My husband is set in his ways and I’m planning to leave him. Your thoughts?

My husband is set in his ways and I’m planning to leave him. Your thoughts?

My husband is set in his ways and Im planning to leave him. Your advice?

I’m 51 and have been married 17 years. We have great 13 year old twins. I’ve been a housewife/mother/community volunteer/musician for 13 of those years. Our marriage was terrible at the beginning. We struggled over agreeing on the littlest things… like where to hang a picture! But I made a commitment and tried being patient and understanding and to work through every little issue one by one. I knew I had married someone super-controlling, micromanaging, stubborn, but hard-working, complaining, stable, and he loved me.

I’m easy-going, upbeat, earnest and loyal. We’ve made a lot of progress over the years in counselling, marriage workshops, etc. but most good communication habits don’t stick to him for long. He’d rather not talk about anything difficult. We have nice conversations so long as they don’t involve feelings. He has no clue how to support me when I’m depressed or going through anything tough so I get that support elsewhere. I can live with no sex (that’s always been a power struggle because he thinks I’m telling him what to do). We don’t fight much, and we hug and hold hands occasionally, but there is no spark and there never was.

Over time he has mellowed and has become easier to get along with. But it’s clear that his first love is his high profile intense career in science and me and the kids are second fiddle and always will be. He doesn’t plan on retiring. His aversion to change makes life (like, if I want to redecorate) a constant challenge. He doesn’t have any ‘real’ friends. I’m it. He just wants me as his companion, to talk to and have a glass of wine with after work. He wants me to continue to be a great mom and to be a decent co-parent while he pours 98 percent of his energy into his work.

Me? I want an exceptional life. I love to do so many things (kayaking, camping, river rafting, playing music, working out, singing, dancing). I know there is more to life than chatting about the day and watching an overworked man have a glass of wine then fall asleep on the sofa. A divorce lawyer told me I’d get half of everything, but I don’t want to do anything I regret. I’m trying to figure out if my life would be better with or without him.

Breaking up a family and all that is not something I take lightly. But waiting 4.5 years until the kids graduate is a long time to start living MY LIFE to the fullest. If I do that IN the marriage, I will feel guilty for leaving him behind (even though he doesn’t want to participate in these activities), and he will surely complain about how I’m spending ‘our’ money. He is very tight and financially conservative. I appreciate that he has saved for our retirement because clearly I will benefit, but I don’t appreciate his reluctance to go out and have a good time every once in a while. I manage the medical and financial affairs of my elderly mom with dementia and a disabled brother so I don’t have time to work full time, but I am going to get a part-time job so I can have more of my own money. I’m also going to initiate a birds nest ‘trial separation’ just to see how it feels to live life without him. Your thoughts? HotSinginMamma

If I can play devil’s advocate for a moment, I’m not so sure a trial separation is the answer. I understand and sympathize with what’s brought you to this point – a controlling partner, a sexless marriage, a somewhat shallow connection while you crave more would rightly drive many people bonkers. And, after years raising your kids, you’re finally getting a glimmer of a future with more freedom in it. It’s natural to re-define who you are and what you want, but unless every fibre of your being is telling you that you can’t stand it a minute longer, dismantling your marriage may be a drastic move. For one thing, you’re clearly the pivot around which the entire family and extended family revolves. I know some studies say kids are better off not living in a volatile home but it sounds like you guys are fairly harmonious despite your discontent. So maybe a split would impact your teenagers more than you think.

A part-time job is a great idea though. Making your own money will give you more personal power, and the chance to do things that feed your soul. I’d definitely make time for all those things you love. Seek out friends and activities which make you feel alive and happy. Make it clear to your husband that you’re doing these things on your own dime, and he’s welcome to join in. If he’d rather sit around reading scientific manuals, his loss! Go do your thing and create the life you crave. Maybe it’ll coexist alongside your marriage – or become a life raft you launch once the kids have left home. But make building it a priority.

Now to your husband. Whether he works until he drops dead or realizes that’s no way to live is not your issue. You’ve got bigger fish to fry, like taking steps to change the controlling dynamic that exists in your marriage. I’d try and establish a more non-negotiable style, especially over things like decorating, moving furniture, putting a picture up. Say firmly, ‘Just as there are certain things I don’t tell you to do, so are there things you can’t tell me to do.’ If you put up a picture and he doesn’t like it, well – that’s tough. It can’t all be his way. It’s your house and your living space too.

I hope my perspective helps, although I recognise it’s probably far from what you were expecting (reading your letter, it sounds to me like you’ve already got one foot out the door). No matter what you decide, I’d love to hear how things pan out for you in the future, so please do pop back in with an update. I’ve asked RC readers to weigh in below too, so hopefully they’ll also have advice for you, especially those who may be or have been in your shoes.

Love, reality chick

RC readers – what do you think? Should the letter-writer stay with her husband or go? Have you been in a similar situation and if so, what did you decide to do? I’m sure she’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).


  1. Lynne 8 years ago

    I live with someone diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism) and those behaviours sound awfully familiar. I love my partner, and it honestly works for us, but there are some things about him you may have to accept. He won’t change.

    In our relationship, I have made some compromises, but so has he. I love socialising and I do a reasonable amount by myself, but when it’s important to me, my partner comes along. He shares his work with me and I encourage him in his obsessions (currently fishing). He also listens to me and takes my feelings into consideration. He is very aware of his condition though – and it sounds as though your husband is totally oblivious to your feelings and his own shortcomings. My advice? Aspies don’t get subtlety and you will need to be very clear about what you need. If he doesn’t come to realise what you need and why, then you have some tough decisions to make.

    • Wendy 8 years ago

      I was about to say the same thing, sounds like your husband has Asperger!
      Mine has all the symptoms but hasn’t been diagnosed properly, I’m waiting for ways to ask him to be tested.

  2. Karen 8 years ago

    I really disagree with the advice given. This marriage is a one-way street, and whether this man is autistic or not, this poor lady has been driving down it way too long. Also, if this lady stays and starts NOT giving in to this man all the time, hanging pictures wherever she likes as RC suggests, the ‘conflict-free’ marriage is going to change into one of constant bickering – still good for the children? This marriage only exists because of this lady’s efforts. So here we have a woman who is crying out for affection and consideration. RC advises her to pursue her interests – what’s the chances that whilst pursuing these interests, she’ll meet a man who shares them, who wants to have sex with her and who she can make a real relationship with? Welcome to an affair, and an eventual divorce where the blame will be heaped on her.

    It’s not like she hasn’t worked at her marriage – she’s been working at it since the start, and 17 years later it still is a nothing relationship. I don’t think the trial separation is a goer either. My advice would be to split now – she’s waited long enough.

  3. bron 8 years ago

    I”m not going to give you advice about your marriage – but a little idea to consider…

    Your description of your husband.

    Doesn’t like change – resists redecorating,
    Micromanaging, stubborn
    No real friends
    No conversations regarding feelings
    No idea of how to deal with your emotions
    Obsessive about his work
    Doesn’t like going out and mixing with other people or doing new things

    If that was a child – i’d be thinking autism. There are a lot of adults out there who are diagnosed late in life, now that it is known what to look for.

    Now go get some advice around this idea, and look at your husband again.

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