My marriage feels like a life sentence instead of a love match

My marriage feels like a life sentence instead of a love match

lifesentencemarriageI’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

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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. VBM 5 months ago

    What if he is willing to change but you “lost that loving feeling”?
    18 years if marriage two children. Years of saying you are neglecting us. I told him I’m no longer in love with him. I no longer feel passionate towards him. I no longer want to be under the same roof.
    He wants to work it out. I want to be out.

  2. SP 7 years ago

    I agree with bron that you shouldn’t move out but I think a temporary break might be something to consider at this point. It sounds like you’ve tried everything over the years to get through to your husband, and telling him that you need time out to think about the marriage and where you want to go from here could actually jolt him out of his pigheaded indifference and provide that circuit breaker. You could go to a friend’s house, your parents place or a rented holiday house nearby (if you can afford it) and it may provide just the nudge your spouse needs to look at the situation. I mean, if he won’t acknowledge your misery or make changes in the relationship, and you have kids and you don’t want it to end but are at your wits end, why not show him what life is really like without you around?
    Just my two cents.

  3. Bron 7 years ago

    This is a difficult one. There are a lot of worse marriages out there, and yours isn’t a violent one, just neglected. You really need to reevaluate the situation, try to talk to your husband and see if he will listen.
    The one thing i absolutely don’t advise is that you move out. You are presumably going to continue to be the primary carer of the kids, so you should stay in that house, unless there is a good, solid, reason for not staying (ie close to his parents who may give you a hard time etc). The last thing the kids will need is the struggle to find a new home, make new friends and possibly a change of school.
    When, and if, you decide you’ve had enough, pack his bags, change the locks (this is essential for your own peace of mind) and, quite literally, send him packing. It is a great deal easier for a single person to find a new place to live than a single mum, particularly if you are not working.
    I would also advise planning this, put money aside each week so you have something to fall back on if you need to, check with centrelink whether you would be eligible for any payments, and you should also be prepared to have to fight for maintenance for yourself and your kids.
    Most importantly, be strong, and do what is best both for yourself and your kids.

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