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  1. 41

    Sorry for my last post.   I wish there was a preview button.   There should have been spaces between paragraphs to make it easier to read.   Not sure why they disappeared.

  2. 42

    Ann, I’m really sorry you’re in this predicament. Regardless of your level of responsability, it’s still really unfortunate.
    You, Evan, and the other commenters are really educating me with this thread. I’m thankful of all of you for sharing your experiences.
    On one hand, I find relatively easy to compromise on small things, such as “external” factors like physical features, education level, income, etc. On the other hand, no one being perfect in character and in relationship skills, I’m wondering what makes it “good enough” to allow a successful relationship, and what minor weaknesses or shortcomings might lead to the kind of marriages Ann and other commenters describe.
    I find helpful that Ann gave an update and more information. It would be helpful if you guys could also give more details about the dating/courtship period that led to the disappointing marriage. Were you in Ann’s situation, hoping for a change after the wedding? Did some minor shortcomings become serious defects down the line? Did your spouse suddenly evolve for the worse?
    Any information and insight on these questions would help me a lot as I’m close to face the biggest decision of my life, and obviously scared of making the wrong choice.
    Regarding Ann’s situation. I believe that the vow of marriage is special. Divorce is certainly an option, but I think it should truly be a last-resort option (when there is no abuse), after everything has been tried multiple times. It’s not dating, when you can leave the relationship whenever you can’t take it any more. Sometimes people need more than gentle requests or even more than serious requests. It’s very tempting to stick to our personality patterns and avoid the suffering of confronting them. Vague promises and sweet talk buy time and if it looks like one can get away with it, why doing the real work of change?
    I’d suggest a much more in-depth discussion on how their marriage has reached a life or death turning point. Talking about the very real possibility of divorce and how it would look like if the marriage does not go through a complete remodeling might trigger more serious soul-searching. If it does not, even after multiple serious conversations and some more time, then I would conclude that there is no true love. When protecting one’s pride and sticking to one’s fears are more important than the legitimate needs of your spouse, it’s no true love. And it’s not a true marriage.
    Ann, I really wish you good luck. I hope your husband is going to wake up and give a real chance to your marriage.

  3. 43

    I don’t think my husband is cheating. He just really works all the time. But he can’t commit to anything. Morris, I am not wealthy. I GREW UP wealthy. I grew up in a place with maids, drivers, never had to do chores. My dad paid for everything. But I set aside what I was used to for him. Even before him actually, when I decided to strike out on my own. I cook and clean for him. I give his son baths, I do laundry, fold clothes, I learned how to fix the meals HE likes because he and his son can’t stand to eat the cuisine I’m used to. I made every effort to give him what he needs even though it’s very difficult for me.

    My needs? That we have a date night every week when he doesn’t answer the phone. Too much? That he takes me out for a date every COUPLE OF MONTHS. Has not happened. Our second anniversary just passed — no present, no date. When he does give me something, he buys it at the last minute from the Dollar Store. I don’t even really care about the cost — I care about the lack of thought and preparation that went into it. When we first started dating, I would take him out of town for his birthday and yes I would pay for it. He never did that for me. Never. On our first anniversary, we went to the beach, split the cost, just an overnight trip, and we had a huge fight because he wanted to spend half the day shopping at the outlet for his son. I love his son, but c’mon!

    I love this man. He obviously wants to give his son what his father never gave him. I know that. I understand that. But I’m a person too. I have needs as his wife. Understanding doesn’t cancel out those needs. They’re not wants. Wants would be wanting a big house and a new car and jewelry. Needs would be having him around, taking me out every now and then, and setting aside time dedicated to me w/o cancelling out at the last minute because someone called who wants to buy something.

  4. 44

    My biggest regret/fear if this doesn’t work out is the real possibility that I’ll never see my stepson again, and that he’ll be devastated. I love that kid to bits. He’s very attached to me. My husband admits it, that I’m the one who creates structure for his life. His mom is very irresponsible and doesnt’ pay much attention to him (he has two other younger kids, from two different guys) when he stays with her.

  5. 45

    P S   I think the only thing that might wake this husband up is immediately separating and based on the results of that in a specific timeframe filing for divorce.   iTs up to him to show how he’s changed based on actions if he wants to save this and perhaps its time for Ann to show by her actions she’s serious and has a backbone.

    I agree Ann enabled this situation completely. It seems she has always folded to his claims of change so he must know he can get away with the minimum effort to keep her in her housekeeping/ child care taker position. This husband also must know it is going to be next to impossible to find any other woman that would tolerate this type of arrangement.


  6. 46

    I think you will also be  devastated  because you also sound very attached to your stepson. I think you focusing on your stepson has been a platform for you not to focus on yourself and your happiness, until now. I hope you find your own happiness in time. I think the best thing to do is take some time apart from your stepson and husband for now.

  7. 47

    I realize I just contradicted myself about never being out of town in the five years we’ve been together 🙂 We have been a few times:

    1) I took him to a bed and breakfast for his birthday – I paid
    2) I took him to a city we’ve never been to and paid for the hotel for his birthday – I paid
    3) We went to Disneyworld for my stepson’s birthday – we split the cost
    4) We went to the beach for my birthday – paid out of credit card points out of my credit card (god, I’m so pathetic, ugh?)
    5) We went to the beach on our first anniversary, overnight – split the cost
    6) We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon — paid for by guests, but when he learned that the gift was cash, he tried to talk me into just cashing it out and splitting the money. Um, I said no.

    Looking back, I don’t know why I put up with all this. Insecurity? Denial? Love? All of the above? Still trying to figure that out…

    My husband is very charming. He’s very handsome. He can talk. He can tell you what you want to hear. That’s probably why I ignored the red flags at the beginning. Plus he just seems so earnest all the time, and I understand that he’s been through so much growing up.

  8. 48

    Ann.   I wish everything works out for you, your husband and step-child.   I hope you realize I was only commenting on your original post.   It bothered me that people jumped to  ridiculous  conclusions that wasn’t supported by your original post.   I felt we simply needed more information.

    Sorry I don’t sugar coat things for you.   I don’t find it helpful when people do.   You’ve since posted more and it seems your husband would have to do a lot of changing to make things work.   I wish he would for the sake of your marriage and his child.

  9. 49

    When push comes to shove, what some one SAYS is meaningless.
    What they DO – their ACTIONS – is the true meaning / their true intent & what they really are.
    And this guy’s actions are saying (somewhat selfishly IMHO) “I don’t want to change my behavior so that my wife can be happy. So long as I am happy, that is all that matters”.
    Yes, he’s charming – he snowed Ann into agreeing to moving forward to marriage despite her reservations, and snowed 2 therapists into believing that he really would change his behavior.
    But he has not been able to make a genuinely consistent and permanent change. Which is really what is needed here.
    Ann – I was in a similar situation (luckily without the complication of a step-child) with my ex-fiance. He said he would do X, Y & Z – but could not consistently follow through. Yet I was expected to do a heck of a lot more than X, Y & Z so that he could be happy….
    After “postponing” the wedding (but he wouldn’t name a new date), breaking up & reconciling, trying counseling, yada yada yada, the situation still did not improve (actually it got worse), I had no choice but to leave. Had I married this man, I would have been intensely miserable and a divorce statistic waiting to happen.
    The only reason I’m not recommending that you “bail now & don’t look back” is that you do have your step-son to consider. But at the end of the day, you need to put your needs above his.
    YOU need to be happy, and truly supported, valued and appreciated by the man in your life. Which is not the case in your marriage right now.

  10. 50

    Im so sorry Ann  

    Im at a loss for why you feel he loves you

    Wish you the best   

  11. 51

    I just realized you were the OP.   I think the problem is that Gottlieb’s book is really a memoir on someone who was a dating failure trying to find a happy lovelife, and it is possible to extract advice from her journey, but she isn’t even close to a dating expert.   You shouldn’t have to cap off your “needs’ at three, just prioritize them, and realize which of them are needs vs wants and which you could compromise or live without, and also what flaws you can’t do without.
    Moving forward, I wouldn’t do anything out of guilt, and don’t feel shame for buying into promises.   Objectively, if your stepson’s mother is a mess, I can see why your husband may want to overcompensate as a parent, but at the end of the day, this doesn’t have anything to do with your marriage.
    If you decide that you want to separate/divorce, etc, you need to come up with a list of what you want (a role in your stepson’s life, etc), and approach it like an adult.   You husband sounds like he has figured out how to get everything he wants so I doubt he will ever shift the status quo.   Perhaps, he even noticed you’re naivety and eagerness to be “Miss Right” at the start of your relationship, and molded you into what he needs and wants, but a good partner would be concerned that he is Mr. Right to you.

  12. 52

    To commenters saying Ann knew what she was getting into: She says they did not live together prior to marriage, so it was a different dynamics then. My former husband and I, too, didn’t move in together until three months before we got married. By the time we got married, I already knew that it was going to be bad, but thought it was too late to back out.
    After reading Ann’s followup posts, I honestly think the two of them have done all they could and it’s just not working. And if you think this marriage is bad now, imagine it in 12 years, when Ann’s stepson leaves home and she finds herself trapped alone in the house, technically married to someone who’s never around, at 44. She deserves better than this. She only has one life and I honestly fail to see a reason why she should sacrifice it on the altar of this guy. I believe I’m qualified to say this, as someone who’s been in a similar marriage for 18 years, tried everything, tried to stick it out — sticking it out just enables the other side. It just sends them a message that whatever they’re doing, works, wife isn’t complaining, husband should continue doing what he does.
    Ann, you don’t know how your family will react. They may be more supportive than you think. Family friends is the difficult part, but since you don’t do anything together as a couple, I’m not sure if you as a couple have any family friends? In our case we had a lot. I have to say, most of them reacted the opposite of what I’d expected. People that I thought would turn on me, or be indifferent and stop communicating, were incredibly supportive. People that I thought would support me, let me down. It is a major test of who your real friends are.
    Since everyone is recommending books, here’s the one that worked for me: Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. It is laid out like a questionnaire where you analyze your marital issues and determine whether they are deal-breakers or not, whether they can be worked out or not, whether the two of you will be happier together or separate. Maybe Ann’s husband will benefit from the divorce too in the long run. Right now in his mind, he’s working his ass off to provide for his family and his wife only nags him in return — he’s probably puzzled and frustrated. I understand that his previous relationship has not worked out, either. Some people are just better off on their own than in a marriage. Maybe he’s one of them. Nothing wrong with it; I don’t plan on remarrying, either.
    I do not know whether it is possible for Ann to get partial custody of her stepson, but it is definitely worth checking into if she’d like that. By the way, Ann and her husband wouldn’t be doing the poor kid any favors by sticking it out for his sake. Not only would he be unhappy growing up in a dysfunctional environment, he will also have a negative family pattern in front of his eyes that he will likely repeat when he has a family of his own.
    This is a very sad situation. Divorce is incredibly stressful for all involved. But I honestly fail to see another way out, especially since they seem to have already tried and failed. Hope that I’m wrong. Good luck.

  13. 53

    I absolutely agree with Evan that this is Ann’s fault. She admits being aware of many red flags a few months short of the wedding and even breaking off the engagement, but going back to it because of the “sunk costs”. Like many women, she believed (maybe unconsciously) that marriage was going to change the relationship for the better. It does not. A workaholic boyfriend will become workaholic husband. An emotionally distant boyfriend will become an emotionally distant husband. A rocky courtship will become a rocky marriage.
    Presumably, three years of dating should be sufficient to gauge whether two people have compatible personalities and shared values. Ann clearly ignored some major flaws in their relationship and some warning signs, starting with his childhood. I’m no psychologist, but I would think that someone who grew up in the projects around drugs and gangs, with abusive parents and with no positive role model, will have a more difficult time forming a stable, lasting and healthy long-term relationship. This is not to say that it cannot be done, but rather, that it will be a long and tough road for him.
    Contrary to most commenters, I believe people CAN change. However, an effective change can take place only if they feel they NEED to change. Also, changing/evolving is often a very gradual process that results from years of life experiences and circumstances. What I’m saying is that Ann’s husband is not going to change overnight because she wants him to, or because she expresses a dislike with his actions. That may get him to change for a very short period of time, but he will quickly revert back to his normal behavior.

    And finally, not to question Lori’s advice, but to “go for it” if a man meets a three-item checklist? Hum. Even if we accept this concept, Ann’s list had two negatives (“not abusive. not controlling”). And then the holy grail for women: tall, dark, handsome… Shouldn’t there be something more to a husband than someone who’s not abusive and not controlling? Someone who’s tall and dark? And on item #2, Ann says she wanted a husband who was hard-working and financially independent. She got him, didn’t she? Like Evan says, positive traits have their flips sides. You can’t expect your financially independent and hard working husband to come home at 5:30 and to spend every weekend with you. There is a price to pay with a driven, ambitious and wealthy partner.  
    I do not mean to criticize Ann for her reasoning and choice in partner. What I’m saying is that many women, myself included, have made (or are making) the same mistake, the mistake of picking a man for the wrong reasons, or investing in the wrong qualities. Unfortunately, we do not learn these important lessons in school.
    This sad situation should be a warning bell for readers who hear their inner voice say “noooooo!” when they think of marrying their partner. Personally, I dated a man who was wrong for me on so many levels, for ten long months, because I ignored that inner voice. The best decision I have ever made in my life, and I hope Ann hears me, is that I broke up with him, went back on Match, and five weeks later met the love of my life. Like Dr. Phil said, the worst thing about being in a bad relationship for six months is being in a bad relationship for six months and one day.

    There is a difference between being unsure because the spark is missing, and being unsure because deep down, something about the relationship just feels wrong. I’m sorry Ann has to go through this. If she chooses to leave, the goods news is that she is still young so she has good chances of later finding a suitable partner who meets her needs.

  14. 54

    Ann, how you describe him reminds me so much of that guy i was involved with. he was charming – i called him the “golden boy” because my parents did more for him than me. he knew what was right, how to make our relationship better etc etc etc (because he would say it all), and that’s how i guess i stayed for a year. because every time i was thinking how shit the situation was (with me all give and him all take), he said everything to make me feel that i was selfish for needing more from him – and that i wasn’t being understanding of his situation. but often he wasn’t getting paid for hte hours he worked – then he said: it’s just part of this job and  he has  to do it.   and he knew exactly what to say – he had the right answer for everything. but i didn’t realise that it was all manipulation until after he hooked up with this other women … then he was still saying that he loved me and that they were just friends and that she was just somebody to talk to bla bla bla. it was horrible. it was only then that i saw what he had been doing all along…. saying what he needed to to get me to do what he wanted me to do.
    your husband has a vested interest in keeping   you as his house maid/nanny/sex object.    
    with the guy i was involved with: i remember one of my friends asking me if i thought he might be chasing other women and i said …” no way, he’s not  like that”.  i honestly thought that  i had the most honest, loyal, devoted guy.   that’s why i cried for 8.5 months after it ended,  i was so confused about what had happened … i couldn’t make sense of all his actions. until i found evan’s website. then i read all evan’s blog posts (every single one he ever wrote on his blog) and slowly, i started to understand  why  that guy had  said and done all the things he did.   he knew what was right, he just  didn’t do what was right. he used what he knew was right to manipulate everybody around him into doing what he wanted them to do.   and he said he’d had a difficult childhood  and had made good of himself.  if  guys like him  did have a difficult childhood, they tend to learn mal-adaptive interpersonal skills – like manipulating others. at  least now i’ve come to believe that from my experience with that guy.
    your husband  will try hard to keep you until he finds somebody else. i’d bet you good money that if you do leave, you’ll find out through your step-son very quickly that he has hooked up with another women.   he is charming, handsome, seems to have high moral values … knows exactly what to say. there will be women lining up to walk into your shoes, and so you should let them. all that glitters is not gold. then i imagine you’ll wonder, as i did, why you stayed for so long, how could have you believed that he really loved you, how you wasted 5 years of your life serving a user, who is now sleeping with somebody else and putting all his “love” and energy into another women. i thank god every day that i only wasted one year of my life with that guy. and i also realised this: just because i’m smart, pretty, fun, easy going, good with money, and what i consider to be “lovable”, it doesn’t mean that every guy is going to love me.   and i’ve learnt from evan that guys don’t think like i do. some think and feel more like women, but they are in the minority.   now, more than anything, i watch what men do and not what they say. and since that guy, i’ve met guys who are totally into me, who make good money etc etc etc, but one in particular has a history of womanising. so i’ve also learnt that even if they are totally into you, it doesn’t mean they’ll be a great long term partner (i didn’t go for him thank god). anyways, that’s my 50 cents worth.

  15. 55

    @Goldie –
      “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay” by Mira Kirshenbaum is a superb book. It was one of the books I found when I was going thru the epic “should I stay or should I go” with my ex-fiance.
    I also had a bit of the “sunk costs” syndrome because we’d known each other for 10 years (had been colleagues & platonic friends for 5 years before we’d progressed to a “romantic” relationship). And I hate to “lose a friend” – but I had to do it in order to save myself from a life-time of misery.
    And yes, even though we’d known each other for that long before we got involved, it was only when we were engaged & heading towards marriage that the “dirt” / difficult issues surfaced. Which is why I don’t believe in short engagements / rushing into marriage. It’s a lot easier to end an engagement / call off the wedding than going thru a divorce. Not to say that ending an engagement / calling off the wedding is “easy” or “painless” – because it’s still an emotional divorce.

  16. 56

    Ann – I’m sorry and send you big hugs.   This sounds like a terribly difficult situation.
    I believe your husband does love you and is a good man.   I don’t think it’s bad that you paid for the out-of-town trips; if you’re the one who wanted to travel, why NOT take full financial responsibility?   I even think that he will be an excellent husband to someone who feels love in the way that he’s able to show it (putting financial stability ahead of romance, being a responsible dad, etc).   However, that “someone” is not you.    
    You have tried talking, pleading and counselling.     I think this is more about essentially incompatible personalities than about changing little behaviours.  
    I don’t like the implication several posters here have made, that “it’s Ann’s fault so she should lie in the bed she made.”   I don’t care whose “fault” this is; the fact of the matter is that it’s an unhappy marriage that probably cannot be much improved.     Even if it were 100% your “fault” (and I do not believe this), that would be no reason to stay in a miserable situation.
    As for your step-son: the divorce will be very hard for both of you.   However, he will eventually understand that even good people should not marry if incompatible and that’s a pretty valuable lesson for anyone to learn at any age.

  17. 57
    David T

    Stop beating yourself up.   You will become angrier at yourself and at him and that will not serve anyone well.   Don’t go there for your stepson’s sake. The situation is what it is and it does not matter how you three got there. What matters is what happens from today onward.

    It sounds like he is a good man, and that he does not value your feelings and needs; at least is not willing or maybe able to do things just for the sake of making you happy. Good man but bad partner, if you want someone besides a business partner.Something has to change or the marriage will fail.   You might already be past that point.
    If you do continue counseling (you have only been twice, so it might be worth continuing for a while) ask the counselor to help the two of you to set up an change plan and that he promise to abide by it. Sounds like he over-values money (he does not sound rational about it, frankly)   and will not likely ever spend a bunch on you, but there are creative low cost ways he can express his love. It sounds like time and devotion and focus on you would go a long way for you.

    Make it clear in counseling that the marriage will end if you don’t begin feeling loved instead of just appreciated by him. His making that promise to the change plan and following through is part of that. One no-phone-night a week and one date night a month is a good start. Maybe throw in one weekend all day outing for the three of you once a month too. Whether your smiles and happiness become important to him, so that he wants to plan ahead, and takes delight in thinking about how pleased you will be as he does, is another thing, but that might come if you two start doing some of things happy couples do and he takes joy in your pleasure.

    Your stepson surely loves you and his Dad a great deal.   If you need to end the marriage, make it clear, maybe starting in the counseling sessions now, that you intend to stay in the boy’s life for his sake.   As long your stepchild knows you love him and you have the opportunity to demonstrate maternal love, that will go a long way to him not being devastated.   His Dad will still need someone to look after him on weekends.   Maybe he would let you have him a couple of weekends a month. I hope he does not try to use your devotion to his child as leverage to keep you around, because I predict he will greatly fear losing you and that might drive him to extremes.   If he goes there, make it clear that that will only hurt his son, but it won’t stop you from making the changes you need to make in your life.  
    Blessings and peace.

  18. 58

    Thank you so much Evan and everyone else who’s weighed in on my situation. I really appreciate your perspective and advice. I am in no way offended by many of you saying that I got myself into this situation. I did. I knew what I was getting myself into. I just believed that it will change, and soon. I believed because I wanted to believe, because he’s always been really earnest in his “plans” to change, and because I was already “there” and had “invested much” in the relationship.

    Like I said my husband is a really good man. I will never tell anybody otherwise. But yes, he’s not a good husband. I think part of it is because he grew up around men who cheated on their wives, beat their wives up and yet came home to a clean house and hot meal. So for him, the fact that he doesn’t hurt me, doesn’t cheat on me, and holds a steady job that allows him to cover half the expenses is something I should be immensely grateful for. And I am. I am grateful that he is that kind of person. But I need more than that. I need more than structure. I need someone I can bond with, share my life with.

    I think it’s really about how incompatible we are. And how he takes me for granted, consciously or subconsciously. He tells me all the time — I keep forgetting you’re not from here (I’m an immigrant) and that it’s difficult for you to adjust to all this and not have your family anywhere nearby, or anything else you’re used to. He tells me I’m a   good wife, and that he’s lucky to have me. He expresses his appreciation for me. And I’m grateful for that. But they’re just words, and over time, broken promises (there are so many) and actions that contradict the words just make the words seem meaningless.

    Goldie, I did read Mira Kirshenbaum’s Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. I passed all the diagnostic questions until I got here, and this is what really struck me as simple truth when it comes to him:

    “If you think negotiation from hell is a problem–and it is–watch out for the negotiation that’s ‘like butter.’ Few things make it feel harder to get your needs met than the partner who agrees to what you want but then just doesn’t keel agreements. This is where the issue of trust comes up in relationships. You trust people who do what they say they’re going to do. When they don’t, the relationship is not only a place of fighting and deprivation, it’s a place of betrayal. Not only are not safely at home there, but it’s a scary alien world… if all we’re talking about is taking out the garbage, it’s no big deal, but a pattern of easily overlooked broken trust is just as deadly to your sense that you can get your needs met as a huge betrayal that slaps you in the face.”

    It’s been almost a year when I just take it for granted that when he says he’s going to be with me at 7pm, that he won’t get there until 8pm, or that if we make plans to spend the day together, that we’ll take several detours because he got calls from people who want to buy something, and I’ll be waiting in the car while he talks to them and shows off merchandise in the trunk of the car. I don’t get mad anymore because I’m so tired of fighting. It’s just a numbness. I’ve fought and fought, cajoled, compromised, accepted.

    Anyway, you’re right that what’s done is done, and I can only move forward. Thank you again to everyone for sharing your thoughts and perspectives. I’m learning a lot from them.


  19. 59

    @Angie, Thank you for taking the time to write a response to me–I really appreciate it!   Grazie mille!

  20. 60

    Ann; Let me re-cap  He is getting ALL his needs met (all day every day) and you get NONE of yours met (for years on end). His actions (passive aggressive, abusive, absent in the important relationships) do not match his words “I’m a great guy”.  He came to you with a sob story about a tough background, did you verify it? He is charming (manipulative?) and was attracted to you because you are sweet and empathetic, and Catholic, which means he knew   you will put up with A LOT.      It is REALLY STRANGE to be gone all weekend every weekend, with no plausible explanation, have you hired an investigator or had a friend follow him? Serious red flags. Lots of questions.   You might find an answer here;

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