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Married Young and For All the Wrong Reasons

I received a comment this week on my very popular Should I Stay Married for the Kids? post.

I think it's an important one, so I am replying to it in this blog post. If you have kids and are considering divorce or do not currently enjoy being married, I hope you will read the whole thing.

It's from someone who gets what it means to kids when parents divorce but must make a difficult choice to stay or go. He begins:

Most of the advice I see on the topic of stay or go boils down to "There was love, love is gone (perhaps now replaced with evils of resentment and all its displays), do I leave or do I stay?" In fact, science even has statistics that help make this choice easier: if your fights are loud, violent, and frequently in front of the kids, and anger management doesn't help, divorce is a BETTER option for the kids. If you can keep the kids near-oblivious to your situation, staying together is in long term better for the kids. In fact, happily married parents did not necessarily raise happy kids, so your happiness means very little for kids, as long as they have the both of you, and no clear fighting and violent unhappiness. The absolutely BEST advice I've ever received on repairing a marriage is "you cannot get your marriage back - it wasn't working to begin with if you got here, but if you remember how you once loved each other and wanted to be together, you can find the desire to build something new together, something that works." I agree with that statement VERY MUCH!

Generalities never describe our own situations perfectly, and the kids we're all concerned about are always our own. And by the time we're trying to figure out what's good for them, we're usually in over our heads, frantic for a solution to our own problems. I have an awful lot of empathy for him as he deals with whether to end the marriage or stay.

He continues with words surely familiar to many:

But what does one do in an odd situation when two people were married young and for all the wrong reasons? My wife and I have very passive aggressive fights - no violence, no yelling that kids can hear (VERY rarely anyway), no thrown objects. We're just ridiculously incompatible. Never have been. VERY wrong for each other. It's not that I resent her now, it's that given another pass, I'd never marry her in the first place, nor she me, and I'm fine with that.

In my observation, one does not need to marry young to marry for all the wrong reasons. In Western culture, at any age, we may marry because we're crazy in love and can't imagine the obvious differences between us ever getting in the way, and then they do. We marry for someone to live with other than the parents or spouse we're currently living with, and then we discover it's no easier living with the new person. We marry because we are so flattered to be asked by someone with such fame, money, or respect, and then they lose it or aren't so happy sharing it. We marry because it's the only way to get the sex we want or because it's the only decent thing to do after the sex we wanted leads to the pregnancy we didn't, and now the sex is a good bit less exciting.

We each get to this place of feeling "I would be happier elsewhere" in our own way. And it always feels unique, because it is.

However, we seldom get there overnight. I am writing this to anyone who might be putting up with what they don't like or checking out of the marriage into a career or hobby because they don't know what else to do.

He writes (and I am omitting his name because he really could be any of us who have ever considered divorce):

Her core passion is comfort - she loves a state of minimum activity, so long as everything is in-place. I am an adventure seeker, to whom a chaotic turn of events is just another adventure to adapt to. She's ultra-punctual, and I'm not. She doesn't love through touch, and I cannot live without touch - it's a 12 for me (5 love languages reference). Kisses are awkward, sex is virtually non-existent (1/month on average, but as rare as once every 3-4 months happens).

Oh, wow. I could write a month-long series of blog posts on ways to thrive with such differences. Maybe I will. But not today, because unless we get him back from the ledge, they won't be helpful to our commenter.

We recently escalated things to the point of discussing divorce. She wanted to leave. At first I had every intention to save the marriage, then I realized that it cannot be saved since there was never love. And as different as we are, building anything new would be hard. I have a life list mile long of things I want to do with my life, she wouldn't come up with 1-2 things we could enjoy doing together.

"Building anything new would be hard." No question. Once it's gotten to this point, building is always harder than leaving. It's like being 275 pounds overweight, knowing it's reducing your life expectancy and doubling or tripling your chances of being disabled, and staring at a plate of brownies. It's hard, really hard. It takes time, and the brownies are always there. No one can answer for him or any of us whether it's worth doing.

Only three things seem to make rebuilding a marriage worth doing for most people: money, God, or kids.

All would be simple without kids, but we have 2 amazing boys: 6 & 4. They love each one of us very much and we love them back. In different ways, but with our full hearts.

Oops. It will be at least 2028 before those two are both old enough to go their own way. Until then, at least one of them will be dependent on and dealing with both mom and dad. They will be trying to keep mom comfortable and dad convinced they love his adventures. And they will be listening to ultra-punctual mom seething every time dad is late to pick them up.

Kids are a good reason to do the work. Not just to stay married, but to find a way to really love those kids' other parent, as they do.

The last straw was the fact that I never knew love before this marriage, and thought that it's a myth, or something that I can create, fake, live with a "cup half full",

Just pausing here to get the attention of anyone not yet married who might be thinking the same thing.

but in my search to fix the marriage, I discovered a lot of materials on fixing my own confidence, my own world views, my understanding of male/female roles in a relationship, female psychology, sexual/seduction approaches that got me attention from the opposite gender that I never dreamed of having.

My first thought was family-bound: how do I seduce my wife? How do I get her attracted to me? And I managed it... a little bit anyway. Our sex life got better, things go a little bit smoother... but it required a LOOOOT of work, and I didn't like who I became doing it. I was basically someone else. I felt she was attracted to what I did, not to who I was. I realized even more strongly she felt no acceptance towards the real me, she didn't want the real me.

I'll bet this is familiar to a lot of readers, too. Maybe you did not improve your seduction skills. Maybe you became a vegan or took cooking classes or got fit and when things got better in your marriage felt your spouse was attracted to what you did, not who you are. Ouch!

In my psychology research I found a type of woman that matches me far more, and accidentally one day ran into a woman of just that type... in fact, not only her type was a match, but everything from her Briggs-Myers personality to our life interests. She also had a life list, and it was similar to mine. This woman inspired me and was inspired by me. I took 2 weeks away from family life to get a perspective and spent them with this woman. I should probably feel guilty, but I do not. I didn't cheat, I just wanted to research what I was missing.

Note to anyone else whose marriage is going downhill: change your definition of cheating. When you research what's missing, it's like pouring hot fudge and whipped cream over those brownies you're staring at as you decide whether you can find the will to lose those 275 pounds. You are cheating yourself, your kids, and your spouse.

Our conversations were amazing, way she put her hands on me felt incredible, even in the most unsexual of her intentions, it sent electricity down my whole body. Our life goals are identical, she thinks my sweat smells sweet. What does that even mean?!!! I'm still baffled by that phrase! It sounds so incredible. I think I flew up a little when she just took my hand and told me "I'm so happy right now". We ended up kissing, and her kiss feels like heaven, no less. I feel through touch, and the way she feels I've never felt before with any of my ex's (and I'm not the most experience-deprived man in the physical department).

Our reader is quite smitten. It's like taking the first brownie from that platter. Making the choice to lose the weight is now much, much harder than it was before. So, note to anyone else, move yourself away from the brownies until you've made your decision.

The truth about affairs (even affairs where you carefully refrain from actual intercourse) is that they mislead you into focusing entirely on the brownies. When you're craving them (or researching them), they are wonderful, but you forget how unexciting they are when you're in the mood for crab cakes or tomato soup. And you forget how awful it feels to shop for clothes after eating a lot of them and how much you long to run beside your kid the first time they fly a kite.

If you're looking for love, and you're married, an affair is going to make it harder and riskier to find it.

Before you go to criticize... I sat down with my wife and tried to work out a way to fix our marriage and she completely refused, that happened before I met the new girl. I told the new girl that I am married and have kids and probably will get divorced. So no one had been lied to.

I am not criticizing. I am empathizing. I know how painful it is to decide whether to leave your spouse and whether to put your kids through divorce.

However, I am not going to agree that he told either of them the truth. He is half in and half out, and it's a really, really awful place to be. But until he makes his decision to work on the marriage (without his wife's cooperation if necessary) or end it, he is leading both of them on. And he's making either choice harder to make.

Cheated on? I don't know... lately my wife has once again expressed an interest to try to work on our marriage, but her idea of "us working" is "me changing myself", and her enjoying the benefits of me becoming more like what she wants me to be.

If you've read much of Assume Love, you know I think she's in an awful place. She believes the only way to improve her marriage is to get him to change. I am sure she gives lip service to needing to make some changes herself, because "it takes two." That's the myth.

But I have seen quite a few marriages on the brink of divorce become loving again without either spouse getting the changes in their spouse that they expect would make them happy. How? By making changing the way they participate in the marriage until they enjoy being married. Other people find it a whole lot easier to be married to someone who enjoys being married.

We've been together for 7 VERY LONG years. Most of those were spent in fighting, unhappy, just committed to raising kids, and content that there's nothing better out there - this is my life, and I must live it. Plus some legal things until recently made our divorce impossible. But those things are about to pass and won't stop us anymore. AND I SO WANT FOR MY KIDS TO BE HAPPY!!!!!!! But are fighting and violence really the only two things that decide if they'll be happy or not?! No, they're not exposed to those... but will they grow up to be happy men?!

Many things determine how happy they will be, and we have no control over a lot of them. Right now, all he has control over is whether he's all in for building a new and different life with their mother or not. And it cannot be easy to even consider choosing that when he has a fantasy future with someone whose life goals, touches, and kisses thrill him to contrast it with.

Would they not be better off seeing their dad love to the fullest and be loved by someone? Would they not be better off with a model of what acceptance and wanting look like?

Absolutely. If he can give them any part of this, he should. But he's not headed in that direction.

I respect their mother, we're very unlikely to have any sort of custody battles..... uncomfortable meetings in the future? maybe, maybe not... or maybe she'll meet someone she can fall in love with too and she'll be happy?! I would really like that for her. She admits she never loved me, and she also says she's loved before, and knows what that feels like for her, and that she doesn't feel it with me (never has). Given that a future full of love is really possible for each of us separately, SHOULD WE REALLY STAY TOGETHER JUST FOR THE KIDS WITH 99% OF NEVER BEING LOVED BY ONE ANOTHER?

In my opinion (since I am not one of those who believe we make our marriage vows to God rather than to fallible humans like ourselves), absolutely not.

I would not tackle the very difficult task of rebuilding a marriage if I thought the chances of success were just 1%. I would leave and do what I could to minimize the effects on the boys of living apart from their other parent.

But, as most reading this know, I don't believe a non-violent couple has such a small chance at rebuilding. With a few new skills, I think it's a better than 50-50 bet he can do it.

This is a lot higher than the percentage of people who actually marry and stay married to the person they fell in love with before their divorces. It's not only his wife who may not find a happy marriage after the divorce.

I would caution his to be sure he chooses divorce for the kids whether or not he finds a loving partner for himself.

Please understand that I would never ask if I wasn't willing to bite the bullet and just stay. But I hope someone out there with more worldly wisdom can offer another point of view or words of experience, or just words of support. My heart is breaking... to know love, to know it's SOOOO CLOSE, and to possibly never be able to love or be loved in a way I was meant to be. I made a mistake marrying the wrong woman and making children with her. But now that they are here, it's not just about me anymore. I want what's best for all 4 of us. I want my wife to find love too, just not at the cost of raising heartbroken kids. Do kids really suffer if their divorced parents do not badmouth each other? respect each other? speak kindly of each other? Just live with a new partner...

Many don't. But some do. All live their lives very differently, either living two completely different lives in different places (unless Mom and Dad swap homes every week) or living with a single parent and being a visitor with their other parent. All live their lives loving two parents, increasingly different in goals and values and interests, who no longer make any attempt to develop ways to bridge them.

And I'm still young. I could have more kids, the new girl is amazing, and thinks the world of my kids. So it's not like they'd have an evil stepmom. Instead they'd gain an adventurous beautiful stepmom who grabs the life by its horns, and lives it to the fullest, she and I together could teach my kids to live without fear of failure, to go start a business, to go learn to dance ballroom, to go fly a paraglider off a mountain... these are things I'm afraid they'll miss out on (most of them anyway) in the company of their present parents staying together. PLEASE HELP! ANY ADVICE IS APPRECIATED!

His children will still have the same two parents they have now. He can do these things with them now, just not with his wife.

Do not mistake what you need for what your kids need.

His kids will almost certainly not be happy about sharing him with her when they do these exciting new things. They will not likely be happy being the stepkids who show up in their half-siblings' full-time home for a few days a week.

And the civil relationship he has with their mother will be affected by the perception that their stepmother is the reason her kids are now doing things that scare the bejeebers out of her. It will also be affected by whatever reason there might be for this other woman already knowing his kids well enough to think the world of them.

I am aching for the author of this comment. Either direction he goes in now will be a huge risk for him and an unknown risk for his kids.

Had I heard from him before the research project put that a huge platter of brownies in front of a person in dire need of a big change, this is what I would have advised him to do.

Do everything you would do after a divorce, except break your vows. Take a ballroom dance class without your wife. Take your six year old to one for kids, too. Try paragliding, and make your wife as comfortable as possible by taking out an insurance policy that covers your boys' futures against paragliding accidents. Take your boys skiing. Join an adventure club. And come home from each of your adventures with some way for your wife to enjoy where you've been in the comfort of her living room.

Had I met him before he had the kids, I would have suggested a condom until the wrong reasons for marrying were just a funny story about the start of the great relationship they built by loving and being wide open to being loved.

And if he's no longer willing to fall in love with his sons' mother, this is what I would suggest.

Keep them and your new love apart and use two methods of birth control with her until your divorce is final and you have had a real chance to learn who she is outside of an affair. Do not let them fall in love with her or even learn to look forward to seeing her while there is such a big chance of another painful separation they have no say in.

But I am secretly hoping the new gal does something to break his heart and give him one more chance with their mother, because no one should have to choose between risking everything on the brownies (or even trying to continue to stay put and resist all brownies) and getting healthy by losing the weight.

Comments

I'm not quite sure where to start with this. I, too, married very young, and by some people's account, for all the wrong reasons. We were 17 & 19, and our oldest son was born on our 1st anniversary, our 2nd, 2 1/2 yrs. later. It is now almost 33 yrs. later, and we are still married, quite happily. I joke that the only things we have in common are kids and sex! Honestly, we are VERY different from one another. While reading this post, it was almost like someone had been spying on us. (Emotional adultery not withstanding. Yes, that is at least, what I think he engaged in.) I believe that love is a choice. Every day. At our cores, hubby and I are still the same people that we were on the day we wed. Of course, time and life experiences have shaped us, but we are fundamentally the same. Like most couples, opposites attracted. It seems that over time those differences begin to grate on us. By the grace of God, we figured it out as we went along, and at some point stopped viewing the differences as liabilities. Yes, our Christian world-view very much shapes our view of marriage, and the commitment we made to each other and God. Though the "D" word was mentioned more than once, it has never really been an option. Fortunately, we never both felt that way at the same time! I truly believe that this is why the God of the Bible prohibits pre-marital sex. (Having said that, know that we did engage in it.) Once we engage in sex with someone, a part of us is joined to that person, and even if they are not a good match for us, it is difficult to break the relationship. If you love someone enough to have sex with them, you should love them enough to marry them, in my opinion, and if you don't, then don't even start down that path. If you have, and it's not quite what you expected, take some serious inventory, and see what you might be doing to pollute the relationship. Religious convictions aside, I'm totally with Patty N. on this one. I, too, hope that the new woman totally shatters his illusions, and that he renews his effort with his wife.

Patty, thank you for sharing the view from the other side of deciding to stick around. I think you will help lots of people dropping by this blog post.

Patty, I do not know you, but I feel your care and your wisdom is very telling. Your passion, empathy, and willingness to help already tell me enough to "think the world of you." Funny how you don't always need to know everything about the person, so long as you know the important things to look for and see them. I appreciate you protecting my name, but I'd rather get to a deeper level of understanding of it, so here I am, coming out, saying "this is me, everyone" ;-) and I'd like to comment on your beautiful response. I will do it two-fold and ask in advance your forgiveness and that of your readers, if I may get lengthy with the second one. I am an EFTP (Briggs-Myers), this means that I am a Feeler, and unlikely to be concise. I am an Extrovert, so opinions of others are welcome and I like feedback, and I am a student of life with far more questions than answers, which means that I introspect regularly, and perhaps understand my situation in a lot more shades of "in-between" than just rushing to simple conclusions based on absolutes. Right now, I don't like what the absolutes are saying, but I've learned long ago that they matter very little, and it's the fine details that need some looking in.
A tiny side note. You bring up the topic of God a few times, and I respect that this may be a motivation for some. I dearly appreciate your not making assumptions. After all, from what you know, I could be practicing or not, or one of many kinds of Christian, or Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Atheist, Muslim, or any other persuasion, and God may or may not be a driving force. Thank you for focusing on marriage and parenting and not on religion. Far too many advice givers have a one track mind, and that track is faith. I respect that it works for them. I need a different set of tools to solve my problems at this time.

Part one:
I will violate Lewis Carrol's golden advice for writing letters, that one should start in the beginning, and will start in the end.

Your recommendation was, and I quote: "Do everything you would do after a divorce, except break your vows. Take a ballroom dance class without your wife. Take your six year old to one for kids, too. Try paragliding, and make your wife as comfortable as possible by taking out an insurance policy that covers your boys' futures against paragliding accidents. Take your boys skiing. Join an adventure club. And come home from each of your adventures with some way for your wife to enjoy where you've been in the comfort of her living room."

In order you listed: I did (except what I didn't). I took courses on relationship psychology and seduction, went to several socials and started conversations with random women, just to feel interesting and desired again. No ballroom for me, but I did take tango... for 7 months now! Number of times my wife went with me (I asked many times) - zero. My kids are too young to dance, nor is it really their thing, but they like other things - we go to bookstores, children's museum, I have piano classes with the oldest, and we practice math together. Little one loves pretend play, and I make sure to spend a lot of time with him on LEGO and puzzles, materializing his fantasies and playing in them with him, teaching him about the universe and the world he lives in. We read books together. I am a paragliding pilot. Nope, not kidding! Didn't just do it once, I own the gear and do it when I can. The only time my wife went to see it or participated was my first flight, and only because I begged her to videotape it for me and I wanted kids to see it too. At fly-ins the other pilots come with tents and trailers, wives in tow - some fly, some do not, all supportive, cooking out, swapping jokes... I've to make up excuses why my wife isn't with me, feeling like I'm abandoning her alone at home with kids, while I'm here flying, all while I really wanted her and the kids to be here with me. My life insurance is fine. More than enough to cover the house and all the outstanding debts. She will be provided for should anything happen to me. Don't need to join an adventure club, I feel I can start one. This holiday season I finally said "enough is enough" that I need to live for myself too, and did DisneyWorld Epcot, NASA@Cape Canaveral, Dali Museum & Titanic Exhibit @ St. Petersburg, Miami, danced Salsa in South Beach, ate omelette on the beach and went skinny dipping in the ocean right before the sunset, 22+ hour drive to NYC, New Year in Times Square, Empire State Building, saw "Phantom" on Broadway, ate a pair of hot dogs at Grey's Papaya, danced tango at a real New York Milonga. Certain I'm leaving out at least as much... it was a lot. Kids were at my parents and where was my wife? At home.. alone. Could have gone anywhere she wanted too. Could have put her foot down and said "I want to go with you." - would have said yes. True, I might be "smitten" as you say, but it's with an opportunity to live my life while I'm still young and not die full of regrets.

You added "Had I met him before he had the kids, I would have suggested a condom until the wrong reasons for marrying were just a funny story about the start of the great relationship they built by loving and being wide open to being loved."

I would have. I wasn't trying to make the kids. She didn't want them at the time either. But she was convinced she was infertile because she'd been having unprotected sex for years with a couple of partners and never got pregnant, so she assumed she was not capable. She is a VERY honest person, and I believed her. To this day I know she wasn't lying, she just didn't know better. For the first 6-8 months nothing really did happen. Until it did. But accidents can lead to great families if people find a way to grow together. I didn't know a LOT about myself and what I thought I knew about her, was not at all what I should have been looking at - we WERE young. And this is what bothers me about a lot of marital repair advice. It assumes that people are basically the same throughout their whole life. But they're not. The aspects of your personality that really are a constant and do not change can be suppressed, and you do not have to be true to yourself. Many people are not and suffer as a result. While they are not being true to themselves they will seem as someone else and when they will discover who they really are, that real person inside may look like a complete stranger to their partner who thought they were getting someone else.
Given enough years of growing apart, you become such strangers and so distant that it would be akin placing you in a room of strangers of the opposite gender, and saying - anyone here at random is your next partner. You must love them and have sex with them. Ok, if they're physically appealing, the second part may be easier for most (and easier for men than for women), but you wouldn't just go home with anyone and try to make it work. We accept as a given that while all new projects require some work, some partnerships require SO MUCH hard work that they will never get done, leaving everyone very frustrated.... All this theory is fine, but there are kids involved. And now it becomes an ultimatum: make it work with this stranger here, or I will throw your kids off of an emotional cliff into an abyss of the unhappy unknown. You sweat, you do something, you may even give in and try to make things work, but it does not come from the place of a desire for the other person, it feels forced, coerced, and unnatural. A state of perpetual incongruence - a terrible state to build a relationship of acceptance, wanting, respect, and trust.
How do I discover a place (a mindset) to make it work for me AND the kids? An easy choice, and you fell, sorry to say, into this trap in your answer as well, is to say "remember the good times and go back to that feeling and start there." You choose slightly different words, but say essentially the same: "I don't believe a non-violent couple has such a small chance at rebuilding" (keyword: REbuilding). We never had something that worked, we don't need to RE-build, we need TO build, and blueprints are missing, we don't know what TO build). You said "...quite a few marriages on the brink of divorce become loving again..." (keyword: again). I do not know what "loving" looks like or feels like with this woman. She would let me talk for 5-10 minutes, and when I finally think that I actually mannaged to get through, and explain my point of view, she says "I'm falling asleep, you lost me 10 minutes ago." She didn't care, she doesn't agree, she doesn't want to see things my way (not necessarily accept my way, but to allow me to have my own perspective and respect that it may be a different world view than hers). I've been long simplified, classified, boxed, and predicted by her, and my passionate speeches about feelings bore her. More than that, they push her away. Talking through things is not her solution. So I learned (albeit not well, I still fall into the trap of having feelings from time to time) to not talk with her about how I feel, to not feel anything, to just take things as they are and be happy for every neutral day when things are just ok and there are no fights and no arguments and we might even give each other a hug at the end of the day. Today started like that. It was very nice. She was nice to me, I was nice to her. In the evening we watched a movie, talked about how we see the world (BIG OOOPS! I should have known better) - she belittled and "classified" me again, did the "you talk for 5 minutes, then I'll stop you, tell you that I'm bored and didn't hear a thing you just said" thing again, and we ended up sleeping in different rooms, every ounce of my being wanting to leave right there and then, and only the love for my children making me not act on these feelings.

Patty, the commenter:

Thank you for your insight. How I wish I could see a vision of that future for us. It would make life much simple. Your hubby might be different from you, but probably not so much so if you both found your faith in common, if you both found an emotional connection in each other, enough to last for 33 years. I wish you another 33 and then some - love and happiness and health and joy to you!

Few comments: I agree with your term "emotional adultery". Broke my heart to admit it to myself before, but I did, and I admitted it to my wife that I searched for emotional outlets... what shocked me was her response. She was OK with it. So long as there was nothing physical - talk to whomever you want about whatever topics. You talk about the "D" word never being an option, and it never was for me... until my wife said I want a divorce, and refused to work on the marriage with me, refused any ideas I put forth about how we might improve it (my ideas did not start with "you change...", though one or two did start with "would you read this with me, or go to a therapist with me?")

"If you love someone enough to have sex with them, you should love them enough to marry them" - TO LOVE is a verb... to love means to do loving actions. Sex is sex... it doesn't require love, it requires attraction and occasionally lower sense of morality. I've never been one for one night stands, but I'm pretty sure that the newly-met couple going home with one each other at the end of a night in a club are not in "love". But I couldn't agree with you more that marriage MUST begin with love. Mine began with a business agreement and a contract of sorts. "wrong reasons" means different things to different people, but I knowingly picked someone who didn't love me because I thought she'd be a good partner to do things in life with me anyway, and I knew myself. I knew I could be so nice and open and loving that she'd HAVE TO love me - how arrogant it sounds now. :-( Back then it made sense. In the end, she doesn't want to do any of the things I want to do in life with me, or 1% of them at best (more subtle and calm ones anyway), and what she needs as a woman, what turns her on, what she responds to very powerfully is a personality VERY different from mine. So the things I thought I did that were loving actually caused her to resent me. Instead of talking, I should have shut up; instead of motivating and trying to get her to do things with me or even by herself, I should have left her alone; instead of investing emotionally and trying to be an equal partner, I was supposed to be a cold, hard, dominant, unemotional guy. Then I'd be perfect for her. I don't say this with resentment or with anger. These are facts. When I understood female psychology and relationship psychology, and seduction, I understood what she needs as a woman of her specific archetype and personality. I started being that way, faking it... it worked! It got her to have sex with me again, and it was better than ever. It got her to start smiling around me and doing nice things for me. It also got me to hate my new self. I couldn't say what was on my mind. I had to keep all my emotions bottled up. I had to put in a LOT of VERY hard work to become a person I disliked. And it wasn't at all like the losing weight analogy. I know a thing or two about that analogy too, and you LIKE your new self. I didn't. As soon as I'd try to talk - we'd have fights. As soon as I tried to imply we need to be partners in some things, instead of me being a guy who just takes care of everything, she'd roll her eyes and leave the room. Same response to asking "what would you like to do together" (and I only ask because she doesn't like my ideas). I'm sorry, but sitting in front of a TV, drinking beers or going to a local pub and drinking beers, EVERY SINGLE TIME is not my idea of fun. This is when I started finding those emotional outlets. They were conversations about anything. I never lead anyone on, always said I'm married. Just friendly chats. Until I met the girl who was above and beyond different. Indescribably different than anyone I'd ever talked to. She was like me, convinced there's no love. She had such quirky personality that her family and friends convinced her that it's HER - she has issues, she needs to change, she's not normal, she'll never be loved. But she wasn't convinced. She knew she's different and someone who matches her just like she deserves is out there. I wish I was as strong as she is to have the patience when I got married, and to have said to myself - NOT UNTIL I'M SURE THE PERSON IS RIGHT! She is strong, I wasn't. I fully realize that if I have any chance of allowing my marriage to survive, that this girl must be gone from my life. I'm just not convinced, given the STARK contrast between the two women, and how I feel with both, that I can ever make this marriage work or that it's even worth it. What I really need is to find a place in my mind out of which I could operate that wouldn't feel (read above in prior post) like I'm having my arm twisted to do it. My life feels like a do or die ultimatum right now, and not like a passionate enjoyable song worth singing.

Patty N (the author),

I promised 2 parts. Forgive me for being so lengthy, I just have so much conflict on my mind, and at any given point either side is winning and each wants to be heard. :-(

Part Two:
May Lewis Carroll forgive me, I will end in the beginning. I felt there were a few of your snippets that really wanted a reply and a perspective. Please entertain my point of view, faulty as it may possibly be.

I like your ongoing brownie analogy. I lost 65 pounds last year. I know very well the feelings and anguish of the food analogy. Wish the relationships came with such clear pros and cons as eating processed foods rich in fast carbs. My wife is a vegan, and I am now in a FAR better shape than I once was and while not vegan, still very health conscious.

>> Oh, wow. I could write a month-long series of blog posts on ways to thrive with such differences.

I wish you would. I'd wait for it and read it. Because it's hard to imagine thriving with a person who wants you to shut up, fit in a nice little categorized box, stay home, drink a beer, refuses to touch, and feels claustrophobic when touched "too much." Common hobbies - 0. Common businesses - 3 tried & abandoned. Common reading list: Facebook posts of mutual friends. She won't read what interests me, and I find little stimulating conversation on the pages of USWeekly and People.

I say this without a tenth of an ounce of irony. PLEASE TEACH ME HOW TO THRIVE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT! It would help my kids, and it would help me.

>> It's like being 275 pounds overweight, ... and staring at a plate of brownies. It's hard, really hard.

NO KIDDING! But as someone said "Nothing tastes as good as looking and feeling good feels." I knew the goal. I knew the alternative. It was an easy choice. Harder to implement, but an easy choice to make. In fact I had a plan - I ate nothing but repeatable basics 6 days a week, and had a "binge day" with any foods I craved through the week. Donuts and ice cream allowed. It was quite a circus, seeing the faces of the people at Cold Stone, when I would tell them while ordering a large size ice cream that I'm on a diet and this is a part of it. :-) But 65 pounds is 65 pounds. So something I did worked! I tried to implement the same idea with the marriage: binge days. Give me a day of more touching, more attention, a date night where we must go out, unless we BOTH want to stay in. Let's do ONE hobby together, and since she didn't like my ideas, I said "ANYTHING! Name it, we'll do it together." I'm still waiting to hear her answer 6 months later.

>> change your definition of cheating. When you research what's missing, it's like pouring hot fudge...

Certainly can see your point. Though I wasn't researching what's missing. It was more of a research if perhaps I was asking for too much. Maybe it's me, maybe I need to just give up, bend my will and do everything my wife wants. I realized that's not only not the case, but that I'd never be happy that way. So now it's a choice between "kids grow up in a solid home with unhappy parents", "kids grow up in divorce, and at least one parent, or maybe both, are true to themselves, happy", or "find a functional mindset to build a functional marriage".

>> You are cheating yourself, your kids, and your spouse.

I cheat by finding emotional outlets elsewhere ("emotional adultery," as Patty the commenter called it), she cheats by withholding emotions and constantly engaging in dominant power plays, by not finding a passion, by robbing our family of excitement and sense of togetherness. If I may allow ONE bitter comment... before she said the "D" word - this was HOME. Right or wrong, broken or functional, it wasn't "my first marriage", it was "my marriage". Had a sense of ideal about it even at its worst. What can I say, unlike her, I am VERY family oriented. But it's gone now. I can't help but to think of us as "A marriage", not "THE marriage" and her as "a woman," not "my woman." And I hate this feeling. And I'm not sure I ever forgave her for letting me lose my feeling of home and belonging.

>> quite smitten. It's like taking the first brownie from that platter.

Brownies are a bit too predictable. Though I agree, first bite is a killer of any sort of self-discipline or routine. May I offer a different analogy? It's like trying a piece of new exercise gear and going "OH WOW! IT'S AMAZING! TOTALLY FOR ME! THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD DO!" And it may end up something that will collect dust in the middle of the living room or closet, or may be the wrongest piece of gear for me long-term, or maybe it's really perfect, but it will drain my budget of the money I do not have. And say that it requires me to stop my current routine. Do I stick to what I have, even though it's super hard and may long term fall apart and prove ineffective and a waste of time? Do I try to new perfect machine, which will still require hard work, but the work will be enjoyable? Do I get the long term benefit of weight-loss or avoid the short term danger of going bankrupt?! Biting off a brownie is definitely a long term negative. Here - there are no clear answers. At the end of the day it's MY choice, and all the consequence of it will be on MY head. :-( Who wants to get in line to be responsible for ruining their children's chances at happiness?! I sure don't want that responsibility.


>> quite a few marriages on the brink of divorce become loving again

how do you become "loving" with someone who's worlds apart with you without the "again" part?

>> Absolutely. If he can give them any part of this, he should. But he's not headed in that direction.

Please explain? On one hand I have a woman who has NEVER wanted or accepted me, and is now making me fight hard just to stay with her. On the other, I have a woman who thinks my sweat smells sweet and finishes my sentences, thinking the same way I do, seeing the world as I do or better.

>> I don't believe a non-violent couple has such a small chance at rebuilding. With a few new skills, I think it's a better than 50-50 bet he can do it.

I am honestly ALL EARS. I need new skills and new tools. How do I succeed at making it work?

>> I would caution him to be sure he chooses divorce for the kids whether or not he finds a loving partner for himself. ... Do not mistake what you need for what your kids need.

VERY WISE WORDS! I re-read this several times.

>> And if he's no longer willing to fall in love with his sons' mother

I'm willing. How do I get started?

And yes, the second woman is nowhere near my kids now. A different city altogether for a while. I would not think of getting into any sort of commitment with anyone until I was fully divorced.

Patty, thank you once more for your empathy and time and support. Your words aren't always what I wanted to hear, but they are always well received, and I appreciate them even more when they offer a varying point of view, so that I can gain a perspective and do the absolutely best thing that I can muster in this unenviable situation.

Gregory, thank you so much for your detailed response. And congratulations on going ahead with the life you need in spite of not getting an enthusiastic reception from your wife. Many wait in misery for their spouse to "give" them the life they want.

Funny that you sense you're the only paraglider pilot with a non-supportive wife. When I'm at the airport supporting my husband's passion for flying, it seems like every man there asks me if I could talk their wife into showing up or at least being less of a buzz kill as they leave the house. I always wonder if they are as good as supporting her dreams as my husband is.

(As an aside, I find myself wondering how one gets the family to a paraglider fly-in. I am not the adventurous sort.)

IF you wanted to stick around with this woman you married, you might give some thought to how to make your homecoming from the things you enjoy doing, or the time you spend doing them, a delight for her. One friend of mine began falling in love with a wonderful man years ago. He owned a few businesses, was into galas and openings and dancing in his tuxedo, and she was thrilled. Then he announced he really likes camping in the mountains. A lot. Several times a year. She said, "I couldn't go camping. I would need a U-Haul trailer to bring along all the things I need to get dressed in the morning and feel comfortable through the day." She figured it was all over, but he showed up at her door with a U-Haul trailer and said, "Let's go!" He helped her fill it with everything she needed to feel comfortable doing what he loves.

As you have noticed, I am fine with supporting just about anyone's religious beliefs about marriage, but I don't share my own. I grinned when you spoke of "placing you in a room of strangers of the opposite gender, and saying - anyone here at random is your next partner. You must love them and have sex with them." I know a good number of Hindus and Muslims who have experienced just this, with the difference that they don't get to see all of them at once. They see one at a time and say yes or no. And within a few days, they are married and expected to fall in love and create a family. And they succeed, even when they live in the US or Canada, at pretty much the same rate as those of us who fall in love (or lust) first.

However, I do not know your wife or you. There are some people I can't imagine spending a day with, no less a lifetime. It will break your kids' hearts to divorce, but I am willing to believe there are cases when it's worth it. I just want to caution you not to put what you hope will happen with the woman who just melted your heart on the scales at all while you make this decision, because the odds are not at all good for that relationship and because it could lead to even more heartbreak for them if you guess wrong.

And I want to caution others looking at this same awful choice not to explore whether there are more exciting partners out there until after they have made the choice, because you end up weighing the first flush of excitement in a new relationship that exists in a vacuum against a well-worn relationship that exists in the reality of sharing the expense and work and uncertainty of providing a home and family for your children.

And neither is an accurate picture of what your life will be like five years from now. In fact, in a government study that questions the same sample of people every five years, they find that unhappy marriages become happy marriages 80% of the time among those who don't divorce, and personal happiness is lower, on average, five years later for the ones who divorce.

You are taking a crap shoot on your happiness as well as your children's happiness, and no one can tell you how it shake out in your case, but the odds actually favor staying married. And I know that cannot be cheering news after last night.

Maybe Hindus and Muslims can fall in love with any stranger their families select for them, but your wife is no longer a stranger. You have a book full of stories about who she is and what she thinks. As someone who was thrust back into the dating world after being widowed at 34, I got a chance to talk with lots of divorced folks who told me stories about their stick-in-the-mud spouses. The funny thing was that I often had met the people they had been married to at other events, saying the same thing about them. As you said, we all change. It's not easy to believe our spouses have, too, so we fail to ask them what's important now.

I have been in your shoes, with one foot out the door. It is so tempting to think there is someone out there who will complete us. I am really thankful I was forced (through my first husband's death) to work at completing myself before I found my second husband and thankful his sudden death made me re-examine all my stories about who he was, so I won't make that mistake again or rob my son and grandchildren of the joy of hearing what a wonderful man he was.

I don't think it's possible to succeed at staying for the sake of the kids without doing everything you can to shake your old stories about their mother and pay more attention to her strengths than your differences. I don't think it's possible to succeed without responding to what feels like belittling with curiosity, wondering why she suddenly needs to feel bigger than she does or whether perhaps the classification she gave you was intended to draw your attention to something important she can't speak of directly. Or responding to her disinterest in what you enjoy doing the same way you respond to her disinterest in going to work with you, being genuinely interested in her happiness while you're off doing your thing and when you're not.

My heart goes out to you as you make this life-altering decision, Gregory.

Gregory, my heart really goes out to you. You are very articulate and have done an excellent job of describing your situation. At the same time, I am curious (as I always am when I listen to someone describe their unhappy marriage) how your wife would describe things from her point of view in her own words. Because I know that the problems are rarely as one-sided as they seem. I don't meant that I am blaming you in some way (nor am I blaming her). Things probably are exactly as you describe them. And at the same time they are probably somewhat different. If your wife instead of you had come forward, we might have better insight as to why she interacts (or doesn't interact) with you as she does, and we might all be feeling the same empathy for her that we now have for you. (And if there were some way for us to truly see things from her point of view, it might make it easier to come up with some good advice for you.)

The excitement of a new relationship is very powerful and it completely alters the way someone reacts to everything around them; even if they don't think that is happening, it really is. I know a number of people who had emotional or physical affairs and only later, after the infatuation had faded and reality set in, did they understand how their temporarily altered brain chemistry altered their point of view, their personality, and their behavior toward their spouse. I wonder what would happen if you voluntarily took a break from the relationship with the new lady, no contact for a month or two, so that you could try some of Patty's suggestions before making a decision. If this new relationship is the real thing, a couple of months away will not destroy it. In the meantime, you might at the very least be able to come to a better understanding of your wife and your marriage. That can only benefit your children, even if you do end up leaving the marriage.

"I wish I was as strong as she is to have the patience when I got married, and to have said to myself - NOT UNTIL I'M SURE THE PERSON IS RIGHT!"

This is great advice, Gregory. What might you do to raise your sons to be strong enough to do it this way? It means postponing sex, which has this awful way of forcing decisions, and this takes confidence that they really are lovable (but not so much confidence that they become unlovable).

"My life feels like a do or die ultimatum right now, and not like a passionate enjoyable song worth singing."

I think both of us Patty's (or am I supposed to write Patties?) really get this and feel awful for you. May others learn from your predicament: it's a whole lot easier to tackle the questions (can I possibly find love with my spouse? is there anyone else out there who could love me better? and what's best for my children?) in a different order than the one you did.

I don't expect my words ARE what you want to hear, but I doubt you would have posted your first comment unless you were open-minded and looking for alternative viewpoints. Almost everyone who hangs around Assume Love for any length of time shares this most wonderful character strength.

You are dealing with a very painful choice, but you are willing to take your time making it and willing to learn. I think we all admire you for this. I know I do.

Affairs, even emotional affairs, exist in a fantasy world. As long as you are in a relationship with someone familiar with whom you eat your everyday meals, share your everyday child care responsibilities, make a home, and pay the bills, you are free to binge with your other partner. You can revel in the new, enjoy the surprises, and pretend your lifestyle has changed for the better without actually waking up to find your adventurous new wife has left you with the kids to go skydiving with her friends today or becomes indignant when you object to her accepting a new position that requires being on the road two weekends every month.

If you were to use the same approach with your marriage as you did with your admirable weight loss, binge days would not be days when your wife is required to reward your efforts. They would be days when you do other things you enjoy that don't make your marriage any happier.

"I wish you would. I'd wait for it and read it."

You're on. I will commence later this week. My husband's got this three-day weekend, and the upcoming work week will start up with a bang, but after that I am on it.

I'll tell you right now where I would start: finding new reasons to respect and admire your wife. I would go through the list of character strengths at http://www.viacharacter.org/VIAINSTITUTE/Classification.aspx and see which two or three she possesses to an even greater degree than you do. One of the marvelous things about being married to someone really different is that they usually have a very different set of character strengths. There are great advantages to this, once you know what they are and learn how to engage them.

I would also keep a small journal and write in it nightly three things she did or said each day that exceeded your expectations of her or made your day a little better, regardless of how many others distressed you. If they reflect one of the strengths you identified, you might even add a star to them. Such journals are likely to be harder for an open-minded person than for other folks, so please just trust me on this one for now.

Rosemary,

Thank you for your response. It brings up a very good point that I left unaddressed in my description.

>> At the same time, I am curious how your wife would describe things from her point of view in her own words. Because I know that the problems are rarely as one-sided as they seem.

You'll notice that I never blame my wife. I never place her at fault (except once, and that one blame I am not willing to forgive just yet. One day I will, I promise.)
It's not that she did something to me or didn't do something I needed. We are just different. And I firmly believe that your reality is your perception of reality. In fact, much of Patty's advice is about this. Change how I see my wife, and my relationship with her will change. Excellent advice, no doubt. We've had a good number of therapy sessions, I've read pretty much enough books on relationships and marriage in particular to fill a long shelf at B&N. My wife and I had an opportunity to not only talk about our marriage openly, but to do so in front of a therapist. One thing I will say - we are on the exactly same page about what happened and how we got here. She wouldn't give you an ounce of a different story. I'm not a man she wanted to be with, and I felt like I was beating into a stone wall trying to relate to her. Her comment at this point would be "That sounds about right." You mention empathy to her, like you have for me now... and I am a bit surprised at that. I never once complained that "this evil woman has done so-and-so to me". I do not have issues caused by my wife that I did not cause all by myself to myself, making my choices in life. The dilemma that's facing me is to love another who is MAGNITUDES more compatible with me, or to settle for a sub-mediocre life with my spouse for the sake of the kids. Perhaps we can even learn to like, tolerate, and even respect each other. Just not love one another or be what the other needs, but it could likely be made decent. My wife, at this time, doesn't have this dilemma. She initiated the "d"-word conversation and refused to work on the marriage, and now that I've met someone else, because I didn't hide it from her, I feel that she's feeling jealous and possessive, and like a child whose toy was taken away, she wants it back. Wasn't her favorite toy, but she'll decide when to keep it and when to throw it away, and don't you dare take it without her permission. What I mean, is that she is acting nice again with the purpose of convincing me to abandon the other girl. Of course once we're "domesticated" again, and I stop having any sort of emotional outlets on the side, she'll likely revert to being reminded every day that I'm just not the guy she needs. I'm a "Feeler", I ignore time and can be quite the opposite of punctual, and I perceive the world through emotion and touch and thought. I like talking about feelings and science and the universe. I am tansformational in my communication. She is born to be a manager: very transactional, punctual, always on top of the concrete things that need to be done around the household. Emotion overwhelms her, and she runs from it, touch suffocates her, and she avoids touching or being touched a lot. Long conversations put her to sleep, and she is as far from an active listener as a person can be without actually being a plant. When you talk, she thinks of her next response, not of what you are telling her. I used to be guilty of this one too. I do not blame her for any of those things... they are not bad qualities. In fact, in the right environment, they're exceptional qualities. Problem arises from our genders and our innate desires for certain relationship roles. I seek an equal partner, she seeks a dominant male. She feels she must manage me for us to be successful, but as soon as she does, she no longer perceives me as dominant. If she lets me lead, what I do and how I do it and how I relate to her is not "in her language". And her language feels crude and unrefined and very limiting to me. It's like knowing chemistry and physics and astronomy and understanding how the universe works, and then you must explain why it gets cold in the winter to a member of an African tribe. They don't know Earth is round or has an axis. They don't know that Earth spins around the Sun. They don't even know about the cold or about 4 seasons or about presence of the civilization out there. If they listened with curiosity, you could try to explain, and you would respect them for trying to understand. But if they classify you as a quack because what you say goes against their limiting beliefs and they refuse to have any part of it... well.. that's when you just toss in the towel and give up. I'm not comparing my wife to the tribesmen, please do not think that. I am simply illustrating the degree of "eagerness" she has to talk with me or understand how I feel. I went beyond books, and took courses and watched videos and talked to HUNDREDS of women (including you now) to understand how she feels. She, instead, assumes that she knows what she needs to know, and new information is not welcome. And HERE is where you will hear our differences, if you asked her for her side of the story. She'd put me in a bin, she'd put the other woman in a bin (though she hasn't ever met her or talked to her), she thinks she knows what I need and how wrong I am about everything, and that I'm ridiculous for insisting on importance of touch, emotional connection, acceptance, and the feeling of being intimately wanted.
It's very understandable from a person of her upbringing. Ironically, she herself is a child of divorce. Of course I know many other adults, who are also children of divorced parents, who turned out VERY happy and very emotionally mature. But my wife is also a child of two completely emotionally retarded parents. If someone would tell me about such people before I met my wife, I wouldn't believe they existed. Dad never gave a care about her. The one time she needed him (to stay at his new house), his new wife didn't think it was a good idea, and he caved in and didn't let her stay. Her mom never hugged her. Never said "I love you" to her. My wife can't recall happy moments with her mother, only yelling, raised expectations, or "cold support". Meaning she felt supported, but never loved. She spent several of her early years with her grandparents, who fought and argued a lot. They loved her and took care of her, but the adults in our early childhood are the model of how we will love and how we will want to be loved, and my wife never knew the kissing adults, flirting ones, dancing ones, blushing ones. Only stale, long out of love, arguing ones. Ones with knowledge and wisdom on many topics, but unable to show her how to love another person.

Here, I run into my biggest problem with all the marital repair and relationship advice (even Patty let it slip out a couple of times): It works when there was once a feeling of love and a connection between the two people, and the memory of it will make them want to believe it can work and they will rise up and fix things. My brother almost divorced once... but he found the way to make it work... They're quite happy together now. He is my half-brother. My dad and his mom got a divorce, so he is a child of a divorce too. I asked him if they were ever in love before the divorce. He said "OF COURSE!" He lit up when he said that... a small part of him remembered for an instant what it felt like. I asked how he fixed things. He said that she loved to hike and travel by car, so he took her on road trips of 5000 miles in 2 weeks and they'd hike a lot. Not only were they once in love, they had things they wanted to do together. Both partners were willing to do SOME thing together. I don't have either of those 2 prerequisites.

>> I wonder what would happen if you voluntarily took a break from the relationship with the new lady, no contact for a month or two, so that you could try some of Patty's suggestions before making a decision.

I was actually thinking off that exact same thing earlier today. I'm just afraid to lose someone so amazing over a relationship that right at this minute seems 99% doomed to fall apart. As you say, if it's real, she will at the very least understand, but hopefully will patiently wait for me to make the most important decision of my life.
What makes this so hard is that I asked my wife for this exact same thing when she had her mind unshakably set on leaving. We sat down and talked. We agreed that things would never work the way they were and they needed to change. We outlined a new set of "rules" of our house... these rules would have created a new sense of "WE" in the house. At the end of the hour-long conversation, I asked her if she thinks the rules are good. She said yes. I asked her to give me 3 months! For the sake of the kids and for the sake of our marriage. She said she'd think about it. The next day she said that she thought about it, and she does not want to do it. She feels pushed into it, she feels like it's an obligation and not a desire, and that she would resent me if she was forced into doing it. The 3 months of new WE-rules didn't happen, even though she said she liked the rules and they seem like they might work. And now... she's not so determined to leave anymore, and my guess is it's because she is being immature about her feelings of jealousy, not because she's being mature about her duty of motherhood, and all of the sudden, I'm supposed to give her the few months she never gave me, at potentially the cost of a GREAT relationship. By the way, I should really mention, I've had daily conversations with this woman for the last 5 months! You may have gotten a sense that I am not the dullest of tools in the shed when it comes to reading people and understanding what they're made of. This girl is the real deal. It's not my brain chemistry, because it's actually a long distance relationship, we've only spent 2 weeks together, and everything she thought I would be long distance I was - only better (according to her), and everything I thought she'd be - she surpassed. Being with her, I caught myself SO MANY TIMES expecting a response/reaction from her that I've been so used to receive from my wife - one of judgement, negativity, rejection, and time and again she surprised me by being the exact opposite. If I ever get around to editing "femininity" article in Wikipedia, I should put her picture there. If this girl was someone else's wife and I was never in an emotional relationship with her, not even a hint of a chance at one, I'd still respect her enormously. I am not smitten by her looks (though she's quite beautiful), I am in awe of her world view and how she does everything she does - with such incredible intention and care and sensitivity. When asked about controversial topics and unethical/immoral groups of people, she talks about them with such compassion, peace, respect for life... no judgement, no prejudice, no sign of a "small mind". She inspires me to be a better man every day we talk. They say that great people discuss ideas, good people discuss events, small people discuss other people... My wife's favorite reading is US Weekly and TMZ.com. At any point in time she can dish out an opinion about anyone, and knowing them is not a prerequisite. Like I said, I've been boxed and binned and categorized by her more than once. I'm used to it, it's just who she is and how she operates. It's easier to her to relate to the world like this. The world is emotional and tough and turbulent, and she likes her comfort, and categorizing everything and everyone, and "putting them in their place" is her defense mechanism against the painful discomfort of living in this world. In contrast, my discussions with the other girl range from ideas of businesses, to ideas of philanthropic work, to life planning and bucket lists, to ideas of Stephen Covey, Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, and many others, to even talking about the universe, formation of Earth and evolution, with all the outcomes of it, such as psychology and philosophy. I should mention that my wife likes psychology. She likes it because once she learns some new fact, it helps her categorize people better. She instantly applies any new such facts on her friends and relatives. I mentioned Briggs-Myers before. If you feel the need to categorize someone a little bit too (we all do it once in a while) :-) she's an ISTJ, and I'm an ENFP. That's supposedly how we see the world and how we relate to people. Google stories of relationships of these two types. One comment comes to mind about another couple who had been together for 5 years also because of kids. Someone posted on the forum "how have you lasted so long?!!!" Anyone who knows anything about these types will tell you that we're best suited to be.... enemies. We are different in EVERY SINGLE DIMENSION OF THE TEST! I'd find it very sad if I didn't think it so ironic. I've made peace with a lot of what I just told you. I say it as background, so you may better understand where I came from and what I went through. But I'm a dog, and she's a cat. We could co-exist, but with the amount of negative history behind me, I'm not sure we could ever have a functional relationship anymore. Unsure doesn't mean I'm certain we won't. Just not sure we will. Also not very sure "why" right now, since I'm not convinced that kids will grow up happy with two "bipolar" parents who cannot agree on anything. We cannot even agree on parenting methods or the middle ground. In divorce, at least it would be "mom's house - mom's rules; my house - my rules."

Again, Rosemary, thank you VERY MUCH for your advice and comments. As you can see, they really make me think.

"or to settle for a sub-mediocre life with my spouse for the sake of the kids"

I would never suggest anyone do this or saddle their kids with this unless it makes them feel closer to God.

But I am willing to help you change your expectations of the life you can have with your sons' mother, so that they grow up with the benefit of both world views instead of the conflict of two world views that might even drive them apart from each other.

Powerful words. I wish more people would stop and think about this. God bless!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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