“I Feel Guilty For Wanting to Leave My Sick Wife”

I have been heavily debating getting a divorce from my wife of 13 years for some time now. There are several reasons for this, but I feel like an ass for wanting to get a divorce. Divorce is not unheard of in either of our families, but I feel like a failure for wanting to end it. I want to know if my reasons are good enough for a MOA, or I’m being selfish. Here they are:

1. Health Problems: My wife, “Cheryl,” has more health problems then my 92-year-old grandmother did before she died. Cheryl has some real legitimate problems like a minor case of Cerebral Palsy (bad enough not to get a drivers license, but not so bad that people can tell without being told), migraines, and bursitis with arthritis, which I knew coming into the marriage. While prescriptions and known problems were bad enough, it’s the constant illnesses that take it out of me. I can’t rouse any feelings of sympathy any longer for congested chest, sinus infections, continuous colds, and other minor ailments.

2. Fetch!: I am very tired of being her little fetch boy. She tends to stay in her bedroom most of the time, and is constantly yelling for me to get this or get that. I can’t sit and watch a movie in the living room without pausing it like 5-6 times before she is yelling for me to get something for her. The thing is that part of me feels that because I would rather avoid confrontation and just get the thing she is asking for, that I am enabling her to continue to take less care of herself.

3. Opposite Cicada Rhythms: I’m a winter/morning person, and she’s a night/summer person. When we got married I didn’t think that would be a big deal, but nowadays I find myself waiting until noon or later before she wakes up on my days off to start doing things like shopping or arranging things for our kids. She’s a terrible morning person — the absolute worst — and the first two hours that she’s awake, you can’t talk to her — its all swearing and anger. The first few years of our marriage it caused far more then its share of issues, since I reacted poorly to being shouted at. It’s now progressed to the point that while I gladly get up and get our three kids out the door and to school, but I worry that she’s not going to be awake when the kids are done with school. Every day I call to make sure that she’s awake for our kindergartner to get home. The two in middle school can take care of themselves, but they come home later then the little one.

4. Finances/Chores: I am tired of being the only person working in the house. We’ve narrowly avoided foreclosure a couple of times, mainly because she never wants to even look at getting a job (even when comparatively healthy). Again, I feel that I am enabling her to keep not working or doing household chores. I’m not locked into the “man is bread winner, woman is homemaker thing,” but if you aren’t working, then shouldn’t the bulk of the household things fall to that person, simply by virtue of them having more time to do them?

Those are the major issues, but I think the straw that broke the camel’s back is;

5. Sex: We haven’t had sex for a year (and it is not looking likely in the foreseeable future). The time before that was a year earlier. I’m not horribly obsessed with sex; I knew that with her health problems sex would be less then many of the people we knew. I’m just not sure that twice in two years is even enough to be considered a sex life. I feel really bad that this is even one of the reasons, like it shouldn’t matter in the long run, but the fact of the matter is that it does matter. To answer questions before they are asked: Her health problems do not prevent or make sex more difficult. Maybe it’s growing up in these more open times, but I was under the impression that one part of a good marriage is sex. Sex, honesty, and compromise.

I guess at the end of the day, I’m tired of it all. I’m emotionally drained with all this. I still feel like I’m the one in the wrong. Everything on this list, I’ve talked about with her at length. Things might change for a bit, but in the end, it always comes back. It’s been an ongoing cycle for years and years. I’ve even tried to get her to go to therapy, but no dice (you can’t help the unwilling). I don’t want to be the bad guy here, and the thing is that I am worried that regardless of how good my reasons are, I will be the bad guy in this situation. I don’t like being the bad guy. I am probably setting myself up to be savaged by your commenters, but I think that I’ve reached the end of my ability to deal with it. I knew coming into this that there would be difficulties, and I was prepared to deal with the major health issues — it’s mainly the other stuff that is grinding me down now. Part of me feels that just writing this is a bad idea. I feel guilty for wanting someone else to validate my decision. The other part of me feels that the act of telling someone besides my idiot friends and my family about the problems has helped me crystallized my thoughts on the matter. — Dude and Confused

Well, I sincerely hope that writing this letter did help you crystallize your thoughts on the issue and I hope this will help, too: You aren’t the bad guy, and you aren’t disloyal for wanting out of a bad marriage — one that it sounds like you’ve invested quite a lot in and sacrificed a lot for to make work. You should not feel guilty for feeling the way you do. I’d think most sane people would feel equally frustrated. And since you didn’t ask whether you should get a divorce, but whether your reasons are enough to MOA, I’ll say that yes, they are (including the sex part! Yes, of course sex is part of a healthy marriage and you aren’t “horrible” for expecting/wanting more of it).

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should throw in the towel just yet. You could have perfectly good reasons to MOA, but with kids involved, it’s always a wise idea to make sure you’ve exhausted every avenue toward help. Have you reached out to your wife’s family and friends? Have you talked to her about the possibility that she may be depressed and need medication to treat said depression? Have you stopped enabling her and forced her to be more independent and to adapt to your (and your kids!) needs for a change? Have you told her you are completely at your wits’ end and are seriously considering divorce? Hearing you say that may be the wake up call she needs. You could tell her that you will be talking to a lawyer and beginning the process unless she agrees to go to counseling (both with you and on her own). This is definitely a case where some ultimatums are in order. If she won’t even attempt to meet you halfway, then she doesn’t leave you much choice, does she?

But protect yourself. Find a great attorney. Speak to him/her before you even discuss any of this with your wife. Make sure you don’t say anything in the heat of the moment that may hurt your chance at getting what you want in the divorce, whether that’s full custody, paying minimal alimony, etc., etc. As I’m sure you’re aware, courts favor the mothers. You will be seen as the man who is leaving his sick wife, but you know and now we know that there is more to the story than that, so find an attorney who will hear your story and advise you (and possibly represent you) appropriately. Good luck.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. This same thing happened in my family (though my mother was cheating on my father), and my father ended up leaving my sick mother. He could have left years ago but he loved her and tried to make it work. I think Wendy’s advice is spot on (especially about seeing a lawyer!) and another important thing to remember is the children. Does your marriage create a stable environment for them? Are they able to lead healthy lives at home? Do they feel loved and safe? The answer to those questions for my family was no and that is what made my father leave and fight for custody of the kids. Just remember staying together isn’t always the healthiest and safest option for the children. You definitely have enough reasons to MOA, but it won’t be easy.

  2. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

    I’d love to hear this story from the wife’s point of view. While the LW has definite concerns, “My wife, “Cheryl,” has more health problems then my 92-year-old grandmother did before she died. Cheryl has some real legitimate problems” raises some questions for me about respect. I wonder whether the LW has gotten counseling for himself, because he sounds to me like he may have just as many issues as his wife. I don’t mean that as a criticism, because we all have our problems, our weaknesses, but perhaps it would help the LW (and his kids, and possibly his marriage, which may or may not be worth saving) to get help with his. A caregiver and/or martyr and/or enabler mentality or role isn’t something that can be sustained long-term for most people, and maybe that’s where the LW has been and now he’s hitting the wall.

    1. EricaSwagger says:

      He mentioned almost having their house foreclosed, so I’m not sure how they’d be able to afford all this counseling and other help that you’ve mentioned.
      This man sounds like a saint, who’s spent 13 years of his life trying to help out a woman he fell in love with and still obviously cares for deeply. If he didn’t respect her, he wouldn’t feel so horrible about thinking of leaving, or about having the thoughts at all. Clearly he’s in charge of every role in the household, and that’s not how a marriage works. Of course he’s hit a wall.

      1. divorce is way more expensive then counseling

      2. Not to mention that there are often free or sliding-scale counseling services available. LW, if you have an Employee Assistance Program at work try contacting them. They could also help with other services like childcare or housekeeping that other commenters have mentioned.

    2. I agree with you non Wendy. The issues here are obviously very serious and legitimate reasons for considering divorce, but I picked up something in LW’s tone that made my spidey sense tingle. Maybe it is a lack of respect with some of his word choices. I’d also be very curious to know the wife’s perspective. The way she is portrayed here is so heinous it’s almost unbelievable.

      Regardless, I think the LW should follow Wendy’s advice.

      1. Yeah, your spidey sense is telling you that the woman is being blamed, so surely there must be some good excuse we have not heard of. It is so much easier to blame a man if the story tilts that way…

      2. Wow, my first totally unfounded and snarky internet sexism accusation! My parents would be so proud….

        Seriously though, you don’t have any logical basis for your comment based on what I said. His word choices were odd and I wasn’t the only person to mention this. And even then, I agreed that he was right to consider divorce and merely wondered what the wife’s story would be. So come down off that “woe is man” cross. I’d have the same reactions if the sexes were reversed here. But I’m sure you won’t believe that, so, believe what you want.

      3. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        I gotta go with AmitR here. (Not the snarky tone though). We are more likely to believe a guy is capable of being an asshole, I mean we’ve all dated that prick jock (just me?). But to think of a woman being unloving, uncaring, lazy, and not exhibiting normal motherly nurturing “female” qualities is harder to swallow.

        I actually completely believe this guy – and didn’t consider anything he said to not be believable. I think he maybe listed so many examples because he was afraid we would tell him he was a terrible person for abandoning his wife. So yeah maybe he gave more details than necessary, but I interpreted it to be because he was afraid we were going not really understand completely how bad the situation is, as opposed to trying to make himself seem like a martyr.

      4. Temperance says:

        It’s not that we’re more “likely” to believe that men are assholes, it’s that, more often than not, they are.

        Women are six times more likely than men to be divorced if they become seriously ill. It’s a fact, and one that is easily substantiated via google, if one is so inclined.

      5. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        Haha I’ve actually heard this statistic (although I thought it was 5 times more likely) and as soon as I read this letter I was reminded of it. But just as everyone got their panties all in a bunch last week about “generalizations” I don’t think it’s okay to say that THIS LW is an asshole or lying. Furthermore, this LW made me wonder if maybe the statistic didn’t delve into whose “fault” the sick women divorces are. Maybe all the women drive their husbands away by behaving like this LW.

      6. Temperance says:

        It’s way more likely that men aren’t expected to be caretakers by society, so they get out of it that way. Women are more or less forced to care for sick family members (and aging family members) because, hey, we’re women and we do that.

        I find it fairly ridiculous that you would immediately assume that all sick women must be pushing their husbands away. That’s pretty sexist, actually. I’m shocked that you didn’t use the word nag.

      7. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        I find it ridiculous that you just called bullshit on him. On DW don’t we try to make a huge effort to assume that whatever the LW is saying is true, and give them advice based on that? Well I think he was being extremely honest. He said he knew her disability when they got married – and they had sex all the time then. He admitted that she isn’t not having sex with him because she can’t – but that she won’t. I’m sorry I know this is kind of taboo on here, but I think for once (eeek I shouldn’t even be saying this) that you are totally pulling the woo hoo woman power thing here. There is absolutely nothing in this letter showing the wife has been making AN OUNCE of effort in this marriage. Okay, so she can’t work, and can’t do a lot of housework, but she doesn’t want to have sex either? She treats her husband like a slave? She refuses to get therapy to see if she’s depressed? She cusses for two hours every morning. If this was happening to a woman we wouuld all scream emotional abuse.

        So you think i’m being sexist, I think you’re being sexist.

      8. bittergaymark says:

        And the women are just balls of sunshine as far as the eye can see….

      9. Hey Iwannatalktosampson… I don’t think you’re really “going with” AmitR as you are filling in possibly valid argument he *could* have used to enforce the sweeping generalization he hurled at me, implying that I was basically blaming the man only because he’s a man. Which I wasn’t doing, as I explained. You’re explanation is actually thought out and rational. And also, I never said I didn’t believe the guy. It’s not that I think he’s lying about his experience, so much as I’m uncomfortable with anyone giving such an over-the-top one sided account of their relationship issue, if that makes sense? Most people that write in will give at least *some* redeeming quality of their significant other. Otherwise, why are they with them? This LW struck me as just vying for a ton of sympathy and permission to leave. Which is fine, I guess it’s just hard for me to picture a relationship where one partner acts like his wife, and the other partner is genuinely confused as what to do?

      10. Bah typos! *cringe*

      11. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        I believe him because (1) I think he comes off as really believable (just my opinion, not quite sure how to ariticulate that), and (2) I feel like if he was going to lie he would have made himself look much better. He would have not bothered to mention that she was disabled before they were married. And he seems so apologetic and guilty for feeling this way that I think if he really was a jerk, he wouldn’t have had that emotion behind his words. Oh and I also kind of thought it was an unspoken word around here that we were supposed to take the LW’s at their words, and give advice from there.

        Also it might be easier for me to believe because contrary to all the generalizations in the world, I actually have met women that lack the nurturing gene, and I can picture a woman acting like this. And by that I mean my mother-in-law has no disabilities, but she can go on drinking benders and turn into a femal satan. Like an emotionless scary individual. So I guess people don’t believe that a woman wouldn’t neglect her kids or husband unless she was soooo disabled she had to, but I can see it happening.

        And I guess to me he didn’t seem confused, more like wanted to not feel like an asshole. Like I think deep down he knows he shouldn’t be allowing his wife to emotionally abuse him, but knows that no matter what he will end up looking like an asshole. So I can see him writing in just to be like, hey – am I crazy here? Am I a total jerk? I need to ask my friends that kind of advice all the time. Like I have a gut feeling about something, but I just want to make sure i’m not too involved and zoomed in on the issue to see it cleary and I want an unbiased opinion from the outside.

        P.S. are you excited to take the bar? 12 days!!

      12. That makes sense, thanks for the explanation! I really hope my uncomfortableness with his explanation wasn’t linked to some deep seeded (and subconscious) sexism on my part, but truthfully it did just strike me as odd when I first read it. I don’t feel like it was, but I of course allow that it could be possible. Also, fortunately, I have no experience with men OR women like LW’s wife. Hard for me to imagine regardless of sex, I think.

        And yes. I should be studying! FML!

        Wait, you’re taking it too aren’t you?! What state are you in?? Good luck! Get off of Dear Wendy and study! ha!

      13. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        Yeah I’m taking the Colorado one. I woke up at 3 in the morning last night reciting property rules. Like I didn’t even know I was awake until I was talking out loud, I woke up mid sentence. WTF?!? So I have resolved to cut my studying off at 10 from now on since I’m a morning person otherwise I start getting weird late at night, and it starts to get counter productive. Oh and I walked on the treadmill today for 2 hours doing flashcards. Do you know how crazy I probably looked to other people in the gym? I was so laid back in law school and I have really never tried this much in my life – ever. It’s weird. I’m kind of like – huh – no wonder people used to be so crazy during finals – if you start trying you start caring, haha.

        Oh well i’ve decided if I fail it’s not the end of the world – Hilary Clinton failed and she’s now secretart of state. You’re doing the CA one right?

      14. Yep CA. Sounds like you’re on the right track at least! I haven’t been on track with where I felt I should be since I first started studying two months ago. I just started off track and never got on, and now a calmness has taken over the desperation and stress. I’ve resolved to accept failure with dignity and grace, lol.

        I’m still chugging along though, trying my damndest at this point and trying to be positive! It’s hard though.

        Good luck!!!!!

      15. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        Psh no way. I didn’t do any of the prep stuff for barbri. Are you taking barbri by the way? So they wanted you to do a pre week and then a pre week to the pre week…which would have been THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS. I was like – aw nah hell naw. I was in AZ anyways. So I kind of felt off track right away too, but I don’t know I have this weird thing where I never get nervous until after. Like I know I will leave the last day and have a nervous breakdown. It’s strange. But as of now i’m cool as a cucumber.

        And I love that “I’ve resolved to accept failure with dignity and grace”. That’s amazing. I’m going to say that to my Dad next time he asks me how studying’s going.

      16. Yes Barbri, technically I was enrolled, but their “plan”? NO.

        We’ll see who gets the last laugh (probably them). 🙁

      17. Temperance says:

        You are probably unaware that only 5% of marriages where the female spouse is sick last, vs. most with male spouses.

      18. My spidey sense is telling me he’s passive-aggressive and a bit too interested in sounding like a martyr. But this whole situation is very wrong and I would MOA if I were him anyway.

  3. I would say that all these reasons definitely are legitimate enough for you to MOA. It sounds as if neither you or your wife even want to be in the same room together– not because of intense hatred or anything, but because it’s become a “Who is this person?” thing (does that make sense at all..?) It also sounds like being married to each other is inhibiting you both in other areas of life. No one has to stay this miserable.

  4. Wow. I’m surprised to read a letter like this and then hear that you think we will all think badly of you. Personally, I think your reasons are more than sufficient to MOA. Any marriage/relationship is a 50/50 partnership where both partners give and sacrifice toward the happiness of the family. I’m not surprised that you feel strained, as you are basically pulling the weight of both parents in your family. I understand that your wife has health issues but that’s no excuse to blatently neglect all responsibility and treat her husband like crap. She shouldn’t be yelling at you and demanding things all the time. There’s a difference between “Honey, I’m not feeling well. Would you mind heating me up some soup? Thanks.” and “You asshole, get off your ass and get me some soup NOW!”

    As for sex, yes you deserve it! Healthy relationships involve frequent sex, and as long as her health problems don’t physically prevent her from having sex or make it painful for her, she should be at least attempting to meet your needs.

    It sounds like your wife is selfish and spoiled. Seeing as how you have been married for 13 years and have kids, I would at least give her warning that her behavior is causing the breakdown of the marriage. Give her a chance to change. Maybe it’s just the wake-up call she needs. But if she doesn’t want to change, she obviously cares more for herself than for you and it would be good for you to MOA and find the happiness you deserve. Good luck to you!

    1. I agree with your response 99.99%, except I can see where he would be a little concerned about hitting the “send” button. Unfortunately, many parts of society castigate men for seeking the respect that they need or for suggesting that their wives/girlfriends/partners should be equal partners in the relationship.

      LW, seek counseling and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t acknowledge that your feelings are valid and natural, or who refuses to consider that ending your marriage *might* be the healthiest option for everyone involved. I hope for nothing but the best for you and your family.

      1. I understand his hesitation too, especially in asking help from what is probably considered a “women’s community” (sorry Budj, Will.i.am, et al.) There’s this idea that just because we’re ladies we’re going to automatically side with his wife. Especially about the sex thing – I think there’s still this (unfortunate, sad, just kinda sucky) idea that sex is this horrible burden for women and how *dare* you suggest that you deserve more, you’re lucky you get any at all. Um, no. She married you, LW, she should want to have sex with you. Yeah, sometimes people have low libidos, but then you need to either get with someone who has a matching libido (if a low sex drive is your normal) or compromise, or do something to get it fixed (if it’s NOT your normal.) It’s part of being a good partner.

    2. I agree there are different ways to go about asking for help. And I mean I am NOT a morning person, however I have never yelled at my husband (I mean ok, maybe we’ve both had a ‘discussion’ in the morning but not me yelling at him!) because of it.

  5. ReginaRey says:

    LW, it seems like you’ve already made your decision…you just want us to validate it and give you permission. We can validate you over and over again, but what you REALLY need here is a solid plan of action, not reassurance for a decision you’ve already made.

    Like Wendy said, you need to exercise every avenue possible before divorcing – for your kids, but also so that in a court of law (though I’m no lawyer, I believe this is just common sense) you can say “I really, really tried all that I could.” I assume you’re going to want full custody of your children. Again, as Wendy said, I think (even as the breadwinner and sole healthy parent) you will still be somewhat of an underdog, considering how much courts tend to favor the mother. So do whatever you can to solidify and prove that you’re the right parent for the job – Document as much as you can.

    Honestly, what worried me more than anything on here is that you have to call your wife every day to make sure she’s awake for your kindergartner. I’m not saying I have no sympathy for your wife’s condition(s), but that’s a bit scary. What if she were asleep, and your child choked on something? Or had a bad accident (things I’m sure you’ve considered before)? More than anything else, I think this kind of example will be useful in stating your case for full custody.

    Exhaust as many avenues as you can before you officially end this marriage, but know this – It’s OK to not want to be frustrated, tired and miserable most of the time. You may love your wife…but it seems like you fell OUT of love with her a long time ago. Personally, I don’t think you should have to spend the rest of your life feeling the way you do right now. That’s no way to live. So do what’s best for you, and your kids, and be smart about your plan.

    1. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

      Somehow i missed that part in the letter where he has to call her and make sure she’s awake for their little kid. That is actually terrifying. A kindergarten-aged child shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods of time- they can wreak havoc and destruction in seconds. Was the wife always like this? Is this a recent development?

      And as an oldest child, I’m willing to bet the middle-schoolers are the primary caregivers for their youngest sibling until the LW gets home from work, because mom is still in bed. They are going to grow up resenting BOTH parents for that. This really sounds like an unhealthy environment for the kids, and definitely sounds like the LW should have primary custody.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        Yeah, more than anything, it seems like a divorce might ultimately benefit the kids MORE than their parents staying together. Middle school-aged and elementary children shouldn’t have to hear their mother screaming at their father to do things, or feel neglected because their mother is in bad, or just simply live an in environment where it’s obvious there’s tension and ill-feelings between their parents. Kids are smart and observant…if not the youngest, I’m sure the older two have noticed all of this. Personally, I think it might be healthier for them to not have to live between that anymore.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        *bed, not bad

      3. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

        Totally agree. At the very least, he needs to IMMEDIATELY look into some childcare options. Even middle-school is quite young to be fending for yourself for long periods of time. (middle school is what? grades 6-8? we don’t have a lot of middle schools in Ontario so I’m not quite sure if that’s the grade range, but even 11-13 year olds need occasional adult supervision.) Plus, if they are coming home to look after their younger sibling every day, they’re not getting to participate in extracurriculars or do “typical” school aged activities, which isn’t really fair to them.

        Definitely, child care is a must. ASAP.

      4. Just another perspective. Late elementary school I was coming home after school while my parents were still at work and it was awesome. Had a little brother and two other brothers in middle school…and my parents would leave us a few chores to do “to keep us occupied” and after those were done we would veg out on cartoons till my parents got home. I was one of those kids that HATED extracurriculars though…didn’t care for them until I started swimming in middle school.

        It’s not like these middle school kids are cooking dinner and wiping their younger siblings butt because his parents can’t do it.

      5. Umm, I was babysitting other kids all day in the summer when I was 11 or 12. I know things have changed, but a couple of hours by themselves is really ok.

      6. Betty Boop says:

        If the kids were alone, I would totally agree with you, but with a sick mother still in bed in the afternoon, it gets concerning. Too easy for the kids to take on too much stress, especially if she’s expecting them to do things for her as well.

      7. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

        Yeah, that was what I was trying to get at…..was that the kids may *feel* that they have to do all these things (or are expected by their mom to do things beyond the typical chores and responsibilities for a middle-school aged child).

        Budj: yeah, being responsible and home alone when you’re young and having that freedom is awesome! I don’t disagree. BUT, I’m an oldest (my brother is 4 years younger and my sister is 9 years younger) and I missed out on A LOT of formative, fun adolescent experiences because I was expected by my parents to provide free child care every day after school and during the summers. And while I understand that I was helping my parents out, I’m a little resentful that I missed out on so much. And for many years I had pretty severe anxiety that I think stemmed from constantly feeling the need to be a “parent” or caregiver to my little sister and being unable to turn off that mindset even when my parents were around. If the older kids have a personality like mine, they are unquestionably going to be feeling that caregiving burden of looking after a little sibling, doing chores and “caring” for a sick mom.

      8. painted_lady says:

        Yeah, I hear you there. The few times my mom was home sick when I was in middle school and even when I was in high school were way more stressful than just coming home by myself. It was always so tense to come in and try to be quiet, all the while wondering if maybe you should check on Mom, or maybe that would just bug her, or if maybe you should just *know* to do stuff. Not traumatic stuff, just tense, but then that sort of tension over a long stretch of time…crikey. Those poor kids.

      9. Betty Boop says:

        Yeah, my mom spent a few years sick and living on the couch instead of doing anything. I ended up taking over the household chores at 7 years old because my dad was never home since he worked 5 or 6 part time jobs to make ends meet and my older brother didn’t know how to deal with it. This led to lots and lots of resentment and my life improved greatly after my parents divorced and I moved in with my dad. Then staying home alone became a magical time!

      10. I think the two different situations have different effects on the children. In your case, you and you siblings looked out for each other because your parents were trying to pay the bills. In our hypothetical situation here, the LW’s kids are looking out for each other because their grumpy, sick mother won’t leave her bedroom. I think this distinction has a huge effect on how the children feel about their own situation and the stresses being imposed upon them.

        In my own experience, my brother had to care for me and another one of my brothers when I was in elementary school because my mother was undergoing cancer treatment. A few years later after she died, he went to college and my other brother and I were caring for ourselves after school until my dad came home from work. The older brother and I have vastly different opinions on our upbringing, mine more of a “what else could they do?” and his is a “why didn’t they do more?”

    2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Oh Regina, you’re always defending the male LWs. If this LW had been a female, you would have really ripped her a new one. 😉

  6. Avatar photo Will.i.am says:

    I think some people walk into a marriage with the hope of both parties will be relatively healthy. When you say “I do” many people don’t think about he could get in a car accident the next day and need around the clock at home care. Or she could fall stricken to a debilitating health issue that requires her to have to quit her job and take on a lot of medical debt. No one wants to think about the worse case scenarios when saying “I do,” but these are likely things that can happen to anyone.

    My last on again off again relationship was exhausting for me due to the health problems she had. I won’t go into detail; however, I realized that going into a relationship with someone who has that much going on, is just not wise for a guy like me. I knew I didn’t want to live with a lifetime of those issues either.

    It’s one thing to get married and have some amazing years together where you have fun and make great memories, but it’s another thing to get married when there’s a few health problems going on that can escalate into much bigger problems.

    Your situation is very difficult, because you have children involved and you do but don’t want to leave your wife. This is what makes marriage so difficult, because this is when “till death do us part” really comes in to play.

    1. Temperance says:

      Your comment interests me because men are 6 times more likely to leave an ill spouse than women are. It’s sadly common that if a woman gets ill, her husband/boyfriend is probably going to bail.

  7. I’m curious about the amount of openness, communication and quality time spent together in this relationship. There is a huge amount of resentment coming out of this letter (‘little fetch boy’) and giving the circumstances it could be totally legitimate, the LW seems like he feels he’s a single parent raising 3 kids and taking care of his sick mother, not his sick wife, which is the reality and so that would be quite frustrating.
    However its important to consider that some of these conditions were already known going into the marriage. To me the issues of sex, her unemployment and the issues of chores all seem to be part of a huge breakdown in communication. Maybe expectations were not talked about before the marriage, or somewhere into it but I doubt there has been effective communication in this relationship for a while. The LW is drained clearly and writes as if he has no more empathy for his wife which can be common for partners of chronic pain or illness-they keep having new pain or illness everyday but to partners, they are not experiencing it, and it feels the same as yesterday.
    He also didn’t say one good thing about her in the entire letter, what she adds to his life so yes perhaps they should get divorced. The effort needed to piece this relationship back together is a lot and both parties would have to be invested. Time, money and energy would have to spent. That said with 3 kids, 1 in elementary school it might be work it to give it a shot.

  8. If she’s receiving any sort of disability or unemployment benefits, I say you use that money to hire a nanny/housekeeper. It’d probably be safer for your youngest, and it would take a lot off of you to come home from work to a clean house/groceries and know someone was looking after your kids when you were away. If financially viable, this may be a way to extend your marriage at least until your kids grow up. It sounds like you are kind of spinning your wheels in trying to get her to pull more weight on her end, so this may be the easiest way to make your life easier (if that’s what you’re looking for, as oppose to actually looking to save your marriage).

    1. Extending the marriage just for the kids is a TERRIBLE idea. Kids are smart and they know when things aren’t right. Wouldn’t it be better for them to grow up in a stable healthy one parent household then to grow up in a two parent household that is unhealthy and where the parents clearly resent each other? Part of the way that people learn relationship dynamics is watching the adults closest to them, like their parents, and watching their parents have a seriously dysfunctional relationship is not the way for them to grow to be healthy adults.

      1. “Part of the way that people learn relationship dynamics is watching the adults closest to them”

        The lesson they would be learning is to jump ship when things get tough. They already are growing up in a one parent household, their mother has health issues and doesn’t contribute much. I get the father wants an easier life, but by leaving he’d also be asking his kids to abandon their mother as well. That is a lot to ask of a kid who maybe doesn’t see their mother’s problems as debilitating as their father does. Standing by family is a much better life lesson for the kids and will teach them the values of a relationship.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        I have to agree with camille on this. I don’t think the LW should have to stay in a bad marriage “for the sake” of kids who will be just fine with divorced parents. Divorce doesn’t = abandoning your family. The kids won’t be abandoning their mother, nor learning that the best course of action when things get tough is to “jump ship.” They’ll still see their mother, spend time with her, and maybe under even better circumstances – when she isn’t using her husband as a crutch.

        I think children of happily divorced parents are much, much better off than children who have to witness their parents resent each other. And I don’t think the father is selfish here, either. I think he’s pretty worried about his kids being home alone with his wife — I wouldn’t say that the only reason he wants to divorce her is because it’s just HIM he wants a better life for.

      3. coming from parents who divorced i will tell you at least in my case if my parents had stayed married i would have lost my mind. when two people who no longer get along and no longer love each other attempt to stay together just for the kids bad things happen. maybe they’ll attend counseling and things will get better. maybe just talking to her will help. but, if it doesn’t there is no way that staying in a marriage that no longer works is good for the kids. they might just be kids but they feel the tension in the household, they hear the fights behind closed doors. they know what is going on.

        more important than staying married is explaining to the kids why people get divorced and showing and reassuring them that they are loved by both parents. even if the parents can’t live together anymore.

        i know from being married that it isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. however, you do have to love between both people (romantic love) to make things last and to have something to fight for.

      4. I think it’s bold to say the kids will be just fine with divorced parents. We don’t really know much about their situation in all this. For all we know, the mother is just a pain to the LW and the kids love her. It’s obvious she needs care, to some degree. Is she even capable of living on her own? Sure she seems to take his willingness to help her for granted, but maybe she truly needs that help? Despite popular belief that the courts always side with the mother, it seems the father will be the likely person to get custody (only one with a job, mother can barely care for herself, let alone children, can’t drive, etc). Where does she go? An assisted living center? The kids see their mom sent away to a home, they can visit on the weekends? Meanwhile their at-home situation isn’t any different, aside from the physical presence of their mother. I think it’s wonderful to imagine that everyone comes out on top from a divorce, but it could end up being fairly detrimental to the mom. Depending the the kids relationship with her, they could end up resenting their dad pretty bad for all that.

        Again, all speculation, we don’t have the full story.

      5. TheRabbit says:

        One of my best friends told me that she knew from a young age that her parents didn’t love each other, but they are still together. I don’t really think it taught her anything about perseverance, but it did give her a really messed up view of relationships that led to a lot of serious problems in her personal life. And now as an adult, it pains her to see her mother in the situation that she is in.

        If they had gotten a divorce, I’m sure that would have been traumatic as well. Maybe it would have caused more lasting harm, but maybe it would have been better for them. I don’t know. But “staying together for the kids” can have negative consequences too.

      6. My BF has said the same thing to me about his parents. He’s a pretty well-adjusted guy, but I think that has more to do with his getting out of the house ASAP. He essentially hasn’t lived at home since he was 8 – he was given the choice of going to boarding school or a public school where he could live at home, and chose boarding school.
        I also remember him telling me early on in our relationship that it was hard for him to believe me when I told him I loved him, because no one in his life had ever said that and meant it. He’d come to the conclusion that he was somehow fundamentally unloveable. It took him a while to get used to someone (i.e. me) saying “I love you” because they *wanted* to, rather than because they felt they were supposed to.

      7. The mom may be living under the same roof, but she herself has already abandoned the family.

      8. The absolute best thing my mother ever did for me was divorce my dad when I was 10. I didn’t need the lesson to “stand by your family” – I needed the lesson that if someone refuses to help themselves, you can’t help them. Everyone deserves to be happy. If a relationship is making you unhappy, try to fix it. If it can’t be fixed, leave.

        Also, I am very close to my mom and my two sisters. We stand by each other. No lesson needed.

      9. As a daughter of divorced parents I have to agree with Camille here. My mom and dad have resented each other pretty much always. I can’t really remember a time where they wouldn’t fight over absolutely everything. My mom even told my dad she was cheating on him so that he would get jealous, but he didn’t which made her hate him even more. (I learnt this part quite recently, and it shocked me quite a bit). Anyways, I would have preferred my parents to get divorced way earlier than they did. My mom says that she didn’t want to get a divorce because she didn’t want to be a single mom of 3 young kids.

        She kinda was anyway, but she was able to work more hours and make more money that way. My mom used to start working like at 5 am and arrived at 11pm at one point, while my dad started working around 9 and would arrive between 8 or 9. At that time my dad would prepare and take us to school. My mom worked at the same school from 1 to 5 so she would take us back home at 5 and then leave to work again, so many time we were alone at home until 8 or 9pm. Then my dad would arrive and instead of preparing dinner he would sit down to watch tv, so sometimes my mom would get home at 10 or 11 and find out we still didn’t have dinner, and even have to start preparing it herself sometimes…

        She says she was also afraid that he wouldn’t contribute with alimony if they got divorced (now that they are, he always deposits the money to her bank account late most of the time, and doesn’t even give her the amount he is supposed to because he never has money). He always says he doesn’t have money. Yet, he lives with his gf in her apartment which is the expensive kind and pays part of the rent (if he doesn’t have money then why is he living in a place he can’t really afford?) he always buys expensive foods, when we go to visit on weekends its always take out instead of home-made which would be cheaper, etc.

        I do understand why she didn’t want to divorce earlier, and that it would have been very difficult. At the same time I grew up in a home where screaming between my parents happened every single day, and I hated it. And unfortunately I also learnt to shout when I am angry, so when ever I have a fight with my mom, or my brothers I shout, and then I get shouted at and it sucks cause everyone is just shouting at each other. And my bf gets mad at me if this happens when we are on Skype and I forget to hit the mute button =|. I also grew up in a place where my parents where absent most of the time, which sucks too. And while the reasons my mom stated are completely valid and maybe where part of her reasoning, I think she was mostly scared to leave my dad, the same way she is scared to leave the asshole she is dating cause she is afraid no one else will ever love her. Their fights also started way before they even got married so I don’t even get why she decided to marry him and have 3 kids with him.

      10. I’m a little late to this, but I did want to stick my oar in on this sub-subject (and project a little bit). Suffice to say, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. My parents were unhappily married for 23 years and for every single one of those years, I was very aware that they were unhappy. Even if there isn’t physical or blatant emotional abuse, even if both parents are supportive of the children in every way and just happen to hate each other, even if they try to separate their mutual contempt from their relationship with their children, the tension (and passive-aggression) permeates the household and it’s not a happy or mentally healthy way to grow up. I remember the exact moment — in high school — when I saw two adults express love and affection for each other by holding hands. I was completely taken aback. Because up until that point, I didn’t really entirely believe that such a thing existed.

        So, yes, I believe that in some (most?) cases divorce is a much healthier choice for everyone involved.

      11. Avatar photo Jess of CGW says:

        I mostly agree with Mainer BUT it’s impossible for us to say because we don’t know the daily ins and outs of the household. Part of me thinks its a powerful lesson for children to see their father stand by their mother even though she is weak and ill. The alternative (he leaves her in that state) could fracture their fundamental understanding of love and human empathy.

        Again, maybe the house is a nightmare. Maybe dad is obviously unhappy and kicked around. Maybe mom is manipulative and cruel. So maybe the kids are better off but…. it doesn’t sound like a house where the children are getting caught in the cross-fire so I have a hard time seeing how they’d be better off –based on what we’ve been told.

      12. The kids ARE being caught in the crossfire – the husband has to call and remind his wife to get out of bed before their (I’m guessing) 5-year-old gets home. If she’s a terrible “morning person” to the point where she’s swearing and angry for TWO HOURS after she gets up, then that’s what this little kid is coming home to. Every day. The kid may be little, but even the youngest kids can latch on to the idea of “mommy’s always mad when I come home, she must not want to see me.” This does not sound like a household that is supportive for the kids.

      13. britannia says:

        “If she’s a terrible “morning person” to the point where she’s swearing and angry for TWO HOURS after she gets up, then that’s what this little kid is coming home to. Every day. The kid may be little, but even the youngest kids can latch on to the idea of “mommy’s always mad when I come home, she must not want to see me.” ”

        This is SUCH a good point. However, it is always possible that the wife only has that vitriol for the LW — she could only take out her intense anger on him, not the kids, which is a common theme among people who despise their spouses. That’s still very damaging for the kids, though.

      14. I am a bad morning person. It takes me about 30 minutes of sitting in bed to actually get out of bed. Do I swear at anyone who comes across my path? No way dude. This lady just sounds like a jerk. I understand that she has health issues, and it’s probably really got to suck, but that doesn’t give her a right to make everyone around her miserable.

      15. All your comments make a lot of sense. Go you.

      16. Ha! Thanks. 🙂

      17. My mom takes all her anger on me and my brother when shes mad for whatever reason that has nothing to do with us….

  9. You are definitely not a bad guy. I agree there is some resentment there…but that really isn’t a surprise given the circumstances. I think you owe it to your family to at least talk this out with your wife…however…I don’t know how all this stuff works, but you may want to talk to an attorney before that to see if tipping your wife off could make the divorce any messier if she handles the news negatively rather than receiving it as an opportunity to make change.

    1. I don’t think there is some resentment here, there is alot. The letter is dripping with it.

  10. Great advice Wendy!

    LW, I really feel for you, because it sounds like you’ve gone above and beyond for a long time, and it’s really starting to wear you down. It would take it’s toll on anyone after that much time. Do exactly what Wendy said. Good luck.

  11. It pains to see that there is no emotional reciprocation on part of your wife. I think the ‘fetch boy’ incidents bother me the most.

    You ARE the full-time care giver to her. Even adult children who care for the elderly parents get burnt out, and need time for themselves. It is known that full-time care givers who don’t seek out caring for themselves began to have stress related health issues. Rather then divorcing your wife, your situation sounds more like wondering if your mother-in-law should be assisted living.

    I’m no fan of divorce, no one is. Something has to happen soon at the very least to give your a break, retreat, and reflect.

    Is there any family she can visit long distance, so she is out of the home for a week?

    You need some form of respite first, then I think a decision can be made more clearly.

  12. lets_be_honest says:

    While you seem to have every reason to be frustrated, but just from a different perspective, I find it very easy to get into a routine of laziness and taking advantage, especially when someone is enabling it. I would have to think this is something that’s going on with your wife. For this reason, I think an ultimatum of sorts is in order. You have shown your wife that this cycle (or whatever you want to call it) is acceptable to you. We always say on here actions speak louder than words. You tell her the behavior is annoying, but then you continue to enable her and tolerate it. Stop doing that. Give her the chance to truly see how fed up you are and that she is risking losing you if it continues.

  13. fast eddie says:

    I can relate to the LW on a LOT if his concerns. My wife’s health has deteriorated over the last 8 years since her first round of cancer. The ongoing treatment for it includes estrogen suppressant which extinguishes her libido COMPLETELY. Her numerous ailments require her to take 26 pills every day. We’re very fortunate that our finances are sound enough it to not be a factor but some of her behaviors drive me up the wall. She doesn’t understand finances and for a long time she wouldn’t even discuss them. At one point that was the last straw for me and I considered leaving her. I talked with my best guy friend about it on the phone and she overheard the conversation. Of course that pissed her off but it evolved to her being more open to discussing and acting on our finances. I think we’re OK on that for now. The list goes on and on and on so I’ve developed copping measures.
    **To ward off some readers consternation, I don’t cheat.**

    Dude and Confused, if you’d like to chat in a less public venue my web site has a contact me button. I’d like that because we have so much in common and perhaps we can buoy each other.

    1. painted_lady says:

      Eddie, I always love hearing your perspective so much. With all your optimism and positivity, I sometimes forget you’ve got this other massive thing going on, and I think you might have the best experience with this sort of thing. Thanks so much for sharing!

      1. I agree I love Eddie’s comments. They seem especially important for this LW to hear.

      2. fast eddie says:

        Thank you for your compliments dear friends, it really makes me feel good. When I wrote that we were good on the money front for now it just illustrates how wrong I can be. Round 959 started yesterday. How can she be so intelligent yet do such stupid things? Tax time is always stressful and I found out she’s been stuffing money down a rabbit hole behind my back again. At least this time it was small bills. (sigh)

    2. My sister had a chronic yet-to-be-diagnosied pain condition and I often get frustrated at her constant need for me to do thing for her. I am very short with her even though I only see her maybe for a months time out of the year and I regret it often. Her fiancee loves her very much and she is willing to put up with a lot more from my sister than I am. That being said she goes with her to all of her appointments and sees my sister’s day to day struggle to simply function, to walk and sit in class. Her pain drugs are pretty intense so she’s pretty useless after 9 o’clock, high and disoriented off of the drugs. So its her fiancee who often is in charge of walking their dog, since my sister cannot get up very early and cannot function at night. I know the relationship costs my future sister in law a lot but she never complains and will tell my sister when she needs a break. They are both young and are hopeful that the pain will one day go away, that doctors will one day be able to figure it out and for now it seems that the good stuff outweighs the bad. I am hopeful too that I’l have more patience with her in the future but chronic anything can really wear down even the best and most solid relationships.

  14. gamergirl says:

    This letter could have actually been written by my ex about out relationship – minus the kids my health issues made that an impossibility.

    So from the perspective of a sickly wife – my ex leaving was the best thing that could have happened. It forced me to deal with my health and start making changes to get back on track. It hurt like hell that despite the fact that he knew i was sick he used it as an excuse to bail, but when I’m being 100% honest the situation wasn’t fair to him or to me. He was my crutch. He never complained about doing things for me so I became almost completely reliant on him. Now i’m healthier, happier and with someone who loves me for me, not because of some sense of duty.

    Of course my ex tried to sneak out in the middle of the night without telling anyone to marry his high school sweetheart, so maybe don’t take that approach. Be honest but clear about what you need out of a marriage.

    1. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

      Good point–his wife deserves to be with someone who wants to be with her.

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      Ok, I gotta ask…TRIED to sneak out and marry his high school sweetheart? I need a story on this one!

      I loved your advice, great perspective.

      1. gamergirl says:

        One Saturday he was acting all weird and cagey asking what my plans were for the week, my plans were always the same every week, so I got really suspicious and started asking really direct questions like “is there some reason you’re avoiding me” and “What the hell is going on with you” and after basically badgering him until 2 in the morning he finally confessed that he had been secretly planning to move out the next Friday and run away to Canada with his chick – they had been having an internet fling, to start work on a kids TV show.

        Things did not go according to plan and he had to actually tell his boss and all his friends he was leaving instead of sneaking out. Then his agent vanished and his tv show fell through and he ended up living with his mother and his chick for months. They are now happily married.

  15. I’m going to get blasted for this, but . . .

    Am I the only one wondering why you had children in the first place. It honestly sounds like your marriage hasn’t been great from the beginning. For instance, when you discuss your different sleeping patterns, you say “The first few years of our marriage it caused far more then its share of issues”. You also confirm that this has happened for a while when you say “It’s been an ongoing cycle for years and years.” Your have a child in kindergarten. That child is 6, I’m guessing.

    Anyway, what’s done is done and you can’t change it. I guess I’m trying to point out to future parents to really think before you have children. Don’t just do it because it’s something you think you should do, or to save something.

    As for you LW, it sounds like you and your wife fight or argue a lot. Think of your kids and try to figure out what’s best for them. If that means leaving your wife so they don’t have to hear the constant belittling of you, or arguing. Then so be it. But I would honestly try to get primary custody of them, LW, if she really can’t take care of herself. Let alone children. I’m usually all for getting the parents needs met, but in this instance, I’m putting the kids first.

    1. I wrote this before reading Wendy’s response. I love the ideas she brought up. Great advice, as always!

    2. EricaSwagger says:

      I think he went into the marriage knowing he’d be a caregiver. He knew her issues, and must have been okay with being in charge of her health and stuff, which is respectable. If he loves the woman and wants to marry her, he should be able to.

      However… I totally agree about the kids thing. I could never bring kids into this world if I couldn’t be sure that their needs were going to be met 100% and that if something were to happen to me, my spouse could take over fully. This clearly isn’t the case for the LW, so I did wonder how the decision to have kids with this woman felt like the right one. But of course, it’s not my place to judge him about it.

    3. I agree about the kids thing, but I don’t think it’s worth berating the LW about. It’s not like he can change anything about that now.

      1. I agreed with you in my comment, and that it was too late to change now. I put this up there as more of a cautionary tale for those people considering children, which I also stated.

        I also wanted to point out at this point, think about the children and their lives. Since they were brought into this world under less than ideal circumstances, IMO, everything should be done to make their lives better.

      2. I agree with the kids thing, but yeh it’s after the fact so its no use bringing it up now. I just don’t understand why people bring kids into unstable marriages…but they have and always will I guess.

    4. I wonder why my mom decided to have 3 kids with my dad a lot… so I totally get what you are saying

      1) They fought a lot even before getting married

      2) Had money problems before getting married

      3) My dad left to work idk where in a farm or something like that for uh I think 3 (or was it 6?) months and left my mom alone and didn’t call or send a letter in all those months he was gone, and he didn’t give her any phone she could call or even the address I think so that she could send him letters… also he had said he’d leave for only a month……..

      4) My dad bought a car he didn’t need without telling my mom, while they were having money problems

      5) Shortly after they married (if I remember correctly what my mom told me) he lost his job and she had to support him for like 2 years

      6) My mom felt my dad stopped loving her sometime after I was born and yet she wanted to have another baby AND they also had money problems so not really the best idea

  16. Yeah, I don’t think you’re a bad guy at all. I do however think your letter is another great example of why it’s so important BEFORE marriage to talk about things. It might seem like not being a morning person while you are is not a big deal it definitely can be. And talking about chores and who will do what is also important. Especially if you’re both assuming things will happen differently than the other person is. I think Wendy has some great advice and I hope you can find a way to deal with this that will do the least harm possible to the kids. I know it’s hard with finances being the way they are but family/couple and individual counseling might be in order.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      The one thing I would like to add to this is that with every major life change (new job, new home, new child) things usually need to be renegotiated and you end up coming to a different division of chores.

      When we moved from an apartment to our first house we had four times the space so it required more time to clean and it had over an acre of grass that needed mowing and we had a baby a few months after moving and babies require lots of time and effort. It seemed like moving to our second house wouldn’t be that much change but it changed the commute time for my husband to over an hour and so we went from cooking together to me cooking every evening by myself. But even inside the house things took different amounts of time. Our first house was half hardwood floors and half carpet while the second house was almost all carpet so it took longer to vacuum but didn’t have floors to mop.

      1. I definitely agree with you. I guess I was commenting more on the fact that he said that he didn’t think something would be an issue after marriage. And it’s a bad idea to assume that. It’s better to talk about it before than realize after it is.

        People do have to be willing to renegotiate through life’s changes. But, certain things should be talked about before marriage. If you aren’t on the same page (even if it’s agreeing that you both approach something differently but being willing to work with each other) it will cause issues.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I agree completely. I think that the LW probably knew that he’d have a sick wife and he’d help her but didn’t really know what that would be like just as new parents know they’re going to be up in the night and know they’ll be exhausted but experiencing that exhaustion is different that knowing it.

      3. Agree that things need to be renegotiated, because the needs of the family change through out the relationship. Nothing is the same as it was 12 years ago for ourselves.

        Here though LW doesn’t even state that his wife is even emotionally nurturing to her own children. I don’t care if his wife had no vision and lost both arms, at least be there emotionally there for your children, even it is to ask ‘How’s your day?’ when they get home from school.

  17. Avatar photo Jess of CGW says:

    Wait, are we having another DW haunting? This post JUST appeared for me and it has 30+ comments. Meantime, the other post I was commenting on this morning (about the girl’s BF saying his female friend was his “second choice”) seems to have disappeared.


    1. You’re right… that one is gone. Damn… I wanted to read it too. Sounds interesting.

    2. Thank you! I’m not actually losing my mind!

      1. It will be back in a few hours. it wasn’t supposed to have been up so early.

  18. EricaSwagger says:

    I’m so proud of the LW for lasting this long. As a few have mentioned, marriage is a partnership, and since this relationship clearly is not, it can’t be considered a marriage. That’s reason enough to ask for a divorce.

    Of course it will be hard on everyone; divorce is never easy. But it’s also in everyone’s best interest. And yes, I’m including the wife in that statement. The LW will get some relief knowing that he has done the right thing for himself and his family. His children will hopefully be put in his custody, and will no longer have to see their mother treat their father so poorly. That’s not healthy for kids; they grow up expecting that’s how a marriage should be.
    The wife needs this, too. She clearly is “able” enough–despite her health problems–to be married, have children, and potentially work, so she should take the divorce as a wake-up call. She can take care of herself in general, she just chooses not to since her husband enables her. A divorce will force her to get out of bed and in charge of her life.

    Honestly, to me the wife just sounds lazy. Maybe it’s depression, or maybe she’s just lived this way for so long that she thinks it’s okay. The LW makes it sound like the latter. The “not a morning person” excuse is one of the worse I’ve ever heard. Plenty of “night people” work 9-5 jobs and get up and make it to work in time. There is absolutely no excuse for his wife to not be up by the time their kindergartner gets home from school. It’s disgusting. This marriage is toxic–health problems or not. If she’s healthy enough to marry and have kids, she’s healthy enough to be a contributing member of her household and to act like a wife. That includes some chores, taking care of kids, and yeah, having sex with her husband. They don’t have a marriage. The LW has a 4th kid.

    1. EricaSwagger says:

      worst* not worse.

    2. I agree. It sounds like she is using her illness(es) as an excuse to be lazy and be waited on hand and foot and sleep all day.

  19. Avatar photo Jess of CGW says:

    My heart goes out to you LW and I can see where the current situation is the outcome of a long pattern that’s worsened with time. Clearly, you have a good deal of self-awareness here and recognize your role in enabling her depression, apathy, and well…. laziness.

    One thing you did not mention, and that I think you should spend serious time on, is what made you fall in love in the first place. I gather (I hope!) you did not marry this woman because you sought a charity project? I assume there was once love, passion, and respect where now there is little. I’m a believer that what was once there can be (has a chance to be) revived. Whereas if the relationship was built out of convenience or ambivalence, there is nothing to get back TO.

    Others have said so, but I’ll concur that counseling for YOU would be a great idea. No, you can’t help the unwilling. But as you and Wendy both mentioned, you CAN modify your own behavior. You can stop the enabling and deal with the consequences. Yes, in the short term, it will be ugly but maybe it needs to get worse for it (for her!) to get better. People often will not work unless forced to do so.

    A good behavioral psychologist could help you develop practical concrete ways to change these unhealthy patterns in your marriage. Some of it might be tough love. Some of it might be creating romance. I don’t know. But try changing SOMETHING before you throw in the towel. Talking, it seems, isn’t doing it.

  20. wendyblueeyes says:

    Changing the dynamics of the relationship now would be shutting the barn door after the horse left. The time to put your foot down about the shouting and fetching is when it first starts. Growing a backbone now will not change years-long patterns of behavior. She probably won’t believe he would really divorce her. She’s had her own way from the get-go.
    The very best marriage advice I ever got was from a co-worker, married 30 years. She saw me standing in the parking lot, waiting for my husband to pick me up. He was late for the umpteenth time. She told me to start walking. If I waited around when he was late, I was destined to wait around forever. Well, I was just mad enough to do it. I started walking. My husband came by a half hour late, I wasn’t there, my boss told him I had clocked out, he panicked. He started driving home, and found me along the way. It was the absolute last time he was ever late. Moral of the story: if this husband is at his wife’s beck and call, she will never respect his personal time because he is at her beck and call.

  21. I feel for you. You sound emotionally exhausted. When you married you knew certain things would be part of your reality but clearly your wife has embraced some behaviours that add to your burden and magnify your resentment. Wendy is right. Talk to your lawyer, then talk to your wife, and then talk to a counsellor. Understand that you have enabled her – just as she must be responsible for her actions you have to be responsible for yours. Try and turn your marriage into a healthy and happy one – for both your sakes. And if that turns out to be impossible then console yourself with the fact that you tried your best. That is all anyone can do. Wedding vows aren’t carte blanch to make someone else’s life miserable – both of you have to be invested in your relationship for a marriage to survive.

  22. Having health problems is not excuse for treating your husband like sh*t! Off the top of my head I can think of two women in their 40s/50s with serious health issues – one with MS and one with lupus – who are incredibe mothers and wives. They are both extremely optimistic and, most importantly, treat their husbands with respect.

    I personally am NOT a morning person – and while I can sometimes be a little grumpy I am not angry at the world for waking me up and I certainly do not curse at people! While I curse like a sailor I do not curse AT people – I find it extremely disprectful and if for some reason I ever do I apologize, no one that I care about should be treated that way.

    In short you are NOT the bad guy! You have discussed with her repeatedly what you NEED and you are getting nothing. If anything I applaud you for sticking around for as long as you have. It’s time to MOA and get your children out of a toxic household.

  23. You are not a bad guy, but it does sound like you are engaging in enabling behavior. This is understandable considering the circumstances, and it sound like you are fully aware that your wife is being allowed to hold you hostage in this way.

    I do take issue with one thing: you say that she “refused” therapy. I always love to hear this one. I am a HUGE fan of therapy, and as far as I am concerned, if someone won’t go with you, you go by yourself. And then, you put it something like this: “I would like for you to attend therapy with me in an effort to save our marriage. If you refuse to go with me, I am going to go by myself and the likelihood that we will get a divorce is much higher. I am thinking of leaving you.” Period. Point blank.

    Did you know that by the time most couples present for therapy they have been unhappy an average of six years?! That is six years too long, and you would likely agree with me on this one. You have an obligation to try as hard as you can, but when you’ve exhausted ALL options, then you can MOA. Give it one last try. You sound like a great guy who has done a lot in the name of love, and perhaps your wife will surprise you. I hope she does.

    1. I think the LW by himself needs therapy. I too think there is nothing wrong with therapy, so when I say that I mean that being a caretaker is HARD and he has a lot on his plate. That must be stressful, exhausting, and cause some resentment issues to boot. Even if he doesn’t get a divorce, I hope he can find someone to talk to at least.

  24. quixoticbeatnik says:

    It all sounds so exhausting for you, LW. It must be hard to live a life like that. But I agree with others who say that you need to talk to her before you do anything, or talk to her immediately after you talk to a lawyer about what to do. Counseling would be good for the both of you. She could be depressed, or maybe she underestimates her abilities – there might be a reason for her behavior if she wasn’t always this way and you should find out if there is one. It can be hard having a disability. I underestimate myself sometimes in what I can do and then am pleasantly surprised when I realize how much I can do.

    You said that she is unwilling to go to therapy. Did you mean physical therapy (is she supposed to be doing physical therapy, but has stopped?) or counseling? You said that you would rather give in to her demands then face a confrontation, and with that kind of attitude you will never be happy in your marriage. You have to tell her that unless she starts taking on more housework and contributing to the household – i.e., getting a job, doing more things for herself – then you will have to walk away. Don’t beat around the bush or assume she knows how angry and resentful you are. This has been the status quo for a while, and she may not realize how you feel. She might think you’re perfectly fine with the arrangement because you haven’t tried hard enough to make her understand how you feel. She’s not a mind reader.

    That being said, it is worrying that the children are being potentially neglected when you are not at home. Do you have a family member or a neighbor who can maybe help out with the kids a few times a week? Or is there an after-school place they can go to in your school district where they would come home later?

    Finally, I have to wonder when the last time you actually TALKED to your wife was. Do you guys ever have conversations about the future, about your daily lives, about the kids, or anything at all? Have you two done anything romantic for each other? Do you show any affection for each other at all? Have you gone to dinner, just the two of you, lately? Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day yesterday?

    I hope you talk to her, LW, and I hope you do the right thing, whatever it may be. If you end up getting divorced, then I hope it isn’t messy for the kids’ sake. Good luck.

  25. I actually got really anxious reading this because the LW could be describing my mother— health issues, bitterness, neediness,refusing therapy, the whole shebang. She was in a really bad place mentally, physically, and emotionally for most of my childhood and I’m still trying to deal with the strain and emotional damage I incurred. My father divorced her last year and even though my sister and I are out of the house, I almost wish he had done it sooner— just so we would have had a place to go to get away from her. If being that woman’s daughter is exhausting, I can’t imagine being married to her.

    Part of me agrees that exhausting all the options is the way to go, because that’s how I view relationships. But from the perspective of a kid that had to deal with that crap— get out now.

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

      I completely agree; a kid shouldn’t have to deal with all of that.

    2. “She was in a really bad place mentally, physically, and emotionally for most of my childhood and I’m still trying to deal with the strain and emotional damage I incurred.”

      The effect of growing up with parents like this really depends on the child(ren) and their personality. I grew up in a somewhat similar environment (excluding physical issues), but my father also had his own set of demons he was battling. Even at a very young age, I realized how screwed up each of them were, but I never internalized it. More than anything, it made me angry at them, and it made me very aware of what I didn’t want in my own personal life.

      As I read these comments and go back up and re-read the letter, it strikes me even more that the LW hasn’t stood up for himself in the marriage. As much as having a mother like that is not ideal for their children, having a father that just caters to her is doing the children a disservice, as well.

      1. This is so true. My dad is a great guy but he basically let my mom have the run of the place because if she was ever challenged or criticized, she’d throw a fit. I can’t imagine how hard it was for him to be in that position, but I recently admitted to him that I was angry that he hadn’t stood up for the rest of the family, if not himself.

        I have definitely learned a lot from them about how NOT to be in a relationship, and I am very capable of having loving and functional friendships and romances today. There are some habits I developed regarding confrontation though, that I’m still trying to break.

      2. “I have definitely learned a lot from them about how NOT to be in a relationship, and I am very capable of having loving and functional friendships and romances today. There are some habits I developed regarding confrontation though, that I’m still trying to break.”

        That’s the important thing – we all grow up with parents who are flawed in some way and in varying degrees, and as we become adults, it’s our responsibility to take all the good and all the bad and become the person we want to be. Obviously, it’s not quite that simple, and for some, there may be a series of steps in order to get there, but the onus is really on each of us to do that.

    3. Being the daughter of a crazy mother is no fun. We need a support group. Like M.A.D.D., but with a less ironic acronym.

      1. Betty Boop says:

        I want to join that support group! As long as we’re allowed to make tasteless jokes about our childhoods. I’m much more comfortable making bad jokes than crying about the past.

      2. I love that idea! That should be one of the forum threads! “Hi, I’m MsBorgia, and my mom’s a nutcase.”

      3. I’m in.

      4. bekahtravels says:

        I would like to join the group too! MsBorgia, your mom sounds a lot like mine…

  26. stilgar666 says:

    take the kids and MOA.

  27. Great advice, Wendy.

    After reading some of the comments, I am left with a few questions. I wonder for how long he needs to not have a life for the sake of salvaging this relationship. For how long does someone has to keep trying to save a marriage that is not working? When is it really the right time to say “enough” without having a few point fingers and say ‘you should have done this or that’?
    And about the kids… a divorce does not equal abandonment or permanently scarred children. Not in every instance, at least. And I doubt very much their kids are unaware of the difficulties in their parents’ marriage; they may not know every single detail, but kids ALWAYS know when something is not right. I personally believe that kids are better off with divorced parents that are not pretending to have a relationship for their sake. Knowing my parents, I am forever grateful they divorced when I was still a kid; I cannot even begin to imagine how our lives would have been like had they decided to stay together for our sake.

    1. WHen my parents divorced, all of my friends and extended family were very supportive and concerned about how I was handling it. My response was always, “Honestly? It’s a damned relief.”

  28. lets_be_honest says:

    This thread makes me kind of sad about marriage. So many of us just saying trying a little more, then if it doesn’t work, give up and divorce. Marriage is so clearly no longer about til death do us part I guess. More like til its no longer working. Sad.

    1. i get where you’re coming from but i think it’s more than just til it’s no longer working going on here. unfortunately some marriages fall apart. in this LW’s case he has given more than his share to this marriage. BOTH people have to be giving their all. it’s not fair to ask one person to consistently give more to a marriage than the other (there are times when one may give more than the other, but it shouldn’t always be on one person). marriage is about two people and while marriage isn’t only about love, if you fall out of love with your husband/wife and aren’t able to get it back, there isn’t anything to base your willingness to fight for your marriage on. i think in general society’s view of marriage as disposable is very sad. however, i don’t think that same view point can be applied to this LW.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        I agree with your points, and I was speaking more to what you said about general society viewing it as disposable rather than this guy specifically. I get there are circumstances out of people’s control and all of that. I do.
        But justing thinking about the vows specifically, and I believe people mean them when they say them, its really sad that no one (right or wrong) ever really sticks to them anymore. You know, sickness & health, good & bad, etc. I’m not necessarily saying stay in a bad marriage no matter what, maybe I am, more thinking outloud I guess.

    2. I’d say more like til one party gives up. Both have to be committed to make it work – no one person can carry a marriage all on their own.

    3. “Marriage is so clearly no longer about til death do us part I guess. More like til its no longer working. Sad.”

      Nearly every couple goes into marriage hoping that it will be “forever”, but the reality is that people change, and two people might change in incompatible ways over time. No one hopes that will happen, but when it does, the impact needs to be considered. It becomes especially difficult if only one person sees the need – or even wants – to change.

      Life is short, and you have one go at it, and what you’re suggesting is that, no matter what, a person should be unhappy (or even miserable) for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years because of a decision typically made under the best of circumstances. I grew up with parents who were (and currently are) like that, and I just don’t understand why. Sure, they’re waiting until “death do us part”, but they have no marriage in any real sense. It all seems very pointless to me.

      However, as much as I can completely understand and support that this LW wants out of his marriage, the financial aspect alone is probably a major deterrent. If he can barely afford to make ends meet with one home, the amount of support he’d owe would mean both he and his wife (and consequently his children) would struggle even more in two households. If his wife hasn’t worked in that long of a period of time and has major health issues, she’s unlikely to be able to bring in any significant income for herself.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        What’s the point of marriage then though? Maybe that’s what I’m trying to get at. I don’t disagree with you that life is short and no one should be miserable for their entire life. But if you can sit here acknowledging that people change and because of that (and a host of other things) divorce is an important option, then what exactly are you commiting to when you marry? Not the vows. But only a hope that its til death do you part, but only if life is good to you.
        Guess this is why people don’t use the traditional vows as much.

      2. In my opinion, the point of marriage is to spend the rest of your life with your best friend and lover.

        I’m not suggesting that once a person is unhappy, they just walk away. I certainly think that they should try to make it work, especially when there are children involved. I’m not even convinced that the LW has truly tried to do that – more than likely, he’s unhappy with the marriage that he has, but it’s because he’s not tried to change anything about it and just let it “happen” to him.

      3. I think the wife gave up on her “vows” long before the husband considered doing it. To me, the idea of marriage isn’t following some words someone wrote for you in a ceremony. “For richer or poorer and sickness and health” doesn’t really cover what it takes to be in a marriage and frankly just watering marriage down to those few things seems outdated to me anyway. If I had to summarize what I think marriage should be, it should be two people committing to work hard and try every day to be the best partners they can be. Showing love and appreciation and commitment is what will get a couple though the hard parts of a marriage. The LW’s wife has already refused to participate as a healthy partner, to me that breaks a marriage more than anything.

      4. Like I’ve said, I think he’s partially to blame for the state of their marriage, but there is no point to trying to assign percentage of blame. The LW needs to address these issues based on where things are now.

    4. This LW has gone through 13 years and 3 kids worth of trying. He has repeatedly tried to talk to his wife and get things to improve, with no success. How long is he supposed to try for? BOTH people have to be committed to “’til death do us part”, and even then it doesn’t always work. Marriage is supposed to be a thing that benefits and supports you, not drains you dry. A piece of paper and a few vows is not what makes a relationship a marriage; I don’t really think this LW even HAS a marriage except in the most official, legal, least important sense.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Right. Like I said, “til its no longer working”

      2. Actually, I’m not convinced that he’s tried. He talks about being afraid of confrontation, so he just goes along with things. He is partly to blame for the state of his marriage.

    5. GatorGirl says:

      I totally agree. But- in this guys case…it seems like the wife was the one who threw in the towel a long time ago. She isn’t doing her half, or even her third or quarter, based on the letter. A marriage is a partenership but she has taken a passive role. I do not think divorce should ever be the first option…but I do think there are some times when there are no options left. Why should he have to live a miserable life because she is miserable?

    6. ReginaRey says:

      While I agree that the attitude about marriage has certainly shifted somewhat from “forever” until “it’s no longer working;” I honestly think that the real problem lies in people marrying someone who they DO believe they’ll be with forever…but not communicating well enough before getting married.

      I think the divorce rate stays high not because marriage doesn’t work; but because people get married without doing enough thinking and communicating first – about kids, finances, morals, values, health, inlaws, social preferences, sex, EVERYTHING. And when you don’t communicate with someone before getting married, you’re likely going to discover a lot of issues after the fact…issues that could very likely lead to divorce.

      I guess my philosophy is that people should take marriage a lot more seriously, and should REALLY talk, communicate, and give it time before marrying someone. Giving the relationship time to end, if it’s going to end, before you get married will save you a heck of a lot of strife down the road.

      1. THIS. X100000!

    7. Betty Boop says:

      I dunno, when was marriage every really about “til death do us part?” Personally, I’ve always thought that is a romanticized vision of marriage that isn’t based in historical fact. Not that there is anything inherently wrong about the romantic ideal of everlasting love, but it completely ignores the fundamental reality of relationships: They are a lot of damned work and there is no happily ever after. Also, divorce was created long, long before our time.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        I agree. Historically, I think it’s seemed like the “til death do us part” value has disintegrated, but I think it’s far more likely that there were just as many (if not more) unhappy marriages…but far fewer divorces because it was too taboo.

      2. Betty Boop says:

        I guess I was thinking in a larger historical context. There are many places, religions, cultures, etc., that have allowed for a man to “set aside” a wife without it being called a divorce. If she’s unable to bear children, particularly male children, if she “cheats” in any way, if she’s doesn’t perform wifely duties or what have you, it becomes acceptable to lay her aside for a new wife to do these things. While I do love the idea of marriage, the idea of finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and actually accomplishing that is magical; I’ve read far too much history to buy into the current ideals of marriage, it was a commodity for far too long. Ummm… hopefully this comment isn’t too terribly depressing? I get riled up when people romanticize the institution of marriage and forget all about historical reality.

      3. Marry me?

      4. Betty Boop says:

        Hahaha! Dunno, what kind of dowry would I get? ; )

      5. Flanagan.er says:

        I’m not sure how great an effect this has, but death is also a lot further away than it used to be. People born in 1900 expected to live until 50, in the 50s, they expected to live until 60, in the aughts, we now expect to live to 80 and beyond. It’s a lot more bearable at 40, to say, well, I can deal with this person’s shit for another 10 years, I guess. But to deal with it for another 40 is a lot more painful.

      6. Exactly this, RR. People are no more unhappy now than they were 40, 50, 60 years ago, but then, if you divorced, it was failure and SHAME SHAME SHAME until you died. Or you just didn’t because it was, far back enough, illegal.

  29. My mother has significant mental health issues (which have impacted her physical health over the years as well), and my childhood home life was very difficult for huge chunks of my childhood. There were often times where my father resented spending so much time taking care of my mother, and my older sister and I were left to look after each other (and often wound up fighting with each other, with no parents around to referee; fun times). I don’t think the situation was as bad as the LW is describing, but I can say that my parents did find ways to work things through and have a better marriage (and they are still together, and will celebrate their 37th anniversary in June).

    I think one of the biggest things that helped was that my father went to therapy. (It’s part of a much longer story, that I’d rather not get into – it was not his choice to go, but it helped him figure out better ways to cope with their situation.) I moved out of the house to live away at school for my first two years of high school, while my older sister went off to college, so they had more time to focus on themselves (and I got to spend time focusing on myself and my education, without the distraction of my mother’s problems). They went to couple’s therapy, and my mother got a much better team of doctor-therapist-psychiatrist, all of whom my father became very familiar with, so he feels comfortable talking with them if he has concerns about her behavior or medications.

    Though throughout it all, both of my parents really cared about one another and cared about finding a way to make their marriage continue to work. While my mother might never be fully well, she is committed to being as functional and well as she can be, and supporting my father as best as she can. If both people aren’t committed to making things work, they can’t work. If the LW’s wife isn’t willing to work on figuring out a better way to function, either within the marriage or out of it, things are not going to improve.

    For the sake of the children, I urge the LW to document as much as possible the patterns of behavior that his wife exhibits – family video of her behavior of screaming at people 2 hours after waking up (because she’s not a morning person? this is ridiculous and unacceptable). Side note: I am a HORRIBLY grumpy person for the first half hour to 45 minutes of waking up. So my fiance and I have figured out a morning routine that works for both of us – he knows to leave me along until after I’ve showered, and I know to take a deep breath and use a nicer tone of voice even if I feel really grouchy. Obviously, this will have to grow and evolve as our lives change, but the point is that we are both respectful of each other’s routines and needs. If you can’t respect each other, there is no way to keep any type of amicable relationship going, let alone a marriage.

    1. Yes! Document as much as you can. A handwritten (not typed) daily log of the duties you perform to care for the children (including when you call to make sure your wife is awake) as well as any abusive/inappropriate behavior on her part (like yelling and cursing in front of a kindergardener) should help to establish that you are the primary caregiver. It’ll probably be difficult to be discreet, but you have got to do all you can to ensure that when/if you leave, you don’t have to leave the kids behind. Please, please, speak with a lawyer ASAP to find out the best way to protect your children.

      I do hope that things turn around for the two of you. God bless you for trying as hard as you have.

  30. Honey, I have health problems myself, and let me tell you, what your wife is doing is taking advantage. Period. It sounds to me like she is depressed and co-dependent/counter-dependent on you to take care of her because you have enabled her to do so. She isn’t going to change until YOU enable the changes. And a good dose of reality, antidepressants, and counseling.

    Being in pain is depressing and can cause depression. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I deal with it every damned day of my life. There are days where I don’t want to leave my bed, but I do. Complacency is not an option because if I choose to stay in bed, it makes things worse (my joints lock up, I get stiff, and then I can’t move at all).

    Consult an attorney if you can afford one. Look for cheap alternatives at the very least. Demand counseling, a medical evaluation for depression and change. Refuse to “fetch” and carry. Do not allow your kids to do it either. Demand better treatment in the mornings. If things don’t get better – then leave. Pain does not 100% control a person’s life. It does not control how we mentally react to people in the morning, nor how we choose to respond to people when we are in a bad mood. It simply means we are in more pain than other people and can be short tempered on bad days. Even then, we can control our tempers – with a modicum more of self control!

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      I just KNEW you were gonna love this one. I was thinking as I read it, Man AK’s gonna have a field day with this one. She’s sick and is busy as hell!

    2. britannia says:

      I agree with you so, so much, AKChic (as per usual). Especially the “Pain does not 100% control a person’s life” part.

      LW, from my own personal experience, prolonged pain is difficult to deal with. Exhaustion is constant, as is frustration. However, it is YOUR WIFE’S responsibility to get her shit together and be grateful and respectful to you because you are her husband and are helping to take care of her. It is counter-intuitive, and childish, for her to treat you like shit as you are caring for her. It’s part of being a mature and loving person, no matter how shitty you’re feeling, to not take out your frustrations on your loved ones. Being consistently angry is actually very toxic for your body, so her constant negativity is actually probably doing worse things to her illnesses (and may explain why she’s constantly “sick” on top of all her chronic conditions… but it also may be because she obviously never exercises or gets much fresh air).

      Seriously — trust AKChic and I when we say that she has no valid excuse for being so disrespectful to you despite her being sick. We have both experienced equal or larger amounts of prolonged physical injury, and we’re calling bullshit.

      Individual therapy actually helped me A LOT with internalizing and moving past the pain and frustration associated with being in constant physical pain. Your wife needs to be open to working on her anger issues, because obviously she has them in spades – and I think they mostly extend from frustration with her body (though I’m coming from this from my own perspective; of course it could be different for her). You need to show her what the consequences of her actions are! Most abusers don’t even realize they’re being abusive until they are faced with serious consequences. If she’s still unwilling to work on her personal issues (which are the foundation of all the problems between you and her) and start treating you with respect, then I agree that it is time for you to go through with divorcing her. You don’t deserve to be an emotional punching bag until she dies.

    3. ReginaRey says:

      I didn’t realize you had health problems, AK! I’m sorry to hear that 🙁

      1. Degenerative disc disease, mostly in my neck, but it’s also in my lower back thanks to a curvature in my spine (since birth). It started out with a car accident 8 years ago. Nerve damage, leaking/bulging discs, etc. It has it’s moments. I can reread some of my comments and tell when I’m high as a damned kite.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        This may be totally ignorant of me, so forgive me in advance, but is chiropractic something you can do and/or something you’ve tried? I’ve recently started working with one, and though I don’t have a degenerative disease, I’ve already seen some big differences in my overall health. People are sometimes wary of them because of how MDs have polarized them, but quite honestly, chiropractors (at least the good ones, anyway) have the right idea (in my opinion) – total health and wellness, and preventative care. Doctors are so quick to throw pills at problems, instead of trying to actually reverse damage and make you better. Anyway, just wanted to throw that out there.

      3. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Well of course they do… The money isnt in the cure…. The money’s in the medicine! (this is coming from a bItter wife that has had to deal with crappy doctors – including mayo clinic ones – for a year and a half). Best medical care in the world my ass.

      4. caitie_didn't says:

        I’m VERY anti-chiropractic as a “holistic health measure” but pro-chiropractic for people with back problems. However, the science of chiropractic medicine is that “toxins” get trapped in the spinal cord and spinal readjustment is a way to “release” them into the body and dissolve. This, from a scientific standpoint (speaking as a molecular biologist/epidemiologist) is bullshit.

        However, I’ve heard people with back problems say that their chiropractors worked miracles for them, so I’m not discouraging anyone from seeking one out. But I think it’s important that everyone understand the theory behind the treatments they use and recognize that chiropractic is an addition to medicine, not a replacement for it.

      5. Betty Boop says:

        I’ve never met a chiropractor who consider performing adjustments to be, in any way, related to releasing toxins trapped in the spinal cord. May I ask from where this concept came? Not doubting you, just very curious. I do know there is discussion on chemical release when you’ve had an issue for a long time and your muscles may dump them during adjustments or massages but that is based in science. To note: I’ve been visiting chiropractors for 25 years since my first one helped me avoid the surgery my G.P. swore I had to have to keep walking past 10 years old. I’m 33 and still going. Might even make it to 40 with the way integrated health care is progressing!

      6. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

        If you study the history of chiropractic medicine, this is the theory on which it is built.

      7. Iwannatalktosampson says:

        The theory it was built on or the theory it is sustained on or both? I’m totally splitting hairs here but I think maybe they thought that was the case but now they can scientifically see valid results from it? I have no idea what i’m talking about, and clearly you do, but I’m just curious. I live in Colorado, like the meca of weird hippie shit remedies, and I swear to god they work. As I mentioned (maybe on this thread? Another?) my husband was insanely sick (and a total grumpy a-hole so I can comiserate with this LW) for a little over a year. We went to the fricken mayo clinic and they couldn’t fix him. He went to some alternative medicine chick and had 3 sessions with her and she fixed him. Knock on wood. I mean he’s been feeling better for like a month, which is the longest time he’s been able to not feel like he’s dying in the last year. She is a hybrid of real medicine (I think she is a lesser version of a doctor – for some reason I can’t think of what they’re called now – more than a nurse but less than a doctor. Maybe physician’s assistant? Hmm not sure) and witch doctor. She did this massage thing with a machine (real doctor machine) and gave him a new diet plan with natural herbs – but no perscriptions. It’s crazy. So I don’t know even if things aren’t scientifically based, I think they can work and be just as valid. Like the mayo doctor literally started laughing when we told him we’d been to a few witch doctors here (I told you – it’s like a thing in Colorado). We were tempted to call him when this lady seemed to fix him, but we thought that would be too obnoxious.

      8. Nurse practitioner?

      9. Betty Boop says:

        I bet she’s a Nurse Practitioner! Love mine and I will not trade her for anything. First doctor I’ve had that will easily work with my alternative health care (desperate) choices and my specialists to try and get me on a streamlined health care regimen.

      10. early chiropractic was explicitly vitalistic (i.e. spirit energies and such ). They believed that subluxations in the spine influenced the flow of energy through your body. Contemporary practitioners tend to attribute the effects of subluxations to neurological causes, but there’s still a lot of wooliness concerning what subluxations actually are and their role in various maladies.

      11. Unfortunately, no. With the discs the way they are, and the nerve damage, an adjustment to realign my spine can’t “fix” things. Everything will just slip back to the way they are, and can make things worse because the discs that are slipped will continue to bulge or may rupture (the ones that aren’t already leaking) because of the adjustment.

        There is no “reversing” the damage done on this one. It’s permanent and only going to get worse. I started out with three discs bad at first, and my c1/c2 slipping back and forth just under the base of my skull. Now all of the discs in my neck are shot and it’s working into my upper back. My last pregnancy aggravated my lower back (we expected it to happen eventually). I get one disc in my mid back that leaks every once in a while. My lower back will be fused eventually (when I have the money for it). I refuse to fuse my neck. I just keep having the nerves burned out every few years to help dull/numb the pain.
        The nerve damage and a few of the discs pressing against nerves in my neck can send pain signals down my arms, or worse, numb the feeling in my arms and hands. In my back, it just gives me sciatic pains down my right leg. I’ve had a permanent dull headache since my car accident that sometimes flares up into monster migraines.

  31. I would say along with Wendy’s advice, look at everything with the perspective your kids would have. Right now your kids understand that their mom isn’t like other moms and that their parent’s relationship isn’t like how other parents’ relationships are. Your two older kids probably feel as though they have to ignore a lot of pent up fear and frustration and/or take responsibilities they shouldn’t have to. You live in a house filled with unsaid suffering, and your kids are suffering the most. Not only that, but every day you’re kids are learning from you and your wife. Every day longer you keep them in a circumstance that is unhealthy is another day they learn that unhealthy is normal and safe. You have got to do something to change this and create a healthy life for your kids.

    I hate ultimatums most of the time, but it applies here. Your wife needs to know that she’s either got to proactively work to fix this marriage or you will get divorced. As much as you might hate to be the guy that divorces his sick wife, do you know what’s worse? Being the guy who cheats on his sick wife. You don’t think you’ll do that, maybe, but when people are desperate for affection they wont get from their spouse, they are the most vulnerable to make the worst mistakes. How many times have we all heard that story? Don’t just talk about what you want fixed, fix it, either through counseling or divorce. Your kids’ happiness is worth way more than you worried about being the bad guy.

  32. Wow. LW, I truly feel for you, and I can relate to your letter far more than I’d want. Although some details differ, the basics are all there.

    I echo others who suggest that depression and anxiety might be at play here. The advantage I have in my situation is that at least my wife recognizes her issues and has worked to overcome them through, among other things, trying various medications to help with her issues. That has made things better. Still not all that different, but better. I doubt that, for me as well as for you, there is much of a real chance of things working out happily in our marriages, and I still suspect that, for me as well as for you, divorce is the best outcome, ultimately, for ourselves and our children, but, given all the variables, including finances and the kids, it is ultimately best – I think – to do all you can to get her into someone who can counsel and/or help her with finding meds that might improve things.

    The better she gets, the more likely things will work out in your marriage and/or the better off everyone will be during a divorce.

    However, if she flat-out refuses to help herself, you need to stop catering to her every demand. Face it, even if she has to get out of bed to come yell at you for not bringing her a drink or whatnot, at least she will get out of bed. Sooner or later, she’ll end up asking you for less. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever do anything for her – you should – but it does mean that you don’t need to treat every single request as a top-priority command.

    Don’t just keep doing things to keep the peace, because, as others have said, it just makes things worse on you, and, believe me, it’s not like the kids are going to be shocked to see that Mom is angry. They already know the score.

    Good luck.

    1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      I’m sorry JSW, I never knew you had all that going on. I feel for you too 🙁

      1. I appreciate that :-), and I’m sure it’ll work out, eventually. Things are at least progressing, but that’s only after hitting a very low point. We are at least finally both rowing in the same direction and have recognized that there can be no good outcome if certain behaviors didn’t change. The issue now is mainly one of digging out from a financial situation that I could easily have avoided had I not just assumed she was taking care of things as she said she was. Once we’re back on our feet, the hope is that we can be amicable about things.

        However, I’m glad I went through this – well, glad that I stuck it out, not glad that it all happened – because I won’t have any doubts about whether I should have tried harder, and I won’t feel bad that I “abandoned” her. We both had issues to work out, we’ve both had those necessary moments of clarity (“how in the hell did I end up here?”), and… I think the kids will make it out fairly unscathed as well. We’ll see.

      2. painted_lady says:

        _jsw_, as I mentioned below, the relationship the rest of my family had with my dad growing up was strained, to say the least. And to be honest, it got bad enough when I was about 12 that I started wondering why my mom put up with it. I would not have blamed her in the least if she’d left him, and I think it might have made us all a little healthier emotionally if she had drawn a line someplace. I don’t regret now that she didn’t, since we eventually got to a point where everyone’s pretty functional, but if that’s how it ends up for you two, your kids will be fine. And if you don’t, they’ll still be okay.

    2. The better she gets, the more likely things will work out in your marriage and/or the better off everyone will be during a divorce.

      This is so true!!

    3. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      _jws_, you’re a dude? Did I know that?

  33. Avatar photo landygirl says:

    LW, you say you feel guilty and that is natural. if you didn’t feel guilty then it would be a different kind of issue. Take Wendy’s advice, it’s good. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s a challenge to be with someone who constantly shirks their responsibilities.

  34. painted_lady says:

    LW, we had early mornings in my family, too. Except they were called Sundays. And instead of my mom being the one at fault, it was my dad. My mom would slip into my room early-ish Sunday mornings and whisper that my dad was in a mood, and we needed to do everything just the way he wanted to avoid the tirade on how worthless we all were. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but either way my family was held hostage to my dad’s moods. And my mom was simply trying to make as little conflict as possible, but the message she sent was, “When someone throws a fit, it’s the other person’s job to fix it.” And so I ended up in relationships where I felt temper tantrums were acceptable and something that I should accommodate, and my brother learned if you yell loud enough people will excuse your crappy behavior. Of course there were other circumstances that caused both of those things, but emotionally hostile environments were very normal.

    You know when my dad changed? When my mom kicked him out of the house and told him either he got counseling or he stayed gone. And suddenly it mattered enough to get help, because otherwise he wouldn’t have my mother anymore, and I was angry enough at that point that I didn’t want much to do with him either. It was a rude awakening for him; no one would enable his bad behavior anymore.

    1. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

      Wow, your house sounds exactly like my family’s house!

  35. Okay, I promise I am not trying to split hairs on this one BUT . . . it’s “circadian” rhythms. Circadian rhythm is your body clock. Cicada rhythm is, according to a Google search, a band. Trust me, I’m a doctor/physician. And a former English major. Really 🙂 Correct language merely helps support the LWs case, and that’s the only reason I bring it up.

    Okay, that out of the way, I deal with patients like how LW describes his wife All. The. Time. And it’s common in people like her to maintain the “sick role” not necessarily because they are have a persistent physical illness (whether she does or does not have an illness is a moot point here, since we don’t have all the information/her side, as per usual), but rather because it’s easier and the payoff is better to maintain this role. Work is hard, waking up in the morning is hard, running a household is hard. So it’s easier to “be sick” all the time, which in turn feeds depression, anxiety, and the cycle continues. It’s not necessarily a conscious process after a while, and so it’s REALLY hard to break.

    So what does this mean for the LW? That’s where things get tricky, as I’m sure everyone has addressed above. As the LW himself said, people have to want to change before they will, and she has no incentive to change at this point: she’s being waited on hand and foot by her husband! She needs some help/assistance to get out of that rut, and that will probably have to come from her husband taking action, even if that means leaving her or kicking her out. She needs to be forced to have responsibility for her own life, family and health again.

  36. Temperance says:

    It really bothers me to see so many commenters bending over backwards to let LW know that he’s so not a bad guy for wanting to leave his disabled wife when the same people ripped to shreds a woman who merely requested that a friend wear his teeth to be in her wedding.

    I am going to go against the grain and call bullshit on LW. He’s clearly set out this list to make her look like a selfish, bad, lazy person … but she’s DISABLED. He seems to think that she’s making up her ailments, but concedes that she’s been diagnosed and that he knew that when he married her. I have some chronic but controlled health problems, and I’m really thankful that my fiance never once accused me of lying or making things up so I could avoid doing certain activities.

    I’m really not happy with all of the commenters telling you to MOA from your wife because, well, disabled women are 6 times more likely to have a spouse leave them then disabled men are. It’s most likely because we’re expected by society to take care of everyone and help them out. If a woman wrote this letter, we’d encourage her to seek counseling but stay with him.

    I’m also disturbed the amounts of likes on the more sexist comments. This is not the Dear Wendy that I know and love.

    1. “If a woman wrote this letter, we’d encourage her to seek counseling but stay with him”

      I definitely wouldn’t.

    2. As someone who suffers from debilitating pain constantly, I am telling you this – from his description, it sounds like he is enabling her and she isn’t as bad off as she claims to be. Otherwise, she’d be on disability at the very least. She isn’t, therefore she can do some things on her own, and chooses to be babied a bit because she feels sorry for herself.

      There are times when I want to be babied. When my migraines are so bad that I have to be in the dark with no noise. When I can barely move and I can’t hold my own cups because I have no feeling in my hands and can’t grip anything. When breathing hurts. And yes, those days I do ask for help. I ask someone to go grocery shopping with me. I ask someone else to drive if I’m too medicated to do so. I skip doing the laundry that day. I avoid the stairs and take over the couch. I don’t cook dinner and have someone else do it or order in. But I don’t have people “fetch” for me. I limit my movements, but I still do for myself. She isn’t doing for herself. She has everyone else do it for her, which is only ruining her joints and allowing arthritis to set in that much more.

      1. While I appreciate your experience just because a large bureaucracy doest recognize that you are disabled doesn’t mean you are abled. It’s a government system not god so there is really no way you can make that conclusion, its pretty ridiculous. Also maybe she does do for herself when he’s not home. You are assuming she is hold up in her bed not moving an inch until he gets home, which might not be the case. Maybe thats all the energy she can muster. Every disabled person has their own limits and they change daily as you well know. And I doubt you would call the help you get on your bad days being ‘babied’. I suspect you might see it as necessary to help you simply get through the day.

    3. Avatar photo caitie_didnt says:

      Um, what?

      Obviously, you have some issues that are colouring your perception to this letter. You seem to think his wife is a helpless invalid. She’s not. Even if she was, being disabled doesn’t give you licence to treat your husband and family like shit and neglect your children.

    4. “I’m really not happy with all of the commenters telling you to MOA from your wife because, well, disabled women are 6 times more likely to have a spouse leave them then disabled men are.”

      You’ve said this like three times, and I am not sure what your point is, but it’s obvious you are bringing things into this letter that are not the LW’s fault. Because women get a raw deal, and are encouraged to “stick it out” in a bad situation, then this man has to do the same thing? How does that make any sense? It sounds like one of those “pay for the sins of your fathers” type of ideas. I am not sure how your feelings on societal norms have a bearing on this real world, real life situation. Did you read the part where the kindergarten kind goes home to a mother who can’t be bothered to be awake for him, every day? Seems better to try to not stick women with the unfair duties of default caregivers than to hold the whole world to that shitty standard.

    5. I both agree and disagree with you –

      What makes me take pause in this letter is whether or not the LW has actually mentioned any of this to his wife.

      From another perspective – I’m pretty much sick all of the time. I have Ulcerative Colitis, PCOS and because I’m on immunosuppressant drugs, I have a cold and a cough and the flu and every other bug you can think of…kind of always. Not only is it exhausting and frustrating…but it can be depressing (maybe explaining why she’s sleeping until noon and super angry all of the time). I know that feeling like crap makes me turn into a super unpleasant person, and I do the best I can to check myself so that I’m not taking it out on my fiance or making him feel like he is a caregiver to an invalid BUT I know that there are times that I kind of forget myself. I’m just really tired that day, I’ve been at work and school and feeling sick the whole time, and I snap. And, in those moments, I rely on him to say “woah? did I do something?” and call me out on it a little.

      I’m not saying that the way the LW’s wife is treating him is OK, because it is NOT…but I wonder if he’s had a real conversation with her about how he feels and whether he has encouraged her to get counseling (if she is suffering from depression related to her illnesses – which I get – it can feel totally hopeless). I don’t think that he is obliged to stay with her just because she’s sick if she refuses to change or understand where he’s coming from, but I think he should give her a chance to change.

  37. bittergaymark says:

    Yikes. Letters like this make me glad that I am single. And Gay. And won’t ever get myself into such a big mess. I don’t know what I would do here other than plot my escape. Yes, I think the writing is on the wall. MOA!!!

    1. fast eddie says:

      You must have gone through similar stuff Mark but unencumbered by a marriage contract. If not, then you’ve been fortunate. Taking on a life partner has a lot of ups and downs. There’s no way to forecast how it will turn out. If I had it to do over again I’d have stayed single but now it’s not worth the grief of splitting.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        No, my own love life has been devoid of such drama and such intimacy lately… Of course all that comes with both good and bad…

  38. evanscr05 says:

    You know, I’ve been called “frank”, “blunt”, and “honest to a fault”, but one thing I don’t struggle with is knowing exactly how my spouse feels about me and our relationship, and vice versa. It takes A LOT of work to keep a relationship going, and when something isn’t right, it’s incumbant upon each person to bring up issues as soon as it’s a problem to try to fix it. We were together for 4 years before we married. We knew exactly how we each stood with regards to our debt, our income, our religious views, how many children we’d like (and when), whether or not someone wants/can be a stay at home partner if they so choose, how we’d like to educate said children, what we’d do if we got pregnant early or even if we couldn’t have kids, where we’d like to live now and where we’d like to live down the road, career aspirations, educational goals, how to deal with health concerns or job losses, and the list goes on. That does not mean every day is a good day, or that we don’t have our arguments or struggle with some miscommunication from time to time. What we do do, though, is talk about things when they come up and hash stuff out. Of course I married him because I love him, but I also married him because I know we are compatible in the important ways and because I know he is someone that is worth it to fight for. We are also both children of divorce. We’ve seen first hand (and in my case, twice) how it can shatter or strain relationships with family and how it impacts a person’s view of their own relationships. It’s not for us, so we work very hard to prevent that from being an outcome down the road.

    But, we’re also realistic. Shit happens. People grow apart and sometimes no amount of counseling can repair that. Sometimes divorce is in the best interest of all people involved, but it is, and should be, the absolute last resort. It does not seem to me that this LW has fought for his marriage or his life. He’s become a passenger on this ride. Yes, they should have marriage counseling. They should each go to counseling on their own. AND, I think the kids should see a therapist to detmine a) if they are struggling at all in the situation and b) to give them tools to deal with it if they ARE struggling. Kids are very perceptive. Then I think he needs to get tough with his wife and stop taking her shit. He’s her fetch boy, because he’s allowed himself to become that. Stop getting her everything she wants when she’s capable of getting it herself. Yes, it will be ugly at first, but anytime there is a change in the status quo things are uncomfortable.

    I also think he should seek a financial specialist that can help him set a budget and learn to live within it, and to scale back so they don’t encounter foreclosure again. He needs to take control of his financial well being just as much as his emotional and mental well being. If his wife is causing there to be financial issues, then find a way to remove that power from her. Don’t allow her to run you in to financial ruin.

    Lastly, like someone else mentioned, he needs to find a way to remember why there was a spark in the first place and do everything he can to get it back. People get complacent over time. We need to be reminded of things we have taken for granted so that we can start to appreciate them again.

    You have to give it time, too. A few months isn’t going to fix it. You need to set the changes in motion and watch how it affects things over the course of maybe a year (especially since there are children involved). If you’ve given it your best effort, and a sufficient amount of time, THEN call it quits. But don’t walk away without trying to salvage it. You owe it to your children, your marriage, and yourself.

  39. Sorry, I started to get a weird vibe off of this LW as soon as I realized that he listed “having to pause a movie 5 or 6 times” as a problem before he even mentioned, oh, the three children they have together.

    1. Yep.. Also, I find his attitude a little disturbing. It’s like he is saying that “yes, I know all your issues now, and I am willing to accept them, but don’t you dare develop any other “issues” or illnesses from now on… because THEN I might have to leave you”.

      And while he does list a lot of legitimate reasons for leaving a relationship, some others are really petty..

      All in all, I think when someone is that miserable, they should definitely move on. But do not seek sympathy or justifications. You have to decide for yourself. You are the one who is going to live with that decision.

      I am also curious what do your older children think of the situation. It sounds like they might benefit from some therapy as well…

  40. I just read this, and other than the type of illness my wife has, this is exactly what I am going through. I was wondering how Dude and Confused was doing and if he would have any advice for someone going through something similar.

  41. I feel so sad for you. I am sure that you never envisaged that married life would be like this. Of course it is not your wife’s fault that she is ill, but neither is it YOUR fault.
    Your life sounds absolutely miserable and I am disturbed at some of the Judgmental comments I have seen on here from people who think that you are being somehow unreasonable. I do NOT think that you are being unreasonable…..in fact Sir I applaud you that you have managed to hold it all together for so long……PLENTY of men (and women) would have walked a long time ago. The fact that you are agonising over whether to end your marriage or not proves that you are a caring and good person.
    I would like to see some of these self appointed moral guardians walk a mile in YOUR shoes before they judge. I wonder if THEY are so perfect and have led such blameless lives? Sanctimonious prats.
    Sir, the decision can only be yours and yours alone, and it will not be easy…If you stay you will become more and more miserable and resentful….and if you go you will probably feel guilty……you are truly in an awful no-win situation and I really do empathise with you because right at this moment I am trying to decide the same thing as you: Whether to stay with my severely disabled husband or leave.
    I am exhausted and at the end of my tether, so yes, I KNOW EXACTLY how you are feeling.
    As for those who would judge the likes of you and me, I say only this: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

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