch. He's trying to decide whether to claw his way out of a miserable marriage, and I just got through with a decades-long horror of my own that was fraught, ridiculous, and agonizing to end. I can't advise on ending relationships: every one I've been in that became terrible and desperately needed to end continued on for years and years and caused epic suffering to all involved. So I have no useful experience. I can strongly advise that once out of this thing you not read back over the chronicles for at least thirty years. Wait long enough and it'll be as funny and endearing as my diary was.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:33 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone above that you seem miserable.

Definitely don't have children with this man and don't waste any more time with him. You can get out now and find the happiness you are longing for.
posted by JenThePro at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2017

I think you need to see a lawyer first before having the divorce conversation. If possible you need to figure out a way to get him out of that house so you can clean it up and put it up for sale. I'm worried if he stays in the house with no hope of you coming back he's going to trash the place out of a combination of laziness and spite. Tell the lawyer this and make a plan before you confront your spouse.
posted by hazyjane at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do I break out of indecision that makes any choice feel like dying?
I want to address this. All the choices feel like dying because in a way, they are. If you stay, your self as you know it is slowly going to erode away. If you leave, your life as you know it is over, all the hopes and dreams you had with your spouse, all the hopes that things might get better - that’s done. Finito. And you will have to start anew. That is scary. Change is hard, no question. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay in the slow numb horror of it all and not do anything, instead of making an *active* choice to say to yourself, I want to make my life better. I choose to make my life better. I choose me. If you do that, then yes, you are killing off something - like that part of you that wants to continue, that part that still hopes that things will get better. Death is “just” transformation. So by experiencing this death, you have the chance to transform your life from what it is now, and yourself. That’s scary for sure. Maybe you’re worried that it won’t be into something better, but listen: you already experienced it through your trial separation. Now it’s time to make that permanent, and to experience all that goodness and amazingness ALL THE TIME. Wouldn’t that be great? You already had a taste of it. Now it’s time to live that in a more long-term way.

It won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, no question. Divorce is hard is painful. So is your marriage right now and it’s not going to get better. Your spouse is really showing no interest in being with you. Sure there may be some good times, but the most awful relationships aren’t awful 100% of the time.

On the issue of them having a chronic illness and the guilt you feel for leaving them: have a look at this reddit post. You aren’t the first in this situation, and you won’t be the last. You’ll figure it out. They'll figure it out. Again, no, it won’t be easy, and maybe what you’re doing is just trying to avoid the unknown. It’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t know. It doesn’t seem like they have any interest in taking care of themselves, so why should you? And with you out of the picture, it’s going to force them to do something to help themselves, and if they don't, that’s *their choice.*

So you don’t have to make a choice about staying or going yet, but start talking to some lawyers and find out what your rights and obligations are in your jurisdiction. Arm yourself with knowledge so that at least you know that you’re getting into if you do decide to divorce. Ok, so from your comment that you linked to, I see that you’ve done this. Did you figure out what your rights and obligations are? What do you think?

At some point though, you do have to make a choice. The thing is, you already know you don’t want to be in this marriage. So your choice is not to go or stay, your choice is: am I going to listen and honour myself and my desires (which is going to feel like crap because you’ll feel guilty that you’re “doing" this your spouse) OR am I going to not listen to this voice and just keep things as they are? Right now you are doing the latter.

So yeah, I don't even know.
Read your post and your previous ones. What else is there to know? You’ve laid out in four different posts now, in exhausting detail, all the issues and problems with your marriage and… you don’t even know? Maybe what you don’t know is how and what you’re feeling, like fear? And you do know: in your August post you said that once you returned from the separation, that things will soon devolve. And you were right - they did, into an intergalactic slow zone. So you know. You can’t *predict* what will happen if you do divorce, but you know what you want. In your previous post you said that you want to give this a fair trial, due diligence, have clear eyes and mind. Things are not going to get more clearer than this. I don’t know if you’re waiting for some kind of lightning bolt realization, or to have the confidence to do what you *know* you want to do.

I think you’re getting tripped up on your spouse’s health, and that if they didn’t have this issue, then maybe the decision would be easier? So collect data on that. You already know they’re not doing the things to improve their health, and they don’t seem to care. I know you care about that, but really, it doesn’t make a difference if they don’t. So spouse is not interested in being with you, and doesn’t care about their health. I understand you want to be a good person here, but… you have to put yourself first. I would try to figure out what your obligations are in this regard and how divorce would affect health coverage for them.
posted by foxjacket at 12:04 AM on October 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

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