In retrospect, I describe my marriage as an airtight container with no room to move or breathe. The air was growing staler every year. I had to escape from that box to save myself and grow in this life. I know why I wasn’t happy. I can reminisce on certain events, people and unfulfilled needs that all contributed to my unhappiness. However, when you are in the middle of the storm (or the calm), it is not always so obvious where these feelings are coming from. For example, maybe you only hear, “I love you,” once every two years or worse, you have to ask if you are loved. On a larger scale, perhaps your partner wasn’t happy when you told him you were pregnant, as in my story. You don’t ever forget these disappointments. All small events, words and moments spent add up to this whole thing we call life. Do you like the whole picture you see? If not, why not? Contrary to the cheated or abused wife, the neglected wife is quietly dying from the inside out. Some people with their careless comments or criticisms are witness to this; your soul being chipped away slowly. But you and your heart are the number-one witness to your life, to this quiet pain that is not defined as domestic abuse or infidelity but something much more subtle and just as devastating in the long run — neglect.

I remember another enlightening moment. My epiphany was questioning how could some people be so lovable when I was so unlovable? This epiphany came to me when I had mistakenly been talked into taking a family trip to Las Vegas when my children were eighteen months and three years. I was told by my husband that it was a family friendly place and would be fun for the kids. Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived, he had meetings and tee times booked for the days we were there. He certainly should have gone on his own. In the evenings, we stayed in the room mostly and ordered room service. So I was left to take care of two babies in a city that doesn’t sleep. My parents were also there. When the kids, my parents and I decided to take a little train ride (public transit), my three-year-old daughter became fast friends with the nice couple sitting next to her. She liked to talk to everyone at that age and was curious about people. However, my father told my daughter to be quiet and not to talk so much. She continued to talk to the nice couple, ignoring her grandpa so that he had to repeat in a stern tone for her to be quiet. It hit me right there — why should she be quiet? Who was my father to tell my daughter when to speak? Meanwhile, during this short interaction, I couldn’t help but overhear the woman a few seats behind me talking on and on about her cats as if she was the only one who ever had cats in the world. Her audience was a nice man who hung on her every word, almost cooing in response to her. I thought to myself, how can this woman go on about her cats and I can’t get anyone to listen to me? Everything I said was inappropriate, too loud or not smart enough. But I knew that wasn’t true. I knew I had just as much to say as that woman but that I didn’t have the man to care enough to listen. And then I decided this would stop, at least with my daughter. I said to my father, “Just let her talk. She wants to talk.” I knew then there was something missing in my life. It made me feel deeply lonely that a stranger on public transit reminded me that I was missing love in my life. Does your spouse value what you have to say?

Is your marriage a team effort or a one-man show? If you consider your marriage a one-man show run by you alone, then how can this be successful? For example, are you only getting lip service with such statements as “Sure, I’ll help you out…but I have a tee time for Saturday...”?  The golf course wins again. Mutual respect should also be part of the relationship for it to be considered a success. Take a moment and ask yourself, what are some of the words you would use to describe your marriage? Make a list. Did any of the following words come to mind: team, support, love, sex, respect, priority? If not, why not? Dig deeper.

Also, separate the two roles your husband plays in your life: one as father and one as husband. If your husband is a good father and consistently displays devotion, reliability, caring and availability to your children, then that’s excellent and will continue to be of great value during separation. But is the father of your children still your lover or is he a neglectful husband? Being an excellent father does not preclude his love for you and should not make you a prisoner to his neglect. My husband wasn’t interested in me sexually after we had the children, but I still needed to be touched. Sex is a basic human need. My needs were not only being ignored but I was repeatedly rejected. If I asked for it I would get a response like, “Don’t bug me, I’m tired.” This kind of neglect and rejection can make a woman feel ugly. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t beautiful enough. In retrospect, this makes me so sad for the years I gave him and the neglect I suffered. I never should have thought of myself as ugly — what a waste of time. When I am now in the presence of my lover, I feel beautiful no matter what. My hair could be greasy and I’m in sweats, but I know he thinks of me as his beauty queen. I have that sexual confidence no woman should have to live without. Sex is one of the most important ingredients to a healthy marriage, and I mean sex without games. When sex is used as a tool to gain power by either partner, it loses its charm. If you are like I was and are married to your children’s father but are missing a lover, it is fair to say you are missing a huge ingredient to a happy relationship.

Do not place all of the emphasis on your head and logic while evaluating your marriage. Logic is not what makes us live our best lives. Knowing that you deserve better is the first step to recognizing you need to change your life. In the book When Life Changes or You Wish it Would, a man who decided to become a priest later in life discusses how common it is for people not to feel entitled to happiness especially when it comes to ending a relationship or a marriage.  There is a certain amount of guilt in wanting change; in wanting more than the mediocre.

It’s easier to put up with it. It’s easier to continue on with the status quo then to question it. It’s easier to resign ourselves to acceptance. It’s human nature to feel we must be grateful for what we have rather than complain about what we don’t have. But when we are grateful only for material things and refuse to complain about the basic human needs such as being loved, we have missed the point. The next time you hear yourself complain about your marriage followed by, “But…,” ask yourself why you are justifying your unhappiness.

 Also, I have just finished reading a memoir entitled If I am Found Missing or Dead by Janine Latus. It is Janine’s life story, which includes the tragic murder of her sister by the hands of a boyfriend. But what I’m most struck by in this book is Janine’s denial of her own abuse. She suffers at the hands of a stranger, a boyfriend and then a long-term husband. She stoically refuses to tell anyone about the abuse. I am not criticizing her because I have done the same thing. I was not open about my loneliness in my marriage either because there is a shame in sharing truths about abuse or neglect. However, Janine, in spite of the emotional terrorism dished out by her beloved, still questions whether leaving him is the right thing to do. And this is a great example of what I was saying earlier where it is hard to be objective in analyzing your marriage and life in general because you are in the middle of it. You start to believe your marriage and the abuse — no matter how obvious or subtle — is normal. Janine is also an example of a woman who is not listening to her instincts and lets logic and reason interfere with her decision to put an end to her husband’s abuse. As Janine ponders leaving a fifteen-year marriage, she thinks about what she will have to sacrifice to obtain her freedom.  The risk of loneliness, the loss of fortune, the possible fighting over her daughter.  But she quickly comes to realize that what she has in this moment does not resemble security or safety for that matter.  So what is she giving up to gain her freedom?  What are her logical reasons for staying in an unhappy marriage?

Janine’s thought process serves to remind you that these decisions take time and what is obvious to other people is not always obvious to us. Living every day with abuse or neglect blinds us by its familiarity. It takes away our ability to see our own present and future. This is when we must rely on our sixth sense because it doesn’t let us down. It doesn’t lie. Still, give yourself the time and consideration required to make your decision. Eventually, you will reach your last straw. You will have your epiphanies and ‘aha’ moments in time, and will then come to your decision. In the meantime, try to be self-aware and refrain from making excuses for your spouse’s bad treatment. Making excuses is our logic interfering with our instincts. Begin with these small steps and you will come out of your haze to gain clarity to see the truth. The bottom line is no one can judge your life except you. No one can tell you to be happy because you go on exotic holidays or because you drive a nice car. These material things do not make a loving relationship nor do they account for the lack of it. You have to decide if this is a marriage worth saving and make this decision not only from your head, but most importantly from your heart and your gut.

Let’s ask the question again after careful thought, do you feel entitled to happiness? Remember, marriage is not a prison cell or a life sentence. Also, carefully consider the effect your marriage is having on your kids. So many people believe the other fallacy that “we must stay together for the kids…” But ask yourself, what are my kids learning from our relationship? As Shmuley Boteach reminds us in his book Shalom in the Home:

“In a marriage where there is constant fighting, especially when the fighting takes place in front of the children, the children internalize pugnaciousness and chaos. They become unsettled kids. And in a marriage where there is no passion the children become sullen and withdrawn, sunk into themselves like their parents. They don’t know how to express emotion because they haven’t learned. But in a marriage where the parents not only get along but love each other deeply, the children drink from a nourishing fountain of affection.”

It’s surely food for thought. What are we teaching our children? So few of our children are learning the meaning of love and too many are learning to expect disappointment and conflict, or worse, indifference. Let’s change this beginning now.

Also, don’t underestimate the detrimental effects of marital stress on your own physical health. It is proven in scientific studies that emotional stress does bad things to our bodies such as lowering our immune system, making us more prone to illnesses and infections. I personally found in the long run, I am so much healthier now that I have removed myself from the stresses of my marriage. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is our one shot at life and we should embrace it with love and passion, but that is only possible with our health! Taking stock of your life, specifically your marriage, is not an easy thing to do and may take years to accomplish. It requires telling the truth to yourself and listening to your inner voice — one of the most difficult things we humans must do to live an authentic life.

 

This article has been adapted and used with permission from The Great Escape by Lisa Thomson © 2011. This ‘how to’ tips book is directly derived from the personal divorcing experience of Lisa Thomson. As says the author on her blog, the book was written “from the perspective of what I needed but couldn’t find when I started my divorce”. Her blog is: www.lisathomsonlive.com.

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I sometimes wonder how much patience is needed for a couple each other to keep their relationship healthy. Or should the couple split up if they have to put up with so many things they want for the partner?

Drink beer and get rid of it with your spouse when frustration which comes from being patient has accumulated in your mind.

Nik9009 said:

I sometimes wonder how much patience is needed for a couple each other to keep their relationship healthy. Or should the couple split up if they have to put up with so many things they want for the partner?

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