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Old 10-24-2015, 10:09 AM   #1
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what to do

I've been married for almost 18 years and it looks like that might be coming to an end. I really don't know. My wife and I get along together great, but over the last year something has been missing. It's easy to get caught up in day to day routines and build up patterns to avoid any confrontation. We finally started talking it over and what it really comes down to is that she wants to be alone. She had a harder role in our relationship and has never felt that she was equal and able to be her true self. She is about the nicest, caring person you could meet and very selfless. That's part of why it took so long for this to come out. She still loves me and I love her, but from her end, it's more like a friend. I'm at a loss at what to do.

Fortunately, we are able to talk and don't have any hard feelings towards each other (hurt yes, but no hard feelings). We both work, but my salary is double what she can make if she was working full-time (she's part-time right now). We've also saved up a substantial amount of assets, but we both agree that everything would split 50/50. This will definitely be a financial hit, but we are young (early 40s).

The hard part is that we still have two children to finish raising. Both are teenagers. Our son is in 11th grade and will be off to college in two years. Our daughter is in 9th, so there's four more years there. They are great kids and our son has especially taken off in the last year. Very focused on getting into a good college, working hard, etc. Our daughter needs more guidance, but is also working hard. Both of us want to protect our kids as much as possible.

This is all still very raw emotionally. We don't want to separate, but instead keep living together and maintain the status quo. But if the kids weren't in the picture, I think she'd want to live separately. I'm still hopeful that this is a passing event and we can work through it. But as I said earlier, I just don't know.

I know there are a lot of smart people on this board that have been through or seen similar situations. I've always appreciated reading the advice here, so I figured it doesn't hurt to ask, what would you do?

Part of me wonders if we should see how it goes, but I wonder if that's just prolonging the pain and hurt. But then the other part thinks it might be best to legally separate and/or divorce and then maybe continue to stay together for the sake of the kids. It just goes to show, you really never know what to expect in life.
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Old 10-24-2015, 10:52 AM   #2
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That's a tough one and I'm sure it's unique to each "couple". Fortunately you guys seem to be talking. (That's very important) All I can say is I've been married more than twice as long as you and things have changed (often) since we first were married. Kids, work, illness, retirement, differences in opinions (a lot) etc.

Wish the best outcome for you and your entire family.
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:14 AM   #3
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wow, so sorry you both are going through this. I agree with Car-Guy, keep talking to each other. I went through the same thing about 10 years ago (married 38 years now), we went to couples and individual counseling and it helped focus on the issues, and work them out. Perhaps, something to consider. Best wishes to you.
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:33 AM   #4
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This feels awkward to even be offering an opinion on this because I haven't gone through it personally. So please take this for what it's worth... I don't really know what I'm talking about.

However, we have two boys about the same age as your children and if I were to try to put myself in your shoes I think I would try to work through it for as long as possible... ideally until my youngest was done with High School... you know, in an effort to give the kids a stable environment as they work through a potentially challenging time in their lives. You two seem to get along pretty well despite growing apart and you may be in a position to get along for the greater good of your family. If you were at each others throats that would't be a healthy family environment but in this case maybe play it cool for a while. And who knows where things will be in a few years... if still the same, you'll be mentally and perhaps more financially prepared to go your separate ways. Sorry you're having to go through this. I don't think there's a good answer for this situation.
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:39 AM   #5
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This feels awkward to even be offering an opinion on this because I haven't gone through it personally. So please take this for what it's worth... I don't really know what I'm talking about.

However, we have two boys about the same age as your children and if I were to try to put myself in your shoes I think I would try to work through it for as long as possible... ideally until my youngest was done with High School... you know, in an effort to give the kids a stable environment as they work through a potentially challenging time in their lives. You two seem to get along pretty well despite growing apart and you may be in a position to get along for the greater good of your family. If you were at each others throats that would't be a healthy family environment but in this case maybe play it cool for a while. And who knows where things will be in a few years... if still the same, you'll be mentally and perhaps more financially prepared to go your separate ways. Sorry you're having to go through this. I don't think there's a good answer for this situation.
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Old 10-24-2015, 11:47 AM   #6
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I agree with panacea: since you and your wife are on friendly terms, it might be best to stay together for the sake of the children especially the younger one who may have the most difficulty dealing with a divorce at this time. I suspect no matter how friendly things are, a divorce would still be traumatic for the kids.

It might also be appropriate to get marriage counseling; who knows there may be things you and your wife can change to give her more sense of being an equal and able to explore her "true self" within the confines of your marriage. Best of luck to you and your family.
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Old 10-24-2015, 12:08 PM   #7
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Given what you describe, I think it is premature for you to separate or divorce... it seems that she is in a mid-life crisis.... been there. Counseling may help. It might also help to do some things together that are different from your normal (get out of the rut)... perhaps a new hobby/activity that you both think you will enjoy or a scheduled periodic date or romantic weekend away from your normal world.

While it is convenient to say you should stay together for the sake of your kids and there is an element of truth to that, the more important reason to stay together is for both your sake since you don't hate each other, still communicate well, seem to love each other, etc. Is she willing to try to change things up and work things out so she is happier?

OTOH, if she wants more alone time, perhaps she can do things that are of interest to her by herself to satisfy that need. DW and I (going 33 years) each have hobbies and such that we do on our own and then other things that we regularly do together.

Best of luck.
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Old 10-24-2015, 12:13 PM   #8
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So sorry to hear about your situation but I agree with at least trying the counseling route. You would have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting an objective third party opinion and counseling by someone who has the training to actually help with your problems. With an 18 year investment on the line, it would be worth your while. Just my two cents.
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Old 10-24-2015, 12:32 PM   #9
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I'm on my phone right now, so I can't respond as well as I'd like. But I want to thank everyone for their responses. It's helpful to get an unattached perspective on our situation. You guys are great.
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Old 10-24-2015, 12:34 PM   #10
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It seems odd that just feeling like she wants to be alone is enough to turn an entire family's life upside down. Does she also not want to be involved with the kids?

I suspect she might be experiencing some depression-withdrawing from relationships is a sign of that.
The fact that you get along well and she was able to express those feelings suggests that this isn't a relationship issue but an issue within her that may be addressed with counseling and maybe even carefully prescribed medication.


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Old 10-24-2015, 01:10 PM   #11
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It seems odd that just feeling like she wants to be alone is enough to turn an entire family's life upside down. Does she also not want to be involved with the kids?

I suspect she might be experiencing some depression-withdrawing from relationships is a sign of that.
The fact that you get along well and she was able to express those feelings suggests that this isn't a relationship issue but an issue within her that may be addressed with counseling and maybe even carefully prescribed medication.


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+1 I This indeed could be a mental health issue. It does seem quite strange that someone with an otherwise healthy marriage, wonderful kids and financial stability would want to upset their children's stable life just to find themselves especially considering that she is such a selfless individual. Many people go through periods of discontentment where they feel their lives are not very fulfilling and they are just going through the motions that society expects of them - college, children, nice house, etc and despite it all still feel unfulfilled so this is not that unusual. However, wanting to chuck it all in and run away though tempting is rare. I would suggest you communicate with her a bit more to get to the bottom of what she might be experiencing. Getting a good counselor that not only listens but offers their perspective could really help her look at her situation in a different way.
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Old 10-24-2015, 01:56 PM   #12
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My parents had a similar situation when I was in high school. My dad, being someone who had worked hard to build a financial future for them, was extremely concerned about the financial hit that divorce would bring. My mom, despite being unhappy in the marriage, was also worried about the lowered standard of living that divorce would bring both of them. (downsizing house to purchase two smaller houses, increased debt, etc.)

They "separated" in place for about 2 years. My mom slept in the guest room. They still had dinner together. At some point they also started counseling... And found some common activities to do together. (Travel and they took up bridge again... later adding in theater - since they'd met in college on theater productions.) Over time, they started rekindling their affection for each other. They stayed married and had a good marriage for several more decades until my mom died.

It was a scary time for me - I didn't want my parents to divorce.... but I think it was a HUGE life lesson for me... that marriages take work and stubbornness... stubbornness to stick it out through the rough spots and put in the changes to get it back on track. I've only been married 15 years - but I think about that period in my parents marriage whenever DH is annoying me... and I get determined to be stubborn.

Keep communication open with your wife.

You mention she's had the harder role in the marriage - is there some way you can ease that burden for her - so the weight is more evenly shared?
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Old 10-24-2015, 02:28 PM   #13
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I agree your DW might be depressed or have some health issue.If you are feeling unhappy or flat it's easy to think you just need to change some things externally and it's all good. Then OTOH maybe not, perhaps she is totally in sync with her feelings.

Instead of marriage counseling right away I might try to tactfully suggest she starts seeing someone on her own. As in, I just want you to be happy and at peace whatever the outcome, how would you feel about just talking to someone about this. It's a tricky approach because you don't want to say you think she's broken or full of mental health issues, but if either of these things are true, simply getting a divorce won't fix much for her.

My own Dad had a depression issue that he did not want to acknowledge, let alone seek help for and my parents struggled on for almost 30 years before splitting up. I wouldn't endorse that plan either.
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Old 10-24-2015, 03:23 PM   #14
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I ran into similar issues about your age. Ex-DW had just hit menopause and then she lost some close relatives and our dog died (no kids, so the dog was like a kid to us). I think she was just depressed and she agreed to get counseling, but she ended up with a counselor that felt that marriage was an anachronism and was convinced she would be happier alone. Fifteen years later I still don't understand it, but I'd suggest joint counseling as opposed to letting her work with a counselor alone.
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Old 10-24-2015, 03:35 PM   #15
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However, we have two boys about the same age as your children and if I were to try to put myself in your shoes I think I would try to work through it for as long as possible... ideally until my youngest was done with High School... you know, in an effort to give the kids a stable environment as they work through a potentially challenging time in their lives. You two seem to get along pretty well despite growing apart and you may be in a position to get along for the greater good of your family. If you were at each others throats that would't be a healthy family environment but in this case maybe play it cool for a while. And who knows where things will be in a few years... if still the same, you'll be mentally and perhaps more financially prepared to go your separate ways. Sorry you're having to go through this. I don't think there's a good answer for this situation.

It could just be a rough patch and I might be pushing too much towards a solution. She's a wonderful mother and spends a lot of time with our kids. Today she's teaching our son on how to make a family recipe. They're in the kitchen now and the house smells wonderfully. She's not pushing for an immediate split and seems content with maintaining the status quo. It's hard to live as roommates, but maybe I need to suck it up. And as you say, who knows what it'll be like in a few years.

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Given what you describe, I think it is premature for you to separate or divorce... it seems that she is in a mid-life crisis.... been there. Counseling may help. It might also help to do some things together that are different from your normal (get out of the rut)... perhaps a new hobby/activity that you both think you will enjoy or a scheduled periodic date or romantic weekend away from your normal world.

While it is convenient to say you should stay together for the sake of your kids and there is an element of truth to that, the more important reason to stay together is for both your sake since you don't hate each other, still communicate well, seem to love each other, etc. Is she willing to try to change things up and work things out so she is happier?

OTOH, if she wants more alone time, perhaps she can do things that are of interest to her by herself to satisfy that need. DW and I (going 33 years) each have hobbies and such that we do on our own and then other things that we regularly do together.

Best of luck.

We're working on making ourselves happier. It's good advice and I've also thought about the mid-life crisis aspect. I've tried to bring up the idea of hobbies or finding something to do together, with limited success. It's hard to break old habits. And a romantic weekend, well, I wouldn't even go there.

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It seems odd that just feeling like she wants to be alone is enough to turn an entire family's life upside down. Does she also not want to be involved with the kids?

I suspect she might be experiencing some depression-withdrawing from relationships is a sign of that.
The fact that you get along well and she was able to express those feelings suggests that this isn't a relationship issue but an issue within her that may be addressed with counseling and maybe even carefully prescribed medication.

As I mentioned earlier, she is very involved with the kids. She really doesn't want to change anything right now, but our relationship has become like two good roommates. If the kids weren't here, it could be very different. And just to be clear, she hasn't withdrawn from any relationships. In fact, I'd say that we are closer now than we've ever been. It's only that she feels it as really good friends and nothing more.

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My parents had a similar situation when I was in high school. My dad, being someone who had worked hard to build a financial future for them, was extremely concerned about the financial hit that divorce would bring. My mom, despite being unhappy in the marriage, was also worried about the lowered standard of living that divorce would bring both of them. (downsizing house to purchase two smaller houses, increased debt, etc.)

They "separated" in place for about 2 years. My mom slept in the guest room. They still had dinner together. At some point they also started counseling... And found some common activities to do together. (Travel and they took up bridge again... later adding in theater - since they'd met in college on theater productions.) Over time, they started rekindling their affection for each other. They stayed married and had a good marriage for several more decades until my mom died.

It was a scary time for me - I didn't want my parents to divorce.... but I think it was a HUGE life lesson for me... that marriages take work and stubbornness... stubbornness to stick it out through the rough spots and put in the changes to get it back on track. I've only been married 15 years - but I think about that period in my parents marriage whenever DH is annoying me... and I get determined to be stubborn.

Keep communication open with your wife.

You mention she's had the harder role in the marriage - is there some way you can ease that burden for her - so the weight is more evenly shared?

Thank you for sharing Rodi. I've had many moments of stubbornness and thinking that we can fix this, but it's been difficult to manage the hurt. That's something that I need to manage, in addition to giving her space and support. I only want her to be happy, preferably with me. But then when I think about the kids, everything that we've shared over the years, it's hard. But I really don't have much to lose to wait it out and see what happens. It's just a hard place to be.

And for those that mentioned counseling, we've talked about it, but based on other couples we've seen go through it, we're skeptical it would help us. We don't have communication issues and neither of us are really up to talking about ourselves in order to be analyzed. On the flip-side though, we really don't have much to lose. We need to think on this some more.

Thanks again to everybody for their thoughts. It always helps to get a different perspective.
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Old 10-24-2015, 03:36 PM   #16
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I ran into similar issues about your age. Ex-DW had just hit menopause and then she lost some close relatives and our dog died (no kids, so the dog was like a kid to us). I think she was just depressed and she agreed to get counseling, but she ended up with a counselor that felt that marriage was an anachronism and was convinced she would be happier alone. Fifteen years later I still don't understand it, but I'd suggest joint counseling as opposed to letting her work with a counselor alone.

Do your think that your EX is happier alone, maybe it was the right call for her at that time. Did you talk to the counselor yourself? Even after 43 years together, I feel counseling with your SO would not be as open as one on one sessions. I do still have a few thoughts and experiences I haven't shared with my DH, nothing serious but people always have some private thoughts and feelings. I don't believe spouses have to know every thought in each others heads..
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Old 10-24-2015, 03:42 PM   #17
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Sorry, you both sound like lovely people. I agree with the counseling suggestions. I think teenagers are hard, even the best of them, because even with them the worry about their future appears, plus all the other issues they face. Your DW may be carrying a lot of that worry being the type of person you describe. Hang in there.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:05 PM   #18
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You mention she's had the harder role in the marriage - is there some way you can ease that burden for her - so the weight is more evenly shared?

When I said that she's had the harder role, it's not a division of responsibilities. We've always balanced that equally. It's more that she feels dependent on me. We were married fairly young (early 20's) and she never was really on her own. She briefly managed our finances, but at some point I took over. I don't remember why (it was too long ago), but there could have been any number of reasons, such as she went back to school, raising kids, me setting up everything electronically to make it easier (she's not as comfortable on the computer). So this has come to a point where she feels she wouldn't know how to take care of basic things without me. I've told her that I don't believe it (and I don't). She's smart and even if I disappeared tomorrow, she would do fine on her own.

One of my problems is that I'm so used to taking care of things, she feels that whenever she does something I'm double-checking to make sure it's right. But I even do that with myself. Unfortunately, this only makes her doubt herself and I completely understand her perspective. I'm also working on not doing that anymore.

I've also offered to give her complete control if she wants it. I want her to do well and be happy and I have full trust in her. I've even told her that regardless how we end up, at least if she goes out on her own she'll be better prepared. But she thinks that she'd be taking advantage of me considering the current state of our relationship.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:13 PM   #19
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When I said that she's had the harder role, it's not a division of responsibilities. We've always balanced that equally. It's more that she feels dependent on me. We were married fairly young (early 20's) and she never was really on her own. She briefly managed our finances, but at some point I took over. I don't remember why (it was too long ago), but there could have been any number of reasons, such as she went back to school, raising kids, me setting up everything electronically to make it easier (she's not as comfortable on the computer). So this has come to a point where she feels she wouldn't know how to take care of basic things without me. I've told her that I don't believe it (and I don't). She's smart and even if I disappeared tomorrow, she would do fine on her own.

One of my problems is that I'm so used to taking care of things, she feels that whenever she does something I'm double-checking to make sure it's right. But I even do that with myself. Unfortunately, this only makes her doubt herself and I completely understand her perspective. I'm also working on not doing that anymore.

I've also offered to give her complete control if she wants it. I want her to do well and be happy and I have full trust in her. I've even told her that regardless how we end up, at least if she goes out on her own she'll be better prepared. But she thinks that she'd be taking advantage of me considering the current state of our relationship.
It really sounds to me that marriage counseling for the two of you could help greatly.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:17 PM   #20
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Do your think that your EX is happier alone, maybe it was the right call for her at that time. Did you talk to the counselor yourself? Even after 43 years together, I feel counseling with your SO would not be as open as one on one sessions. I do still have a few thoughts and experiences I haven't shared with my DH, nothing serious but people always have some private thoughts and feelings. I don't believe spouses have to know every thought in each others heads..
This is about kiki, but my point is that if you send your wife off to deal with her issues alone, you may find that the counselor may encourage her to leave, depending on their own bias.

Yes, I did talk to her counselor and indeed she had dispatched her own husband. She felt that lifetime marriages were a thing of the past, and even then were endured by necessity rather than a true desire for lifelong monogamy.
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