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November 21, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Love

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Justification for leaving?

Question:

I am 33 years old and have been married 13 years. I have 3 children, ages 12, 10, and 8. I am a degreed professional and a Christian. I am socially active and very confident. I have a medium income. Presently unemployed full time, although I work outside the home part time. I do not feel that I have any "real" psychological issues that I have not learned to overcome. I am generally optimistic, very loving and affectionate and very rational. I am very gregarious, although I have a small group of intimate friends (like 2 or 3) I live by my principals, whether or not others approve. I tend to be successful and do well.

I have been married for 13 years to a man in which I love dearly, but we have grown apart. He has a military career that he hates. It depresses him and cheats him out of his potential, because he is not working in a capacity that uses his talents, nor is he pursuing his dreams or making choices that would benefit his personal growth. He is also very insecure. I am really turned off by that. We are put in places that we sometimes prefer not to be in. We have always had a reasonably happy marriage, making the most of what we are given. However, I often give up any opportunities for professional growth and advancement, because of my choice to follow him and his career. Giving up his military career is not an option, because he wants the early retirement (in 5 years).

I am frustrated and depressed because I continue to follow a man around who when asked has no idea what he wants out of life and is willing to put up with the military at all costs just to get the retirement. His rank, pay and retirement are low. I easily earn more money when I am able to work in my full professional capacity, even when starting from the bottom. I settle for less than fulfilling jobs, just to stay employed and try hard to make the most out of any situation. I do all that I can to make the most out of local resources and I take advantage of any and all opportunities available in the locations we live.

I know what I want out of life and I have a burning desire to go after it. I feel that the most productive years of my life are being wasted with a person who has resigned himself to be at the disposal of the military, at the all costs. He deals with military stress by drinking and doing stupid stuff to our relationship. He spends a lot of time working or making rank or dealing with the demands of service.

If it were an endeavor that would give him some sense of happiness, then I would not have too much of a problem dealing with the time away. That is what wives do and I enjoy being a wife. However, his stress, depression and lack of fulfillment cause me stress. Counseling is not an option--he gives it lip service and does not follow through--he never has time. I value my family and my husband is an excellent father. I have stayed this long, because we love one another and I would hate to break up our home, it would not be good for the kids. We do not dream together anymore. My ambitions, desires and vision for us are completely different from his.

We have grown apart personally. He is very insecure and I am not. We don't even do much together as a couple anymore, although we do things as a family. He spends a lot of his time sleeping or playing computer games or meeting the demands of his career. I realize that these may be signs of depression and when I try to lovingly offer support he feels that I am putting more stress on him--so we do not communicate well. If it were just a relationship thing, then I know there is always help to fix that. All long term relationships suffer periodically from stress or lack of communication, but our problem is also one of personal fulfillment giving control of my life to a person who cannot manage his own. By giving control, I mean his career taking precedence over mine and shaping our lives, although his career is the cause, in my opinion for his/our discontent. In other words, he has made choices I do not respect. He WILL not consider other options. We have talked 3 years about that. He will retire, no matter what, even if I leave. Should I stick it through and give my kids an "intact" home, sacrificing my own life in the process (silently suffering through depression and merely existing in this mediocre but loving relationship) or should I be more proactive in the choices to a point that will benefit my personal fulfillment at the detriment of my own marriage?

Tonya, 33- year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Tonya,

So glad you wrote to us for some advice. I'll try to help as much as I can, based on your brief letter.

I like to think of counseling as "healthy conversations," so I'll be responding to your letter line-by-line, as if we were in a real conversation... (The words in italics are yours...)

So here goes...

I am 33 years old and have been married 13 years. I have 3 children, ages 12, 10, and 8. I am a degreed professional and a Christian. I am socially active and very confident. I have a medium income. Presently unemployed full time, although I work outside the home part time. I do not feel that I have any 'real' psychological issues that I have not learned to overcome. I am generally optimistic, very loving and affectionate and very rational. I am very gregarious, although I have a small group of intimate friends (like 2 or 3) I live by my principals, whether or not others approve. I tend to be successful and do well.

Great! I'll read on to see why you are writing for advice then!!

I have been married for 13 years to a man in which I love dearly, but we have grown apart. He has a military career that he hates. It depresses him and cheats him out of his potential, because he is not working in a capacity that uses his talents, nor is he pursuing his dreams or making choices that would benefit his personal growth. He is also very insecure. I am really turned off by that. We are put in places that we sometimes prefer not to be in. We have always had a reasonably happy marriage, making the most of what we are given. However, I often give up any opportunities for professional growth and advancement, because of my choice to follow him and his career. Giving up his military career is not an option, because he wants the early retirement (in 5 years). I am frustrated and depressed because I continue to follow a man around who when asked has no idea what he wants out of life and is willing to put up with the military at all costs just to get the retirement.

It's clear why you "have grown apart." He has chosen the military over his relationship with you!

Any idea how the military got to be such a strong "need" for him? Is it some kind of "family tradition" he feels he must follow? Is he so insecure that he doubts his ability to do well in any other setting? Something else...? Whatever it is, it must be VERY strong for him to stay with it all these years while he watched his marriage go downhill...

His rank, pay and retirement are low. I easily earn more money when I am able to work in my full professional capacity, even when starting from the bottom.

Have you said this clearly to him? Have you protected his "male ego" by telling him that it would be fine with you if you were the main breadwinner? (If this would bother you as well as him, that's definitely something for You to work on...)

I settle for less than fulfilling jobs, just to stay employed and try hard to make the most out of any situation. I do all that I can to make the most out of local resources and I take advantage of any and all opportunities available in the locations we live. I know what I want out of life and I have a burning desire to go after it. I feel that the most productive years of my life are being wasted with a person who has resigned himself to be at the disposal of the military, at the all costs. He deals with military stress by drinking and doing stupid stuff to our relationship.

I wonder how much he drinks, and whether there is "chaos" in your family as a result of heavy drinking... Strong women like you often end up with alcoholics or problem drinkers. If you know that you've always tended to think of men as inferior to women (perhaps due to your own childhood), this would also lead you in the direction of accepting the role of "alcoholic's wife." (It might help to read some of the available literature on this...)

He spends a lot of time working or making rank or dealing with the demands of service. If it were an endeavor that would give him some sense of happiness, then I would not have too much of a problem dealing with the time away. That is what wives do and I enjoy being a wife.

I wonder what you consider to be a "wife's role." You seem to be stating very clearly that you think a good wife will just about take anything, will put herself "under" her husband, etc. You can certainly take this kind of thinking way too far in life...

However, his stress, depression and lack of fulfillment cause me stress. Counseling is not an option--he gives it lip service and does not follow through--he never has time.

What about counseling for YOU? (The marriage shows that both partners are having big problems... If he's too dumb/stubborn/"male" to allow himself to take advantage of it, why do you have to follow his lead in this too...?)

I value my family and my husband is an excellent father. I have stayed this long, because we love one another and I would hate to break up our home, it would not be good for the kids.

You may be right that it wouldn't be good for the kids. I certainly can't tell from this brief letter. But a whole lot of people say this even when it's not at all true... And a competent woman who loved her husband and yet decided to leave him CAN have a BETTER life afterwards, for herself and for her kids too...

We do not dream together anymore.

Do you actually feel "connected" emotionally very often in any ways? (I'm not asking if you THINK you are still emotionally connected... I'm asking if it FEELS that way often enough to matter now...)

My ambitions, desires and vision for us are completely different from his. We have grown apart personally. He is very insecure and I am not. We don't even do much together as a couple anymore, although we do things as a family. He spends a lot of his time sleeping or playing computer games or meeting the demands of his career. I realize that these may be signs of depression and when I try to lovingly offer support he feels that I am putting more stress on him--so we do not communicate well. If it were just a relationship thing, then I know there is always help to fix that. All long term relationships suffer periodically from stress or lack of communication, but our problem is also one of personal fulfillment giving control of my life to a person who cannot manage his own. By giving control, I mean his career taking precedence over mine and shaping our lives

But you have said twice here that you GAVE this control to him. And you clearly did. I think that was a mistake on your part, since you feel so bad about having done it. (You may think that some kind of "ideal wife" would do this. but we live in the Real world, and things aren't "ideal" for any of us, and they certainly haven't been for you in recent years. Don't try to be an ideal. Ever. It's not healthy...)

although his career is the cause, in my opinion for his/our discontent. In other words, he has made choices I do not respect. He WILL not consider other options. We have talked 3 years about that. He will retire, no matter what, even if I leave. Should I stick it through and give my kids an 'intact' home, sacrificing my own life in the process (silently suffering through depression and merely existing in this mediocre but loving relationship) or should I be more proactive in the choices to a point that will benefit my personal fulfillment at the detriment of my own marriage?

Which would make you and the children feel the best? (Don't try to separate yourself too much from the children... If staying would mean that you remain unhappy, then your unhappiness and the general unhappiness in the home will definitely be felt on a daily basis by the children as well.)

Tonya, I am definitely not taking a position about whether you should stay or leave. I am taking the position that you should absolutely know and admit to yourself that you COULD leave... We need to know that our freedom to leave is there and it is a real option. Then if you decide to stay you can know that it was a CHOICE on your part, and not something he or anyone else made you do.

Excellent letter!

Thanks for writing!

I wish you the very best!

Tony Schirtzinger

This question was answered by Tony Schirtzinger.

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