September 28, 2018 at 2:52 pm #228031
My husband and I have been married 30 years. After about 7 years of marriage, we started counseling. We were in and out of counseling for several years. I didn’t want a divorce, but was not happy. And over the course of 30 years, I have built up quite a bit of resentment. He didn’t want a divorce and said he was happy. I loved him for many years, but that love has now turned into a mix of tolerance, respect and indifference. He is still the funniest guy I know, but funny doesn’t sustain a relationship. He is also passive-aggressive and will avoid conflict in our relationship at all costs. You simply can’t have a relationship without conversing and interacting, which can lead to conflict. I do not feel physically attracted to him because of the disappointment, frustration and resentment I have toward him over the course of 30 years.
Now, with 4 kids grown and no one home, my husband is trying.
Now he is doing many of the things I needed and wanted him to do – and asked for specifically – throughout the course of our marriage. I’m not talking about taking out the garbage. I asked him to do things like call me once a day. Say goodbye when he left the house, come home at a reasonable time for dinner, and eat with me and our kids. When he was around he was disconnected. I asked him to be connected, interested and available. I can’t explain it, but I felt like he was always irritated with me, and I told him this. That as long as I kept my mouth shut, everything was okay. A lot of our family life and my life revolved around his schedule and his activities. I felt like a dog getting scraps. Oh, and we had a dog too. He showed more affection to the dog. That hurt. But I got to take care of the dog.
I told him more than once, “If you won’t make time for me, I will find someone who will.” And I did. I started a friendship with someone online. It wasn’t the answer, and it wasn’t right, but for awhile, I felt needed and wanted by someone. I thought it would be fulfilling, but ultimately, I felt worse. And I realized he (the online friend) didn’t really care about me. I ended that friendship.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t just leave, it’s because we have four kids. One was born with special needs. And our youngest son has many health complications that required several hospitalizations, surgeries, doctors appointments and therapies over the course of 10 years. He is stable now, but will have lifelong health problems. With that kind of chaos, the last thing I wanted to do was bring a divorce into the mix. It would have meant my husband would need to step up, and I knew he wasn’t capable of doing that, and knew he would find a way to avoid taking responsibility as a parent. It would have meant I’d have to work full time, and I knew that would mean my daughter and youngest son especially would suffer. My husband would have been punitive in a passive-aggressive way, and I didn’t want to deal with that.
I have told my husband I’m aware he is trying. I want to be sure I’m not being punitive toward him. I don’t think I am. I think I am just tired. And I think at this point in my life, I don’t want to take care of anyone…emotionally or physically. I am burned out and kind of numb. Things that should excite me or upset me, don’t. Even if George Clooney showed up on my doorstep and said he’d take me to lunch, I wouldn’t even get excited. That’s how tired I am.
I allowed a lot of what happened, but I really tried to get my husband and I on a better path. When I asked for what I needed, he’d respond with anger and irritation, or just went through the motions. I felt like I was married to a rebellious teenager. He wanted to have fun (he’s a very fun-loving guy), he wanted to be social…you can’t always do that when you have the kind of responsibilities that come with having 4 kids, especially two with high needs. Looking back, I should have just walked out.
I don’t think this is a good way to live out the rest of my life, but I feel like I made it through the fire, and now I just want to walk in peace. If anyone reading this can relate, I would like to hear your thoughts as to how you navigated these kind of circumstances.
Thanks in advance.
AireneSeptember 28, 2018 at 5:03 pm #228041MarkParticipant
I’d show your post to your husband. I would also go find some counseling to help find joy in your life.
You may be tired of the marriage and your husband but there is more “out there.” Do you have hobbies? Passions? Something else to engage emotionally besides with your marriage.
MarkSeptember 29, 2018 at 5:08 am #228071
Thank you for your response. I think if I showed the post to my husband, it would hurt him more than help. I am considering writing a version of it, though, and letting him read it.
I’ve had my own counseling on and off while going through marriage counseling. I’d consider counseling, but feel I have gotten what I need from it and that is to speak up for myself, set boundaries and avoid toxic people. Ironically, all of this personal development might end my marriage.
I have many hobbies and interests that fill my time, so it’s not that I want or need my husband to be my source of entertainment. And I’m very content being alone – to a degree. But isn’t a spouse supposed to be a source of love and support? Someone to talk to? As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a hard worker, funny and social (with other people, because it’s all surface stuff). If I do the “work” in our relationship – calling, talking, hugging, positive – he is fine with that. He doesn’t initiate it, though. It’s like being married to a tree.
It’s also like waiting at a bus stop for a bus that never comes, or the bus passes by, but doesn’t stop. How long do you wait?
AireneSeptember 29, 2018 at 5:56 am #228075
You are tired, burnt out and numb (“I am just tired… burnt out and kind of numb”) because you are in an adversarial relationship, sort of living with the enemy. It is tiring to live with the enemy, one has to be as numb as possible so to survive the experience.
Adversarial for the following reasons:
1. He is and has been passive aggressive and you learned to fear him: “He is also passive aggressive… My husband would have been punitive in a passive-aggressive way”.
2. You are and have been angry at him: “over the course of 30 years, I have built up quite a bit of resentment… I want to make sure I’m not being punitive towards him”.
3. He has been angry with you unless you kept and continue to keep your mouth shut: “I felt like he was always irritated with me… as long as I kept my mouth shut, everything was okay… when I asked for what I needed, he’d respond with anger and irritation”.
You stated: “I just want to walk in peace”, that is, you no longer want to walk in a war zone. “I don’t think this is a good way to live out the rest of my life”, I agree, of course.
“all of this personal development might end my marriage”- keeping your mouth shut will prolong your marriage, personal development has to do with being heard, seen and heard.
“It’s like being married to a tree”, dying in its shade, in darkness.
“like waiting at a bus stop for a bus that never comes, or the bus passes by, but doesn’t stop”- can’t have a breath of fresh air with all that smoke.
“How long do you wait?”- what are you waiting for?
anitaSeptember 30, 2018 at 9:05 am #228225
Yes, right? What am I waiting for?
I have come very close to leaving, even if it would be temporary. But when I think about why I would do that, it would be to send a strong message to him that I am tired of what our marriage is and tired of being the one working on the relationship. I’d leave and treat him the way he treats me – as if he is invisible, his needs don’t matter, his schedule doesn’t matter, no communication, no interaction, nothing. But then I think this sounds very immature and juvenile.
Mark, I did write a brief note to my husband the other night. He had something to eat for lunch that had a lot of garlic and I tried to tell him in a nice way that I could smell it, and it was strong. He took this as criticism, complained that I am always negative and shut down. I cannot say anything negative to him whatsoever because he takes it as criticism. This too is an impossible standard for a relationship.
In my note, though, I apologized and said I am tired. I said that maybe a good place for us to start is with both of us being honest about what we want and need from each other and from our marriage.
He didn’t respond, and has now left for a 4 day golf outing.
AireneSeptember 30, 2018 at 10:26 am #228239
I wonder if you are stuck in this ongoing, long lasting, non violent fight (no yelling, hitting, no blood and broken bones kind of fight), invested in it, investing in winning, eventually. You considered leaving him, not so to exit the fight, but to deliver a punch, to “send a strong message to him”. In other words you considered leaving him as part of the fight.
Did you watch the movie The War of the Roses? That was a violent, eventually a blood and broken bones kind of a fight, but the woman there too was invested in the fight. She wanted to win too.
anitaSeptember 30, 2018 at 10:51 am #228243
I never thought of it that way, but maybe I am invested in the fight. What is the fight for, then? Is it to win? And what is it I’m trying to win? I like to think I’m invested in the life we have built, and even though part of that life is our marriage, which has been an unhappy one for me, our children are a huge part of the life we have built.
And if I was leaving to exit the fight, then how do I go about doing that? Just say, “I’m done”?
AireneSeptember 30, 2018 at 12:02 pm #228283
If you are invested in the fight, then what motivates you is anger, making him finally feel a little bit of your pain. You were the responsible one, bearing most of the responsibility and the burden while he lived that “surface stuff”, “funny and social life”. I suppose you want him to realize that and regret leaving you alone with the responsibility and the burden, and maybe.. change his ways?
But he went golfing, so he is winning that fight.
If you wanted to exit the fight you have to not only “say ‘I’m done'”, but be done. By being done I mean accept the injustice of it all, that the marriage was what it was. And then, close the door on it.
anitaSeptember 30, 2018 at 5:53 pm #228299ChristopherParticipant
Us men, take time to really mature and finally know the value of the people we claim we love. Some do it sooner, some later on in life. I can tell you for a fact, nothing wakes a man’s conscience like letting him be, or giving him space to continue being ignorant while you finally choose to be unbothered. The ton of guilt that haunts a man therafter… get it from me. We do a 360 of our lives, start living right and never look back. Maybe he’s at this point, maybe not. Only time will tell.
So be patient with him, but your focus should now be more on your well being, peace of mind, peace of heart & soul. And not his feelings on a revised letter.
About your marriage to him, we’ll i believe marriages are divine unions and are meant to last. But at this point, only his actions going forward should be able to determine your decision to stay or not.October 1, 2018 at 7:23 am #228381
Anita, thank you for your thoughts. I don’t think I want him to feel pain, as much as I’m just too tired to care, get angry (I stopped crying and yelling a looooong time ago), and fight for making things work. I recognize all that my husband has done to provide for our family and I am grateful for that. It is a big part of the reason I stayed, as I mentioned earlier. In a selfish way, it made my life easier, even though I was still mostly a single parent (unless it was F-U-N), living with a “partner” who was detached and what I see now as being immature. I felt I had two options – to stay and make the best of it, or leave and create more problems.
We aren’t the first couple to go through this, or the last. It’s a common thing, especially when you have kids. And so while I might have been fighting, I thought I was fighting from a place of hope that things would change. Change is emerging, and now my anger and resentment are rising to the surface. I really believe it’s not intentional, but a natural thing. It’s like the story about the Little Red Hen. You don’t get to eat the bread if you haven’t helped plant it, grow it, harvest it, bake it.
Christopher – thank you for your response. What you say here aptly describes where we are now:
“nothing wakes a man’s conscience like letting him be, or giving him space to continue being ignorant while you finally choose to be unbothered”
He has had all the space he wants and needs, the difference is that it doesn’t need to be divided among 4 kids and I am no longer jumping up and down like a lunatic asking for help. I happily am not bothered by what he does or doesn’t do. I also have space and it has been liberating.
Where you say this, “i believe marriages are divine unions and are meant to last.” I agree, but think both parties need to be willing to work out differences, accept mistakes and have the desire to create a life that works for both of them. My husband is not a bad person, and I am no saint. We have both made mistakes. I just don’t know if my husband has the capacity or tools to communicate what he actually wants and needs, and I don’t think he has the capacity to think in terms of what works for “both” of us. That may come with all this space he has now.
AireneOctober 1, 2018 at 9:22 am #228407
This is my understanding based on your threads:
You are heavily invested in “the helper/ giver.. peacemaker” role beginning in your family of origin where you “helped keep divisiveness among other family members low” and throughout your life. You wrote that this role helped you “feel better about myself and everything going on around me knowing I was easing some of the tension”.
For a long time, you held on to a belief in helping people “without regard to what the other person can do for us or give us or if the person is worthy of it… because it is the ‘right’ thing to do”.
You need to act based on the motivation of love, not anger: “There have been many times where I struggled with resentment and anger, but ultimately did something because of the love I feel.. maybe not for the person benefiting from my actions, but because of love for my kids, or someone related to that person, or even for my own well-being. It’s as if I need to find a reason I am doing something and be at peace with that reason”.
In April this year you shared about Sue, the mother of your daughter’s roommate. I suggested asserting yourself with her regarding her white lie. You answered: “I do not want to alienate Sue by calling her out of her lie, but do not want to be taken advantage of”. You are calculated, you think of the consequences of what you do on the people you care about, in this case, your daughter.
In much the same way you were calculated in your marriage, staying with your husband because you believed that if you divorced him, he wouldn’t have supported his children. You thought about the consequence of a divorce on the well being of your four children.
You repeatedly think about the consequences of your actions on the well being of others, including your son: “I have talked openly and honestly with my son about developing friendships (without going overboard because I don’t want him to think there’s something wrong with him)”
Back to your family of origin, you learned to accept what-is because things could be worse. You learned to point out to yourself and appreciate any positive things in a bad situation and in a person: “I grew up with a mom who was an alcoholic. There were definitely things I would have changed, but I also like to think that things could have been worse. I have also come to accept what is, is. I also recognize my mother’s strengths and shortcomings”.
Same in the context of your family-of-choice, and regarding your husband, you point out the positive things in the situation and in your husband and you think how things could be worse: “he supported our family financially through some things that some dads might up and quit.”
You repeatedly see things from others’ point of view in an empathetic way. Regarding your husband: “However, I also recognize that his road has not been easy either”. Regarding the mothers of your daughters’ friends: “it is the moms who are very willing to accept invitations, but don’t reciprocate (probably because like me, they are exhausted)”.
And now, my thoughts this very morning: considering who you are and how you operated throughout your life, I trust your evaluation of who your husband is, and I trust that you did the best job possible communicating with him and bringing out the best in him. And so, I figure, he really is who you say he is, aggressive toward you (in a passive way), requiring you to keep your mouth shut, if you want him to around.
Now that your four children are adults living outside the home you and it is only you and him in the house, why live a life that is not “a good way to live out the rest of my life”, why continue to keep your mouth shut, why “being married to a tree” and so forth?
You wrote earlier in the year, “I need to find a reason I am doing something and be at peace with that reason”- what is the reason for you living with him?
You care about doing “the ‘right’ thing to do”- how is living with him the right thing to do?
October 2, 2018 at 3:47 am #228551
- This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by anita.
Thank you very much for your response. It is thought provoking, without a doubt.
You ask how living with him is the right thing to do. For me, it’s because now he is trying. I see his effort. I just don’t know if I have it in me to be open to receiving that effort.
Which is why I left the note for him (before he left on the golf trip…and if that doesn’t speak volumes!) suggesting that both he and I talk honestly about what we need and want from each other and our marriage, starting today, going forward. Still, I did that more for his benefit. Because in his mind, he’s doing all these things and that should make things right, right?
I have to head out the door, but will post more later.
AireneOctober 2, 2018 at 4:28 am #228559
You are welcome.
Before I read your recent post, I re-read my own post to you from yesterday. In the first paragraph I wrote that you are heavily invested in the “helper/ giver… peacemaker” role (your words, in quotes), and I quoted what you wrote about how this role makes you feel: “I feel better about myself and everything going on around me knowing I was easing some of the tension”.
This means that without tension in the home, you don’t have the role that makes you feel better about yourself. After this thought, I read your recent post, and it reads like you do intend to keep the tension and your role by keeping the marriage going.
That role, I am thinking, is something very important to you, important to your sense of well being, something that carried you through a difficult home when you were a child and throughout life. To suggest to you that you separate from him and live alone in a calm home is taking away that role from you, and you will be alone. I don’t think you’d like either one, role gone or alone. What do you think?
anitaOctober 2, 2018 at 2:31 pm #228691
To suggest to you that you separate from him and live alone in a calm home is taking away that role from you, and you will be alone. I don’t think you’d like either one, role gone or alone. What do you think?
Well, I’m already alone in this marriage, so there would be nothing different there. The rest of what you say makes sense – about my peacekeeping role being gone – at least maybe on a subconscious level. Or maybe I just like complaining. Or maybe I am ready to be done with being in this role of peacemaker in our marriage and that is why I suggested to my husband we talk honestly about what we need from each other and our marriage today, going forward. I’d want him to understand that I have changed and am done not saying anything, keeping peace, etc.
AireneOctober 3, 2018 at 6:42 am #228789
“maybe… Or maybe… Or maybe… and that is why I suggested to my husband we talk honestly about what we need from each other and our marriage today, going forward. I’d want him to understand I have changed and am done not saying anything, keeping the peace, etc.”
I don’t know the man you are married to and yet, is it possible that I know him better than you know him? That sounds arrogant of me, isn’t it? I mean you lived with him for thirty years and I never met him, never read from him, and yet… is it possible that I know something about him that you don’t know?
This is what I think I may know that you don’t: “we talk honestly” is not possible because he won’t. I think I know that “him to understand” is not possible or highly unlikely, because he didn’t care to empathetically understand you for thirty years.
If he wanted to understand you, he wouldn’t have made you keeping your mouth shut his requirement for that peace in the home that you were after. If he wanted to honestly talk with you, it would be those honest talks that would be his requirement for a peaceful home. He demanded his price for the peace you sought: keep your mouth shut.
(Whatever trying he did or may do, it will probably be of the “superficial stuff” you mentioned about him before).
- This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by anita.