The Lower Brain: There Are No Easy Outs In A Bad Marriage

Why do they have to fight? Photo: PeopleImages (Getty)

I got married really young and for years the relationship has been stormy as hell. It’s dawned on me that the problems in my marriage will never be fixed because my wife and I are just not that well-matched as people. A few years ago she said she wanted a divorce and I was almost relieved. Then she changed her mind and asked me if I’d take her back and I agreed. Now that feels like a bad decision on my part.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happy in this relationship and I don’t think I ever will be. But I know that I couldn’t reasonably expect my kids to forgive me if I walked out on their mother for the sake of something so selfish as my own happiness. The youngest is really quite young, so waiting until they’ve all grown up will be no small thing. Do I have an honorable way out? Or should I just write off the next decade or two because my own decisions got me into this situation and these are the consequences of those decisions? 

If I’ve never committed adultery but I’m now in love with someone else, is that the very worst thing in the world?

Sincerely, 

Mostly Miserable All The Time

Wedding figurines on separate suitcases. Photo: David Cleveland (Getty)

Dear MMATT:

By staying in a marriage in which you are miserable, you’re teaching your children that marriage is awful; that monogamy is always terrible; and that two people who hate each other much of the time will stay together purely out of guilt. It won’t take long for them to figure out that you’re sticking with your wife just because of the kids. Would you want to carry the burden of knowing your father blamed YOU for his never leaving your mother? Probably not.

Stop fucking up your kids with misplaced notions of nobility. What is this, an Edith Wharton novel? Jesus Christ, it’s 2018 and you live in a country where divorce is entirely legal and even socially acceptable in many quarters. If you’re not in counseling, get into counseling. Get recommendations and seek the advice of a qualified divorce lawyer or mediator. Formulate a plan for your exit. Protect yourself legally and financially. Then tell your wife you want a divorce.

Then get divorced.

You help no one in this situation by pretending things are okay. Things are not okay, and they’re not going to be okay so long as you continue to live a lie. In addition, it’s wildly unfair to whomever you claim to actually love to continue this performance. You don’t even know if you’re actually in love with this person. You just know she’s different from the wife you’ve grown to largely despise.

Last week’s session: The Lower Brain: Stop Feeding The Drama

Let me tell you a story. A man asked me out, and I said no when it was revealed that he still lived in the back house on the property he shared with his soon-to-be (he claimed) ex-wife. He said she’d left him for a woman and they were good friends and co-parents and didn’t want to mess up the routine for their daughters.

I said, “Get back to me when you actually get out of your relationship. It’s just woefully codependent and not setting a good example for your kids. And should you play your cards right, I’d prefer not to wave to your ex and your little girls as I walk past their house to go have sex with you in your backyard luxury shed.”

Cut to many months later, when he asked me out again. I foolishly assumed he’d fixed his situation. Over dinner, he revealed that not only had he not moved out of the back house, he’d actually moved back into the main house, where he sometimes slept in the same bed as his wife, who’d moved on to a boyfriend or something.

He wasted my fucking time. Creepy as hell. I paid for my half of the bill and left, utterly disgusted.

I’m sure you won’t be that guy. But in case there’s any chance: don’t be that guy. Be a man. Be an adult. Set a boundary. Set several. Respect them. Live your own life. Give yourself a shot at happiness.

Take care of yourself, cover your ass, and get out. It’s the best way to show your children that grown people can change and evolve and behave with dignity and grace during difficult situations. Show them that one can go on to a world of love and happiness and better days.

And don’t waste any woman’s time until you’re actually available. On behalf of all gals who don’t feel like dealing with the bullshit – thank you in advance.