Carolyn Hax: Feeling trapped in an unhappy marriage

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 8

Dear Carolyn:

I have been unhappy in my marriage for a long time. So long, in fact, that it started long before it became a marriage. I always had an excuse for putting off ending the relationship. In the beginning it was, “I’ll wait until after the summer”; “Okay, now I’ll wait until after the holidays”. . . etc., etc., etc. Never happened. Then it was, “I can’t do it now, the wedding is already being planned; I can’t disappoint family and friends.” Eight years, two children and a major home renovation later, we are still married.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

He is aware that I am not happy, but I’m sure he does not believe I would ever actually leave. Our kids are amazing — I don’t regret anything because I can’t imagine my life without being mom to these two children, who are 2 and 5.

We recently renovated and now live in our dream home, in which he put a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

We have done some counseling, however, I feel I am at a point where I am not interested in fixing the marriage and trying to stay together. I know I don’t want to be married to him anymore but, logistically, I don’t know how I would act on this.


(Nick Galifianakis)

I worry about the effect on our kids — although I can’t imagine the constant tension and almost daily bitter, nasty arguments in front of them are having any positive impact. We all love our house, neighborhood, etc., and I do not want to lose it and have to move into an apartment. We are also in a great school district, where my eldest child just started kindergarten.

I work part time and don’t make enough money to live on my own.

These are the things that are keeping me from taking action.

How do people do this? The logistics of going through a divorce seem like enough to make one stay in a miserable marriage.

Trapped

So many years of so many decisions undermining your own well-being — and of bringing others aboard in the process. I would want to get to the bottom of that before I made any more decisions, especially as big and consequential a decision as dissolving a family.

You say “we” have tried counseling, but you don’t say you have gone, solo. Please do, to figure out what drove you to keep postponing tough consequences and to build a life on excuse after excuse.

At some point you might still need to find a lawyer, a better job and a new home, but first things first: Find you.

I also urge you to find, in the meantime, a way to stop the “bitter, nasty arguments,” especially in front of the kids. You may indeed be finished with your marriage, but your kids are just starting to learn from you how to handle emotions, how to solve problems, how to treat others, how to trust. Please start choosing your words with an eye toward what lesson your response is going to teach.

That might just seem like one more thing to worry about, but I’d argue that in such rough waters as yours, it serves as a basic, steady course.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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