My life sucks. I am married with children, but feel very lonely. I resigned from the morg, and have since discovered that my marriage was really just an empty shell with no foundation that was artificially held up by the morg.
My wife is nice enough most of the time, does a lot for me, says she appreciates me, and all. I appreciate all she does for me very much (and could make a very long list, that unfortunately doesn't include much in the sexual arena). But I don't really have any feelings left for her. The deep dark secret is that I'm an abused spouse. I don't mean that I've been beaten to a pulp over and over again (though the abuse has gotten physical a couple of times), but rather a victim of emotional and verbal abuse. And I'm man enough to admit it. There's only so much of that a person can take before completely withdrawing from a person, you know?
I've read several books, one of which was aptly titled "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay" on this topic, as well as seeing a counselor on my own. It is pretty clear after all of that that I don't want to remain married to this person, yet here I am still.
I was a child of divorce myself, and my parents did all the things you're not supposed to do to a child of divorce, and few, if any, of the things you are supposed to do. I swore to myself that I'd never put my own children through the same experience.
I don't want to face the pain and hurt my children will feel if I leave their mother, yet I also know that giving them a relationship role model of an unloving marriage isn't good either.
We've tried counseling. After the last flare-up of physical violence, I insisted that we go. It didn't change anything from what I can tell. There hasn't been any recurrence of physical violence (yet), but it's probably only a matter of time. Even if it doesn't happen again, I know there's more emotional & verbal abuse to endure down the road.
I don't hate my wife, nor do I think she's a bad person. I just think that we're not good together as a couple. Unfortunately, she isn't willing to see it this way, and has blocked all of my attempts to discuss divorce or separation.
What should I do?
Dear Mr. What Should I Do,
I think if you read your words here, you already know inside what you should do. Although I recognize that there are always two sides to every relationship, I can only offer you my advice based on what you wrote.
First, let's address the issue of physical, emotional, verbal abuse. Counseling is a great way to work through this problem, and it is a problem. Physical abuse is somewhat easier to acknowledge and address as a couple, because the evidence is right there in front of both of you in the form of bruises, red marks, or visible evidence that some hurt was inflicted. It is harder for the one who inflicted the physical abuse to deny it after the fact.
Emotional and verbal abuse tends to be more subtle, insidious, and much more damaging than physical abuse. These are wounds that sometimes never heal. It can start with seemingly minor, derogatory remarks that belittle the victim, causing him or her to feel little or no self-worth. Often people who emotionally abuse others say they do it because the victim brings such treatment on themselves, or because they "deserve it."
I say bullshit!
The horrible thing about emotional and verbal abuse is that it is easy for the human psyche to forget (or push deep into the subconscious) those things that hurt emotionally. So you may be filled with anger and hate one night over the abuse you suffered, but the next morning when you wake up, and your spouse is treating you well, it is very easy to enjoy the relief you feel, making it easy to "forget." But it is still inside you, and it can build up to massive proportions, snuffing out all feelings of love and respect that you once had for your wife. This appears to have already happened to you. If left unacknowledged, it can even damage your ability to feel love and respect for anyone, including yourself.
What really stinks about emotional and verbal abuse is that it is difficult to make your spouse see what they are doing to you, and that it is wrong. They may claim to love you, respect you, and treat you well, but you know otherwise. Sometimes counseling is necessary to help the abuser to actually see their behavior, and then learn new ways to treat others that aren't abusive. You said that you've tried counseling, and it didn't change anything as far as you can tell. This may be because you initiated the counseling, and she only went because she had to. If a person doesn't recognize that they need to change, they certainly won't.
You are stating clearly in your letter to me that you want a divorce. However, you have reservations because your parents divorced and did all the things parents are not supposed to do during divorce, and none of the things they should have done. You swore that you'd never put your children through the same experience. So, what's holding you back? It sounds to me like you will NEVER do any of the same hurtful things your parents did, because it is not who you are, and because you are also going to consciously avoid making those mistakes.
If you are worried that your wife will make it ugly, and hurt the kids in the process, I can understand why you might be hesitant. But you should know this: kids are not stupid. They have eyes, and feelings, and they know a lot more than we give them credit for. If you remain calm, reasonable, and open to discussing your children's worst fears and feelings about divorce or their lives after the divorce, that will go far in giving them a firm confidence that you are there for them, and that you are an understanding, wise, and good father. This will cement your relationship, no matter what happens custody-wise. I'm guessing her verbally abusive behavior toward you now will translate into character-bashing later, maybe to the kids. But if you show them your calm, steadfast love, they will know what's true for themselves. It always works this way. And they will also see the truth in their mother at some point too. When this happens, they will need that love and support from you more than ever.
If you stay in this marriage as it stands now, you are teaching your children a few important things:
1. It's OK to be abused the way you are being abused.
2. It's normal to not be happy. (If you think they can't tell you are unhappy, think again.)
3. It's OK to treat your spouse and/or loved ones in an abusive way.
If you stay in a marriage where you are lonely, emotionally empty, and abused, you are doing your children no favors. When your emotional cup is absolutely drained and empty, how will you have anything to give the kids when something happens where they really need emotional support from you? That is a gamble you might not want to make.
You wrote, "My wife is nice enough most of the time, does a lot for me, says she appreciates me, and all. I appreciate all she does for me very much (and could
make a very long list, that unfortunately doesn't include much in the sexual arena)."
You could get the exact same thing from a maid, only the price would be money, not your SELF.
You owe it to yourself to be happy.
Make sure you get a great lawyer. Too often women get the best lawyers and men get raked over the coals for it. Stand up for yourself and your kids. If she doesn't want to listen to YOU about a divorce, maybe she'll listen to your lawyer.