Sunday, March 26, 2023
HomeRelationship AdviceBig marriage problems

Big marriage problems

Guy here.

With my wife for 20 years.

Two kids both under 18.

My relationship feels unbearable and I really don’t know what to do.

I know we should seek counseling but it’s been impossible so far to find anyone who can take us.

I’m not sure where to start. She seems continually irritated with me.

I understand there is a dynamic between men and women where the wife feels like she’s doing all the heavy lifting and there are times when I’ve let it happen. Ok many times. Saying that I do a lot and I work hard to ensure there is a balance between us.

I’m not asking for praise because I don’t deserve praise for doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s just that one time I make a mistake it feels like everything I’ve worked on has come undone. Like if it don’t put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail as good as my wife does. Or I didn’t clean a dish as well as I should of.

She lets me know big time. It don’t care so much if she tells me. It’s just when she treats every error as a confirmation that we have a stressed out wife/incompetent lazy husband dynamic. I can’t stand being stressed out all the time that I may have done something wrong.

Sometimes if feel nauseous thinking of all the thing I might have screwed up some how.

I mean she screws up sometimes too and I never say anything because I know it won’t go well. She’s a skilled debater and turns any discussion of my feelings into a court room grilling.

It’s very unhealthy but I don’t know how to break the dynamic. It used to results in bad fight when we were younger because I would bottle up my feelings until I blew up.

I’ve given up on getting angry partially because of our kids and partially because I know now how destructive and useless it is. Still I’ve got no where to express my feelings.

There is zero intimacy. We have sex once a year and we are at the point where even hugs are uncomfortable. A couple weeks back she got mad at me for holding her hand wrong. She told me out right she’s not comfortable with being intimate because of our relationship dynamic and I believe her. There is no one else involved btw, I’m sure of it.

She says she loves me. I have to believe her. But I just can’t go on waking at 3 in the morning stressing about her.

I don’t want to divorce. We have two kids who are doing great and I want to wake up in the same house as them everyday until they grow up. I don’t want new boyfriends or girlfriends in their lives.

We are pretty good at not fighting in front of them all though she occasionally tears me a new one while they are there.

But I also can’t live like this. I feel so alone. There is no one I can talk to. Forget the sex. I just want someone to hug me and tell me I’m a good man and that I’m loved.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and I remember how traumatic it was. My dad was an alcoholic and while I did still see him from time to time he was emotionally not there and never could not bothered with the hard work of being a dad.

In other I had no good role models of what a healthy relationship should look like. My wife was my first ever serious relationship.

I know my faults. I’ve suffered depression my whole life and always had low self worth. I had a spiritual awakening in the last couple years which reminded me of my own self worth. Yes I’m a sinner like everyone else but I’m also important like everyone else and that made me comfortable with who I am without being complacent about my faults.

But I feel powerless to fix this.

Sorry about the long rant but I needed to talk to someone.

View Reddit by Glad-Talk492View Source



  1. I feel like everyone is jumping to the conclusion that your wife is just a jerk, but I have been on the other side of this situation and it is exhausting. I don’t know you personally and I don’t know your relationship, but you’ve acknowledged letting your wife do the heavy lifting in the past. It’s hard to want physical intimacy when you’ve become emotionally exhausted. Here are some questions, just for you to ask yourself– your answers will give you more insight than anybody here on Reddit can.

    What are your kids’ doctors names?
    Who made their last dental appointment?
    Who planned your last vacation?
    Who decides what meal you are going to serve for the holidays?
    Who makes your doctor appointments?
    What grade does your child have in math class?

    Are you involved in the emotional and invisible labor that is required to keep your household running? Just some food for thought, and I hope things get better for you soon.

  2. Look into some of the online marriage counseling options. The crux of most marital disputes is the inability to communicate effectively. So find someone to work with the both of you until you can each use the right words to talk this through.

  3. >My parents divorced when I was a kid and I remember how traumatic it was

    A traumatic divorce occurs when the kids are not prepped properly.

    My kid (15) was completely fine with the divorce as not only did she see 2 parents no longer forcing themselves to be together, we’d had plenty of drip by drip discussions before that, so she knew what was coming. The trauma she did experience was the day to day of two parents staying together, when both wanted to be 10000 miles from the other.

    The stage you are at is exactly the start point of where my marriage was burned down to the ground and at the core, i have no doubt the match that lit it was my wife’s incorrect belief she was doing much more for the family and me than vice-versa

    Very much like you any mistake was pounced upon, if i held her to the same standard all hell broke loose.

    I learned after we split that i did indeed pull the lions share of effort for the family as i gained over 20 hours free time and a huge chunk of change in money not spent (kid stayed with me as you never leave the marital home)

    I think what happened was over the years she lost the ability to see what i did for us because she didn’t do those things, it went from appreciation, to taken for granted, then the death knell of full entitlement that everything i did was automatic and not worth any appreciation, alongside this she only had her own role to judge off so the longer that went on the more it felt like she was doing everything because in her world, she was

    I also learned its ok to accept that you married someone that just needs to be an asshole at any opportunity to you, its even better to accept divorce is something you should have done much earlier.

    You only owe her to the standard she treats you now, not how she used to treat you

  4. I can speak to how reading this I empathized with your wife.

    My husband is really great. He does chores around the house, handles the finances, and really tries to be kind.

    But he is basically a teenager with adult privileges.

    The chores only get done if I remind him and manage him. And then only the specific ones that are “his”.

    I’ll give you an example. We use the SAME shampoo and conditioner. The bottle is empty and will sit there empty until I replace it. He doesn’t have a moment where he notices that it’s getting low, pulls out the new bottle and swaps the pump over.

    Another example. When I do laundry, I at least put away the “easy” things, like tossing underwear in their bin, folding jeans, and sorting the clothes so that when we get around to putting them away it goes quickly because similar things are together. It’s where I can take two quick minutes that will save him time and make it easier to get the clothes put away (something I’m sure all if us here can attest to being a struggle). When he does laundry it all goes in a pile. No effort past the bare minimum. And this is after me asking at least 4 times that day if he’s going to do laundry.

    It’s very difficult to respect and feel attracted to someone you have to manage like a report at work and who makes decisions like a teenager. And it’s very easy for small things to pile up because the result is feeling burnt out.

    Since we started dating I told him I’m happy to cook if he cleans. To this day I’ll spend 30 minutes in the kitchen alone preparing dinner, have to call him to dinner like a child, and then after dinner watch as he leaves the dishes in the sink and goes to play video games. So he either leaves it until right before bed and never really cleans everything, or I have to be the “bad guy” and remind him yet again that he needs to take care of this, and the right way, and if I leave the kitchen HE STOPS DOING IT.

    After several years, I’m just done talking. I’m at the point where unless he steps up, I’m done.

    Unless your daughter is 3, you should know how to deal with her hair. If you don’t, practice when it’s not crucial to be perfect and get better. She’s not mad that you weren’t perfect, she’s passed that after years you still haven’t made an effort to learn how to do this properly and continue to be ok with being inept, making it something she cannot delegate to you. She shouldn’t have to say “if you can’t do it right practice until you can.” You’re an adult. You should be able to figure that out without asking all of us for advice.

    Would you want to eat food off of a dirty dish? Would you want your children to? Cleaning a dish is not the space where you go “good enough “. Either it’s clean, everywhere, or you need to wash it again. And again, as an adult, you should know how to clean a damn dish. If you don’t, get on the cleaning side of TikTok and learn! Do it RIGHT every time.

    If I had to guess, she’s fed up with not being able to trust you to do anything. She’s already told you, and you need to decide that learning how to contribute equally to the domestic needs of the house is important enough to get the skills you need to do it.

    And here’s the thing…if you cleaned the dish properly, she’d have nothing to yell about. Same with daughter’s hair. So instead of coming here for validation that your wife is just being too hard on poor you, educate yourself and actually show up as a partner.

  5. Your wife is treating your with contempt, which is emotional abuse that your kids are witnessing and learning from her. Divorce isn’t the worst thing in this dynamic necessarily, but I think marriage counselling is absolutely crucial. This is not a reasonable situation for you to live in at all. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this.

  6. I’m can’t tell you what to do, but do something to change the routine. Even if it’s simply telling her “not now” when she has her tirades. I know you say you don’t want a divorce, but she needs to know that a marriage is a two person deal. She needs to either decide to help make things better or not. If you don’t want a divorce, then at least let her know that you need to formally change your dynamic. Maybe even move into a guest room, and let her know that you are going to love as RESPECTFUL roommates until the kids turn 18. The key here is that you BOTH need to respect each other, even if you don’t love each other. And like one of the other commenters said, go out and get a beer! Pick one night a week where you go out with the guys so you have something social to look forward to.

  7. * It is fixable IF she wants to fix it as well.
    * I’d look at Gottman family therapy . You can find counsellors everywhere. Have a look here to start:
    * I think it’s useful to fix the two matters of the framework of how you’re going to talk about things and the actual issues themselves separately. So discuss a framework where maybe she talks for three+ minutes about how she feels while you just listen. Then you spend a minute or two saying back what you heard HER say (not stating your position or arguing) until she feels you’ve really understood her. Then swap. You can validate what she’s saying without necessarily agreeing.
    * You don’t need to solve it all at once. Short sessions of really hearing the other person and helping them feel better are great.
    * Try to talk about what YOU need: ” I’d really love it if …”, not starting with things they do wrong. “I’d really love it if we could hold hands sometimes. How do you feel about that?” And whatever she says is OK, you’re there to learn and so is she.
    * The tone of the first three minutes of any conversation is absolutely crucial. Open softly.
    * Read: Non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg and try to ignore that Chopra wrote the intro. The book itself is awesome and you’ll find it so useful.
    * Agree never to treat each other worse than you’d talk to a stranger in the suipermarket. So important never to slip below that level.
    * Anger is either hurt or anxiety. So if she’s angry, try to read it compassionately as long as you aren’t at risk. Equally, if you get angry, try to find what hurt you or made you anxious. And then take a 20 minute break. Don’t talk while flooded. Neither of you will actually listen.
    * You BOTH need to feel Liked, Understood, Loved (actions) and have Autonomy. Your actions towards each other need to reflect these needs. From what you say, she doesn’t really feel understood or that she has sufficient autonomy. And it’s pretty clear that you don’t feel liked or loved.
    * REALLY listen to her and how she feels. She doesn’t have to be right and nor do you. The aim is that at the end of you listening to her, she feels better. And same for you.
    * Proceed from the assumption that neither of you are broken, just the system between you. Agree that the two of you together will work on fixing the system together. Right now the system is a mess – as you report it, she is too direct and you aren’t direct enough. You need a system that leaves the other person feeling better and that also allows you to establish boundaries.
    * Avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone-walling.
    * Do short stretches at a time to begin with (20 minute cap?) and take breaks of at least 20 minutes.
    * Learn about bids and turning towards them. Couples that get divorced turn towards bids 2/7 times. Couples that stay together turn towards bids 6/7 times. It’s easy and a powerful way of turning things around.
    * IF you think she is willing to work on your marriage with you, show her this list and ask her what she thinks. And whatever she says is information for you, it’s not right or wrong. It’s a starting point for the long road of putting you two back together.

    Good luck!

  8. Find someone who can give you counseling online if you can’t find someone in person. When you didn’t do something to perfection and she starts attacking, you have to tell her “I need you to please stop yelling at me. If I made a mistake with something, just let me know and I’ll work to fix it. But this is not helping to correct a mistake, it is just hurting my feelings and I’d like you to stop.”

    If all she likes to do is make you feel bad, then think about ending it.

  9. **How do you know your kids are all right?** You both aren’t setting good examples for your children if you are arguing all the time. You said you had bad role models of what a healthy relationship looks like. Well what about your kids? Do you want them to feel like you when they are married?

    You guys are in a slump right now. You need to ask your wife plainly if she loves you and wants this marriage to work. You don’t necessarily have to go to a couples therapist. You can go to a regular therapist to see you both. Then again, I don’t know all the different types of therapy.

    All I know is this: if you want your kids to be happy and you want this relationship to work, you got to not make excuses anymore. If I were you, I wouldn’t care that it is difficult to find someone. I would still look to find someone. No matter how terrible the search may be, your family deserves happiness. Waiting for things to happen is not going to solve your problems.

    Make no mistake, I am not lecturing you or nagging you or giving you tough love. I genuinely want things to work out because it sucks to see people unhappy in relationships. I wish you luck.

  10. I fully guarantee you are not doing even 10% of the physical AND mental household/ parenting chores. And you probably feel like you’re doing at least 35%. This is true of virtually all men who find themselves in your position. Even if your wife is a SAHM you need to drastically step it up. Quadruple that if she works 40 hrs. You should instantly go look up Fair Play, the book and documentary, and watch/read that. It walks you through realizing how much your partner really is doing and offers solid point by point steps on how to balance that.

  11. You say you don’t want a divorce, but you also say you can’t go on living like this. The fact is, you are in a de facto sense already divorced…the only thing missing is the paperwork. She has lost the attraction to you and the desire for you. MC will not help. You should seek IC while planning to leave her. Protect your assets such as bank and brokerage accounts and cancel joint credit cards. Restarting your life without her will be scary but you will ultimately be happier not having to endure her disredpect and condescending behavior.

  12. Stop cowering, being respectful of your wife and being fearful are very different. Stand up for yourself next time she starts dressing you down sternly let her know you’re not going to put up with her disrespect anymore. Might even fix your sex life.

  13. If everything you do is wrong, you might as well start doing what makes you happy. That’s what worked for me. I stopped trying to make her happy and started doing the things I enjoyed again. I still went above and beyond with the house and kids but whenever I had downtime I did what I wanted. I stopped letting her tear me down whenever she wanted. I just walked away. You don’t have to be mean or sarcastic or anything. Just stop letting her talk down to you. Focus on hobbies and kids. Forget about intimacy for now. You don’t want anything to do with someone who doesn’t want you anyways. She will either snap out of it and cut the attitude, or leave. Either way you will personally end up better for yourself. You can’t control her, but you can control you so you might as well put all of the energy you were spending trying to make her happy into yourself.

  14. 3 things:

    1. Your wife has a mental illness. I can’t say what is wrong with her but to start she needs to own her perfectionism. It makes no difference if you missed a spot on a dish or left a few hairs out of place. Focusing on that for even a second is unreasonable and abusive.
    2. Contempt is the #1 predictor of divorce.
    3. It is better to divorce than let your children see this dynamic as normal.

    tl;dr Your choices are marriage counseling or divorce.

  15. I am in a very similar situation that I have debated posting about as well. Similar marriage duration, kids but with my wife I have just fallen out of love with. She acts somewhat similar to yours but there are other issues as well and I feel so lonely and depressed in the late evenings after the kids are all put to bed. We never fight and maintain a relationship infront of the kids but it’s not fulfilling me and I don’t know what to do. We can maintain some level of intimacy but I really have to make an active effort since I just don’t care about that with her anymore.

    I have debated leaving but three things keep me back:

    1 – the thought of not seeing my kids every day makes my stomach churn. I have been an active father from day 1 and if anything I still am more active in their lives then my wife is. Separating means I miss out on half of what is left of their childhood.

    2 – People often say that it’s better to have 2 divorced parents vs an unhappy marriage but that is only really true in toxic situations IMO. My parents divorced and it was heartbreaking to see since it wasn’t one of those you knew this was coming. It was a major surprise to me and my siblings and the crushing feeling of watching our lives fall apart and change drastically has never left my mind. My relationship with both never recovered fully. Their lives likely also didn’t turn out like they imagined but we never talk about it so was it worth it to them? I don’t know. The thought of putting my kids through that terrifies me. I can still remember the exact day and what I was doing when my parents told me and it’s been a long time. It would be my fault this takes place – and for what? A gamble at a happier life? Maybe I never meet anyone else and end up just as lonely?

    3 – We would take a massive hit financially which would impact all of our lives. We had many tight years when the kids were really young but that has changed in the last 5-7 years and I can likely even retire comfortably early. Splitting up the household into 2 households would kill all of that. I ran some math late at night once and I’d be signing up for at least another 5-10 years in the workforce and that assumes we separate amicably. It’s likely better to just wait out until they are all moved out so I can move to a much smaller place but that also costs me 10 years.

    I feel like I am stuck on the Flying Dutchman waging years of service in trying to come up with a solution. I wish I had a magic solution for you but I can only offer that you are not alone.

  16. I don’t have unique advice (other than the counselling and suggestions from other redditors) but food for thought if you are worried about counselling not working out and the emotional effect of divorce on the kids. As someone whose parents were in an oddly similar situation: your kids can tell. Even if you think you two act normal in front of them, they can tell something’s wrong. Kids pick up on environmental cues, and especially since you’re around them for a good chunk of the day, they can see how your partner affects your mood. When I was younger I would sit in a room with one parent and dread the other one coming in because I knew that the atmosphere was going to become strained and they were trying to avoid making ripples in front of the kids. It might as well have been a split household.

    Your relationship with your wife will influence your kids’ standards for relationships and what they think is normal/what they expect from an S/O. I remember being shocked at *16* when I went to a friend’s house and saw their parents actually standing next to each other and talking affectionately to each other. People talk about how an abusive relationship between a mom and dad mess with a kid’s mindset, but they don’t talk about how a loveless one can affect them as often. Divorce is traumatic, but not resolving issues in your marriage could have an equally long-lasting effect on your kids. I wish you the best of luck in resolving your situation and hope you have a good day.

  17. I would try this. Sit her down and ask her if she wants to stay married. If she says yes, then tell her either she stops tearing you down at every opportunity and for trivial things or the marriage is over. If she can’t/won’t change, move out of the bedroom and grey rock her until the kids are old enough for you to leave. If she tries to continue to berate you, leave the room or the house. Text her and say “let me know when you are ready to have an adult conversation.”

    You make mention you’ve discovered some self worth. My guess is this is her reaction to it. She likes being the top person in the relationship and putting down your efforts makes her feel in control of the relationship. You need to completely take away her control. Unless it’s something important (kids health for instance) ignore her rants. Remind her occasionally that you will be divorcing soon. Turn her world upside down and you take control of the situation and deal with her on your terms.

  18. This is exactly what counseling is for. You need a referee for these arguments, so they can shut down the negative parts which makes things worse.

    As for can’t do anything right, just explain…this is how I do XYZ, or this is the best I can do doing my daughter’s hair. If it is an issue for you, you are free to do it. But I’m not going to sit here and be berated because I didn’t meet your standards.

    I was the “not good enough” guy when I was younger, I was undiagnosed ADD with some OCD tendencies. It was how I managed my brain issue, and things being messed up affected my well-being and how I functioned. I was still in the wrong, and therapy got me fixed there.

    We also did some constructive work on “don’t touch my shit, I won’t bitch about yours” which has really helped.

  19. A lot of the stuff you wrote on here should probably be said to your wife. She clearly crosses your boundaries but you have to be assertive and let her know that it’s not acceptable. Don’t get angry, don’t argue, calmly set boundaries and let her know what’s on your mind. Talk it through before you get to the level of getting upset. It doesn’t sound like she respects you at this point and treats you like a beta male. And obviously yes seek counseling.

  20. This is so heartbreaking to read. I wish I could give you a hug. I grew up with my mom treating my dad like this. I can tell the that your kids will probably judge her harshly when they are older. You are worthy of love.

    That dynamic of incompetent husband/ irritated wife you described is for sitcoms only. Every man I know who is in your situation thinks it’s what all relationships are like because of that enduring trope. It’s not true. A relationship with a woman who respects you and doesn’t emotionally abuse you is possible. My dad went on to marry a lovely lady after my mom left him. I (f) first married a man like my mom, and then I went on to a second marriage that is founded on respect and love.

    Wait until your kids move out and make your move. You deserve warmth, kindness, love, and respect.

  21. I’m really sorry this is tough.

    Maybe do this. Sit down with her and each of you write down 3 things you appreciate about the others and a list of three things you respect about the other person. Then write down three happy memories with the other.

    Finally, write down one thing, you want that other person to do more, or better, and why, how it makes you feel that they don’t do it or don’t focus energy on it.

    Then discuss, with love. Don’t argue, don’t get dragged into an argument, don’t point fingers or accuse. If she starts getting defensive, or offensive, just be patient, just listen. Try to make it about connecting, and being real and working on making your connection stronger, showing appreciation of one another.

    For my wife I might write:

    appreciate: patience, willingness to listen, emotional connection

    respect: her consistency, her hard work, her dedication to our families health

    work on: Initiating physical contact. Just a touch on the shoulder, or a little hug would feel nice, if I didn’t have to initiate it.

  22. You should not have to live like this. My recommendation is to find a marriage counsellor and to shut her down when she tries to go at you in front of the kids. You need to make is absolutely clear that you will not tolerate her spewing her toxicity on you in front of your children.

    I also recommend separating for a time and both of you getting individual therapy if you think there is even a chance to save this marriage which is what you want.

    I personally don’t think you should stay, it is not a good environment to raise kids in and you will hurt them more by staying in this toxic relationship.

  23. Divorce. Your relationship is toxic. Your kids see this. By staying you are normalizing bad relationships and teaching them to treat their partner the way your wife treats you or accept being treated that way by a partner. Is that what you want?

  24. If you can not get marriage counseling right now, get on a waiting list and get into individual counseling in the meantime. Focus on improving yourself and your friendships/family. You cannot be part of a happy couple if you are miserable. Read divorce 180. Doesn’t mean get a a divorce. Helps prepare you for either way.

  25. My two cents are that divorce isn’t necessarily as awful as you’re painting it, for you or the kids. Your parents’ split may have been hard on you, but if your dad had an alcohol dependency there was more at play there than just the divorce. I think how you handle the split would matter a lot more to them than THAT you broke up. And modeling an affection-less, broken down relationship for them isn’t a great alternative option.

    I got divorced after a nearly-20 year marriage and it was hard as hell, and I wasn’t nearly as unhappy as it sounds like you are. It was one of the most painful years of my life, but I can honestly say that a few years out, I am a thousand times happier than I ever imagined possible.

    Anyway, not saying it’s the right choice for you, just suggesting you don’t dismiss the idea without considering it some more. It sounds like both you and your wife may lead better, more fulfilling lives apart.

  26. She clearly is upset more about an overall idea of the situation than the specifics that you mentioned, and the specifics are what sets her over the edge.

    If you’d like to try to help her break her image of the failed dynamic, then maybe try helping out with things that she normally does without being asked. You could try pairing that with occasional romantic gestures such as flowers or love notes, and that might help her feel better and soften the stress on both of you.

    I’d also strongly recommend sitting down with her and saying you’d like to have an open conversation (not debate) about how both of you are feeling and hear each other out. Let her know you don’t like the current dynamic and you want to fix it because you love her and want her to be happy and you want both of you to be happy together again. Let her know you are trying, and maybe show some examples, but see that it’s not enough for her. Tell her you’re willing to put the work in and listen to what she has to say, then hear her out.

    Best of luck, you can get through this to something better.

  27. How old is your youngest?

    Because from your replies to peoples comments it seems like your best solution is to wait until your kids are 18, then leave.

    I doubt your wife sees anything wrong with going off on you (you notice that no one has told you that it’s abusive how she does that, but if it was the other way around they would be telling her it’s abuse and to get out) and she’s not going to change unless you put an ultimatum to her.

  28. I was in the same situation with an angry girlfriend. Until one day she dumped me, 1 year later she realized I was the best guy she ever had and went through hell to get back with me.

    She realized she fucked up and treated me like trash before. Of course I held her feet to the fire before taking her back. We have a kid together so it can be complicated dating other people.

    Maybe you guys need to take a break so she can realize that she really needs you in her life after missing you. Sometimes that has to be done.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular