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Thread: 13-year marriage feels headed off a cliff

  1. #1

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    13-year marriage feels headed off a cliff

    My wife and I have been married for 13 years. I inherited the home I grew up in; roughly half of it is 120 years old, and only having clawed my way into middle-class wages 16 years ago, it had a lot to fix. Prior to marriage, she said she was excited at the prospect of renovating the house - that it would give her an opportunity to personalize it. Five years prior to us getting married, I had to take out a small mortgage to replace the roof & some other stuff, and given that I was still paying that off, we decided to make repairs and remodels as opportunities arose.

    And we have. We've hired people to replace a couple of floors, remodel a bedroom, build a deck, etc. ...and I've become proficient enough at plumbing and electrical work that I've replaced all of the copper pipes with PEX/CPVC and have rewired most of the outlets, fixtures, and switches. We've made tons of other improvements ourselves over the years. And we've butted heads more than once over changes, but I almost always give in and do things her way. It's been an ongoing project, but we've made a lot of progress. And, no doubt, there's still a lot to do. That said, the house isn't "falling apart"; there is one minor roof leak, all of the floors are stable, no mold, no termites, etc.

    Before we married, we were both very open about our own difficulties in communicating in disagreements. She tends to bottle things up, and then explode (usually through email or texts), and I'm so averse to conflict that I avoid it at all costs, and usually give in when avoidance won't work anymore. It's been a continuous issue, but we haven't had any deal-breaker issues to resolve. But friction and resentments have still accumulated as a result.

    (This is where I disclose that I've struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, and was finally diagnosed two years ago with mild ASD, which explains a lot about my communicative issues and resistance to change. Anyway...)

    When we married, I didn't have any children. I always wanted kids, but as a child of divorce, I just never found myself in a relationship I thought was stable enough to inflict on a child. My wife had three children when we married; one adult and two teenagers. We raised the teens through middle and high school successfully. The adult son, on the other hand, has spent most of his adult life in and out of jail on minor & petty, yet continuous, offenses. In 2009, he had a child with a girlfriend who was his equal in dysfunctionality, and my wife and I wound up taking emergency, then permanent custody of the child when she was a year old. We've since adopted her, and she's my whole world. I cannot think of anything on this planet as important to me as my daughter.

    Since getting married, my wife has gone from 1-2 days-per-week part-time work, to full-time employment in a union-safe government job. As a result, our household income has gone from low middle class to just middle class. About a year ago, when we were having a dispute with our insurance company over some small, silly issue (wood bees had damaged a section of roof soffit), my wife suddenly declared that she was "finished spending money on this house." So I took care of that issue on my own, and we moved on.

    Over the past year, she's occasionally forwarded me emails from Zillow (maybe 2-3 times, total) of local homes for sale. I'm rather attached to my home, have put tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work into refurbishing it - not to mention that it's the only place I've ever been able to truly relax, and am not particularly inclined to take on a new 30-year mortgage at the age of 53. It's bad enough that I'll have to work until I die because circumstances didn't allow me to start saving for retirement until I was approaching middle age, but I don't want to spend my last years on this earth being "house poor," having to sacrifice every comfort just to make a house payment. We really haven't discussed it much at all.

    Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I found out that the job I'd had for the past 15 years was being outsourced, and that I would be unemployed as of the end of August. My skill set has always allowed me to do side work over the years, and I'd considered making self-employment my full-time job, but I preferred the comfort of a steady paycheck. Well, life has now made that decision for me, as there aren't any full-time jobs in my field locally that would even hit 60% of what I was previously earning.

    A few days after I found out that I was losing my job, my wife sends me a long text message. Summarized: when the economy settles from the pandemic, she intends to buy a house somewhere local, and would like me to join her in that venture 50/50. We wouldn't have to sell my home; we could just let my brother live here. "Win/win," she described it.

    I was floored. I had just lost the job I'd had for 15 years, and while I think my self-employment stands to do fairly well logically, I haven't even begun to settle into that change emotionally. I've just kept myself so intensely busy with the transition that I haven't had time to ruminate on the enormity of the change.

    A week later, she upped the ante. She, our daughter, and her younger daughter (my stepdaughter) had a "girls' day out" and included a tour of a manufactured homes lot. She found a particular double-wide that she really liked and texted me the link. Again, I'm still in shock from having lost my job (and benefits, etc.) and my opposition to taking on a brand new mortgage at 53 years old still stands. Also again, I avoid contact like the plague, can't process all of this at once, and can't face the fight that would ensue if I objected aloud.

    As a way of trying to maybe put a little weight on the other side of the scale, I replaced the bathroom shower doors that she'd been complaining about for a while. (The only reason I hadn't done this already was that I assumed that they would be WAY more expensive than the actually were.) I did it while she was at work - I've been working from home since March. Her reaction was, well...the opposite of what I was after. She angrily informed me that buying another house "isn't a negotiation," and when I reminded her that I wouldn't be able to apply for any substantial loan any time soon due to my recent unemployment, she said that she could do this without me. I suggested counseling; she responded by asking me if I "thought anyone would take [my] side on this issue."

    So, I'm at an impasse. If I do what I usually do and give in, I know I'll resent it, that will negatively impact the relationship, and by extension, my daughter. If I refuse to give in, that seems as though it will very likely lead to divorce. The thought of becoming a part-time parent is heartbreaking, and it will also have a negative impact on my daughter. I genuinely have no idea how to cope with all of this at once.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Jibralta's Avatar
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    It sounds like she really wants to get out of the house that you are living in. Have you asked her why?

  3. #3
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Get one of those free consultations with a divorce attorney. Find out if the house would be yours in the divorce since you inherited it. You are attached to the house despite it being a money pit. An accountant would be another good idea to see if these improvements are tax deductible or if what you are doing is adding any value.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    I'm not very certain this is about the house or moving. It's about your marriage going sideways for awhile. She may not even be close to qualifying for a prefab home and is riling you up. If she could afford to do it on her own and the marriage is as one-sided as it sounds, she would have just done it on her own, got a lawyer and filed for divorce. I think she's picking at you and I really have to question the motivations or intentions of someone so heartless and impatient. Is this someone you want to continue being married to? Her response to going to counseling already suggests someone who has isolated you from the family and she thinks you're unreasonable. "Taking sides" is petty and suggests there are other parties involved - kids, counselor, friends, family. You've talked about your daughter who is actually your step-granddaughter (is this correct?) and that she's your whole world. Caring for her might have eclipsed any thoughts of the marriage and taken over the time or thought both of you could have put towards each other as a couple.

    When was the last time you both sat down to talk about joint ventures or decisions? Stonewalling won't help, ignoring or avoiding it or walking away also doesn't help. She may be very unhappy with the marriage itself and has given up on making it work because you don't appear to want to talk about issues or concerns.

    How adverse are you in general to sitting with her, just the two of you, and discussing your future?

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    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    I'm not very certain this is about the house or moving. It's about your marriage going sideways for awhile. She may not even be close to qualifying for a prefab home and is riling you up. If she could afford to do it on her own and the marriage is as one-sided as it sounds, she would have just done it on her own, got a lawyer and filed for divorce. I think she's picking at you and I really have to question the motivations or intentions of someone so heartless and impatient. Is this someone you want to continue being married to?
    She is someone I would want to continue being married to if we could learn how to resolve conflict in a heathy way. At the moment, she is not someone for whom I would give up my home under these circumstances.

    Her response to going to counseling already suggests someone who has isolated you from the family and she thinks you're unreasonable. "Taking sides" is petty and suggests there are other parties involved - kids, counselor, friends, family.
    Yes, her go-to sounding board on our relationship issues has always been her now-23-year-old daughter - my step-daughter - which is extremely awkward. The daughter, who I love and with whom I have a fairly good relationship, has issues of her own; she is exceptionally self-centered, and has some pronounced self-esteem issues due to having been fairly thoroughly neglected by her biological father. I've objected to that arrangement occasionally because of how icky it feels on my end, but to zero avail.

    You've talked about your daughter who is actually your step-granddaughter (is this correct?) and that she's your whole world. Caring for her might have eclipsed any thoughts of the marriage and taken over the time or thought both of you could have put towards each other as a couple.
    Yes, she is my biological step-granddaughter. But I've been her primary caretaker for almost 10 solid years now. I get her up in the mornings, transport her to and from school, communicate with her teachers, arrange and take her to horse-riding lessons, etc.. Not that my wife is uninvolved, but most of the responsibilities are something I've happily assumed.

    Suddenly taking an infant/toddler into our home was a significant adjustment. We haven't been as free to go to dinner, movies, or concerts as we were before, but we still managed occasionally until the pandemic struck. So far COVID has canceled one scheduled family vacation and one concert for which we'd purchased tickets. At the same time, since "quarantine" started in March, we've spent much more time together at home. Every evening, we've binge-watched TV shows or movies, discussed current events, or her work issues. Until a few days after I lost my job, I actually felt like we were the closest we'd been in a long time. Being able to work from home helped satisfy my ASD-induced compulsion for solitude, and we'd actually been spending more "quality" time together than we had in years.

    When was the last time you both sat down to talk about joint ventures or decisions? Stonewalling won't help, ignoring or avoiding it or walking away also doesn't help. She may be very unhappy with the marriage itself and has given up on making it work because you don't appear to want to talk about issues or concerns.

    How adverse are you in general to sitting with her, just the two of you, and discussing your future?
    Honestly, it's been years. We've always had to be a team and contend with external drama (i.e. - her persistent felon ex-husband's treatment of the daughters, our daughter's biological mother, etc.). We do fairly well with communicating small issues, like who's going to be responsible for what, time scheduling, and things of that nature. But discussing intense personal issues has always been a struggle. She is...aggressive and tends to kitchen-sink random slights from any point in the relationship, needs to be in control, and isn't interested in compromise. Which isn't to say that I don't contribute to the communication problems; I'm rather sensitive and tend to say whatever I'm thinking with little filter, and usually just shut down to try to keep from making the situation worse. I am so completely overwhelmed with life right now that the mere thought of bringing up that topic makes me feel physically ill.

    We've never had issues discussing everyday issues - who's responsible for what task/chore/responsibility, we've maintained separate bank accounts and navigate finances with little friction - but on major, more emotional issues, we just lack the capacity. I've tried bringing things up occasionally, but have quickly regretted having done it. Even communication via email or text becomes immediately combative. Like I said in the OP, I've suggested counseling (several times, now that I think of it), but she hasn't agreed as of yet.

    I'm at my wit's end. At this point, I'm just keeping my head down, walking on eggshells & trying to focus on getting my business off the ground. I haven't even really processed having lost my job.

  7. #6
    Silver Member LootieTootie's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Jibralta
    It sounds like she really wants to get out of the house that you are living in. Have you asked her why?
    Right. Have you asked her why she doesn't want to live in that house?

  8. #7
    Platinum Member Cherylyn's Avatar
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    Both of you need to sit down in front of a professional financial advisor.

    It all boils down to your lack of a steady paycheck and your household financial situation.

    I agree, don't live beyond your means. I also agree that being "house poor" is very unwise. You don't want to start all over again with being saddled with a mortgage.

    Do what makes the most money sense because money is what dictates all decisions.

    We all can go to Zillow and wish our lives away. However, it's extremely important to be money wise, practical and realistic. Never put yourself in horrible debt and ultimately, bankruptcy.

    Or, downsize. Or, rent your house out, downsize and make do with less. Live within your means.

    Use common sense always.

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    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    I'm not very certain this is about the house or moving. It's about your marriage going sideways for awhile. She may not even be close to qualifying for a prefab home and is riling you up. If she could afford to do it on her own and the marriage is as one-sided as it sounds, she would have just done it on her own, got a lawyer and filed for divorce. I think she's picking at you and I really have to question the motivations or intentions of someone so heartless and impatient. Is this someone you want to continue being married to? Her response to going to counseling already suggests someone who has isolated you from the family and she thinks you're unreasonable. "Taking sides" is petty and suggests there are other parties involved - kids, counselor, friends, family. You've talked about your daughter who is actually your step-granddaughter (is this correct?) and that she's your whole world. Caring for her might have eclipsed any thoughts of the marriage and taken over the time or thought both of you could have put towards each other as a couple.

    When was the last time you both sat down to talk about joint ventures or decisions? Stonewalling won't help, ignoring or avoiding it or walking away also doesn't help. She may be very unhappy with the marriage itself and has given up on making it work because you don't appear to want to talk about issues or concerns.

    How adverse are you in general to sitting with her, just the two of you, and discussing your future?
    I posted a somewhat detailed reply to this post a few hours ago, but it said "awaiting moderation" and hasn't appeared since. I'm new here and not entirely certain how the moderation system works. I don't want to spew it all out again and wind up having a undeletable duplicate.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    Let's wait for it then. Thanks for responding.

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    Okay, that appears to have worked, so I'll try again. Maybe it won't dupe.

    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    I'm not very certain this is about the house or moving. It's about your marriage going sideways for awhile. She may not even be close to qualifying for a prefab home and is riling you up. If she could afford to do it on her own and the marriage is as one-sided as it sounds, she would have just done it on her own, got a lawyer and filed for divorce. I think she's picking at you and I really have to question the motivations or intentions of someone so heartless and impatient. Is this someone you want to continue being married to?
    This situation is the first time in 13 years that I thought divorce might seriously be an outcome, but yes...if we could learn how to communicate in a healthy way, I'd like to stay married. However, at this moment, she is not someone for whom I want to relinquish my home of 50 years.

    Her response to going to counseling already suggests someone who has isolated you from the family and she thinks you're unreasonable. "Taking sides" is petty and suggests there are other parties involved - kids, counselor, friends, family.
    Her go-to person to discuss our relationship issues is her 23-year-old daughter - my stepdaughter, which has always been awkward for me. I do love my step-daughter, and we have a fairly decent relationship, but she has some issues of her own (impressively self-centered, craves approval, etc.), and she's just about the least impartial person on the planet. I've expressed my discomfort with that situation a few times, to no avail.

    You've talked about your daughter who is actually your step-granddaughter (is this correct?) and that she's your whole world. Caring for her might have eclipsed any thoughts of the marriage and taken over the time or thought both of you could have put towards each other as a couple.
    Yes, she is my biological step-granddaughter, but since she was 13 months old, I've been her primary caretaker. I get her up in the mornings, provide transportation to and from school, communicate with teachers, arrange and take her to her horse-riding lessons, and I've become her de facto "teacher" since the pandemic caused school to be an online adventure. And I don't mind. These are all things I never thought I'd be able to do, and I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity. We went through three years of fairly constant hell with her biological mother until she was jailed for manufacturing meth, then a year and a half with the TPR (termination of parental rights) trial and appeal.

    Taking an infant/toddler into our home three years into a completely different lifestyle (teenagers require significantly less maintenance) was absolutely an adjustment. We weren't as free to go out, go to concerts, or things of that nature as we had been. But we still managed to do them, just less frequently. And since "quarantine" started, we haven't been able to do much in the way of traveling or external entertainment at all, but we have spent significantly more time together at home. Every night, we've binge-watched TV shows or movies, discussed current events (we're both politically active), and talked about her work situations almost nightly. Honestly, until a few days after I found out I was losing my job, I genuinely believed we were getting along better than we had in a long time.

    When was the last time you both sat down to talk about joint ventures or decisions? Stonewalling won't help, ignoring or avoiding it or walking away also doesn't help. She may be very unhappy with the marriage itself and has given up on making it work because you don't appear to want to talk about issues or concerns.

    How adverse are you in general to sitting with her, just the two of you, and discussing your future?
    If I thought that trying to initiate a conversation about this wouldn't make things worse, I'd have done it already. With everyday issues, we're fine; division of responsibilities, finances, parenting...we rarely have any issues. But on "bigger" topics, it's a sh*t-show. The "conversation" immediately goes to the argument phase, she is fairly aggressive & will kitchen-sink me with any number of collections of random slights from the beginning of our relationship, and she views compromise as a loss. Not that I don't equally contribute to the problem. As I said in the OP, I found out a few years ago that I have ASD (explained a great many things), so I tend to speak without a filter and very bluntly, which I know only makes things far worse, so I've taken to just sitting in silence, trying to make a few points here and there, and eventually walking away to spend the next few days internally recovering from the argument. Even through email or text, conversations on contentious issues immediately turn to arguments.

    I've suggested counseling 4-5 times over the years, but she hasn't been receptive to the idea.

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