Breaking free from a Co-dependent marriage
Hi guys, this is my first time posting here. I suffer from severe long term depression and anxiety. I have been with my husband for 12 years, married for 5. We are the only partners we have each had. I am 31.
I have been unhappy for many years. I feel like he is a man-child that I am left to mother. Deep down he is a great kindhearted person but I am not satisfied in our marriage - I feel like we have totally grown apart, I cant talk to him about anything (he tends to have a bit of a tantrum if I say things he doesnt feel like dealing with), our sex life has been incredibly lacking for years and now I have totally lost interest, and in general I just dont feel excited or happy to be around him. I feel stressed, frustrated, on edge, anxious when I am at home.
We have tried couples counselling but he wasn't interested, I have tried for years to tell him how unhappy I am and what I need from him but it falls on deaf ears or changes back to how it was after a week or so. I have tried to end the marriage several times but every time I have, he cries, sobs, tells me he can't live without me and guilts me into changing my mind again.
I am scared that my life is just going to pass me by and I am just going to spend it being miserable because I know I am not getting what I need from the relationship. I want to get out but the guilt leaves me feeling trapped, alone and depressed. I am seeing a counsellor but she says I have a long way to go. I guess I am just wondering if anyone may have some advice?
Firstly, welcome to the forums.
This is a real tough one to give advice one because no one would want to advise you to break up with someone or what not. I know you have tried couples counselling, how long ago was that? he may need to be interested to really try to salvage the marriage, has he said he feels the same as you at all?
Regarding what your counsellor is saying that you have a long way to go, are they referring to coming out from the depression or long way to go to getting you relationship back on track? I know you have tried and tried but you need to try and remember why you got together in the first place, need to find the spark again, have you been on any holidays or anything like that together? what stuff do you do together?
My best for you,
Your husband is in denial, refuses to accept what is told to him and won't do anything about getting help, that's living in a partnership, not a marriage, sure he will cry when you say you are going to leave him, because you are his security, that's exactly how I felt, but it didn't stop my wife from leaving me several times and then divorcing me, and no matter how much I tried I could never get her to change her mind, now it's probably the best thing she did, both our sons were adults so it didn't affect them that much, although they were sad, our lives have been cemented in place and we see each other regularly.
Can I ask you, your guilt will disappear and then you will be able to get on with your life, compared to staying with him and feeling miserable 24/7, one way you can improve while the other way you only get horribly depressed.
Do what you want to do. Geoff.
You are staying with your husband because he “guilts” you into staying. Some people get stuck in all kinds of things because maybe they were a super responsible child and the behaviour just stayed and now they dont know how to turn it down. As in maybe in their childhood , somehow they were the “responsible one” in the family.
Is it possible that caring for others is one of the few ways you were made to feel valuable , so you are stuck in that cycle now and are not sure how to get out? Some people have this dilemma .. just wondering if that rings a bell for you.
Anyway , guilt is not a great basis for a loving happy relationship.
Your comment that 'I have been unhappy for many years. I feel like he is a man-child that I am left to mother.' makes me think about an Esther Perel book “ Mating In Captivity”. She speaks about how incredibly unsexy it is when we are in the dynamic of treating our spouse like a child . I mean , we want to be intimate with a man, not a boy .. so he he behaves like a child it is understandably one of the least appealing things.
You are absolutely right . You can’t just do nothing and then wonder why nothing changes and you continue to be miserable.
I think you may have to lay down the gauntlet - Define for yourself what you really want from a relationship. How you need to change to be your best self and what you are going to needing from your partner.
Ask him if he is willing to put in the work, not over over a few weeks, but over years to achieve this goal together…
If yes, well get going - both as individuals and as a couple ( Esthers book is a great start!) As is your therapist or a new couples counsellor.
If no, or he thinks he is his best self, then be brave and leave.
Feeling guilty about your lost life opportunities is worse to feel than feeling guilty over his ( probably temporary) grief.
In closing though .. I wanted to ask you to check with your therapist what they mean by “ a long way to go” . Are they concerned that you might trigger a relapse of your mental health issues by leaving? Or by staying? Or that your unhappiness is not in fact based in your marital issues…? It just stayed with me and I think in view of the fact that they know you pretty well, go back and talk all this through with them .
If you dont feel you are getting the “right” support for you , by all means get fresh eyes on the picture.
Hi Dr Kim,
My younger brother was very ill as a child and I was often left on my own and felt like I was second prioriy. My parents separated when I was 12 and my dad used to unload of alot of his grief onto me. I think my therapist means I have a long way to go in that I have been going down a spiral of depression and anxiety for years and its going to take alot of work to get me out. I have felt so stuck and guilty and trapped for so long that I just dont know how to think otherwise.
Some of what makes me feel guilty is that I dont know if I want to try anymore. In some ways I feel like I have always been unsatisfied in this relationship but because I was young and hopeful I ignored alot of things. I just dont think he is the type of person who can make me happy and I think I want alot more than he is able to give me. I find myself becoming attracted to other men and wondering what it would be like to be with someone else. I hate being intimate with my husband and I feel like I am betraying myself by letting my guard down.
I get so scared of the life I am missing and that I will miss out on someone who can give me the love I am really wanting.
I think you need to keep working with your counsellor to get our from the depression and anxiety, it's tough because until you are fully happy with yourself it is hard to be happy with anybody else, including new partners. They do say, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I do advise you to try and find why you together in the first place and re-ignite your relationship.
If you are starting to feel as though your marriage isn't working and you are more attracted towards other men, then the temptation to meet them becomes stronger, which means you cut yourself off from your husband, where the marriage turns into just a living arrangement.
Depression or even PSTD may cause this, but I think the latter of these maybe stronger, although it comes under the heading of depression, but what you need to do is make a list of why you may love your husband and the on the other side make a list of why you are unhappy, and you have to remember that your husband maybe feeling exactly the same.
If one partner/spouse is unhappy does this mean the other person is also not happy, for me it's how I feel. Geoff. x
Thanks for the reply. To be honest I dont want to make it work. I love him like a friend but not a lover anymore. I recoil when he touches me, I find any excuse to sleep in a spare bedroom, I lie to avoid intimacy. I am incredibly attracted to other men and in a way I wish someone would just sweep me off my feet so I felt like I had a reason to leave. Ive tried to end my marriage several times and he gets angry at first but then its the crying and guilt trip and I stay. And now I'm getting angrier and more resentful because i want to go and he wont let me. Im becoming more aggressive in my attitude to him (as in I snap at him, am very short and just find any communication with him to be frustrating). I cant talkto him about anything that bothers me without him trying to fix it for me and instead of feeling like a weight has lifted I feel angry. Ive had an argument with him tonight and I'm just so damn angry about why my life is this way and why I have allowed myself to become such a mess and such a weak person who cant break away even though this marriage is making me feel physically ill.