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Really conflicted on life's next steps. Any advice?


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My heart goes out to you, and I'm sorry you are suffering such a painful struggle.

Given that the range of development in teen years is massive, what are their ages?

You may want to start by working with therapist individually for help in considering factors for a long range plan--regardless of whether it evolves into an exit plan or a plan to remain in your marriage.

This can help you work through plotting options along a timeline, and that kind of productivity might bring some immediate relief even while it stirs up pain. Activity beats stagnation, hands down, when it comes to managing pain, so I'd commit privately to a focus on the process rather than wrestling with making a choice quickly. Think of it as untying your way through a knot. Just follow where it goes without trying to measure or rush it.

As you've considered, there are so many factors in choosing if or when to dismantle your household and put your children through such a painful ordeal. Another major aspect is financial, and whether both parents can manage the expense of 2 households without the children suffering deprivation on top of the emotional impacts. In some cases it may be best to attempt marriage improvement until your children enter college.

I don't claim that this is your answer, but it can be a starting plot on your timeline that you can opt to move forward if major factors can be managed well.

While I don't. usually suggest couples' counseling when one partner is already emotionally checked out of the marriage, you've raised an excellent point about hiring a professional to help facilitate the conversation you want to have with your wife. 

A therapist can offer the guardrails to make such a conversation productive rather than causing wounds for no payoff or outcome. 

Write more if it helps, and I'm holding you and your family in my thoughts.

 

 

Edited by catfeeder
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8 hours ago, Rose Mosse said:

Your wife does deserve to know you’re not interested in her and there’s someone else. It’ll give her a chance to also make the decision to leave you because you’re not faithful to the marriage.

I agree. 

She also deserves a man who is actually into her. You have never really been that guy for her. 

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2 hours ago, catfeeder said:

Given that the range of development in teen years is massive, what are their ages?

They are 13 and 15. 

What's funny and terrible is that I think a big part of me sticking this all out for so long is that my own father left us when I was a teen and I never wanted to do that to my kids. And yet here I am. Mr Repeat-the-cycle.

Thank you everyone for the considered and empathetic replies. 

@catfeederI really hear what you're saying about starting a process and I think that sounds right. Again, part of not doing enough about this in the past (I mean anything that I worried would be destructive) is that sort of feeling of armageddon about it. The idea of destroying everything and leaving us all with nothing. Maybe that's not the way it has to go though.

I actually work quite a bit away from my home and, after getting us back to the office, travel has been a problem so, even without all this, I have been trying to see if I can get the finances together to get a little apartment close to work. That could be part of the conversation. Maybe the start of a transition period to see how things go. 

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6 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

 trying to see if I can get the finances together to get a little apartment close to work. That could be part of the conversation. 

Wouldn't your wife object to your taking money away from your kids future for a lovenest? It's rather transparent as to why you want an apartment.

You're better off talking to an attorney about the ramifications of abandoning the marital home and your wife and kids.

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2 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Wouldn't your wife object to your taking money away from your kids future for a lovenest? It's rather transparent as to why you want an apartment.

It would hardly be a lovenest. That's not remotely the intention. And I'm not suggesting not being transparent either - that's why I said it can be part of the conversation. What it can do is give us some natural space to see how that feels in a way that might actually feel kind of natural to the kids because, as it is, I tend to stay there in hotels etc for a couple of days a week. Rather than, oh, Dad has just left us forever. 

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1 minute ago, Greg40s said:

. What it can do is give us some natural space to see how that feels 

Talk to an attorney about legal separation and the consequences of abandoning the marital home and your wife and kids. It's not a breakup where you just walk out and take some space. Marriage is a legal contract, not a DIY situation. Walking out on your wife and kids could have major consequences. Talk to an attorney before you try this.

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10 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Talk to an attorney about legal separation and the consequences of abandoning the marital home and your wife and kids. It's not a breakup where you just walk out and take some space. Marriage is a legal contract, not a DIY situation. Walking out on your wife and kids could have major consequences. Talk to an attorney before you try this.

Okay, on this bit I really think you are missing what I'm suggesting here because this would be exactly to avoid walking out on my wife and kids and instead create some sort of movement as part of a process. As it is, I tend to be away a couple of days a week for work. Regardless of anything else going on, I have already been talking about getting an apartment for this reason - that was on the table anyway, with or without all this stuff going on. And in conversation with my wife, this could possibly be a place that I spend just a bit more time in first, so we can see how that works and how the parenting works and so on. It would not alarm the kids. It would not be the armageddon of just walking out. It would be a nudge further than what we're already living and could possibly become part of a process that we're all involved in.   

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17 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

I have already been talking about getting an apartment for this reason - that was on the table anyway, with or without all this stuff going on. And in conversation with my wife, this could possibly be a place that I spend just a bit more time in first, so we can see how that works

Does your wife understand that this is basically a trial separation, though? 

Or is she assuming this is purely work-related and your marriage will remain intact? 

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5 minutes ago, MissCanuck said:

Does your wife understand that this is basically a trial separation, though? 

Or is she assuming this is purely work-related and your marriage will remain intact? 

No, none of these conversations have been had yet. I'm just trying to figure things out for myself right now so I know where I'm at first. Of course all of this will need to be discussed with my wife. Nothing will be done without her - I'm not making any firm plans yet. Just looking at options and trying to find out how I can approach this. The only reason I brought up the apartment was due to catfeeder's suggestion that I look at this as a process, rather than trying to rush a choice.

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1 minute ago, Greg40s said:

No, none of these conversations have been had yet. 

I'm a bit confused:

29 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

I have already been talking about getting an apartment for this reason - that was on the table anyway,

Who have you been talking to about getting your own apartment? Or do you mean you've only mentioned it in this thread, and never to your wife? 

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I would avoid self-game playing with fancy terms like "natural space" -natural space is found in a park for example - space from your partner is space - so it's not natural just because it's part of business travel.  I know many couples with commuter marriages, one or both travel a lot (I have been in those situations on and off myself in my marriage) and the time apart is understood as work related and if a perk of it is you know absence makes the heart grow fonder that's good too.  Call it what it is. If you want time apart then suggest that. If the time apart is part of your time on business anyway that's just logistics/coincidence not part of what might make it "natural"  

She must have known you weren't really into marrying her - she probably figured at least she'd be married and have a family before she got "too old"  so she puts on the game face for  you and the kids.  Time to get  real with each other and if she "forgets" it might be a good idea to write it out and read it to her and have it as a reminder.  Don;t tell her that -but write out your feelings and thoughts, and read it aloud.

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, MissCanuck said:

Who have you been talking to about getting your own apartment? Or do you mean you've only mentioned it in this thread, and never to your wife? 

Okay, let me see if I can clear this up. This confusion is coming in part just to replying to different people about different parts but we probably don't need to fixate on the apartment.

1) I often work a couple of days a week away from home. For some time now, we (as in me and my wife) have been talking about getting an apartment to make this easier. This was completely outside any of these issues and had not really crossed my mind when I posted the original post - that's a thing that was in the background.

2) As I posted here, I felt I had two options, one of which (essentially end my marriage) fills me with dread because of the catastrophic consequences. 

3) Catfeeder suggested looking at this more like a process than that big binary choice. "Activity beats stagnation, hands down, when it comes to managing pain, so I'd commit privately to a focus on the process rather than wrestling with making a choice quickly. Think of it as untying your way through a knot. Just follow where it goes without trying to measure or rush it."

4) Only then did the apartment come to mind as a possible tool in that process because that, in a way, provides a bit of space, a bit of a way for a process to be explored without it initially having that catastrophic impact - it might be a way for us to see where this is going. It was considered no more than part of a reaction to Catfeeder's suggestion. A place to be for a little more time rather than a complete cut off. Possibly the start of something. That's as far as I've got right now. And if it did become part of the equation, that would of course be something presented to my wife.

I haven't thought a path through that yet. It was simply part of a thought process brought up here. Does that clear it up a bit?

Edited by Greg40s
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4 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

Does that clear it up a bit?

In other words: you had talked with your wife about getting an apartment, but that was before you had even met this other person. So, it was indeed only to make work convenient. But now you are thinking how it could factor into a possible separation from your wife. 

Regardless, I doubt your wife is going to be on board with that. So, you will still be faced with the choice of moving out altogether, and not calling it "natural space." That's not what it would be. It would be a separation to see if you want to dissolve the marriage. 

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12 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

a bit of a way for a process to be explored without it initially having that catastrophic impact - it might be a way for us to see where this is going.

I think first you cut to the chase and tell her that you weren't into marrying her in the first place, you're sorry you made that huge mistake, and you don't see a strong foundation for staying married.  You are willing to put 110% into it for one year by going to counseling as a couple and individually, if that is what she wants.  I again wouldn't give yourself the out of "need to process" - it's like when you have a simple recipe vs. complicated.  Simple recipe - marrying someone in a healthy way requires: being reasonably sure and excited to marry, being in love, having chemistry, wanting to be with this person till death do us part.  You were missing key ingredients. 

So you didn't cook up a marriage.  You cooked up a mess.  The inedible mess is in front of you now.  Nothing to "process' -you might need on your own to process your next steps after the conversation where you are open about what was missing in the Marriage Recipe from the beginning.  But keep it simple for your wife.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, MissCanuck said:

In other words: you had talked with your wife about getting an apartment, but that was before you had even met this other person. So, it was indeed only to make work convenient. But now you are thinking how it could factor into a possible separation from your wife.

Yes, but let's be careful about putting two separate parts of the picture together here. Due to geography, the person I met would not be coming to this apartment - she is not a factor in the thought process. In all honesty, she's not a factor at all except in what she has revealed about where I'm at. And too much attention is going to the apartment too - it was simply thrown out there as part of a thought process.

And yes, I cooked up a mess. Guilty as charged. 

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5 minutes ago, Greg40s said:

Due to geography, the person I met would not be coming to this apartment - she is not a factor in the thought process.

Where did I say she would? 

I said that if you intend to get an apartment but not solely for the purpose of being closer to your workplace, you are going to need to call it what it is - a separation. It won't feel like natural space to your wife , I can nearly assure you of that. So, it is better to assume that this would indeed be a rip-the-BandAid-off move, and that it's likely not going to be seen as part of a process by your wife. 

Whatever you decide, the problem remains the same: you are not fulfilled in your marriage, and though you have tried, it hasn't worked. You have to talk to your wife about this. She needs to know that this isn't the sort of thing therapy will fix. 

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Greg40s,

Putting myself in your wife's place for a sec... I would want to know your feelings (or lack thereof) and hopefully that it would be presented in a gentle way.  It's only fair she have accurate information.  Then and only then can she participate with you in decision making in a meaningful way. 

Lots of good suggestions in this thread, and many perspectives.  No reason for you to continue to struggle with this unilaterally or without seasoned professional help... best of luck no matter which way it rolls.

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A marriage is usually over once a couple separates. It’s dishonest to move or separate using another excuse like work when there are other reasons to separate.

She needs to know exactly how you feel about the marriage and everything you’ve written from the emotional affair you’ve had to the reservations you feel. You’ll also be faced with the person you have become instead of avoiding the fact that the marriage has not worked for a long time. There are no more excuses between the both of you and she can be the judge as well of whether she wants to be in the marriage or live with you knowing who/what you are or what this relationship has become. “Cooked up a mess” is an understatement of the year. But at least you will be facing it instead of telling yourself you don’t want to hurt her because going on as you have is nothing but hurtful to the other person.

None of this is solely your solution. That you’ve decided to take this on as your decision only is testament that the marriage is a sham and she’s not part of the equation. I strongly suggest you be more honest in your interactions and get a lawyer for yourself in private.

 

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Rose Mosse said:

“Cooked up a mess” is an understatement of the year.

...

I strongly suggest you be more honest in your interactions and get a lawyer for yourself in private.

 

Yep. It doesn't help in the slightest but, in my own defense, I feel like I just didn't know. In so many steps along the way, so many milestones where I could have stopped everything, I didn't have a prior knowledge of how this is all supposed to work. We hear so much of fear of commitment and cold feet and so on and I still don't know if I know where the line is where those things become "stop everything, this is absolutely wrong". I don't know where one learns that. And so I kept going.

In terms of honest interactions, yes. And that's going to be hard for everyone. But the reason I have taken this part on alone is simply to get my own head together in some shape or form first. And I had more than a year and a half of very honest interactions with my wife starting around three years ago that ultimately did not help and I guess I'm very aware of that. I don't regret that though. I needed to try to make it all work first. I just didn't quite get there, I guess. The next honest interactions will be even harder. 

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1 minute ago, Greg40s said:

The next honest interactions will be even harder. 

You are right, it won't be easy but it will free you from the prison you've been building in your head.  You never know, she may have been thinking similar things and opening this line of discourse (while owning your part in the equation) might even prompt her to speak up and own her part.  Properly brought out in the open, it could even honor the time you did spend together.

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3 hours ago, Greg40s said:

I feel like I just didn't know.

You didn't know because you didn't care enough to put in the effort and do the work to figure it out which isn't fair when it involves marrying another person and making babies.  You took the passive approach.  Or you ignore the simple common sense of whether you were (reasonably) sure and excited to be marrying this person.

One learns that simply by being an adult who cares about making a marital commitment and planning a family in a way that shows you are ready for that level of commitment.  You've made many commitments in your life -to your education, professionally, to friends I am sure. You know full well what it means to make a commitment and be able to follow through and you've I'm sure gathered the necessary information before committing.  But here you apparently didn't want that level of responsibility and chose to simply go along passively with all of these plans.  Which is fine when it only affects you.  

I came painfully close to settling for marriage a number of times, and broke engagements and cancelled a big wedding 8 weeks before.  It would have been sooo easy to just go along with it, tell myself I was just a commitmentphobe/runaway bride generally - I wanted so badly to be a married mom.  I could taste it.  These were good men and loved me - but I took the really hard way out and walked away.  Thank goodness I did.  I didn't marry till 42 and actually married my ex fiancee -but by then I'd done the hard work and refused to settle.  So I've been there, I get it.  

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IMVHO, sometimes things we don’t expect to happen are important.   They can be eye opening to possibilities in life.

Meeting this other person has shown you that perhaps your marriage is more friendship based and less passion based and you are craving that passion, which is understandable.  I also want you to realize that this does NOT make you a bad person.   Some people think you should never be attracted to anyone besides your spouse for all eternity, and that just isn’t realistic.   But the reasons and the revelation you experienced ARE important.

I’m certain there are many people that will tell you- as well as society that loves telling people that they should stay in unfulfilling marriages (especially when children are involved),  that you should just stay in your marriage and stick it out.  That it’s normal to feel unhappy.  But I’m going to tell you that’s not always true.  There’s a difference between feeling fleeting moments of not being madly in love with your partner (which every person experiences at some point) and feeling like there is something missing consistently to the point where you are feeling unfulfilled.   This new person has opened your eyes to things you may just now be realizing that you want or really need in a relationship.  It also isn't fair to your wife or your kids if you are really as unhappy as you say. 

Many people out there coast through a marriage cause it’s “fine”, but not because they are feeling truly happy and at peace.   It’s great that you and your wife get along so well, but based on everything you are saying, you do sound more like good friends than lovers and maybe you are recognizing that you do in fact want more of a lover.   And it ISN’T a “perfect” marriage if you are feeling lonely and incomplete.  I think you also know that it’s not healthy for you OR your wife to hope “she does something wrong” so you have an “excuse” to leave the marriage.   Why do you even feel you need an excuse?  Isn’t unhappiness enough of a reason?  Or are you just worried about how others would think/feel?

Too often, people do things they feel they are “supposed to” and not because they really want to.   But the thing is, even if it’s not always obvious, making choices based out of fear or “doing the right thing” can have unseen negative consequences for others involved.

Example, people frequently stay in unhappy marriages “for the children”.   This isn’t always better for the children.  You are modeling to them what marriage should be. Even if there’s no immediate evidence of damage, many children who grow up in these types of households end up in unhealthy, unhappy or even abusive relationships because they believe it to be normal or thinking that what others think is more important than their happiness.  I know since I was a child of unhappy parents that stayed together “for me” and resented me for it.  I had to hear as an adult how they could have been happy if they hadn’t needed to stay together “for me”.  I also ended up in abusive relationships because of this or felt like I “had to stay” in bad ones to “look good” for others.  Staying in an unhappy marriage to “ make your partner happy” is also almost never a good idea.   It usually does not make them happy, erodes the relationship even more over time and often leaves one or more person resentful anyway.   Even if you did nothing with this new woman, if you continue down the path of least resistance (staying married cause it’s easier), the problems will only get bigger and then what happens when you develop feelings for another person?  While it’s great and considerate to think of everyone in the situation, it’s also never a good idea to sacrifice your happiness for someone else’s.  Pretending things are fine when they aren’t or pretending that you are happy when you aren’t, is a form of betrayal.  Which when your spouse finds this out, can hurt as much as an affair.

 

So onto my advice.   You need to do some deep reflecting and seek individual counseling.  Whether your wife is in denial or is just fine with living as BFF roommates, couple counseling isn’t going to be very helpful if she doesn’t think there’s any problem.  And since the feelings are raging in you, it’s probably important to figure some things out for yourself.   I also recommend this- Take a moment of pure selfishness.  Without worrying about what’s best for everyone else or thinking everyone else wants- what do YOU want? Your feelings as are equally important as everyone else’s.   If there was no consequence, what is the choice you would make today?  Answer that, because deep down the answer to that is what you really want.  You’re also assuming the worst.  Try assuming the best.  What if you could peacefully co-parent with your wife and be a great father without necessarily having to be married to her?  You aren't doing your wife a favor by staying her for fear of the "fallout" all while waiting for HER to do "something wrong" and not being honest about how you feel.   Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you should get divorced or make a choice like that flippantly.   What I’m saying is, don’t make any choice just out of feeling like you “have to”, that’s not healthy and you will grow resentful over time.   If a marriage isn’t working for one person, it isn’t working, even if the other is blissfully happy.  Just remember that at the end of the day, everyone has their own opinions- including everyone here- but YOU are the one that has to live in YOUR shoes.

Time to think long and hard about what you really want.

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6 hours ago, Greg40s said:

the person I met would not be coming to this apartment - she is not a factor in the thought process. In all honesty, she's not a factor at all except in what she has revealed about where I'm at. And too much attention is going to the apartment too - it was simply thrown out there as part of a thought process.

Yes she is a factor in that that is your inspiration to want even more "space". You really need to run these ideas, specifically a separate residence, by an attorney.

Keep in mind you're married long enough for this to be huge financial headache should your wife  get upset at the apt idea and decide to file for divorce first. Think about it: How are you going to pay for an apt, pay child support, entertain a mistress/date and pay for a divorce?

You really need to think logically not just about 'my wife's a bore and a new lady fancies me so maybe I'll run away and get my own place'.

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3 hours ago, redswim30 said:

It’s great that you and your wife get along so well, but based on everything you are saying, you do sound more like good friends than lovers and maybe you are recognizing that you do in fact want more of a lover.   And it ISN’T a “perfect” marriage if you are feeling lonely and incomplete.  I think you also know that it’s not healthy for you OR your wife to hope “she does something wrong” so you have an “excuse” to leave the marriage.   Why do you even feel you need an excuse?  Isn’t unhappiness enough of a reason?  Or are you just worried about how others would think/feel?

I guess I've never thought there is such thing as a perfect marriage. And I can't imagine there is - that feels like too much to expect. I've always known that marriages take work and there are compromises. There are good things and sometimes not so good things too but we can work on them. So I would sometimes swing from being active and feeling like maybe I can fix it to feeling like maybe this was just part of the compromise. Maybe being married to someone you get on with is a really good thing (some people don't seem to have that!). 

And so answering your question of what I have been worried about, there are two parts to that. The first is the selfish part - that I don't know how to start again. I don't know how to not have the life I have, if that makes sense. That is scary. The other part though is the big one now - I never want to hurt my wife or mess things up for my kids. My wife is a really good person and I know this will hurt her. That's what I worry about. And I know enough from reading about this over the years that I'm not the only one - there are many people who stay with their partners simply because they can't bring themselves to hurt them.

But I've done that for a long time now. I know what I want and it's not this (although I'm still terrified of ending up alone I guess so there's that buried in there too). 

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I'm with the crowd that says see a divorce attorney and get your ducks in a row.

If you've already tried to make it work, and that hole is still there, then it's time for you to accept that and bow out. Your wife will probably cry her eyes out but she will thank you later. Who knows? She might actually meet someone who loves her for her, and same for you.

Your kids will still love you regardless, and you will still be part of their lives.

I think you been dragging your feet because you want to protect your children, but also something tells me you are the type to go thru the motions because you're afraid. 

 

 

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