Trouble in Paradise
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Over a decade of ambivalence- just need to let this out. Maybe someone else has felt this way?

This is going to be long. I just need to let it out.

DH and I have been together 18 years, nearly 12 of them married. We started dating in high school. DH (then my boyfriend) was the first to say 'I love you'. I remember when I said it back, it was more out of teenaged obligation. By my junior year he told me he wanted to marry me, which sounded romantic and beautiful.  We continued the relationship as we both went off to different colleges, maintaining a long distance relationship for 5 years. We were married shortly after I finished school. We never lived together prior to marriage.

I had hesitations going into the marriage. Most people I talked to told us we were too young and that we should take some time first to learn about each other as adults and to get our feet under ourselves, so to speak. But we insisted we knew what we were doing. The first years were hard- I had a hard time finding work, and he had severe anger issues (it's better now, but still not great. He used to punch holes in walls, tear at his hair, scream etc. But he never hit me. This happens far less frequently now than it did when we were younger). I attributed our stress to money and work and figuring things out. But I never really felt happy. By the third year I was wondering if we should even be married. I voiced concerns, he shut down. I went to therapy but didn't stick with it.

about five years ago I convinced him to go to couples counseling with me, though he was angry about it and often arrived in a huff and spent most of his time complaining about how it would make him late for work. The counselor was terrible, truly. We stopped going after about 9 months. We seemed a little better- united in our terrible therapy experience. I told myself that my expectations were just too high- that what I wanted was too much and that most women would be happy in my shoes. He doesn't drink or smoke or gamble or spend too much money. He works hard and does not hit me or verbally abuse me. But we're not emotional close. We don't talk really, don't have shared hobbies or interests, and don't often go out and do things together just for fun. When we do, it ends up being stressful. I told myself it's not his job to make me happy, and decided to do the things I wanted to do without him (I always invited him to come along, he always chose to stay home. He rarely if ever asks me to go anywhere/do anything with him). But I know he loves me. I know, it sounds to say that after the preceding paragraph, but he does.


Two years ago we had our daughter. I struggled horribly with post partum depression, and went back for individual counseling. Through that counseling I learned a lot about myself, and started to realize that I never really thought about those early decisions to get married. I just wanted to be loved (my childhood was emotionally sort of... vacant.) I've worked on myself and my self esteem issues. I'm doing better than ever in that regard. But still, I've got this nagging thought in the back of my mind that DH and I are just not right for each other. We have drastically different orientations towards life. I've told him this, tried to explain it, but he can't see it. He doesn't see what I see. He's happy. I'm not.

I've suggested counseling, but given our last experience told him that he needs to be the one to make the call. I found a place and gave him the number, and gave him access to my calendar so he can schedule for whenever works for him. The intake appt will be 2 hours long, which will be "difficult to make time for" according to him.

 I've checked out. I stopped being physically affectionate, and he's starting to respond to that (asking if I want to go do family activities like go to the park or even run errands together, etc) but I don't think he'd be doing this if I hadn't pulled back so obviously (and physically). On the one hand, I feel like I haven't tried hard enough. We communicate
terribly. We know that. We never ever fight (which is NOT healthy, really) I've never told him that I've considered
divorce; doing so would destroy him, and I'm honestly afraid it might
trigger some rage or that he might hurthimself- maybe not intentionally
but if he were to drive wile angry and get into an accident. On the other, I don't know how much more energy I have left to invest in a relationship that he doesn't see as problematic or unsatisfying in any way, but makes me so unhappy. It isn't his job to make me happy, it's mine. And maybe I should do that by leaving...?

And then, of course, I think about what it would mean for our daughter. He is a very loving father to her. It would break him to not see her everyday, as it would me. But do I want her to grow up seeing her mother unhappy (my mother was, and still is)? Do I want her to worry that she's the reason I stayed in a relationship that I didn't find satisfying? What does that teach her about relationships? How would we manage financially when we have to pay for rent in two places rather than one, etc.

I'm honestly at a loss of what to do, and have been for years. And it makes me feel like a horrible person because he deserves to be loved fully, and I feel like I'm not giving him the level of love that he has for me.

I don't know if I'm looking for advice, or comfort, or what. I just needed to write it out, I think, because it's been making it hard to think straight these days and I need to clear my head so I can work before I miss deadlines or something due to distraction.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. You're a saint.




Re: Over a decade of ambivalence- just need to let this out. Maybe someone else has felt this way?

  • I was in a similar situation. I finally left and it was the best thing i ever  did. My kids are fine, my x is fine  and i am happily remaried for almost 10 years!
    Honestly you arent in love with him and you cant live your life like that. If that is the choice you make you will all be unhappy!


  • Most women would not be happy in your shoes.  You need to have higher standards for yourself.
  • I haven't been in your situation, so take my advice with a grain of salt.  I think the most important question you need to ask yourself is do you think couples counseling would potentially help the situation?  Allow the two of you to start growing back together instead of the years of growing apart?  And try to think about it really logically...not just the place of apathy and despair that you seem to be in now.

    If you think there is a chance things can still be worked out, let him know how serious the situation is and that your marriage depends on him finding time for the counseling.

    However, if in your heart of hearts, you know you don't love him anymore and never will...then you need to move on.  I know it will be tough for your family and tough on the finances, but look at what a loveless marriage is costing you emotionally?  And you seem to recognize this is a pattern from your own parent's marriage.  I know you don't want your daughter to continue to repeat this pattern.

    It was interesting to read your story because, for what its worth, I chose the opposite path from you.  I had a b/f I met the summer after I graduated from HS.  We were SO young, but SO in love.  We talked about marriage and children in our future.  But I always knew I would be going away to a different college 2-3 years from when we met and I always told him that, when I went away to school, I wanted us to date other people.  Because, I knew myself, and I knew that if I stayed with him all the way through college and then we got married, I would feel like I "missed out" on things and felt it would be a shadow in our marriage.

    Needless to say, as the time was starting to come up when I'd be going away to school, our relationship started to fall apart because he wanted to get engaged and I was still steadfast on my plan for us to sow our wild oats.  In my perfect picture, we would grow up, experience the world and stretch our legs, and then come back together as we were graduating and ride off into the sunset of a happy forever.  I knew the reality was I was probably going to lose him for good if I insisted on my plan, but I knew any other path would be a mistake for me.

    At the time, I lamented and was sad that we couldn't have met four years later than we did.  I worried I was making a mistake.  And perhaps I did, I can't see what never happened.  But I doubt it.  I can picture a basic outline of what our lives would have been like and its a FAR cry from where I am today.  Not a bad life from most people's definition, but it would be abhorrent to the current me.  I love the life I chose, but I sometimes can't help but wonder about the "path not taken".  That one decision, albeit a big one, skewed my life into a completely different direction.  I graduated.  I (so far) permanently moved halfway across the country.  I never had children (by choice).  Anyway, sorry to ramble off, but it fascinates me to know I would have had a life my present self would never have even recognized.   

  •   I can picture a basic outline of what our lives would have been like and its a FAR cry from where I am today.  Not a bad life from most people's definition, but it would be abhorrent to the current me.  I love the life I chose, but I sometimes can't help but wonder about the "path not taken".  That one decision, albeit a big one, skewed my life into a completely different direction.  I graduated.  I (so far) permanently moved halfway across the country.  I never had children (by choice).  Anyway, sorry to ramble off, but it fascinates me to know I would have had a life my present self would never have even recognized.   

    So this strikes a chord with me. I sometimes feel like I have come to be living someone else's life. 16 year old me would probably think it's great, but mid-30s me is not 16 year old me. I'm healthier, older, wiser... and very different from who I was.
  • short+sassyshort+sassy member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited May 2015


      I can picture a basic outline of what our lives would have been like and its a FAR cry from where I am today.  Not a bad life from most people's definition, but it would be abhorrent to the current me.  I love the life I chose, but I sometimes can't help but wonder about the "path not taken".  That one decision, albeit a big one, skewed my life into a completely different direction.  I graduated.  I (so far) permanently moved halfway across the country.  I never had children (by choice).  Anyway, sorry to ramble off, but it fascinates me to know I would have had a life my present self would never have even recognized.   

    So this strikes a chord with me. I sometimes feel like I have come to be living someone else's life. 16 year old me would probably think it's great, but mid-30s me is not 16 year old me. I'm healthier, older, wiser... and very different from who I was.



    I would certainly never say that its a bad idea to get married young, but our 20s...especially our early 20s...are usually a time when we really transition from young adulthood to real adulthood (for lack of a better phrase).  At least that is how it was for me.  And I think there can be a danger that if young couples don't navigate those changes together, they come out of it no longer recognizing each other.  I realize that isn't quite what you are saying, but goes along those same lines.

    And I really understand what you mean.  I graduated from college and moved to another part of the country within the same year.  And that was over 15 years ago.  It is a huge dividing line in my life.  Now, when I think about myself as a child or even in college, I don't feel "connected" to it.  It's like I'm looking at somebody else's past.  And, quite frankly, there have been some unintended negative consequences of that.  For example, I love my mom and my sister, but I've also lost some of the emotional connection I have to them because they are primarily part of that "other life".

    In a way, life seems very simple at 16.  Not so much in your mid-30s!  You mentioned you feel like you are living someone else's life.  If you haven't already, that seems like something you should explore in counseling.  For example, are there exercises or steps you can take to "reclaim" your life and have it feel like yours.  If you think there might still be hope for your marriage, you and your husband should set up a date night once a week  or twice/month.  Get out of the house, just the two of you.  Connect with each other as the adults you have both become.  Prepare for the date with current topics to ask his opinion about or "off the wall" questions to ask each other and get to know each other again.  Like, "Who would you most want to have dinner with, living or dead, and why?"  That kind of thing.

  • I've been meaning to come back and thank everyone for their understanding and thoughtfulness. It's a terrible place to be, emotionally and mentally, and it's a small comfort to know I'm not the only one who has ever struggled with this.

    @magsugar13 - if you don't mind, I'm interested in knowing how you went about leaving. I mean, did you go through counseling or something with your ex to transition out, or did you just sit him down one day for 'the talk'?
  • I've been meaning to come back and thank everyone for their understanding and thoughtfulness. It's a terrible place to be, emotionally and mentally, and it's a small comfort to know I'm not the only one who has ever struggled with this.

    @magsugar13 - if you don't mind, I'm interested in knowing how you went about leaving. I mean, did you go through counseling or something with your ex to transition out, or did you just sit him down one day for 'the talk'?
    After me finally saying I was done and leaving(after a year of trying) he decided we should go to counseling. He had fought it for a year. I knew in my heart I was done, but went to counseling hoping maybe there was still hope. When the counselor didnt show much hope and  a few months had past,  i was done.
    I sat down and talked to him, we cried A LOT, and said i wanted to stay in the house and he refused. So, I looked for a job closer to my mom and dad, found one , and left. Of course i moved almost 2 hours from him, but that was his fault, I wanted to stay there.
    Telling the kids was the hardest thing i ever had to do,.  They were 7,7,10 and it ripped my heart out. (Still does when i think about it.)
    That was 13 years ago ...i am remariied to a great guy for 9 years, and the kids did ok, my X did ok (we are still friendly)
    If i had stayed i dont know how we all would have turned out.


  • Thanks for sharing. I have started reading a book by Kirshenbaum called 'Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay' and there is so much in there that sounds just like me, which again is comforting to know I'm not the only person who has had this struggle.

    I have a hard time imagining the act of leaving. But I also have a hard time imagining getting our relationship to point of satisfaction where I'll never (or very very rarely) wonder 'what if I had left...' I am hoping that he'll agree to counseling more so that we have a safe space to talk things out.

    I just know I have to do something soon. My daughter is still so small that she won't remember, and that will make it a little easier in some ways (and of course, harder in others). And this ambivalence is eating away at me.

    I wonder how light I'll feel once that ambivalence is gone...
    short+sassy
  • I've been meaning to come back and thank everyone for their understanding and thoughtfulness. It's a terrible place to be, emotionally and mentally, and it's a small comfort to know I'm not the only one who has ever struggled with this.

    @magsugar13 - if you don't mind, I'm interested in knowing how you went about leaving. I mean, did you go through counseling or something with your ex to transition out, or did you just sit him down one day for 'the talk'?
    After me finally saying I was done and leaving(after a year of trying) he decided we should go to counseling. He had fought it for a year. I knew in my heart I was done, but went to counseling hoping maybe there was still hope. When the counselor didnt show much hope and  a few months had past,  i was done.
    I sat down and talked to him, we cried A LOT, and said i wanted to stay in the house and he refused. So, I looked for a job closer to my mom and dad, found one , and left. Of course i moved almost 2 hours from him, but that was his fault, I wanted to stay there.
    Telling the kids was the hardest thing i ever had to do,.  They were 7,7,10 and it ripped my heart out. (Still does when i think about it.)
    That was 13 years ago ...i am remariied to a great guy for 9 years, and the kids did ok, my X did ok (we are still friendly)
    If i had stayed i dont know how we all would have turned out.

    I have a friend who had two boys with her ex-H and has two girls with her current H.  Both her and her H speak so glowingly about the ex that I had to ask her one day why they divorced, since they seem like such good friends.  She laughed and said they are WAY better friends than they ever were spouses.  She didn't go into details, but said their marriage was actually pretty terrible and they fought all the time.  But, once they divorced and were no longer living together, it was like they re-found what they had liked so much about each other to begin with...except this time as friends instead of lovers.

    Of course, that didn't happen right away.  She said the first year or two after the divorce was still awkward, but their friendship really grew after that.  And what is just bonus great about it is my friend's DH has no jealousy issues at all about it and considers the ex one of his friends also.

    @InTheWeeds, I'm glad you found a book that is helping you.  Although I'm not familiar with it, even just the title is compelling.

  • reading your story was like reading my own.  I have been with my H for 15 years, married for 13.  I am about to file for divorce as I have checked out too.  I have pulled away from him in everyway.  I have finally got my voice and realized that I need to put my happiness first.  I am so anxious for my new life to start, free from egg shells and emotional trauma.  I know it is really hard being in the unknown zone, all I can say is that, keep digging and working through what YOU want.  It is hard to not put others first...we are moms...that is what we do.  But, you can't make others happy if you aren't happy.  I know what it like to fear telling your H that you want out...especially when they want to stay married, but one day, you will get the courage to say what needs to be said.  Good luck!!!
  • This is going to be long. I just need to let it out.

    DH and I have been together 18 years, nearly 12 of them married. We started dating in high school. DH (then my boyfriend) was the first to say 'I love you'. I remember when I said it back, it was more out of teenaged obligation. By my junior year he told me he wanted to marry me, which sounded romantic and beautiful.  We continued the relationship as we both went off to different colleges, maintaining a long distance relationship for 5 years. We were married shortly after I finished school. We never lived together prior to marriage.

    I had hesitations going into the marriage. Most people I talked to told us we were too young and that we should take some time first to learn about each other as adults and to get our feet under ourselves, so to speak. But we insisted we knew what we were doing. The first years were hard- I had a hard time finding work, and he had severe anger issues (it's better now, but still not great. He used to punch holes in walls, tear at his hair, scream etc. But he never hit me. This happens far less frequently now than it did when we were younger). I attributed our stress to money and work and figuring things out. But I never really felt happy. By the third year I was wondering if we should even be married. I voiced concerns, he shut down. I went to therapy but didn't stick with it.

    about five years ago I convinced him to go to couples counseling with me, though he was angry about it and often arrived in a huff and spent most of his time complaining about how it would make him late for work. The counselor was terrible, truly. We stopped going after about 9 months. We seemed a little better- united in our terrible therapy experience. I told myself that my expectations were just too high- that what I wanted was too much and that most women would be happy in my shoes. He doesn't drink or smoke or gamble or spend too much money. He works hard and does not hit me or verbally abuse me. But we're not emotional close. We don't talk really, don't have shared hobbies or interests, and don't often go out and do things together just for fun. When we do, it ends up being stressful. I told myself it's not his job to make me happy, and decided to do the things I wanted to do without him (I always invited him to come along, he always chose to stay home. He rarely if ever asks me to go anywhere/do anything with him). But I know he loves me. I know, it sounds to say that after the preceding paragraph, but he does.


    Two years ago we had our daughter. I struggled horribly with post partum depression, and went back for individual counseling. Through that counseling I learned a lot about myself, and started to realize that I never really thought about those early decisions to get married. I just wanted to be loved (my childhood was emotionally sort of... vacant.) I've worked on myself and my self esteem issues. I'm doing better than ever in that regard. But still, I've got this nagging thought in the back of my mind that DH and I are just not right for each other. We have drastically different orientations towards life. I've told him this, tried to explain it, but he can't see it. He doesn't see what I see. He's happy. I'm not.

    I've suggested counseling, but given our last experience told him that he needs to be the one to make the call. I found a place and gave him the number, and gave him access to my calendar so he can schedule for whenever works for him. The intake appt will be 2 hours long, which will be "difficult to make time for" according to him.

     I've checked out. I stopped being physically affectionate, and he's starting to respond to that (asking if I want to go do family activities like go to the park or even run errands together, etc) but I don't think he'd be doing this if I hadn't pulled back so obviously (and physically). On the one hand, I feel like I haven't tried hard enough. We communicate terribly. We know that. We never ever fight (which is NOT healthy, really) I've never told him that I've considered divorce; doing so would destroy him, and I'm honestly afraid it might trigger some rage or that he might hurthimself- maybe not intentionally but if he were to drive wile angry and get into an accident. On the other, I don't know how much more energy I have left to invest in a relationship that he doesn't see as problematic or unsatisfying in any way, but makes me so unhappy. It isn't his job to make me happy, it's mine. And maybe I should do that by leaving...?

    And then, of course, I think about what it would mean for our daughter. He is a very loving father to her. It would break him to not see her everyday, as it would me. But do I want her to grow up seeing her mother unhappy (my mother was, and still is)? Do I want her to worry that she's the reason I stayed in a relationship that I didn't find satisfying? What does that teach her about relationships? How would we manage financially when we have to pay for rent in two places rather than one, etc.

    I'm honestly at a loss of what to do, and have been for years. And it makes me feel like a horrible person because he deserves to be loved fully, and I feel like I'm not giving him the level of love that he has for me.

    I don't know if I'm looking for advice, or comfort, or what. I just needed to write it out, I think, because it's been making it hard to think straight these days and I need to clear my head so I can work before I miss deadlines or something due to distraction.

    If you made it this far, thanks for reading. You're a saint.


    Stress??? Really???

    The first years were hard- I had a hard time finding work, and he had severe anger issues (it's better now, but still not great. He used to punch holes in walls, tear at his hair, scream etc. But he never hit me. This happens far less frequently now than it did when we were younger).

    The second he did this the first time ---- you needed to lay flaming skid marks.

    NOT acceptable and not normal.

    But it happens faaaaaar less frequently now?? Gee, what a great guy he is. He cut back on his abuse!

    This was your first boyfriend.  And it sounds to me like you and he were never ever a match. Anger bursts?? Forget it; you needed to run like hell when it happened the first time.

    You will have to figure out where to go from here. He already is resistant to counseling -- that won't bode well for your relationship.

    I would not permit him access to my daughter unless he got anger management counseling. She will pick up on it that Daddy is very angry and it's not a good thing for a kid to "see." GL.



  • edited October 2015
    Needless to say, as the time was starting to come up when I'd be going away to school, our relationship started to fall apart because he wanted to get engaged and I was still steadfast on my plan for us to sow our wild oats.  In my perfect picture, we would grow up, experience the world and stretch our legs, and then come back together as we were graduating and ride off into the sunset of a happy forever.  I knew the reality was I was probably going to lose him for good if I insisted on my plan, but I knew any other path would be a mistake for me.

    And if you "lost" him???

    Whaa??? Nothing lost....there are other guys out there!!!
    You 2 were already agreeing to disagree about your future!

    What you optimally should have done -- and that is if he was true marriage material:

    "Sowed your wild oats" indeed --- pursue your education and then maybe a masters degree, you travel, you get a cool "single girls apartment" for a couple of years -- whatever you wanted to do --- and he should have backed you up 100% in your endeavor!

    The same goes for him: he could have pursued his "own" interests for a few years minimum and if marriage was still on the table, see what the both of you wanted to do.

    Get engaged when??? Nope.  I will bet you lots of times this is based on horniness and hormones out of control, if some 18 year old guy wants to get married so soon in his life.  Not a good idea to get married, based on that criteria.

    A few years post college is also a great time for the 2 of you to start saving money in anticipation of marriage, buying a home, etc., even if you are free and unemcumbered and not dating anyone.


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