Advice re leaving a monogamous marriage

turtle786

New member
Some months ago I posted about my attempts to come to terms with my wife about my polyamorousness. Many of you warned me away from trying to make a mono/poly marriage work. But I wanted to try as hard as I could. As I've come to realize that I am poly, I have tried never to make my wife feel insecure by bringing up divorce. I've told her that I loved her and didn't want to replace her with anyone else. There is nothing wrong with her. It's just that one person can't be everything to another person. Last summer she told me that if I was poly, I should ask her for a divorce. In my mind I thought, "How can she think I will do this, given that she is sick with endometriosis, and we are about to do our second round of IVF?"

Two weeks ago we sat down and I recalled that conversation. I told her that I now understood that when two people are at an impasse, divorce may be the only way, and that I will think about it seriously. I told that I understood her perspective and her confusion very well. She hadn't changed, she had remained constant. She hadn't done anything wrong; she had done her very best. I was the one who had realized what I wanted, as I'd grown older and more secure, more able to love myself, and less worried about the judgment of other people. But from her perspective, I was unrecognizable from the man she'd married. I told her that I was struggling with my intense feelings of gratitude and indebtedness for all of the care that she had given me, but also with my feelings of pity and a patriarchal sense that as her husband it was my job to take care of her no matter what the sacrifice to myself. "Whiteknighting," someone on this forum called it.

She took it in, and said that she was afraid for me because she thought that I was deliberately sabotaging my own happiness, and ruining our joint happiness as a result. I said that that might be true. However, having thought carefully about it, I realize that thinking about a poly future makes me feel very, very happy. It's just that I feel guilty about the possibility of feeling so happy at another's expense.

I have thought carefully about what I want, and, to my surprise, I want a separation and I want my freedom. I don't want to be married or cohabiting anymore. What amazes me is the speed to which I have come to this realization. I feel as if I am living in the future, that I can already feel the clean white sheets of my own bedroom and see the wood of my bookshelves.

My question is, how can I do this with kindness and love? How can I make this easy for her? How can I help her to value herself while we go through a separation? She has endometriosis, she fears she may not have children if we separate, she fears she won't find another man because sex is so painful for her, and she is out of a job (although she is an incredible worker and should in any fair job market be able to find a position).

When telling her that I would think carefully about divorce, I followed some advice that I had read that suggested using "I" statements, and just taking any anger or grief that she threw at me with as much calmness as I could. It worked fairly well, although she was very sad, and as we lay down on the bed, depressed, she put moves on me, trying to kiss me with her tongue and moving towards intimacy, which I stopped. In the past month she has said all kinds of hurtful and distressing things. She has said that what I want is polygamy. She says I want her permission to cheat on her. She implies that I am thinking about divorce because she is sick and I don't want the hassle of taking care of her in her illness. She says my therapist is giving me unprofessional advice, and that I should talk to someone else who will put me straight. She says I am a terrible role model for others. Yesterday she said, "What kind of a husband withholds sex from his wife unless he can have sex with other people?" (That is absolutely not what I am doing.)

I know that she is saying this because she is in pain, her world is falling apart because of me, and she has to vent. I am trying to listen without getting defensive, but eventually last night I said, "We're talking about divorce! We are beyond all of this now!" I left the room and lay on the sofa. I found myself unable to cry, so I had a bit of whisky and that helped me loosen the tears. I realized that I was internalizing what she was saying about me, and losing my sense of self-worth. That is how depression works for me in this relationship: I feel that I am not worth very much, therefore my happiness or desire is not worth much. What is worth something is other people's happiness, so I should forget about what I want and focus on what other people want. It also makes me want to kill myself except that I don't have any uncomplicated way of doing so, and I don't want to give her the trouble of taking me to the ER.

This is all very dramatic, I know, but I'm in it, and I'm in pain. Any advice on how to go through separation properly at this stage?
 

vinsanity0

Active member
It's very rare for a couple to separate without a lot of emotions. The best thing to do is to do it quickly and then have an actual separation period with little or no contact. You each need to deal with your own emotions. You can't do that for each other.
 
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breathemusic

Active member
Agree that it's best to move with speed and get some distance. It's difficult to feel that level of hurt and not lash out. If it was amicable, I'd say that you can take your time, but it's not. I do think that you should start considering, what does divorce and separation look like to you? Your wife is sick and not working, are you willing to still provide some financial support for some period of time so she can get healthy and get on her feet? Do you know who will keep the residence and who will move out? etc. Is there a spare bedroom that you can move into for now to get some distance?

And the moment she starts saying disparaging things, I'd suggest leaving the room. You certainly don't have to subject yourself to it just because you feel guilty.
 

confused88

New member
I'm sorry you're hurting. I have been on the other side of this (seen my partner go through a divorce when his wife didn't want poly) and it is a tough time. On one hand you are excited for your new life, but on the other hand it sounds like you feel guilt and shame for "failing" as a husband. I know that for my partner he also tried to absorb all of his wife's verbal and emotional assaults because "he deserved it" but at some point he had enough and that's when he started placing boundaries. I think boundaries are so important right now because you are transitioning from being coupled to being uncoupled and are also in very different emotional places right now.
I would definitely recommend moving to another room or going to stay with a family member or a friend. Your wife needs time alone to grieve. While you have a nice new shiny future to look forward to, she is losing all the hopes and dreams that she had built with you. She is grieving a lot of loss, her husband, the possibility of having children, the image of what her future looked like. This is all normal and she needs to get through that grief process before she can come out the other side at acceptance.
She will eventually realize that hurting you just to make herself feel better doesn't work, but she is obviously not there yet. She is in her feels and doing everything she can to self-sooth by hurling her pain at you. Right now the victim role may feel more comfortable for her, and that's okay, but doing emotional damage to you is not. Are you in therapy or counseling? Suicide is a huge scary thing that you need to examine. Things may get worse, and if that thought is already in your head you will probably need help overcoming that.
Try to have confidence that you are not a bad person, or evil or wrong. People change, they grow apart, they discover their true selves. She feels that she didn't change which may be true but that doesn't mean your change is wrong. You each need to do your own work and take care of yourselves right now. Unfortunately until she reaches the final "acceptance" stage of grief, she probably won't handle this situation with much love or care for you. And you need to be okay with that, she needs to take care of herself, as do you. But I would definitely let her know that you won't accept verbal or emotional assaults from her, leave the room or the house when that stuff starts happening.
I always, always, always recommended counseling. It may seem odd to seek out couples counseling during a breakup but if you can find a Poly friendly counselor I highly recommend it. They may be able to help your wife to realize that your changes in lifestyle are not about her and do not nullify your love for her or gratefulness for the relationship the two of you have had. They may also be able to help her to start to get some closure about the marriage ending and a better understanding of her own wants and needs and how to take care of herself during this time.


Again I'm sorry you're both in pain, I know sometimes these things feel like "the end of the world" or the "worst thing ever" but keep some faith that you'll both be okay. You were okay before this relationship and you will be okay after it, just like she will. Take time for yourself, deep breaths, meditation, do some reading about the topics going on with you, seek help and take it all one day or one minute at a time.

Good luck !
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi turtle,

Sorry I didn't respond sooner to the last post in your previous thread. Your first five posts are in moderated mode, sometimes they get delayed and when they do get posted, they show up as already read and in that case, I don't get any notification that you posted something new. I still feel like I dropped the ball, and so I belatedly posted a reply, which if you want to read it you can find it at http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?p=461714

In this thread you said, "My question is, how can I [separate] with kindness and love? How can I make this easy for her? How can I help her to value herself while we go through a separation?" I think what you do is emphasize to her that you want this to be an amicable separation, you do not want it to be a hostile separation. She does seem to be pushing for a hostile separation and if she succeeds at getting that, I'm afraid there won't be any easy way for her to go through it. She is kind of shooting herself in the foot, though she may not realize it. That or she wants to make this separation as hard as possible for you, and to make it happen that way, she is even willing to make it hard on herself. That is the direction in which she is pushing, though it's likely she is in so much pain that it is kind of blinding her. :(

Maybe the thing to do is to reassure her, "I still care for you, as much as I always have, and I think you still care about me too. This separation isn't because of us not caring for each other, it is because we no longer make each other happy. I won't be happy unless I can live polyamorously, and you won't be happy unless I live monogamously with you. We are no longer compatible as a couple. I am optimistic that you can find another man out there, a monogamous man who will meet your needs, and be as faithful to you as you need him to be. I'm just sorry that I couldn't be that man."

I know you feel bad about the pain your wife is in, you just want to take her pain away. What's hard to understand about this situation is that she may *need* to feel that pain. It may be the only way she can get through this period of drastic change. You are in pain too, so take care of yourself, and don't hurt yourself. Try to be as understanding as you can be towards your wife. You are both going through the stages of grief. She is perhaps going through the stage of anger, you are perhaps going through the stage of bargaining. It's not easy for either of you.

After the divorce is final, perhaps the two of you could go on being friends. Maybe you could even be a sperm donor for her, in an IVF situation. And you could offer financial support, at least for a time while she looks for a job. You could be friends, you just couldn't be lovers as matters now stand. Things will be hard for awhile, but I am hopeful that they will eventually get easier. Keep us posted here as your situation evolves, and we will continue to try to help.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Turtle, I'm sorry I didn't notice your last post on your original thread! I don't know why I didn't see it, with the questions you asked just left hanging. I'm going to add it here, even though you're already getting responses to the OP on this thread.

From May, 2020:
I was able to have an open conversation with my wife over the weekend. I kept my promise to help her try for a child one more time, making it clear to her that she should not believe that having children would solve anything, and that I was doing it in part because I didn't want her to feel as if she was negotiating with a gun to her head. Though what we did seems very unlikely to result in conception, I felt angry, both at her, and at myself for doing such an unreasonable thing, and for totally sidelining my own wants.

When she asked me, the next day, if I would be willing to do it again, I said that I absolutely would not, and we proceeded to have a 3-hour conversation during which I was able to let go, at least temporarily, of my guilt, focus on my own needs, and also listen to her. We cried a lot, and I gave her the most sincere hug I've given her in a long time.

She is not yet open to opening the marriage. She has made that clear. Through her tears, she said a number of things that may or may not mean anything. She said that she might be able to let her partner be polyamorous, just not me, because we had bad communication, as evidenced by the past betrayal. She said that she wished I could just have an affair and keep it hidden from her, to which I said that she is like Sherlock Holmes — did she really think I would be able to hide things from her even if I tried? She accepted that I've been polyamorous for a long time, and that I'm not putting on an act because of childlessness or lack of PIV sex. This does seem like progress. We need to work on our trust and our communication. I need not to let my empathy make me lose sight of my self and my needs.

Thank you folks for all of your advice. As you can see, I've taken much of it to heart. Once it's possible to see a therapist in person, we intend to begin couple's therapy. I am going to do my very best to bring it to a mono/poly conclusion; separation does not seem doable at the moment, and the post that really spoke to me this time was fuchka's, as it provides a good plan and seems compassionate. I have some questions:
She has asked me to "take it slow." But I can't do this for another 10 years. How do you know what deadline to set, and how often should we be talking?
Should we really be talking about the possibility of separation? Wouldn't doing so be counterproductive? A gun to her head?
An important task that I have is figuring out what sort of a structure of polyamory I would want. I'm not sure how to do that, because I don't want a polyamorous structure to become like another form of monogamy, with the same kinds of inescapable restrictions. How do I come up with a structure that is open to change? How do I ensure that everyone is getting the time that they need?
My therapist herself has suggested that I share poly literature with my wife to see if she wants to discuss. I was hesitant, given the pushback that idea got on this forum, but I asked my wife if she would be okay with it, emphasizing that I didn't want to convert her, and that she should share things with me too, for example, on trust, or communication. She agreed, and yesterday I sent her one of my favourites: Kim Tallbear's academic talk on North American Indigenous polyfamily practices, which takes ethical nonmonogamy out of the frames of whiteness, and also of individualism. How can I make this non-coercive, and what can I share?
 

turtle786

New member
Thank you so much for your advice. I teared up especially after reading confused88's reply. It touched upon my situation so well, and I am so glad to hear that there is (hopefully) light at the end of the tunnel for people like me and confused88's partner.

In terms of living apart, at least temporarily (we own a house together and would need to figure that out as well as the finances), I was hoping that we could find a good counsellor first who would help us to make that a mutual decision. But at this point I think we have to talk about it ASAP. I think that we won't be able to have time apart until September. I will try to talk to my wife tomorrow to tell her we need a vacation from one another. Given that the pandemic has meant that we're constantly in each other's space, I am hopeful that she won't object. My wife and I share a bank account, and she was working before the pandemic hit, so part of that money is hers, and I am very happy to continue sharing what I have when we're apart. She deserves that.

Do you have any recommendations when it comes to seeking a couple's therapist in North America (online, probably)? I personally have a wonderful therapist (who, as I mentioned, my wife seems to think is misleading me), but a previous attempt with a couple's therapist wasn't great. She said about polyamory, "We tried that in the '70s." My therapist has also recommended something called "discernment counselling," which is apparently for couples in which one has a foot out the door, as I certainly do.

Suicidal thoughts are frightening, and men are not as good as women at seeking help, but I am doing my best to reach out. I am hindered by the fear of being judged, and my sense of guilt at shirking my responsibility to care. I realize that that idea has gotten into my head: that I am a shitty man who is walking out on his sick wife. But I did think all of this through some time back, and came to the conclusion that care can mean many different things, and that sacrificing myself would not have made me any better at being a caregiver. I am trying to hold on to that insight.

Thanks Kevin and Magdlyn -- I'm going to go back now and read the previous thread.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Again, turtle, I am so sorry you were left hanging in May. Quite a few of us were on top of that thread, and you must have felt abandoned by all of us! I guess it was a weird technical glitch, something like what Kevin described.

I want to comment on your last post on your older thread, and then I'll comment on the current one.

From May:

I was able to have an open conversation with my wife over the weekend. I kept my promise to help her try for a child one more time, making it clear to her that she should not believe that having children would solve anything, and that I was doing it in part because I didn't want her to feel as if she was negotiating with a gun to her head. Though what we did seems very unlikely to result in conception, I felt angry, both at her, and at myself for doing such an unreasonable thing, and for totally sidelining my own wants.

So y'all did something to get your sperm into her vagina... not exactly old fashioned intercourse... because of her pain with intercourse, and you felt cheapened and sick about it. She wanted to do it again...
When she asked me, the next day, if I would be willing to do it again, I said that I absolutely would not.

Good for you! Self respect is the first step. Then followed:

... a 3-hour conversation, during which I was able to let go, at least temporarily, of my guilt, focus on my own needs, and also listen to her. We cried a lot... She said that she might be able to let A partner be polyamorous, just not me, because we had bad communication, as evidenced by the past betrayal.

She's still harping on that moment you held someone's hand to comfort them. That's called carpetbagging. She has one grievance and then opens up the bag and spills out other old news that she cant get over.

She said that she wished I could just have an affair and keep it hidden from her, to which I said that she is like Sherlock Holmes — did she really think I would be able to hide things?

Ha! That's how my ex h was, even when I downplayed my crushes. If I didn't have any, he'd make them up! So... no. There is no hiding from something who wants to see something bad.

She accepted that I've been polyamorous for a long time, and that I'm not putting on an act because of childlessness or lack of PIV sex. This does seem like progress.

That does seem better, but people can have those moments of clarity, and then lose sight of them.

We need to work on our trust and our communication. I need not to let my empathy make me lose sight of myself and my needs.

The only person you can work on is yourself. "To thine own self be true." Everything else will follow. We can't live in the shadow of what others may think of us. Whatever they think and feel is on them. Not on you.
Thank you, folks, for all of your advice. As you can see, I've taken much of it to heart. Once it's possible to see a therapist in person, we intend to begin couple's therapy.

Now that 2 months have gone by, we all know that telehealth is the only way to go for counseling, in the US with our sociopathic president.

I have some questions:
Starfish has asked me to "take it slow." But I can't do this for another 10 years. How do you know what deadline to set?

This is a common question, and only you can decide. Now it's kind of moot but people often give something 3 months. You've had issues for years, and a year of not talking and no intimacy. But it's been 2 or 3 months since your last thread.
and how often should we be talking?

That's going to vary. My ex h and I had periods where we couldn't talk without the moderation of our couples counselor. She was great. She was experienced with all kinds of alternative relationships, queer issues, poly, as well as the way we'd parented (homebirth, unschooling our kids, co-sleeping when they needed it, and we were pagan to boot.).

Should we really be talking about the possibility of separation? Wouldn't doing so be counterproductive? A gun to her head?

A gun to her head is a violent image. And earlier you said she'd be "throwing her anger at you." I sense a bit of violence in this relationship. I get the sense you're being abused. Is that possible?

An important task that I have is figuring out what sort of a structure of polyamory I would want. I'm not sure how to do that, because I don't want a polyamorous structure to become like another form of monogamy, with the same kinds of inescapable restrictions. How do I come up with a structure that is open to change? How do I ensure that everyone is getting the time that they need?

We can put this on the back burner for now, since you're not facing polyamory immediately with anyone, just a separation and divorce. But rest assure these are pretty common questions and the answers are all over the board here.

My therapist herself has suggested that I share poly literature with my wife to see if she wants to discuss. I was hesitant, given the pushback that idea got on this forum, but I asked my wife if she would be okay with it, emphasizing that I didn't want to convert her, and that she should share things with me too, for example, on trust, or communication.

I want to suggest that you don't feel safe being honest and open with her, because she responds by "throwing her anger" at you, and saying it's all about fertility issues and lack of PIV, and doesn't actually listen to you.

She agreed, and yesterday I sent her one of my favourites: Kim Tallbear's academic talk on North American Indigenous polyfamily practices, which takes ethical nonmonogamy out of the frames of whiteness, and also of individualism. How can I make this non-coercive, and what can I share?

It's great that you're interested in poly from a Person of Color perspective. Roman Christianity has imposed monogamy and the patriarchy on humanity. Prior to the patriarchy (3000 years ago) in the West, people did not mate one on one. Both women and men could have multiple lovers, and the children would belong to the tribe, not to one man and one woman. In some non-Western peoples, even up until today, women can have multiple male lovers (not to mention same sex coupling).

One book we love here is Sex at Dawn. Even if it's too late to bother sharing it with Starfish, you can read it between your clean white sheets and replace it on your new wooden bookshelf until you want to reread it! It is a sociological/anthropological book, based on studies of prehistoric mating of humans, and the mating practices of our closest primate cousins, the bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
As I've come to realize that I am poly, I have tried never to make my wife feel insecure by bringing up divorce.

I think you should keep in mind that you keep trying to protect your wife from her own feelings. You can't "make" anyone feel anything. She'll feel what she'll feel. 2 different people will feel 2 different things when confronted with the same thing.

It's OK to bring up divorce when you've become incompatible. Security isn't everything. Authenticity and honesty are key to security, anyway.

Two weeks ago we sat down and I recalled that conversation. I told her that I now understood that when two people are at an impasse, divorce may be the only way, and that I will think about it seriously.

It's good to see your progress!

I told that I understood her perspective and her confusion very well. She hadn't changed, she had remained constant. She hadn't done anything wrong; she had done her very best. I was the one who had realized what I wanted, as I'd grown older and more secure, more able to love myself, and less worried about the judgment of other people. But from her perspective, I was unrecognizable from the man she'd married.

I told her that I was struggling with my intense feelings of gratitude and indebtedness for all of the care that she had given me, but also with my feelings of pity, and a patriarchal sense that as her husband it was my job to take care of her, no matter what the sacrifice to myself. "White knighting," someone on this forum called it.

I was the one who gave you that term. It's actually very patronizing, and doesn't respect the person you're "protecting" as being a grown human with the ability to own her feelings and do self care. You played her up as this big invalid who had nowhere to turn in your first posts on the older thread. Only when I questioned you, did you admit that she was strong and beautiful, intelligent, not too sick to take her of herself and work, with good solid life skills and a family to support her.

to be continued...
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
She took it in, and said that she was afraid for me because she thought that I was deliberately sabotaging my own happiness, and ruining our joint happiness as a result. I said that that might be true.

That's just her projecting her feelings of unhappiness on you, to avoid taking responsibility for her own feelings.

However, having thought carefully about it, I realize that thinking about a poly future makes me feel very, very happy. It's just that I feel guilty about the possibility of feeling so happy at another's expense.

How about this? She'll be happier without you! You're not right for her. She'll find someone better for her (someone else to bully, maybe...) probably, especially if she gets help from a therapist and doesn't stay stuck in anger, being pissed she couldn't bend you to her will anymore.
I have thought carefully about what I want, and, to my surprise, I want a separation and I want my freedom. I don't want to be married or cohabiting anymore... I feel as if I am living in the future, that I can already feel the clean white sheets of my own bedroom and see the wood of my bookshelves.

My question is, how can I do this with kindness and love? How can I make this easy for her?

You can't make it easy. You can be kind, but you have to take care of yourself. Separation and divorce are hardly ever "easy."

How can I help her to value herself?

Um, by example? How about you get on with valuing yourself? Her own self worth comes from within her. It's an inside job.

When telling her that I would think carefully about divorce, I followed some advice that I had read that suggested using "I" statements, and just taking any anger or grief that she threw at me with as much calmness as I could.

It worked fairly well, although she was very sad, and as we lay down on the bed, depressed, she put moves on me, trying to kiss me with her tongue and moving towards intimacy, which I stopped.

Ugh. Sometimes a person just needs to sleep on the couch.

In the past month she has said all kinds of hurtful and distressing things. She has said that what I want is polygamy. She says I want her permission to cheat on her. She implies that I am thinking about divorce because she is sick and I don't want the hassle of taking care of her in her illness.

She says my therapist is giving me unprofessional advice, and that I should talk to someone else who will put me straight. She says I am a terrible role model for others.

What others? Sheesh.

Yesterday she said, "What kind of a husband withholds sex from his wife unless he can have sex with other people?" (That is absolutely not what I am doing.)

It's interesting you want to "make things easy on her" while she's saying these horrible things to you. People treat you the way you let them treat you.
I know that she is saying this because she is in pain, her world is falling apart because of me, and she has to vent. I am trying to listen without getting defensive, but eventually last night I said, "We're talking about divorce! We are beyond all of this now!" I left the room and lay on the sofa.

Good! When people get emotionally flooded, the only safe and healthy thing to do is leave the room, or even the house, if necessary. It's not "giving up" or being rude, it's just wise.
I found myself unable to cry, so I had a bit of whisky and that helped me loosen the tears. I realized that I was internalizing what she was saying about me, and losing my sense of self-worth. That is how depression works for me in this relationship: I feel that I am not worth very much, therefore my happiness or desire is not worth much. What is worth something is other people's happiness, so I should forget about what I want and focus on what other people want.

It also makes me want to kill myself, except that I don't have any uncomplicated way of doing so, and I don't want to give her the trouble of taking me to the ER.

Ugh, that is some hard stuff to feel. You matter. You're allowed to take up space in the world. Your feelings matter just as much as hers, or anyone else's.
This is all very dramatic, I know, but I'm in it, and I'm in pain. Any advice on how to go through separation properly at this stage?

In terms of living apart, at least temporarily (we own a house together and would need to figure that out as well as the finances), I was hoping that we could find a good counsellor first who would help us to make that a mutual decision. But at this point I think we have to talk about it ASAP. I think that we won't be able to have time apart until September.

I will try to talk to my wife tomorrow to tell her we need a vacation from one another. Given that the pandemic has meant that we're constantly in each other's space, I am hopeful that she won't object.

Whether she objects or not, you do what makes you feel safe. Go take some time away. Go to a cabin in the woods. Or stay with a friend or family member in your germ bubble, something, anything.
My wife and I share a bank account, and she was working before the pandemic hit, so part of that money is hers, and I am very happy to continue sharing what I have when we're apart. She deserves that.

Think about splitting accounts. Sometimes vindictive people clean out their shared account. You can set up an account for some of her expenses too, if you want to support her financially for a while. But keep money for yourself separate.
Do you have any recommendations when it comes to seeking a couple's therapist in North America (online, probably)? I personally have a wonderful therapist (who, as I mentioned, my wife seems to think is misleading me).

Pfft. I'm sure she's great! Does she know you're suicidal though?

Kevin has a list of poly friendly counselors, but just Google for people who specialize in alternative issues, queer issues, trans issues, etc. They're out there, especially for telehealth.

but a previous attempt with a couple's therapist wasn't great. She said about polyamory, "We tried that in the '70s."

That person was an idiot. Swinging is alive and well, and polyamory is becoming more popular every day. I relate though: I lost my good counselor because of an insurance change, and a new one I tried as much as called me
a whore. On our third appointment she told me, "Married people shouldn't get crushes!" So unprofessional! I could not believe a therapist was telling me not to feel my feelings!!!
My therapist has also recommended something called "discernment counselling," which is apparently for couples in which one has a foot out the door, as I certainly do.

I don't know what that is.
Suicidal thoughts are frightening, and men are not as good as women at seeking help, but I am doing my best to reach out.

I am SO glad you reached out here again! I'm super proud of you, since you must have felt abandoned by us in May.

I am hindered by the fear of being judged, and my sense of guilt at shirking my responsibility to care.

Are you surrounded by dozens of people who have never heard of divorce, or what? 50% of marriages end up in divorce.

I realize that that idea has gotten into my head: that I am a shitty man who is walking out on his sick wife. But I did think all of this through some time back, and came to the conclusion that care can mean many different things, and that sacrificing myself would not have made me any better at being a caregiver. I am trying to hold on to that insight.

Thanks Kevin and Magdlyn -- I'm going to go back now and read the previous thread.

Yes, that is the correct way of thinking. You're not a "shitty man." Your wife is able bodied, except for the endo, and you don't have to give up on who you are, pretend to be something you're not, just so that she can "live her best life."
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you are going through this.

In the USA, the suicide helpline number is 1-800-273-8255 and the website is

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

I know navigating divorce is hard, but please do you kill yourself. :(

ALL relationships come with a clock. Some a short -- like a few dates and that's it because not compatible. Some are longer. Like initially compatible, but not DEEPLY compatible. So date for a while but no, not marriage. And some are deeply compatible for a while... but over the years/decades the people grow in different directions. So used to be deeply compatible and maybe married. But over time... not compatible any more. It happens in Life.

When telling her that I would think carefully about divorce, I followed some advice that I had read that suggested using "I" statements, and just taking any anger or grief that she threw at me with as much calmness as I could.

I think this is the approach you need to take. Don't take it personally when she says things.

At the same time for your own mental health? Get away from her. Because you each have divorce grieving to do, and it will be different for each of you. You are both IN the system. In the past you may have been each other's "go to" person for comfort. But now you are the each other's "soon to be ex" and no. That doesn't work. Can no longer be the comfort person.

In the past month she has said all kinds of hurtful and distressing things...

She (and you) will go through the stages of grief. Denial, shock, anger... all of the stages. Most of that sounds like anger. Expect your own anger to appear sooner or later.

https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/stages-of-grief-during-and-after-divorce

...she put moves on me, trying to kiss me with her tongue and moving towards intimacy, which I stopped.

You know people do that right? In grief, like after a funeral, or during pending divorce, they crave connection, a sense of "I'm still alive" or "warm body" and similar. Sex can be comforting.

But in this case, maybe no longer appropriate.

Some couples do the "last time" so they can remember it hopefully pleasantly. Some couples don't -- "the last time" was whenever it was. Because today is too volatile or too full of fighting or just too weird to feel good about sharing sex.

It's also ok to just STOP. Nobody in a marriage "owes" the other one sex. And it is natural and appropriate in a pending divorce to STOP sex, STOP the more intimate kinds of kissing and hugging. Over time, if the exes heal and can be friends post divorce, the social kiss/hug stuff for things like birthday or new years might come back, but that's "friend to friend" and not "lover to lover."

So if she's coming on to you for whatever reason, you could tell her where you willingness lies. Maybe firm but kind.

"I see you want connection. I can offer a hug because divorce is hard. I'm right there in it with you. But you are my soon to be ex. It confuses me if we keep sharing sex. So no, thank you. It not appropriate for us to keep going like that any more. We are becoming exes."

Yesterday she said, "What kind of a husband withholds sex from his wife unless he can have sex with other people?" (That is absolutely not what I am doing.)

And you know that's not what you are doing. You are beginning the break up process. That part of the marriage is over for you.

I know that she is saying this because she is in pain, her world is falling apart because of me, and she has to vent.

She doesn't have to vent to YOU. You could be firm but kind. Something like...

"I am sorry. I cannot be your support person in this when I am wonky myself. I think it is better if we each talk to a counselor, friends, family for extra support. People OUTSIDE the divorce circle. We are both inside it. We are both grieving a loss, and I'd like us to be able to part respectfully. It's not FUN to divorce. It's a very sad thing."

I am trying to listen without getting defensive, but eventually last night I said, "We're talking about divorce! We are beyond all of this now!"

That sounds like you getting full of listening to her upset. :(

Neither of you is "beyond this" now. You are both right at the beginning of divorcing and divorce grief. It's not even the middle yet. :(

I realized that I was internalizing what she was saying about me, and losing my sense of self-worth. That is how depression works for me in this relationship: I feel that I am not worth very much, therefore my happiness or desire is not worth much. What is worth something is other people's happiness, so I should forget about what I want and focus on what other people want.

I don't know who taught you that -- family of origin, romantic relationships, or what. To me it points to two things.

1) You'd do better with your own divorce grief not living here having to listen to hers. Try to move out to a new flat ASAP so you both have some space.

2) Work on changing this belief -- that you are worth less than other people and that other people come first.

This is all very dramatic, I know, but I'm in it, and I'm in pain. Any advice on how to go through separation properly at this stage?

1) Call the suicide number or go to the website. Get a counselor lined up.
Make your suicide safety plan and tell people close to you this is happening. You are getting a divorce and it is so painful you struggle with suicidal thoughts. There are even suicide safety plan apps for your phone. Look into them.

2) Understand the stages of grief and the stages of emotional change. There's a visual aid in the middle of this page. It's not a perfect "timeline" because every person is different. But perhaps it helps you navigate the track B up and downs because you can SEE they will be coming, and there will be times of "down" and times of "better."

https://www.eoslifework.co.uk/transmgt1.htm

You JUST decided to divorce. Look at the sharp plummet not even 1 month in. You WILL feel super low right now at the beginning of the track. It's not fun. But even when divorce is wanted... it would be a little weird if divorcing people didn't feel a pang of sadness because the marriage didn't end up where they hoped.

3) Take the stress scale.

https://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory

And/or the divorce stress scale.

Figure out what the stresses are. That's your load.

4) Accept there will be load and there will be a time of sadness in your life. You cannot "fast forward" Life but you CAN reduce the loads. Like if you cannot have "happy" yet, you can try to reduce some of the "sads."

  • wife reacting badly to divorce
  • stress of filing at the court house
  • living with a wife who dumps on you because you are there and its handy
  • stress of changing the banking
  • stress of finding a new flat in pandemic
  • stress of packing up to move to the new flat

There's just a lot of stuff to wade through, right? I only list a few.

Can't do anything about red. Wife stuff is hers to deal with.

CAN do stuff about the rest. I would start with the blue. Because that sets up a calmer launchpad to deal with the rest. Like a little island oasis where you can deal with with next oncoming waves without the thing that brings you down the most -- having to listen to her grief process up close and her trying to make you her emotional punching bag when she acts out.

You can try to understand and forgive because she's hurting too. But you don't have to stay there taking the punches. Get out of range. Move out.

Take a breather in your new space and start going down the rest of the divorce list one at a time. (There are other checklists, that's just one example.)

Again, I'm very sorry it comes to this. No divorce is fun even when it's the best choice in the circumstances and you are trying to part respectfully as the last loving act of a marriage that has run out the clock.

Perhaps you can tell her that. You love and value her. You loved the marriage you shared. But the clock has ended and you would like to aim for as peaceful and respectful a divorce as possible as the last loving act of a marriage.

Separate the finances. Close any joint things. Go halfsies NOW. In settlement it can be evened up on assets and debts. But going basic halfsies now let's you each have your own money to live on and maybe each start a new flat.

Then neither one is at risk to asshole divorce moves like "starve the spouse" because one joint account holder closed the account and took it all. Or racks up debt on credit cards like a "fuck you."

IRL some of my friends NEVER believed me when I tell them that "divorce revenge" crap can happen. And then it happens.

So be firm but kind and protect yourself. It's not like you divorced her before and know what her "divorce personality" is, right?

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Divorce sometimes brings out weird in people.

Hang in there.
Galagirl
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Here's what I have for looking for poly-friendly therapists:

If you can't find a poly-familiar therapist, but can find an open-minded therapist, ask them to read, "What Psychology Professionals Should Know about Polyamory," a 36-page booklet by Geri Weitzman, Ph.D., Joy Davidson, Ph.D., and Robert A. Phillips, Jr., Ph.D.
 

turtle786

New member
Thank you all so much for your kind, no-nonsense advice. I figured there must have been a glitch in the moderation. No worries. I don't feel abandoned, Magdlyn, I feel grateful to you.

I have had suicidal thoughts before, but I don't believe I'll ever hate myself enough (or have enough courage) to kill myself. My therapist tells me that I am a highly empathetic person. Empathy is not about reading another person's mind; for me it is usually about projection and imagining what it is that they want (often I'm wrong, and what people want is, anyway, different from what people need, as Kevin points out). I do have a tendency to want to sacrifice my desires, my needs, and even the truth, at the altar of what my loved ones want. That is something I'm working on, and the fact that (with therapy) I've come to embrace polyamory is itself evidence that I am increasingly able to hold onto a sense of what I want for myself.

I talked to my wife and she agreed that in September we can live apart for some time. It just so happens that at that point we will have to move out of the house anyway for around 6 weeks while some water damage is being fixed. So it is an ideal time. She will move into the replacement apartment paid for by our insurance, and I will find another place, alone.

A detail that you may not have caught is that I haven't yet said to her that I want a divorce. I said that I would think about it seriously. I feel a bit bewildered that, since I decided to take divorce seriously, I have so quickly and surely decided that that is what I want. She will not understand it if I tell her that I've decided, after a few weeks, to end a marriage of 10 years. I would rather that it come out in therapy, or while we're separated and have time to process on our own — or both.

Thank you to Kevin for providing the resources to find poly-friendly counselors. I've made a shortlist and I feel sort of excited about them. To go back to the suggestion my therapist made about discernment counseling, apparently discernment counseling is supposed to be quick (5 sessions), and it aims to help a couple in which one leans in and the other leans out. The outcomes are 1) status quo, 2) divorce, 3) moving on to couple's therapy. As excited as I am about poly-friendly counselors, I'm afraid that they might:

A) affirm me too much and give my wife validation as a monogamous person who might move on to a real monogamous relationship, or

B) give my wife an incentive to pretend to be/convince herself that she is okay with polyamory when deep down she isn't, which will just prolong the pain.

Even if a non-poly-friendly counselor invalidates me, maybe thinking that I'm an awful person will help her to let go of me. As painful as this kind of invalidation is for me, doesn't she need to villainize me in order to let go? There is nothing I want more right now than to believe that she is capable of letting go of me and finding happiness elsewhere.

I dread the next month and a half, but yesterday she agreed that we should be kind to one another over that period at least. Let's see.

I'd like to think more about your specific comments. TBC.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
OK. You haven't articulated to wife that you want a divorce yet. You are coming to terms with it on the inside first.

I dread the next month and a half, but yesterday she agreed that we should be kind to one another over that period at least. Let's see.

Trying to be kind in that time seems reasonable. Esp since in Sept you have the house repair and have a chance to live separately.

Even if a non-poly-friendly counselor invalidates me, maybe thinking that I'm an awful person will help her to let go of me. As painful as this kind of invalidation is for me, doesn't she need to villainize me in order to let go?

No. Because if YOU decide you want to file for divorce, you go file it. Whether she wants to hang on or let go? Or she needs to make you the villain or not? The court doesn't care. Once you file at the courthouse, the machine has started. Papers get served. And the stuff gets rolling to legally disband the marriage.

There is nothing I want more right now than to believe that she is capable of letting go of me and finding happiness elsewhere.

Well, every adult is responsible for writing their own life story. If she wants to write her post-divorce life in that direction and seek happiness and seek new dating partners? She is capable of doing that. If she wants to lay on the couch for the next 20 years? She could do that. If she wanted to get a new dog? She could do that. What she does in her post-divorce life is her business. Not really yours.

Just like your post-divorce life is your business and not really hers. So if you want to spend some of yours believing she can create her next chapter and hoping things are positive for her in it? Go right ahead.

It's ok to put off seeing a poly counselor til after you are done divorcing if that's what you want to do. One thing at a time, right?

Galagirl
 
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FallenAngelina

Well-known member
doesn't she need to villainize me in order to let go? There is nothing I want more right now than to believe that she is capable of letting go of me and finding happiness elsewhere.

A lot of people choose to villainize, but it's not required. Whether she hates you or not, she is capable of finding happiness elsewhere. Everyone is. Whether she chooses that is completely up to her. You can make yourself crazy trying to figure it out for her in your head, but you'll never succeed. Your wife is in charge of her own thoughts. There's nothing better than a divorce to show us that everyone is a free agent in this world, despite all of the wonky ways we try to control people (often in the guise of support and help.) There are few more toxic situations than a partner who is struggling to "support" and over-help another. This will make both of you crazy and anxious, as you're finding out. The important thing is for you get off this track of fruitlessly trying to think for her and focus instead on thinking for yourself. Whether you villianize yourself is the fruitful question here.

There are usually many reasons for divorce, not just one. You can hang out as many reasons as you like, but when one partner needs out, divorce (either emotionally or literally) will happen. Whether the other partner finds happiness again is completely up to the other partner and your getting all balled up in needing her to find happiness will only keep you locked in your own anxious cycle. It will do nothing to actually help her find happiness and it will do nothing to help you find happiness. Allow her to be a capable, functioning adult and allow her to make her own choices. Happiness always and only lies in setting each other free, whether you're in a relationship or going through a divorce. Most of us find out through this process that love withers in the enmeshed struggle of trying to figure out someone else's life for them. Love can only thrive in freedom.
 
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Wouldn't it maybe be sensible to have indiviudual counseling/therapy?
- Your wife with a regular therapist that can help her with working specifically through the impact of her health issues, her fear of not beeing able to have children and her anger and pain of the divorce and
- you with a poly-friendly therapist that can help you both navigate the feelings of guilt and pain you've expressed over the divorce as well as the complex bittersweetness of coming out of this sad situation excited to finally be able to be yourself?

In my experience separations are rarely mutual, nor are they a communal experience and sharing a therapist doesn't intuitively make sense to me.
Wouldn't it be better for both of you to be able to vent and rant and work through your issues separately in your own way; with seperate therapists, who specialize in seperate issues (cronic health issues/poly), creating separate "safe places" which will remain yours alone evenafter the separation?
This way both of you could both continue councling with your therapist even after the divorce if you needed/wanted to without it beeing a reminder or shared connection.

I also don't understand why you think it would be better for your decision (to have a divorce) to come up in a therapy setting?
Her hurt, anger and confusion will be the same. She will probably still direct her emotional distress at you.
The only difference would be that there would be a third person in the room - and even if it is a therapist, it is still a stranger (you don't sound like you plan to go to therapy for half a year before breaking the decision to her).
 
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turtle786

New member
She's still harping on that moment you held someone's hand to comfort them. That's called carpetbagging. She has one grievance and then opens up the bag and spills out other old news that she cant get over.

Magdlyn, I love all of this terminology. Carpetbagging! The idea of white-knighting was important to me in realizing what I was doing (not that I'm entirely over that behaviour).

I sense a bit of violence in this relationship. I get the sense you're being abused. Is that possible?

One of my friends did suggest that there is some emotional abuse going on here. I don't believe it's intentional, though, because I'm not sure she registers what happens to me. To recap and remind myself, when she gives me a negative image of myself, I internalize it and believe that I have less value than I do, meaning that I should give up what I want for the sake of someone else who deserves what they want more.

Does she know you're suicidal though?

My therapist does know that I have suicidal thoughts sometimes. Especially with her help, I'm dealing with it well, no real danger, I think.

In grief, like after a funeral, or during pending divorce, they crave connection, a sense of "I'm still alive" or "warm body" and similar. Sex can be comforting.

Yeah, Galagirl, we haven't had any kind of sex for about a year, I think. I wish I could give her a last bout, and maybe further down the process I'll feel able to, even when it's clear to her that divorce is the only way. But right now one of the problems is that I feel resentful about intimacy, I suppose because I feel that she has ownership of my body.

Work on changing this belief -- that you are worth less than other people and that other people come first.

Yes, I need to figure this out. The thing is that I am someone who values selflessness and generosity a lot. When it comes to those traits in myself, you could say perhaps that selflessness is a kind of ego trip for me, paradoxically. At the same time, I think that among all of the people to whom I am generous, it's easy for me to forget to be generous to my self. I do think I have a sense of when I'm so empty that I have nothing left to give others. And I can't give my loved ones a false self; that's not very loving or generous.

The divorce list and other resources on stress and grief are very helpful!

A lot of people choose to villainize, but it's not required.

I did a simple thought experiment: if it were me, would I need to villainize my partner who wanted out? I doubt it. Granted, my wife is a very different person, but clearly she can get through this without hating me.

Wouldn't it maybe be sensible to have indiviudual counseling/therapy?

I don't know. I've never done this before, but the advice I've received (both from confused88 in this thread, and elsewhere) is that it is best to have therapy in a situation like this, even if (maybe especially if) a divorce is inevitable. My hope is that we will both learn from it and be better able to face our new lives and (hopefully) new relationships. In any case, we made the decision to get couple's therapy some while back; I'm just running behind schedule. Might as well. We do both already have individual therapists; mine is a poly/queer-friendly sexologist, and hers specializes in chronic pain.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi turtle,

I think you already pretty much know what you have to do. Now it's just a matter of doing it. Which is the hard part.

  • Commence couple's counseling.
  • Get separate domiciles.
  • Tell your wife you want a divorce.
  • Sort out your differences through counseling.
  • Divorce.
The above list, of course, is subject to possible change before it's all completed; also the order in which it's done may be shuffled around. I would suggest, though, that as soon as possible, and definitely before you tell your wife that you want a divorce, that you get a private bank account that only you can access, and put half of your funds into that account. If you don't do that step, your wife could clean you out, so be prepared for that possibility, or take the necessary steps to prevent it.

After the divorce is final, who knows what might be possible. You can cross that bridge if/when you get to it.

Kind regards,
Kevin T.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
It is also called "gunnysacking."


Yeah, Galagirl, we haven't had any kind of sex for about a year, I think. I wish I could give her a last bout, and maybe further down the process I'll feel able to, even when it's clear to her that divorce is the only way. But right now one of the problems is that I feel resentful about intimacy, I suppose because I feel that she has ownership of my body.

Let me clarify. During grief, pending break ups, all sorts of times? Though it may seem weird to some? It is not unheard of for people to go seeking sex for the warm body thing.

But do you HAVE to share sex with her just because she tries to initiate? NO.

You are in charge of your own body. She is in charge of her own body. If you both choose to share sex? That's the thing. It is a shared activity -- a "two people yes." If one is yes and one is no, then it does NOT happen. Nobody "owes" the other spouse sex in a marriage.


The thing is that I am someone who values selflessness and generosity a lot.


selfish <---> self full <---> selfless

I prefer how Marshall Rosenberg explained it. Like that's the see-saw. The unbalanced places are on the edges.

Selfish = mememe! Screw everyone else! I screw others over by doing demanding behavior.

Selfless = themthemthem! I screw my own self by doing self neglect.

It's one way street relating.

The more balanced place in the middle is "self full." Were you attend to your needs FIRST. Not like selfish, but self care. I don't attend to any kids here until I go pee first in the morning. ME FIRST. I have to do my basics before I can help others with their bonus. Just like I don't expect them to help me til they have done their morning stuff.

When people do their own needs first, they can operate from a full tank of gas. And then they can gift their help and talents generously. Trying to do that when you are bone dry? Why do self neglect No real friend or person who loves you would want to do overextend yourself or neglect yourself like that.

When people do their own basics first and then seek to help others doing bonus? Then there can be 2 way street relating. Like back and for exchange, but everyone operating from self full.

So stop taking pride in being selfless. Consider taking pride in stepping away from the unbalanced place and aim more to "self full." You can still help people and be generous. You just have to count you as a "people" on your list too and stop leaving you off the list of care!

The divorce list and other resources on stress and grief are very helpful!

You are welcome. I hope the trial separation in Sept helps both of you figure out what to do in this troubled marriage.

Galagirl
 
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