I have a young family and don’t see a future for the marriage
November 23, 2018 9:05 PM   Subscribe

The deal: I am 40 and have been married for 5 years and together 9. We have a 6 month old baby and mortgage. I have felt that the relationship is not what I want for 2.5 years.

It came to me one day, I was with wife and we were sitting around a campfire. And plain as day, a thought or voice came up from inside somewhere and said “she isn’t the right one”. And as I saw that thought form, I knew it was dead-on even as another part of my mind desperately back-pedalled and tried to shove it away. I didn’t say anything.
The thought began to weigh on me, humming in the background. I thought it would fade in time. It did not. It went on for several months. We were in the midst of trying to conceive and failing. That part had started before the doubt crept in but wasn’t made any easier by it. At one point, we went to a fertility clinic and got assessed. Eventually, it was determined that I would submit a sample and they would treat it somehow to improve our odds. I still remember the day in the office. As soon as the attendant told me I would come back in only a couple days to provide the sample, I was just suddenly overwhelmed with dread and terror. I had run out of time. This was a massive expense and a step I absolutely did not want to take.
I freaked out. I ended up going to work after the appointment (it was first thing) and the guys at work right away started asking if I was sick. I said yes and went home. I called a therapist I had used before for career counselling in a panic and left a message begging for him to get in touch. We spoke on the phone and I bawled a lot and explained where I was at. He advised that i not submit the sample and tell my wife why. He suggested I write a letter about what I had been feeling, so I did.
She read the letter while I was out a day later, and wrote one in reply. She was not mean or angry, but she also didn’t fully grasp how serious I was. Her response was along the lines of “we’ll get through it, we aren’t done yet” etc (perfectly rational) but it told me she didn’t fully get it. She wrote about how much she wanted a baby and all the things she wanted to do when it came and how she couldn’t wait.
I told my therapist (follow up visits in person) about different things that made me sad. Like watching fit moms pulling kids around in carts behind their bikes and how my wife would never do that. It just wasn’t a thing she’d do since she was not a strong biker or that kind of really active person. Just one data point (there are plenty of others) but emblematic of the things I was feeling... I wanted to have a baby with a different kind of match, someone strong and of strong will and independence, someone who could really crush it. I didn’t think I’d met that person yet. My wife has never done anything really wrong, and I told her that. I felt and still feel it’s a question of whether the match was good enough.
I had thought it was, but I’d also made a big mistake when I met her. I was just out of a LTR and a brutal breakup. I’d joined a dating site to try to make a new social circle since the ex and I shared so many acquaintances. I put in my profile that i wanted to meet as friends only. I went on some dates and they were all nice gals. Then this new one came up and I liked her writing. She was clearly tiring of how shitty it is for ladies on those sites, but we chatted it up and it seemed good. Long story short, I dove right in only two or three months out from the break up. I knew it was probably a mistake or at least risky, but she gave me so many things that the ex hadn’t given me (true affection, able to express warmth, etc), things I was hungry for. It seemed great.
Anyway, we did the letter exchange and a joint session at the therapist. She had no interest in continuing or seeing someone herself to work through the disappointment or whatever she might have felt at the time. I continued to see him and basically concluded that I would have to end it.
Then I applied for a job in another city, near my family. I’d been away for 15 years and had been trying to find something back home. I get an interview on the phone, crush it somehow, they fly me out for the interview. I get an offer. Some back and forth on money and holidays and I accept. They want me right away.
Immediately I propose that I go alone and she could come along in a few months. We tell everyone that she needed to stay because of her job but it’s bullshit. I told her I was going alone as a trial separation and then she could join me and see how everyone feels.
I pack up and drive away, tearfully but also with a sense of complete elation. It takes three days to get there, I spend it just thinking and smoking and driving. It’s early spring and the highway was empty. It was really great.
I arrive and set up shop. I have a tiny apartment and walk to work. Work is amazingly demanding and I have to work hard and perform at a high level. I do well and things are ok. After a few weeks, wife calls to tell me she’s pregnant. I literally impregnated her on my last night with her. She says she was scared to tell me, she thought I’d be mad. I feel weird about it but I also know how much she wanted it. I am supportive but cautious since we’d had so many miscarriages. I want her to be happy. It doesn’t work out, it ends in another miscarriage shortly after. I am sad for her but relieved for me, but guilty for feeling that. I cry thinking about the little person that could have been.
She is coming in a couple of months. I find myself dreading it. After three months on my own, It occurs to me that I don’t miss her. I count the days of singlehood I have left. I have just got somewhat set up and then she arrives with all the shit I hadn’t moved with me. The apartment is now jammed with stuff. My bachelor pad is finished and now I am compromising and stepping around her and getting annoyed in the galley kitchen by the presence of a second person.
But we also have fun. I show her the city, we go to the beach. It’s actually going to plan at this point somewhat. My plan was to have the separation and then try to “fall back” into love with lots of dating and activities and boning down. The she got pregnant. This one stuck. We have a perfect beautiful little girl. I love her like crazy.
And yet. I resent her for getting pregnant when we had both agreed that we were not going to try. I guess we figured it wouldn’t happen so why use any preventative measures? The pregnancy goes normal but of course we were cautious. Everyone says how happy they are for us.
Around the due date, we were going to move since we needed the space. We actually find s house that we like and make an offer. It’s accepted.
What was I thinking? I wanted to give the baby a home. I felt that I was committed now, now that we would be three, so i pressed on despite everything described up to this point. I want to do the right thing. I want to choose my wife. I tell myself I’m bucking up and being a man.
And here we are. I am profoundly unhappy. I come home from work and hang with the girls for 15-30 minutes before I go to my man cave for a half hour. I brood and wonder how to be happy. I am more convinced than ever that we need to split. We bicker over nonsense. Communication is crap, misunderstandings abound. I get driven crazy by things like the way she interprets my questions as statements. Like I ask a simple question about a preference and she sort of accuses me of trying to tell her what to do. I take full responsibility for my part in being a sucky pair. I try but also have limited capacity since underneath it all, I feel it’s doomed. I cannot stop feeling it.
For this whole time, before and after the move to the new city, I would think to myself: you are messed up but at least you aren’t crushing on anyone. In my previous LTR, at the end, there was a married woman at work that I became taken with. Again, she was very different for the then-current GF and even though she’s married, she symbolizes that which I felt was missing. I didn’t tell the crush but I did tell the GF and she was furious. I told her I felt that these feelings meant I wasn’t getting something I needed at home and wanted to explore how to solve it. She was angry and felt, I dunno, disrespected? Rejected? She would never really say. Anyway, that was an awful situation. Living with one woman, pining for another.
Anyway, at least that hadn’t happened again. My desire was just to be alone and unattached. To start over or maybe even stay single for a good long while. Lots of good fantasies in there. But then it happened again. A woman at work. Hit the cliché gong! This gorgeous blonde bombshell appears out of nowhere. She’s super friendly and we chat occasionally at the coffee machine. We say hi in the hallway. I can’t help but notice how totally goddamned stacked she is. Like all the way. We start talking here and there, just small talk. I like looking at her. She is super flirty (wedding band on her hand) and I reciprocate, lightly. I try greatly to keep it cool, not respond in ways that would be upsetting to my wife. I certainly don’t talk shit about my wife or discuss any of my problems, or skeeve on this beautiful woman.
But I do start getting coffee more often. Then I decide I need to go over there to fill my water jar even when there is a tap closer to my office. I sense her stalking me a bit too, and definitely lingering. Then office chats strike up, there is a framework of professional necessity but really it’s flirt town. I hate myself even as I seek more hits of the thrill and feelings I am starting to have. It’s a nice break from the unhappiness and feeling of being stuck at home. It also make it so much worse. It’s a distraction in a good and bad way.
So here we are. The question: what do? What am I doing right or wrong here? I would ask if the marriage is salvageable, but I know the answer because it’s been echoing from my guts for a long time. Or is this something else? I love my little girl and she just got here, but I can’t see bringing her up around a lousy marriage. I would probably give the house to the girls and keep paying my part and getting a crummy place until we can sell or whatever happens down the line. I’d stay close but I need to get away on my own. Asking too much? I can’t see a way out other than the obvious. I can’t afford any more mistakes, so I’m paralyzed with fear of a difficult choice. During our last fight/hashing out, she said she’d wouldn’t fall to pieces if I left. This makes me feel better. But I want to do right here. Is that even possible? I could say so much more but this seems like way too much already, so it’ll have to do. Thank you.
posted by calibrator to Human Relations (140 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
You've already done the work with your therapist. Your needs haven't changed, only your circumstances. The right thing is for you to leave this relationship that clearly isn't working. It isn't working for you, and by extension, it's not working for your wife, and it's not working for your baby. It's not magically going to start.

Ask yourself the classic question: do you want to raise your child to believe that it's OK to stay in an unhappy marriage?
posted by aniola at 9:16 PM on November 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

The marriage, and your life, is salvageable is you are willing to work on yourself. Causing more pain to more people is not going to fix what is ailing you. A different wife and a different child won’t really change things for you and you most likely would end up leaving them as well. It is not fair to cast your wife and daughter as your rehabilitators so all the work must be on you. One thing you can do is fake it till you make it, act as though you love your wife and daughter from the bottom of your heart. Make them your priority. Stop chasing after other women while you are married to another, that is immature and gross. Get a different therapist who will make you work, and put in the effort for real this time to be a decent human being, a good husband, and a positive role model for your daughter. You are responsible for causing a lot of damage to other people and you should work on rectifying that instead of escaping again. You’ll feel much better when you do good things for other people out of love, and when your actions reflect the character of a person you can be proud of.
posted by saucysault at 9:26 PM on November 23, 2018 [72 favorites]

My plan was to have the separation and then try to “fall back” into love with lots of dating and activities and boning down. The she got pregnant. This one stuck. We have a perfect beautiful little girl. I love her like crazy.
And yet. I resent her for getting pregnant when we had both agreed that we were not going to try. I guess we figured it wouldn’t happen so why use any preventative measures?

so, long after you had decided this woman wasn't good enough at riding a bicycle to be the mother of your children, which is your prerogative, you agreed you weren't going to try to conceive. then, you did try to conceive -- with a woman you'd already co-created one pregnancy with before -- by the traditional method of having unprotected sex, repeatedly and on purpose. predictably, it worked. then, you felt angry at someone other than yourself for getting the result you took deliberate steps to get.

But I want to do right here. Is that even possible?

do right by fixing your past mistakes? no, that is not possible. do right by stopping right now so that you don't keep making new ones and hurting your wife again and again, as well as your child? yes, that is possible. it's also a good idea.

someone strong and of strong will and independence, someone who could really crush it.

don't worry, your soon-to-be ex seems well on her way to achieving that state. what she will crush when she comes into her full crushing power remains to be seen.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:32 PM on November 23, 2018 [270 favorites]

You want a different woman with strong will and convictions? You've never owned any of your own convictions and you didn't have a strong enough will to not impregnate your wife when you knew you didn't want kids with her! Unbelievable. You made a commitment. To both of them. And of course the beautiful stacked woman at work who flirts with you is going to look amazing next to your exhausted wife who has been up all night with a new baby. Gah. You say you want to choose your wife and be a man. THEN DO IT. There is no wanting. You just do it. Your poor wife...
posted by Jubey at 9:35 PM on November 23, 2018 [183 favorites]

Based on what you wrote: the common denominator is you. You’re ready to leave another LTR. You’re making others responsible for your feelings. The consequences are higher this time. But until you find some insight into why YOU repeat these patterns, you will continue to do so.
posted by u2604ab at 9:39 PM on November 23, 2018 [26 favorites]

Please let this poor woman go and live her life and find someone who loves her. You say you want someone with strength of will when you haven’t been strong enough to tell this woman how you’re not that into her for your ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP. Since you met you haven’t been that into her. It’s never too late to undo what you’ve done. All three of you are still young and you all have plenty of time. If you start setting yourselves free now. This unhappy time can be a memory.
posted by bleep at 9:46 PM on November 23, 2018 [23 favorites]

It's really terrible and selfish to skip out on a 6 month old baby. Please do the responsible thing and continue to put time and energy and commitment into this new human being you created and the child's mother. At least let your wife get her feet under her as a parent, and your baby not be 100% dependent, before you go off pursuing these escape routes. And if you do go off on these escape routes later, make sure to pay proper support to the kid and your wife. You say you want to do right? Then do right. That means actually Doing dad stuff and committing to the relationship until the kid is old enough that your whims aren't totally screwing over your poor wife.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:46 PM on November 23, 2018 [57 favorites]

You sound like a pain in the ass, and so I’m finding it hard to take your perspective instead of your wife’s, but I’ll try.

Infancy can be really hard. You may be sleep deprived, your physical space may be chaotic and unpleasant, you are probably still adjusting to having become less central in your wife’s emotional life. For these reasons, from your perspective, I would not make any major decisions during these months.

In any case, don’t encourage your wife to quit a job if she has one. It may make infancy harder but it would be an asshole move to top asshole moves for you to take away an escape hatch that she and your daughter may need.
posted by eirias at 9:56 PM on November 23, 2018 [36 favorites]

I can’t afford any more mistakes,

wouldn't it be pretty to think so. there's no credit limit, you can keep on making more real bad mistakes for the rest of your life, nobody's going to stop you. you can't box yourself in with iron commitments in a way that makes it impossible for you to fuck up again. can't be done.

you can't leave your daughter the way you can leave your wife. that means: you can in fact leave her, but it will not be forgiven, by her or anyone else who ever knows about it. and if you're hoping for your daughter forcing you to be a better man, you will be disappointed. she makes you feel great about her right now, but all new women you meet make you feel great for a little while, the way you tell it. that doesn't mean anything.

the thing that is different about a daughter, as opposed to a wife or a girlfriend, is you aren't allowed to get bored with her when she stops being new and stops making you feel great about yourself. which she will. get ready for it. sooner or later instincts will stop sustaining you through new fatherhood and you'll have to make the choice to behave like a good father when you don't want to and it doesn't reward you in any way in the moment.

but nothing is going to happen to you; you are going to make decisions. you do not have to make the same bad mistake with your daughter as you tend to do with adult women: nobody will make you. you do not have to stay with her mother once the baby's old enough to have a reasonable shared custody arrangement (you cannot just abandon an infant on her as a single parent). you do have to be a full and equal and good parent. it is going to take all your energies, so maybe stay single for a while until you really feel start to feel inside as old as you are outside.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:00 PM on November 23, 2018 [81 favorites]

Then office chats strike up, there is a framework of professional necessity but really it’s flirt town. I hate myself even as I seek more hits of the thrill and feelings I am starting to have. It’s a nice break from the unhappiness and feeling of being stuck at home. It also make it so much worse. It’s a distraction in a good and bad way.
So here we are. The question: what do? What am I doing right or wrong here?

The actual fuck, seriously. What are you doing wrong here? The thing you were just writing! Don't do that! If you don't have the self-control to not do that, you're going to fuck up every relationship you get into. You're forty years old and you're doing something that could get you fired for sexual harassment because you're feeling "stuck". What you need to be working on with your therapist is impulse control and reasonable expectations about relationships. That doesn't mean you should stay--I don't honestly think you should and I don't think kids are scarred for life by divorce, that will be fine--but you need to leave this woman the fuck alone, sexual harassment is a firing offense for a reason. Yes, even if you think she likes it.
posted by Sequence at 10:07 PM on November 23, 2018 [51 favorites]

Response by poster: I am thankful for the answers so far. I see I have expressse myself poorly, or at least incompletely. I do love my wife and I do everything I can for her. I cook meals, wash diapers, do dad stuff as a full partner. I treat her with courtesy. When we discuss the situation (rarely) she says that if I’m unhappy, I’m good at hiding it. I am present in the marriage and not brooding around the clock. Just in private moments when I’m alone.
Yeah, I knocked her up with my ding dong. Of course it’s on me. But after the years of trying and nothing, you get a little lax with the ins and outs of what pills are being taken.
I object to the above characterization that I haven’t been into her the “whole relationship”. The timeline is at the top of the post. Something changed and that’s what I’ve been trying to understand and come to terms with.
I’ve absolutely been trying to fake it till I make it. Maybe some here will judge that as a poor effort. That’s fine.
Of course I’m aware it’s a pattern. I’d like to solve that. I know I’m a decent person. So unload on me if you like, but you still don’t know me. I’ve tried to provide details pertinent to my dilemma. Obviously there are myriad other bits that would provide more context. I’ll include anything that is requested.
Wife has been off work for baby but will be going back soon. She doesn’t really want to yet, but she has an opportunity. I told her it was her call, which it is. I would never tell her to work or not work, as long as we could afford it.
I am puzzled by accusations of not taking responsibility or blaming others. I accept that I’m a fuck up but I don’t blame anyone but myself. I have expressed feelings that I can’t necessarily justify rationally, but that’s part of the question.
Anyway, thanks.
posted by calibrator at 10:15 PM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

But after the years of trying and nothing, you get a little lax with the ins and outs of what pills are being taken.

This wording is a great example of what people are telling you - you’re the one who had one foot out the door; why the hell weren’t you using condoms?
posted by eirias at 10:18 PM on November 23, 2018 [88 favorites]

Response by poster: And to bleep, I did tell her.
posted by calibrator at 10:19 PM on November 23, 2018

you get a little lax with the ins and outs of what pills are being taken.


You need to stop acting like life is just happening to you and you are being swept along by it. You are making a series of decisions and pretending to yourself that you aren't making them is just giving you license to make even worse ones. Like, I don't know what you should do with this mess you've made but I do know you should stop framing it as something that the world is doing without your input.
posted by praemunire at 10:34 PM on November 23, 2018 [115 favorites]

You say, "I know I'm a decent person."

There is no such thing as a decent person.

There are only people who consistently do decent things.

Your track record ain't great. Sexually harassing your coworker, particularly when you're married? Not decent. Debating leaving your wife with an infant? Not decent. Debating leaving your 6 month old child? Absolutely not decent.

You might do some other things that are good- maybe you recycle or donate to pandas or whatever. But you'd be hard-pressed to find any activity that's decent enough to compensate for the grotesquely selfish indecency of "abandoning your infant".

Divorce is fine but not with a completely dependent infant. Right now is the time for you to do your duty and contribute time and money and presence to raising this child.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:36 PM on November 23, 2018 [70 favorites]

When did you tell her? When you married her, or when you bought the house, or when your kid was born?

Seriously, dude. Every single justification in your post follows a pattern about how you “have” to leave your current situation because it’s a woman’s fault that it is a deeply unsatisfying relationship. Either your SO of the moment is boring, or there’s a hottie at work that is flirting with you, or both. And even your “ideal woman” is one who makes all the decisions so you don’t have to be responsible for the outcome.

You get bored easily, you cheat on your partners, and you justify it by saying that it’s their fault for not being “the one”. There was literally nothing stopping you from getting involved in any of this, except that you refused to have a hard conversation and accept the ownership of ending it. You married someone and bought a house, in order to avoid having to have a hard conversation and own your shit! This is ridiculous.

No, you are not a decent person who is just in an unhappy marriage with a person who isn’t a healthy partner for you. You are a serial instant gratifier and avoider of responsibility. Now you’re trying to avoid it again.

What is your responsibility here? Divorce your wife and financially support your child. Why? Because you do not have the tools to be a good partner. Who know if you have the tools to be a good parent? But at the very least you can provide money so that your wife can outsource help for herself and care for your daughter. Then you can go do whatever it is you’re going to do, but don’t kid yourself that this is all for the best and the only possible option. You could always, like, not be the guy who is so determined to be “the good guy that runs into all these lousy women that lead him astray” that you leave a trail of shattered marriages and unplanned kids behind you.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:37 PM on November 23, 2018 [78 favorites]

1. Your current wife deserves the chance to be with someone who loves her and isn't secretly resenting her/lying to her every day. Divorce her and give her allll the support she needs to raise your child.
2. Your child deserves to be raised in a household where one parental figure isn't resentful and constantly lying. See above, and be generous with financial support (as well as contact with your kid) after the divorce.
3. Your "stacked" co-worker deserves to not be objectified and described in sleazy terms to a bunch of internet strangers. Leave her alone and perhaps increase your therapy work.
posted by TwoStride at 10:42 PM on November 23, 2018 [82 favorites]

I am a woman in my early thirties with a "wedding band on my hand". I am also pretty close to a number of my married male colleagues. We talk, share our problems, have our in-jokes. They're my friends.

I am extremely happily married.

I would be absolutely horrified to know that one of my male co-workers thought my friendliness was flirting. It would feel like a betrayal. It would feel gross.
posted by thereader at 10:52 PM on November 23, 2018 [101 favorites]

You willingly got into a relationship with someone when you knew you weren’t ready for one.

You willing continued in this relationship to marriage despite knowing she wasn’t a good match for you.

You willingly got your wife pregnant knowing you wanted a divorce (remember: you, a man, can make several babies a day all year for most of your life; she, a woman, can only get pregnant a few days in a month, twelve times a year, for maybe 40 years of her life).

You willingly made a giant purchase with your wife, again, still knowing you wanted a divorce.

You’ve dug yourself in deep. You really have three options here:

- Leave, be a total asshole to your wife and continue to dig yourself deeper, making both your lives hell, even though she deserves much better
- Stay, work on yourself, ask her to do marriage counseling with the intention to make the marriage work, and MEAN IT
- Leave, but give every last resource you have to her to make her life as easy and possible despite this terrible thing you have done to your wife and child. Repent for all your relationship sins, but quit them cold turkey.

Because you cannot go on like this, pretending to play dad and husband all while deeply miserable and resenting your wife for your own mistakes.
posted by ancient star at 10:52 PM on November 23, 2018 [16 favorites]

you have so much information up there but the important parts are missing. like you say that with the help of a therapist you "basically concluded that I would have to end it." sounds about right.


Immediately I propose that I go alone and she could come along in a few months. We tell everyone that she needed to stay because of her job but it’s bullshit. I told her I was going alone as a trial separation and then she could join me and see how everyone feels.

why the hell would you do a complete 180 from leaving her (a good plan! and thorough!) and instead jerk her around with fake tests, when you'd just decided to end things a paragraph ago? why not just tell her it was over? oh, because:

My plan was to have the separation and then try to “fall back” into love

but..why? you concluded you had to leave her, and then you just didn't. you decided to be with her again even before she got pregnant again. it makes no sense. maybe it makes no sense to you either, and that's what the whole question is. but look, you had the answer once, you worked it all out. then you threw it away. the answer hasn't changed unless you have, and you don't sound like you have.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:55 PM on November 23, 2018 [17 favorites]

I'm resisting the urge to pile on. Have you considered that you may be having a mid-life crisis? You are 40 and what you are describing sounds like a pretty big cliché. Before you blow it all up, maybe spend some time reflecting on this.
posted by Toddles at 11:23 PM on November 23, 2018 [39 favorites]

The only thing I have to say to you is that you are never going to be satisfied because your expectations of women are very juvenile and unrealistic. The goalposts for what you find attractive keep moving (you have a very cunning and crafty subconscious). You are not consistent at all. Your ex didn't give you warmth so you went to the next woman who would give you warmth. Okay. It's an acceptable requirement in a relationship but I question how accurately you are portraying her. Now this current partner doesn't ride a bicycle (seriously...) or perform as a mother in the way you want her to perform so you want to leave. Then you crush on a hot blonde (Is she warm? Will she mother in the way that you like?) and presumably if you date her you will leave because she doesn't "smash it" as a blonde the way that some new fantasy woman does. What will be your next reason for escaping?

You keep running. So you have to figure out why. The issue is within you. You need to stop blaming the women. It seems to me that when life gets boring or serious you freak out so you lie to yourself about whichever person you are with to justify escaping. You cannot escape yourself. You need to deal with the part of yourself that is freaking out and try to understand it rather than unquestioningly agree with it. When it says "run" you have to question it. It's basically an underdeveloped 13 year old and you are the adult. So the adult must question the "inner child" and not be led by it. Fear is valid but it should be examined and soothed. You don't self soothe by running.

FYI every single woman will cease to be "new and shiny" once you get to know her. The bicycle and stroller woman is a human being. She shits, she snores, she can be boring, you will bore her, she cries and she will require your commitment and support in a relationship. The hot blonde is exactly the same. This is a thing that will never change.

Whatever you are looking for in women simply does not exist so you can stop trying to find it there.

I am not sure how you are presenting yourself to your therapist but I'd say probably not accurately. Make it less about your wife. What you need to tell him is "I have a tendency to freak out when things get too serious and it presents itself as boredom or dissatisfaction then I invent compelling (!) reasons to leave. Please help me work out why I get so scared and how I can remedy that".

Lastly your daughter is now a permanent part of your life. You describe parenting like it's a performance but you are required to be there for her as a person. I'm not talking about changing diapers etc. but your attitude. You need to not be someone who keeps wanting to be somewhere else. It will make her feel shit about herself. You need to not have a superficial view of women because you are going to influence how she feels about herself. You are the person who is going to teach her about how men should treat women. This is not something you can ever run away from. So stop running.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:36 PM on November 23, 2018 [136 favorites]

Although you say you've been putting the effort in, I think your attitude of "fake it til you make it" has meant that you may have just been going through the motions while inwardly fantasising about a different life. To make the relationship work would need a genuine good faith effort from you, focussing on what is good between you. I tend to think individuals are primarily responsible for their own happiness but you don't seem to working on yours, just looking for an escape. Your unhappiness seems to be more an existential self-imposed one than situational, I think more therapy would be helpful particularly in terms of more realistically appraising your ideas of 'the one'.

I can't help think of your partners feelings in this, and you don't seem to mention them much. Given the separation, she can't truly believe everything is fine between you just because you do chores around the house. Perhaps because you more passively fell into the relationship with her (while looking for friends on a dating site!) there is the option of rediscovering each other, especially in new shared roles as parents to, and actively choosing and celebrating her for her qualities? Particularly patient resilience on her part.
posted by JonB at 11:42 PM on November 23, 2018 [11 favorites]

I would also recommend you think about whether or not you're having a mid-life crisis. You've got a new baby, a new job, you're feeling like life is over, you married the wrong person, etc.

The other woman in the office is most likely not interested. I would take that out of the equation. It sounds more like she's just being ... a normal person with you? A possible work friend?

I don't know what else to tell you. Leaving a new mother with a new baby is pretty rough. Give it two years and work hard on the relationship? My gut is telling me that ending this relationship is not going to end your despondency, but if you were truly happier alone then there's your answer.
posted by xammerboy at 11:49 PM on November 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

With all your aggrandized analysis, you still come off as sounding incredibly selfish, immature, and unwilling to actually confront life and make choices.

Divorce your wife and give her the space to find someone who loves her for who she is and what she does, if she wants to, because you're not that person, obviously. Don't put her and your child through years of you waffling through all the navel-gazing BS you've posted here.

Go work on yourself and don't subject any other women to your headspace until you've got yourself figured out and can take responsibility for your own life and desires, much less other peoples'.
posted by erst at 12:54 AM on November 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

I’m sure it feels like everybody is being pretty hard on you (and in some ways it feels that way to me too). The fundamental thing that seems obvious is that you feel desperate because you’re in a relationship that isn’t right for you. All the other stuff is just noise - I know you included it for context, or to try to justify why you feel the way you do - but in the end none of that stuff matters. You aren’t happy, and you’re not being charitable to your wife by pretending you are. She deserves someone who is all in. And your daughter will not be well served by growing up in a household with a father who doesn’t want to be there.

If you leave your wife with a baby, be aware everyone in your shared life is going to think you’re a huge asshole. There isn’t really any way around that. But I do think in the end it’s probably the best thing for all three of you.
posted by something something at 1:12 AM on November 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

You are asking permission to leave your wife here, with absolution that it's not a shitty thing to do. You will not get it, friend.

Contemplating this kind of thing with an infant involved is jaw-droppingly selfish. If you're helping out as much as you say (question for you, are you sleeping through the night? Your wife almost certainly isn't), then you damned well know how difficult life with an infant is. Ask your new office crush what she think about a man who leaves his wife with a 6 month old baby, tell her your thinking about it, see how romantically interested this "stacked" (yuck, come on, man) woman is in you afterwards.

I'm not saying it's hard for your wife and easy for you; it can be hard for everyone. Which is why you need to cleave together and work as a team to deal with it. And don't put an atom of your emotional baggage on your wife while you do this, either. Save it for the therapist.

Also, guess what, it's gonna be hard for the next say 3 years or so. This is what you agreed to when you got your wife pregnant. It can be better or worse, but it will be better if you engage with it. Accept the lows, and appreciate the highs.

Once you have gotten through the hardest part of raising the infant, then and only then, talk about marriage counselling. But you need to spend a thousand years in individual therapy before you get there. Work out why you're pining for this crazy fantasy life where you "bone down" (again: not gonna happen), and do all this stuff you've spent 40 years not doing (pro-tip, you're not gonna do any of that stuff, you're 40 years old, dude, the same things that have stopped you for last 40 years will stop you for the next 40, and it's nothing to do with your ex girlfriend, wife, baby etc. It's you).

This is as good as it gets. Right now. You're life is happening. Stop building this fantasy world out in your head, and start engaging with your actual life. Be a father, be a husband, be a colleague (not a creeper, it's so gross honestly, stop flirting with this woman immediately. Go back to your own water fountain, right now). Be the person you want to be, a great father and husband. Leaving your wife won't make you a good person, and it won't make you happier because this stuff is all in you, not her.

Also, you sound seriously depressed. Take some meds. Do a course of CBT therapy to deal with the rumination and fantasising. You're right to identify that you're at a crossroads, but it's not the one you think. This is where you get to decide if you're someone who deals with their problems, confronts hard stuff, changes their mindset, cultivates appreciation. Or if you're someone who keeps trying to run from themselves. You may divorce at the end of all this, but you are in no place to make that decision at all rationally now.

Finally, I know your emotions sound really overwhelming, and you might feel they are so unique and intense to you. But there's nothing unique about what you're feeling, what you're thinking about doing. There is a long line of men in their forties who leave a wife with young kids to 'bone down', or have an office affair to destroy their marriage, buy sportscar and try to recapture a youth and freedom they feel they never had. Those dudes are super common, and generally quite sad and pathetic. You can't do your twenties over, they are gone. Do you think all those men had partners that didn't support them, do you think - if you're doing something so very many other men have done - that this has anything to do with your actual marriage and situation, why would it be so common then?

There are other men, better men, who face their demons, becoming better partners, fathers, and colleagues. It's hard work, it can be a struggle, but it can be rewarding, too. Be one of those men. Therapy, possibly medication, exercise and a new hobby, and no flirting at work.
posted by smoke at 1:30 AM on November 24, 2018 [145 favorites]

^^^smoke has said it well, but I would add, never, never, never, let this situation reoccur. Get a vasectomy already.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:12 AM on November 24, 2018 [41 favorites]

During our last fight/hashing out, she said she’d wouldn’t fall to pieces if I left. This makes me feel better.

This might be telling, or it might be an offhand remark you've over interpreted. Either way, you need to leave at some point negotiated with her when she feels she can handle things with your child. The closest thing you can do to making this right is 1)giving her a very generous separation and child support non-resentfully and 2) (less crucial but just obnoxious salt in the wounds) if you don't take the advice here and hook up with your next "maybe-this-is-dream-girl" soon after the divorce (soon being several years), do not go into details with your ex-wife, do not introduce her to your daughter until it's been a very long time

Also, it seems like you asked your wife to move away from her support network when you knew you wanted to leave her and she might be pregnant? This is huge, and you cannot expect your wife to not want to move closer to a support network in the future if things get worse just for your interesting job.
posted by hotcoroner at 2:36 AM on November 24, 2018 [19 favorites]

Look, parents talk and connect via their shitty life situations and due to what you've put her through, there's an excellent chance your wife has met another dad during her time at home and is planning on walking out to be with him and leaving YOU with the baby to raise by yourself. Think about that.


Did that fill you with terror? Being alone with no support and a young baby to bring up? Just for a second? The idea that you're abandoned with this massive heart stopping responsibility, by the person who promised to be in it with you forever? That's what you're talking about doing to your wife. So, any time you think this sounds like a feasible concept, imagine if she beat you to it first and how you would cope. Or not.
posted by Jubey at 2:38 AM on November 24, 2018 [38 favorites]

I think people are being kind of hard on you--when I read your question, I knew that was going to happen. Do you "deserve" that kind of response? I dunno, I mean, some of the ways you talk about women are kind of gross and exhausting--"stacked" (really?), wanting "someone who could really crush it." I'm not really sure what you are looking for in a partner (despite the length of your post, your wife almost seems like a nonentity in it). But, on the other hand, we all fumble around and fuck up, and sometimes responses to Human Relations questions on Metafilter make it feel like there is a perfect way to go about doing human things but if we always managed to do thing the right way, we wouldn't be, well, human. Anyway, I really just wanted to throw a few things out there for you to think about.

Some people are giving you grief for sort of going along in this relationship, buying a house, etc. even though you weren't happy. But I think this is just a thing we tend to do in a long-term relationship, especially a marriage, because even though we may want to leave, a divorce feels so unthinkable. It's almost like there are two realities at war in our brain and we sort of keep going along the path we're on even though every part of us is screaming that it's wrong because we keep hoping things will sort of click back into "normal" and we'll be happy again. (Although resenting your wife for getting pregnant is weird; it's not like she spontaneously conceived. So stop that.)

Next thing: We tend to rewrite narratives of the past based on how we are feeling at any given time or on outcomes. So, I wonder how much of your current narrative about being unhappy with your wife is based on your current unhappiness, if that makes sense. One really important point: I don't have children, but those first couple of years are hard. From everything I've heard, what you're feeling is not entirely abnormal. If you can give it some time, you may actually find that you eventually do reconnect to your wife.

I am not someone who thinks people should stay in a marriage at all costs, or that divorce will devastate your child. I also don't think children should grow up in a household with parents who don't love one another and who don't want to be together. I think that fucks them up more than divorce does (especially divorce when the child is too young to have remembered a family life). However, I do think my last paragraph is something for you to think about. I also think you should talk to your wife honestly and you should go to marriage counseling. Maybe it won't save your relationship. Maybe it will just help you work out how to coparent until your kid is no longer an infant and then get a divorce. But you need to start talking about this stuff.

Forget the co-worker. The co-worker is a red herring.

This stuff is really tough and overwhelming to figure out, and when you're in the thick of it, it feels impossible. But you can figure it out. The most important thing is that you make sure that your wife and daughter are taken care of financially. And as others have pointed out above, leaving your wife now, with a six-month old to take care of, is kind of awful. (Hence the counseling.)

One more thing: a lot of men your age leave their families imagining they are going to be footloose and fancy free in a world of "stacked" co-workers. I think it's really important for you to consider that this could be it. You may never meet anyone else. You may look back on this as the loving family life you abandoned and will end up pining for.

I'm not saying "stay with your wife because you think you can't do any better" (she doesn't deserve that!!) or that a perfect nuclear family life is everyone's idea of happiness (it isn't mine). I'm just cautioning you that if you're imagining that you're going to go out there and meet "the one" and start a new family, that might not happen.

Good luck to you, your wife, and your kid. This is all really hard stuff.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:11 AM on November 24, 2018 [36 favorites]

It seems your problem is that your wife is more strong-willed than you are. She wanted a baby, she has one. You wanted to leave, yet here you are. An even more strong-willed woman would probably eat you for breakfast, or never bother with you in the first place (and I suspect that deep down, you actually know that, and that's the reason why you picked the wife you picked. Because you did pick her, you know.)

I believe you that you want to do the right thing. I can see that you tried, at numerous occasions. You did some soul-searching, you realized this isn't working for you, you even talked to a therapist about it, you didn't want to string this woman along. You had some good ideas here.

But you weren't strong-willed enough to go through with them, for whatever reason. (A desperate need to please? A crushing fear of disappointing?). That's something to keep working on in therapy, because that fit-biker-mommy-fantasy is certainly not going to solve it.

So I'm with all these other people here who pointed out that you seem to have some problems that won't be fixed by getting a divorce. Still, a divorce might be a good idea (at some point, when your wife had a chance to get back on her feet). It seems like your wife's main appeal for you was only ever that she was nice to you; I agree that's not enough for a long term relationship. You both deserve more than that.

It's possible that you'll never find a woman, who will never make you doubt your choice. Some people are just more doubtful than others - I will doubt everyone and everything when the day gets too long; it's not always a sign to bail. So the mere fact of doubts is not necessarily a red flag, and I kinda understand why your wife dismissed them (I can't blame her for deluding herself about your level of enthusiasm; you're 40; I assume she's not much younger; her time was running out). But in strong relationships, there's something to counteract those doubts, passion, romance, a common cause, a shared vision of the future, whatever - something stronger than "she's nice to me".

Maybe you could have found that with her at some point - but now the chances are low, the stakes are too high, a watched kettle never boils; pressure is counterprodutive in matters of the heart. It's quite possible that this romance really isn't salvagable, and a divorce will at least minimize the damage.

How to do it fairly? Generous divorce settlement. Make sure that at least money won't be an issue; choose to pay more than you have to. And this time, own your choices. (For this purpose, be as clear-eyed as possible - she'll probably resent you anyway; you can't buy her absolution. You'll do it anyway, so that your kid won't have to experience the stress of tight finances. Maybe that will mean you'll have to economize, cut down on luxuries; it might even mean you won't be able to financially support a second family with a new woman, or at least not in the style you've so far been used to. But you'll do it anyway, because some mistakes are costly, and the costs of this mistake shouldn't be carried by your child.)
posted by sohalt at 3:23 AM on November 24, 2018 [19 favorites]

You talk about all these women, including your daughter, as if they aren't people. It's strange and honestly kind of scary. Get more therapy.
posted by sockermom at 4:06 AM on November 24, 2018 [80 favorites]

You wrote a lot of words and yet this might be all we need to know:

This gorgeous blonde bombshell appears out of nowhere. ... I can’t help but notice how totally goddamned stacked she is. Like all the way.

Please examine why that’s gross and inappropriate. Like all the way.
posted by veggieboy at 4:37 AM on November 24, 2018 [158 favorites]

And plain as day, a thought or voice came up from inside somewhere and said “she isn’t the right one”. And as I saw that thought form, I knew it was dead-on even as another part of my mind desperately back-pedalled and tried to shove it away. I didn’t say anything.

Everything you did after this moment was cruel and honestly a little horrifying. Please leave her (but provide financial assistance for a nanny to help her get her feet under her). Don't even think about entering into another relationship until you have committed the requisite years to therapy. You need to tell your therapist not just about this particular situation but about your persistent inability to accept responsibility for your actions, and your failure to treat women as fellow humans.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:38 AM on November 24, 2018 [19 favorites]

I cook meals, wash diapers, do dad stuff as a full partner. I treat her with courtesy.

That is saying a lot: you are doing the absolute bare minimum and expecting it to be enough to get kudos. Since you relate to work a lot maybe this will help - you are the employee who shows up and sits at their desk all day pushing papers around and wonders why they aren’t the CEO in a big fancy office like they deserve. You don’t get how hard life is because you’ve made your life easy by shuffling your responsibilities to others. You are willing to make your daughters and wife’s life even harder. Even the fact you could write this incredibly long question with a six month old (and probably exhausted wife) in the house speaks very loudly to your priorities.
posted by saucysault at 4:38 AM on November 24, 2018 [57 favorites]

You can't change what you've done, but you can focus on a single goal from now on, which is to do right by the people around you.

Support your wife to the max if you divorce. Which you should, unless you can commit to committing to her fully, to seeing all the ways she does "crush it", and to giving your daughter a home where she's not actually growing up amid a dysfunctional relationship where at least one parent isn't properly respected and loved.

Don't use your coworker as a tool for your emotional well-being.

Forget the question of whether you're a good guy or not. Put your focus on being truly decent from now on.

For what it's worth, you write

I am puzzled by accusations of not taking responsibility or blaming others. I accept that I’m a fuck up but I don’t blame anyone but myself

In answer, one of a few things that made me see you as avoiding responsibility and blaming others is this -

I resent her for getting pregnant when we had both agreed that we were not going to try.

I see your excuses, but that really was in your hands. Make peace with it and move on.

posted by trig at 4:40 AM on November 24, 2018 [12 favorites]

In my circle of friends and family, two men have left their wives when they had kids at a similar age. If you leave, I think you have a deep obligation to:

1. Pay support generously and on time, plus university tuition.
2. Stay local to your child and be on time for your share of custody for the next 17 years.
3. On that note, you should be practising and bonding with your baby to do full weekends now; if mum is breastfeeding you can’t do that but you should be doing /everything/ when you’re home, not hiding in your man cave. Do not be the dad that “loves” his child but vanishes.

In one case, the father didn’t do either (moved) and now his kids are all out of the nest, having dealt with an abusive stepdad, and look down on loser bio-dad. In the other, bio-dad is stressed out looking at his second divorce and support for all the families but at least has a decent relationship with his kids.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:41 AM on November 24, 2018 [11 favorites]

Both you and your wife made choices, and you've both made some bad choices. Other people have covered the ways in which you've made shitty choices and refused to take responsibility for them, but your wife also made the choice to marry and have a kid with a man whom she must have known on some level was thoroughly weak and inadequate. So you've both made some bad decisions, and you're both going to have to live with that. But your daughter hasn't made any choices. She is in no way responsible for this mess, and she only gets one father. If you don't do right by her, she will live with the consequences of it for the rest of her life, and you have all the power to decide whether that's going to happen to her. What you do with respect to her defines you as a human being. If you are a bad father, you are a bad person. If you are a bad father, nothing else you ever do will matter.

I don't think your marriage is going to survive. It may end now, and it may end in a couple of years, but it doesn't sound like it's sustainable. When you consider how to end your marriage, your highest priority is what is good for your daughter. If you decide that it's in her best interest to ride it out for another two years and then leave, then you do that. If you decide that it's in her best interest for you to leave now, then you do that, but you do it in a way that centers her needs. You need to practice a whole ton of empathy to figure out what her needs are so you can center them. Ultimately, I think that this will be good for your own emotional wellbeing: you'll have better, deeper relationships if you stop being so self-centered and start considering other people's perspectives. But that's a secondary effect. The primary thing is that there is no higher imperative than doing right by your kid.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:49 AM on November 24, 2018 [19 favorites]

Print this entire epic and give it to a therapist. I suspect that your current therapy has been warped by your presentation of yourself as a victim of circumstances.

Your descriptions of women sound like you need a "build a woman""store. You"ll take a 40% motherly, warm personality, with a generous portion of "stacked blonde bombshell"....WTF!?

And you may be surprised at the change in your wife, since becoming a mother. She is not the woman she was previously. If you truly can't commit yourself to this woman and her child, remove yourself and let them go. They'll be fine and at this point, it would be the kindest, most generous thing that you have to offer them. As many others have noted, you will of course do your utmost to make their lives as easy as you are able.

There is no woman on this planet that's going to fulfill all your requirements. The changes need to happen with you. I wish you well, and sincerely hope you can find the strength to make the decisions you need to be the husband and father that your future partner, and your daughter deserve.
posted by LaBellaStella at 5:17 AM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

You’ve fallen in love with an illusional life, as far as I can see: You drove cross country for three days, smoking and thinking, feeling free because you were between jobs, and thought you were maybe free of your relationship (but not feeling as lonely as you would if you were truly single again, because you knew there was someone back home who wanted you).

Then you moved into an apartment that was artificially minimalist because it didn’t yet have your belongings in it. None of that was real life, it was a pleasant interlude, and was pleasant because it was not real.

And then your wife and belongings showed up [insert wry comment about “baggage” here] and now you’re dreaming that you could have that life again if you left your wife.

The “stacked” (count me in among the people who want to vomit at you using that phrase - seriously? You not only thought that about her but are happy for all of us to know that that’s how you think of women?) woman at work is also a fantasy, as was the magical bike-riding lady who you literally saw for seconds.

I have no idea what you should do, but recognising that the things you think you want are utterly illusory fantasies would probably be a great first step.
posted by penguin pie at 5:32 AM on November 24, 2018 [42 favorites]

I told my therapist (follow up visits in person) about different things that made me sad. Like watching fit moms pulling kids around in carts behind their bikes and how my wife would never do that. It just wasn’t a thing she’d do since she was not a strong biker or that kind of really active person.

Are you this guy? Do you pull the baby around in the cart? I think Jubey was right above when she said you’re looking for your wife to be things you aren’t. YOU be the person you want to be- stop pushing it on your wife.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:49 AM on November 24, 2018 [78 favorites]

People are saying it's beyond wrong to contemplate splitting up when you have an infant. But if you are seeing your contribution now as "dad stuff" and changing the occasional diaper then your leaving won't affect their sleep cycles or their lives as much as you think it will.

As someone whose husband left when we had an infant and a toddler, I say just go now. She will grieve and suffer, sure, but in your absence she will crush it like a beast - all of it - child-rearing, career, eventually great sex with a man of conviction - she will crush life - and every two weeks* you will go back to your apartment after bringing your child back to her home and you will have the same doubts you have now, only they'll be regrets instead of fantasies.

tl;dr - Leave your wife so at least one of you can live an authentic life.

*For a while, and then you'll start having reasons to beg off, and when your daughter no longer squeals with delight when she sees you, you'll blame your ex and tell your succession of future girlfriends** how you didn't want to have a child anyway.

**Who will each be imperfect in their way so none will last but that won't be your fault either, will it.
posted by headnsouth at 5:53 AM on November 24, 2018 [78 favorites]

It seems like your troubles began with your sudden realization that your wife "isn't the one" and you've been fighting that thought ever since. With respect, have you ever talked in therapy about how thoughts are not reality? That is, they don't have to be if you learn not to listen to them. I think a lot of your turmoil comes from believing that your thoughts are some sort of true north, pointing you to the way. But your brain is not an objective arbiter, sifting through all the puzzle pieces to find THE TRUTH. Instead, it's throwing random questions at you to knock you off your guard.

Everybody literally ever questions their relationship and life choices. It's unrealistic to think you can create a life where those questions will not appear. Even perfectly happy people have those thoughts. The secret is that people who are (or can be) content with their choices do not cling to those thoughts; they dispute them, let them go, and eventually the thought goes away. Until the next time they come back, and the process repeats.

I wonder if you discussed with your therapist whether you would benefit from anxiety treatment. Somebody above mentioned CBT, which would help you learn the tools to dismiss thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy might help you get out of your head and see this more as a global life problem you have, of which your marriage is only one symptom. Dialectical behavior therapy techniques might also be worth looking into, as it can help you create tools to help cope with thoughts you can't stop. You're getting some pretty blunt responses on this forum, and I wonder how much different they would be if you had some more self-awareness about why you keep repeating these patterns. Honestly, I think you have some pretty bad anxiety and it's driven you so far down the rabbit hole you're ruining your life. Get it treated.

It's a fool's game to aim for a life where every moment feels great and you have no doubts. You can't do that. So instead of setting your goalposts at something completely impossible (a guarantee to be miserable forever), aim to get more comfortable with doubt. Your thoughts do not have to be reality. Just because you think it does not mean it's true. What if, instead of centering your whole life around a stray thought you had once at a campfire, instead you let it go? What if, whenever you think "this isn't the life I want," you take a breath and calmly remind yourself that it is? How would things be different if you started telling yourself that the "true you" is the one that comes home and is a good dad and partner, instead of the version of you that sits in his man-cave and ruminates over thoughts years past?

New babies are hard, and it's easy to lose yourself in the stress and sleep deprivation and chaos. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you see everything with more clarity now, and don't allow yourself to rewrite your narrative to build to this inevitable conclusion where you run away from your family. Anxiety makes you think you're clear-thinking when you're actually more muddled than ever. Revisit the idea of separation when the baby is older, after you've been in therapy for a good while, and you can go several weeks without feeling like your heart is always racing and there's pressure in your chest.
posted by lilac girl at 6:08 AM on November 24, 2018 [59 favorites]

And plain as day, a thought or voice came up from inside somewhere and said “she isn’t the right one”.

Do you think the rest of us have never had that thought? This is real life, not some movie. There’s no such thing as “the right one.”
posted by beandip at 6:18 AM on November 24, 2018 [31 favorites]

Reread and reread the answers that got the most votes. Plus this: stop going to "flirt town" entirely--no coffee or water stops whatsover where your office crush is. Just stop going there starting on Monday.
posted by Elsie at 6:18 AM on November 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have to say I think a lot of people responding to you are ignoring the effect of money on the problem. I have no quarrel with the idea that your wife deserves a better partner than you have been, but if you guys aren’t that wealthy and/or she doesn’t have local family (and it seems she relocated to be near yours, so probably not?), then I’m not convinced that child support payments will be enough to keep her out of abject misery when she has an infant. Infancy and early childhood just needs several pairs of hands, period, and whiny entitled hands are better than no hands. If you’re super wealthy and she can replace you with hired staff, maybe it’s different, but otherwise I think the people imagining that it will be better for your wife if you leave are wrong. I think this is important because I don’t want you to take the disgust you’re reading here and spin it into an argument that since internet strangers think your wife would be better off without you, that means you can go find a new trophy wife with a clean conscience. Eventually she may well be better off without you, but probably not now.

But seriously, do more than “leave it up to her” whether she works or not. That’s you dodging your responsibility again. If you think there is a serious chance that you will divorce, make it clear to her that she needs to stay in the employment game. It is damn hard to make your way back in if you take time off, hard enough that you can no longer be choosy about things a single parent needs to be choosy about, like hours, PTO, and proximity to childcare. I was also struck by the feeling that you don’t really see women as people, so I fear you won’t really be able to understand this point. She will be fucked badly if you leave and she is unemployed, and that means you need to make it clear to her that she cannot rely on you to feed her or her baby. I don’t know whether your best move is to be honest that you still have doubts about your marriage or to make up some half truth about how you want both of you to have careers as a safety net, but she needs to have the tools to prepare for a life without you.
posted by eirias at 6:30 AM on November 24, 2018 [37 favorites]

Response by poster: Man baby OP here, I will try to address some points.
1. I seriously mangled the “bike lady”. The whole thing was written in a rush. I was not checking out hot bike lady. It could have been Rutger Hauer in a wig for all I know or care. The point of that single bit of info is that there are things I realized I feel are important in a partner/ mom. Let me try it this way: country vs. city. My wife is city through and through. Daddy’s girl. Never did things that were normal and common for country kids. Now I am expected to be ‘daddy’ and come catch the spider or put the car in the garage or save the day when she ignores warning lights in the car and damages it. People here accuse me of some weird shit, build a wife, whatever. What I’m talking about is a partnership where I can count on her to be able to at least help scoop kitty litter, yes, even though there’s a bug in it. You know, a functioning, capable, independent adult that is able do things even when they are icky. But yeah, it was my choice. I don’t believe I am trying to abdicate any responsibility on that front. I am trying to find a good path forward.
2. My wife is so great in a lot of ways. I have stayed, against the instinctual voice, out of loyalty and genuine desire for this phase to pass.
3. Yes, I had my chance to maybe break it off clean and blew. Yes we had sex, without a condom, like every other time we have ever had sex.
4. I agree the office thing is red herring, and it is a new development. It has nothing to do with how this got started but since it seemed like a pattern, I included it. I am not deluding myself into thinking anything can come of it. It is junk food. I know it’s bad. I am sneaking more than I should. Yes. Also I am not socially r-worded and have plenty of lady friends at work. I know the difference
5. Oh and stacked. Wow what a response. A word I’ve never used before. I heard Nick Offerman refer to his wife Meghan with that word and in context, it seeeme complimentary. I bet everyone’s pardon.
6. I’m not trying to leave now. The babe is the most important thing. A lot of people are projecting some hands off or absent dad thing. I was up every night every two hours to finger feed my little girl. I changed 90% of diapers for the first two months. I built a caddy for my wife’s mom stuff so she always had her tools and necessities in one place (need, candy, snot sucker, and so on). I have tried to everything I can do to take care of the two of them.
7. I am interested that people think I’m depressed or deceiving myself or a raging asshole or Whatever. I will entertain any possibility. Someone said people pleaser, which is right. I didn’t want to let anyone down even as I sabotage it by harbouring feelings. Please note that I tried to include her in couples counseling and she refused. I went by myself to my guy. Maybe he was terrible or maybe I deceived him somehow - how the fuck can I know that!?
8. Let her go so she can find someone better. Yes, that has been a common thought of mine since the start. Because if I were her and knew how I felt, I’d be very disappointed and would want and expect more from a life partner. I love my wife and want what’s best for her, forever. I don’t know how I can make it more clear.
9. If you go, pay up. Yes, i would not do otherwise. As I said up front, I’d do everything to keep them in the house. Perfection would be staying nearby and being able to see them every day. I actually like my wife, despite what some have read into things here.
10. Yeah I threw myself a pity party on MeFi. I told you about feelings I am working through and have got a lot of hot takes about how my feelings are shit. So tell me how to fix that. Meds? I guess it could be depression. I am effective and happy at work. I don’t have a ton of friends since moving but work mates are cool and I have family here and friends in the old city. I don’t feel depressed. I have energy. I work out every week day and have got back in shape since the newborn phases when I was home every day. We are sexless since baby but that’s probably not unusual. I try to engage and get brushed off. Fine.
We are going to 11. Illusory, fantasy. The things I want are unrealistic. I disagree because I have friends with marriages that they would never consider leaving ever. I know it’s possible. I know I have more to give but I can’t get it hooked into this relationship somehow. I need help.
posted by calibrator at 6:42 AM on November 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

There's no such thing as "the one."
posted by bunderful at 6:44 AM on November 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

I brood and wonder how to be happy.

Try a different approach. Instead of wondering how to be happy. Just be. You don't have to think if you're happy or not. It's the thinking that's making you miserable. It's a stuck way of being.

It’s a nice break from the unhappiness and feeling of being stuck at home. It also make it so much worse. It’s a distraction in a good and bad way.

You're creating a story about how you're "stuck" at home. What if you stopped believing you were stuck? You could create another story where you are fine at home. That home is the place where you want to be. Our minds like to compare. We think that we'd be "happier" in a different situation. It's a misperception. The truth is we could all be peaceful and content in a prison cell or in a beautiful home. It's not the situation, it's your perception. The ego is always needy and believes it is lacking. It's always trying to say it's me against the world, when in reality you are just fine wherever you are. No need to be a certain way. Breathe and accept and stop resisting what is so much. With that being said, it's okay to want to change your life situation but not if you think a new situation will bring you happiness.

I told my therapist (follow up visits in person) about different things that made me sad. Like watching fit moms pulling kids around in carts behind their bikes and how my wife would never do that. It just wasn’t a thing she’d do since she was not a strong biker or that kind of really active person. Just one data point (there are plenty of others) but emblematic of the things I was feeling... I wanted to have a baby with a different kind of match, someone strong and of strong will and independence, someone who could really crush it. I didn’t think I’d met that person yet. My wife has never done anything really wrong, and I told her that. I felt and still feel it’s a question of whether the match was good enough.

It seems that you put a lot of pressure on yourself and others. Armchair psychologist theory is that you feel inadequate. You're wanting your wife to be someone you are not. You are okay. You and your wife are perfect just as you are. You are humans capable of love and peace and calm. Try to stop putting so much pressure on yourself and others. When you stop labeling things you'll suffer less. You're labeling the "fit and strong" mothers. You're labeling your wife as not strong. You're labeling people at work. You're labeling your home situation as problematic. All this labeling and story making is causes you a ton of suffering.

If you don't want another baby, it's okay to express that or try to come to a compromise. Again, it's okay to think about your life situation and how you would like things to be in practical terms but it's a misperception to think if things were a certain way, my suffering would cease to exist.

The bickering and lack of communication will go away when you practice acceptance. Be and allow. Your life will change and the drama will fade when you allow others to be who they are. There's no need to ask so many questions. Allow others to do what they will. What about you? What are you doing. Are you practicing acceptance and living in this moment, or are you looking to others to see what they're doing wrong or how they're failing you? Brooding is thinking of past and future. Brooding is the opposite of presence and acceptance.

I understand. I had the same way of thinking early in my marriage. From experience I can say, that you create all the drama and unhappiness in your life. I had to wake up from my mind-made nightmare.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:50 AM on November 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

Now I am expected to be ‘daddy’ and come catch the spider or put the car in the garage or save the day when she ignores warning lights in the car and damages it. People here accuse me of some weird shit, build a wife, whatever. What I’m talking about is a partnership where I can count on her to be able to at least help scoop kitty litter, yes, even though there’s a bug in it. You know, a functioning, capable, independent adult that is able do things even when they are icky.

She's not necessarily bad at life or incapable of being an equitable partner because she's afraid of bugs. Certainly there are life skills she's better at than you, right? Listen to yourself here. Are you telling us your wife is an offputting partner worthy of resentment because she won't kill spiders on her own?
posted by blerghamot at 6:54 AM on November 24, 2018 [38 favorites]

Look, thing is, this is a text-based site, which leaves considerable room for people to impose their emotions on what you wrote. That's a hazard of using this site, or any forum where you can't see or hear the person. It's why people feel free to be harsher than they might be to your face. And what you wrote, the way you wrote it, is going to invite harsh responses. You seem to be surprised by this. Well, again: all we have are your words in a disembodied format. Maybe try going back and really, truely re-reading what you wrote, while detaching yourself emotionally from it as best you can, and maybe if you start to realize how self-centered and immature you sound, that will help you start to understand your own unhappiness. Because from out here, your unhappiness is all about what you haven't got - the grass is greener and so forth. Why not instead work on being grateful for what you do have? Work on developing a mentality of approaching things not as a victim. That is what will change your life for the better.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2018 [42 favorites]

Maybe it would help, as an exercise, to make a mental list of all the things your wife is good at, all the things you admire about her, etc? Your focus seems to be drawn to the places you feel she is inadequate, and yet you also tell us that you like and even love her. If that’s so, perhaps you can retrain your focus.
posted by eirias at 7:02 AM on November 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

I have read all of the posts above. My best advice is to share the entire post and ALL of the replies with your therapist. However, if your therapist allows you to make excuses for yourself you need both a better therapist and an eye-opening adjustment of your own approach to therapy. You, your wife, and daughter all deserve better, and a commitment to therapy with a skilled therapist can be transformative in ways you can scarcely imagine now.
posted by citygirl at 7:03 AM on November 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

I don't think you can make yourself be happy but I do think you sound like you have a lot of hate and resentment you point at yourself and your wife. I'm sorry you are unhappy. Seriously, print this out and keep going to your therapist. Show it to him. Talk this out with a professional. Strangers on the internet are wonderful but we can't really help you.

And on the point about the way you talk about and treat women: seriously, women are also human. That woman on the bike, the woman at work, your wife: human beings. All humans are profoundly imperfect yet we all deserve love. If I were you I'd talk to my therapist about how to love humans - including myself - because you seem to be having a lot of trouble with compassion, understanding, and love.
posted by sockermom at 7:04 AM on November 24, 2018 [19 favorites]

Also I am not socially r-worded and have plenty of lady friends at work. I know the difference
I mean, you just used the phrase "socially r-worded" on AskMe, so you're socially something-not-great. We don't use the word "retarded" that way here, even if you say "the r-word" rather than spelling it out. And you really need to never, ever flirt with, date, or have sex with anyone you work with, because you are socially something-not-great enough that you're going to get yourself in trouble, and you owe it to yourself and your family to stay employed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:09 AM on November 24, 2018 [128 favorites]

Also, I don't mean to pile on, but does your wife get to work out every day like you do, or does she get an hour and a half of time daily to herself? If not, start giving her that gift. Spend that time one on one with your daughter. Now. No matter what happens with your marriage, this is very important. I bet it will help.
posted by sockermom at 7:10 AM on November 24, 2018 [70 favorites]

Now I am expected to be ‘daddy’ and come catch the spider or put the car in the garage or save the day when she ignores warning lights in the car and damages it. People here accuse me of some weird shit, build a wife, whatever. What I’m talking about is a partnership where I can count on her to be able to at least help scoop kitty litter, yes, even though there’s a bug in it. You know, a functioning, capable, independent adult that is able do things even when they are icky.

Ok so it sounds like this isn’t about the bugs as much as you see your wife’s flaw as her being a “princess” type and you’re expected to be the “big strong man” who does all these things because she’s scared to do them. I have het couple friends who have gladly accepted this trope and are happy this way. You sound like you’re not. I get that this can be a bit grating but I hope that you’ve at least told your wife that this bothers you and gave each other the chance to find some kind of middle ground or understanding. You say there are many things you admire about your wife, but this part seems to overshadow it. I nth continuing to go to individual therapy and figuring this out, with a therapist that won’t just side with you or be an echo chamber. One that will really challenge your patterns of thought.
posted by buttonedup at 7:14 AM on November 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

The things I want are unrealistic. I disagree because I have friends with marriages that they would never consider leaving ever.

That's not because they married magical people but because they understand the basic fact that no one is perfect and don't focus exclusively on their partners' flaws. You may not be capable of fixing things in your relationship, but you also aren't going to be permanently happy in another relationship until you can change this mistaken view about "the one."
posted by pinochiette at 7:14 AM on November 24, 2018 [49 favorites]

Here's the thing. YSometimes when you ask an honest question on Ask MetaFilter, the answers are honest, too, and unvarnished. The answers won't be custom-fitted to your situation because you can't fit years of experience into a single page on the web, but they're pretty good at getting the gist of how to fix things. It's easier to focus on the fact that they don't have all the details because it can be really rough to hear so much honest, brusque advice when you're a people-pleaser.

I mean, really! Imagine if you were in a room with 4 dozen strangers and they all heard everything you wrote in this question, seriously considered it, and then one at a time, gave you a considered response. It would be overwhelming!

I recommend coming back to this thread repeatedly over time, and reading a few answers at a go, and doing your best just to look for the intent of the answers. Do your best to let go of your expectations of what the commenter is saying about you. Where is this person coming from? Why are they trying to say what they're trying to say? Is there any way this comment is relevant to your situation? Is there anything you can learn from this comment?
posted by aniola at 7:14 AM on November 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

if I were her and knew how I felt, I’d be very disappointed and would want and expect more from a life partner.

Let her know how you feel then. All of it. Show her this thread. Let her make informed decisions about her own life.
posted by headnsouth at 7:19 AM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

you're doing the pleaser thing right here, right now, for your audience. you go through this whole list of things you don't like about your wife and then, because you know it doesn't go over well, you take it back: she's a little daddy's girl with a different background and upbringing that I don't respect. but she's great and has so many great qualities! she's not a functioning, capable, independent adult, you characterize her requests for help as needing you to be her daddy, an incredible insult, but hey, you do like her.

this doesn't make you sound like you see the good and the bad both. it makes you sound like you despise her but you know you're not supposed to admit it. you do not think she is so great. if you can't even say it, how are you ever going to leave her?
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:26 AM on November 24, 2018 [64 favorites]

I was up every night every two hours to finger feed my little girl. I changed 90% of diapers for the first two months. I built a caddy for my wife’s mom stuff so she always had her tools and necessities in one place (need, candy, snot sucker, and so on). I have tried to everything I can do to take care of the two of them.

Again, how is this possible if you see them for 15 minutes and retreat into your man cave?

You need therapy and we all feel for your poor wife but you also should probably investigate what happens after a divorce in your jurisdiction. You may be expected to take on residential time with your child once she is no longer breastfeeding, which could be a big shock for you.
posted by k8t at 7:40 AM on November 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

A lot of people are jumping on the "man cave" after 15-30 minutes thing, but in fairness the OP wrote that he will "go to my man cave for a half hour," not for the remainder of the evening.
posted by tiger tiger at 7:44 AM on November 24, 2018 [12 favorites]

I changed 90% of diapers for the first two months

Were you on parental leave for two months? It also isn’t that impressive that you handled some output while your wife handled 100% input: your wife was producing milk and either pumping or nursing. If you were working during that first two months, this is a logistical impossibility (the infant would have skin burns from sitting in their urine and feces while you were at work and your wife was apparently ignoring her). This again seem to be an example of your delusional thinking where you minimize others and exaggerate your (always positive) role.

Now I am expected to be ‘daddy’ and come catch the spide...You know, a functioning, capable, independent adult that is able do things even when they are icky.

Lol I freely admit I played up my “please catch this spider” to my ex when I was trying to find *something* he could do that I could then praise al la shamu training. She is most likely doing the same, or is so exhausted from all the stuff she is doing that you aren’t noticing, that she is trying to take a break by asking for your specific help with specific tasks. She is has a six month old baby (and presumably no nanny) she does “icky” every day.
posted by saucysault at 7:45 AM on November 24, 2018 [28 favorites]

Response by poster: K8t I do not stay out there all night. I’m sorry for not being clearer. That is a thirty minute timeout I give my self. Then it’s back in, make supper, tidy up, clean bottles, move laundry over, walk the dog, etc. The time I take out there is the alone time I take for myself. I take as much care of the ladies as I can where I can.
Again, I am not leaving a tiny baby today. I am trying to figure out a roadmap to understanding all of this and how to proceed.
posted by calibrator at 7:46 AM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Mod note: calibrator, this isn't a place for you to reply to every comment or assumption. Just let people answer and take what's useful and ignore the rest.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:52 AM on November 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

Why do you refer to your wife and daughter as the girls and the ladies so much? They aren't a unit, they are your wife and child.
If you had a male child how would you refer to them as a collective?
Why is the baby snot sucker part of "mom stuff"?
This is weird and more evidence of your inability to see women as full humans.
posted by k8t at 7:53 AM on November 24, 2018 [78 favorites]

The things I want are unrealistic. I disagree because I have friends with marriages that they would never consider leaving ever.

So I think the actual problem here is that you have an unrealistic idea of what marriage is and how relationships work. It's not that your ideal woman is necessarily unrealistic - if you wanted a tough country girl, that's a thing you could have prioritized dating, for example. It's that your idea about what would happen to you and your life after you found "the one" is unrealistic.

And in a sense I do want to be kind to you: one of the reasons you have that unrealistic idea is because our media tells you that unrealistic idea is in fact realistic. We have a lot of media about the irresponsible bad boy who finds the Right One, the Soulmate, and then settles down and is a perfect husband and father and never looks away from his wife once, who isn't even tempted by the hot girl at the office. It is a really tempting idea not just for women, but also for men - that once you find the right one you won't even have to try.

But it's just wrong. I am a member of a married couple, and am close friends with a lot of married couples that people perceive as 'never consider leaving ever', and it's not that they never have doubts or frustrations. People in relatively happy marriages still feel frustrations that their spouses aren't their ideal, sometimes. It becomes especially pronounced when parenting comes up, if they haven't talked about how they would parent before it happens. "Ugh, they parent like THAT? Why don't they parent like my idealized spouse?" Super common. You saw a woman riding a bike with a baby and thought 'why isn't my wife like that'. You saw someone super attractive at work and were like 'oh man it feels super fun to flirt with them'. That is a normal thought. The thing is - you're stuck on these thoughts. You can't leave them behind, and they accumulate. This isn't about your wife. This is about you.

And yet our minds are protective and strive to protect us from the things that would most damage them. Your mind is wrapping a cocoon around you. It's telling you 'You're a good man, and everything that has happened wrong in your life is secretly someone else's fault'. This is a shell that your mind wraps around you to shield you from the thing that might shatter you - that actually, your life is your own fault, not someone else's, that you are responsible for your life as it is, even if it isn't what you wanted. This self-protection is especially common in your 40s, as people take stock of their lives and realize they're not where they want to be. But you have to break through it. It will protect you and keep you in cotton wool and keep you a man-child forever. To grow as a man - to become the kind of man you think of yourself as being - you need to take a hard look at yourself, and actually do the right thing, not just go through the motions.
posted by corb at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2018 [87 favorites]

Can you make it simpler for a while? What are the things you can do right now? You can't just dump your wife with such a young child. And yeah, you seem to be aware that you need to do some work on yourself; you wouldn't have posted this question otherwise, nor would you be reading these often tough responses. But working on yourself can be very open-ended and may involve quite a bit of time simply making room for the possibility of certain ideas. Try being really open in therapy and it may turn out that you are in fact having a midlife crisis, or one of the other possibilities being suggested here. But do the things you can do right now for the better. Seriously, list them and do them.

And yes, stop referring to your wife and kid as "the ladies." You sound like you are rebelling against the institution of the family, not people that you are-- regardless of whether you are contemplating divorce-- intimately related to. Don't harden your heart against these people, even if you are going to leave. You gain nothing by doing that, and you have a lot to lose. Think about how you would like your relationship with your kid to look in ten years, divorce or no divorce, and do what that will take.
posted by BibiRose at 8:18 AM on November 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

You are living your life in passive voice. Nothing in this life matters but your actions. If you don't intend to be shitty but do shitty things anyway, your intention didn't actually matter in the slightest.

You and I are about the same age. I've been married for 20 years, our child is 6 years older than yours. To me, you sound like a child. The way you talk about other people, women in particular, is extremely immature. You've got a tremendous amount of work to do on yourself. Godspeed.

On the topic of what you should actually do right now, on a practical level: logistically, being the single parent to an infant is really life-sucking. I would suggest that you do not move out at this time (unless your wife requests that you do--she may not be able to stand the sight of you after this next step), but you need to man up, lay your cards on the table, stop pretending to be a husband, stop pretending like the marriage is salvageable, move into the guest room or whatever, and devote yourself to the two things that are of paramount importance if you ever at any time in the future want to be considered a truly good, actualized person: go to lots of therapy and devote yourself to being a father.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2018 [27 favorites]

I just visited my Dad and while there briefly spent some time with his new wife's family. Her son is a CEO, a father, a really smart guy, married to an incredible woman, travels to the most amazing places for work, but he seems to think his life is shit. I didn't catch on until he repeatedly talked about work using prison metaphors and how hunting is his weekend furlough. He has what almost anyone would consider an enviable life, and it was really surprising to me when I finally caught on that he's way less than happy.

Anyway, I thought it might help you to know you're not alone. I don't know what the answer is, but I really wanted to shake this guy and tell him to wake up. Challenging new job with more money? Brand new baby that you love? A wife that moved across the country and sticks by you after you've told her your doubts? Find a way to some gratitude.

Also, schedule a vacation with your family. Go somewhere exotic. Spend too much money on it. Even having this to look forward to as a break will help significantly throughout the year. Do one thing, one hobby, just for you. Do one thing for your wife. Do one thing just for your daughter. That you and they both want, every week.
posted by xammerboy at 8:24 AM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Not gonna argue with you Corb, just help me understand what makes you and others think I am blaming “everyone but me”. Is it because I find fault with her? You don’t think I find fault with me? This is the crux. Either my judgement or instinct or what have you are complete haywire ( I am totally open to this possibility) and I need to find out how to reword that or it’s somewhat accurate and I have to either find out how to make this work or how to move on with decency.
I hear you about the media thing. I don’t really hew to mainstream notions but I’ll keep it in mind. I am not idealizing some nonexistent perfect future woman, I don’t think. I Op’d that I instead envisioned being single for a good stretch to work it out.
posted by calibrator at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2018

It's time to stop defending yourself. You came here with the question, spent two thousand words explaining yourself. Then a whole lot more, nitpicking and backpedaling. Spend this energy on therapy that is different from what you have been doing, because what you have been doing isn't helping you enough.
posted by tomboko at 8:27 AM on November 24, 2018 [29 favorites]

There's a lot of hostility here, which should have been expected. You're talking about leaving an infant, and even for the most understanding of people there is a long, long road to making that an okay thing to do. The greatest thing about askmefi is that you get HONEST answers here, one way or the other. It really feels like you were looking for the classic support response people sometimes get here, and I think that speaks to your problem here.

You really are the common denominator in all these issues, and you're having trouble seeing it. As stated repeatedly above, seek more therapy, and work on yourself. From what you've said, you're looking for a new better woman, and you don't sound like much of a catch yourself.

So, if you want a road map going forward, you need to realize you're already on that road, that road started the instant you began to think of leaving your wife. Your mistake was not leaving then. You've consistently chosen the roads going further that offered the least resistance at the time, and now you're at a crossroads pretty far down into the swampy parts of life, looking at signs that don't look so good. There is no clean and easy road back to being a decent guy, there are only long and hard roads back and sloppy and gross roads going forward. You can either work your way back to being a decent man and father through years of self-improvement and effort and yes, sacrifice, OR you can chose the road of least resistance, leave your wife and child, parent through mailed checks and weekend visits, and continue to wallow in your current state of being. (or, on preview, the path soren_lorensen laid out.)
posted by neonrev at 8:30 AM on November 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

You can see a lot of people are angry at your story. Did this surprise you? Why or why not? It doesn't seem to bother you all that much. Not that it necessarily should--I'm just trying to understand who you are. Is it a familiar position for you to be almost the only person who (perhaps secretly) has a clear view of the situation? You don't say what your work is but I imagine you are an expert who everyone turns to to solve problems.
You say you didn't express yourself clearly. You say you're a "people pleaser" but the people here aren't pleased. Perhaps you have intentionally tried to avoid pleasing us because you are looking for a solution, not just people being pleased with you.

Why do you want to move back near your family? My guess is that they are pleased with you. Like the girls who flirt with you where you fill your water jar. You like being that person and were likely that person to your wife at first. But now you no longer trust her affection. It is based on (in your head) superficialities like being the spider killer. You know she doesn't really get you, in part because she doesn't know how unhappy you are. Imagine her thinking "we'll get through this." That's how far apart you are.

It took you 6.5 years for you to understand that your relationship was "wrong." It was like a revelation--one you couldn't push away. I think there was initially the revelation that this is exactly the relationship for you which, over time, transformed to its opposite. The doubts you successfully pushed away initially , regrouped, returned and took over while you were weakened by parenthood.

You start with "The Deal" as if the problem to be solved could be found in that 3 sentence paragraph. It's not. The actual problem is stated here:
"I am profoundly unhappy. I come home from work and hang with the girls for 15-30 minutes before I go to my man cave for a half hour. I brood and wonder how to be happy. I am more convinced than ever that we need to split. We bicker over nonsense. Communication is crap, misunderstandings abound. I get driven crazy by things like the way she interprets my questions as statements."

In brief, you feel alone, misunderstood, wondering how you got there and wanting to leave. I imagine that's somewhat how you feel in this thread. I also suspect you've felt that way at other times in your life growing up. Do you remember times like that? Furthermore, if you leave your marriage, you will find yourself in that alone and misunderstood position again and again. You may feel as if you "escaped" and then find yourself suddenly back in a new version of the same story. That is the problem you need to solve.

So how do you solve a problem like that? The usual answer is therapy (IAATBNY) but that's not guaranteed to fix it. I can easily imagine you feeling that you can't communicate with your therapist and that (s)he doesn't really understand you. At a minimum, you will need a therapist who will expect that and know how to deal with it. It will take commitment and time. It will take you stopping trying to fix "The Deal" as if that were the problem and putting that point of view aside for a while. You would probably call that "pushing it away." You will need to figure out how you became so "hungry" for affection. Perhaps people were too easy to please and you no longer trusted them. Most importantly, you need to stop looking for a quick fix--a revelation that you can't push away that will show you the way.

In brief, you have a big job ahead of you for which there are no shortcuts. Good luck.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:31 AM on November 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

OP, i have a very dear friend, whom i knew very well before and since his wedding. I am very fond of him and he is a great friend ton me.
The reason i emphasize this is that he could have written your post and all the updates. I listened to him and his woes to the point of nausea.
So please know i read this thread with great empathy, as it reminds me so intensiv ly of my friend.

You write that you need help, that is good that you see this!
But dont seek it from strangers on the internet. Find a therapist, i would recommend talk therapy, and talk, talk talk.
My friend ended up in a situation like yours because of major issues with depression, self image, unacknowledged childhood trauma, etc (not my diagnosis but his therapists). Through the years before his marriage he severly struggled with identity issues which he naively assumed would resolve with marriage. It was unfair of him to do that but no one could have stopped him. He said he was in love but now 10 years on he realised rhat he was not in love with her but the ideal he was after.

Anyway, my point is go and seek therapy, explore yourself. My friend chose to do this while remaining in the marriage. They even had more children.
He is definitely in a better place today but struggling hard.
The difference to when he was at rock bottom and all he could think of was how she was not the one and trapped him with the child and used him as an ersatz daddy, that he was a victim, is he is on meds for depression which help him big time, and seeing a therapist. Eventually she agreed to couples therapy so there is that too.
He still fantasizes on occasion about leaving and who knows maybe he will.

If we met irl, i would try help you find a therapist, and listen to your rant and agin say yes, please do something for yourself and see a doctor to treat the depression and instead of posting to ask about the abyss inside go to talk therapy.

I wish you all the best
posted by 15L06 at 8:31 AM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

you find plenty of fault with yourself, but who cares? what good does your self-loathing do for your wife or daughter? it must have done something for you, once, but I think it has outlasted its usefulness even there.

you're going to keep on getting an even split of people who tell you to get the fuck out because you obviously don't love or respect your wife and never have, and people who tell you you're obviously depressed and you shouldn't blow up your wonderful life just because you need to get your head right and make up your mind to be a grownup. either one will be true if you just make a decision. you have that much power.

but the third option, where you don't want to be married but won't leave, is the one you keep choosing. it is the only unacceptable one, and the one you like the best. figure out why you compulsively need to be where you don't want to be - you won't let yourself leave and you won't let yourself want to stay, either. something about keeping the illusion of possibility open through the tools of anxiety, paralysis, and dread, maybe.

"figure out how to move on with decency" this is a meaningless phrase, an empty delaying tactic. what's to figure out? if you wanted to get it done, you'd be calling lawyers and financial planners and organizing mediated discussions with your wife and thinking about what the next year of childcare will require and how you can provide it. this is a practical task, not an emotional one.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2018 [71 favorites]

First: I agree with all the comments above regarding how you've expressed yourself and the language you've used, but I'm going to try and focus on the core question.

No, you should not remain in this marriage. You've been unhappy, your wife has probably also been unhappy, and it seems clear that this is not what you want. You do not have to stay. You have expressed a lot of resentment and feelings of being trapped; you don't need to feel that resentment because you're not trapped.

What you do need to do is figure out how to end this marriage in the best way possible. You need to make sure you're putting your kids first and not your own desire to start a different life. This may mean staying for awhile more while your daughter is an infant, and at some point before you leave having conversations with your wife about how to best negotiate the divorce. This also means being on board for parenting, solo parenting, after you've left. And finally (I think anyway) it means committing to a future life where you are thinking very seriously about your kids in the decisions you make around your future relationships.

Sorry you and your wife are in this mess, and I wish you luck navigating through it in the best way possible.
posted by DTMFA at 8:39 AM on November 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

I hate to say it, but your wife deserves better.

Maybe you can be that "better man" for your wife. But this has nothing to do with her. It's all about you.
posted by JamesBay at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's honestly astonishing how much this question is about your FEELINGS, while eliding over your choices and actions, and how blank the spaces are for your wife, your daughter, your ex, your co-worker, and all the other women in your life. We get no sense of your wife as a person with feelings and motivations -- she's a mystery to us because she's a mystery to you. I feel like you don't know her -- certainly not well enough to give us any idea of what she's thinking or feeling, what she wants, what she likes and dislikes. Your feelings are so incredibly important here, but hers aren't there at all, like she doesn't have any. And you justify everything with your feelings while sliding past your choices and actions. You are not what you FEEL, my dude. You are what you repeatedly DO. You FEEL like you're a good guy, but the irresponsible and selfish choices you're making over and over tell a different story to the world, because what you repeatedly DO is not what a good guy would do. It's no wonder you're unhappy! When our inner selves and outer selves don't match, it's very distressing! But if you want to BE the good guy you FEEL inside that you are, then you need to ACT like a good guy, not act like a jerk but insist you have lofty feels so it's okay.

"The things I want are unrealistic. I disagree because I have friends with marriages that they would never consider leaving ever. I know it’s possible."

Yeah, but it's not possible FOR YOU, because you have really juvenile and self-centered attitudes towards women, where they must fit into your narrative and don't have any agency of their own. You won't have a happy marriage until you understand women as partners with agency. Almost every woman who's replied here sees that you don't view us that way, and we have a lot of experience with men who reduce us to one-dimensional supporting roles in the movie that is This Man's Life, starring THIS MAN. And because you won't take responsibility for your choices and actions -- you present your life as things that "just happen" to you and make you unhappy, but at every turn you've made appalling and selfish choices to get there.

You need to get hella serious about therapy. And you might get something out of Erich Fromm's somewhat-outdated but still powerful The Art of Loving -- there is no "The One." Love is an action, not a feeling. It is a choice, it is an activity, it is a skill you can develop. As long as you treat love as a "feeling," you can't have the kind of happy relationships your friends have that you want, because you're chasing after an immature and misguided definition of "love" that can't sustain itself over any kind of medium or long term.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 AM on November 24, 2018 [103 favorites]

You've asked how to fix this. What do you mean by fix? We can't answer that, you (and your wife) have to. For one thing, we're not privy to every detail of you and your wife's deepest desires, so it is literally impossible for us to triangulate the best (or least crappy) possible outcome.

And honestly, even if we could hand you a road map, why do you think you'd be able or willing to do it? You supposedly had a moment of clarity before moving across the country and before having a kid. You had multiple chances to minimize collaterol damage and you didn't. Possibly you were frozen by fear of making the wrong decision? Doesn't really matter in the end why, but maybe it would help you to be more proactive going forward (although don't let figuring out why interfere with actually doing stuff now).

Figure out what you want that's feasible. Then discuss with your wife, adjusting your end goal if necessary.

Also, just stop and think why, when called out on how you described your co-worker you 1) want to assure us you have plenty of lady friends and 2) continue to defend yourself by saying you heard a husband describe his wife that way? That doesn't change what you did, which was objectify your co-worker. Do you not realize why that's problematic?
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:52 AM on November 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

Of course this feels very unique and complicated to you—I can tell because you’ve framed this using the cliched self-aggrandizing horny male novelist writing style—but this is classic “grass is always greener” stuff. The real question is, are you going to learn this with this flawed woman, or alone, or with the next flawed woman? This is your choice, but you do have to make a choice and stick to it . Your choice NOT to make a choice and stick to it was itself a choice. And it’s brought you here.

I don’t think it’s a pile-on to point this out, actually I think it can’t be said enough, how juvenile and dehumanizing and insulting the way you talk about women is. It’s 2018, you’re 40 years old, you have some work to do there. No matter what you choose, don’t shirk your responsibilities in this regard. It’s the key to the whole thing.

One MAJOR thing is missing here. What does your wife want? Does she want you to stick around and be a father despite your ambivalence, does she want you to sort out your ambivalence on your own, would she rather be alone than with someone ambivalent, or what?

Also, do you think your wife doesn’t wish for a life of happiness and freedom? Do you think she doesn’t see the Cute Sensitive Capable Committed Dads at the coffee shop or in the park and feel moments of pining? (Maybe she has advice on how to handle that!)

We all want to see ourselves as unique, but it might help you to know your situation is an old chestnut that others have managed to crack. Even your friends in perfect (from the outside) marriages.
posted by kapers at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2018 [48 favorites]

just help me understand what makes you and others think I am blaming “everyone but me”
Eventually, it was determined that I would submit a sample and they would treat it somehow to improve our odds...This was a massive expense and a step I absolutely did not want to take.
It sounds like, from what you're saying, that the fertility problem is on your end, not your wife's - ie, there is something wrong with your sperm that makes it hard for you to conceive a child. This is actually a hugely normal thing to freak out about or have weird feelings about - but it sounds like rather than focus your freak-out on yourself, you focused it on your wife, and how you felt your wife would not be a good enough mother - not on your feelings about being a father.
watching fit moms pulling kids around in carts behind their bikes and how my wife would never do that...I wanted to have a baby with a different kind of match, someone strong and of strong will and independence...
This is more of the above. Your feelings of ambivalence around having a child and the fertility issue - I do think it's telling that you freaked out not when you first started trying for fertility stuff but rather when they told you you would have to do something - were all focusing on your wife, on how, essentially, she's the one with the fault and isn't good enough to bear your baby. Yet you also say
My wife has never done anything really wrong...I felt and still feel it’s a question of whether the match was good enough. I had thought it was...
This is also a super common blame-avoidance technique - to suggest that she's not a good match for you, rather than the ways in which you fall down and aren't her ideal. (For example - she's had multiple miscarriages that you seem to be weirdly uninvolved with? Do you view that as a her problem rather than a you both problem?)
I arrive and set up shop. I have a tiny apartment and walk to work....She is coming in a couple of months... I have just got somewhat set up and then she arrives with all the shit I hadn’t moved with me. The apartment is now jammed with stuff. My bachelor pad is finished and now I am compromising and stepping around her and getting annoyed in the galley kitchen by the presence of a second person.
So you knew she was going to be coming in a few months, but you still chose the tiny apartment because then you could walk to work. Maybe partially because you hoped it would then be obvious you couldn't stay together - but you're the one who chose the tiny apartment, but you blame her for bringing all the stuff you left behind, even though you knew she was coming, and knew there would be additional stuff coming with her. You're blaming her for ending your bachelor pad, even though you're the one who told her to come in a few months.
My plan was to have the separation and then try to “fall back” into love with lots of dating and activities and boning down. The she got pregnant... I resent her for getting pregnant when we had both agreed that we were not going to try.
You resent her for her body being fertile, even though you're the one who came up with the plan to have a lot of sex, and you're the one who figured since you had such long and involved fertility processes, that there was no need to ruin your fun time with condoms.
I take full responsibility for my part in being a sucky pair.
Again, when there is a choice of blaming her or blaming you, you blame her. I'm not saying you don't also take fault sometimes, but the bulk of things is repetitively on how she is responsible.
This gorgeous blonde bombshell appears out of nowhere...I certainly don’t talk shit about my wife or discuss any of my problems, or skeeve on this beautiful woman. But I do start getting coffee more often. Then I decide I need to go over there to fill my water jar even when there is a tap closer to my office.
This is, in fact, skeeving on this beautiful woman. It wouldn't be if you had an innocent friendship in mind, but because your intentions are not good, it is skeeving. But the way you frame it is just as though it's inevitable. It's not inevitable. You can and should stop it.
I would ask if the marriage is salvageable, but I know the answer because it’s been echoing from my guts for a long time.
The answer that's been echoing from your guts is not a good one, it's an avoidant one. If you want to do the right thing, it starts with trying to actually take full responsibility for the things you've been doing wrong and try to do them better before you decide to leave. Marriage counseling usually suggests a year in counseling, with both parties trying hard. You need to go to counseling that talks about how you might try to preserve the relationship, rather than just encouraging you to leave.
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2018 [28 favorites]

I think you are confusing two things. Everyone goes through experiences of self-doubt, life-choice doubt, job-doubt, relationship-doubt and so on. I don't think anyone is challenging you on that - though your timing sucks. It's the way you talk about it. The way you talk about your wife and daughter, and women in general. The way you seem to have deceived her and continue to do so for so long. People keep pointing to therapy, but you might want to think about who your male role models are.

And I can't believe I need to explain this...in your explanation around your coworker you explain that Nick Offerman was talking about his wife when he used the term "stacked". It's a complement because it is coming from her husband who thinks she is sexy. Compare how he talked about his wife to how you are talking about yours, friend.
posted by Toddles at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2018 [27 favorites]

To majorly simplify: you don’t get to leave your wife and baby and somehow...not be the type of guy who leaves his wife and baby. You don’t get to sleaze around the office and somehow not be an office sleaze. Etc. You need to detach from your self-image. Throw it out the window. Act authentically, regardless of what type of guy you think it makes you. And if you’re not acting in accordance with who you should be, then that’s what you work on.

You really must own the choice you make and do the best you can at mitigating the harm, whatever you choose. I can’t tell you what to choose. But you’ve got to choose!
posted by kapers at 9:10 AM on November 24, 2018 [36 favorites]

Following Eyebrows McGee: M Scott Peck wrote quite a lot about love in The Road Less Traveled. One of the ideas that's stuck with me the most is the notion that love is not feelings - the feelings always fade. When the feelings fade, you can then make a decision about whether or not you will truly love someone. He defines love as the decision to act in a loving way whether the feelings are present or not, to support another person in their own growth. These sections are widely quoted and millions of copies of the book have been sold - this should tell you that you are not alone.

When I feel stuck and uncertain, I sometimes ask myself "what would I do if I was fully committed to X as a priority, and doing everything I could about it." Even when I already think X is a serious priority, this question nearly always opens up new ways I can take action that will further my priorities. It's scary and empowering.

It's not clear if you and your wife have figured out a way to talk to each other about things like who kills bugs and why or why not, who puts away the car, what being a good parent is, what being a good parter is, feelings on gender roles. If she has a serious phobia of bugs, she might never get comfortable with killing them herself. If she grew up in a home where of course the man always killed the bugs because That Is How It Is but really when it comes down to it she's not terribly scared of them, she might be open to killing more bugs. Happily married people seem to find ways to talk about these things that are curious and non-blaming and team-oriented.
posted by bunderful at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2018 [47 favorites]

You’re a 40 year old man who has a wife, baby, mortgage. What you’re going through right now isn’t uncommon. Over the years, almost one by one, my male friends have reached out to me at one point or another on this spectrum of 40, family, house, and they’re on the verge of cheating, thinking about it, or just terrified about where they’ve ended up. And they share this deep shit with me at some random point in time and I’m going to tell you what I’ve told them.

Dude, you need to see a therapist and unload. Get to the root of these feelings and see what’s reality vs fantasy. Work on yourself. Be truthful with your wife on where you’re at, and that you have some work to do. Get marriage counseling. Work all of this out before making any moves on separation or divorce.

So much of this, in my opinion, is a mismatch of what you thought life was going to be, what it actually is. Do the work in understanding what you truly feel, allow yourself and your family the time to sort it out, with professional guidance. You may end up divorced, but you may not. But you gotta do the emotional work if you want to live a life that you feel you deserve.
posted by vivzan at 9:20 AM on November 24, 2018 [12 favorites]

You need to leave your wife as soon as possible. She deserves someone who cares about her and sees her as a full human being, and that’s not you. Please do her the favor of being free of you.

Your “blonde bombshell” coworker is also a full human being, not a walking pair of tits. She is a full human being and she is NOT the answer to your problems.

Honestly, I think it would be good for you to be single for a long time. You need to do a lot of work on yourself and how you view women before you will be able to be a decent partner to any woman. The things you’ve written about women here are extremely misogynistic. We are not things.
posted by a strong female character at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

You’re not ready for a strong, bike-riding woman. Even if you left your wife. Go to therapy.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:26 AM on November 24, 2018 [38 favorites]

I have just got somewhat set up and then she arrives with all the shit I hadn’t moved with me. The apartment is now jammed with stuff.

So is this solely your wife's stuff your're dreading, or are you envisioning furniture and stuff that belongs to you as well? Because if you participated in buying the stuff, it's not just your wife's. And your decision to live in an apartment that isn't big enough is on you.
This seemed emblematic of your attitude to me. That stuff is your stuff. The baby is your stuff. Not using a condom when you don't want a baby is your stuff (no matter how many times you've done it before - do you understand how birth control works?). This whole mess is your stuff, and you don't recognize it. And when people try to explain it to you, you just keep trying to justify your way of looking at it. So nthing a million times the suggestion to print this out, including all comments, and go to a therapist who will help you understand why so many people think you sound so terrible. Because if you don't understand that, you are going to keep making the same mistake over and over.
If you are married, there will always ALWAYS be a series of people who, at least briefly, seem better than your spouse. The woman with the bike might get MS. The blonde at work will age (or make a sexual harassment claim against you). Marriage is deciding to override those feelings and make a commitment to stick with someone. Yes, it doesn't always work out. Sometimes divorce is the best option. But you seem to be a serial fantisizer. So therapy and - if you do get divorced - stay out of the dating pool until you at least understand why people are reacting so strongly to what you've said (though "I left my wife to raise our six-month-old alone because I thought there must be more to life" is not an attractive pickup line)
posted by FencingGal at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2018 [31 favorites]

>I am more convinced than ever that we need to split. We bicker over nonsense. Communication is crap, misunderstandings abound. I get driven crazy by things like the way she interprets my questions as statements. Like I ask a simple question about a preference and she sort of accuses me of trying to tell her what to do.

None of this sounds that unusual from every relationship, specifically a relationship between two people who are cranky and stressed out and probably not getting enough sleep. It certainly doesn’t sound worth leaving your wife and six-month-old baby over, which would be a really heartless thing to do at this stage in the raising of the baby. I disagree that you need to leave your wife as soon as possible, as people are saying here - I think you owe it to her to at least get through the hardest part of raising a baby and not leave her on her own to do it.

What strikes me about what you've written here is that it sounds like you have made a choice to be unhappy and you have made your mind up without actually trying to improve things. You act like you passively ended up in this situation, which is false, and now you are acting like you have no control over whether your marriage improves, which is again false. You want to be the victim, but you're not. This marriage sounds salvageable to me - you say you've had fun with your wife and you still think she's a great person. Why not focus on those aspects and work on improving your communication? Have you talked to her about the bickering? Can you learn to communicate better? Can you simply come up with strategies to mitigate the stress that causes you both to be cranky? Spend more time thinking about this and less time thinking about the "blonde bombshell" who you talk about as if describing a piece of meat...

> This gorgeous blonde bombshell appears out of nowhere. She’s super friendly and we chat occasionally at the coffee machine. We say hi in the hallway. I can’t help but notice how totally goddamned stacked she is. Like all the way. We start talking here and there, just small talk. I like looking at her. She is super flirty (wedding band on her hand) and I reciprocate, lightly.

I know you said “I am not socially r-worded and have plenty of lady friends at work” but I can’t help but wonder if you just don’t realize how clueless you are. (Your phrasing of “socially r-worded” makes me wonder if you actually are.) Because here’s the thing: men think woman are flirting with them every time a woman smiles at them, and 99% of the time women are simply being nice. This is especially true in the workplace where you have to get along with your coworkers and a woman can’t just tell a guy to get lost. Maybe note some of the responses in this thread - this “blonde bombshell” who is married is not flirting with you. She has zero romantic interest in you. Stop letting this fantasy occupy your thoughts because it’s not real and it has nothing to do with you and your wife.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:02 AM on November 24, 2018 [24 favorites]

To elaborate: feelings can be a useful guide, but they are not a North Star. They can lead you to consider situations and possibilities where you must use your moral and ethical framework to make a decision you feel is right. You seem to have little moral or ethical framework when it comes to women, which is what’s creeping everyone out here. You need work in therapy or otherwise to determine what you actually believe is right and desirable (realistically), because even a stacked cyclist is going to have her flaws that grate on you and as of now, who knows what the hell you’d do then. You say you have more to give but only when you feel positively euphoric; that is not a realistic resting state for most relationships. So, in other words, right now you have very little to give. Don’t punish a woman with that.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:05 AM on November 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

I disagree that your wife isn't strong; she's single-handedly emotionally held up your relationship for years now.
I was that fitness model-looking "strong bike-riding, kid-towing spider-squishing" mom; I was eating-disordered and didn't know how to drive.
My ex STILL had an inapproptiate workplace crush/affair.
Your distorted thinking patterns are the problem here; not your partner.
posted by OnefortheLast at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2018 [47 favorites]

You’re not ready for a strong, bike-riding woman.

Nope. She'd probably eat you for lunch.

Get a vasectomy, pronto. Get some condoms to tide you over until you have it.

Get out. Leave. Give superior financial support.

Your daughter is a future woman. She doesn't need or deserve exposure to your values.
posted by jgirl at 10:27 AM on November 24, 2018 [16 favorites]

Calibrator, you're asking for actionable advice. Here are two pieces of it that you can and should implement immediately.
1. Get a notebook. Every single morning, list 3 things you are grateful for.
2. Download the Headspace app. Every day, do one of the Headspace meditations.

Everything you have said, both in your OP and your follow-ups, has been intensely self-centered -- your own thoughts, feelings, and desires seem to be filling up your entire field of view. In this state, you will be unable to make good decisions, because your perceptions of reality are badly distorted. The two practices I listed will help you to rebalance your self-focus to a more healthy place. Give it 3-12 months of faithful practice before you try to make any life-changing decisions.
posted by ourobouros at 11:16 AM on November 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

I won't pile on, although I agree with everything everyone said above. (Dude, learn how to talk about women like they're humans instead of zoo animals. And "r-worded"?? Well, okay, maybe just a little pile-on.) I'll share a relevant story, though.

My cousin is just a couple years older than you are. His wife got pregnant well after the point that they should have split up. By that time they were completely miserable with each other. They actively made each other worse people, rather than better people. Their daughter, whom he adores, is 5 now. She is somehow happy and well-adjusted. Go figure.

I love my cousin, but he made a lot of the same mistakes you made. He knew the marriage wasn't working, knew that they weren't compatible and couldn't make each other happy. A combination of stubbornness, fragile male ego, and (probably) honestly not-knowing how to end it kept him from doing what he knew was the right thing to do -- ending the marriage, working out his shit, learning how to co-parent while divorced, and getting on with his life.

This summer, he was in a serious boating accident. He suffered near-fatal injuries and massive brain trauma. He's just been released from rehab after five months in the hospital. He's lost his hearing and is now visually impaired. His mobility is also impaired, but he's getting stronger with physical therapy. He can now go to the bathroom on his own, which is a major victory.

More than anything, he wants to go back home, to the house he bought and remodeled before he got married. Problem is, that's the house where "his girls" live. (Your words, not his. Hope you see how gross it is.) On the day he was discharged from rehab, the day he thought he was going home, his wife decided she couldn't take care of both a five-year-old and a grown man who is now physically dependent on others, is angry and depressed, and wasn't all that nice to her before even he was injured, angry, and depressed.

It's not a popular decision in our family, but I don't really blame her. My cousin is now living in his parents' basement.

I spent 8 years in a relationship that I knew wasn't right for me and wasn't right for my partner. I came up with every excuse in the book to stay, because making the decision to leave was hard. The actual leaving itself wasn't hard -- and you know that, because you left, moved to a new city, and it felt great. It's making the decision, and committing to it, and knowing that you're making the right move -- and doing it even though it makes you feel like a failure -- that's hard.

Two years post-divorce, I'm soooo grateful that I got out. If near the end of our relationship, either my partner or I had been in a serious accident or were diagnosed with a serious illness, we wouldn't have had the emotional resources to care for each other. It used to be I couldn't imagine what that would look like. Now I do, and I know that it's a living hell for everyone involved.

I don't think your marriage has an easy happy ending, and I think that's what you're looking for. I think you need to accept that you need to get out, it's going to really suck, and everyone needs to both acknowledge that and figure out how to do it in a way that damages your daughter the least. It's what you owe to your wife and daughter, if you really do care about them. It's also what you owe yourself.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:25 AM on November 24, 2018 [22 favorites]

Here are two things that I think it might be worthwhile and helpful for you to spend some time thinking about:

1. If your wife wrote an AskMe about your situation, what would she say?

2. What are you willing to do to improve your situation? Be as specific as possible, and be as honest as possible; something could be the best thing in the world for you to do, but if you aren’t willing to do it, don’t pretend that you are.
posted by KathrynT at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

Hey there calibrator. In many ways I'm the spider-killing woman of your dreams. You know what? There is no way in hell I'd put up with the attitude you have described here. It's very clear that you see "ladies" as other, that we aren't quite human in the way that you see yourself.

Here's a suggestion: Write this question in the voice of your wife. How would she describe you? What is her version of the spider-killing that she can't believe she has to do for you? And then write the answers that you'd expect her to receive here. What would we all tell her?

(And if I were the woman at your work, I'd damn well have noticed you creeping around my desk. I would have told my non-work friends stories about Creepy Dude. I'd also be keeping a record of your actions toward me for when I need to escalate to HR. Cut it out. It's wrong.)
posted by mcduff at 11:47 AM on November 24, 2018 [36 favorites]

I've got 18 comments I've not read yet, so maybe this was covered already.

You mentioned couples where the guy couldn't dream of leaving. I believe that's because they made a commitment. When you commit, you've decided to stay even when things get hard, or annoying, or boring. Even when you feel like you're living in American Beauty.

So people that stay, don't FEEL it in every moment. But they committed to staying, and part of that process is looking for what works, not listening to a niggling doubt that something isn't right for vague reasons and then feeding it.

Do you have ambivalent or avoidant attachment towards everyone in your life, or is it specific to your wife? (Actually you sound primarily avoidant, because avoidantly attached individuals run from it mentally if not behaviorally, and if attachment breaks through then their minds fill with reasons that person isn't good enough.)

If you talk yourself out of being all-in for any relationship that isn't at least primarily serving your ego, then you may want to work on that in therapy because it will follow you everywhere until you do.
posted by crunchy potato at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hey there, dude, I hope you find a solution. You don’t deserve to be this unhappy. But here’s the thing, here’s the reason everyone is so impatient with you and saying you aren’t taking responsibility: you chose this. Your story, every step of the way, shows you actively and passively choosing your situation. You chose your wife, your job, your apartment, your fatherhood. And now you’re like a small child sobbing at the dinner table because the cookie you chose isn’t the one you really wanted. Except this isn’t a cookie, it’s other people’s lives, and your life, that you’re messing up. You’re 40, you are married to the mother of your child, and this is almost certainly going to be the most important romantic relationship of your life whether you stay together or not. You don’t get a do-over.

You need to figure out a way to fix the gaping emotional hole inside of yourself, whether with therapy, medication, religion, volunteering, self-help books, whatever. Changing the external circumstances - your wife, your apartment, whatever - that’s not going to work, because you chose them and until you fix yourself you are going to continue to chose things and then be unhappy with them because they don’t fix you. If you want to have a happy and fulfilling life, you need to do a lot of work on the man in the mirror, from the inside out. There is no external thing that you can change that will fill the hole. You’re not the only one with a hole, lots of people drink or do drugs or use sex or food or adrenaline to feel better. But that’s a losing and self-destructive game.

I hope you find a path to happiness.
posted by bq at 12:33 PM on November 24, 2018 [31 favorites]

I want to add to the chorus of voices who have pointed out that you may be depressed. I know a lot about this, since I've had dysthymia and chronic recurrent major depression for most of my life, as well as generalized anxiety disorder. For a long time I didn't know this and wouldn't have considered myself a person with mental health issues. Nevertheless, I am. And depression, in particular, can make a person seem self-centered and overly aware of their own feelings and unaware of other people's. It's the nature of depression. It sends you spiraling down into a hole of self-contemplation and you don't have enough energy left to try to be in authentic relationship to others. It doesn't make you a bad person in and of itself, although it is certainly exacerbating the self-centeredness that men in our culture are raised to have. It can also make a little lift from a flirtation seem like a really big deal, the only spot of happiness in a grey, dismal life. Another thing depression does is keep us from emotionally maturing. When all your energy is turned inward trying to thwart the feelings by overanalyzing, there's nothing left for growth.

I am functional and in a happy relationship because of medication. I also go to therapy, as I will need help managing my condition for the rest of my life. It's chronic, and related to a non-neurotypical brain in my case, and the trauma of a lifetime wondering what was "wrong" with me. Regardless of its root cause, depression can be managed and I think you should look into it. You don't have to have a pervasive feeling of sadness to qualify. Being numb is a sign of it and you seem numb to everything but your own pain. You might still decide to leave your wife, but maybe if you deal with your own pain first you can emerge a more mature person after this experience whether you stay with her or not.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

Apologies: This is long. In Al-Anon we strive to share our experience, strength, and hope rather than telling people what to do. Perhaps my story will be helpful, perhaps not.

I left my husband for a variety of reasons. What they are doesn't matter so much. We tried several counsellors, and none of them helped us. It was really hard to leave. He did not want me to leave. When I asked him why not, he literally could not tell me. I moved out on a trial basis and moved back in after he agreed to a few things. The only agreement that I asked for myself was that we would go for a walk together one night a week. Readers, my husband only remembered our agreement for two weeks. The third week I had to drag him for our walk together. The fourth week, I said fuck it. And, eventually, we parted for good.

This turned out to be a good thing for both of us and, in its way, our kid. But there were many more years of unhappiness between the time I left my husband and the time I found a measure of happiness, contentment, and strength. Much of my life I felt like a victim. I, too, was a people pleaser in part thanks to an alcoholic father who had abandoned me and my mom when I was 10.

It was only through years of therapy (on and off) that I realized I had made my life miserable by seeing everything through a lens of victimhood, and only through finding Al-Anon that I learned how to set appropriate boundaries and say no to things that were wrong for me. Al-Anon also taught me to be grateful. Which, let us face it, is ridiculous. WTF should I make a list (in my case, just 3 things in the morning) of things that make me grateful? Because, for me at least, doing this list distracts my crooked brain from ruminating on things that make me feel sad or unhappy and reminds me of things that make me glad. Human brains are wired to compare; if we don't remind ourselves of the good stuff in our lives compared to the bad stuff, we may just forget it even exists.

You don't know this yet, because your baby daughter is only 6 months old. But when she is a bit older she will start to laugh and eventually giggle. For me personally, there is nothing more rejuvenating than the sound of a little kid laughing his or her ass off. Adults cannot laugh like that. We don't feel that giddy joy as deeply. I was reminded of that when my 20-month-old grandkid was giggling wildly while playing with her dad a couple of days ago. My life used to be shit; it is anything but these days.

I do not think you are evil incarnate or doomed to be an asshole. Before I grew up, and rather recently at that, I was a shitty adult. My parents, as it happens, were also shitty adults. So I genuinely had zero models of healthy adulthood. I had no clue how to grow up. Believe me, I searched high and low because I did not want my daughter to have the same experience. Somehow I was only able to take care of myself in order to help her.

So, my alcoholic dad abandoned me when I was 10. My mom loved me to bits, but could not show me how to be adult. I also wrestle with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I am in my 60s now and my life is far from perfect. As imperfect as my life is, it is pretty fucking fabulous. Seriously, once I learned how not to feel like a victim, how to be grateful for what I do have, and how to do some (not all) of what I needed to take care of myself, my life improved enormously.

I did not love myself when I was growing up but apparently I am lovable. I know this because of how my friends and family members treat me now. I have the best friends on the planet, no kidding. My adult kid? The one who once threw a bowl the size of my head at my head and who stopped talking to me for about a year? She is an adult who volunteers to do my laundry. She invites me to dinner. She calls to offer leftovers. She lets me love on her children.

Twenty years go by in a heartbeat. Before you know it, you will be my age. What kind of a life do you want to have then? I can tell you what kind of life I did not want. I did not want the life my dad has. He had a series of relationships and two other kids, who will not talk to him at all. Because he left my siblings the way he left me. He is in hospice care in a city far from family and he has no friends. I am the only one who visits or calls.

I know, from experience, how miserable it is to be miserable. I missed some of the best parts of my kid's childhood because I felt literally trapped in my feelings. It wasn't until I was in my 50s that I learned that feelings are not facts. They can be helpful guides but they can also be meaningless noise. But it takes a certain skill or experience to figure out what matters and what doesn't. My misery was not meaningless; leaving my husband was painful but necessary to my growth. So was growing up emotionally and learning to think of others as well as myself but not in a knee-jerk, self-sacrificing kind of way.

Because I am outside of the US I was not planning on celebrating Thanksgiving this year. It was too much hassle. My kid asked and I said no. So did her dad. But then I remembered that love is supposed to be a verb. Why shouldn't my kid have Thanksgiving if she wanted it? So her dad and I worked together to create a celebration for her and her family.

It was a pain in the ass. But it was also real and fun and loving and OMG I am so happy I listened to what she wanted and could give it to her. That was only possible because I listened to myself, got an education in my own needs, and started growing up.

I have no opinion about your marriage. I would encourage you to enjoy as much about your daughter as you can every second that you can. So much of the life that she will experience later is going to be based on the life you show her both now and in the future. You, your wife, and your daughter all deserve some form of happiness and joy. I hope you can make it easier for your child by finding whatever it is you need. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:54 PM on November 24, 2018 [136 favorites]

Bella Donna just gave you the 411.

I’m 8 yrs older than you, also married with a young child, I think it’s the only answer thus far that you might be able to make actionable. It’s the answer that most truly applies to your situation. Print it out and read it over and over until her words make sense to you.
posted by jbenben at 1:36 PM on November 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

It's going to be harder than you think to date as a part-time single dad. Your sexy coworkers are not looking for a dude with a failed marriage and a baby. Being a stepmom is hard work and a good number of the women you will want to pursue are not interested or good candidates anyway. This is just to say, you still won't be able to just date who you wanna date. They have to be good people in your daughter's life. Will you truly, truly not resent your daughter at all if you have a string of relationships end because they're not able or willing to be a stepparent? Really think about it; the next 18 years of your dating life (so, you'll be 58) are just as much about whether the person is a good match for your daughter as you. And there will be sexy, flirty, bike-riding, etc. women you will have to give up after the first date when they tell you they don't want to date a dad, or they're also 40 and want to have their own child in the next few years.

That doesn't even mean "stay" or "go", it means that right now, leaving looks good because it's "not this" and your this feels bad. But your "not this" is also going to have a lot of challenges and limitations, and it's best to majorly chew on that now before you realize in several years that you thought this would be about finding the one, but it's really about being a dad and hoping someone can fit into that.

58. You will be nearing retirement age before you can freely, fully date who you want without thinking first "is this person good for my daughter?"
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:59 PM on November 24, 2018 [13 favorites]

just help me understand what makes you and others think I am blaming “everyone but me”.

I think a lot of responders (myself included) think you are blaming everyone but yourself because you wrote this:

I resent her for getting pregnant when we had both agreed that we were not going to try.

You and your wife presumably engaged in consensual sex, therefore you share equal responsibility for the pregnancy. Resenting her as if it was more her responsibility than yours makes you sound like you blame others for things that are your own fault.

Use condoms with your wife going forward until/unless you decide you're staying with her and would be happy to have another baby with her.
posted by sunflower16 at 2:17 PM on November 24, 2018 [18 favorites]

If my id had escaped my body and taken an Ambien with a shot of bourbon right when my midlife crisis was at its worst, it probably would have come out much like your post. I was angry and depressed and coping in a lot of unhealthy ways and was operating with a completely faulty set of assumptions about my world.

You are going through a mid-life crisis. On some level I applaud your honesty, putting it all out here for all of us, unvarnished. People are reacting because it’s ugly. And also because we can see that you’re not telling us the whole truth. You probably can’t even see the whole truth. But you wrote down what “feels” true to you right now, regardless of whether it is kind or pretty, and that’s a starting point I guess.

I don’t know what you should do. This takes years of hard work and therapy and genuine self care and skillful communication and maybe medications to get through. I would caution you to try and avoid making permanent long term decisions in your current state if you can avoid it, because your best self is not in charge right now and you seem to be working with some faulty assumptions. It might be too late for that. For instance do you think your wife will ever forgive you, or is she about to walk out on you? She has every right to be out of patience with you if she knows half the stuff you’ve told us.

The work that you need to do, if you choose to do it, will be easier to focus on if you are also not looking for a place to live, juggling child custody, or managing an affair with a stacked coworker. But it is hard work. You need to kill off the last vestiges of what you were programmed to believe — chasing ass, “crushing it” at work, finding “the one true” person — all of these things are lies that teenage boys internalize and you are currently experiencing the cognitive dissonance that results when those unchallenged assumptions don’t work out in the real world. You’re getting piled on here because you are still clinging to a lot of childish shit you need to grow out of. I hope one day you are able to come back here and understand all of the criticism.

There is no “right person.” Good relationships happen when two fully formed adults learn to communicate and care for each other. It’s not that your wife is the wrong person, it’s that your particular relationship is the wrong relationship. That’s faulty assumption #1, now go discover your other faulty assumptions.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:41 PM on November 24, 2018 [52 favorites]

You wrote a lot of words and a lot of other people wrote a lot of words and i really think the answer here is simple.

Leave. Stay nearby. Help everyday. Support her financially and give her the house.

You're not happy, shes getting the short end of the stick to say the least, and eventually all this messy discord and all these problems are going to fall on your daughter. You may choose to stay until the kid can sleep through the night, but eventually you should absolutely leave.
posted by Amy93 at 2:45 PM on November 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm on your side here.

You are unhappy in your marriage, and you keep seeing things that you mistakenly interpret as relevant, like the woman on he bike or the one you're attracted to at work. That your wife isn't strong enough to 'crush it.' It isn't wrong to want to leave when you have a young child. I suggest that you accept that you're going to leave, and that you try to be smart about it.

Joint custody is extremely difficult with a baby. Think it through...what it would require of both of you. Even if you had plenty of money, it would be very hard. So you need to wait. Meanwhile, you need to do everything you can to make things better while you're living with your wife.

In practical terms: you keep having negative thoughts about your wife, and there's a good deal of bickering going on. The negative thoughts are tormenting you and they're not necessary -- you're going to leave, but right now you're staying for important reasons. You need to learn ways to veer away from those thoughts, and you can do that with a therapist who's well-versed in CBT. It's not easy, but CBT is designed for this sort of thing. Also, the bickering can be addressed by actively learning what are called "listening skills," which have more to do with what you say than how you listen. In therapy, you can find ways to cope with what's actually happening day to day, and ignore the thoughts about how you wish it might have been. Talk with your current therapist about it; if you don't feel confident she can help you, find someone else as soon as possible.

Improving your interaction skills with your wife will benefit you now and in the future. It'll reduce stress and friction, and it will help later when you do separate. It would be ideal if your wife could learn the communications skills with you; maybe she'll go to the therapist with you at some point.
posted by wryly at 3:21 PM on November 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't know if this is you, but when I read something that reminds me of my former self before I got (good) psychotherapy, I suggest that the person read this to see if it fits: https://iocdf.org/expert-opinions/relationship-ocd/

If it does, then you perhaps have a starting to point for finding a specialist. Treating this and coming to a place where I accepted my relationship as it is has brought me love, peace and joy, and my daughter is now 8 months old, not much older than yours. Everyone saying this is internal to you may be right. Your wife may also not be right for you, I don't know. But it does seem like there is a lot of self-work to do first before you decide that, especially since this really would be a very brutal time to leave. ROCD is a real condition - is it your condition?
posted by namesarehard at 3:30 PM on November 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

For those saying that you should stay for a 6 month old, I think they're not thinking that through to consequence: since you've already made up your mind to leave long long ago, it's time leave now, before your wife commits career suicide by "choosing" to be a stay at home parent. Leave now, before your daughter has memories of seeing her dad home every night. Leave now, before your wife finds this Ask me. Leave now, before she has to witness and be hurt and humiliated by you and your co-workers inapproptiate flirting at the company Christmas party. Leave now, because you already know that you're going to and faking it any longer than the abysmal 2.5 effing years you've already been, is not going to make that realization come-true any less hard on anyone involved.
posted by OnefortheLast at 3:35 PM on November 24, 2018 [21 favorites]

You have my permission to divorce your wife. However, you must be financially generous and you must not drag this out and decide late in the game that you've made a mistake.
posted by vespabelle at 4:59 PM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is there anything at all about your wife that you DO like? Because man, it doesn't seem like it at ALL. It seems like you've decided that she's awful because she's not magically the perfect person you've dreamed up in your head, and that is really, really unfair to her.
posted by sarcasticah at 5:16 PM on November 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

I am amazed at the responses saying your wife would be better off if you leave. Only she can give that feedback, and she will be basing it off of years on interactions with you, not a few paragraphs on an internet forum. I would be SO ANGRY if some internet stranger assured my spouse of how I felt about anything, particularly if that stranger was encouraging the dissolution of my marriage. Doesn't this woman deserve her own feelings about her own life?

There's some good feedback in these comments for you to think about for yourself and your behavior, but one thing few people have caught - you asked her for couples counseling, which was a good idea, and she didn't follow through, which was a mistake on her part. You've had communication difficulties - is it possible she didn't realize how serious you were? I'd encourage you to ask her again and be clear that you're really having difficulties and are really trying to find ways through it. Also, it seems the first time you asked, she was very focused on baby-making, and saw counseling as a delay in her goal of having a baby. Now that she's had a baby, maybe some of that pressure has lifted, and she will be better able to hear you. A lot of what you have written is fixable if you're both willing to work hard to fix it.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 7:25 PM on November 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

I had a friend in his 30s who tried to run out on his wife when she was pregnant, with "the one" true love of his life. That didn't work out and he ended up back at home after a few weeks, and then he nearly did the same thing again with his second child. But he went back home again and now 10 years later they are all still together and if his facebook is believable they're all happy family now.

I think others are right that you are having a midlife crisis, are a bit immature and didn't have a good male role model, have been tricked by advertising and facebook and tv and porn and whatever that life is always rainbows and unicorns and never hard work or dissatisfaction, and that you sound like you are depressed and might benefit from medication.

I am just a couple of years older than you and in my 15th year of marriage and there are plenty of times when I think, shit, I shouldn't have married this person, and plenty of times I think shit, I never should have gotten married at all. But I did get married and it's not all roses and movies because this is real life and not a fantasy. That "limerence" (stupid word but good concept) you feel at the beginning of a relationship (or beginning of a flirtation with a coworker) is sweet and addictive, but it is not real life. If you bail out on the commitment you made to your wife (and your child, when YOU impregnated her), you are just going to wind up in the same situation again with the next woman once the initial excitement wears off, as it always does, because it is supposed to evolve into something else. You should grow up, pull your head out of the fantasy, and start making it work with your wife and kid. Think about the amount of your bullshit she has already put up with, and she is still with you. You will never find that in another person. Ever. When your next fling fails, you will be writing an Ask wallowing in your sadness and regret that you are still alone, now too old to even catch a pity flirt from your "stacked" coworkers, and are alienated from your child and the only woman you ever knew who was worth a damn.

I'm female by the way, we feel the same way too. You think your wife hasn't been filled with doubts and regrets about her decision to hitch her cart to your horse? You think she's never flirted or been thinking about some other guy while you were together? Of course she has, but she made a commitment to you and knows that real life is not some storybook fantasy, and what's in her head may not be the same thing as what's in her real life but that's a totally normal way for things to be and real life takes precedence over fantasy. I mean, *maybe* couples therapy would be useful for you guys, but really, the problem is you. You need to grow up. You probably need to grow up before you try couples therapy, because you're likely to waste everyone's time lost in your fantasy and pitying yourself.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:07 PM on November 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

During our last fight/hashing out, she said she’d wouldn’t fall to pieces if I left. This makes me feel better.

This comment really stood out for me. I think you and your wife need to sit down together and have an honest, heart-to-heart talk about what you both want from the marriage and if you think it should continue. I didn't hear any mention in your posts about making decisions as a team - as in two people who are working together and talking together to figure out the best future for the three of you. You also say that you don't think she realized how unhappy you were when you exchanged letters. Did you make the time and effort to clarify how you actually feel?

Since she uprooted her life to move to be closer to your family, would any of them be willing to watch the baby for an evening? Maybe she'd rather have a date night with you - or an evening by herself or with friends than a "mom stuff caddy." WTF is that even? Why wouldn't you think of that as a "parent stuff caddy"? Have you taken the time to ask her what you could do that would actually make her life easier? Do you have honest enough conversations that she would feel comfortable telling you?

There's a good chance, IMHO, that your wife is less stoked on the marriage than you're assuming she is. If you aren't having these emotionally-honest conversations with her, and instead are continually focused on your own happiness at the expense of hers she's probably very aware of this. She may be as disappointed as you are - or even more disappointed - in the state of your relationship.

You might consider that if your wife doesn't want to go to couples therapy it might be because she sees your marriage as a sinking ship and doesn't expect anything to change.
posted by bendy at 8:52 PM on November 24, 2018 [10 favorites]

It seems your problem is that your wife is more strong-willed than you are. She wanted a baby, she has one. You wanted to leave, yet here you are.

This jumped out at me, too. Your wife IS crushing it. She gets exactly what she wants. She's possibly a genius, and maybe a little bit ruthless. You had a panic attack and moved a three day drive away from her when she wanted a baby, and she bulldozed you, man! I think she is more socially adept than you, and you are possibly so socially inept that you don't even recognize the difference in your levels of skill. The social and emotional work she does is invisible to you. It's what she learned how to do instead of touching bugs or changing the cat box, and it is more valuable than those skills.

The thing I kept thinking about while reading your questions and follow-up is that a socially skilled, sophisticated "city" woman with a technically adept outsider-type country guy is a very good recipe for high-flying social and career success. I bet if you let her, she will strengthen your relationships with your family, help your career, secure your financial future, and get your daughter a good education. I bet if you take over all the "country" stuff without complaining about it (just be in charge of her car maintenance, man, there's a schedule for that shit. I bet you're good at schedules and routines, right?), she will do more and more amazing shit for you. She will improve your life in ways you can't even conceive of right now. You overachieved with this woman, man. Enjoy it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:59 PM on November 24, 2018 [31 favorites]

Just a point on the suggestions to return to therapy: pick someone who isn't a (strictly) CBT therapist, but who (also) works relationally. But really, more important than that: find a therapist who is a woman.
posted by obliterati at 10:33 PM on November 24, 2018 [12 favorites]

You can break up with someone you're dating based on the vague idea that there's someone out there who's a better match for you, with whom you'll be more fulfilled, which may or may not be true. But I think the bar should be higher for leaving a marriage with an infant child. Nothing in your post really demonstrates a genuine attempt to make your marriage work - instead it's filled with excuses, fantasies, escapism.

Don't make momentous decisions while you and your wife are still immersed in the chaotic upheaval (and sleep deprivation) of a new child. Take some time and really focus on your wife and baby. CBT can probably help you with this. It's easy to let doubts consume your thoughts and unduly elevate them as some kind of pure truth. But they are just doubts, everyone has them, yes, even the people you think are in perfect marriages. Sometimes they are worth listening to, but often they are just a distraction. Same with your impulsive desires for other women - they don't mean anything about your relationship, but by focusing on them you're giving them more weight than they're due.

Your reasons for thinking your wife isn't a good match for you seem like justifications (and weak ones, at that) for your wanting to leave because you're bored and real life is hard and you think a different type of woman (because they aren't individuals to you) will fix your ennui. I mean.. wants your help getting rid of bugs? So what? Relationships are about helping each other. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Any woman is going to have flaws that are going to annoy you sometimes, just as you'll have flaws that will annoy her, and there will be things she is better at than you are. If you really feel her aversion to bug killing (or whatever) is a marriage ending incompatibility for you then make sure you actually communicate this to her. Maybe she doesn't mind killing bugs THAT much but likes for you to do it because it's one tiny thing that helps her feel loved and cared for. You'll never know until you talk to her about it.

So... cut out the flirting and the daydreams of minimalist bachelor pads. Spend some time making a real effort to be present with your family, focusing on the good points (and on how you can be good for them). Live your real life. Maybe your marriage is salvageable, maybe it isn't. But you should do the work and try.

One last thing. You clarified that you disappear into your "man cave" for half an hour for some "me time". Is your wife okay with this? Are you making sure she also has similar opportunities for "me time"? Because you don't really go into her perspective on this, but I don't think any of the parents of young babies I've known would have been super on board with their partner coming home from a day spent out in the adult world, untethered to a demanding infant, and almost immediately disappearing for "me time" - especially if they weren't getting similar respite.
posted by lwb at 1:04 AM on November 25, 2018 [11 favorites]

I will select just one thing to pile on: in this scenario, there should be no question of your wife becoming a stay at home mom. If you sit back and let her make that decision without input from you, and she decides to stay home, you will feel even more “trapped” in a few months than you are now, and she will be in a much shittier situation if you do decide to leave. It will be yet another instance where your passivity makes a bad situation worse. You need to actively encourage her to take this opportunity, with or without being honest about how close you are to leaving. You need to get that option off the table (unless it is realistic that you could support two separate households and be happy doing so).

Do not sit back and let her make this choice on her own without the full picture of what may be down the road for the family.
posted by Kriesa at 3:55 AM on November 25, 2018 [19 favorites]

It's unclear from everything you've said if you've clearly and honestly told your wife you're thinking of divorce. No hedging, no trial separation, no vague comments about how unhappy you are. You have an obligation to tell her and not back down. She is in an extremely precarious position. Unless you are rich, generous financial support post-divorce will still leave her poorer than she is now and poorer than you will be. She must go back to work as soon as possible. If you keep passively brooding about how awful your life is, let her stay at home without knowing what's coming (or could be coming), and then leave her, you will be a real piece of shit.

You should come back to this question in a month and read all the answers with the assumption that they are right. You say you blame yourself but every single response of yours is self-justification and deflecting. I know you don't see that, and that is part of your problem. Maybe if you can pretend that we're right and try to see things through our eyes, you'll start to get somewhere.
posted by Mavri at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

The thing that stood out to me is your wry statement that you impregnated your wife on your last night in your marital home. As though this was an instrument of ironic fate, not a shit thing for you to do. Not the impregnating. But knowing you were leaving, after months of planning, you ‘boneddown’ /had sex with her on your way out the door. You held her in your arms and were teary with her about parting. That’s so callous and dishonest. Even if she wanted it, you fucked her knowing you were outta there, whilst she was sold a fake story of your feelings of regret at leaving ‘for work’ reasons. You left all your ‘baggage’ with her to clean up and then got mad.
This detail and your framing of it rankles and I think it is just another detail that is shepherding the responses you’re getting here.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:43 AM on November 25, 2018 [51 favorites]

As a woman who has birthed a child, this line from your update enrages me:

"We are sexless since baby but that’s probably not unusual. I try to engage and get brushed off."

You are asking for advice about how to leave your wife, and you are frustrated because you don't get to have sexy times at her? You get to work out. You get time to yourself in your man cave. You get adult conversation at work each week day.

She has an infant who is physically dependent on her all day and a husband, who resents her, pawing at her for sex. This line, in all you have written, suggests that you are not currently viewing your wife as a person separate from how she meets your needs / desires. In effect, she lives with two infants.

Stop trying to have sex with her. A second pregnancy would be disastrous for her. Make sure she keeps her job. Give her 'time off' every day without grumbling or asking for a cookie.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 8:44 AM on November 25, 2018 [80 favorites]

Well, you’re not alone. My ex could have written this, including your responses. I can’t speak for your wife, but I’m 100% more mentally healthy now that I’m not twisting myself into knots trying to please someone who didn’t see me as worthy.

As for my ex, he’s on to his second bike-riding girlfriend, who is so much more understanding and fit than I am. Everything is still all my fault (I marvel at my powers!). From the outside, he still seems miserable and angry although I will say his new girlfriend seems pretty cool.

Your wife deserves to know how you feel. I sure wish I’d known earlier- I would have made better decisions to look after myself and my child.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2018 [22 favorites]

Your idea that you could leave and move around the corner, living in a minimalist apartment having wild sexy times with stacked bombshells while your “girls” wait for you to bless them with your daily visit, is so deluded as to make me wonder if you are quite well.

How many of your exes would you like to be forced to host for dinner every evening for the foreseeable future? None, right? If/when you dump your wife, she will feel exactly the same. If I were her I’d be moving back to my family/support network as soon as I could get the house packed up. Even if she stays in the area, you’ll be getting the standard “one weeknight and every other weekend” visit with your daughter - and no overnights until your child is 2, unless your wife is spectacularly generous with contact. Young children need to stay with their primary caregiver as much as possible, and family courts recognise and support this. You will not be getting daily visits, and at this age you won’t be getting 50/50 residency as it is not in the child’s best interests to be too far from their mother.

From her comment about not being devastated if you left, it sounds like you are already skating on pretty thin ice with your wife. If you only want to break up with her on condition that nothing changes except you get to fuck other women, you may be in for a bit of a shock.
posted by tinkletown at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2018 [21 favorites]

Hmm. In one breath you say you’re tired of needling to look after a “princess,” in the next you brag about how much you take care of “the ladies.” You’re sending some pretty mixed signals here.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:40 PM on November 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

It's not "princess" behavior to expect you to clean the cat box, and to clean it every day. Cat feces can convey toxoplasmosis, which, in a pregnant woman, can have devastating effects on the baby. It's your job.

If you are fantasizing about life as a single man with few possessions, realize that whatever you do you can't erase the marriage or, especially, the child. Any decisions about the future of the family should be made in consultation with your wife, with the welfare of the child foremost in both your minds. Get someone from your family to babysit and have a frank talk with your wife; she needs to know your position before she decides about going back to work, and certainly before she risks having another child with you.
posted by SereneStorm at 2:47 PM on November 25, 2018 [15 favorites]

Don’t know if you’re still reading OP. Here’s my take, FWIW (sorry for length and disjointedness):

I also feel that you have escapist tendencies. And that you’re really disconnected from your wife because you’re disconnected from yourself and knowing who you really are.

I have a bunch of questions and maybe it would help you to explore them in therapy:

“She isn’t the right one” - why? What makes her not the right one, other than not being able to kill spiders? Why did you keep trying to conceive when this thought came to you?

You wrote the letter and you felt that she didn’t fully get it. So why did you let her continue down the path of baby-making?

Why is it important that your wife be an active person?

How is she not of strong will and independence when she showed exactly that when she said she wanted a baby, and told you what she wanted?

Did she think that the match between her and you was good?

So you’ve been with her for 9 years, and started the relationship when you were 2-3 months out of your previous LTR. Why did you dive in? Even in your description of her online profile she’s showing strong will and independence: it was clear what she wanted and that she was stating that. I feel like you didn’t know what you needed, other than affection and warmth - she was just a warm body.

As someone else mentioned, it’s really messed up that you were still fucking her before your move with the intent of having a separation. Why was this level of deception ok with you?

While you were on your own, why didn’t you tell her not to come? That it was over, and that you were happier being single? Again, with the disconnect. You want her, you don’t want her. Why can’t you be honest with yourself? Do you not realize that your wife is a person and your decisions affect her life too?

Like many other commenters, I don’t understand how you can resent her for getting pregnant. Do you think she did it on purpose?

Like I ask a simple question about a preference and she sort of accuses me of trying to tell her what to do.
Maybe the way that you’re phrasing the question reveals what you subconsciously want her to do and that’s what she’s picking up on.

I see someone trying to do the right thing (as per society or whatever authoritative figure is in your head) but it’s truly not what you want. Every step of the way you just went along with whatever (why people are saying you’re passive and you don’t take responsibility) and it seems like you never truly got the chance to figure your own self out after the breakup of your LTR. I think you feel this relationship is doomed because you never developed the skills and self-awareness to have a great relationship.

Then I decide I need to go over there to fill my water jar even when there is a tap closer to my office.
I think this is the only example in your entire post and comments where it shows you making an *active* choice. “I decide…” You made a choice here. It’s not “I need” to go fill your water over there, you said “I decide I need.” Interesting choice of words but it reveals so much what you want and what you decided to do about that want.

My desire was just to be alone and unattached.
In other words, escape. Or, maybe you’ll figure out that being single is what you truly *need*.

You say you want to do right here. Well I guess you ultimately have two choices: stay in the marriage and work on yourself and really drill down into what it is you want. Maybe in your childhood you weren’t listened to enough and your wants were dismissed as frivolous and you never developed the skill to know what it is you want, to honour it, and how to make it happen. Really work on how to be honest with yourself, and honest with your wife. Maybe things can turn a corner after a few years of hard work.

And yet you know the answer that has been echoing from your guts and that the marriage is not salvageable. Ok, so explore that. Why is it not salvageable?

Whatever choice you make, you have to be responsible about it. Stay, and work to become a better person. Leave, tell your wife and don’t let her steamroll your decision. Talk to a lawyer, figure out your obligations. Either way it’s going to be difficult because of the hole that you dug yourself into. Only you can get yourself out.

Yes we had sex, without a condom, like every other time we have ever had sex.
Your attitude is really flippant here. You two were lax in your birth control because up until that point, she had not gotten pregnant and you got complacent thinking that it wouldn’t happen. Your phrasing indicates that you want us to let you off the hook, “Well, she never got pregnant before, so how can you blame me/us for it happening this time?” Gah.

Maybe he was terrible or maybe I deceived him somehow - how the fuck can I know that!?
I’m not the knower of all things or anything. I would say that if in therapy, you’re making realizations about yourself, things that stop and make you think “agh, I fucked up, this is a flaw/negative thing I have to work on about myself”, when you start to recognize things *about yourself* in your gut that you know to be true. That’s when you know you’re starting to make progress. If all you feel you’re getting is validation and reinforcement from your therapist (of course a certain amount is good; your therapist should also be supportive) and you’re not being challenged, then you might want to change therapists.

And look into your people pleasing tendencies. Where do they come from? Why do you do it? Why do you think this is the way to go through life? What do you get out of it? What have you actually gotten from it/have things worked the way you wanted them to?

if I were her and knew how I felt, I’d be very disappointed and would want and expect more from a life partner. I love my wife and want what’s best for her, forever. I don’t know how I can make it more clear.
If you truly want what's best for her, you have to be honest with her about everything and let her decide what’s best for herself after that. But you did this once before with the letter. What if you say “I want a divorce” and she says “No, you’re bluffing, I don’t believe you.” Are you going to go along with whatever she says again?

Perfection would be staying nearby and being able to see them every day. I actually like my wife, despite what some have read into things here.
It’s interesting that you say “perfection.” You have no idea how difficult it is to work through a separation/divorce. Here I feel like you’re living in fantasyland again.

You say you like your wife, yet read the things that you’ve said here about her. Does that sound like someone that likes his wife? Again, I feel like you’re disconnected from yourself. Yeah I know - you’re busy, you’re in a rush, on your phone, whatever, so you can’t include everything. The thing about writing is that it is so revealing. You’ve written the things you have because you chose to, even subconsciously.

Like others have said, you have a ton of work to do. A ton. I’m not sure you even realize how much. I don’t know if you should stay while you’re doing that, or if you’re better off doing that single. You have to figure out what you truly want. I hope you can do that and that we’ll get an update from you 1-2 years down the line.

Also, where is the team between you and your wife? I don’t really see you two making decisions together, working on a shared vision of what you want life to look like.

Final point: I would love to see Ask Polly tackle this question. She has this amazing skill in just nailing it in the first couple of sentences, getting to the heart of the matter, seeing right into the letter writer’s soul and saying what they really need to hear. I highly encourage you to write to her as well at some point. Hopefully she’ll respond.
posted by foxjacket at 6:30 PM on November 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

For the record, going to your “man-cave” for 30 minutes when you get home to decompress is an entirely reasonable thing and I’ll bet your wife is totally fine with this, and it is not proof that that you married the Wrong Person.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:40 PM on November 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

Also, OP, and this is my final comment. You should commit to posting an update in MeTa in a year and then live your life and make decisions with the knowledge that you are accountable. Not just to the advice you’ve received here, but to the honest expression of your feelings you’ve given and a true determination to be your best self.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:55 PM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Still reading and absorbing. Thank you Slarty and everyone else. I am truly grateful for every single response since it meant someone took time out of their day to read my dumb rant in its foreign or outdated vernacular. I used some terms for effect (or affect I guess) and regret that so much effort went into unpacking that and that it grossed so many people out. But I am still taking it to heart and trying to humbly consider what people had to say about it.
There is too much to respond to. It’s intersting to see what parts people picked up on or ignored. I regret posting such raw output, I was really at wit’s end at time of writing and it would never have come out that way a day before or a day after. I usually go over and over anything I write but this time I just fired from the hip.
There are several posters for whom I’d like to buy a drink.
I will address this: I’d like to say to people fixating on “bike female” (who became “hot” at some point for some reason, I didn’t write that) or spider battles that these were just examples meant to represent a thousand-cuts sort of situation where I continually (but not constantly) have to bite my tongue about things along those lines (petty things that I find vexing) My wife is very strong in some ways (as people have picked up) which I appreciate and acknowledge. But there is other behaviour or ways we react to each other that I may have brushed off for a while, but they slowly grated on me until they felt like deal breakers. Why do they bother me so? I guess a question for the pro. I am keenly aware I am just as likely to be driving her crazy in ways she manages to keep to herself.
I haven’t done therapy for 1.5 years. I haven’t got someone in the new place. I’ve been thinking about it obviously and will probably start with the service provided by my employer.
On a lighter note, I laughed at people angry and offended about my mom caddy. It is actually really cool. Since we had to supplement, there were a lot of syringes and tubes, tape to keep it in place on the nipple, etc. The caddy held the syringe at the correct height and allowed her to be hands free during feeding and not dump the formula. It also held things she liked to have on hand like snacks, meds, vitamins, the snot sucker (which, yes, we both operate!!! but we store it in there), baby nail clipper, etc. This is apropos of nothing but I wanted to explain it a bit more since it was a fun project that I was happy to do for her, and because wow some people were really pissed off about it.
Believe it or not, I do like her. I do love her. It has just felt more like a friendship feeling over this difficult period. How do you re-introduce passion? This is a thing I approached her about head-on but we didn’t follow through. Whatever happens, I want her to have everything she wants, which makes it easier to sleepwalk thru decisions (or non-decisions). It makes me happy to make her happy whenever I can. It makes me happy when she makes herself happy too.
There’s more to say of course but I’ll heed the rather unexpected advice posted above to “stop defending myself”. I’ll let things stand and take the lumps.
Thanks again.
posted by calibrator at 7:44 PM on November 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

I think the issue that you mention at the end here is the one my gut sensed was very important as I read your first post. That is, this might mainly be about sex/sexual attraction, moving from adolescent fantasy to living long term monogamously, frequency of sexual intimacy, and long term relationships’ propensity to lose passion. You use porn language about the woman you’re covetting at work for example, and words like ‘bone down’ - can you think of other ways in which you could contemplate human sexuality? Sooner or later in most long term relationships partners have to juggle time demands, health demands, libido mismatches, ageing bodies, ongoing effects of stated/ unstated angers, regrets or daily frictions etc

From experience, I can tell you that the infertility journey creates even more of an arena for these kinds of upsets within a relationship. My (ex)husband and I ended our marriage because he, like you in some ways, couldn’t step up, was resentful, critical, passive aggressive, also took a job half a country away, yet danced in and out of orbit with me when he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He’s done the same to every other partner since.

You can deal with some parts of this issue by reading Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. And/or many other writings and exercises on this topic available. In my current relationship when I had to have pelvic surgery, a sex therapist helped us re-establish connection with forthright discussion and exercises to try that took our needs into careful account.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:42 PM on November 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

calibrator, it is good that you are still reading and absorbing. It can't be easy.

honey-barbara makes good points about the changing nature of attraction and sex longer into relationships (and especially after parenthood). Obviously, every relationship is unique.

You need to decide whether you are in or out. If you are out, be honest with your wife, start working as a team to divide your assets and together make a plan to get through the very difficult first 5 years as two single co-parents. Don't think of yourself as a bachelor. You are a single dad. Embrace that. Don't date, you are not partner material right now.

If you are in, be honest with your wife. Show her this thread. She may decide to leave you. She may be biding her time until she is less financially precarious. If you care about this woman (and/or are a decent person), give her all the information so that you can make an informed choice. Ask her if you should move into the spare room. Leave her alone sexually but step up as a partner. Show that you are committed to the relationship, even if she isn't. Don't ask for or expect any cookies. Just treat her with kindness, respect, and love. You guys may come through this. But start working together as a team to discuss assets. Because a partnership is best when neither person NEEDS to be there and both are CHOOSING to be there. Choosing to be there actively with every response to each other.

In any case, it is time to be honest. You've done lots of thinking about whether you will leave. You need to lay that in front of her so that she can make the steps in her life that protect her and your daughter. Because you are a dad now.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 6:59 AM on November 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

You do NOT need to show this exact post to your wife.

It is important that you be honest. If you are willing to genuinely recommit to your marriage and to the aspects of your wife you love and care about, you need to come clean to her about the crisis you've been having, and the amount of actual work the two of you are going to need to put in, and the fact that you've been crushing on a coworker, and all the issues that have been bothering you. And if you are breaking up with her she needs to know asap so she can begin planning for that (for example, NOT becoming a sahm)

But you do not need to show her every insult you insulted her with, which she will never be able to unsee once shown. That is not kind and it is not necessary.
posted by Cozybee at 8:17 AM on November 26, 2018 [17 favorites]

On a lighter note, I laughed at people angry and offended about my mom caddy. It is actually really cool. Since we had to supplement, there were a lot of syringes and tubes, tape to keep it in place on the nipple, etc. The caddy held the syringe at the correct height and allowed her to be hands free during feeding and not dump the formula. It also held things she liked to have on hand like snacks, meds, vitamins, the snot sucker (which, yes, we both operate!!! but we store it in there), baby nail clipper, etc. This is apropos of nothing but I wanted to explain it a bit more since it was a fun project that I was happy to do for her, and because wow some people were really pissed off about it.

I think the problem is with how you describe it: as the Mom caddy. Surely it is a parent caddy? Your describing it that way indicates that you think that the only, or at least the main, person responsible for your baby is your wife, not you.

Yes, words matter. They indicate how we are thinking.
posted by purplesludge at 8:25 AM on November 26, 2018 [21 favorites]

I've read through your post and the replies and although it's been mentioned, I don't think the postpartum period has been addressed adequately.

- The postpartum period is not the 6 weeks after birth. It's much much longer. There's growing consensus that we might consider it to be as long as two years.
- There's research that pregnancy, birth, and mothering alters your brain significantly. As significantly as adolescence. Research has found that two years after giving birth these changes are still present.
- Physically, even if you wife did not give birth vaginally, her pelvic floor was altered by pregnancy (more so if she did give birth vaginally). Sex probably feels completely different to her.
- Many parents do not begin sleep training until 4 months, so, that means, that in all likelihood the two of you have only been sleeping through the night (ha!) for 2 months. There is some evidence that lack of sleep is equivalent to being too drunk to drive.
- You and your wife went through a time period where you struggled to conceive. Then in your most recent update, I read that your wife also had to supplement with a nursing system and earlier you said you had to finger feed your baby.

So, Ok, what's my point.
- Your wife is someone different now and who that person is still emerging. I am 14 months postpartum and two weeks ago is the first time I felt like an adult human again. You need time to get to know one another again. Consider dating her. I know that might sound crazy, but seriously, (after talking to her about this), consider acting as if you are dying to go out on dates with her again and date her to get to know the new her. Part of this is: you are going to have to do everything at first to make this happen --- arrange the childcare, pick the place, etc. Just keep her in the know, but you do it. It's too much for her right now. Not only is she still recovering, the whole pregnancy and having a baby thing is actually still happening to her right now.
- Sex is difficult. I honestly felt nothing for a long time with regard to sex. And I didn't have it in me to sort it out. We read a book called "Come As You Are." I really recommend that you read it.
- You are not thinking clearly right now (IMO). Lack of sleep is killer and either you or your wife is not thinking clearly enough to be making life altering decisions at the moment. Think about if you want to make these kind of decisions if you were drunk.
- Also on the you are not thinking clearly right now front: infertility and feeding issues would do a number on any couple. I know what it's like to feel like your baby needs you so much and you can't figure out how to feed them. It's harrowing. If it wasn't harrowing for you (I think it probably was), it was for your wife, I'd bet. And I'd also guess she still has a lot of anxiety about it. We struggled with fertility issues too and I also felt like I STILL haven't had a change to process all the fear and emotions that brought up. Are there any dad support groups locally? Is your wife going to mom support groups? Talking to other dads/moms/parents really helps.

Good luck.
posted by CMcG at 10:47 AM on November 26, 2018 [14 favorites]

A lot of ground has been covered, I just want to mention one thing that sort of leapt out at me from your recent update.

if you are
1. the sort of person for whom touch is a dominant love language
2. prone to relationship anxiety or relationship ocd (really recommend reading the link provided up above) and
3. going through a period in the relationship where you're touching much less, which is very very common and normal in the postpartum period but that doesn't mean it isn't really, really hard

then you should be aware that for people like you, at times like this, it's really, really normal to suddenly have depression/anxiety style grey glasses clouding your entire view of the relationship.

An easy way to assess whether a mood-based thinking disorder is in place:
1. do you seem to vaguely remember/intellectually acknowledge that there have been good times in the relationship, and yet any attempt at accessing the positive feelings from those times falls hollow, you feel as if they were all "fake" or "didn't count", even though you at the time felt they were real you dismiss this as you having "deluded yourself" (in short, turning all pink moments grey)
2. have a lot of objectively pretty minor stuff that at other times didn't bother you but now seems horrible and bad and a sign the relationship is doomed, and you dismiss the times when they didn't bother you as, again, you having deluded yourself (turning all grey moments black)

There is still a ton of stuff in your posts that make it clear you have a lot of work to do. You definitely should head back to therapy. And there are clearly some actual issues and resentments in the relationship that can and should be addressed.

But if the above resonates, I think it's important to be aware that there's this big external factor distorting your thinking, and that it's possible a LOT of this is going to feel really, really different once things normalize again.
posted by Cozybee at 9:53 PM on November 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

I couldn't read all of these answers, I'm too lazy. but in case no one recommended the little YouTube clip of Tony Robins saving some dudes marriage in 8 minutes, might interest you.

dont have any wise advice right now, but your story kind of reminded me of what Frida Kahlo said when they asked why she wouldnt leave Diego (her husband). She replied that she could only love him for what he was, not for what he wasn't.

dood. dooood. i hope you both find your happiness.
posted by speakeasy at 7:58 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

A few things that seem to fit right in with your "the one" idea about love and relationships:

a thousand-cuts sort of situation where I continually (but not constantly) have to bite my tongue about things along those lines (petty things that I find vexing) My wife is very strong in some ways (as people have picked up) which I appreciate and acknowledge. But there is other behaviour or ways we react to each other that I may have brushed off for a while, but they slowly grated on me until they felt like deal breakers. Why do they bother me so? I guess a question for the pro. I am keenly aware I am just as likely to be driving her crazy in ways she manages to keep to herself.

This is, to some extent, what being with any other person is like. I'm completely in love with my partner of 8 years. He is my favorite person in the whole world. But because he is another person who's not me, he does stuff that I have to accept and sometimes laugh about and roll my eyes at and just generally try to ignore. Loving him doesn't make that stuff not-annoying. It's the same as someone pointed out about a straying eye: no matter how good your relationship is or how much you love someone, it's not going to guarantee that no one else ever looks good to you. That's because there is no such thing as some perfect "the one" who fixes all this.

Believe it or not, I do like her. I do love her. It has just felt more like a friendship feeling over this difficult period. How do you re-introduce passion?

Passion is flighty. Love is constant. Right now, your wife probably barely has the physical or emotional spoons to get through the day. That's when you have to lean on that friendship. I think what CMcG said is very important: this pregnancy and birth is not over for her. She is still in the thick of it. She doesn't need passion right now, she needs partnership. You need to seriously consider what you have and if you are willing to throw that away for something like passion, which is by nature fleeting. Otherwise I feel like you will recreate this situation for yourself over and over again with other women.

Love is work. Passion is work. It's rewarding work. But it's hard sometimes. It sounds like it is very hard for you right now. I hope that whatever you decide to do, and whether it's together or apart, all three of you (you, your wife, and your daughter) can all learn to work on that love. But you will have to make this an active priority, take responsibility for your past actions and your choices, and stop letting things "happen" to you. It's your life. What are you going to do with it?
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

Hope you’ll post a follow up. So I’ve been in your wife’s shoes as a postpartum woman desperately trying to stay married to a man who kept secretly, subtly moving the unspoken goalposts on her, but would never say so directly. Not even when I begged him to say so. Meanwhile, he told loads of people behind my back what qualities he thought I was lacking, as you’ve also done here for this group of thoughtful, anonymous strangers... but not for your wife. She has a right to know you cannot stand her. Period. That you are not all in. Never were. That being passive aggressive and fake/ people-pleasery is the only way you know how to be. That you have attachment issues that preclude you from being able to meaningfully go the distance in life partnership with a wife.

You’ve absolutely taken away her freedom of choice here. You’re letting her continue to do the wife appliancing work for you without any meaningful consent and information about the lack of reciprocity from you. Say this to her face. Stop eating cake.

The cake eating stopped for my ex one day. And it was a great day in my life, in the end, but a day that felt like utter hell at the time. I can see that now, years out. My baby was an infant and we had 2 elementary school-aged kids when my now-ex-husband suddenly walked out on all of us. Found out much later he had been expressing similar complaints about me as you’ve expressed here about your wife. Particularly about my not exercising as much as he would have liked. He was also secretly fucking a coworker. None of this has turned out awesome for him. Society looks down upon middle aged married guys who walk out on their kids (... unless they support them majorly and pay way over the child support guidelines, plus all legal fees and college tuition for the children at a bare minimum, etc.)

So I know from whence I speak that you need to give her her freedom and tell her the difficult truth already about your little secrets for the last 3 years now. Once I knew the truth about the treachery of the man I was once married to, my life and my children’s lives started to get infinitely better. If you knew me, you’d say I was “killing it” in life in all areas, and am a “really active person” in the visible ways you overvalue in women.

The truth hurts, but it must be told. Start telling the truth for a change. Peace.
posted by edithkeeler at 1:52 PM on April 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

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