I have been fantasizing about telling my husband that I no longer love him and want to leave him. I am not involved with anyone and have never been outside of my marriage. Recently, a man at work showed interest in me and my response caught me by surprise. I was extremely delighted to be flirted with and began to have strong feelings for him. It never turned into anything.
About four months ago, my spouse’s anger was out of control. He did not hit me or the children but was violently throwing things around the house. I have lost respect for him. I fear that my feelings have changed so drastically that I will never see him as my "lover" again. I also feel that life is too short to be with someone who does not make you happy. He has only had one outburst since the last time, and things have been better. However, as I said before, I just don’t seem to be in love with him anymore. I find him physically attractive and we have a good sexual relationship when we are getting along.
I have been examining our relationship and feel that I have been the one who puts forth more effort. I pay the bills, work full time, make all the appointments for health and dental, fix things around the house, after asking for help and not getting it. I feel as if I am the CEO of the family. I feel that I am doing and caring for everyone in the family, and no one is taking care of me. I don’t want to be married anymore. I would prefer to have my own house to live in where I only have to pick up after my children. I would prefer to date new people who make plans with me in mind and not have to be the one to initiate everything. I would like to go out on the weekends and do home improvement projects, but all my spouse wants to do is play video games and take naps. I feel we are just roommates!
— D.L., Las Vegas
So, your marriage labors for a time in emptiness. A co-worker flirts with you. You notice your delight and strong feelings. These feelings are real … but take caution. If you were lost in the Mojave Desert for four days, and I found you and handed you my canteen, you’d feel exactly that same delight, and you’d probably have strong feelings for me. I’m saying that when you’re dying of thirst, lost and alone, it’s hard to distinguish an honest assessment of relationship potential from simple desperation. Turns out I’m not your soulmate; I’m just a nice guy with a canteen.
Roommates? Sorry to "pile on," but, nope. You wouldn’t tolerate a roommate like this.
Loss of respect? Ho-boy howdy! I think you’ve put your finger right on it. You don’t respect the way he manages his emotional life, especially the way he funnels anger and upset into toddler tantrum. You don’t respect his work ethic. You don’t respect his lack of reciprocity in domestic duty. Saying you’re the "CEO" made me shudder, because I’ve never met a healthy woman who could for long respect a man who didn’t regularly lead, a man who defaults to passivity while she shoulders the authority and responsibility.
Optimistic signs are that sexual chemistry and quality sex are still possible. This speaks to a bond that remains, despite the current malaise.
Wowsza — do I ever meet tons of couples where, over time, the wife absorbs disproportionate responsibility, the husband slides into a kind of retro-adolescence and destructive moods, and then the wife becomes a chemical waste dump of resentment! If left unexamined and untreated, it will kill the marriage.
Have the two of you considered couples therapy? There are actually a lot of social gender patterns in the past two generations that increasingly put similar couples in therapy. With help and encouragement, you and your husband could learn to negotiate a healthy distribution of authority, leadership and responsibility, not to mention a more just job description for each of you as "heads of household."
In the meantime, beware dapper men with "canteens." Go to the well. Your well. The well you helped dig with your husband, also known as your marriage.
Go to the well and demand a drink.
Originally published in View News, April 12, 2011.