I (41M) have been married to my wife (40F) for 16 years and have two wonderful children that I adore. I've been struggling for the last handful of years because my wife has been battling unknown health issues that have made her participate less and less in the family.
She's typically in bed for 12 hours out of the day, and usually only goes to sleep late (3am). She experiences frequent migraines and various inflammation-related issues, and is taking medication for depression. I've tried to do what I can to support her by researching doctors and treatments to explore.
I've recommended she also try therapy since I know she has some family issues in her past she hasn't sorted out yet (she has declined/not moved forward). She takes some steps to try to make progress, but those steps are few and far in-between and usually at my prompting.
I know she is frustrated by having tests come back as normal. I also worry she doesn't properly manage her pain. She doesn't explore the migraine pain medications to alleviate the symptoms that plague her.
All this has translated into years of me having to bear most of the burden of keeping the family running. Fixing/maintaining the house, doing vast majority of the household chores, and spending quality time with the kids on the weekend and planning family events.
I work in a high-stress job and I'm the sole breadwinner for the family. Our sex life has been non-existent for over five years. When she is awake, she's usually sedentary and watching movies by herself.
She is able to drive the kids to and from school and after-school activities and occasionally has the ability to do some of the dishes, so she does contribute somewhat.
There is a part of me that wants to persevere and stand by her because she is the mother of our children and there is still love between us, however faint. But a growing part of me wants more.
I want someone who wants to go to dinner with me, someone who supports me when I am having a bad day, someone who is awake for breakfast and wants to talk to me…someone who can help shoulder the burdens of life.
Right now I feel perpetually tired, alone, and starved for any type of affection. I've told her what I need, but I feel those hard conversations only put more stress on her and nothing really changes.
If I get a divorce it would be very hard on my children, decimate the finances I've labored for so many years to establish, and honestly I don't know how she would manage on her own. But if I stay, I worry I won't be able to find a way to be happy again.
Am I wrong even thinking about divorce, especially since I know she's battling these unknown health issues?
Commenters laid down some hard truths.
You would be wrong if you don’t tell her it’s coming to this.
I am someone who suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, ADHD, and ASD. The combination makes me difficult to be around at times and I’ve battled with depression and anxiety my entire life - especially as an adult and especially in early adulthood when my symptoms were not well managed. I’d strongly recommend a few things here:
recognize that you are entitled to your desire for love and affection from your partner
recognize that being partner to a person who struggles with invisible disabilities is really hard and really thankless. It’s a job that no one prepares you for and no one gave you a manual for.
You are allowed to feel all your feelings: resentment, anger, sadness, bitterness, boredom, and disgust are all valid. But don’t live in them. They will consume you if you let them linger.
Raising children is really hard on its own. Between my spouse and I, we have three kiddos (his, mine, and ours). We aren’t perfect at dividing up parenting duties but we do our best to communicate our needs.
y’all both need to go to therapy. Together. Chronic pain is no joke. Especially when it is tied to a mysterious ailment. Neurological Shit sucks and a lot of it is just plain unknown to medical science still.
There are new studies coming out all the time on stuff like EDS and other genetic disorders, connective tissue disorders, neurological issues, etc which it sounds like your wife is struggling with.
Navigating all that is not only frustrating but it’s exhausting. When you are already fighting fatigue, depression, pain (which is also exhausting by the way), guilt, anger, and everything else she’s not showing on the outside, navigating the medical system is… a lot.
It’s no wonder she checks out of your marriage and parenting your kids. It’s a bit like when kids act out at home. It’s because they have spent all day behaving at school and they’re finally in their safe space at home.
At some fundamental level, she knows the relationships at home are the safe ones to slack on. But you guys need some healthy communication tools to use to get a better balance in your lives - one that helps you feel like your relationship is still alive and that your household is better in balance.
Here’s the kicker:
my husband and I are both on our second marriages because we had a lot of learning to do through our firsts.
We learned to be patient with each other but we also learned that we have to speak up when we have needs that aren’t being met, that we have to put our egos aside and ask for help if we can’t navigate something alone, and that our marriage is more important to us than whatever dumb fight we’re having in that moment.
You shouldn’t just stay with your wife out of obligation but you should work to fix your relationship out of obligation to the vows you made to each other, to your children, and to yourself.
You need to tell her what’s happening and how you feel
If the situation was reversed, would you want her to stay by your side and support you? I'm just curious.
This is the in sickness and health part. It does suck when it happens in your 40’s not your 80’s.
Rather suggest things make them happen. Call and make appointments for her with various specialist. She has migraines? Great make an appointment with a migraine specialist. Then pick up her meds for her. When she complains about her migraine give her the meds. If the meds aren’t working make a new appointment and send her back.
Set up regular therapy appointments for her. Don’t give her the option to decline. If she doesn’t feel well enough to drive get her an Uber. Also schedule separate couples counseling.
If therapy doesn’t help send her to a psychiatrist. Then keep sending her back til they get her meds right.
Make an appointment for her with a “functional medicine “ doctor. They are much better at catching things regular doctors don’t.
Also put an end to the endless sitting alone and watching movies when it’s family time. Make her be in the room with the kids. She can sit. Heck she can lay down but she must be in the room that everything is going on in.
Now if she refuses to go along with all this it’s time for an open marriage talk. Not “you are sick and I’m done”. Instead “if you aren’t willing to be a participant in getting better I’m getting my needs met elsewhere”.
Men tend to bail when their wife has a severe illness. It destroys the kids giving them a lifetime of trauma recovery. Don’t be a statistic. Don’t make your kids a statistic.
One last thing. Just because the doctors can’t tell you what is wrong doesn’t mean it’s not real. It just means it doesn’t have a name yet. Be her health advocate.
My marriage went downhill fast, after I had 2 major back injuries within 11mths of each other that put me in hospital and rehab for a month at a time. And then my husband checked out even more when our son was diagnosed as autistic.
I believed in my marriage vows so deeply, but it seems that my husband did not in fact take me for better or for worse.
It really freaking sucks to be abandoned coz your body isn't optimal health