He used this time to go out till all hours and come home screaming about what a bad wife I was. One particular time (as I will never forget) the fight was so intense and mortifying emotional that I begged for divorce. He told me that there would be no chance in hell that I’d see my kids if I proceeded. Scared and young, I didn’t know what to do. The following day was a half attempt at making up and because I didn’t like fighting, and certainly didn’t want to be alone, or without my kids, I tried forgetting that night.
About a year later, his best friend told me he was cheating on me (with his wife). Again mortified, I tried to remove him from my life, but I didn’t. My pastor told me to heal my marriage. My dad didn’t want to hear my story — just told me to keep my family together. We were in the process of moving to another state, and I had no one to help me out… so I moved to another state and stayed with him. He has told me over and over that he is sorry, and I have forgiven him, but for whatever reason I cannot forget. And ten years later I am still suspicious.
My problem is that he isn’t always a monster. True, I have cried numerous times to ask God for a way out, and I have a very, very hard time picturing us growing old together. (Ugh). But he can be a great guy. He is a hard worker and tries hard to be a good dad. Life can be comfortable with him — like going through the motions — but we have very little in common anymore.
Am I selfish for picturing my life without him? Just recently, my first child moved away to college and I started to get hopeful and scared at the same time. I need to decide. I don’t want to waste any more time wondering if I’m doing the right thing by staying. There is nothing out there for me. No other man, no job, no friendships that would help me move on. Sometimes I think I can do it on my own, and other times my head tells me I’m a whack job for even thinking it.
Just recently I’ve expressed myself and my feelings to him. He is devastated. But I feel like I have put him in limbo. I don’t know if I want to be married or not. I’ve been seeing a counselor, and she tells me that I’ve closed myself up to emotions and love with him. I don’t know. Maybe. She isn’t making me feel less confused about what I should do. I don’t want to hurt him if I’m just being a selfish person. I don’t really want to hurt him at all. But then, I don’t want to stay if I’m always wondering if I should have taken a different path. – Hurt Wife
It’s interesting that you say, “My problem is that he isn’t always a monster.” Actually, that isn’t your problem at all. Your problem is that you don’t particularly trust your husband, whatever bond you once shared was long ago damaged and never repaired, and you are too scared to leave or disrupt the comfort you’ve gotten used to. The problem is that you don’t believe you deserve to be happy or that your happiness matters enough to risk the unhappiness of others.
But whose unhappiness, besides yours, is at stake? Do you honestly believe that your husband is happy? Do you think your marriage, though completely unfulfilling for you, is rewarding to him? Yes, you have kids, but they are practically grown now. One has already left for college. The other will be leaving soon too. Do you think you’ll wreck their lives by taking care of your own? No! Quite the opposite. You’ll model for them that it’s never too late to make a new beginning. You’ll show them that what a strong woman looks like and that it’s important to make your happiness and personal fulfillment a priority.
Here’s the thing about your kids: in a sense, their lives are just beginning. They’re going to have relationships and great loves and maybe marriage and families of their own. They’re going to have careers and adventures and their own homes. They’re going to have successes and failures and broken hearts. They’re going to be OK. And if you show them what OK looks like — that a person can experience a sense of failure or great change or face the scary unknown and come through it just fine — better than fine! — they are going to be that much more OK.
But even if you don’t — even if you stay in your safe, but ultimately unhappy marriage, they’re still going to be OK. They’re still going to live their lives regardless of what is happening with yours. And wouldn’t you rather be traveling along your own exciting path as they travel theirs? Wouldn’t you rather be moving toward something, even it’s unknown, rather than staying in the boring and unfulfilling place you are forever?
Maybe your therapist is right that you’ve closed yourself off to love from and with your husband. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of love there to feel anyway. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to stay with him. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the work you should be investing in yourself is work that is better invested in him or your marriage. You’ve given it 18 years. Maybe it’s time to see what else is out there — start a new chapter.
I know it seems scary to think about moving on when you don’t have the support to make moving on easier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. The first step would be to talk to a divorce lawyer and find out how to protect yourself and secure some financial support as you find your own way. Then you would need to find a job or a path that would lead to a job. As for friends, that’s something you should be focusing on whether you decide to leave your husband or not. Everyone needs friends, especially someone in an unhappy marriage.
You have the power to make your life better. But you can’t wait for it to happen. You have to be brave and take the steps toward a happier life. If you don’t, it’s going to be more of the same for a very long time. Your biggest problem is NOT that your husband isn’t a big enough monster to justify you leaving. Your biggest problem is that you don’t believe your own unhappiness is justification for making some changes. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.