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I started dating my wife 6 years ago, married almost 2 years, have kids aged 4 and 2.5 years old.

I'm a 36 year old man. Since I was 13, I've had a pattern of not wanting to be single for even a month, and have tended to choose a partner based upon them showing extreme interest. Perhaps for this reason, I don't think I've ever been in love and my wife is no exception. In addition to being completely intolerant of being single, I also feel this extreme need to find somebody to be in love with, like way more important than anything else except my kids, but know that I would need to tolerate being single for possibly years to find somebody that compatible. I feel ready for that now.

The early days of dating my wife were somewhat happy. I found her attractive, but not my dream girl. Never really liked talking to her (unlike a rare few I have dated) but our views on things are similar. Our 4 year old was difficult since birth, and things were definitely not happy until our other child was born because she became obsessed with his (perceived) needs and completely cold towards me, and irrationally anxious in general to the point where I would wonder if it'll cause me to die of stress. Our 2.5 year old daughter is a complete joy and the best thing in my life, almost to the extent that I considered giving up on love to not be separated from her. I've concluded staying together for the kids is not the best thing, and I would still see my daughter just not daily.

During a rare argument a few months ago I threatened to leave her, after years of gentle complaining that never hit home. Since then, she stopped being obsessive towards our son (like a normal mom now) but has been obsessive with trying to keep me. All the things I could list that I didn't like, she has changed... And while I don't trust that these changes are permanent, they also don't make me feel any differently. And I think about it during most of my free moments - of leaving, fear of leaving, yearning to leave, etc.

I have absolutely no enthusiasm for being around her or a future with her. She's attractive, the sex is good and unlike before is frequent enough now - she seems to be madly in love with me and says I was her dream from day 1, and I have kids with her. My mind really wants me to stay, but my heart just isn't in it. Some people say you can learn to love anybody. I can't imagine my feelings changing, though. We have two separate marriage counselors that we've seen for about 4 sessions each and their suggestions just don't change how I feel so far. I mean, I care about her, but I want to find somebody I actually want to spend time with and get joy from making them happy.

That may sound like a conclusion, it's just the stakes are pretty high and given the fact that I married her and had kids with her, and feel this way now, I just don't trust myself in making big decisions. Thoughts?
 

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given the fact that I married her and had kids with her, and feel this way now, I just don't trust myself in making big decisions.
Good. You need to think again.

I've concluded staying together for the kids is not the best thing
How did you conclude that?

Basically, marriage counseling is completely the wrong solution. (And I rarely say that, being a professional MC).

You need individual counseling. You need to find out what the following is about:

Since I was 13, I've had a pattern of not wanting to be single for even a month, and have tended to choose a partner based upon them showing extreme interest.
You need to find out why that is, with a therapist.

You need to find out why you would consider abandoning your children, based on a slim chance of finding somebody "compatible enough" that you will love them, which you say you have never really experienced ("I don't think I've ever been in love"). You need to find a way to love your wife, but first you need to figure out why you have this urge to escape at this time.
 

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She's attractive, the sex is good and unlike before is frequent enough now - she seems to be madly in love with me and says I was her dream from day 1, and I have kids with her.
Our 2.5 year old daughter is a complete joy and the best thing in my life
If you leave, you're being foolish. You will never find anyone better than her. Most of us would do anything to have a wife like you have. You are absolutely right to distrust yourself to make this decision. Your head is right, your heart is wrong.

@Laurentium knocked this one out of the park. Take his advice. Get a good IC and figure out why your emotions don't react.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Good. You need to think again.



How did you conclude that?
Because they will be okay. Both their mother and I have a decent income, and emotionally it's debateable whether they would benefit more from parents who are unhappy together versus parents who are happier apart.

Basically, marriage counseling is completely the wrong solution. (And I rarely say that, being a professional MC).

You need individual counseling. You need to find out what the following is about:


You need to find out why that is, with a therapist.
I am in individual counseling, though only a few sessions. The focus so far has really been on being aware of my emotions. I feel like the issue is in the past, really, since I do feel ready to be single now. The purpose was to explain how I got into this situation.

You need to find out why you would consider abandoning your children,
Divorcing an unhappy marriage is not equivalent to abandoning children. I would still see them at least on weekends and support them financially.

based on a slim chance of finding somebody "compatible enough" that you will love them, which you say you have never really experienced ("I don't think I've ever been in love"). You need to find a way to love your wife, but first you need to figure out why you have this urge to escape at this time.
The chances aren't slim. And that's nice you think I need to find a way to love my wife, but it feels impossible. I've had an urge to escape for most of the relationship. The trigger was really my work getting busier in January, which caused me to lose touch with some hobbies that helped me escape my discontent, and then these long-standing issues were brought to the surface.
 

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If you leave, you're being foolish. You will never find anyone better than her. Most of us would do anything to have a wife like you have. You are absolutely right to distrust yourself to make this decision. Your head is right, your heart is wrong.

@Laurentium knocked this one out of the park. Take his advice. Get a good IC and figure out why your emotions don't react.
Apparently it sounds ideal to you, what little I told you, but sex and attraction is a need easier to meet than somebody you want to talk to, at least for me.
 

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I am in individual counseling, though only a few sessions. The focus so far has really been on being aware of my emotions.
I am glad to hear that. If the therapist is any good, then give it a few more sessions. The clinical evidence suggests that six months work is about the minimum for real change.

I feel like the issue is in the past, really, since I do feel ready to be single now.
Well look, there is no point in me debating with you. In the end you will make your own decision. But you did write, in the present tense:
I also feel this extreme need to find somebody to be in love with
But I will say that if you now, compared to the past, feel more able to tolerate singleness, and less dependent on a relationship, then that is exactly where you need to be to fix your marriage. You have an opportunity here.
 

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What makes you think that if you leave her you are not going to rush into another relationship just not to be alone?
You have a good wife who worries about you and kids. Who is willing to change to make you happy. I feel like you don’t know what you want. You complained when dhe wasn’t giving you enough attention because of your son, now that she changed you still not satisfied. The problem is not her, but you. I feel bad for her because you will never love her even if you never divorce her. I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t love me. I am ready to leave my husbsnd because of his abusive behavior, but I can tell you, he loves me in his own way. Maybe that’s why I stayed married to him this long even though has been not easy.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
What makes you think that if you leave her you are not going to rush into another relationship just not to be alone?
You have a good wife who worries about you and kids. Who is willing to change to make you happy. I feel like you don’t know what you want. You complained whrn dhe wasn’t giving you enough attention because if your son, now that dhe changed you still not satisfied. The problem is not her, but you. I feel bad for her because you will never love her even if you never divorce her. I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t love me. I am ready to leave my husbsnd because of his abusive behavior, but I can tell you, he loves me in his own way. Maybe that’s why I stayed married to him this long even though has been not easy.
Sorry abuse is an issue for you, and you raise an important point about how this isn't fair to her in terms of being loved.

Your first sentence is exactly what I know I need to avoid in order to break this cycle. I never felt able before recently.

It's not really confusion about what I want so much as wishing I felt differently.
It's not that I am not glad for the changes, it's just that I feel like something very important is still missing. If she was not being so great about everything, the decision would be far easier. Some days I feel like I have made my mind up to leave, but on the days I don't feel that way it's never about wanting to be with her but rather my kids, or not hurting her.
 

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Way too often we train our mind for the unmindful convinced we are unhappy mostly because we have advocated for a place that believes we are owed a level of happiness we perceive we are not currently living.

Never in love yet intolerant of being single... sounds like a personal purgatory to me. In this place though you have chosen to include others in your suffering.

It sounds like there are times when love is being used selectively... you are not sharing the same love you have for your children with your wife and I am not sure why you are compartmentalizing something that was never meant to be treated this way in a family? Different love, yes... but not withholding love.

You mentioned a list of things she needed to change... do you have a list for yourself?

We cannot be kind only on our terms... yet it sounds like you are doing just that and I am not sure why you would limit these things to someone you made promises to.
 

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Because they will be okay. Both their mother and I have a decent income, and emotionally it's debateable whether they would benefit more from parents who are unhappy together versus parents who are happier apart.



I am in individual counseling, though only a few sessions. The focus so far has really been on being aware of my emotions. I feel like the issue is in the past, really, since I do feel ready to be single now. The purpose was to explain how I got into this situation.



Divorcing an unhappy marriage is not equivalent to abandoning children. I would still see them at least on weekends and support them financially.



The chances aren't slim. And that's nice you think I need to find a way to love my wife, but it feels impossible. I've had an urge to escape for most of the relationship. The trigger was really my work getting busier in January, which caused me to lose touch with some hobbies that helped me escape my discontent, and then these long-standing issues were brought to the surface.
”I’d at least see them on the weekend” how selfish is that?
 

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”I’d at least see them on the weekend” how selfish is that?
That's how it would work out logistically. It's not ideal, but it's also not healthy to stay together just for the kids. It's not about being selfish, it's about being honest.
 

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Way too often we train our mind for the unmindful convinced we are unhappy mostly because we have advocated for a place that believes we are owed a level of happiness we perceive we are not currently living.

Never in love yet intolerant of being single... sounds like a personal purgatory to me. In this place though you have chosen to include others in your suffering.

It sounds like there are times when love is being used selectively... you are not sharing the same love you have for your children with your wife and I am not sure why you are compartmentalizing something that was never meant to be treated this way in a family? Different love, yes... but not withholding love.

You mentioned a list of things she needed to change... do you have a list for yourself?

We cannot be kind only on our terms... yet it sounds like you are doing just that and I am not sure why you would limit these things to someone you made promises to.
Well for starters I would need to find a way to want to be with her. I just have doubts about that because I know it was a mistake to get with her in the first place. Love as an action that gives rise to feelings is foreign to me. I do things for my kids because I want to. I love them automatically. Relationships requires work, sure, but even when difficult the desire to be in it needs to come from somewhere and it's not there. It would be far easier to stay. I'd prefer to want to stay. But I can't feel or believe something just because I want to.
 

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This is one if the more narcissistic posts I’ve read. OP, you seem to totally lack empathy for your wife and kids. I do think it’s only fair to show this thread to your wife so she can see your actual thoughts about her and divorce you. Since you admittedly need a constant source of supply, you will undoubtedly try to go back to your wife. So you might consider going to a specialist that deals with whatever your problems are that’s preventing you from loving a person that loves you. Maybe it can be fixed and you can learn to love your wife.
 

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This is one if the more narcissistic posts I’ve read. OP, you seem to totally lack empathy for your wife and kids. I do think it’s only fair to show this thread to your wife so she can see your actual thoughts about her and divorce you. Since you admittedly need a constant source of supply, you will undoubtedly try to go back to your wife. So you might consider going to a specialist that deals with whatever your problems are that’s preventing you from loving a person that loves you. Maybe it can be fixed and you can learn to love your wife.
My wife is fully aware of these thoughts, as are all of our therapists. My wife just says she wants to be with me more than anything and that it would be a mistake for me to leave. One of the therapists told me to keep in mind I have a lot to lose, my individual one told me to try investing in the relationship and see how it makes me feel. The constant recommendation has been to give it 6 months of fully trying before giving up - but it would be nice to figure it out one way or the other before the move. It's looking unlikely, though.

Haven't actually shown her the thread though. Not sure if there's any thing of value to show her. She's not egotistical enough to get off on being seen as the good one in the relationship.

Narcissism? HAHA. I think you completely misunderstand where I came from in the past (doesn't actually apply anymore). It wasn't a need for admiration. I'm an introvert who avoids attention. It was more a need for affection, some kind of insecurity about abandonment. Whatever it was, it seems like it's gone, but hard to tell unless I actually go out there and be single.

I empathize with them. Doesn't mean any of us will be happy if we force an unhappy marriage to persist. Pretty crazy to think somebody lacks empathy simply because they do not love somebody who loves them. Foolish for getting into this situation... that's the criticism that would make sense. But people seem to have all kinds of ideas on what love is, and who can love who in what way and under what circumstances.
 

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Effort. You said there was nothing wrong she's doing. Might just regret it in the long run
That might actually be the most useful post so far. I need to accept that this isn't going to be a decision I can make in just a couple months, because it's not some kind of clear cut horrible relationship.
 

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@tephros, have you been diagnosed with any personality disorder? You laughed at the idea of NPD but in all honesty you sound like an introverted/covert narcissist (not all narcissists are showy and in your face).
I feel sorry for your wife and kids. How old are you now? It might be better for your wife to move on and find someone who will actually love her. You also complained about your son because he was difficult, (he is only a little boy) and you feel he took time away from you. You have a problem within yourself. Hasn't your therapist identified it yet. You mention your past and an issue with abandonment, all precursors to either narcissism or co-dependency and I don't think you are the latter.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
@tephros, have you been diagnosed with any personality disorder? You laughed at the idea of NPD but in all honesty you sound like an introverted/covert narcissist (not all narcissists are showy and in your face).
I feel sorry for your wife and kids. How old are you now? It might be better for your wife to move on and find someone who will actually love her. You also complained about your son because he was difficult, (he is only a little boy) and you feel he took time away from you. You have a problem within yourself. Hasn't your therapist identified it yet. You mention your past and an issue with abandonment, all precursors to either narcissism or co-dependency and I don't think you are the latter.
My problem isn't pervasive enough to be called a personality disorder. It only appears to affect my functioning in romantic relationships. Maybe people are picking up on the criteria for preoccupation with ideal love and their false impression that I lack empathy, but even if they were right, it wouldn't qualify. I have a fairly neutral opinion of myself overall. I try to understand myself and why I fail or succeed, but I don't dwell on remorse or pride. And if I can't love my wife as she should be loved, it really would be better for everybody if it ended. No judgement of that is needed. What is needed is a reasonable plan of action to sort it out.

Your assumptions about how I feel about my son are false. When somebody gives incomplete information because the story is too complicated to convey in posts - don't fill in the blanks if you want to be helpful. Ask, or comment based upon what is actually said.

My son has been difficult, but I don't want to go into it. This isn't about blaming him, it's about explaining issues in the relationship. My wife's response to him being difficult was excessive and obsessive at the expense of everything else in life. That was the point and she agrees with that now.

I mean, is your post really meant to be helpful, or do you just enjoy beating up on the apparent bad guy in the story because of your own tragedies? I probably shouldn't have bothered responding. Maybe I'm a narcissist after all and you wounded my fragile ego! ;)... or maybe toxic people just make me want to vomit words at them in hopes that they'll be less toxic to somebody else who wants help.
 

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I'm obviously no therapist and dislike when people diagnose others here with anything really, but your original post screams codependency to me. It takes one to know one, and as soon as I started digging into the work of codependency, it didn't take long to see I showed many traits of it. It sounds like you pretty much have your mind made up that this isn't going to work for you, so maybe start digging into that a little bit as it may help you for yourself and it may help you in any future relationships you may enter.
 

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My problem isn't pervasive enough to be called a personality disorder. It only appears to affect my functioning in romantic relationships. Maybe people are picking up on the criteria for preoccupation with ideal love and their false impression that I lack empathy, but even if they were right, it wouldn't qualify. I have a fairly neutral opinion of myself overall. I try to understand myself and why I fail or succeed, but I don't dwell on remorse or pride. And if I can't love my wife as she should be loved, it really would be better for everybody if it ended. No judgement of that is needed. What is needed is a reasonable plan of action to sort it out.

Your assumptions about how I feel about my son are false. When somebody gives incomplete information because the story is too complicated to convey in posts - don't fill in the blanks if you want to be helpful. Ask, or comment based upon what is actually said.

My son has been difficult, but I don't want to go into it. This isn't about blaming him, it's about explaining issues in the relationship. My wife's response to him being difficult was excessive and obsessive at the expense of everything else in life. That was the point and she agrees with that now.

I mean, is your post really meant to be helpful, or do you just enjoy beating up on the apparent bad guy in the story because of your own tragedies? I probably shouldn't have bothered responding. Maybe I'm a narcissist after all and you wounded my fragile ego! ;)... or maybe toxic people just make me want to vomit words at them in hopes that they'll be less toxic to somebody else who wants help.
The way you responded to me (and others) comes across as someone with a chip on his shoulder. If you know so much and everyone else here knows so little (not surprising considering 'the story is too complicated to convey in posts' Then don't blame people for making the most of what you give them and 'filling in the blanks' . You come across as condescending and boorish, what do you need from us? You seem to have made up your mind, you want to leave your wife, then do it, what are you looking for? Absolution?
 
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