...she loves me not.
February 11, 2006 11:45 PM   Subscribe

My wife wants to divorce me. Should I just give in?

We've been married seven years. There have unfortunately been plenty of arguments, including disagreement on whether they were arguments. She's threatened to leave many times, and I beg for her to come back. It hurts so much to love someone who doesn't love you back...

We have two kids, 3.5 years and 5 months.

I'm having a really hard time understanding why she feels this way, she's saying that she doesn't like the way I'm always defending myself, and she doesn't like my messy desk. I do often do what she describes as defending myself, which is generally explaning why I did something a particular way. I don't get it--I do the best I can with the information I have--if I do something wrong, then I didn't have the right information, no big deal, right? As for my desk, I've been doing the best I can with the time I have; I've organized it into piles, and am working them down. I've been working about 14 hour days where I get up, go to work, come home at dinner (so I don't miss time with the family), go back to work after I've put everyone to bed (abut 9), and go back to work as long as I can. The amount of time with the family is identical to my usual schedule, although it's hell on me.

We've been reading all the books (Gottman, 5 love langs, most everything people recommend), and we've been to counseling (about 5 times). I think that counseling could help, but she doesn't care anymore. She thinks that I didn't implement the counselor's suggestions; I've done my best to internalize them as part of my life. I'm really trying here, but it never seems to be enough.

It's really hard to fight to keep a marriage when the other person doesn't love you anymore. For what it's worth, I am fairly old-fashioned when it comes to divorce and tend to treat my vows very, very seriously. [why won't she? I'm trying here, why won't she?]

I'm grateful for any help you can give. Am I just a jerk? She thinks so, and I generally disagree--but I'm willing to hear what people think. Do I need a new counselor? What do I do if she divorces me? I've never done this before. Is there something I can do? What am I doing wrong?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From the sound of it, she's decided that it's over and is unwilling to make any changes to turn things around. You can only try so much. If she's not willing to give things a shot, you can't hold her hostage and that doesn't help your kids anyway.

If she's that determined to end it, my advice is to cut her loose. There doesn't seem to be a lot you can do.
posted by youcancallmeal at 11:57 PM on February 11, 2006

Response by poster: You've said it multiple times. She doesn't love you. She doesn't want to make it work because she doesn't love you. Let her go.

Don't let the suffering define you. Don't let yourself become attached to a martyr complex. It hurts very, very badly when someone you love doesn't love you back; don't put yourself any further through that suffering. If you have truly done all you can, if you have truly made every effort to change, then for your sake and her sake, accept that it's over.
posted by Anonymous at 12:12 AM on February 12, 2006

What you guys have done is as much as I think is reasonable. People go in and out of love, there are good times and bad—and so there certainly is some shared responsibility to stick around and try to work things out (or wait) when things have turned sour.

But you've done that.

From what you write, and what I expect many who also comment here will say, she sounds like she's completely written off the marriage, she's not in love, she probably doesn't even like you anymore and she wants out. Things will only get worse from here; if she's not in love with you anymore but you still love her, then her next step will be to make you not love her anymore, by whatever means necessary...but another man is a popular choice. This is all assuming she doesn't unilaterally divorce you, if that's possible where you live.

Say goodbye.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:13 AM on February 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

The only good advice my dad ever gave me (besides "screw the government" and "never take the Falcons and the over") was:

"Marriage is never 50/50. Sometimes it's 90/10."

So ask yourself these questions:

Do I still love her?

Does she love me? (You have answered this one.)

Are my kids better off living with us as we are now, or would it benefit them to grow up with drastically different circumstances?

Does this bitch deserve half my stuff?

Is there any possibility that a sixth session of counseling will find the root of the problem?

Is she willing to change, too?

I don't know the answers to these questions. All I know is that in eleven years of marriage, I'm damned lucky to have found a wife who ignores me most of the time.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:17 AM on February 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Have you ruled out post-partum depression? This is something that can show up as long as two years after a child is born. It could cause your wife to fixate on things that may seem irrational to others. Also, perhaps she's gone through an identity crisis since having children, especially if she's feeling isolated and you're not having much time together as a couple. If she won't accept counselling, can you pursue it on your own? It might at least help you make sense of what's going on. I'm not suggesting you're to blame. But having a child is a major strain on a couple's relationship and it can be difficult to recover. Maybe your wife is still reeling from the life transitions and sees divorce as the only way to regain control.
posted by acoutu at 12:19 AM on February 12, 2006

The desk is a ruse. If you somehow managed to clean up and organize your desk, your marriage wouldn't work and she wouldn't love you more. In fact, she will find something else to be upset about, because it's just a reflection of her dissatisfaction and not the source of it.

You're not a jerk. You may be incompatible. She may want something that's impossible for you to give, or she may simply not want to be married. In any case, neither of you are happy. Don't let it destroy you. Remember that you are not happy, either.

It's too bad there are children involved. Stop reading books about making things work with your wife and read a few about how to make the divorce less traumatic for them.

In the end, it will likely be much better, for you, and for the children, to divorce. A household with a father constantly on edge and a wife who is constantly dissatisfied is no place to grow up.

Most importantly, stop focusing on her, and on why she won't love you. You can't make her. From your description, you've done all reasonable things. Get a private therapist, focus on loving your children and yourself, and try to find satisfaction in being a loving father instead of being an "unworthy" husband.
posted by fake at 12:28 AM on February 12, 2006

Oh boy. I'm so sorry to hear that you're in this mess.

I'm divorced (and several years later well and happy, as is my daughter), and there are a couple of things that really stand out there.

First, something the counsellor said to us, which I think was true, and not just defeatism: by the time a couple is consciously contemplating divorce, counselling is usually too late.

Second, and this is definitely my experience, you can't save things if she's really not interested. You can't be married on your own, dude.

" [why won't she? I'm trying here, why won't she?]"

I'm having flashbacks to someone who was having doubts, fleshed out all the possible futures in her mind, and decided it wasn't worth it, all without saying a word to me (because although she put every effort into hiding it I ought to have known, apparently). Dude, no one can say why except her, and if she can't or won't tell you, there is no point trying to figure it out. Grownups who have problems with other grownups have a responsibility to take it up with them, not play guessing games. You are not a bad person for failing to perceive things that she won't communicate.

"Am I just a jerk? She thinks so."

I'm sure you're not, but if she really hates your behaviour, and you can't or don't want to change it, you'll have a hard time convincing her. I get a small sense that maybe you guys don't even agree on what's wrong - "plenty of arguments, including disagreement on whether they were arguments" - so you're pushing shit uphill there. I get the feeling there is a lot to learn here for both of you, but you might have to wait until next time around to use it.

Speaking as someone who's pretty skeptical of counsellors, think about seeing someone on your own. You're going to wear your friends out and it's good to have an objective, sane person to talk to. I wish you luck. Be good, be strong.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:31 AM on February 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

There's only one red flag here that makes me wonder if you've really tried everything. Dude, your working hours are out of control! How can you work 14 hour days and work on your marriage at the same time? It seems like that would be impossible.

How about taking a vacation together for a couple of weeks? Can you cut your hours down to a more reasonable level? What if you asked her to wait 6 months or a year before making a decision, and then actually concentrated on spending some time with her? I know you say that you're coming home for mealtimes, but it seems to me like that's not enough.
posted by hazyjane at 12:42 AM on February 12, 2006

You are not a bad person for failing to perceive things that she won't communicate.

posted by fake at 12:43 AM on February 12, 2006

Wow, this sounds like a possible future for me. My GF always complains about the state of my computer desk, and my odd work schedule and sleep. Doesn't sound as bad as yours though.

However, if she got that bad, I'd cut her loose. It sounds like you are totally working your backside off to keep the family together, while she sits at home and watches the kids. I say get a good lawyer, and file for divorce before she does. From the sounds of it, she's looking into it already. The advantage goes to who files first, so make sure that's you. You already have plenty of grounds.

And....try not to sweat it. Things simply don't always work out. There's a girl out there that I love, and loves me back, but we have never been able to make things work. We've tried several times over the years. She may or may not still love you, but maybe it just wasn't meant to be.
posted by Phynix at 12:54 AM on February 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that 14 hour day thing is not something to gloss over. Couples need to spend time together as a couple to stay a couple and I don't see how you can fit that in. In point of fact, if I had to single out one thing (though there never is just one thing) that doomed my marriage, it was that I was working at a startup while she had begun shift-work. The combined effect of that was that we lost all the habits we had that kept us in touch with each other. If I could wind back the clock, that's definitely what I'd warn pre-divorce me about. But I guess that's coming up in counselling if it hasn't already.

I have some survival advice that does not directly address the questions you asked - my email address is in my profile.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:59 AM on February 12, 2006

When I start finding myself irritated by my husband's behavior, I try to work out what it is exactly that bothers me. When his sleep patterns are erratic, sometimes I feel that he doesn't respect me because it puts the burden of household responsibilities on me. When he's defensive, I feel like I'm the one in the wrong for finding fault. When he works long hours, I feel like he doesn't want to be with me. And yes, sometimes we disagree about whether a conversation is an argument or not.

We have been married 15 years, and actually get on very well. The two biggest things we think are working for us are trying to be as honest as possible (particularly about our motives) and being on the same team, so that when we argue, we can say, this is the goal - let us find a way to both be comfortable.

So, I don't know about you and your wife, but I think begging her will cause her to lose respect for you. There will be a power imbalance and she would not want to be with someone who needs her so much. Why not suggest a separation but as with a list of things to work on before reconciliation is possible? Suggest to her that your relationship has worked in the past, and for the sake of your children, it's worth taking this step before the final one of divorce.

Good luck.
posted by b33j at 1:23 AM on February 12, 2006

If you have a baby only five months old (even if it's your second) then nothing in your life is normal and none of your perceptions or your wife's are normal.

Seconding what others have said about Post-Natal-Depression and about your crazy work schedule. You're not sleeping properly -- you can't be -- and your wife may well be suffering from a serious form of depression.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:54 AM on February 12, 2006

Just a point of reference, when my marriage was going south I became a workaholic. It was easier to put my energy into something that got results, than going home to someone who always found fault.

Just remember that you shouldn't have to work *this* hard for a relationship. In fact, I would offer that it shouldn't be a chore at all - even when it is difficult. She's moved on, so should you. You should get counseling for yourself, as you are likely to be carrying around a ton of baggage from this and I'm sure stuff from before that probably crept into this relationship.

Once you have made the emotional break and have dealt with your own issues you will be a fantastic partner for someone who will really appreciate you. It may take time, but so what? It's better to be on your own than in a horrible relationship. And you won't find the right person as long as you are holding on to the wrong one.

On a personal note, I was married for five years, had a nasty breakup that I tried to prevent at first, and when it was over I never felt better in my life. I could not believe how depressed and closed down I had become in that relationship. Five years after my divorce I remarried and am happier than I ever thought anyone could be. Don't throw your life away on a bad gig. There *is* a better world for you. Fix yourself and go get it.

And, sorry about the situation you find yourself in. It gets better, my friend.
posted by qwip at 1:57 AM on February 12, 2006

If you can show indifference that might help. There is something contrary in the human psyche that makes us want to run from someone who is "chasing" us.

In other words quit begging her to stay.

I do have a question-is it within the realm of possibility that she has met someone else-either in real life or on the computer? This is not really typical for a woman with small children. I agree it could be postpartum depression as well,tho.
posted by konolia at 4:03 AM on February 12, 2006

Good question on last comment. Have you thought of trial separation to give her time to reflect on change? Good also on uselessness of marriage counselling--and I got that from a cousellor! By the time you go to one, it is too late.

I am now about to jump in the dark and you may not like it and I ask forgivenes in advance: my suspicion is that you are too passive for her and she wants someone more assertive.
Folk wisdom: miss one bus, another on the way. I was married 21 years got divorced. Now married to woman 29 years my junion for some 22 years...and it is grand, still.
posted by Postroad at 4:49 AM on February 12, 2006

Two things.

One, make your marriage a priority. 6-7 hour work days.

Second, Get to counseling at least once more: bring up the difference between your point of view in regards to change and hers.

Last, There's no way to change other people's behavior. She won't get you to change that you're a workaholic. Or that your desk is messy. She didn't go into this blindly.

In the film Diner, there's a argument over a record collection organization (replacing records where they came from, how they're organized) between a husband and wife.
The fight isn't about the record collection

My guess is you're too exhausted to be focused at home. She's too frustrated to give you a second (fiftieth? in her mind) chance.
posted by filmgeek at 5:21 AM on February 12, 2006

Here's my take: you're not getting any (love, respect, compassion, etc.) from your wife because a) you're at work or asleep most of the time, and b) your wife is giving all of these things to your children (and more!). She's only got so much real love (the kind you have to work at, the kind of where you truly give of yourself) to go around, and your children are more demanding than you are and, obviously, right there all the time, demanding it from her.

This part of it is marriage 101: when the children come, the marriage changes, big time, and it won't change back. I know of lots of couples who love each other very much but speak of (or remember) living "parallel lives" after having children. Marriage becomes much more of a business relationship than it was before.

I'm not saying that there can't be romance. I'm not saying that it's not worth another try. I suspect your wife is sincere in wanting a divorce. It's not clear why. It's not clear that she (or you) have any notion of how that will play out in practical terms. Separation seems like a sane compromise. And, considering your wife has made her wishes clear, you should also talk to a lawyer. The practical consequences of a divorce can vary widely from state to state, as can a father's rights. So, with a separation you can both figure out what it feels like to be apart, and with some legal advice you can get an idea of what it means, in practical terms, to "give in" to your wife's wishes.

Good luck, and take care of yourself.
posted by young_simba at 6:29 AM on February 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

my guess is that your job is wrecking your marriage, which may not have been very strong to begin with, but with a 500 pound gorilla like that on your back, it's going to break things

do you have to work those hours to keep that job?

do you have to stay at that job? can you find another one?

i understand that the answers to those questions may well be yes

if so, is she willing to cut you some slack over the time constraints and the exhaustion you are suffering? ... it sounds to me that she isn't willing to do that ... that she expects you to work your ass off at your job and be a complete and energetic partner at home, too ... it's not possible

if you really can cut back on your hours, why haven't you? ... in that case, her feelings that she's being neglected would be justified

i'm sure that this isn't the only issue going on, but it's the one that's going to have to be dealt with first ... are you a workaholic or just in a very bad situation?

two more things

1. to her your messy desk probably symbolizes a messy life

2. for pete's sake, quit begging

you can change some things, but there comes a point where she will have to either accept certain things about you or decide she can't live with them ... it sounds to me like she's being a bit controlling and that's unrealistic ... she's not going to turn you into another type of person entirely ... you can refine and adjust what you do, but you're not going to be everything she wants a person to be

it's HER job to be that person

talk about the job issue with her ... and then talk about what her expectations are of you and how realistic you feel they are

if you do break up, don't be surprised if you discover that you feel better and that you've been affected by this in ways you don't even see now
posted by pyramid termite at 6:46 AM on February 12, 2006

If it's post-partum depression, then there's hope. If she's cheating, the cheating is a sign that she hasn't been happy for a long time. But this troubles me:

I think that counseling could help, but she doesn't care anymore.

That could point to a profound depression or the fact that she's just given up and doesn't want you any more. The little info we have from you points IMO to the latter of the two. And there's nothing you can do about that. It sucks being in love with someone who doesn't want you around anymore, but you can't make her love you.

You cannot. Make her. Love you.

So sorry, anonymous.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:48 AM on February 12, 2006

I wonder what was different 14 months ago and how this relationship was good enough to bring another child into it. If this all happened within the past year and 2 months, most of which time she spent pregnant and post-partum, then clearly there's something going on related to all of that.

If this was all happening before they decided to have their second kid, then there's something more fundamental going on related to communication and basic interpersonal dynamics.

It's possible to figure out the root of any problem and develop techniques to address it - though not necessarily to "fix" it - but to do so both people have to be really honest and admit that what they consider to be the "truth" or "correct behaviour" isn't absolutely so. No matter how honest you feel you're being, there are things one can to do adjust to the other person in a relationship. The question is whether you want to and can make the adjustment.
posted by mikel at 7:47 AM on February 12, 2006

You need a new counselor or you need to keep going back to the old one if you think they're good. I am not actually as pessimistic as many others on this thread. I think it's possible that you could, with a lot of hard work, turn it around and stay married. Or, you will become a better person, be better prepared for your next relationship. In either case I definitely think doing the work will help you. Do the work, don't give up, keep going to counseling. This sucks, but there are kids involved. Doing the work of going to counseling, implementing the counselor's suggestions, etc., is the most important thing you can do in your life right now.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2006

Are you doing anything to help with:

1) taking care of your children? Yes, your work hours are long, but so are hers, if she's taking care of two children by herself all day. You say you're there in the evenings. Is it possible that the evenings are a pleasant time for you and the kids, and you don't get to see the shit (the temper tantrums, the fighting to get them down for naps, the errands that must be run with two babies in tow) that goes down during the day? Maybe the 3yo is so happy to see Daddy in the evening that Mom ends up being the Evil Ogre Mommy all day.

2) the housework? (Which is probably not getting done to anyone's satisfaction - see #1)

It's great that you're busting your butt to work such long hours, but that means nothing to someone who's been stuck in the house talking to a toddler all day, and then still has to provide meals and whatever else for the other adult who lives in the house.

She's spent, dude. She's got nothing left to give, and is focusing her resentment on the [perceived] reason she's in that position - YOU.

Can you discuss a change in your work hours? What about you staying at home and her going to work? Can she take some weekend time for herself? Can you arrange a schedule where she gets a couple of evenings off a week to go to a coffee shop and read, while you do the child-care? Can you guys come up with the cash to pay a babysitter one day or one afternoon a week?

I wouldn't give up on things just yet. Like others above, the specific things she's pissed off about (the desk) are just smokescreens for what I think is the real issue - she's overworked and underpaid and has lost her ability to put things in perspective, and may be reeling from post-partum depression, especially if she's still nursing.

Check into depression.

Also, there's a book called "What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed" that might be a good resource.

Don't give up on her just yet.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:01 AM on February 12, 2006

My wife and I have had a rather lengthy discussion about this thread this morning (prompting me after years as a lurker here to finally pony up for an account).

First off, it is definitely not the case that any definitive answer to such a difficult problem will be hammered out here in the responses.

That said, some of the responses have been very reasonable suggestions on how Anonymous can start to approach the situation.

OTOH, immediate dismissive of "Well, sounds like it's over to me." seem to be a little on the short sighted side. Mainly due to the fact that divorce itself isn't easy, and with children involved, the "relationship" isn't really over so much as it is legally over and you neither person has to face the other person the they feel is causing them grief anymore. But they will also need to remain in communication because of the children is my guess.

What brought on such conversation between my wife and myself, though, was mostly the "piles on my desk" point. So, yes, in some ways that's not about the piles on your desk. But don't think that it is the case that it actually isn't somewhat about that.

My wife and I have very reversed gender roles when it comes to housekeeping and straightening and neatness. My preference is for things to be clean and neat. More specifically, that preference exist because (1) that is the environment that I feel most comfortable in and (2) I want to feel comfortable and relaxed at home where I live. It's hard to explain, but when I work all day I want to be able to relax when I get home, and for myself, if things are massively cluttered or the house is nasty, I perceive it as yet even more work that I have to do outside of work.

So, realize, your wife has to both live and work (she is raising children after all, which is plenty of work from what I've seen) in the same environment all the time. There's nowhere for here to go if she has the similar frame of mind that she needs a little bit of neatness and cleanliness to relax some. The fact that your piles of paper still exist is itself a bit of compromise from her. Certainly there can be the attitude that "Pft, I'm not cleaning up his mess." going on, but the flip side to that is that she hasn't simply dismissed you and your efforts by just tackling the piles of stuff herself and getting it out of sight.

Again, the reason that is such a big deal in my own relationship is that my wife definitely has the pile syndrome. Pretty straightforward, really, in that she's a scientist type (she just finished her PhD in pharm chem, so you can imagine there were PLENTY of piles around the house for a LONG time) and I work at a university full of scientist. 95% of them have those piles on their desks.

It just boils down to your peronality types being very different and it sounds like neither one of you never adjusted very well to the other's type. Your logical explanations may be perceived as brutually uncaring and callous from an outside perspective, but she has to meet you half way and understand that your method of discussion is a logical interpretation is a way of stating facts and not dismissing her emotional responses. Even worse is when emotional responders (that would be me, btw) end up raising their voice and becoming loud because this is how they think they are emphasizing their point, and on the logical thinker's side it just seems like escalating anger.

OTOH, you know, I don't know much about you guys and your history, just my own. My wife and I are different types (in the Meyers-Briggs I am INFP and she is INTP) and our views and approaches to the world are very different. And we've both had to learn to compromise and take a lot of things in stride, especialy when it comes to those piles on the desk (she still has them every now and then, but her desk is behind mine now, so I don't have to see it when I'm relaxing on the computer).

So, yeah, it could be the case that you're each fundamentally incompatible with each other and when push came to shove the incompatibilities just outweigh the good parts of being together.

But keep in mind that you both might really still want to be together, but you've let communication between yourselves turn mostly into matches and not, well, conversations about differences. (Again, I'm the one typing here who has to tone down his emotional responses, and I can tell you that your wife may have to learn some new skills as well, such as upping the threshhold for what causes that response or when to let that response be the prime mover - otherwise... *shudder* well, I see plenty of people who think that emotional response is all we need and that how you feel is the only point of consideratin about anything, and my outside observation of them every day reminds me of how important it is NOT to think like that).
posted by smallerdemon at 10:39 AM on February 12, 2006

I'd be curious, with you working as much as you do, how much intimate time you spend with her?
posted by mhuckaba at 10:49 AM on February 12, 2006

posted by DawnSimulator at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2006

I agree with SuperSquirrel. I'm a divorced mother of two and even I can't imagine wanting to get divorced with a five month old baby unless I felt that I was already essentially a single parent: doing all the child care myself with no one to lean on. Your working hours are a real problem and I think that's the first issue you need to fix. I wouldn't discuss it either, I'd just do it and present it to your wife as a fait accompli. "Hi, hon, I've decided that I need to work less and be home with the kids more often, here I am." Also, stop begging. It's unattractive at best.

After that, can you sit down with your wife and honestly discuss the nuts and bolts of divorce? The kids and where a divorce will take them? Custody issues, money and the like? She may be unrealistically thinking that you're going to step out of the picture completely; a movie star is going to step in and everything is going to be just great, when in reality divorced parenthood is. not. like. that.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:13 AM on February 12, 2006

Don't give up on your marriage if at all possible. Maybe you need time away, but don't throw in the towel without exhausting all possibilities.

However, once you've done all you can and it still happens, don't beat yourself up about it. The institution of marriage is being mocked and attacked everywhere. You are fighting against the odds my friend, but I wish you luck and God's blessings.
posted by rinkjustice at 11:14 AM on February 12, 2006

The mess on the desk has nothing to do with anything. She's gone, man. You have to deal with the reality of all the changes that are coming down the pike for you.
I feel sorry for you. I've been there 5 times.
posted by growabrain at 11:41 AM on February 12, 2006

fake was first to say it, and I agree wholeheartedly: see a therapist yourself, for yourself. It could really help you a lot.
posted by wryly at 12:05 PM on February 12, 2006

smallerdemon made a good point, that sort of echoed my own:

There's nowhere for here to go

In his context, he's discussing her concern about the neatness of your desk. But in a larger sense, where does she go to be "Mary" or "Jane" or whatever-her-name-is?

You get to leave the house and interact with the world as "John" or "Joe" or whatever-your-name-is. Then you get a few hours as "Dad". That time spent outside the house - even if you resent it or hate your job - is still time that you get to recharge away from your home environment. Thus, when you get home, you've got a whole different mindset, and [perhaps] energy level. She doesn't have that change of scenery.

Now, her issues could be something else entirely. I just find myself relating to your wife and her situation :-) because I was in a similar one ten years ago when my daughter was born. In my case, counseling (mostly individual, but some couples therapy) and depession medication have improved things.

I also learned to set limits and to SPEAK UP about my needs for peace and quiet, and time away from home and motherhood. It's sounds to me like your wife hasn't learned the speaking up skill yet, and instead, finds picky passive-aggresive ways to deal with her anger.

Like I said above, don't give up on HER. DRAG her to a therapist if you have to. She may need an outlet (other than you or her mom or her girlfriends) to vent her frustrations. But also don't put the burden solely on her to "get some help". You have to do your part to change too, especially if you really value your marriage like you seem to.

By virture of beng parents together, you are tied to this woman in some form forever. So you both need to learn to communicate more skillfully. If you end up divorcing, your communication skills will become even more important than they are now.

IANAP[sychologist], however...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2006

I'm with mygothlaundry here. If I was stuck at home all day with two kids and my husband came home only long enough for me to provide the service of a meal, I would be more than ballistic, and that's not even accounting for whether or not I might be depressed. See, it doesn't matter that you're home to be with the family -- it matters that apparently the only time you're home is when she can do something for you (ie, feed you) and then you're gone, leaving her with dishes to do, babies to bathe and put to bed, and there's the laundry still, and the grocery store . . . you see? I bet she's already all alone in her mind anyway, so it wouldn't be a lot different if you were divorced.

However, I also wonder if she isn't depressed. Unless she's got a wealthy family or a trust fund to fall back on, I can't imagine she's really thought this through. Women without an outside support system (a job, a wealthy family, etc) simply aren't going to be able to pay the bills without a breadwinner, and any rational person would be able to see that. I wouldn't suggest using this as something to trap her, but it does suggest that she hasn't necessarily thought this through to its logical conclusion.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2006

Some great suggestions there and on re-reading this fascinating thread I noted that in the original post, the person says a few times that he's "trying".

That might be the problem. And I think this poster has to figure out how to move from trying to doing. And further, to stop being a martyr about it.

In real adult life, trying isn't enough. Succeeding is the only measure that matters. To use a flippant example, I don't care if a serial killer is trying to stop - what's important is that they actually STOP.

I suspect the wife here is fed up with someone saying that they're trying to change but never actually changing - and then making excuses (defending) for it.

The first line is "my wife wants to divorce me" which I believe may not really be true at all. I think that probably she'd like you to really CHANGE for once rather than just make excuses for why you can't or won't. So - listen to your wife, figure out what she wants, and then don't just make exuses and suggest she doesn't have enough information - you two are supposed to be a unit, not her making suggestions that you can just veto at will. Instead, figure out the problems and don't TRY to deal with them - DEAL with them.
posted by mikel at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2006

You just come home to eat and sleep, and you think that makes a marriage? Why on earth are you working 14 hours a day? Whatever the reason, did your wife buy into it?
The ideal family has two parents; yours seems to have one plus a boarder who shows up for meals. How could your wife not resent this situation if it actually is as you describe it?
posted by Cranberry at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2006

It's the hours, it's the new baby, it's the "trying" versus "doing," it's a lot of things. You're not a jerk. You love her enough to look everywhere for help.

You can't lock her in the house if she wants to go. It sucks to be left by someone you love and have lived with for years; it's happened to me, it's happened to plenty of people on this thread.

Even regardless of your marriage, the 14 hours would be insane. Talk to your boss about resolving this; if he won't listen, talk to a lawyer about the details on this 14 hour-a-day job, because it's screwing your marriage, your fatherhood and probably your health.

Here's the thing: she married the guy she loved, and had his kids, before you became the man you are now (with the 14 hour day and such). You might both be best served if you focus on getting back to who you were.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:36 PM on February 12, 2006

How long have you been working 14 hours? You mention going to counseling 5 times...did these problems arise before you started on the 14 hours? If you had problems before the 14 hour days then I think its probably over. If the problems only arose after the 14 hours then I think you need to take a long hard look at your job as ask yourself is it worth losing your family over?
posted by UMDirector at 3:26 PM on February 12, 2006

while she sits at home and watches the kids.
I hope Anonymous doesn't share this way of thinking. Anyone who has actually taken care of a baby full-time -- while also waking up for feedings and changes -- would know that a parent does not sit at home and watch an infant. Moreover, a parent does not sit at home and watch a 3.5-year-old. Having both a preschooler and an infant would be grueling with few opportunities for external validation. I just have one child and I know I find it very difficult when my husband doesn't come home for lunch, and he works just a couple of blocks away and works normal hours. Caring for two children when your husband only comes home for meal breaks would be extremely difficult.

I reiterate my concerns about post-partum depression. Neither parent is likely to be well rested and rational thought may not be taking place. Can this family arrange for the husband to work fewer hours, the wife to have more time out, and perhaps help with cleaning, cooking and shopping? Many high functioning families need help with these issues. In fact, we're also assuming the mother is at home full-time. Perhaps she has also returned to work on a full or part-time basis. Families change in major ways when they have children. I'm betting that's the source of these issues, although it may have heightened other issues. I say try to work on the post-partum issues (for both parents) before abandoning ship.
posted by acoutu at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2006

The more I read the thread, the more I agree with nearly everyone questioning the 14 hour work days. It may seem to you that that is the definition of caring for your family: working hard to support them. And it certainly is part of it, but it can never be all of it.

I have also been pondering over the "trying" vs "doing" and again coming back around to both people in this realtionship needing to understand how the other person interacts with the world. As mentioned earlier, the big differences between my wife and I often resulted in some similar non-communicative situations early in our realationship. And we still have a tough time discussing some things when talking about what seems to be a simple surface topic but is really a discussion about how very differently we think about the world we live in. For my wife, much of the time the "trying" part is never physically manifested. It's all a thought process and so there is never any physical manifestation of "results" (such as the clean desk, from your example), but I know part of it is that she hates the "doing" part of it because it is very hard. Why? *shrugs* That's her personality. She hates the completing part of it. The hardest thing I have ever watched her do in her entire life was finish her PhD. Not the scientific part of it, but the writing, rewriting, compiling, editing, etc. leading up to the actual printing it out for binding.

To drag out the ol' Meyers-Briggs thing again (this is my wife): "If the INTP has not developed their Sensing side sufficiently, they may become unaware of their environment, and exhibit weakness in performing maintenance-type tasks, such as bill-paying and dressing appropriately." (My wife laughed out loud when I read this to her.)

For me, INFP, the difficulty arises in knowing that she's willing to actually complete things that make no difference to her but do to me, but our timelines for "completion" are radically different. "It will get done when it's done." is a tough pill for me (INFP) to swallow, and I get impatient and frustrated when something that (1) I don't want to interfere with (the piles on her desk - I know she has an order to it - I don't want to disturb it because it can be important that it stays the way it is) but (2) still visually impedes on my comfort level and (3) that I know she will do eventually but I have to buck up and accept that her timeline is separate than mine.

Admittedly, sure, there are plenty of cases where the piles on your desk are just indicative of something else going on. But as someone who has been with their desk piler for nearly 14 years and is still totally enamoured with her, the desk piles (or socks on the floor, or clothes not put up after a trip, or groceries not put up, etc.) are a problem because, well, as said earlier by me and others, this is where your wife works and lives and probably feels kind of imposed upon by her surrounding environment.

So, indeed, she probably IS depressed and she is possibly very stressed.

I mean, you're not giving us any info as to exactly what type of person she is either. I mean, did you marry her because she was/is a nice person? A caring person? An understanding person at first/normally? Or is she a manipulative harpie? Someone that hooked up with you just to have kids and divorce for child support? I mean, if it's the latter, well hell yes it's got nothing to do with your messy desk. If it's the former, though, and her personality seems to have changed from someone you used to hang out with and have fun with to someone you're scared to come home to because it's going to end in tears whenever you talk, then you guys sound like you need more counseling.
posted by smallerdemon at 4:43 PM on February 12, 2006

A household with a father constantly on edge and a wife who is constantly dissatisfied is no place to grow up.

This sounds like the exact house I grew up in. As the child of people who sound like the parallel universe version of you and your wife (down to the details like Mom being irrational about stuff piled on a desk and Dad logically defending himself but having a hard time changing his behavior at a rapid enough pace to satisfy), I'm the three year old, twenty years in the future.

Think on this: when I was about 8 years old, in the area we lived in at time, I was the last of a certain kind of kid: the kind who's parents were still together. You'd think I'd be happy, but I remember wishing many times over that my parents would get divorced, because I believed they would stop fighting so much, and I'd get more time with both of them. This is around the same time I told my father I wanted to move out of the house and live on my own (he says that I was dead serious, and so determined that he almost believed I could). That was how much I wanted to be away from the fighting.

If nothing else, try to keep from fighting around your kids. Even the passive-aggressive stuff. I can not overstate how much it takes it's toll on a kid. It really made things hard on me and my sisters, and still significantly reverberates in our lives.

My parents are still together (25 years now, nearly 30 if you count the time before they got married). I have no idea how they did it. This time last year my mother was contemplating divorce, yet again. But I think the key is, they really love each other. My parents are more in love than almost any couple I know. And even though they always fought hard, they loved hard too.

Everyone else here has already made great points (Yes, cut back the work hours. Yes, get individual counseling even if you are in marriage counseling. Yes, she may be depressed. My mother was and was eventually medicated.) All I want to say is: if you really love each other, you can make it work. Because if my parents can do it, god bless 'em, anyone can.
posted by Famous at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2006

Has anyone suggested that they might have had another child hoping that it will solve their problems? That he's working 14 hour days because he doesn't want to be in the house? That she's stuck this out for years with problems and counseling and having children and caring for them in an unhappy family?

I'm completely astonished that I'm one of the few saying "let it end" in this thread as I believe strongly in trying to make a marriage work even when you don't really want to. But they've done this. They've been doing this. Why does anyone it think will get better if he is at home more of the time? It might get worse. From anonymous's post, she's wanted out of this marriage for a long time now. This didn't start just a few months ago when their second child was born.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:43 PM on February 12, 2006

EB, I'd say that as usual with anonymoose AskMe's, we're extrapolating. But from the girls' stands (and apparently from the boys' as well) there are some on-the-surface things going on here that might help -- cutting his work day to something normal, making sure she gets time on her own, addressing whether or not she may be suffering from post-partum depression . . . there are a number of good things suggested here (up to and including "let her go,"), and we have no way to know if they apply unless anon drops a line to Jess or whomever to let us know we are or are not on the right track.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:52 PM on February 12, 2006

It amazes me how confidently some people here can say it's over based on one stressed-out person's plea for help. If we accept that humans are complex then we might also realize that intimate relationships are complexity squared. Compared to the great variety and complexity of relationships, divorce is brutal and simplistic.

I have great sympathy for these people who are experiencing just how hard marriage and parenthood can be. They may be pushed past the breaking point, or they may find their way back to the place where they decided to commit to one another. There are few certainities either way--for every person who raves about the great relationship they entered after their divorce there's another who kept on striking out. For every couple which saved their marriage and went on to become deeply happy there's another hanging in there at the borderline between misery and separation. The personal is not universal.

It does seem to me that this young family is far too vulnerable right now and I hope that if they decide to divorce it'll be sometime when not everyone is so stressed out by childrearing and job responsibilities. Time and an empathetic counsellor may reveal other possibilities.
posted by thayerg at 9:51 PM on February 12, 2006

"It amazes me how confidently some people here can say it's over based on one stressed-out person's plea for help."

If his wife has acted and feels as he has explained it, I think had she been the one to post to AskMe saying things such as "I don't love him anymore", and "we've been arguing for years", and "many times, I've told him I wanted to seperate or get a divorce", "we've gone to a counselor, but it's a waste of time", and "I'm not interested in trying anymore", then the MeFites would have come out supporting her leaving such an unhappy marriage and urging her to consider how hard this is, and will be, on the kids.

But it's from the man's perspective and people for some reason have seized upon the 14-hour days as pretty much the problem (it's not the problem, it's a symptom of the problem), diagnosing her with postpartum depression, or whatever.

This guy wants to save his marriage, and he doesn't know how to do it, essentially because his wife isn't interested. He can't make her be interested, he can't make her love him. Consider that it's far more likely that anonymous, being interested in saving his marriage and still loving his wife, would present to AskMe an image of his wife that is closer to what he wants rather than further away.

From the children's perspective, this is the least long-term traumatizing time the marriage could end. He makes this sound like this has been going on since before their first child was born—now with a second child and the "think of the children" mantra, this is setting the stage for a marriage that enters a perpetual cold-war, at best, and which will be a miserable household for the children to grow up within.

Anonymous uses strong language to describe his wife's feelings, and he makes it clear that this has been an unhappy marriage for a longer period than the birth of the second child, probably at least back to the first child's birth. This is a deeply and chronically unhappy marriage.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:35 AM on February 13, 2006

Mrs Uncle Horn Head here. Honest disclaimer...I found this when jumping on to check the B'acct and UHH had left it on. I have no idea what he would have posted and I will let him know about my invasion of his personal space.

I do want to say, Have you had an honest, open conversation with her as you are with this online community?
How often are you having this kind of intimate relationship with "posts" instead of her?

Have you asked her what the issues are eye to eye and heart to heart without an agenda of your own?
And, with a willingness to meet her somewhere along the line from giving in totally to standing your ground and refusing to give an inch. It is a willingness to meet her at all that may be the answer.
Try meeting her everyday and being with her doing anything that is not child or work centered or focused. And not using the excuse "that's all we have"
If it's all you have find something new.. for you two.
Not another copout for why it won't work.

Be real clear with yourself. Do you want your relationship or are you setting things up so you don't have to be the "BAD" guy and letting yourself walk away with justifcations to ease your guilt and tell your children down the line.

I'm in no way suggesting you rollover and play dead, but I am suggesting you are talking to the wrong people.

Talk to yourself(but don't get caught doing out loud), then talk to your wife. (Yes, do that out loud. Even through the bathroom door if you must)
posted by UncleHornHead at 12:03 PM on February 13, 2006


Know how many hours there are in a day total? About 24. Fourteen at work. What, another hour or two in the commute? We'll be generous and say you sleep only six a night. That's about three hours clear for EVERYTHING ELSE, kids and marriage.

Job or family, friend. It's a hard decision to make, but it's one that you're going to have to deal with, or other people will make it for you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 AM on February 14, 2006

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