I’ve been married for 14 years and I would say the happiest day was my wedding day. It’s been pretty bad since, from my perspective, in every way – we can’t communicate, there’s no intimacy or even friendship between us. You hear people say their partner has become like a flatmate and that pretty much describes us. We have two kids aged 11 and 9, who are awesome, but I live with this sort of low-level misery from day to day. My husband isn’t affectionate. He has never acknowledged our anniversaries or taken me out. He’s a good provider, but isn’t willing to change – even slightly – to improve our relationship. I was brought up with the idea that marriage is forever and you dig your heels in and make it work. But my marriage feels like a life sentence and at this point I can’t honestly say I love him or remember if ever have. I really need advice or suggestions. SadAndTrapped
Really, when it comes down to it, the only one trapping you in this ‘life sentence’ of a marriage is you. This is not what a healthy, happy relationship looks like, and it sounds like you’ve put in the hard yards to express your sadness and disappointment to your husband, to no avail. Clearly he’s happy with the status quo and is coasting along with the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality. But spending years with a man who you don’t love, who doesn’t meet any of your needs and who, frankly, you view more like a gaoler than a soul mate can be hugely damaging to your mental wellbeing and your health. Then there’s the issue of your kids, both old enough to sense, if not see, the disconnect and lack of love and affection between their parents. Although the debate still rages about whether kids are better off living with one parent rather than two unhappily married parents, you’ve got to wonder how watching you and your husband’s dysfunctional marriage will shape their own ideas about love, and affect their own intimate relationships in the future.
I don’t think there’s any shame in getting out of a relationship that’s not working and hasn’t worked for a long time – whether it’s a three-year dating scenario or a 30-year marriage. The question is, are you at the end of the road and ready to check out of the marriage, or would you be willing to give it one more try if your husband realised the gravity of your feelings and agreed to work on things? When we’re unhappy, we can say things, or threaten to leave and it’s like crying wolf – the partner on the receiving end thinks, “Oh, change the record, I know you’re not going to do it” and we reinforce that cycle by sweeping our feelings under the rug once more. But making it really clear you’re out the door if there’s not some agreement to work on the relationship together – whether you have to resort to even moving out temporarily – could well shock even the most hard-hearted, stubborn partner to decide to make some changes.
And, while I’m not a big believer in sticking around in a bad marriage for the kids’ sake, I do think when kids are involved you’ve got to try everything, and I mean everything, first. So, if you have it in you to make one last ditch attempt, tell him you’re seriously considering a separation, and see if he’s willing to try couples counselling. If he’s not, I would suggest going to counselling on your own, to work through your options for the future and to get some support and strategies. Making the decision to go may be hard, and the practicalities that follow, like finding a new place to live, working out custody or access arrangements and moving out, can feel overwhelming, but that’s just a temporary limbo. If you’ve really been this unhappy for this long, I’ve no doubt that making the break from this man will bring more relief and, in time, happiness, than you’ve felt in years.
Love, reality chick