I’m unhappy in my marriage. I know several reasons why. And I’m aware of some of the key influences in my childhood that bent me to the point where I have spent my adult life “looking for love in all the wrong places.” And that place is with men who can’t or won’t meet me in the middle for a strong and mutually supportive marriage.
I have so many flaws of my own. I work on them and keep picking myself up to try, try and try again. It’s not asking too much to be paired with a mate who’s also willing to grow, improve and compromise. But maybe I’m asking too much of him, to be someone other than who he is. Maybe he’s not just being stubborn. And I am stopping that line of inquiry with him. I’m just going to accept him and meanwhile plan for myself, whatever that plan may be.
It’s been confusing for me, trying for the past SEVERAL years to give myself permission to leave a marriage stained with too many lonely, sad, frustrated and discouraged moments. It feels too bold: Who do I think I am, leaving someone who does certain good things — someone who is a person with certain good qualities — someone who’s at least not [insert list of bad character types].
But then again, who am I living this life for, if not for myself?
And taking one more about-face turn: Who am I to consider divorcing a third husband?
I’m making the lists below for my edification, not for anyone to vote on whether I should stay or go. I just want to chronicle the factors I’m weighing. I’ll rate each as 1 (important), 2 (expected) or (3) just preferred/not-preferred.
Positives of my H
- He looks at me with warmth and affection in his face; 1.
- He frequently kisses me or catches my hand; 2.
- He does small nice things, like laying a clean warm towel on the edge of the tub sometimes before my morning bath; 1.
- He does routine nice things that are thoughtful and that contribute to our household, like keep gas in the car, get groceries, change the cats’ litterbox and cook: 2.
- Without complaining, he will make small sacrifices for me. For example, when we were down to one car and had to carpool, he would stay late with me when I had to work late. I’ve always been touched and humbled by his generosity in this; 1.
- We have more than two decades of history and one child together (I have one more from a previous marriage.) I like having a history of shared references and memories; 2.
- He is a funny man; 2.
- He’s able to laugh at himself; 2.
- He thinks I’m funny; 2.
- He has a tender heart and is kind to animals. The cats crawl all over him and even nap on him; 1.
Observation: It sounds like a lot of what I like are (1) appreciation and (2) service. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I’m struggling NOT to blame myself for gratefully accepting the gifts of his time and attention. But wouldn’t anyone else enjoy the attention that he does give me? I feel like an ingrate for being troubled to the point of weighing divorce over the negatives.
Negatives of my H
- He won’t tell me when he’s angry, irritated or bothered; 1. (His stuffing down of these feelings built up the frustration that was a large part of his professed self-justification for his affair.)
- He won’t admit he’s angry, irritated or bothered if I ask, giving us no chance to work it out: 1.
- When he does admit anger, it’s when he’s red in the face, standing there shaking with rage and leaning in to me, red in the face, screaming; 1.
- He doesn’t even attempt to change his behaviors that are known problems for us, despite his paying lip service to the idea of change. He stubbornly clings to it; 1.
- He expresses his anger passive-aggressively. Such as: Sharp and fussy body movements, clipped language, slammed cabinets, “not hearing” me, “forgetting” things important to me; 1.
- When I am sad or depressed (particularly when I’m going through a bout of clinical depression or slipping into such a bout), he is silent. He will acknowledge his worry later if I manage to pull myself out of it, but he won’t help me or even reach out to me while I’m in the middle of it, despite promising to do so; 2.
- He won’t talk about the “elephant in the room.” If we have a disagreement earlier in the day and we come home from work, I have to bring it up so we can resolve it. He will not; 1.
- He was unfaithful for about four years during one of the worst periods in my life, after my older daughter ran away from home and I was going through menopause and clinical depression: 1+++.
- He doesn’t modify small annoying behaviors, despite them being recurring problems. Example: He spills food onto the eye of the stove and then just lets it burn off when he cooks. The smoke burns my eyes and throat. He has dismissed it because it doesn’t bother him; 2.
- We have no sex life. I don’t know whether it’s because of his erectile dysfunction, his own poor self-image about his body, his distaste for my fat body, or his repressed angers and his nursed wounds; 1.
Fears about leaving
These factors below all seem either (1) quite selfish or (2) an objection I can probably overcome:
- I’m too old to live alone.
- I’m too old to start over.
- My health is too bad to live alone.
- I don’t have the income to support myself.
- I will deeply regret the decision.
- I will be lonely after having a partner for so many years.
- Our daughter will take a side since he’s cultivated the role of “nice” and “selflessly serving” parent, while I’m the angry and depressed one.
No real conclusion here; that’s pending. I know there are many more good and bad things about him, as there are about me. These are just the ones on my mind today. I will add to this list over time.