This is probably going to be the hardest and most honest post to write. It is about my marriage and its future. It also is going to act as a way of collating my thoughts on this into writing, to use as a basis for next steps.
The bottom line is that I’m really unhappy in my marriage currently. I feel like my wife and I are just two adults sharing a house, with a mutual focus on raising our kids, but where there is no relationship to speak of that exists between me and her.
We are generally civil; there are no arguments or anything like that. But there’s no chemistry, mutual respect, love, or anything really. I enjoy being on my own / just me and the kids far more than I do when we are all together, and I don’t really miss her when I’m away (again not in an actively negative sense, just in a passive, ambivalent sense).
There’s two potential ways of looking at this, and so I’ll cover them in turn:
She was never the right one for me?
This is the scary view that I think is what I feel is true in my gut. We got together in my early twenties. I was very bad at making difficult decisions, and I remember countless times talking to friends and family expressing my doubts that we should stay together. I think I knew deep down it wasn’t right, but I didn’t have the courage to connect my gut with my mind and act on it. I hadn’t learned that my gut was something I could listen to and act on.
We don’t have anything in common. We don’t make each other laugh. We are completely different people and that has always been a point of insecurity for me. In fact, I’ve often struggled to work out what bits about us are good. We get on, but that’s about it. Since the beginning, I was acutely aware that while my friends were in relationships with people who shared their passions, I was not. But I didn’t know what to do about it, so I just carried on.
I’ve never really had very high expectations of relationships. I’ve generally been happy that someone even takes an interest. And I think that was part of why I’m now married with kids to someone who I just get on with – I thought that was enough. That there doesn’t need to be a spark. But for whatever reason, feelings have been brewing inside me that counter this mentality, and I can’t seem to shut them down. For some reason I no longer feel ok with accepting I’ll just be unhappily married for the rest of my life.
I am always resentful and jealous when I hear and see people who express a real passion and enthusiasm for their marriage. People who share interests, or talk about their partner as someone they are so lucky to be with and wake up to. I don’t have any of these feelings about my wife. I can’t imagine myself saying “I love my wife so much” or “I’m so happy to have found her” or “she’s my soul mate”. I just don’t feel those things.
Finally, I started chatting with an ex from a distant past. She was someone I loved, and I’ve never loved anyone in the way I did her, or have a connection with someone they way we did. It was a bit of a messy relationship, far from perfect, and it didn’t work out, but chatting to her reminded me that better connections exist. I’ve not done or said anything inappropriate with her, its nothing like that, just some harmless “what’s going on in your life” catch-up, but like I said it triggered the realisation that a relationship with a connection is a something I’ve experienced, and it isn’t something I am currently in.
Or, things are fine and my addiction is clouding my judgement
There’s no doubt about it – my addiction to porn plays a part in this. The more I watch porn, the more distant I am from my wife. Continued porn watching is definitely making it harder for me to be in the headspace to put the effort in to try and repair whatever is broken. It is a vicious cycle – I watch porn to escape, which makes me more distant in my relationship, which makes our issues worse, which makes me want to escape more.
It could probably be fairly easily argued that the porn addiction is the cause of these issues. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe my continued acting out has driven wedges between us that otherwise would not exist. Without porn, would be a great match? I don’t really think so, but I accept that resolving these issues is almost certainly going to need me to resolve my porn issues.
It is worth pointing out that my addiction doesn’t cause any ‘tangible’ issues in our relationship – my wife doesn’t get annoyed about it even though she knows I do it. She accepts it and I think accepts that it keeps my sexual energy towards her at bay. Our sex life has gone down the pan and that is definitely related to porn. I do think sex is important, and we definitely have a mismatch in chemistry here, but the deeper connection and the shared values and passions are more important.
Having said all that, I am deep in my addiction and this is absolutely causing me to be more disconnected from my wife and less able to act positively towards improving things. I haven’t always felt this negatively about our relationship, and so I probably do have to accept that any form of progress needs to include totally beating this addiction. This is something neither of us have had the energy to do (choosing instead to just ‘manage’ it), but when faced with the choice of that or breaking up, I think we’ll want to try.
So now what?
I’ve felt this way long enough. Something has to be done about it. There are only two options the way I see it:
- Get some counselling
It could be that counselling won’t solve the underlying issues, but I feel we have to try it before we make a more drastic decision. I say “we”, but in reality this is going to need to be instigated by me – my wife is happy in our relationship (which I find very confusing) and so is not going to want to be part of a mutual decision here. This is on me.
I’ve raised my concerns about our relationship many times to my wife, and she is quite clear she doesn’t like talking about it and doesn’t think there’s a problem. My point has generally been that her not thinking there’s a problem doesn’t miraculously make my thinking that there is a problem go away! She says I tend to catastrophise. She could be right, but also she could just be trying to minimise the potential that the way I feel is true.
I can’t believe it has got to me considering separating. Never in a millions years did I think this would happen to me, but over the last few months it has become a more regular thought pattern.
In separating, I would be choosing an objectively unhappier life, at least in the short-term. I’d have to move somewhere on my own. I’d have less time with the kids. I’d be lonely. Its not like I’ve already met my soul mate and want to switch over to her! I’m not even sure I’d find happiness like that again (in fact that might be part of the problem – I don’t have the self-esteem to think I deserve true happiness). Therefore I can’t make a decision like this based on the expectation that something might come along. I have to accept that in doing this I may forever live, and die, alone. It means I have to be sure that staying in this relationship would be worse than that, either for me, or my wife and family, or both. That’s a really hard thing to process. Is “I’ll stay in a relationship that makes me unhappy because I don’t have a better option” right? A large part of me feels this way! Why would I throw away such a well-crafted family life, to live on my own in a tiny room somewhere!?
Plus there’s the actual feasibility of separating. We don’t have any spare money for me to start renting somewhere; I’d have to move in with my dad or live on a friend’s sofa. And without a place of my own I’d have no way of getting meaningful time with the kids. Unless we alternated being at home and my wife stayed with her family half the week or something? If permanent, we’d have to sell the house. I’d be ruining my wife’s life. The only hope I suppose is that she will no longer be living with someone who doesn’t love her, and she’ll have the possibility of finding someone who does. But again, that’s not a given; I can’t promise her she’ll find love. I suppose this is the same dilemma everyone in my position faces. Who’s interests do you ultimately prioritise, and are you prepared for the cost of that?
For the record, whatever happens, I’ll do right by the her and the kids, and my responsibilities as a father will not be diminished. I can’t pretend to know what impact this will have on the kids, but I’m optimistic they’ll adapt. There is no reason why, once logistics are sorted, we wouldn’t spend 50/50 time with them. But this points at the other major question – how bad does a relationship need to be to justify putting the kids through this? This is a mostly selfish thing to do – trying to be happier. Sure, me being unhappy is going to affect the kids in the long-run, and maybe if they were older they’d want me to be happy? But right now, they’ll probably have a worse life if I left. So how do I justify doing that to them? How do I get the confidence to put myself first, and know when it is right to do so?
So. We’ve established that I am too afraid of making hard decisions, too scarred of ruining my wife and children’s lives, and not self-assured enough to value my own happiness enough to justify making this sort of decision. But I need to do something, so I’m going to book in some counselling. This will need to be for both of us. My wife and I have discussed it before a few times, but never gone ahead and done it, but now’s the time. I hear Relate are good, but I’ll have to do some research.
I guess I’ll report back once that’s happened. Thanks for reading.