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Should you stay or should you go?
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
Feeling lonely is painful. But being part of a couple when you feel that way makes the loneliness hurt all the more. Yet, deciding to end your relationship can still be difficult.


Some questions that can help you decide are:


Do you have fond memories from the beginning of your relationship? If you have fond memories of your partner, it can be helpful in trying to rebuild a happy relationship.


Is it healthy for you to work on this relationship? If your partner is someone who can be supportive, caring, and embraces the same values as you, then having him or her in your future might be a good idea. However, if your partner is critical, abusive, or self-absorbed, you might be better off finding someone else who is more nurturing.


Are you willing to work on the relationship? If you really want to repair the damage and you are both willing to work on it, then perhaps you can find your way back to a happier relationship.


Do any of these questions help you decide whether it is best to stay or go?


What have you found helpful in making this difficult decision? For more information on Relationships visit Dr. Becker-Phelps blog at The Art of Relationships.
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sa_guitarplayer responded:
Dr. Becker-Phelps,
Your first paragraph HIT me like a ton of rocks.
After 19 years of marriage, to feel "lonely".. is MORE hurtful than if I were physically alone.

Equally confusing for me is the fact I'm a guy in my mid-40s. And the emotions that run through my brain are stereotypically those of what I perceive to be how a wife/woman would/should feel !!! -- I don't mean that in a condescending way... For example, every time I pick up a relationship magazine or book, the author describes emotions and feelings from a woman's perspective, BUT... they always seem to fit me to a tee !
Loneliness, emptiness, romance, NEEDING attention, affection etc..etc.etc... -- That adds a little more confusion to what I am already feeling.... I tell myself, "stop being such a wimp.... and be more of a cave-man"...
But, that is just not me.... so it adds to the confusion internally !!!

So, what ends up happening when I try to talk to my wife about my "feelings" is, I eventually display "anger" but, it's not anger I am feeling. I find it very difficult expressing to her that I NEED more romance. In addition, if I try to tell her for example, that she said something hurtful, she asks me why I am so "angry" about it. I tried telling her it's not anger, it's hurt. But she says it's the same thing !!

Any tips on HOW to talk without getting so confused about how to say it? Also on how to keep my emotions in check when I am opening up to her?
Thanks.
 
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sa_guitarplayer replied to sa_guitarplayer's response:
I should also add, I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD (military related). I am seeing a therapist with the VA; however, they are more concerned with treating the PTSD than with saving the marriage. In my mind, they are two separate issues; but to my therapist.. the marriage problems are a direct result of coping mechanisms I've created. They keep saying I need to "FIX" me first, then the marriage. I've built mental and emotional distance between myself and my wife for over a decade.
Internally, I feel the marriage is more important and should be put first. -- In all honesty, since seeing a therapist, I am seeing things more clear than I have in YEARS. There are still times when I crawl into my cave emotionally, but they are less and less frequent.

My main concern is that I believe I am FINALLY dealing with the issues that have haunted me for so long. And I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. BUT... it scares me to death that it is too late to save my marriage.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to sa_guitarplayer's response:
sa_guitarplayer, I'm really glad that you included the second post. It's essential. Given that your therapy is working, I suggest that you really listen to what your therapist is saying. If you don't understand why you need to fix you first, see if you can have your therapist explain that in a way that you understand. I don't know your particular situation, but I do know that growth, change, healing often need to unfold in particular ways. If you haven't done so already, you might want to make your serious concern about your marriage known to your therapist and ask what they think you should do now and whether they see couple therapy in your future (and when; Though I know very little about your situation, I suspect that couple therapy would be very helpful in approaching your marital struggles.).

As for how to talk to your wife without getting so confused, it's important that you understand what's happening that confuses you.

You final question was about holding your emotions back. You say that you are "finally dealing with issues that have haunted me for so long." I'm wondering how that is affecting your emotions. In my experience, this can affect people in a couple of different ways. It can make people's emotions more intense for a while; in which case you may need to give it time before you can find an effective way to approach you wife. It can also make their distress more tolerable and workable; which I imagine is moving you closer to being able to approach your wife in a better way.

I hope you find this helpful; and I wish you well. Please let us know how things go.
 
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sa_guitarplayer replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Thanks Dr. Becker-Phelps,
Deep down, I know why I need to fix me first.
It just seems like it isn't happening fast enough. I want to get past all the "mess" and get on with working on the marriage.

Thanks for your insight!
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to sa_guitarplayer's response:
My pleasure! Therapy can be a painfully slow process. But, I hope you keep up the good work; it's the only way to get to where you want to be!
 
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theendisabegging responded:
I agree with the first paragraph...being a couple and feeling lonely is painful. I have been married 26 years all of which have been wonderful up until almost 6 years ago. How we got where we are makes no sense to me & caused me to look for reasons why to find my spouse drinks way too much beer on a daily basis. I feel it is a major factor to our problems, he does not. I have seen atleast 4 counselors, all of which agree there is a problem. Being a non confrontational person, I had to learn to confront the problem &having it make no difference is even more frustrating. I have been thru my own cycles of hurt, anger, resentment, you name it. Went from caring so much till I hurt so badly & cried so much to finally not caring & giving up after discussion after discussion & no changes...just words. I constantly think about divorce. I don't feel I owe him anything anymore because I have gone thru all I can for one person, one side, to try and fix. I know it has nothing to do with me finally, I know that he will never change especially after pouring my heart out more than once, but yet I don't have the motivation to take the next step. My kids are 22 and 18 & are aware of my frustrations to a degree. I am 48 & have so much life in me...life I want to share with a partner. How do I move forward?
 
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ajohnson08099 responded:
I wish I could give a wonderful, "we have been married for 20 and so on" But I don't have that kind of story. I have been with my husband for nearly two years. Been married for a little over 2 months.. I feel ashamed that we are having problems already... But it is what it is.

For the last month DH was being very distant. I lost my grandfather earlier in April and DH just couldn't be supportive at all. What makes matters worse is that I had my sister go to my house to pick up a cross that we had for my grandfather's funeral and she caught him in bed with another woman. They didn't have sex, but would have if she hadn't caught them. But its been a problem in the past that I thought we had worked through. But I had major surgery in January and the relationship problems were set to the side, because I had a very hard time healing. (I know... Many are screaming RUN already)

Since then DH has been singing a very different tune. Being compassionate, wanting to talk to me all the time, coming across that he is an open book, agreeing to counseling and finally furthering his education... All very good things. But my trust is so broken, I don't know whether to trust he really wants to change or if this is just all for show. Its causing me to not know how to show him the love that I should. I feel that roles are now reversed. He's seeking love and compassion and romance and for the most part I have been unable to show it back. I did leave for a few days, but I am home again.. I figured (and he did too) that nothing would be fixed with us seperated.

Your questions did hit home. I HAVE been feeling very lonely. Even when we are in the same house. Right now he has been there for me, but recently he hadn't been and even when I begged for some connection and communication he wouldn't. He had a lot of things on his mind that preceeded this activity, but even when I sat him down and begged him to tell me what was going on with him he couldn't tell me what was going on with him.

I do want to save my relationship. I am conflicted though. I both feel that this marriage is too young to both let go AND hang on. I don't want this to be my life of constantly worrying who is in my home and my bed, but I also know that there IS a great man within my husband.

I am not sure this IS a healthy relationship though. Its been rocky at times and we have been through a lot in a very short period of time and I know that DH says he believes in the same values as I do. But actions speak louder than words at times. I love him very much and I don't want to break my marriage vows either.

Please help. I am so confused. Half of me says run for you sanity and well being. The other half says stay and see if we can't fix this and make it a better and stronger marriage. Many people around me are trying to push me to divorce, while a few (including him) say work it out. I am natoriously known for bending to other's will (something I plan on addressing in counseling) so it makes me even More torn. Any advice would be welcome.
 
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mountainmind responded:
Hi Dr. Becker-Phelps, How do you deal with a spouse who won't talk and walks away from situations? We've been married for 12 years. After my husband retired, he changed; verbally abusive, physically abusive, no remorse for his actions, everything is my fault.

My son was deployed last year to Afghanistan and there was no support from my husband. In fact he used it against me. When I didn't hear from my son and I knew there were horrible things happening, my husband would say my son doesn't want to have anything to do with me. My son and I have always been very close.

I suffered a TIA and my husband yelled at me in the hospital saying I told you not to do that. I am not sure what he was talking about. My husband went back to school in another town. When he'd leave he wouldn't say anything to me, no calls from him and when I'd ask why he didn't call, his response was "well you didn't call me" I would call but he wouldn't answer his phone.

Things I have told him in confidence he has told others. He found an old girl friend, met her and continued to correspond. He told her even though I disapproved of them being in contact he was still going to keep in contact despite my feelings. He will be gone all day and no communication from him. I'll ask what he did during the day and he'll get angry and tell me I am nagging. He'll get mad and leave the house.

He will be on the internet till all hours of the night. There is no way to work on our relationship when he won't communicate. How do learn to trust someone when they have done things to lose your trust?

He has said very hurtful things. I was involved in a very serious car accident before I met him. He told me years after we were married that if he would have know about all my medical problems he never would have married me, he knew before hand. He later said he didn't mean it. That cut like a knife and there has been no sincere apology and if I did make mention of the comment and how it bothered me, he gets very angry and says I can't let things go and I am very anal.

After writing this, I see where there has never been a very close relationship, a best friend would never treat a true friend this way. Someone who truly cares would not yell at another when they are hurt or when they come to them for comfort. My Mom passed away recently and no real emotion from him. I was crying and he demanded that I come to where he was sitting. He said my full name in a demanding angry voice.

Since my son has retured from Afghanistan my husband has not had any contact with him. Last time he saw him was before he deployed. He knows that my son knows how I was treated while he was gone. I feel caught because of my husbands behavior and my son dealing with PTSD and trying to adjust to life back in the US, he can't come to visit, there is so much tension.

This is a very difficult for me, my health has suffered, my emotional well being has suffered.

Thank you....
 
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mountainmind replied to sa_guitarplayer's response:
sa_guitarplayer - thank you for your service to our great Nation!

It takes a special person to do what you did. Only 1% of our population is doing that.
 
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sa_guitarplayer replied to mountainmind's response:
Mountainmind.... THANK YOU very much.
All Veterans LOVE hearing that every once in a while. Thanks go to your son as well. Tell him, he is not alone and when he is ready, call the Vet Center hotline. They are 24/7 and will make referrals.

And believe me, when I was young... a phone call to mom was ALWAYS a moral boost !!

I hope things look up for you soon !
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to theendisabegging's response:
I have more questions for you than answers, but perhaps they will help:

Do you generally have trouble initiating new things- interests, relationships, etc? Is this difficulty a theme in any way? If so, spend whatever time it takes to get a handle on that theme so that you can understand it well and perhaps find a way to change it.

Do you have something to move toward? Often, it is not enough to want to leave something behind; to get yourself moving, you need to have something you want to reach for. If you don't have this, then perhaps you can think about your values are and what would bring you meaning in life. Discovering these things might help you move forward.

Do you have a strong support system? Often, especially during difficult times, we need to rely on others to help us. If you have supportive people in your life, try reaching out to them. If not, consider how you might develop such a support system.

I wish you well. And please feel free to come back here for more support from this community.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to ajohnson08099's response:
This is a very difficult situation and an extremely important decision point. You say that you are in therapy; and that is exactly what I'd recommend you do. You might also want to try couple therapy (if you are up for working on the relationship). With the help of a good therapist, you can discover what YOU want and what the right course of action is for you. The therapist will help you think through the things that you get mired down in. In the end, only you can know when/if you are ready to call it quits.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to mountainmind's response:
Your pain goes so deep and has been with you so long; you have stayed in an unhealthy situation for so long; all of this makes me concerned for you. I think that your struggles are more than we can effectively help you through here; though I very much want to. Can you please find a therapist to help you so that you can move on to a happier life? Would you be willing to do that?
 
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dfromspencer replied to mountainmind's response:
Your husband sounds soooo selfish to me. I would rather not get into taking sides, but, you need help. When i was young, and first married, i acted the exact same way your husband is acting now. I was shallow, self absorbed, and down right selfish! Does that sound like your husband? I think so?

I hate to say this, but you cannot change him. The only one who can change your husbands thinking/attitude, is him. All you can do, and this is what my wife did, is tell him how you feel. I mean, tell him how you feel about everything! Then when you are done, tell him he has a week to decide how he wants to procede. After that week, if he still refuses to change, LEAVE! Do not give him a second chance, he wont take it!

I am sorry for you, i realized just how bad i was, and how much it had hurt my wife. You are in the same kind of marriage. If you dont have a 50/50 partner, well then, you wont have much of a marriage. Your husband still refuses to grow up and be a man. Trust me, i have been there/done that. Once you marry, both partners have to bend a little, give each other support. You are not getting that from a selfish man. SORRY!

I hope you take Dr. Becker-Phelps advice, and seek councelling. Good luck, and best wishes from someone who has been there.

Dennis


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