Question about marital problems

I’m finding myself in a situation where I truly no longer want to be married to my husband. I don’t feel the need to go into details, but my true feelings are that I don’t care for him, I don’t love him, and what I really want is for him to move out. I don’t want to share my life or my home with him. I would obviously have to share the children with him in some manner unfortunately.

For practical reasons, though, I would prefer to stay married. For financial and logistical reasons it would be less stressful to remain married.

But I truly do not like him. I don’t like to be near him. I can’t think of a “solution” because if we remain married it will be like being in jail.

If we were to separate or divorce I would feel free, but my daily life would be more annoying and more difficult.

Please don’t suggest counseling. That’s not going to solve anything in my opinion. I actually just scheduled counseling for myself only in order to be able to deal with what he is dishing out on a daily basis. But I don’t wish to “save the marriage”. It’s over in my mind.

Has anyone been through anything similar and what happened?

There was a gentleman asked what his secret was for having stayed married for 50 years.
His method?

“Every morning, I look in the mirror and remind myself, ‘You’re no big prize, either.’”

You’re thinking as if this period of not liking your husband is immutable. Why would you think that? Do you not know that a couple’s feelings for each other can go up and down by quite a lot over the years, and very often does?

Is he abusive? If so, that needs to change, since it will erode you and your children. Are you finding him annoying? That is at least partly an attitude issue on your part. We can choose to tolerate things we do not like and we can choose to think about things other than how much we don’t like the things in our life that we don’t like. Do not think you can despise your husband and call that “staying married.” You won’t be the only one who feels as if she’s in prison, let’s just say that.

I would suggest books by John Gottman on marriage. Most libraries have at least one or two, so you can read them for free. He does research on the behavior habits that lead to divorce, habits of being with each other that breed a mutual sense of loathing, and the behavior patterns that instead help couples get past disputes and conflicts and get back to liking each other.

By the way, you are right that divorce is nasty, expensive, and stressful. Based on the testimony of those with the unfortunate experience, it is almost invariably more stressful and more expensive than they thought it would be. If you are even thinking in terms of “I could stay around rather than face the expense of leaving,” then get back in there and do the work to make a real marriage. Otherwise, you’re just standing around and waiting until Hell drives your husband to file papers before you do.

unfortunately, unless you have lived with a passive aggressive spouse who has some sort of mental issues that are beyond you to fix, it’s easy for you to say to get in there and work on the marriage. It might not be your typical “abuse”, as in physically hurting me, but I am being mentally and emotionally driven crazy and have no interest in trying to change him anymore.

Actually, I would say that passive-aggression absolutely can be abuse and it can absolutely pose a serious danger to your psyche. You don’t just stick it in there while someone strips your self away one layer at a time. If a situation is dangerous to you, it is also besides the point whether the person harming you is “at fault” or not. You don’t get into a tank of sharks because “sharks don’t know better, they’re just acting in the way they are made.” Well, the harm that someone can do to the thought patterns in your brain can be far more difficult to heal and far more crippling than a bite in the leg from a dog or a broken arm from taking a fall down the stairs. (Even in physical abuse, is it not the intention to abuse and the fear that the intention might arise again that does the most damage, rather than just the physical damage alone?)

The John Gottman books talk about patterns of communication that make relationships impossible to sustain: Personal criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are the four most typical relationship-killers. Notice that none of those involve physical attack. It is the erosion in trust that is the issue.

Having said that, sometimes “I just don’t like you” are mutually-reinforcing issues that both sides think they can rationalize. If your husband will not see a therapist and you can afford one, you absolutely ought to see one. It will make it much easier to sort out what you can realistically ask yourself to tolerate and what you cannot. It will also help you to identify strategies and skills that you might not have thought to try without that outside guidance and feedback.

Also, consider that it is damaging to a child to see a parent abused rather than protected by another parent. Your children are probably not unaware that you and your husband do not like each other very much. If you’re going to stay with your husband–and I very much hope you can–it is not enough to physically keep the same address. You need to find some semblance of peace and emotional safety in your co-existence.

I was looking at your previous threads.

You’ve got 5 kids, right, and you had them very tightly spaced and then your husband got a vasectomy against your will? You’ve had severe marital trouble for quite a number of years, and you have just started individual counseling.

I think you really haven’t checked the boxes yet if you’ve only just now started to do individual counseling. Work with your therapist. I don’t think the clock has started yet on you trying to save your marriage if you are only just now seeing a therapist. If you do or don’t save your marriage, you will still have to learn to cope amicably with your husband no matter what.

Also, how does this look from his point of view? Do you have a temper that is out of control? Is he avoiding you because he’s scared of you? What does he say? I noticed that a number of your old posts sounded very extreme–for instance around the time of the vasectomy when you wanted to stop having marital relations with him entirely.

oh you’re right-. I’m
All to blame and need therapy.

Ps how’s your personal life? Not very well I’m guessing.

Guess that passive aggressive thing goes both ways, eh?

Well, from a strictly practical perspective, the best thing for the kids, divorce or no, will be seeing you and your husband treat each other with courtesy and respect. Barring that, seeing one parent treat the other with both of those qualities will also be extremely helpful for their future relationships. You guys are the most important book they’ll ever read about relationships and marriage, period.

Going to counseling is a great start; ideally, for both of you, but at a minimum for you. (Your husband is, presumably, a legal adult, so you can’t force him to go, but you can take yourself.) Even if you aren’t willing to think about saving the marriage, you should think about saving the relationship, or at the very least your end of it. Like I said, it’s what your kids deserve. There’s probably some guilt on both sides of your marriage–barring the Holy Family, I’ve never seen one, mine included, in which one spouse was absolutely perfect–and while I’ve no idea how that’s divided, I can say that the kids are the innocent parties here, and deserve to have parents who model functional if imperfect relationships for them. You can’t guarantee that they’ll have parents who do that, but you can guarantee they’ll have a parent who will. You can’t make your husband model those things; the only person you can change is yourself.

Lastly, and you needn’t answer this if you don’t wish to, but it’s something to consider: is there an individual with a history of substance abuse on either side of the family? Not necessarily you or your husband–an in-law, sibling, grandparent? I ask this because I spent quite a lot of time in a 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics/addicts, and the general themes in your post could have been said word-for-word by a majority of the newcomers in that program. If you do have someone with those problems in your family, I can highly recommend Al-Anon. A quick Google search will turn up meeting times and locations in your area.

I don’t think that’s what Xantippe was saying. On the contrary, I think her advice was very constructive. Surely your husband’s behaviors are a big part of the problem, but it never hurts to look at our own behavior and see if there’s anything we can do differently to help the situation.

Has anyone suggested that you’re “all to blame”? But looking at this and previous threads, you tend to react in a very hostile manner when people disagree with you. This is not a good way to communicate within marriage. If your husband came on here and started angrily dismissing all criticism, people would tell him the same thing.

No one doubts that your life is very stressful. I think it is fair to doubt that life would become less stressful were you to divorce. As you have pointed out, you and your husband will be tied together forever through your children. The very best thing you can do is work out your differences with him, without the horrible antagonism of a divorce. If you just hang on, there’s a very reasonable chance you’ll be happier than you have been for a long time.

Finally, sometimes what’s right is not always what feels best. Even if you’re not happy, that’s not a good reason to divorce.

Blame is the last thing that is needed, and there is nothing wrong with emotional therapy any more than there is something wrong with physical therapy. Actually, both aim at increasing your capacity and quality of life, right? If that isn’t where you think your therapist is going, look for another one.

For instance, on the front of whether or not he respects you or supports you in your problems, this is an area where there are often communication problems covering for hidden insecurities. Let us say one party has a problem, maybe something that has him or her stuck or frustrated. Just having a kind ear to vent to would help. The other one, however, thinks a solution is expected. He or she is embarrassed to have no way to help with it–no answer. Instead of admitting that, the embarrassed one tries to minimize the problem (which may be what he or she does with his or her own emotional baggage), and the one with the problem feels let down and un-supported.

How different it would be if the “embarrassed” one could say, “I have no idea how to help you, because I don’t know how to cope with this problem when I have it myself. My strategy has been to ignore it, and (if I were honest) the truth is that I don’t want to look into the trunk I’ve stuffed that stuff into.” That takes a lot of trust, though. The one I’ve been calling the embarrassed one has to admit he or she sometimes doesn’t have an answer. He or she would have to honestly consider whether the “stuff it” strategy has really worked for him or her, and that could get messy. This person, afraid of his or her own resentments, rage, or impotence, may be doubly afraid to face emotions even less under his or her control–that is, his or her spouse’s emotions.

Your spouse may have problems you cannot fix. That’s true. It may be, however, that with therapy you can figure out some ways you don’t yet know about to learn ways of mutual support.

I’ve often said, “If you’re wrong, apologize, especially if you are not the most wrong.” Why is that? Because the person who is the most wrong and knows it is also usually the most defensive and the most fearful of condemnation. When faced with someone who is apologizing instead of accusing, sometimes that fear starts to thaw. Having had the opportunity to forgive, sometimes there is a greater willingness to ask for forgiveness. That is why the key is sometimes in the “least wrong” party to apologize.

The other reason, of course, is that very often both parties are convinced they are the “least wrong.” That doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone breaks the ice.

I would suggest that you talk to a counsellor before jumping in to all of this. You’ve suffered a lot of hurt, and it is important not to venture more than you can realistically leave out in the ring without retreating. A counsellor can help you to choose one of the appropriately-sized steps to take, not too big to manage nor too small to make any progress. A therapist can help you cope with your mistakes, too, and you’ll probably make some, too. Dealing with someone who has gotten into a habit of passive aggression requires jumping through some invisible flaming hoops. That takes courage and a willingness to start over.

Always remember this: Even if it is impossible to get along with your husband, this venture will give you two things. First, it will teach you many things about your husband that you will need to know in order to co-parent with him in the most low-drama way possible. Second, it will teach you a lot about your own style with others, your own insecurities, and your own strengths. That can only help you, no matter what he does. Do get help, though. This is territory that wants a coach, because you’ll make enough mistakes even with guidance. Without it, you could suffer a lot of mistakes you could have avoided. Who wants that?

I would think that the OP may be too used to being contradicted when she tries to lodge an appropriate complaint. It doesn’t take much of that before that becomes a sore spot. What would be inappropriate defensiveness in one of us might be very understandable defensiveness in someone else. So ask yourself: when you’re being defensive, does it help to hear, “don’t get defensive?” Not so much. Even when the diagnosis is right, the treatment called for is usually something else.

As for whether she has difficulties serious enough to warrant a separation with the bond remaining, that’s a bit out of our purview. The Church allows that, however, because sometimes a difficult marriage is too damaging for the spouses to stay together. It would be good not to make that diagnosis alone, but the diagnosis is a realistic possibility, unfortunately. Let’s hope not, but let’s not pretend that staying together is always the most moral course. Sometimes, it is not, even when (and sometimes especially when) there are children in the home.

I agree with this.

OP, I have read some of your other threads, and I’m sorry your problems with your husband have continued. You are certainly not all to blame.

If you wish to separate, but do not want to leave your home, I do not see how things can really change. I think either you have to convince yourself to work on your marriage and get counselling with your husband, or you have to move out and try to build a new routine. I say this because it isn’t good for your children to see their parents at loggerheads with no real solutions.

I’m sorry I don’t really have much advice for you, nor can I really answer your question. I can only say if you feel capable of working on your marriage, keep trying.


I have a huge temper (it’s common in my family) and I’m just starting to see how bad it is as a feature and to figure out how to express my needs and preferences more constructively.

Miracle of miracles, when I exercise more self-control and express myself calmly and factually, I get more of what I want than when I go BOOM at every disagreement.

I don’t know whether that is at all relevant to you, but I would strongly suggest that you have a good, hard look at your behaviors with the help of your therapist.

Mm, you may be right, but I do think it is helpful to the OP to point out a pattern. Even if her response is understandable, it is not healthy or useful. Whatever happens, she will always be there, and if she’s learned poor ways of communication that is not going to serve her well.

There are definitely circumstances when a separation might be best. I just don’t think “I’m unhappy” is a good reason to blow up a marriage, even one that isn’t very good. I liked very much your anecdote about the long-married gentleman.

Thank you for any advice. Unfortunately I’m just at my wits end. I don’t feel any motivation to “improve” myself or my communication style. I don’t respect him at all. I just do not care anymore. I never used to feel this way but Im starting to think along the lines of- many children have divorced parents and they manage just fine. It feels honestly futile and crazy to stay in this marriage. Oh well. I’m not even sure why I started this topic.

That is understandable. You have two good motives to go through with this that have nothing to do with him. The first is that you can divorce him as your husband but you cannot divorce him as the father of your children. It is worth it to figure out how to communicate with him and to cope with whatever counter-productive strategies he has.

Secondly, I am afraid I know a lot of people who got out of a bad marriage without doing this kind of work who unfortunately got into a second marriage very much like the one they left or else one with the opposite problems. It is in your interest to do the self-discovery necessary to prevent that from happening. If you do nothing, that is probably the most likely outcome.

This is very true. The issue many posters may have, though, is that the OP previously talked about separating because her non-Catholic husband wanted to get a vasectomy. There were no questions of abuse or other serious concerns, simply her displeasure at her husbands choice regarding sterilisation (after five children). Fast forward a couple of years and her husband got the vasectomy, and now she wants to separate.

There are obviously some issues in this marriage, but nothing she has yet posted in this thread or previous threads that suggests separation is justifiable. She should consult with a priest if she is serious about pursuing that option. And she should be prepared for any decent priest to tell her what others have told her here and what she said she doesn’t want to hear - seek counselling.

There is a saying, I think Dr. Phil uses it, that if you don’t earn your way out of your bad marriage you are way too likely to buy yourself a one-way ticket into another just like it. If it is one that works, you’ll regret that the first one wasn’t given a better chance. If it is one that doesn’t work, you’ll regret that you didn’t see the second train coming before you were struck by the same-sized freight train all over again. It is no accident that so many second marriages fail, after all.

The sad part is that I knew a fellow who did just that who told me he wished he had worked it out with his first wife. He learned with the second wife that he could cope with the problems his first marriage had. As it was, he had alimony and a second wife and her family problems to cope with, instead of just his own wife, his own children, and one household. A second man took the first man’s advice, and he’s still happily married to his first wife. They are both very different people than they were before they worked through their problems, and they are both individually happier and better able to cope with the rest of the world generally, including their daughters (who, surprise, surprise, are not a lot unlike their parents!)

And the OP should consider the possibility that she herself is depressed.

In her shoes, I think I would ask to do one of those depression questionnaires that they have at doctor’s offices.

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