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You've checked out of your marriage - Does your spouse know?

14180 Views 21 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  MrK
I use "checked out" synonymously with "walked away". I personally think too many people confuse the "walking" part of the latter phrase with physically leaving the marriage. I think the intent is really to try to describe those that have emotionally left the marriage but have stuck around. If you physically leave, that's just a broken marriage. It's different.

As far as "does your spouse know?", it seems to be another part of this definition that is downplayed. Many spouses don't know it happened. About three years ago I tried to fix what I thought was a rut in my marriage, only to find out she doesn't love me. I'm putting the "breakup" at about 14 years ago. But I could be wrong. She may never have loved me. But the important part is that she never told me. I was CLUELESS!

So who cares? It's all semantics, right? Not really. I personally don't think they come back once they've "walked/Checked out". And since they've shown that they have no problem lying about their feelings (I'll just start and end with every "I love you" being a lie for the last 15 years), why would they stop lying during "reconciliation?" Why would they start being honest about their feelings now? My wife has actually taken this "lying" to bizarre levels. Every fiber in her body screams "I have left you", yet she denies to the end that there is anything wrong with our marriage.

So I dipped my toe in the "Considering Divorce or Separation" section. I need to do it. I can't live in a loveless, miserable marriage for the rest of my life. Yet I find it difficult enough to break up my family for ANY reason. But my wife won't give me the satisfaction of saying "you're right. We have problems, this is what I'm going through, let's try to fix it". That makes it hard. Although her actions SCREAM "I don't love you", she won't tell me its the case.

So I want to hear from all of the ILYBINILWYAIRTTYAI's (I love you, but I'm not in love with you and I refuse to tell you about it). Am I wrong? How prevalent is it? It almost seems eerie the way my wife acts as a "walk-away". Is it POSSIBLE I could be misunderstanding her? If she really does love me, she has a BIZARRE way of showing it.

And yes, I have tried to talk to her. She REFUSES to discuss it.

Thanks for your time.

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I know you aren't here looking for sympathy but, your situation truly saddens me. I so wish I had some sage words of wisdom to impart unto you.

Does your wife work? If not, do you think she stays for financial security?
I do feel for you, it's incredibly frustrating to know that *something* is wrong but to have that person refuse to discuss it. I tried to bring it up a number of times with my ex but he said I was just being silly or that nothing was wrong. I knew something was wrong, the worst thing was that he was treating me like an idiot

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm very sensitive to non-verbals and know instantly when someone is behaving differently - I'm usually right about why too. I sat with that niggling feeling for two years and it wasn't until *he* decided that something had to be said for it all to come out

I can't deny that I wanted to make him feel like sh*t so I told him that for the last two years I'd been miserable and lonely. It made him cry. Good. Because being lonely in a marriage is the worst feeling in the world. In a recent text I said exactly what you've alluded to in your post - rather than him saying 'I'm not happy what can we do to fix it' he said 'I'm not happy I'm leaving'. I had no say in the matter - believe me that sad feeling quickly turns to anger.

We're divorced now, I'm happier than I've been in years - and though I'm alone I'm not lonely if that makes sense

Good luck, I hope your situation is different, I really do
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It's really unfair of your wife to not discuss her feelings with you honestly. I'm sorry. I think it's impossible to have anything more than a roommate-style marriage if your spouse won't honestly engage with you. I don't blame you for wanting more.

I don't know your history, have you tried MC?
I think this is pretty common.

My wife likes this. She disrespects and disdains me, always critical and defensive, spend energy to talking to friends and seems emotional close to everybody except me. But when I asked what is wrong, she always said nothing wrong, I love you and everything is normal... But I can tell she is not happy...

Why has not she left? Of course, I am useful to her: financially, and practically.

I call it EANW: Emotional affair to nowhere. This is a stage before EA because the OM has not arrived yet.
My wife checked out for at least 4 years secretly not wearing her rings. She said she was waiting for the last kid to graduate high school.

What's in it for your wife to fake Rr with you? The answer might help identify if R is real. But also what is in it for you to make the risk of R worth it?
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your situation truly saddens me. I so wish I had some sage words of wisdom to impart unto you.
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At times I feel this way. The whole checked out aspect. Other times I feel like I really wish it could work. Though I think I have always felt the "Love you, but not in love with you aspect."
My wife is moving out today actually. About a month ago I found out from her that she has not been happy for our entire marriage, yet she never said a word. I was CLUELESS, SHOCKED, AND FLOORED!!! She won't go to therapy, says it won't help, it's been going on too long for her. The description "checked out/walked out" resonates with me, I feel the same way. She 'checked out' some time ago and I was too stupid to notice. I hate it. She wants to be friends. I told her no, I can't do that. How with someone who has basically lied to me for 16 years? We have two girls 10 and 15, the oldest with me, youngest with her for now. So we do have to communicate. I'm trying NC and the 180, difficult with kids. I feel for you and wish I could offer advice.
I can empthasize with you. I'm the wife that checked out.

My husband will say he had no clue, doesn't understand what is wrong, and has refused several times to sign separation papers and get his butt out of the house and move on.

I DID tell him several times. I got answers like.... "don't try and change me" and "why do you have to be so negative" and "why can't you just accept the way I am".

So, I stopped talking. I stopped nagging. (which is what he called it).

I took him literally. Okay, I won't try and change you. I won't mention that it bugs me when you leave your crap everywhere and go out to the bar instead of making dinner. I won't bring up anything.

He was very happy for a few months. Whew. The pressure was off. He didn't have to do ANYTHING. Then I left for awhile. On two separate occasions. And I put him in the spare bedroom, established a bunch of boundaries on how he treats me and the relationship, and he's miserable most of the time.

He says it was a shock to him. I don't buy that. He just didn't want to hear what I had to say. He didn't understand that being stubborn about petty crap was slowly killing any feelings I had for him.

So here's my point --- it's not that I ever kept saying " I am falling out of love with you", I kept asking to have my needs met, and he refused to do it. Which translated in my head to "he doesn't love me, or he would listen to me and TRY to appreciate what I need in a marriage".

That's how relationships work. You don't call up your friend and say I'm starting to not like you because you talk over me all the time. You might subtly say "please don't interrupt me, I find it offensive".

But for some reason, some people can fall into a rut when married. You don't have to monitor your behavior, or try. You've got them where you want them.
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Another woman here who checked out, then walked out.

22yrs with a narcissist. EVERYTHING was about him! EVERYTHING was for HIS benefit. He DIDN'T CARE when I told him that child & I got NOTHING unless it was an unintended by-product of HIM getting HIMSELF what he wanted. He DIDN'T CARE when I told him that we had not enough money to pay bills (our child learned to look at the name on the phone before answering - don't p/u for bill collectors) and yet he kept buying himself what he wanted: horses & gear, purebred dogs, guns & ammo, coats he didn't need, expensive trucks. He ruined my credit, got us about $400,000 in debt (not including the foreclosed-on house), continues to borrow money from personal friends (relatives are dead or burnt-out on lending him money). He lives in a dreamland of his own creation where his endless business schemes are going to make him a gazillionaire. I got so tired of working my azz off and him spending it faster than I could make it. Tired of child & I being ignored, dismissed, treated as less important than HIS needs CONTINUALLY. The only time he 'acted' like he gave a cr*p was when he wanted to show off his 'wife & cute child' to impress someone.

Last move was so rural, there were no jobs. EVERYTHING with debt attached to it was in HIS name. I couldn't work. Finally had enough, told him I wanted a divorce, he was SHOCKED!!!!! Waited 6 months for end of school year, left his azz. He was BEYOND SHOCKED! Got mean, menacing, threatening, put his hands on me, made up TOTAL LIES to tell our child so she would hate me (because HE hates me, she MUST hate me too), threatened in front of child to punch me, threatened (while she was in school) to kill me.

From the day I told him I wanted a divorce until 6 months later when I walked out, I NEVER AGAIN TOLD HIM "I love you." Because I didn't, and I hadn't for a LONG TIME, and he would never see it, or hear it, or believe it.

So, yeah, I checked out A LONG TIME before I got the guts to walk out. But telling him DID NO GOOD. He didn't believe it and he didn't care.

Just my personal take on 'walk away' spouses.
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I checked out for awhile, too. My H would claim he had no idea why but he knew because I told him a million times. If he didn't know, well, what can ya do? I didn't want to nag all the time. After about a year of me being emotionally checked out he said, "It doesn't feel like we really talk anymore." I just started laughing. I guess I should count myself lucky that he realized it at all.
MrK, I am a husband of a wife who checked out. She was never in the marriage in the way I was or the way I thought she was. But she was in the marriage in her own detached way. Things slowly unwound over the years. On our 25th anniversary she decided she was done and was only staying until the kids graduated high school. That would be 7 more years after that anniversary, another 2 years from today.

She secretly stopped wearing her wedding rings. Some red flags of an affair popped up. Those red flags got my attention.

Well what I've learned is that yes she had checked out, and the marriage was very messed up from the beginning. I brought my half of dysfunction to the relationship for sure.

The one absolute is that there is no fixing something which is this messed up without both people working hard at it and making it a priority. My gentle or polite pleadings in the past had no effect on getting her to go to MC with me or to consider she was a contributor to the problems.

What got her attention was when I upset her plans by telling her either we fixed the marriage together starting this moment, or it was over this instant.

Funny, the first real boundary I ever set with her was nuclear. So that shows where my dysfunctions have been for all these years. But it worked to the extent she understands two things. One is that I value the marriage and want to be with her. The second is that I am absolutely willing to pull the plug on the marriage if it is not meeting my needs.

You may have to get to the point of making such a line in the sand. She may or may not want to make a sincere effort at that point. As people say, you have to be willing to lose your marriage in order to save it. Which should be the case from the wedding day, where you know what your limits and needs are.
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So where am I now?

It seems like the responses are pretty evenly split.

Men: My wife checked out and I never knew.
Women: I checked out and I told him over and over but he never listened.

Then there's me:

My wife claims she hasn't checked out yet every move she makes, every breath she takes SCREAMS "I'm gone". Is she just staying until the kids are gone and then will leave? Am I just a backup plan (He's a horrible, annoying a-hole but it's better than being on the street).

Can I threaten divorce when my wife claims she's happy but won't act that way?

Again, to the wives: can she act happy but really be miserable? I understand that you all don't know me or my wife. But is it POSSIBLE that I'm right? She really doesn't love me but continues to say she does?

I'm getting up there in age. My mid-life crisis manifested itself in me wanting my wife back, but soon coming to the realization that I will NEVER be able to have her. I need someone to love me and want to be with me during my golden years. I just don't want to do something stupid, like leaving her when it was all just my imagination.

I just don't know. Why won't she talk to me?

Thank you all for your help.
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My wife claims she hasn't checked out yet every move she makes, every breath she takes SCREAMS "I'm gone". Is she just staying until the kids are gone and then will leave? Am I just a backup plan (He's a horrible, annoying a-hole but it's better than being on the street).
This sounds likely to me. However, she may be one of those detached type of people. You know the type ... they back into and out of relationships. Is she close with gf's, family members, or is there an air of detachment with them. How about her side of the family? Warm and demonstrative, or logical and detached?

She really doesn't love me but continues to say she does?
Possible, if she has a strong detachment streak, as I mentioned above. Me? As a woman who doesn't parce words, I could not tell my husband I loved him if I didn't give a rat's azz. I'm not particulary good at faking it. She may just say whatever she feels is necessary to keep you out of her face and off her back. I don't know her, so I am only speculating. But I know people who operate in such a manner.

I just don't know. Why won't she talk to me?
Again, I can only speculate. Some women can keep their mouths shut. Actually, I snapped mine shut and closed down about two years before I left my H. So, even with my big bazoo, yeah .... I can shut up and shut down. Have you ever had reason to believe she is having an EA with OM?

If she's been checked out from the get-go, I would assume she wasn't highly sexual or all that into you. Heck, she may have married you because she saw your potential as a good provider and father. Again, the detached and logical personality coming through.
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I love the notion that you have to be in a place mentally where you're willing to lose your marriage in order to save it, that is GREAT advice.

You mention that you are telling her how you feel and she keeps saying she is "fine" (I hate "fine," that means SO NOT fine). That sounds like a short discussion. Have you considered pushing her until you piss her off? It seems to me that you might find out how she really feels if you get her angry.

Make no mistake, I'm not a fan of making someone intentionally angry but rational, short discussions don't appear to be working - do something different to get to something different.

Good luck
This is what I'd do in your shoes:

"wife, you're not happy in this marriage. I'm not happy. You don't love me, but for whatever reason, you are refusing to admit it and do anything to change things. I'm not going to live in a marriage where i don't feel loved for the rest of my life. I'm going to start going to IC, I'd love it if you would come with me to MC"

Then find a good IC and explain your situation. See if your wife comes to the party. At least you should get a bit of clarity about how she feels.

Don't give her the chance to deny there's anything wrong. Don't ask, tell.
Can I threaten divorce when my wife claims she's happy but won't act that way?
I think so. You don't need her permission to want a divorce! You divorce because you are not getting your needs adequately met and she is not making a substantial effort to change so as to meet those needs.

I'm getting up there in age. My mid-life crisis manifested itself in me wanting my wife back, but soon coming to the realization that I will NEVER be able to have her. I need someone to love me and want to be with me during my golden years. I just don't want to do something stupid, like leaving her when it was all just my imagination.
There is wisdom in being thoughtful about a big decision. The mistake I think you are making is trying to read her mind. You seem to be trying to figure out what she is really thinking or feeling. Instead I think you should concentrate on her behaviors and your own needs. If you are not feeling fulfilled, that is enough to know the marriage is UNacceptable. If her behaviors are not changing substantially in the right direction it does not matter what her thoughts or feelings are, her behaviors are still UNacceptable.
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She can love you but have resentment too. She may not forgive you for how you were in the past towards her.

Either way, I agree with Thor here. Stop trying to read her mind and deal with the devil you know right in front of you. What's happening is unacceptable.
These type of relationships are very difficult. Unfortunately, the pressure is on you to take a clear, non reactive position about what you need and what you can and can't live with. When a spouse appears checked out, there could be a number of reasons, including depression or unresolved anger.
Too often when someone is "checked out" they have given up. Try to get them to talk more about their frustrations, anger, and resentments. Obviously, marital therapy can be very helpful
David Olsen, PhD, LMFT
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