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Mid-Life Crisis or Change in Beliefs

by Kelly
(Littleton, Colorado)

Hi, My husband and I have been together for 17 years and will have been married for 15 this August, 2012. It was love at first sight when we met and we pretty much have spent ALL of our time together over all the years (which I know is not good) Although there is no question that we TRULY have loved each other, we have had a lot of problems in our marriage. One of the main problems is that I (the wife) have never really loved myself and I had a lot of depression during our relationship. He was really there for me and I abandoned him emotionally because I wasn't happy myself. Also, our life has been very stressful because my husband does not like to live a "normal" life. He has always felt like the black sheep in his family, he fights against "the man" or what he believes to be "societies rules" for doing things. He could never handle an 8 to 5 job, so he has been an entrepreneur, trying to start businesses, but so far, hasn't succeeded. One reason is he can be lazy and doesn't put in the time necessary!! We moved a lot in our first ten years of marriage so I've never felt like I've had a home, and now we have been living in an unfinished house for the past 5 years because we completely gutted it and then ran out of money! I haven't had an actual kitchen or anything. I have tried to be patient but it's really hard. Whenever I complain, he tells me that I'm not being grateful for what I DO have and I just focus on the negative. Most of the time I am grateful for my life....but I haven't felt like my husband has truly understood or cared about my needs. Like the need to have a home. Anyway, back to my point. We have had miserable fights because of all of the stress that we live with. Money is tight, we were also together 24/7, in an open, unfinished basement, working together, trying to get businesses off the ground. Just too much stress. More than anyone could probably handle.

We got into a very bad cycle of fighting every day. Just bickering over one thing or another and we couldn't seem to stop. Now, my husband says he no longer wants to be married or be in a committed relationship. His words are also that he "doesn't want to be BEHOLDEN to anyone". He just wants to take care of himself and doesn't want anyone else's bad moods to be able to control his life. He wants to be in complete control of it. He also doesn't believe in monogamy anymore. He thinks that society limits people and that you should be able to love more than one person. He wants to go live his life, have fun, have no responsibilities, have female friends that are just friends that he has fun with and maybe some female friends that he enjoys sleeping with. He just wants to be independent and not have anybody telling him what to do. He says that he feels like he was under his Mom's control for the first 20 years of his life, and then he moved on to being under a wife's control and he just wants to control his OWN life. He has always had a large circle of friends, from way back in elementary school and I was always jealous of how he seemed to treat his friends better than he would treat me. He would do sweet things for me and we can talk about anything and everything together. He snuggled with me a lot more than my friends husbands would. And actually most of my friends say they never snuggled with there husbands. He was always very considerate and loving towards me, but he was also lazy and would stay up late at night and sleep in late every day. He thought maybe he had ADD. I felt like he wasn't responsible and didn't help me out with things around the house the way a husband should. I was also very co-dependent on him, which I now see. I've never truly loved myself like I should and I never had a lot of girlfriends. I just dated one guy after another. My husband was EVERYTHING to me and I know that I suffocated him. But he also was always spending his time with me TOO.
I want to go to therapy and become a stronger, more independent person, but I want to work on myself while still staying married to him. But he refuses to stay married. We still live together but he set up a bed in one of the "rooms" in the basement.
I want him to go to therapy but he refuses. He believes that he knows what he wants and there is no changing his mind. We run a service business together and business has slowed down a lot lately and we are trying to improve it. He knows that I hate to sleep alone and he has offered to sleep with me in my bed 2 or 3 nights a week, but he still wants his own space and independence and wants to do whatever he wants, which includes dating other women should he chose to do so. I know that it probably sounds crazy for me to stay with him, but I love him very much and I have created a life with him and it is NOT easy for me to just throw that all away.
NOW...he went and got some office space so he isn't working from home. Which is what I wanted him to do for the longest time because it wasn't healthy for us to be together ALL the time. I wish that he would have just separated for a month or two to gain some perspective, before just saying divorce. Although he says he gave me lots of opportunities to get better (from my depression) and I kept letting him down and so the whole divorce thing was not just a spur of the moment thing. Anyway, he is very stubborn and I really don't think that he is going to change his mind about not wanting to be married anymore or in a committed relationship. But I don't know. Have you heard men say that and change there mind?? My husband says that even if our marriage had been perfect that he would probably still feel this way because he grew and changed and isn't the same person he used to be. He says that what he wants in life is not what I want. He doesn't even believe that a spouse should be on any "higher" of a level than friends. That we can have a lot of people in our lives that we love for different reasons and why does one person have to mean more to you than another. But I believe that a husband or wife SHOULD mean more. They are there for you every day and they are the ones, when everyone else is too busy to care, that are there for you no matter what. I wash his clothes and make him food and take care of our dogs (we don't have any kids), and clean his house and pay our bills and help with our businesses, etc... YES, I want to be thought of as more important to him than one of his friends that he occasionally hangs out with. I don't know why I need that validation or declaration of his love. I just DO! Anyway, I'm trying to decide if maybe he is just going through a mid-life crisis, or if he really has just changed and doesn't believe in monogamy and I just need to move on with my life. My plan of action right now since we have no choice but to live together is to just focus on myself (seek therapy) and try not to have any arguments with him. He began to associate being with me as painful and full of drama and so I am trying to just be happy when we are together and not bring up any negatives right now. I want to try and go a month or two without any drama and fighting and just be a friend to him and see if anything changes. But I think that I might just be delaying the inevitable. My Mom says that as long as I stay here, he will not know whether he misses me or not. And I get that. But I also want him to see, before moving, if that is what it comes down to, that we actually CAN get along and have FUN together and see if that changes his perspective at all. My husband says he still loves me and will always love me but that love isn't always enough and we want different things. We even tried "swinging" before and that is something that as two consenting adults, I didn't have a problem with. So, he could have a home with me, and still get to occasionally sleep with other women, but that's not even good enough for him!!! He wants total and absolute freedom. I just don't know what to do. I am 41 years old and I don't want to start my life OVER. I guess I'm wondering if you think my husband is just going through a MLC and just needs some separation from me for a while, or is my life with him over and I need to move on??

Noel's response

I agree with your plan to get therapy. I would make that the number one priority.
He may well be going through a midlife transition, as wanting to be independent and not be responsible for anyone else is a common symptom.
Regarding his wanting to have sex with other women, and with you as well, it is your decision whether you are willing to put up with that. You don't like sleeping alone, but sleeping with him, when he wants to also have sex with other women puts you between a rock and a hard place. Choose the situation that feels most 'right' to you, as both decisions have consequences you don't like.
I agree that married partners should be seen as more important to each other than other friends. Marriage is a challenging and rewarding sacred commitment. It is a crucible in which two people are faced with their own shadows as well as their gold.
If he won't or can't (because of finances) move out, as you wish he would so he can get a more clear perception of things, you might try treating him as a room mate - i.e. the two of you share a house, but not a bed. You are each responsible for splitting financial commitments (mortgage payments, utilities, etc.), and your own food preparation, laundry, etc.
This may give him a bit of a look at what single life would be like.

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