Trying to sort my marriage
July 31, 2018 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I don't know what to expect from mature relationships. I had one five year relationship and one nine month relationship since maturing and I didn't have good relationship models as a child so I'm not sure I am calibrated well. I'm afraid that my marriage is truly terrible, but I'm also afraid that much of the weight of it is fairly universal for hetero male-female marriage. And I just need a reality check.

I need help figuring out what's normal for marriage issues and compatibility issues and what's a true red flag sign that tips the scale to "bite the bullet and divorce because this can't get better."

My marriage of 4 years has seen more than its fair share of trauma. I realized today that my husband is taking me for granted, and that underneath my efforts to Kowtow to his feelings I'm deeply unhappy. I suspect maybe he is too. We have a young child and I don't want to pay him child support but I make considerably more. I don't want to pay because he was supposed to get his act together to provide more financial contribution to the family by now and to remove that responsibility would just reinforce the problem I have had getting him to take ownership over it.

He is a good father in person. He has supported my career as a trailing spouse (after an initial tantrum right after I accepted the new job offer). He hasn't cheated. He probably loves me or at least loves how I make him feel and maybe that's what most people love about their partners. He does most of the domestic stuff I have asked for after typically having to repeat myself. In a crisis he shows up well and takes care of me when I fall apart and cannot take care of myself. He was amazing when I had our son and took care of everything. He's always been a hands on dad willing to take time overnight so I can sleep or whatever I need.

He is underemployed with executive functioning issues that have led to poor judgment in a variety of situations including legal problems and I'm embarrassed to be with someone with legal problems. It also causes issues with employment. He's terrible with conflict (I want to collaborate and he wants to avoid things then snipe or use gunnysacking). He is a people pleaser. When I express that I feel excluded from his life he either overcorrects in a sarcastic manner or gets secretive. He knows just about every NSFW subreddit. He is stingy with positive feedback. I don't know if he really respects me or if he just goes along with what I want because he doesn't want any friction for anything. He's passive and doesn't show much good listening. He doesn't take initiative. He is very disorganized and bad with money. I manage finances, and oversee what the household needs, and plan most things. He does a lot of the cleaning and parenting.

He also makes a lot of excuses and has an external locus of control, and his executive functioning problems make him dependent and I have to bend myself in all kinds of ways to make life work with him. He would probably say the same, that he can't be himself. He also falls into depression and doesn't try to help himself, use coping skills, I think his knowledge of all the porn on Reddit is related to depression.

We have a couple of things in common as far as values but fewer activities that we have in common. He's a skeptic material reductionist and I'm ... Not at all... And we had a ton of terrible fights before learning to respect that difference that have left some scars for me.

I just don't know if leaving means I will just have to face more flaws, some similar and some not, and if this is just as good as it gets? I also don't know how to leave. I've almost done so several times but I haven't been able to follow through. I don't know if that's love or codependency or just not wanting to fail or what.

But I know I'm really unhappy and just put on an act and have to hold up the emotional tone of the marriage single handedly and I am damn tired. I know that I thought relationship would be easier. And he gets so defensive so easily that I don't feel that communication is working. I have an overarching feeling that any time I deviate from caretaker to partner with needs, he finds it inconvenient and wants to be the helpless one in need of care, while simultaneously rebelling like a teenager. Some of that is the executive functioning stuff, but is some of that also just how most husbands act?

We are in therapy right now but I just, I don't feel seen. I don't feel safe much of the time. I feel like I have to be the together one while he can be as messy or self pitying as he likes and I never get an opportunity to be weak.

So what's a normal marriage? Obviously most couples don't deal with legal stuff but I mean, if I leave him then which of these things are "normal" in relationship? I don't know what normal expectations should be. As a person that is trying to recover from codependency what can I use as a model to gauge relationship with? What are the pros and cons of your marriage or significant relationship? How happy is "happy"?

Yes I have posted about my marriage problems here before. Things seem better but then I realize that is because I am working so damn hard. I'm afraid to go for child reasons, for child support and custody reasons, for some emotional attachment reason. I cannot get in with an individual therapist right now but articles, blogs, etc that could help are welcome.
posted by What a Joke to Human Relations (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
You would do well for yourself to see a family lawyer to educate yourself about how financial support and child residential schedules work in your jurisdiction. People have all sorts of ideas how it works but they are rarely based in reality... Laws change. Jurisdictions vary.

Hugs.
posted by k8t at 6:40 PM on July 31, 2018 [26 favorites]


Having looked back at your previous questions (oh yeah, you're married to the guy who kept a journal to "prove" that you have BPD) I understand that you are in that stage of wanting to go, but being afraid to do so because things will be hard.

I was in that position once myself, and I can tell you from experience that you are stronger than you think you are, and the freedom and energy you will get from being able to be yourself and not held back by someone who saps your energy all the time more than makes up for any hardships you might experience. You know this is not a working relationship. Don't even worry about what makes a functional relationship right now - you're not in one, and you need to get out of it. Plenty of time after that to think about what a functional adult relationship might be like.

That said, I remember reading this book when I was trying to work up the courage to leave my broken relationship and it definitely made me think about things differently. Before she finished writing the book, Kipnis also wrote an article in the NY Times which covers some of the same themes. But the book is better.

You can do this. Honest.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:52 PM on July 31, 2018 [27 favorites]


You can talk to a lawyer. There is a thing called a “SAPCR” in many states. It’s called a “Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationships”. The SAPCR questions and options can help you sort out what’s what.

At the very least you aren’t obligated to stay in a marriage with anyone and you can leave it for any damn reason you like.

You can also stay in this marriage but you’ll have to accept who is. Based on your descriptions though I don’t think you want to accept him for who he is. That’s not fair to you or him. Based on the resentment I’m reading in your descriptions of him I think it would be best to find someone you really trust, admire and respect and let him go.
posted by nikaspark at 6:52 PM on July 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


You do not need more blogs, more articles, more therapy, or more advice from MetaFilter about this. You need to end your marriage.

You absolutely loathe your husband. You hold him contempt, which seems to be richly deserved, and yet you take no positive steps to do the only thing that will make this situation change, which is to end your marriage.

Stop coming back to the well here with the same question, stop wrapping this up in therapy-speak, and get a divorce lawyer. That is the only way you can make this stop.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:58 PM on July 31, 2018 [70 favorites]


I think you know you need to leave. In the interest of providing guidance to other answerers (before you get a tsunami of DTMFA, which you likely will anyway, and they'll be right), this question is really, "are all men this way, or can I expect more from another partner?", correct?

(I think the answer to that question is: patriarchy and sexism are inescapable, and you'll likely have to do the majority of EL and DL in a heterosexual relationship, but there are decent and compatible men out there who can do more than this for you. If your compass is off, you'll likely have to work on that some more. I asked a question some time ago, I think there are some relevant answers for you there.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:11 PM on July 31, 2018 [29 favorites]


There are people who are married to people with executive dysfunction. There are people who are married to people who can't pick up their socks. There are people who are married to people with legal issues. The difference between those people and you people is that you don't want to be married anymore.

These aren't issues exclusive to hetero marriages, nor even particularly related to marriage - but once one partner has this much contempt, earned or otherwise, for the other person in the relationship, it's time to move on and let you both get healthy somewhere else.
posted by Nyx at 7:12 PM on July 31, 2018 [20 favorites]


This isn’t as good as it gets. This is very bad. It’s hard to see how you wouldn’t be much happier living alone than in a relationship like this.
posted by something something at 7:24 PM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


"I know I'm really unhappy"

The rest doesn't really matter much, time to make a break.
posted by so fucking future at 7:37 PM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't want to pay because he was supposed to get his act together to provide more financial contribution to the family by now and to remove that responsibility would just reinforce the problem I have had getting him to take ownership over it.

You have this problem in either case. You can't make him do this. If you could make him do this, you would have done it by now. There is no outcome here where you get this guy to be the guy you want him to be. If you have this guy the way he is now in either case, do you prefer life with him as your husband or not?
posted by Sequence at 8:17 PM on July 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm also afraid that much of the weight of it is fairly universal for hetero male-female marriage.

No, no, no, this is not true. Why would any straight woman marry, under such circumstances? Your partner should be your friend, your collaborator, your lover--someone you're genuinely excited to share jokes, ideas, life plans, a future with--and someone who's glad to make compromises for you (and you for them) in order to further one another's happiness and goals. This means they pull their weight, not only financially, but around the house, emotionally, and otherwise. Sure, men aren't always socially conditioned to know how to manage emotional labor or whatever, but that doesn't mean you settle for someone you can partially respect. A relationship doesn't function with partial respect. See a lawyer, get a divorce, and move much more slowly in the future.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you found out that most married people were as unhappy as you are, that wouldn't change the fact that you're unhappy.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:41 PM on July 31, 2018 [14 favorites]


This sounds really shitty. It's not going to ever be "good." It might get better, but it's not going to ever get better than, say, a B- or so. Or it might just get worse. Don't stick with this, you deserve better.
posted by Slinga at 9:06 PM on July 31, 2018


you don't respect him and for this relationship, it doesn't matter if that's fair or unfair of you (on balance, I think it is fair. the one exception is being "embarrassed" by his problems which is sort of awful. depending on the nature of the legal problems, I would expect anger, compassion, or fear, but not vicarious embarrassment. but maybe you wouldn't feel that way about it if you weren't sick of him in general.)

his knowledge of all the porn on Reddit


there is no reason you should be forced to know about his porn preoccupations if you haven't asked and don't enjoy hearing about it.either he cannot maintain a private mental life, or else he tells you these things out of hostility because he knows you don't like it. really doesn't matter which. I would not advise accepting this from any man in the future. people often confuse women's assertions of sacrosanct intimate space as somehow policing men's sexuality, as if a reasonable request that they stop broadcasting foul matter publicly is a demand for them to stop thinking about it privately. never believe this; never respect it as a point of view.

but is some of that also just how most husbands act?

I honestly don't know. but I do know that the healthy response is an incredulous "of course not." If that is incorrect, if most husbands are, as you fear, committed adult-baby fetishists, the answer is not to have a husband. period.

I reiterate that I don't believe it's that bad, and also who cares what most husbands do? you're only going to have one or two at a time; you don't have to take on an average husband if the average is garbage. find a good one, or go without. they're both better options than what you've got. I am not looking at this question as a list of pros and cons, I'm just reading your words, and your words are miserable. you sound miserable. somebody could find you statistics proving that 99 percent of coupled heterosexual women are miserable and you still SHOULDN'T BE MISERABLE. you don't deserve this and you don't have to take it. you don't have to do what most people do, you don't have to accept what the average woman accepts, and you fucking well don't have to live in misery because you're convinced most men make women miserable. who cares what most of them do? fuck a life of quiet desperation. let normal go fuck itself, and think instead about what you really want. even if it's abnormal, even if it's exceptional. don't school your hopes and dreams to the mathematically probable. what you're living with is not better than nothing.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:08 PM on July 31, 2018 [70 favorites]


If I were to tell you that most marriages are unhappy, most husbands are feckless, and this is probably the best you can expect, would you quietly resign yourself to your fate? I suspect you'd continue to chafe.

I can't help but read your question as asking permission to divorce him. To which I say, you are demonstrably unhappy with your marriage and contemptuous of your husband, and you appear to live in a jurisdiction which lets you do something about that.

My only thought is,

We have a young child and I don't want to pay him child support but I make considerably more...He is a good father in person. He has supported my career as a trailing spouse

I will note that it's a bit odd that you seem to assume he will get custody (do you intend not to pursue custody?), but assuming that's accurate, please don't try to skip out on the child support. As you say, he has supported your career as a trailing spouse, materially damaging his lifetime earnings in the process; you consider him a good father; and the money is for your child's benefit.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:13 PM on July 31, 2018 [11 favorites]


I'm sorry, cotton dress sock is rightly chiding me for not answering the question as asked.

For what it's worth, I do think many husbands are conflict-avoidant, bad with money, disorganized, and generally feckless. Many husbands are outright abusive, neglectful, and unfaithful. Honestly, I'm kind of impressed that despite your abundant contempt you still describe your husband as doing a lot of cleaning and parenting, as a good father, and as having supported your career as a trailing spouse. So, as a matter of probabilities,

I just don't know if leaving means I will just have to face more flaws, some similar and some not, and if this is just as good as it gets?

I don't think you should go into this with the expectation of finding a better husband. I think you should be prepared for the possibility that you will never re-marry a better man. But even so you may be happier. It doesn't sound like you need a man for financial assistance, and it doesn't sound like this man is doing much for you emotionally.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:29 PM on July 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


While there are no perfect men, there are certainly many who would be much better partners to you than this one. You can definitely expect more than you are getting. It is not unreasonable, and it is not unrealistic. Good luck out there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:20 AM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


You don't deserve this and you don't have to take it. you don't have to do what most people do, you don't have to accept what the average woman accepts, and you fucking well don't have to live in misery because you're convinced most men make women miserable. who cares what most of them do? fuck a life of quiet desperation. let normal go fuck itself, and think instead about what you really want. even if it's abnormal, even if it's exceptional. don't school your hopes and dreams to the mathematically probable. what you're living with is not better than nothing.

queenofbithynia again nails it.I 'm saving this to paste it into every question that asks, tragically and repeatedly, some painful variation of this same exact question.

For what it's worth, this is all you need to know. Get out and find your life. Because this is not it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:35 AM on August 1, 2018 [10 favorites]


No,most relationships are not like this, and everyone has said this to every question you've asked. Find a local lawyer, and sort out the financial stuff, I am not sure what else anyone can tell you here.
posted by kellyblah at 3:06 AM on August 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


Leaving aside the question of how child support / alimony laws would work for you -

Maybe it would help you to think a different way so you can move forward - Having to pay child support is not “reinforcing” and rewarding his past lack of efforts to contribute to the family. Having to pay child support is the soon to be present price of future freedom from having to fight and struggle and despair and rage and plead with him on a daily basis to participate in this family like you needed him to.

And no, not all men and not all husbands by a long shot.
posted by sestaaak at 4:52 AM on August 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


You are teaching your child that marriages are founded in contempt. This is a really sad lesson to be saddling the next generation with.
posted by eirias at 4:52 AM on August 1, 2018 [12 favorites]


So what's a normal marriage?

I can answer this very simply, and that is by saying, a good marriage does not feel like this:

I have to bend myself in all kinds of ways to make life work with him
posted by greenish at 6:49 AM on August 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think you've spent a long time feeling like you need to leave and it's time to honor that, if you don't you will continue to be unhappy, deeply unhappy. I spent a couple of years in a state of ambiguity about whether to stay or go in my past relationship of almost 6 years, I didn't want to split up while my son was a baby but staying together and trying to make it work did a lot of harm to all of us in retrospect because we had so much conflict together for longer. I felt like I was going crazy and everything was so much better after I left, and I've since met someone more compatible and I am truly happy, it is vastly different.

If you can't accept and respect your husband as he is right now, it won't work. He is unlikely to change a huge amount, and especially not while feeling pathologized and analyzed (not defending his behavior but that's likely how he feels which doesn't help). I think all of your trying to fix him and change him and help him is a huge burden on you. Maybe you can be friends one day, and that will be better for your child to see than the present situation. I would hold onto the fact that, under crisis, your husband is supportive. The issue is you don't want to have to be falling apart to be helped, and you don't respect each other.
posted by lafemma at 7:44 AM on August 1, 2018


You have to get your legal questions answered first step. I think you have a fatalistic and unrealistic view of how the divorce would actually work out in real life in terms of support. You are catastrophizing and using that to stay where you are. It's totally natural and not a moral failing to catastrophize but for the sake of your kid, you need to do the adult thing and name your desires to someone in the legal profession who can tell you what your actual and real options are. Then you can work on that framework.

And I think everyone here makes a lot of great points but I see from you a lot of "here's how it affects me, me, me" and, again, totally natural. But maybe think just a bit beyond you to your kid and your husband in post-divorce world. Your husband is also in a situation which clearly isn't a place where he can be his best (whatever that is). You might be surprised (and super angry because, yeah) that he actually can pull his shit together when he's not in a co-dependent relationship where he just gets to dump on someone endlessly. And for your kid, being the third wheel in a relationship of tension is no fun at all. You owe it to your kid to be fair and reasonable while also protecting yourself and your child's well-being. Maybe if you think about your process in those terms it will actually seem less daunting and catastrophic.
posted by amanda at 8:27 AM on August 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


I should add that I have had consultation with an attorney. My husband has means available in extended family that could be used to fight quite a battle for custody. I live in a state that favors the 4 days one place 3 days the other model, and according to the calculators online I would likely have to pay him because I make 2-3 times more and he has kids from a previous relationship as well. The only way out of it would be to get really dirty and approach in a way that he would be fully barred access from his son and I don't want that. He won't agree to being a weekend dad. That's not fair to my kid anyway. Dad isn't a bad dad. I also want to have the ability to move as needed for better employment opportunities and don't want a divorce to force me to stay in a certain area. My husband won't provide so it falls to me and I want the best for my child.

Not to threadsit just clarifying the legal barriers have been looked into.
posted by What a Joke at 9:30 AM on August 1, 2018


So, let's say you did have the 50/50 residential split and you did have to provide some funds so that your child's two homes are roughly equal (it isn't money to your child's father - it is money for your child's existence in the other home) and when your kid needs a soccer uniform, you're paying for 70% of it and your child's father pays for 30% of it. Is that so bad? This sort of calculation is just how the law is, in the best interest of the child. And if things are so bad, it is a price you'll pay to not be in he same home with him anymore.

If your state likes 50/50, why do you worry about a custody battle funded by his extended family? I don't know where you live, but absent of some sort of weird abuse situation, it doesn't seem like there would be any reason why 50/50 residential time would not occur. Unless you have solid reason to believe they'd put up a fight, don't make decisions based on this.

The moving part is really tough though. For better or worse, that is probably not in the cards for you and will likely become more complicated if you all have new partners in the future. Who knows though - maybe you get a job offer far away that would be transformative for your collective households. Maybe future you could convince your child's father that the moving of both households is a good idea and financially advantageous for all of you. (Like if you get a raise, your incomes are reassessed and you're responsible for 80% of child... Who knows.)
posted by k8t at 10:41 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Not to threadsit just clarifying the legal barriers have been looked into...and you've taken the lawyer's words and twisted them into more reasons to not get divorced.

What you just did was write a list of no less than TEN reasons to not get divorced, and not one of them is 100% guaranteed to happen.

Every single reason you wrote is worst-case-scenario conjecture and now leaving him is a bad idea because it's bad for your child and your career.

Millions of people have left unhappy marriages and have moved on in their lives. Not to sound jerky, but there's nothing you've written that's so special and unusual that shows you also couldn't be a person who gets divorced and lives a happy life. Thousands of people work out complicated divorces daily and their kids are doing well. So what's holding you back?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


No. Not all marriages are like this. And the lasting ones are almost certainly NOTHING like this. Id rather be happy alone than miserable with someone else. Wouldnt you?
posted by stinkyspoons at 11:23 AM on August 1, 2018


He does most of the domestic stuff I have asked for after typically having to repeat myself. (...) He is very disorganized and bad with money. I manage finances, and oversee what the household needs, and plan most things.

you realize, but do you really realize, that after leaving him you don't have to manage any of this for him, ever again?

the only thing to answer for yourself is can you afford to pay whatever child/spousal support will be awarded in the worst-case (for you) scenario. literally, when you pay the theoretical amount, will you have enough left over for your life expenses and a tiny bit more to save? the question is not, Can you carry on in the same-sized house or apartment with the same discretionary income you have now, while supporting a second household? presumably that's a no. big deal. just figure out, can you do it. will you continue to be housed, fed, and clothed above bare poverty level and have the wherewithal to care for your child and give them a place to sleep on the days you're looking after them.

I don't know how it couldn't be worth it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you're already paying for most of your child's needs. Child support after a divorce would continue to be just that. I understand certain things for the child are more expensive when split across two households rather than one, but still, I feel like characterizing child support as a completely new expense isn't quite accurate.

An aside: you describe a lot of frustration with his underemployment, and you mention he's a good dad. Is full-time stay-at-home parenting an option? That would be a full-time job for him, and may perhaps free up financial resources more than his current contributions (depending on your childcare arrangements).
posted by mosst at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2018


(moost, I wish. But no. He's got multiple other children he is responsible for financially for the next ten years.)
posted by What a Joke at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2018


You are worth more than this life. I hope that you can get the distance you need from where you are right now to really believe that.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am married to a cishet man who loves porn and has some executive functioning issues. I am happy every day I wake up to be married to him. We rarely fight. We just get along well. Marriage to a man doesn't have to feel like you're feeling. When I have felt like this in my two 3+yr long relationships before my marriage I realized being alone was better than constantly feeling resentful and like I was doing all the work.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


At some point you have to start accepting reality. Your husband is not suddenly going to become good at executive function. So criticizing him is a waste of time. Work around him. You’re not in a position to get divorced, fine. Figure out how to be married and reasonably happy. Learn how to disconnect his actions from your mental state. Talk to an attorney about protecting your finances. Hire someone to do things he won’t do. If you can, get a job with a lot of travel and start taking kid+ babysitter.

You married someone who will never be who you want to be with. You have a kid with him and always will. Hating him is, at this point, recreational, not useful. If you’re competent and he’s not start acting competent and work around him.

It could be a lot worse. He could be a terrible father and you could be financially dependent on someone irresponsible. Instead, you have a lot of control and you can do more than just be angry at him for not being someone else.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:54 PM on August 1, 2018 [13 favorites]


NO, most husbands are not like this and your description of your marriage does not describe most people's marriages.
posted by thereader at 12:25 AM on August 2, 2018


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