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Marriage struggles

 
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I’m back again with another thread about the difficulties of marriage, hoping that you lovely folks can offer your experiences and opinions like you have in my past posts about the same topic! Hopefully this will be my last time looking for random internet strangers to give me marriage advice because we’re essentially at a crossroads now: break it off or 100% commit to making this work.

So, to try to sum up my current situation as concisely as possible: my wife and I are 31, have been married for almost 7 years and had an on/off relationship from about 12-13 years of age until we started dating again as adults. We are very different in pretty much all ways. Different hobbies, passions, priorities and perspectives. This has been a constant struggle over the years and the last couple years in particular have been the worst. She had brought up divorce and a lack of compatibility a handful of times in the past and I always talked her out of it with hope, optimism and a blindly positive attitude. Well, a few months ago I was at the lowest point emotionally that I have ever been in within this relationship and I really started considering divorce seriously for the first time ever. I never really considered it because I didnt want that to be an option in my mind. I wanted to mentally be 100% committed with no “escape plan” but started feeling used, abused and honestly kind of stupid for dealing with this for so long so finally really started looking into it.

What I discovered is attachment theory and the effects that childhood trauma has on how people cope with difficulties, choose partners, behave in relationships, think about themselves and think about others. I discovered that I tend to be avoidant and my wife tends to be anxious. These are essentially opposites and act like gas on a fire most of the time, unless brought into conscious awareness and handled appropriately (which certainly is not what we have been doing). We basically have been torturing eachother while meaning to help eachother. We each thought the other is “the problem” and have been trying to change eachother so that we could feel ok within ourselves. This was all being done unconsciously and at the expense of our relationship.

When I realized this, I felt sick. I questioned everything. Our ENTIRE history together seems to all have been unconscious behaviors reacting with eachother, causing problems that instigated more unconscious coping mechanisms in a downward spiral. I questioned if any of this has ever been healthy. If we were even really in love or was this just some sort of unconscious magnetism trying to heal childhood traumas for personal growth. I exhausted Google and youtube learning about these topics, called my sister, called a friend, talked to a few others and finally made up my mind to tell her we need to divorce. I wrote it all out, thought it through, rehearsed it and was just waiting for the “right time” to tell her (crazy idea right?!). Well, of course she could sense something was bothering me and insisted we talk about it. So I started telling her how ive been feeling and what Ive been learning and she proceeded to tell me how she had a breakthrough at therapy recently and realized that she had been holding onto resentments towards me for years. She was actively resisting me, holding grudges, not forgiving and realized it was destroying not only our marriage but her friendships and her own mental, physical and emotional state. She said she can’t go on like this and is ready to change. She said she isnt ready to lose me and feels we owe it to ourselves to both give this our beat shot before throwing it away. She knew how she was behaving was a problem but didnt know i was actually considering leaving. She thinks if we both put in 100% and work on being our best selves at the same time that we will work this out.

This is more or less what Ive been wanting to hear from her for years and gave me a little glimmer of hope. So I told her I will stay in this until our anniversary ( couple months away at the time) and at that point we need to reassess the relationship honestly because we should see at least some improvement in that time. And I told her that we need to have the conversations that we should have had BEFORE getting married: boundaries, expectations, long term goals, financial goals, division of household chores and that we need to communicate openly and honestly and do our absolute best to be respectful and stay calm instead of arguing. She agreed.

Well, its been a month or so and we havent had most of those conversations but we have been thinking about those topics and writing things down. We plan on discussing these things soon. Also, our relationship has improved almost immediately, but I think that’s mostly due to her having a little more time on her hands this time of year and her really being careful not to “rock the boat” lately.


But I’m feeling very cautious about all of this. I was certain we needed to end this relationship and a month or two of improvement does not mean that things cant get horrible again in the future. I also told her how much it bothered me in the past when she threatened divorce or, in her words “used divorce to get my attention and let me know how strongly she felt”. This is absolutely inappropriate in my opinion and that is not at all what I was trying to do. I was going to divorce her and she, for better or worse, at least temporarily changed my mind. I did not bring up divorce to get her to change or to emphasize my point. I brought it up because I felt it needed to happen. I told her that we cannot use divorce as a threat or a way to get the others attention. I am not ok with that.

We also have a lot of compatibility issues in my opinion. She disagrees now, but in the past (when she brought up divorce) also thought we had compatibility issues. She likes to spend, I like to save. She likes fun, I like productivity. She likes it hot, I like it cool. She likes social activities, I like working at home. She loves sports, I love permaculture. She hates mornings, I love them. She’s highly emotional and I’m a little more detached. She wants to take vacations, I want to save money to work towards being debt free. She likes comfort and convenience, I like growth and discipline. I always thought these differences would balance us out and lead to well rounded children. Now I wonder if its just too much to deal with while also actually enjoying eachother.

I dont know of any successful marriages where both the husband and wife share passions, hobbies, perspectives, goals and attitudes towards life. I mean, I see couples that appear that way in public and on social media, but I have not talked to them. Everyone I know personally and have actually talked to are in the same situation: they are almost always on 2 different pages with their spouse. Its a constant balancing, compromising, arguing, head shaking confusing mess. This goes for young couples like us, older couples like our parents and even older like our grandparents. It seems that marriage is a process of settling, compromising and always kind of thinking the other is a little bit crazy or “wrong” in a variety of ways.

So, I guess what I want to know is, how many of you out there are happily married and have been for years? Happy like you dont have resentment , dont silently (or not so silently) think your spouse is crazy, dont have a long list of things you would like to change about them, and really feel like you have harmonious growth as a couple. Do you feel that you and your partner are very compatible (meaning your differences lead to harmonious growth for both) or are you happily married because of how much hard work, tongue biting and compromise you’ve had to put in? I just have this idea in my head that theres a woman out there who would have most of the same priorities as me, would be emotionally/mentally secure and stable, would share values and goals with me and would somehow be attainable as well (like not impossible to find). Do I have some fairy tale idea of what a happy, healthy marriage could look like? Or are some of you out there happily married to this person?
 
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Let me first say, I'm can't imagine how much of an emotional rollercoaster this must have been. Being able to express your thoughts and feelings on such a delicate subject shows introspection on your part and in my mind that is a difficult skill to develop.

Relationships are tough. People grow in all sorts of directions, some people stop growing in some capabilities while continuing to grow in others. Interests change, morals change, people can just change. I think something that bites younger couples is the fact that people are still finding themselves out as individuals from eighteen to almost thirty. School, College, Work, where you live are all big things that have real effects on individuals.

You sound like you are finding what is important to you, and you are finding healthy boundaries for yourself. I don't like thinking people are either compatible or not compatible, that kind of black and white thinking excludes a lot of subtleties. I think it is if two individuals wishing to maintain a relationship have the bandwidth to support their partner even if they do not have interest themselves. This can be as simple as being willing to listen to a person's newest thing with their hobby to be willing to meet in the middle when it comes to finances and how to spend them.

I have been in three relationships including the current one that I am in. I can say firmly that I have been a different iteration of myself at each of these relationships with developing goals in them. I am currently engaged to be married in October and what I have in this relationship that I have not had in others is a partner that is willing to be authentic even in the worst of times. We have had fights, we have been ugly to each other, we have had large disagreements, but we have worked out communication. There are times where she might give me the cold shoulder until she can emotionally get in a place to have a discussion (I have done the same, this isn't only women!) but we have the talk and we see where the situation went wrong. It is work. I made it very clear at the start of our relationship where my boundaries were and that I respected myself too much to be pushed passed those boundaries. We don't hit each other, we don't air dirty laundry about each other, we agree to talk it out when we are ready.

I am not here with an answer, but I am here seeing you. Take care of yourself and ultimately make the decision that will in the end bring you peace.
 
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Hi Brody,
Kudos on an honest effort. I'm coming up on 17 years of marriage (yikes), and there have been hard times along the way. It's never easy to have two (and then more) people in the same house.

It's good to move towards an honest approach to each other, leaving fear to the side (which is a long process, which sometimes never ends, but can absolutely make progress). Like Timothy, I don't want to presume to offer advice, because there are times when a relationship is so destructive that it is better to leave it, while at the same time I think many in our culture are often quick to leave a hard situation because, well, hard things seem unpleasant.

It sounds like you are both pursuing good understanding of yourself and your wife. A good counselor can be really helpful, mostly to facilitate your (both singular and plural) exploration of your own heart and mind, but also to point out possible patterns that you may not have noticed. That said, labels are useful insofar as they further understanding, but not if they confine our understanding or pigeonhole. It can be helpful to use labels as adjectives to behavior "I have often engaged in avoidant behavior", rather than self-definition "I am avoidant". The former comes across as something acknowledged, perhaps atoned for, but which can be changed with diligent effort. The latter can be risky: "It's who I am" is not usually the preface to healthy change.

Perhaps it's advice, after all, forgive me, but I do want to encourage you to continue to understand yourself, your wife, and the ways that you do and don't work together well - and how best to deal with that. It's good to be honest, it's good to deal with challenges rather than bury them, and if your wife and you can both engage productively in self-understanding and mutual-understanding, there certainly can be hope. Those years of young marriage will never come again, and there is much that you have built together of which you may not be aware. Within a healthy relationship, both unique people can keep growing, continually, while remaining their own differentiated selves.

Very best wishes to you and your wife,
Mark
 
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It's obvious you've given this a lot of thought and energy.  Self-assessment is tough, especially when it seems like only one person is putting in the work and I salute you for it.

I am in my second marriage.  My first marriage lasted 18 years.  Then my husband turned 40 - and got a ninja motorcycle and an 18 year old girlfriend (yes, I'm that cliche).  Despite the way things turned out, we did well together most of the time.  There were some major differences, but also some major similarities.

My second marriage is going on 10 years.  He is VERY different from my first husband, and from me.  Yet....some aspects of our relationship mirror that of my first marriage.  Those are the elements I brought with me and will happen no matter who my partner is unless I work it out.  Our differences make things hard, but I know I have grown so much from the resulting work - in ways I had never imagined.

Two things:

There isn't a perfect woman out there that is so in tune with you that the relationship will be easy.  Beginnings are alway easy because we are "high" on endorphins and there isn't any baggage.  There was no way I could compete with my ex-husband's girlfriend as they were at the "in love" stage where she was still perfect and he already knew the worst things about me.  Their relationship lasted 6 months.  Just Nature's way of making sure the next generation is born, I suppose 😊. Thinking this is dangerous, because it tends to make you focus on you and your partner's differences.  Look for and collect similarities, even if it's something as simple as loving peanut butter and jelly.

Since you've been together over 10 years, I'm going to assume you are in your 30's at least.  I don't want to spout doom and gloom, but the older you get, the more baggages potential partners have...it's just the way it is.  Most of them will have multiple broken relationships, maybe children, divorces.  All of that takes time and much work to get through.  

If you think your wife is at all serious about making things work, go to a therapist.  Having an impartial person listen to you both together and separately can be immensely valuable.

I wish you the best.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Tim and Mark, thank you for your thoughtful responses! They are pretty much in line with the wise, older woman here that I talked to who, like both of you was very careful not to offer specific advice but to wish that whatever path we take, it leads to mutual growth and healing. Even if that means the relationship has to change or end.

I am 100% in agreement with that. I want us both to heal and grow more than anything. I asked my wife if she agrees and she does, but she wants it to be together. I said, what if us being together does not lead to mutual growth and healing, would you still want to be together? She kind of dodged the question and just said she thinks we can grow and heal together. That makes me think she may be consciously or unconsciously prioritizing staying together over the health and well being of us as individuals. She has never really been alone in life and sometimes I worry that she clings to me out of fear of having to be alone. Shes always been around friends and family and/or with me. Im less close with my friends, have a smaller family and have lived alone for years and still do just fine on my own for the most part.

I guess healing and growth are my priorities , Im just curious if a long term relationship with healing and growth is always a constant struggle or if it can be relatively smooth, fun and enjoyable (for both) most of the time. Our relationship has almost always been a struggle, whether we showed it and vocalized it or not. Now realizing the unconscious activities at play, I wonder if that can change. Im sure it can change and improve, but theres years of momentum involved now. Counterproductive coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms, old wounds, unresolved conflicts… its taken so much time and effort just to get here and thinking of how much more time and effort it could take to improve things is overwhelming. I partly feel like a clean slate with a new (hopefully self aware) partner would be so much more easy and enjoyable. But I would hate to throw this away when we’ve come so far, though if ending the relationship leads to growth and healing for both of us then it would be the clear choice for sure!

Not looking for anyone to tell me what to do, just more curious if anyone out there feels that they are happily married to someone and if they feel that happiness comes from within, comes from compatibility with their partner or comes from compromise, work, struggles, dedication and a bit of settling…

 
Brody Ekberg
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Sherry Willis wrote:It's obvious you've given this a lot of thought and energy.  Self-assessment is tough, especially when it seems like only one person is putting in the work and I salute you for it.

I am in my second marriage.  My first marriage lasted 18 years.  Then my husband turned 40 - and got a ninja motorcycle and an 18 year old girlfriend (yes, I'm that cliche).  Despite the way things turned out, we did well together most of the time.  There were some major differences, but also some major similarities.

My second marriage is going on 10 years.  He is VERY different from my first husband, and from me.  Yet....some aspects of our relationship mirror that of my first marriage.  Those are the elements I brought with me and will happen no matter who my partner is unless I work it out.  Our differences make things hard, but I know I have grown so much from the resulting work - in ways I had never imagined.

Two things:

There isn't a perfect woman out there that is so in tune with you that the relationship will be easy.  Beginnings are alway easy because we are "high" on endorphins and there isn't any baggage.  There was no way I could compete with my ex-husband's girlfriend as they were at the "in love" stage where she was still perfect and he already knew the worst things about me.  Their relationship lasted 6 months.  Just Nature's way of making sure the next generation is born, I suppose 😊. Thinking this is dangerous, because it tends to make you focus on you and your partner's differences.  Look for and collect similarities, even if it's something as simple as loving peanut butter and jelly.

Since you've been together over 10 years, I'm going to assume you are in your 30's at least.  I don't want to spout doom and gloom, but the older you get, the more baggages potential partners have...it's just the way it is.  Most of them will have multiple broken relationships, maybe children, divorces.  All of that takes time and much work to get through.  

If you think your wife is at all serious about making things work, go to a therapist.  Having an impartial person listen to you both together and separately can be immensely valuable.

I wish you the best.



Im sorry your first husband did that to you, that sucks. Although maybe it worked out for the best!

The baggage topic is interesting. My wife and I have a ton of baggage. It started out as baggage from our parents but then by unconsciously acting off of that, we wounded eachother and now have that baggage as well. So while being together, we’re trying to work out childhood traumas and traumas we’ve caused eachother over the years, all without causing more in the process. Seems to me that at this point, im at least mostly aware of my baggage, my blind spots and my tendencies and could consciously bring that into a new relationship (hopefully with a partner who also is conscious about their baggage) so that we could be up front with it and work on it together ON PURPOSE as opposed to banging eachother over the head with our old baggage.

I do believe my wife is sincere at wanting to make this work, though maybe not for the healthiest of reasons. We have gone to couples therapy and the therapist more or less tried to get us to at least temporarily separate to work on our own issues without making it worse for eachother. We couldn’t pull that off due to logistics. And my wife says she thinks the therapist and I “ganged up on her” and that she thinks the therapist wants us to divorce. She also said the therapist only has seen her at her worst and not her best (which is totally true). As of now, insurance wont cover any more visits for the year, but in January I will start seeing her again or will find a new therapist. Whether with my wife or alone.
 
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Brody,

WOW!  What an insight you have made into the most personal part of your life that you can have.  I have to say that I find it reassuring that you learned about attachment theory, and better still, saw how attachment styles are influencing both you and your wife and how they have pushed the two of you towards conflict in the past.  It is reassuring to hear that both of you recognize your places, strengths, and weaknesses within your relationship.

You asked about the nature of others' relationship, so I will briefly comment on my own.  My wife and I have been married for 23 years and the relationship  is wonderful.  We have many shared interests, but we are far from carbon copies of each other.   We always try to put each other, and the relationship, first.  We have had disagreements but never really fought out of anger.  When we first started dating, we both knew that we had found the real thing.  We are strongly committed to each other.  While at times we do have to put forth effort for one another, this effort generally comes fairly naturally.  I/we genuinely like doing things for each other.

Obviously I can't make any decision for you, so what I am about to say is simply an observation and not a judgement.  It seems as though since you discovered--and applied--attachment theory that you have made a sort of breakthrough.  This is heartening.  I would suggest that you try to keep lines of communication open.  Since you have realized that you are coming from a place of avoidant attachment, this might be more difficult for you than your wife who is apparently coming from a place of anxious attachment.  Still, you are the one who made this realization and you made some profound discoveries about yourself.  I would suggest that you continue to do what you are doing, especially as your wife seems to be understanding as well.  One note of caution that I would consider--is your anniversary the best time to reconsider your relationship?  The reason I ask is that it can be prone to rose-colored glasses effects, or the exact opposite.  Anniversaries tend to be emotional.  Maybe another time is a better time to make such a decision?  This is only my observation and if you think otherwise, then absolutely it is the right time.

I suppose that in the end I would by nature hope that your relationship can continue, heal and prosper.  This seems like your implicit goal as well.  I can't/won't give any specific advise.  My only suggestion for you is to continue what you are already doing and keep the lines of communication open.  It is one thing to speak your mind, but it is different and more difficult to actively listen to a person.

Best of luck to you,

Eric
 
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Hi again, Brody,
There seems to be lots of wise counsel in this thread, that's really encouraging.

I guess I'll go a question you asked:

if they feel that happiness comes from within, comes from compatibility with their partner or comes from compromise, work, struggles, dedication and a bit of settling…  

and I'll immediately change the subject to maybe make it easier to talk about.

Does a successful garden come from within, come from compatibility with the site, or come from compromise, work, struggles, dedication and a bit of settling?

I'll answer that second question (that I made up, which is really cheating on the test). I am not super compatible with gardening (not a green thumb, at all). I live in AZ, with an immature windswept, sunbaked site (that does have a wash on it). And the only way we have had stuff grow is compromising with the site and the weather and the plants and our crummy efforts, and keeping trying, and being glad for the dandelions that come up (ate them in lentils) and the Maximillian sunflowers that are friends with our apricot tree (tubers bake well, if a little gassy), and getting (more) cats because the ground squirrels ate the whole wheat crop last season, and balancing a job and kids and life and dealing with what comes. It's not glamorous, and it's not always fun, but it's not always awful, either. There are good times and bad, and insisting on only the good being allowed to happen would be about as sensible as telling a tree to skip straight to the fruit, bucko, enough with these leaves and flowers and waiting... All that to say, it's a little bit of everything, but emphasis on the hard work and diligence. Maybe a lot of work has been lost in the past because I as a gardener didn't know what I was doing. That's too bad, and can be made better. I can't sit back and enjoy all the rewards of prior ignorant work, but I can work towards the future rewards of better-educated gardening.

But enough about gardening, we were talking about relationships. I'll highlight Sherry's good comment about there being fewer and fewer sane marriageable-yet-unmarried people as you age. I also want to highlight Eric's excellent notes about how you and your wife are both now facing the same set of issues, and talking about it. That in itself is a really good step. There's no guarantee of happy endings, but it really helps to have both people facing the same direction.

I don't know your learning style or level of interest, but I do recommend a really excellent family-systems book by Edwin Friedman, "Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church & Synagogue". Yes, he's a rabbi, and about 30% of the book is aimed at congregations/communities, but the other 70% is aimed at individuals and immediate families (with community being his third layer of family, thus the grouping). It's not new, but Friedman's approach is very keen on unpacking those family-size problems that affect individual behavior so much. He does not assume trite-right answers exist, but he does assume that in every situation, somehow, progress and healing can be made possible by untangling and addressing relationship behaviors. (caveat, I'm pretty sure you don't have to have any faith tradition to find value in the book, it's good counseling, not theology). But maybe you are not a book person, I don't know, and if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

At any rate, I certainly wish you and your wife the best, whatever that may be.

Mark

 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:
So, I guess what I want to know is, how many of you out there are happily married and have been for years? Happy like you dont have resentment , dont silently (or not so silently) think your spouse is crazy, dont have a long list of things you would like to change about them, and really feel like you have harmonious growth as a couple. Do you feel that you and your partner are very compatible (meaning your differences lead to harmonious growth for both) or are you happily married because of how much hard work, tongue biting and compromise you’ve had to put in? I just have this idea in my head that theres a woman out there who would have most of the same priorities as me, would be emotionally/mentally secure and stable, would share values and goals with me and would somehow be attainable as well (like not impossible to find). Do I have some fairy tale idea of what a happy, healthy marriage could look like? Or are some of you out there happily married to this person?


Hey Brody, I am in a happy marriage of 7 years. It is happy because we have some compatibility and because we both work hard at it. I have often been humbled to see my wife fight for our marriage even when I have hurt her heart. We humans are going to hurt the people who are closest to us. Sometimes by mistake, sometimes on purpose. The only thing to do is to offer forgiveness whenever someone hurts me, and to make it up whenever I hurt someone else.
 
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Hello.

I don't think there's a recipe for a successful marriage. Each person has their own needs, and mutually satisfying some of them with their couple is great for the relationship.
Even worse, these needs and gives will change with time.

One point is important about what you said. Children are not the glue of a relationship. If the relationship works, it works, and then children live in a happy family, but a relationship that does not work, will not work because of children.
Another point I don't quite agree is compatibility. What I need from my couple is being able to spend enjoyable time with her. This usually is going out for diner, but it can be a walk in the park while we talk politics or family issues. We don't need to agree on politics, just loving to talk about the topic will suffice. She will not join me in the garder, I will not join her at the gym, that's fine.

Then, I may not be the best to offer counsel, since I am still in my first marriage, 18 years living together. We had a crisis when, probably because I neglected the relationship, my wife felt I wasn't loving her enough. I don't think I was doing anything different, though. And I felt scared of having to start again, the troubles of a divorce with children, etc, so we try to make it work again. Personally, I blame the lockdowns, since they prived us of our time together outside.
I talked to a relationship advisor, I told her how wrong was my wife in this or that, and she replied to me: do you want to be right or do you want to have a relationship? The lesson was that being right or wrong does not matter in a relationship. It's about love: needs and fulfillments.

So, what did she want from me? Attention, time (with her, not in the garden), proactivity proposing activities (other than going to the garden), understanding (that she loves plants, but not the work), romanticism. I've barely managed to fulfill most of these, but romanticism still evades me. Maybe I should plant some flowers.
 
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This is not exactly what you asked for, but from the opposite side, it could be an idea for the two of you to sit down together and pull up Youtube and watch some random videos on dating these days. It might give you both some valuable perspective. Dating today, and at your age, is very likely very different from what the two of you remember, especially with such an entwined past. I get the impression that you lean more heavily to the side of believing that divorce will almost certainly lead to growth for both of you. If you divorce, will you not both still have the same baggage? Is it not possible divorce will add even more baggage?

From your description of the both of you, I suspect you (being more accustomed to being alone, a saver, less emotional, etc.) will likely be ok. You can probably throw yourself into your permaculture endeavors and even thrive. I fear she will not fare as well. I think I recall you have been the main source of income, she's a spender, wants to travel, is more emotional, etc. I feel she will be in for a much ruder awakening. Dating after 30 appears to be much more difficult for a woman, from what I've seen. If she ends up spiraling down the drain, will it affect you? If you divorce and make some lawyer very happy, will all that money be spent only to end up back together eventually? If both or either of you date other people in the interim, then end up getting back together, would it be better to have never divorced? Would it add a whole new load of baggage? Or perhaps it could even have the opposite effect and end up bringing you closer together than ever before. It truly is a great deal to consider.
 
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Oh Brody. It sounds like you've had a lot of things to deal with. But it also sounds like you've learned a lot and are going in a good direction.

I agree, every relationship seems to be its own case. We just celebrated our 25th. I married someone so thoroughly different from me my American friends were sure it was a passport scam, and my father didn't talk to me for years: different nationality, religion, language, background, education, everything.  

Yet despite the outward differences we are in some ways almost exactly the same. We are both hot-headed and have a deep sense of morality and rightness. We have been madly in love with each other, several times. Moved out a few times. Done couples counseling. Had amazing things happen to us we celebrated, and terrible things we cried together through. We've been mean to each other, and also have fought like bears to defend each other.
From the start, I decided I was only going to do the big things (marriage, kids) once. I had a lot to accomplish in life, and wasn't going to repeat. I needed it to work or else I was done. I made it work. Luckily I am very stubborn, and so is my partner.
We learned, together, that when things are really bad, we need to turn off everything else, sit down, and talk serious. We've gotten pretty good, but we still work at it, and both have room to improve.

Your question: <<happily married and have been for years? Happy like you dont have resentment , dont silently (or not so silently) think your spouse is crazy, dont have a long list of things you would like to change about them, and really feel like you have harmonious growth as a couple. Do you feel that you and your partner are very compatible (meaning your differences lead to harmonious growth for both) or are you happily married because of how much hard work, tongue biting and compromise you’ve had to put in? >>

Only in the past few years have we started sharing each other's hobbies. He's starting to enjoy birds, and I even let him in the garden now. I got an antique car, and will go to football games. I put up with these "weird things" because it made him happy, and then that made me happy.
But I don't need my husband to be everything to me-- he is what he is, and who he is, and that is exactly who I need him to be. I would change NOTHING. I have other people who fulfill other roles, to talk about US foreign policy or opera or art history with. If he starts to absorb some of my interests, great! That's sweet! But it's not what I need, and I respect him and love him precisely for what he is. I might grumble about his politics or silly things he does, but I admire the hell out of him, and marrying him was probably the best thing I ever did.

I think the shrinking of social circles and also changes in lifestyle put a lot of pressure on couples to be everything to each other. That's a heavy burden, and you don't even have barfing kids and sick parents and all that in the mix yet.
I hope you guys can sit down and have this conversation soon. Only you know if continuing this relationship and doing the work is worth it. But being able to sit down and honestly have the talk and say what you both feel is vital. If things are unsaid, then that resentment starts to ferment, and you can't have a healthy relationship with resentment. After all, you guys chose each other, and there must be something good at the base there.
The first time we did couples counseling started by explaining to the therapist why we were together in the first place. It was a good experience to remember, positively, how we ended up married, and to think that I would do it again. Maybe you guys can think about that, and how to move forward. Good luck.
 
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I love the amazing and wise comments so far.

People grow together, or they grow apart. We all change with time.

But they can grow together! And they do! This is 26 years talking, and parents/aunts/uncles topping out over 60 years. And yes, I've been lucky to have these examples, and yes people do find a path forward in the hard times. It can be a pretty cranky and vigorous process, with hard headed individuals wrestling over the path forward. Take courage from this -- I have seen it with my own eyes.

I think the most powerful thing is to find common cause. This is not easy when values seem disconnected.  But these are usually social causes based on: we have the power to help others in a tangible way. We have these responsibilities as humans with the power to act in the human community! Not BS protesting and marching, but more like "delivering food for people who are hungry." And connect the dots from there, to the gardening and homesteading and soil building and the food production adventure that makes this all possible -- for a lifetime! .

Ask yourself, and your spouse, openly: What do we want to build?s Be open to the answer. It all flows from that simple question. Note the "we."

Luck to you!
 
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I've only been married for almost 2 and a half years now, but I love being married, so I'm going to come at this with that implicit bias.  My husband and I are different, but mostly in ways that complament and balance each other.  We communicate a lot, try consciously to do things that fill each other's "love bank" even if those things don't really fill our own, but since we do it for each other both of us feel fulfilled.

I think modern society sees personal individuality as the be all and the end all, its all about the individual.  I think that there are things we can learn from more collectivist cultures, its not that people shouldn't enjoy their individuality, its that people should be balanced and be less hyperfocused on personal growth at the expense of something that could be even better, growth together.  Because your wife and you have both been learning a lot about yourselves, and mistakes in the marriage, I think now is the time to come together and do the work together.  She sounds like she's ready to work on herself and the marriage.  You sound like you're ready to work on yourself and the marriage, so if you're both doing it then I think good things are coming.  I'd suggest maybe starting with a new couples counselor though, one that won't be biassed toward you or her, that will get to know you both at the same time.  Makes sense for her to keep seeing her individual therapist though because good things are happening there.

So I did give you advice, didn't veil it or sneak it in.  Just gave it to you.
 
Sherry Willis
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Im sorry your first husband did that to you, that sucks. Although maybe it worked out for the best!

The baggage topic is interesting. My wife and I have a ton of baggage. It started out as baggage from our parents but then by unconsciously acting off of that, we wounded eachother and now have that baggage as well. So while being together, we’re trying to work out childhood traumas and traumas we’ve caused eachother over the years, all without causing more in the process. Seems to me that at this point, im at least mostly aware of my baggage, my blind spots and my tendencies and could consciously bring that into a new relationship (hopefully with a partner who also is conscious about their baggage) so that we could be up front with it and work on it together ON PURPOSE as opposed to banging eachother over the head with our old baggage.

I do believe my wife is sincere at wanting to make this work, though maybe not for the healthiest of reasons. We have gone to couples therapy and the therapist more or less tried to get us to at least temporarily separate to work on our own issues without making it worse for eachother. We couldn’t pull that off due to logistics. And my wife says she thinks the therapist and I “ganged up on her” and that she thinks the therapist wants us to divorce. She also said the therapist only has seen her at her worst and not her best (which is totally true). As of now, insurance wont cover any more visits for the year, but in January I will start seeing her again or will find a new therapist. Whether with my wife or alone.



Brody,

Thank you.  It was awful at the time, but I wouldn't change my life now for anything. 😊

It sounds like you have a good handle on what you want and are working through things.  I truly hope you find what you're looking for.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Eric Hanson wrote:Brody,

You asked about the nature of others' relationship, so I will briefly comment on my own.  My wife and I have been married for 23 years and the relationship  is wonderful.  We have many shared interests, but we are far from carbon copies of each other.   We always try to put each other, and the relationship, first.  We have had disagreements but never really fought out of anger.  When we first started dating, we both knew that we had found the real thing.  We are strongly committed to each other.  While at times we do have to put forth effort for one another, this effort generally comes fairly naturally.  I/we genuinely like doing things for each other.

Obviously I can't make any decision for you, so what I am about to say is simply an observation and not a judgement.  It seems as though since you discovered--and applied--attachment theory that you have made a sort of breakthrough.  This is heartening.  I would suggest that you try to keep lines of communication open.  Since you have realized that you are coming from a place of avoidant attachment, this might be more difficult for you than your wife who is apparently coming from a place of anxious attachment.  Still, you are the one who made this realization and you made some profound discoveries about yourself.  I would suggest that you continue to do what you are doing, especially as your wife seems to be understanding as well.  One note of caution that I would consider--is your anniversary the best time to reconsider your relationship?  The reason I ask is that it can be prone to rose-colored glasses effects, or the exact opposite.  Anniversaries tend to be emotional.  Maybe another time is a better time to make such a decision?  This is only my observation and if you think otherwise, then absolutely it is the right time.

I suppose that in the end I would by nature hope that your relationship can continue, heal and prosper.  This seems like your implicit goal as well.  I can't/won't give any specific advise.  My only suggestion for you is to continue what you are already doing and keep the lines of communication open.  It is one thing to speak your mind, but it is different and more difficult to actively listen to a person.

Best of luck to you,

Eric



Eric, do you feel like you and your wife are “on the same page” often? Many times I feel my wife and I arent even in the same book let alone on the same page!😆 And do you feel like your differences play off of eachother in a harmonious or symbiotic way, or do your differences cause conflict that require careful discussions and compromises? Im amazed that in 23 years you havent fought out of anger. My wife is a fighter. We have always argued regularly. She’s generally the angry one and generally stay c calm, at least externally. But my patience and tolerance for arguments, criticisms and complaints is gone at this point. I told her she’s complained enough for several lifetimes already and my ability to handle any more with grace is gone, at least for now. I get defensive much more quickly now than I used to and am tired of dealing with it. Things got pretty rosy for a bit when she realized I was seriously considering divorce but the last few days she’s been complaining again and i just dont have any interest in dealing with it anymore.

You mention the effort you do have to put into the relationship comes quite naturally. I really dont feel that way about us. I think thats the nature of anxious-avoidant type relationships. Each persons natural tendencies tend to trigger the other. Each person thinks the other is “the problem” and that things wont be ok until “the problem” is fixed. I think now we both understand that we have both been “the problem” so far and are trying to change that. But the wounds will take a while to heal and defenses dont drop overnight. When we were younger, i think she was avoidant and i was anxious. That didnt work out and she broke my heart. I then spent a lot of time alone and became avoidant myself. Once we got back together she started tending towards anxious. Its like we flip flopped and have continued to oppose eachother even throughout changes.

You also mentioned putting the relationship first. I messed that one up…Shortly after getting married, I discovered permaculture and it really seemed to be the missing link in my life. It gave my life meaning and gave me purpose, 2 things that I craved as a child and dedicated years of my life to figuring out. Once I had a reason, a purpose, our relationship no longer was my focus. I had obsessed over her and our relationship in the past, making her my top priority for years, and once that changed I dont think she handled it well. My naïve assumption was that winning the girl over and convincing her to spend the rest of her life with me was the real hard work and now that we’re married we can finally focus on something other than eachother. So I passionately dove into permaculture and she basically felt neglected and undervalued. We’ve talked that through a lot, but it has lead to so much resentment on her part that it’s what has gotten us to this point of possible divorce.

I totally see what you mean about our anniversary maybe not being the ideal time to re-evaluate our relationship. But I dont know what the ideal time is, and considering how our last anniversary went, it really cant get much worse than that regardless of how the conversation goes😆! Ive tried so many times to create romantic situations and have nice date nights or nice anniversaries and it pretty much always doesnt work out. She gets angry about something (being late, menu changed from last time, her order gets messed up…) or she’s got a headache, or she has period cramps, or shes tired so she sleeps the whole time I’m driving… Shit, last year’s anniversary consisted of doing an “escape room” with some of her family, going out to dinner, taking a hike with our dog and staying in a hotel (which she loves for some reason I can’t understand). The result was her being so unpleasant that i cried alone in our vehicle, went into a store with tears in my eyes to buy her flowers (because I had been so busy arranging everything up to then and trying to get us there on time that I hadnt gotten flowers yet), not getting a “thank you” from her, her being too angry to sleep and demanding we go home at 2am. It was miserable. It basically killed my motivation to even try to be romantic anymore. Maybe ill wait until shortly after the anniversary to discuss things so we can use however the anniversary goes as part of the decision making…

And you’re very right about speaking your mind being different and more difficult than really listening. I have been working on both of those skills and hope that it helps.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Mark Miner wrote:Hi again, Brody,
There seems to be lots of wise counsel in this thread, that's really encouraging.

I guess I'll go a question you asked:

if they feel that happiness comes from within, comes from compatibility with their partner or comes from compromise, work, struggles, dedication and a bit of settling…  

and I'll immediately change the subject to maybe make it easier to talk about.

Does a successful garden come from within, come from compatibility with the site, or come from compromise, work, struggles, dedication and a bit of settling?

I'll answer that second question (that I made up, which is really cheating on the test). I am not super compatible with gardening (not a green thumb, at all). I live in AZ, with an immature windswept, sunbaked site (that does have a wash on it). And the only way we have had stuff grow is compromising with the site and the weather and the plants and our crummy efforts, and keeping trying, and being glad for the dandelions that come up (ate them in lentils) and the Maximillian sunflowers that are friends with our apricot tree (tubers bake well, if a little gassy), and getting (more) cats because the ground squirrels ate the whole wheat crop last season, and balancing a job and kids and life and dealing with what comes. It's not glamorous, and it's not always fun, but it's not always awful, either. There are good times and bad, and insisting on only the good being allowed to happen would be about as sensible as telling a tree to skip straight to the fruit, bucko, enough with these leaves and flowers and waiting... All that to say, it's a little bit of everything, but emphasis on the hard work and diligence. Maybe a lot of work has been lost in the past because I as a gardener didn't know what I was doing. That's too bad, and can be made better. I can't sit back and enjoy all the rewards of prior ignorant work, but I can work towards the future rewards of better-educated gardening.

But enough about gardening, we were talking about relationships. I'll highlight Sherry's good comment about there being fewer and fewer sane marriageable-yet-unmarried people as you age. I also want to highlight Eric's excellent notes about how you and your wife are both now facing the same set of issues, and talking about it. That in itself is a really good step. There's no guarantee of happy endings, but it really helps to have both people facing the same direction.

I don't know your learning style or level of interest, but I do recommend a really excellent family-systems book by Edwin Friedman, "Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church & Synagogue". Yes, he's a rabbi, and about 30% of the book is aimed at congregations/communities, but the other 70% is aimed at individuals and immediate families (with community being his third layer of family, thus the grouping). It's not new, but Friedman's approach is very keen on unpacking those family-size problems that affect individual behavior so much. He does not assume trite-right answers exist, but he does assume that in every situation, somehow, progress and healing can be made possible by untangling and addressing relationship behaviors. (caveat, I'm pretty sure you don't have to have any faith tradition to find value in the book, it's good counseling, not theology). But maybe you are not a book person, I don't know, and if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

At any rate, I certainly wish you and your wife the best, whatever that may be.

Mark



Thank you Mark, that was very insightful! Your analogy with the garden made it seem very obvious that the answer to my question is that it takes all if the above. I guess the way I’m looking at it is if one gardener has good weather, good soil and enough time to put towards a garden that person will probably enjoy the process of gardening more than the person who has weather that is uncooperative, soil that isnt fertile and is already busy with other things. Both can have a successful garden, but one will come quite naturally and one will be a constant struggle. Is the goal a successful garden or an enjoyable gardening experience? The answer probably depends on the person and the situation I guess.

I have always had the mindset that I will be ok, I will figure it out, I will do my best with what I have and I will find ways to benefit from this relationship even if it is difficult. It seemed honorable and mature to me. But sometimes I am not ok. Some things I cant figure out. Doing the best with what I have is definitely settling. And finding something beneficial in a struggle could definitely be me wearing rose colored glasses in a war zone! Because I realize that now, I’m questioning how much work do I really want to put into a relationship? There’s so many things in life that I’m interested in now that require time, effort and attention from me that I am not interested in a high maintenance relationship. I want it to be easier. Not easy, but not a constant struggle. Not feeling like I’m swimming upstream. And she wants the same, without a doubt. I guess we’re just in the process of figuring out how much of a difference us being our best selves, at the same time, for the same reason, can really make.

As for it being harder to find the “right person” as you age, I definitely could see that. Especially considering Im not a super social person. If I was single, I would not put much effort into finding someone. I would do my thing and hope that I cross paths with someone that suits me, but wouldn’t do much searching. For years I figured I would live and die alone anyway, so even though i would love a family, being alone does not scare me. But also, being older, at least in my situation, means I now have a pretty clear understanding of what the “wrong person” may look like for me. I know my values, my priorities, my goals, my expectations, my baggage. I knew none of that when I started out with my wife. And there’s technology now. I have never participated in any online dating and am not too interested in it. But it seems to me like that, and something like the Permies Singles page would be a great way to narrow the selection down pretty quickly and easily.

And I do like reading. I dont read much until winter, just because I’m so busy during the growing season. But thank you for the recommendation, I may check it out!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jeremy VanGelder wrote:
Hey Brody, I am in a happy marriage of 7 years. It is happy because we have some compatibility and because we both work hard at it. I have often been humbled to see my wife fight for our marriage even when I have hurt her heart. We humans are going to hurt the people who are closest to us. Sometimes by mistake, sometimes on purpose. The only thing to do is to offer forgiveness whenever someone hurts me, and to make it up whenever I hurt someone else.



When you say compatible, do you mean things in common or do you mean differences that compliment eachother nicely?

I think a part of our problem is that shortly after getting married I discovered and prioritized permaculture over our relationship and the resentments that created inside my wife led to her refusing to work hard at our marriage for years. I went my own way and she sat in a rut for a while. The thing is though, I’m heading a certain direction with or without her (and with or without anyone else). Now that I’m passionate about something in life and feel like theres a good reason for me to be alive, I want to pursue permaculture ideals in life no matter what the obstacles. I dont feel like my marriage should be my main focus in life, its just too limiting. Now, if my wife was also passionate about permaculture and also felt like she was heading down the same path with the enthusiasm I have, then prioritizing our marriage would come naturally and easily. But I’ve been dragging her down this path for years and we’re both tired of her kicking and screaming. She admits it was all resentment and her actively resisting, even opposing me for years, so maybe that will change a bit now… hopefully!

And yes, forgiveness is very important. I tend to forgive pretty quickly due to not being interested in holding grudges or being burdened with resentment. But my wife is stubborn and is great at holding a grudge. She sees the effects of that now and says she is ready to change, so hopefully that helps as well!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Abraham Palma wrote:Hello.

I don't think there's a recipe for a successful marriage. Each person has their own needs, and mutually satisfying some of them with their couple is great for the relationship.
Even worse, these needs and gives will change with time.

One point is important about what you said. Children are not the glue of a relationship. If the relationship works, it works, and then children live in a happy family, but a relationship that does not work, will not work because of children.
Another point I don't quite agree is compatibility. What I need from my couple is being able to spend enjoyable time with her. This usually is going out for diner, but it can be a walk in the park while we talk politics or family issues. We don't need to agree on politics, just loving to talk about the topic will suffice. She will not join me in the garder, I will not join her at the gym, that's fine.

Then, I may not be the best to offer counsel, since I am still in my first marriage, 18 years living together. We had a crisis when, probably because I neglected the relationship, my wife felt I wasn't loving her enough. I don't think I was doing anything different, though. And I felt scared of having to start again, the troubles of a divorce with children, etc, so we try to make it work again. Personally, I blame the lockdowns, since they prived us of our time together outside.
I talked to a relationship advisor, I told her how wrong was my wife in this or that, and she replied to me: do you want to be right or do you want to have a relationship? The lesson was that being right or wrong does not matter in a relationship. It's about love: needs and fulfillments.

So, what did she want from me? Attention, time (with her, not in the garden), proactivity proposing activities (other than going to the garden), understanding (that she loves plants, but not the work), romanticism. I've barely managed to fulfill most of these, but romanticism still evades me. Maybe I should plant some flowers.



I agree 100% about children not being the glue to a relationship. If anything, they could be a solvent to dissolve the glue at times! This is just based off of talking to people as we dont have kids ourselves yet.

As for compatibility, I just mean do the differences compliment eachother or cause conflict? Maybe that is largely based off of attitude too. When I was wearing rose colored glasses, my attitude was that our differences make us more well rounded and a stronger couple. And that if we have children they will see different ways of handling things and different perspectives. Now, the rose colored glasses are smashed and I realize that while differences are great, too great of differences are very hard to work with. My wife likes relaxing, taking vacations, watching tv and movies, shopping/spending, doing social activities and playing/coaching sports. Honestly, I’m not into any of that. I like nature, hunting, fishing, gardening, animals, being alone in nature, saving money, being productive and working towards goals. Our differences directly cause conflict and require constant compromises to avoid resentments. She says that now that she isn’t actively resisting and opposing me that she can change and maybe learn to like more of the things that I do. That sounds nice on the surface, but I dont want her to change for me. Thats not fair to either of us. I want her to be her, for her own sake and I want to be myself for my own sake. If the two dont jive well together, I would rather split than try to be what someone else needs us to be. And even if she does learn to genuinely like the things I do, I am not very interested in reciprocating. I mean, I am ideologically opposed to some of the things she likes (shopping/spending, tv/movies), I physically and mentally feel better being productive than relaxing, and I would rather structure my life in a way that doesnt cause me to want to take a vacation than live “normally” until an insatiable desire to escape rises up causing me to want to get away. And I like discussing deep topics like philosophy, religions, meaning, death, psychology. She gets frustrated with deep conversations and either shuts down or argues.

It’s interesting to me that the lockdown stressed your relationship. Honestly, it was great for us. I almost feel bad saying that because I’m very aware of how awful it was for so many people. But we were financially just fine (actually did even better considering I was still getting full pay, couldnt go to work and got stimulus money), had less stress due to being limited and not having obligations, and got to spend more time at home together. She said that was the happiest she has felt in a while and would love another lockdown😆!

As for being right or being in a relationship, I totally understand where the advisor is coming from. But what if they dont have to be mutually exclusive? What if both parties agree on things, so both feel “right” and the relationship is fine? Seems possible but I’m sure this is unlikely. I just know so many people who think their spouse is crazy, at least in some way. Its so “normal” for people to maintain a relationship with someone who they strongly disagree with about a bunch or things, have completely different perspectives and Cant understand eachother. I cant help but wonder if that is normal because thats just the difference between men and women, or if its normal because many other couples out there make the same mistakes and end up in similar situations for similar reasons.

And yes, my wife wants those same things from me. Spend less time outside and spend more time doing “fun” activities with her. The romanticism part has been a struggle for me as well. Whenever I try it usually backfires or has lackluster results. And the last few years have been so miserable that I’m not even trying to be romantic anymore. But hopefully that will change now. And I’m with you, plant her some flowers!😆 My wife loves flowers and will buy them for herself if I don’t often enough. But I would much rather plant them or pick them than buy them. And if I was in her shoes, picked or grown flowers would mean much more to me than store bought flowers anyway. Just another difference in our perspectives!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jordan Holland wrote:Dating today, and at your age, is very likely very different from what the two of you remember, especially with such an entwined past. I get the impression that you lean more heavily to the side of believing that divorce will almost certainly lead to growth for both of you. If you divorce, will you not both still have the same baggage? Is it not possible divorce will add even more baggage?

From your description of the both of you, I suspect you (being more accustomed to being alone, a saver, less emotional, etc.) will likely be ok. You can probably throw yourself into your permaculture endeavors and even thrive. I fear she will not fare as well. I think I recall you have been the main source of income, she's a spender, wants to travel, is more emotional, etc. I feel she will be in for a much ruder awakening. Dating after 30 appears to be much more difficult for a woman, from what I've seen. If she ends up spiraling down the drain, will it affect you? If you divorce and make some lawyer very happy, will all that money be spent only to end up back together eventually? If both or either of you date other people in the interim, then end up getting back together, would it be better to have never divorced? Would it add a whole new load of baggage? Or perhaps it could even have the opposite effect and end up bringing you closer together than ever before. It truly is a great deal to consider.



Very interesting idea! Neither of us have really “dated” to be honest with you! I mean, we were school kids when we first got together. Then tried again in high school, but it was just going to whatever sporting events that were going on at the time. As adults, there still wasnt much for a proper date, just hanging out, going to the beach, watching tv and fooling around. Neither of us has ever really searched out a significant other or spent time going on traditional dates. We were either together or alone, and she had a couple very brief other relationships as a teenager but also didnt consist of legitimate dating.

I do definitely believe divorce would lead to growth for me, but not necessarily for both of us. I think it COULD lead to growth for her too but that totally depends on her attitude and mindset. I have a growth mindset and think growth is a main point in our life experience, so it’s inevitable as far as I’m concerned. The picture you painted of us is pretty accurate and I also think that divorce could be catastrophic for her. She’s never been alone, has insecurities, self esteem issues, can’t afford much based off of her current income and has the whole conundrum of wanting children but is losing eggs by the month which causes stress in her life. But all if that being true does not mean I should stay married to her. That seems like a very inappropriate reason to be married in my opinion. But yes, all of that would weigh in my and definitely would give me feelings of guilt if we split and she spirals downhill. Despite that guilt, I refuse to stay in an unhappy, unhealthy marriage to try to avoid feelings of guilt.

And I already told her, if we divorce we are done permanently. She broke my heart twice already and now that we’re struggling through a marriage, if this doesn’t work out I’ll take it as a sign to move on permanently. I would probably die lonely and resentful before remarrying her regardless of what feelings arose in the future.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Tereza Okava wrote:
I agree, every relationship seems to be its own case. We just celebrated our 25th. I married someone so thoroughly different from me my American friends were sure it was a passport scam, and my father didn't talk to me for years: different nationality, religion, language, background, education, everything.  

Yet despite the outward differences we are in some ways almost exactly the same. We are both hot-headed and have a deep sense of morality and rightness. We have been madly in love with each other, several times. Moved out a few times. Done couples counseling. Had amazing things happen to us we celebrated, and terrible things we cried together through. We've been mean to each other, and also have fought like bears to defend each other.
From the start, I decided I was only going to do the big things (marriage, kids) once. I had a lot to accomplish in life, and wasn't going to repeat. I needed it to work or else I was done. I made it work. Luckily I am very stubborn, and so is my partner.
We learned, together, that when things are really bad, we need to turn off everything else, sit down, and talk serious. We've gotten pretty good, but we still work at it, and both have room to improve.

Only in the past few years have we started sharing each other's hobbies. He's starting to enjoy birds, and I even let him in the garden now. I got an antique car, and will go to football games. I put up with these "weird things" because it made him happy, and then that made me happy.
But I don't need my husband to be everything to me-- he is what he is, and who he is, and that is exactly who I need him to be. I would change NOTHING. I have other people who fulfill other roles, to talk about US foreign policy or opera or art history with. If he starts to absorb some of my interests, great! That's sweet! But it's not what I need, and I respect him and love him precisely for what he is. I might grumble about his politics or silly things he does, but I admire the hell out of him, and marrying him was probably the best thing I ever did.

I think the shrinking of social circles and also changes in lifestyle put a lot of pressure on couples to be everything to each other. That's a heavy burden, and you don't even have barfing kids and sick parents and all that in the mix yet.
I hope you guys can sit down and have this conversation soon. Only you know if continuing this relationship and doing the work is worth it. But being able to sit down and honestly have the talk and say what you both feel is vital. If things are unsaid, then that resentment starts to ferment, and you can't have a healthy relationship with resentment. After all, you guys chose each other, and there must be something good at the base there.
The first time we did couples counseling started by explaining to the therapist why we were together in the first place. It was a good experience to remember, positively, how we ended up married, and to think that I would do it again. Maybe you guys can think about that, and how to move forward. Good luck.



Wow, that really is a lot of differences! I couldn’t imagine dealing with a language barrier with a partner!

I too really only wanted to do this once. Actually, for years I was opposed to having children and assumed I would die alone, but that has changed over the years. I do hate the idea of divorce and starting over, but also, I love change and am very aware of how limited our love lives have been. The idea of a clean slate with someone new and, maybe more aligned with my passions, goals and values is exciting to me. She has brought up incompatibility multiple times in the past and told me she thinks we both might be settling. I talked her out of it every time but now I’m actually feeling that way for the first time. Of course shes trying to talk me out of it now but I’m still on the fence.

In my experience, us doing things with the other because it makes them happy actually doesn’t seem to be helpful. When I go to sporting events with her, I’m going because she wants me to and because I think that maybe if I go she will be happier with our relationship. But she knows I dont want to be there and have other things id rather be doing. And so even when I go, she feels shes “forcing” me to. On the other side, if she helps helps me with a project or helps in the garden or with the chickens, I always hope that shes doing it because she wants to but she isnt, shes doing it because she thinks it will make me happy. Truth is, I’m happy doing the shit on my own most of the time anyway. Its nice when she helps but then she will say things like “I did this with you and now you cant to this with me?” Seems unfair to me. We both want the other to genuinely WANT to do the things, not to do it out if obligation, fairness or to make the other be happy.

Happiness is a whole topic in itself. I really think she expects me to be able to make her happy and I’m very aware that that is an impossible task. I’ve tried and failed for years before realizing on my own that happiness comes from within oneself and you cant force anyone to be happy under any circumstances. If someone is not ok internally, nothing externally will make them truly happy.

Your comments about shrinking social circles and being “everything” for eachother is definitely a factor. She grew up watching Disney and Hallmark and it contaminated her brain with fantasies of princes and princesses, glitter and sparkles, magic and unattainable romance. I think she expects me to be everything in her life, although she is realizing that now and is talking to her friends and therapist more which helps. I dont really have any very close friends. My closest friends live pretty far away and dont have a lot in common with me. But I do have a few people I can talk to about things that I cant with her, and that helps. This website had actually been very helpful in that regard being a community of diverse yet generally like minded people.

You saying you wouldn’t change anything about your husband is another sticking point here. This is something else I started really thinking and feeling into lately: do we love eachother for who we are, or do we love eachother for what we could be? To be totally honest, I have a list of things I would love to change about my wife. In the past, I openly tried to change them. That backfired so I stopped and instead went with the “lead by example” route instead, which also backfired. She also has tried and succeeded in changing me in multiple ways over the years. Even gave me an ultimatum at one point, and I bought into it. Now I realize that it isnt fair to either of us to try to force someone else to be what we think they should be. It usually doesnt work and even if it does work, the results wont be genuine or satisfying.

I am curious, since you brought it up, how you ended up married. Because that’s another thing I’ve been re-evaluating for us. Since 12-13 years old, I was drawn to her like a magnet. It didnt make sense. We didnt know eachother, she wasnt the most attractive person id ever seen, we werent very similar… but I immediately knew i wanted to be with her. And that stubborn, childish motivation stuck around for years. It disappeared after the 2nd heartbreak but came back as adults. I just fully committed to her, knowing it would be a struggle and not ever really understanding why I was so sure of her. I thought it was love because I couldn’t explain it and didnt know what else it could be. Now that I’ve learned about attachment theory, I really think that somehow, it was each of our subconscious’ bring magnetically drawn to eachother. Its like certain things needed to be worked out or resolved within us, and we were the best means to achieve that for eachother. Its very strange to think about, and I’m pretty open minded! But I dont know if that is true love, real compatibility or a healthy relationship. It might just be the universe working out past traumas for the progress of mankind…
 
Brody Ekberg
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:I love the amazing and wise comments so far.

People grow together, or they grow apart. We all change with time.

But they can grow together! And they do! This is 26 years talking, and parents/aunts/uncles topping out over 60 years. And yes, I've been lucky to have these examples, and yes people do find a path forward in the hard times. It can be a pretty cranky and vigorous process, with hard headed individuals wrestling over the path forward. Take courage from this -- I have seen it with my own eyes.

I think the most powerful thing is to find common cause. This is not easy when values seem disconnected.  But these are usually social causes based on: we have the power to help others in a tangible way. We have these responsibilities as humans with the power to act in the human community! Not BS protesting and marching, but more like "delivering food for people who are hungry." And connect the dots from there, to the gardening and homesteading and soil building and the food production adventure that makes this all possible -- for a lifetime! .

Ask yourself, and your spouse, openly: What do we want to build?s Be open to the answer. It all flows from that simple question. Note the "we."

Luck to you!



Thank you for the encouragement!

If you dont mind, would you attribute your successful marriage to compatibility (differences that compliment eachother harmoniously) or compromise, hard work and stubborn commitment? Or all of the above?

Your advice about a common cause is huge here. We absolutely did not have that when we got married. Shortly after marriage I discovered permaculture and my life finally had meaning. This was my cause. This was my path forward. I immediately knew that it would change, and could end the relationship. But to me, this is more important. Im walking this path alone, with her or with someone else. But either way, I’m walking this path. And I told her that. I tried to “sell” permaculture to her a variety of ways but she was not receptive. So I started on the path without her and that just led to her feeling left behind (rightfully so).

On one level, we are so different. But we also do have interests that can work well together. She loves children and wants to educate and care for kids in the community. I see children as our future and feel a strong desire to broaden their horizons, educate them about permaculture and show them opportunities that i was unaware of and had to discover on my own in my 20s.

So, I have this vision of our property as a food forest, gardens, and small permaculture farm/educational facility. I would happily stay home to create that and she would happily go into the community to build relationships and bring kids and their parents back to me to show them the path. That is something we can work towards together despite our differences, and I do still have some hope that it could work out that way. Its just gotten very messy along the way! And I’m now questioning how much work the marriage should be in that whole picture. So far, its been a ton of work just to be unhappy and unhealthy and I can only imagine it taking way more to turn it around!
 
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Hi Brody,
My heart breaks to hear your story... it is all too common. Please know, that having different interests is not the problem, it is very common for people to be opposites and have a great marriage. Also, for full disclosure, I have been married for 13 and 1/2 years, and separated from my wife for almost 2 years. She filed for a divorce that I am dead set against. I could probably write pages about this, but I want to try to keep this concise.

First of all, I do not think divorce should be an option, period. Divorce hurts society. Divorce hurts children. Divorce hurts both spouses. If you go into marriage as a lifelong commitment, you have a much better chance. If there is no escape, you HAVE to find a way. If divorce is on the table at all... my opinion is that the marriage is doomed, and its just a matter of when. Imagine putting together a model, and you glue two plastic pieces together, and let it dry. Then try to pull them apart. If you succeed in pulling them apart, neither piece will ever be the same again. Some people divorce for good reasons... most for poor reasons... but divorce is damaging no matter the reason.

Second, answer this question. Who is the tie-breaker in your marriage? While people talk about 50/50 marriages all the time, the fact is that those don't work. You cannot have two people with the same level of authority, because you will disagree at some point, and someone needs to be the tie-breaker. I think certain religions and our own human history point to which spouse makes the most sense to be the tie-breaker... but regardless, someone has to have the final say, or it will never work. If one spouse has the final say, and the other is willing to submit to that decision, a whole lot of arguments would never happen. Marriage is supposed to be two becoming one. The idea is that you now work together towards a common goal. A marriage without leadership won't go anywhere. Someone has to be in charge. I think in this day and age, people think that one and one becomes two. People seem to be focusing on themselves as individuals... when you are supposed to be thinking of yourself and your spouse as one unit now. You don't have to both like the same things, but you have to be dedicated to the marriage. In the marriages that I have seen work, its not the husband's goals and the wife's goals on separate lists, it is that the wife takes on her husband's goals. If two people want to go their own way... why are they married?

Lastly, from your description, you are at the end of your rope and your wife and counselors are making you feel like its partly your fault. And if you were ignoring her like you mentioned... then yeah, it is partially your fault. However, her actions are not excusable. The fact that she admits to being part of the problem is a HUGE thing. Many women (my wife included) cannot accept their part of the responsibility. The fact that you are doing all of these things for her and she is not responding, tells me a lot. There are really only two reasons she would not respond to your actions to do things for her. Either those things are not her love language, so she does not register them as showing love... or the more common thing (and what happened to me) is that she is emotionally checked out of the marriage and is gaslighting you for a variety of possible reasons. The first should be easy to sort out, the second reason is much harder.

You need to put her needs and wants before your own... that is called love. I see quite a few examples of this in your posts.
She needs to put your needs and wants before her own... that is called love. This is obviously a one sided story... but the examples are not showing this. Let us hope that she is actually doing this.
You two need to decide who is going to be the tie breaker.

If those three things happened, I think your conflict would shrink and allow the marriage to skyrocket.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Riona Abhainn wrote:I've only been married for almost 2 and a half years now, but I love being married, so I'm going to come at this with that implicit bias.  My husband and I are different, but mostly in ways that complament and balance each other.  We communicate a lot, try consciously to do things that fill each other's "love bank" even if those things don't really fill our own, but since we do it for each other both of us feel fulfilled.

I think modern society sees personal individuality as the be all and the end all, its all about the individual.  I think that there are things we can learn from more collectivist cultures, its not that people shouldn't enjoy their individuality, its that people should be balanced and be less hyperfocused on personal growth at the expense of something that could be even better, growth together.  Because your wife and you have both been learning a lot about yourselves, and mistakes in the marriage, I think now is the time to come together and do the work together.  She sounds like she's ready to work on herself and the marriage.  You sound like you're ready to work on yourself and the marriage, so if you're both doing it then I think good things are coming.  I'd suggest maybe starting with a new couples counselor though, one that won't be biassed toward you or her, that will get to know you both at the same time.  Makes sense for her to keep seeing her individual therapist though because good things are happening there.

So I did give you advice, didn't veil it or sneak it in.  Just gave it to you.



Very interesting perspective!

Marriage hasnt really been much different for me than before we were married because I was fully committed to her for years before anyway. All that changed was papers, rings and loads of debt!

As for filling eachothers love bank even when it doesn’t fill your own: that sounds like what a lot of successful marriages tend to do to work it out. But it just seems to me that somewhere out there, theres a couple where filling eachothers love bank DOES mean filling their own. That to me seems ideal, although probably hard to find.

I think youre right about individualism in our culture and I certainly am in that boat. I strive to balance myself and be generally self sufficient in as many ways as possible. It seems morally good, mature, honorable and responsible to me. But thats just a perspective and not necessarily true or even healthy! Im seeing that now.

As for counseling: she would gladly see a different couples counselor because she thinks our last one “ganged up on her” and only knows her at her worst. I totally see how finding a new person could be good, but also, since our first therapist has seen her at her worst, wouldnt she be best to notice improvements? She already has an understanding of the problems and their consequences, where a new therapist would need to learn all of that in order to understand where we are coming from and if we’re making progress.
 
Tereza Okava
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Matt McSpadden wrote: ... you are supposed to be thinking of yourself and your spouse as one unit now. You don't have to both like the same things, but you have to be dedicated to the marriage. .... If two people want to go their own way... why are they married?


This is such a good point. Frankly, Brody, I'm wondering what your motivation is for being married. What do you get out of this? What does she get out of this? If this was a job, would you still be there? If this was your brother, what would your advice be?

In a bad time like this I'd be getting out the old notepad and doing the old pro/con analysis list. And then I'd show it to her and say look, I am still here because I love you, but 100% serious, what do you think about this, and how can we move forward?

It's hard for me to imagine being married from a young age, since I was on my own very early to provide for myself. I know how it feels to make money from blistered hands and to eat lentils for the last two weeks of the month, and it's one of the things I share with my spouse (today, we each have our own businesses, it's hard to believe how far we've come). We also have all sorts of attachment and family traumas, which we are brutally open about (lots of therapy...).
But neither of us depended on the other for anything when we first met, we were totally equal and simply enjoyed each other's company. I think each of us being so independent and proud makes us respect each other. I don't think I'd be able to say the same thing if I hadn't supported myself.
I also have questions when I hear about couples where the provisioning and labor (of all types) is lopsided. Similarly, when enjoyment is lopsided (I'm reading about your anniversary with my mouth open). Where respect is lacking, there is resentment.

(I met my spouse in a reggae bar when we were both working in Japan, I was enjoying finally having a stable, enjoyable life after about 10 years of struggle, and he was pretty much in the same place. We also had inexplicable chemistry and a common language, plus a few hobbies and friends in common. We both had been so focused on trying to climb out of poverty that we never thought about marriage or family, and then suddenly it was a possibility. We actually talked a lot about having kids and our future lives at the beginning, which I suppose was natural as our backgrounds were so different. Everyone around us telling us we were making a huge mistake made us both more determined to make it work. We fought a bit, to be sure, and 90% of the time money was the trigger, I think that's not uncommon. But there was always the mission to come back to: it moved from having someone whose company I enjoyed, to having a kid in common whose welfare was more important than anything else, to supporting the other person when they needed it, to being a best friend. the kid is grown now, and we are closer than ever.)
 
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I probably have no business intruding on this conversation as a person who has never been married and who has had few positive examples of marriage.

But I have had a good amount of experience dealing with my own attachment issues, and I don’t think that you two are doomed to be locked into the same toxic pattern forever if you are willing to work at it, which it seems you are.

Like you, attachment theory was a revelation for me. I came to see my anxious attachment issues not so much as baggage as an alarm system warning me that I am entering a dynamic that is unhealthy for me.  Previously, I would feel anxiety at someone pulling away and try to suppress my feelings about it to keep him from pulling away more. Or I would express my concerns and my partner would outright dismiss them, leading to me suppressing my feelings. But the more I tried to suppress my feelings, the more they would come out sideways as passive aggressive protest behavior.

These days I recognize the feeling of anxious attachment and can stop myself from heading down that path. Instead, I will reflect on why I feel the anxiety. It does not come out of nowhere. There is always a behavior that triggers the feeling, and I have to accept that if I am feeling anxiety that it is a behavior that I probably should not tolerate. So then I decide what change I would need to avoid that anxiety. It is usually something very small that has to do with communication. I determine that this is a boundary I have to draw and present it to my partner. I do not present it as an ultimatum—do this or else I walk. Nor do I accuse him of wrongdoing. I just explain that this is what I need in a relationship, and then it is up to him to decide whether or not he can provide what I need. As a result of this change, I no longer get sucked into these cycles of escalating toxic behavior. And the more I do it, the more I feel secure. So take heart; you are not doomed.

You mentioned childhood trauma, and I myself also attributed a lot of my attachment behaviors to childhood trauma. I found the book The Children of Emotionally Immature Parents very helpful in understanding why I react the way I do.

I think the tricky part will be empathy and communication. To avoid engaging in protest behavior that hurts each other, you each will need to not only understand your own feelings, but feel like you have a safe space to communicate what you are feeling without being invalidated. That means, for example, when she needs reassurance or extra time with you, you cannot write her off as being too needy. And when you need some space to yourself, she cannot dismiss you as being unloving. You will each have to accept that the other’s needs are valid even where you might otherwise feel they are excessive. You each need to be able to say what you need and then work together to find a compromise that works for both of you.

I think if you two can successfully empathize and communicate with each other, you can probably work through a lot of your differences. But it is possible that you may have some differences that are irreconcilable. If I were in your shoes, I would have my partner and myself each separately come up with a vision of the life we want in the long-term (values, family, work, money, social life, hobbies, travel, religion, etc.). Determine what are your must-haves—the things you will regret not accomplishing when you are on your deathbed—and which of those must-haves require your partner’s participation. Then come together to share your visions and figure out whether and how you can blend your visions together or whether there are some complete dealbreakers that might make continued partnership unproductive. If you guys can create a blended vision of the life you want, then when differences arise the only concern will be how it affects your blueprint for the future. As long as the shared vision is unaffected, you can freely revel in your differences.  

Whatever the outcome, I hope you two find peace and happiness.


Brody Ekberg wrote:My wife loves flowers and will buy them for herself if I don’t often enough. But I would much rather plant them or pick them than buy them. And if I was in her shoes, picked or grown flowers would mean much more to me than store bought flowers anyway. Just another difference in our perspectives!



I could be way off base, but I get the sense that you might be too fixated on your differences to recognize the overlap that might exist between you two, and you might potentially be making erroneous assumptions about what your wife wants or why she wants what she wants. For instance, you said your wife prefers store-bought flowers to picked or grown flowers, but is that accurate? Or is she responding favorably to the appearance of increased effort and forethought? If you just haphazardly cut some flowers on your way into the house—flowers that perhaps would have to be pruned back anyway—it may not feel as special as you taking the time to think about her far enough in advance to order flowers from a florist. The latter suggests that she was definitely on your mind and worth additional effort while the former may appear low-effort. But I’d wager that if you created a bed of flowers in the garden that each had a special significance to her (this one is your favorite color, this is the flower I gave you for a corsage when we first dated, this one I planted because I saw you admire it at our neighbors, etc.), she would appreciate that way more than store-bought flowers because it signals a higher level of effort and consideration for her feelings. The difference might not be so much one of materialism versus simplicity, but of perceived effort versus perceived efficiency.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Brody,
My heart breaks to hear your story... it is all too common. Please know, that having different interests is not the problem, it is very common for people to be opposites and have a great marriage. Also, for full disclosure, I have been married for 13 and 1/2 years, and separated from my wife for almost 2 years. She filed for a divorce that I am dead set against. I could probably write pages about this, but I want to try to keep this concise.

First of all, I do not think divorce should be an option, period. Divorce hurts society. Divorce hurts children. Divorce hurts both spouses. If you go into marriage as a lifelong commitment, you have a much better chance. If there is no escape, you HAVE to find a way. If divorce is on the table at all... my opinion is that the marriage is doomed, and its just a matter of when. Imagine putting together a model, and you glue two plastic pieces together, and let it dry. Then try to pull them apart. If you succeed in pulling them apart, neither piece will ever be the same again. Some people divorce for good reasons... most for poor reasons... but divorce is damaging no matter the reason.

Second, answer this question. Who is the tie-breaker in your marriage? While people talk about 50/50 marriages all the time, the fact is that those don't work. You cannot have two people with the same level of authority, because you will disagree at some point, and someone needs to be the tie-breaker. I think certain religions and our own human history point to which spouse makes the most sense to be the tie-breaker... but regardless, someone has to have the final say, or it will never work. If one spouse has the final say, and the other is willing to submit to that decision, a whole lot of arguments would never happen. Marriage is supposed to be two becoming one. The idea is that you now work together towards a common goal. A marriage without leadership won't go anywhere. Someone has to be in charge. I think in this day and age, people think that one and one becomes two. People seem to be focusing on themselves as individuals... when you are supposed to be thinking of yourself and your spouse as one unit now. You don't have to both like the same things, but you have to be dedicated to the marriage. In the marriages that I have seen work, its not the husband's goals and the wife's goals on separate lists, it is that the wife takes on her husband's goals. If two people want to go their own way... why are they married?

Lastly, from your description, you are at the end of your rope and your wife and counselors are making you feel like its partly your fault. And if you were ignoring her like you mentioned... then yeah, it is partially your fault. However, her actions are not excusable. The fact that she admits to being part of the problem is a HUGE thing. Many women (my wife included) cannot accept their part of the responsibility. The fact that you are doing all of these things for her and she is not responding, tells me a lot. There are really only two reasons she would not respond to your actions to do things for her. Either those things are not her love language, so she does not register them as showing love... or the more common thing (and what happened to me) is that she is emotionally checked out of the marriage and is gaslighting you for a variety of possible reasons. The first should be easy to sort out, the second reason is much harder.

You need to put her needs and wants before your own... that is called love. I see quite a few examples of this in your posts.
She needs to put your needs and wants before her own... that is called love. This is obviously a one sided story... but the examples are not showing this. Let us hope that she is actually doing this.
You two need to decide who is going to be the tie breaker.

If those three things happened, I think your conflict would shrink and allow the marriage to skyrocket.



Wow, I’m really sorry to hear what you’re going through. I hope that it however it works out, it leads to you both growing and healing without resentment in the end.

I totally agree that divorce shouldn’t be an option, and from childhood until a couple months ago, leaving her wasn’t an option for me. Not when we were little kids, not when we were teenagers and not as married adults. I was 100% committed and didnt even want to entertain the idea of divorce for the exact reason you stated. She’s a different story. Broke up with me twice before and since being married she had brought up divorce several times. It was always during a highly emotional argument and afterwards she said things like “i didnt really mean it, you just weren’t listening to me and I needed you to know how serious I am”. I understand that, but that is inappropriate and unacceptable to me and I told her that, eventually. To her credit, she hasn’t brought it up since. But now its my turn! I finally started looking into attachment theory, compatibility, narcissism, gaslighting, codependency and whatnot and realized how super unhealthy our dynamic has always been, and that is what made me realize that maybe this was not good. Maybe we were tormenting eachother so our subconscious could heal. Maybe this wouldn’t get better. Maybe we were just in eachothers life temporarily to learn and grow and them move on to bigger, better things. Maybe we never truly loved eachother for who we were but loved the idea of who we could become. This is what made me realize that divorce might be a legitimate option for me. Because our own health and well being is more important to me than a marriage certificate. Now, we dont have kids, and that would certainly change my opinion!

The tie breaker concept is interesting! I’m going to guess that you are a Christian of some sort, or at least subscribe to one of the Abrahamic religions based off of a few things you said. I am not by any orthodox standards but do value the Bible and its teachings. I agree that 50/50 doesn’t seem to work without constant compromise. And constant compromise can work if both feel satisfied with the situation, but how often is that the case? I think often times compromise leads to at least a bit of disappointment on both sides. Fair, but not ideal. Ill risk offending some, but am going out on a limb to say that you think it makes most sense for the man to be the tie breaker and that religions and human history would agree. I also agree that it makes the most sense, specifically because MEN tend to make the most sense, where women tend to be more emotional. Not that emotions are bad or less important, but they often dont make sense and are unhelpful in many situations, especially if they are overriding logic and reason.  My wife has made comments about how men control the world and women have always been subject to men, and that is precisely my response to her. Not that its right or ok, but that up until recently, survival needs were the most important thing in anyones life and your emotions have nothing to do with meeting survival needs. So naturally, society would be structured around logic and reason instead of emotions. The problem with that is that it has, in my opinion, led to a society of overly emotional women (compensating for not being/feeling heard or valued) and a society of men who are detached from their own emotional experience (Ive been there… for years). I think what would be ideal is a healthy balance of both. Embracing women’s emotionality and embracing mens logic and reason and using both together, not setting them at odds against eachother or one trumping the other, unless survival is at stake!

I know Abrahamic religions put men as the “head” of the family and the world is more or less structured around those religions. I would gladly lead or be the head if she would agree to that. I almost said “submit” but almost cringed at that. She isnt going to submit to anyone about anything, i know that much. So, in our marriage, i would say there is no leader. I have tried and been rejected. I have done my own thing and been told I neglected her. I have seen her lead and its self destructive. So I dont know where to go with that.

And yes, I am at the end of my rope, precisely why I almost left her. But I do have a lot of fault in this. I have lied to her more than once. I have neglected her. I have made big decisions without discussing with her. I have dismissed her feelings. But I also have admitted my faults and made changes. She did emotionally “check out” for like 2 years and what busted her out of that is realizing that I wont just stay no matter what. Unfortunately, it took me getting to the point of divorce to wake her up. That wasnt my intention and I refuse to use divorce in that way in the future, but it is true that bringing it up is the thing that at least, for now, seems to have yanked her out of her rut.

And yes, we have different love languages and that too has been a struggle dealing with. And neither of us have put the other’s needs above our own. Until a year ago or so, I didnt even understand what she meant talking about needs, because to me, needs are survival needs. Anything more than that is wants in order to thrive. But you need to survive before you can thrive, and so until recently, i always put survival needs as a priority over emotional needs. Now I see the consequences with that. I do still feel that survival needs are more important than emotional needs because one can be an emotional mess but still live. One can’t live without food, water, air, shelter and sleep. So i have always focused on meeting those needs before worrying about how me or anyone else feels about anything!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Tereza Okava wrote:
This is such a good point. Frankly, Brody, I'm wondering what your motivation is for being married. What do you get out of this? What does she get out of this? If this was a job, would you still be there? If this was your brother, what would your advice be?

In a bad time like this I'd be getting out the old notepad and doing the old pro/con analysis list. And then I'd show it to her and say look, I am still here because I love you, but 100% serious, what do you think about this, and how can we move forward?

It's hard for me to imagine being married from a young age, since I was on my own very early to provide for myself. I know how it feels to make money from blistered hands and to eat lentils for the last two weeks of the month, and it's one of the things I share with my spouse (today, we each have our own businesses, it's hard to believe how far we've come). We also have all sorts of attachment and family traumas, which we are brutally open about (lots of therapy...).
But neither of us depended on the other for anything when we first met, we were totally equal and simply enjoyed each other's company. I think each of us being so independent and proud makes us respect each other. I don't think I'd be able to say the same thing if I hadn't supported myself.
I also have questions when I hear about couples where the provisioning and labor (of all types) is lopsided. Similarly, when enjoyment is lopsided (I'm reading about your anniversary with my mouth open). Where respect is lacking, there is resentment.

(I met my spouse in a reggae bar when we were both working in Japan, I was enjoying finally having a stable, enjoyable life after about 10 years of struggle, and he was pretty much in the same place. We also had inexplicable chemistry and a common language, plus a few hobbies and friends in common. We both had been so focused on trying to climb out of poverty that we never thought about marriage or family, and then suddenly it was a possibility. We actually talked a lot about having kids and our future lives at the beginning, which I suppose was natural as our backgrounds were so different. Everyone around us telling us we were making a huge mistake made us both more determined to make it work. We fought a bit, to be sure, and 90% of the time money was the trigger, I think that's not uncommon. But there was always the mission to come back to: it moved from having someone whose company I enjoyed, to having a kid in common whose welfare was more important than anything else, to supporting the other person when they needed it, to being a best friend. the kid is grown now, and we are closer than ever.)



Good question!😆 And my answer will probably be disappointing. I proposed to her for several unhealthy reasons: we had been together for years so marriage is the “next step”, her family was pressuring us to have kids (which I refused to do before marriage and before i was “ready”) and pressure from coworkers (what are you waiting for? You have the money. You’re practically married already anyway). So thats why we got married. Why were still married is another list of unhealthy reasons: obligation, fear of being alone, fear of making a mistake by divorcing, guilt and shame of being divorced or having a “failed marriage” and fear that me leaving would send her into a downward spiral (she was very depressed for several years). We really do love eachother, but we now realize that love is, contrary to the song, NOT all you need. And honestly, over the last few years the love definitely faded as well.

As far as what do I get out of it: someone to talk to a bit, occasional sex, a bit of help and opportunity to see all my flaws shoved into my face so that I have to confront them and grow. And I did literally sit down and make a list of pros and cons and that is what made me realize how severely unhealthy our dynamic was. I’ve basically been giving myself therapy based off of google, youtube, talking to people, thinking, feeling and writing things down. This is no exaggeration, but EVERYTHING pointed towards us needing to get divorced. It was obvious once I opened up to the possibility. But when she told me that she realizes how her resentment and actively opposing me is destroying her, us and her other relationships and that shes willing to do whatever it takes, to be her best self and does not want to lose me, I decided to wait and feel this out a bit longer. And it has improved since, but it isn’t perfect. We still have arguments several days a week they just dont totally blow up anymore. At least not yet!

Also, i agree with you about being independent and supporting yourself. I lived alone for years supporting myself and she has never lived alone and never really supported herself. I think that has led to her being dependent on me. She is becoming more independent now, and it is improving her life. And yes, the division of labor is lopsided and that is on the list if things to discuss this weekend!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Angel Hunt wrote:I probably have no business intruding on this conversation as a person who has never been married and who has had few positive examples of marriage.

But I have had a good amount of experience dealing with my own attachment issues, and I don’t think that you two are doomed to be locked into the same toxic pattern forever if you are willing to work at it, which it seems you are.

Like you, attachment theory was a revelation for me. I came to see my anxious attachment issues not so much as baggage as an alarm system warning me that I am entering a dynamic that is unhealthy for me.  Previously, I would feel anxiety at someone pulling away and try to suppress my feelings about it to keep him from pulling away more. Or I would express my concerns and my partner would outright dismiss them, leading to me suppressing my feelings. But the more I tried to suppress my feelings, the more they would come out sideways as passive aggressive protest behavior.

These days I recognize the feeling of anxious attachment and can stop myself from heading down that path. Instead, I will reflect on why I feel the anxiety. It does not come out of nowhere. There is always a behavior that triggers the feeling, and I have to accept that if I am feeling anxiety that it is a behavior that I probably should not tolerate. So then I decide what change I would need to avoid that anxiety. It is usually something very small that has to do with communication. I determine that this is a boundary I have to draw and present it to my partner. I do not present it as an ultimatum—do this or else I walk. Nor do I accuse him of wrongdoing. I just explain that this is what I need in a relationship, and then it is up to him to decide whether or not he can provide what I need. As a result of this change, I no longer get sucked into these cycles of escalating toxic behavior. And the more I do it, the more I feel secure. So take heart; you are not doomed.

You mentioned childhood trauma, and I myself also attributed a lot of my attachment behaviors to childhood trauma. I found the book The Children of Emotionally Immature Parents very helpful in understanding why I react the way I do.

I think the tricky part will be empathy and communication. To avoid engaging in protest behavior that hurts each other, you each will need to not only understand your own feelings, but feel like you have a safe space to communicate what you are feeling without being invalidated. That means, for example, when she needs reassurance or extra time with you, you cannot write her off as being too needy. And when you need some space to yourself, she cannot dismiss you as being unloving. You will each have to accept that the other’s needs are valid even where you might otherwise feel they are excessive. You each need to be able to say what you need and then work together to find a compromise that works for both of you.

I think if you two can successfully empathize and communicate with each other, you can probably work through a lot of your differences. But it is possible that you may have some differences that are irreconcilable. If I were in your shoes, I would have my partner and myself each separately come up with a vision of the life we want in the long-term (values, family, work, money, social life, hobbies, travel, religion, etc.). Determine what are your must-haves—the things you will regret not accomplishing when you are on your deathbed—and which of those must-haves require your partner’s participation. Then come together to share your visions and figure out whether and how you can blend your visions together or whether there are some complete dealbreakers that might make continued partnership unproductive. If you guys can create a blended vision of the life you want, then when differences arise the only concern will be how it affects your blueprint for the future. As long as the shared vision is unaffected, you can freely revel in your differences.  

Whatever the outcome, I hope you two find peace and happiness.


Brody Ekberg wrote:My wife loves flowers and will buy them for herself if I don’t often enough. But I would much rather plant them or pick them than buy them. And if I was in her shoes, picked or grown flowers would mean much more to me than store bought flowers anyway. Just another difference in our perspectives!



I could be way off base, but I get the sense that you might be too fixated on your differences to recognize the overlap that might exist between you two, and you might potentially be making erroneous assumptions about what your wife wants or why she wants what she wants. For instance, you said your wife prefers store-bought flowers to picked or grown flowers, but is that accurate? Or is she responding favorably to the appearance of increased effort and forethought? If you just haphazardly cut some flowers on your way into the house—flowers that perhaps would have to be pruned back anyway—it may not feel as special as you taking the time to think about her far enough in advance to order flowers from a florist. The latter suggests that she was definitely on your mind and worth additional effort while the former may appear low-effort. But I’d wager that if you created a bed of flowers in the garden that each had a special significance to her (this one is your favorite color, this is the flower I gave you for a corsage when we first dated, this one I planted because I saw you admire it at our neighbors, etc.), she would appreciate that way more than store-bought flowers because it signals a higher level of effort and consideration for her feelings. The difference might not be so much one of materialism versus simplicity, but of perceived effort versus perceived efficiency.



Despite your lack of healthy marriage experience I most certainly value your opinion!

I think your perspective of warnings instead of baggage is probably more healthy and helpful, ill try to adopt that mindset. And i will check out that book, it sounds super relevant. Thanks!

I have tried to get more detailed information out of her about her views of the future, but they are pretty vague. She sees me, a couple kids (possibly homeschooled), a yard, probably a garden and she wants to be able to be involved with sports and be able to travel somewhat. I could paint a much more detailed picture of my ideal future and it likely wouldnt have sports or much for vacations in it. Not that im opposed to that stuff, but that i have more important things id prefer to focus on.

And you are probably correct about me being focused on our differences right now, but I feel thats a reasonable compensation for the fact that I’ve had rose colored glasses on forever and only would look at our similarities and strengths. She has always focused on our differences and it drove me nuts because it didnt seem helpful, but there are a lot of them and they’re worth being aware of!

I love your idea about the flowers. For me, its like “those are pretty flowers. She likes flowers. Ill pick her flowers.” Its not much more complicated than that. But I think if I proposed the idea of planting specific flowers that she likes for specific reasons she would be all for that. Whether i pick them and put them in a vase or she can just go admire them while they’re alive, either way I think she would appreciate that more than random flowers or store bought flowers. Good idea!
 
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Hi Brody,
I'll put this on the table in case it's helpful.

Philosopher Sam Keen used to advise this: "A man has to ask himself two questions. #1 Where do I want to go? and #2 Who do I want to go there with me? AND he has to answer them in the right order."

The unhappily married men that I come across are those whose wives don't support them along the path they (the men) want to take.

Here's my caveat: Once you meet the woman you'd like to accompany you, make sure — on a regular basis — that the path is still feeding your beloved's soul as well. For example, she might want to take a "side trip" — support her to do so, knowing that you're both still heading in the same direction.

Julie
p.s. Even in this kind of marriage, it's still hard sometimes. I've heard that research shows the 80/20 rule applies to marital bliss as well. It doesn't matter how the spouses fight, as long as it's not more than 20% of the time. The rest of the time has to nurture both souls. For that reason, it's important to make sure you find someone whose sense of humour matches yours!
 
Eric Hanson
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Brody,

I will try to respond to a few of your questions and comments from your response to my previous post.

Firstly though, I have been in various relationships prior to my wife.  None of those worked out and I had one that was conflict-habituated and I hated the conflict.  Ultimately I had enough of that relationship and I ended things.  I say this because I know at least some of the pain you doubtlessly feel.  I am not one for quickly or casually ending a relationship for no reason, but obviously neither are you or we would not be having this conversation.

To address your questions about the relationship between my wife and I, we are definitely on the same page.  We are very similar in background and experience.  When we fell for each other, we knew that we were right for each other.  We definitely do have some differences between us—she is very tidy and organized where I am messy and more chaotic—mostly these are relatively small differences and bridging these small differences builds trust in each other.  Also, my wife does not exactly why I get so fascinated with gardening organically and exploring permaculture, but she never criticizes me and in fact tries to understand.  She definitely appreciates gardening, but my idiosyncratic interests still mystify her.  And I don’t understand everything about her, and that’s alright.  We work towards each other.  And our differences definitely play off each other and compliment one another.

I can give an example of how we work towards each other right from the beginning of our courtship.  There was one huge elephant in the room—we lived 300 miles from each other.  She was in Med school and I just started teaching so neither of us had any time.  We saw each other about once every 3 weekends that first year and about every other weekend the next two years.  Since it is easier for her to get a job than me, she moved to my area to do residency—and then stayed as my career was established.  That was a pretty big contribution on her part, so I have always tried to make her comfortable.  But it is not like we are keeping score—the more we help each other, the easier and more rewarding it becomes.

Brody,  I could go on, but much of the reason that we don’t fight out of anger is that we both try to put the other first.  You obviously appreciate the need to work within a relationship so that is good.  Moreover, your wife is apparently realizing that you are serious, so perhaps this is the wake-up she needs.  I don’t think there is anything that my wife could do that we could not work through and I see that you have a parallel thought for your own relationship.  If you can work together, I think that you can overcome anything.

I hope that these words are helpful and if I can offer anything else, don’t hesitate.

Eric
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:I dont know of any successful marriages where both the husband and wife share passions, hobbies, perspectives, goals and attitudes towards life. I mean, I see couples that appear that way in public and on social media, but I have not talked to them. Everyone I know personally and have actually talked to are in the same situation: they are almost always on 2 different pages with their spouse. Its a constant balancing, compromising, arguing, head shaking confusing mess. This goes for young couples like us, older couples like our parents and even older like our grandparents. It seems that marriage is a process of settling, compromising and always kind of thinking the other is a little bit crazy or “wrong” in a variety of ways.



My husband and I share some passions, hobbies, perspectives and goals...and differ on a lot, too!

I'm more of a saver and he's more of a spender. But, if you compared me to my father or others, I'm more of of a spender. If you compared my husband to a lot of the population, he's a saver. It's easy to think about ourselves in opposites, rather than simularities.

This kind of reminds me of how, in high school, I had two different history teachers. One was very conservative--in his class, I was the class liberal. My other teacher was extremely liberal, and I was the class conservative. Even being "middle of the road," I could look like one extreme or another. Maybe, just maybe, your opposites aren't as opposite as you think? Maybe comparing yourselves to those more extreme might show some commonalities?

My husband loves fish keeping. Before I met him, I'd taken Oceanography and knew more and cared more about fish and aquatic ecosystems. But, when compared to my husband and those really into fishkeeping, I look like I hate fish because I don't want out house filled with 2 dozen+ aquariums. But, in truth, that doesn't make us opposites.




I guess it's easy to focus on the differences and think they are extreme. But, maybe they aren't? My husband and I like a lot of the same things, and value a lot of the same things. But, we value them to different amounts. Sure, there's some things we disagree on. But, we're human. No human will agree on everything, but we can find common ground, compromise, and learn from one another.

I still need to read the rest of your post and the rest of this thread, but I've got to make dinner first. Maybe this is helpful, and maybe it's totally off-topic to the main theme of this thread.
 
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I'm happily married for almost 19 years. We met in our late 20's. We were engaged and a few weeks later learned that I was pregnant. We have 3 kids (awesome teenagers) and a farm now. We've always been happy to be together and we get along quite well on a daily basis. We don't have resentment or lists of things to change about the other. Our marriage is mostly natural and very loving. We are respectful and kind and appreciative of one another's contributions (and idiosyncracies). We share most interest and values (nature, independence, politics, family values) but not all (if he wants to tell me about his latest financial report, I listen, knowing it's important to him). We also have varying strengths and weaknesses that we can use in an ebb and flow.

We've had a lot of struggles and loss the last few years. Most of my nuclear family has turned on me because of my mother's triangulation and behavior, and we didn't get the covid shots so dearest friends were all saying they wouldn't socialize indoors with us. A lot of death too. I'm mostly an optimistic and gratitude-practicing kind of person but I needed him to help me through my sadness. I don't know exactly how it happened but I was asking for his help (go to therapy with me, write this letter with me, understand my sadness). His response felt cold and he was unwilling. I was astounded by his apathetic reactions and learned that he is not the omni-loving man I thought. It was a year+ of loathing being with him and treating each other wholly disrespectfully before we could get to the bottom of it. He would write something nice in a card but no action. It wasn't until he came to me crying that I saw him caring. I'd recently written a long letter as a journal practice about what I was feeling so I shared it with him (I never looked at it after I wrote it) and that was the turning point for us.

I could never imagine divorce as an answer before but that year made me see how a lot of healing and growth (as you say) may happen when a marriage ends. I felt exhausted by marriage.

The reason this worked for us is because we are emotionally intelligent  and generally good communicators. When he listens (nobody's perfect!), he listens very well. He and I know not to knitpick. We were able to have a brief, tearful conversation, creating understanding, rather than litigate events and we acknowledged our own faults and responsibility for how things devolved. He apologized for making me feel the way I did and showed that he was remorseful and that was enough for me.

A couple of things I've had to keep repeating to myself and ideas- We cannot mistreat those closest to us.  Do not make roommate problems, marriage problems (especially easy to resort to in a rut), and not to assign the problem to the person. Someone suggested a book that must be by the same author as my suggestion- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. OH BOY. I learned so much about myself. Hubs listened to parts of the book when I asked him to. Super helpful. When we were younger, my husband and I would read to each other in bed. Anything. It could be that if you read that book (or something else- even fiction) aloud to each other you could increase understanding, healing and growth. Ask your wife to choose 12 flowers from a seed catalog and see what you can grow. Figure out what makes her happy and try to do it with regularity, even if it's really little, like bringing her tea or watching a game while you winter sow. Tell her when she does something you really like. Retreating is also helpful...set parameters/make a goal of something to delve into and each take (separately) a half day, a weekend, a week... and come back to each other with what's been discovered. Growth can happen together AND apart. But you know that. Give gifts to the marriage- a meditation app, sauna date, sushi night, whatever suits the couple.

If you look at matchmaking cultures, they often have successful and happy marriages, I think, because the individuals are generally kind, tolerant/non-judgemental and open-minded with people's flaws/baggage/misdeeds. I think happy marriages can be either a really good complement and match (like mine), or they can be quite different individuals BOTH full of respect and compassion for the other.



 
Brody Ekberg
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Julie Johnston wrote:Hi Brody,
I'll put this on the table in case it's helpful.

Philosopher Sam Keen used to advise this: "A man has to ask himself two questions. #1 Where do I want to go? and #2 Who do I want to go there with me? AND he has to answer them in the right order."

The unhappily married men that I come across are those whose wives don't support them along the path they (the men) want to take.

Here's my caveat: Once you meet the woman you'd like to accompany you, make sure — on a regular basis — that the path is still feeding your beloved's soul as well. For example, she might want to take a "side trip" — support her to do so, knowing that you're both still heading in the same direction.

Julie
p.s. Even in this kind of marriage, it's still hard sometimes. I've heard that research shows the 80/20 rule applies to marital bliss as well. It doesn't matter how the spouses fight, as long as it's not more than 20% of the time. The rest of the time has to nurture both souls. For that reason, it's important to make sure you find someone whose sense of humour matches yours!



Well, I messed that one up big time! I got married before I knew what was most important to me, what I wanted to do with my life, and before my life really had purpose. That all came crashing in not long after the wedding.

We had discussed a rough plan of traveling a lot for a year or two and then buying a house and having a couple kids. That was what the future looked like to us. Super vague…

I had a bit of a revelation or spiritual breakthrough around the same time I discovered permaculture (shortly after getting married) and knew that I couldn’t spend a year or two traveling around. I literally almost quit my job, gave away my car and completely restructured my life. I finally had the purpose that i had been searching for my whole life and I needed to get involved. I decided that I could probably have better relationships with the community, family, friends and my wife if I rode the brakes a bit and didnt dive in so drastically. I tried to get her onboard and tried to explain my feelings and reasoning with her. She held onto deep resentments about that situation for years because i “messed up our plan”.

So, where i want to go changed after already being married. And the person i married is a lot less passionate about where I want to go than I am. Actually, she would probably be perfectly happy if I never had my revelation and didn’t have anywhere in particular that I wanted to go anyway! I am not the person she married, i have changed a lot since then.

As for the 80/20, that would be a great improvement from where we’ve been for years now!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
My husband and I share some passions, hobbies, perspectives and goals...and differ on a lot, too!

I'm more of a saver and he's more of a spender. But, if you compared me to my father or others, I'm more of of a spender. If you compared my husband to a lot of the population, he's a saver. It's easy to think about ourselves in opposites, rather than simularities.

This kind of reminds me of how, in high school, I had two different history teachers. One was very conservative--in his class, I was the class liberal. My other teacher was extremely liberal, and I was the class conservative. Even being "middle of the road," I could look like one extreme or another. Maybe, just maybe, your opposites aren't as opposite as you think? Maybe comparing yourselves to those more extreme might show some commonalities?

My husband loves fish keeping. Before I met him, I'd taken Oceanography and knew more and cared more about fish and aquatic ecosystems. But, when compared to my husband and those really into fishkeeping, I look like I hate fish because I don't want out house filled with 2 dozen+ aquariums. But, in truth, that doesn't make us opposites.




I guess it's easy to focus on the differences and think they are extreme. But, maybe they aren't? My husband and I like a lot of the same things, and value a lot of the same things. But, we value them to different amounts. Sure, there's some things we disagree on. But, we're human. No human will agree on everything, but we can find common ground, compromise, and learn from one another.

I still need to read the rest of your post and the rest of this thread, but I've got to make dinner first. Maybe this is helpful, and maybe it's totally off-topic to the main theme of this thread.



This definitely applies to my wife and I as well. I would say, compared to what I see as “normal” in our society, we both prioritize health (all aspects), healing, growth, caring for others and the environment more than most. But, we prioritize those things to much different degrees between the two of us.

I tend to take things to the extreme, and she calls me on that often. When I discovered permaculture (in the midst of a spiritual revelation) I almost quit my job, gave away my car and cut my drivers license in half. I wanted to bail on “normal” without looking back. I wanted to dive in 100% regardless of whatever consequences. It just felt honest and genuine. But then I realized that if I did that, most people I knew would think I was crazy. I would lose most relationships. And I would definitely lose my wife. So, I figured if I could tone it down, or slow it down, i could have a greater impact on others and the community, and also keep some relationships.

I dont know why, but I’ve always just felt like I needed to be 100% committed to a cause thats bigger than me. Maybe its an innate desire in people. Maybe its from studying the Bible and the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Maybe its from feeling like modern society and our “normal” way of life is hollow, dead and meaningless. I dont know, but I struggle with moderating my desire to create heaven on earth as fast as possible to whatever scale possible. It just seems like thats why were here. Thats why we have thumbs. Thats why we have bodies and aren’t just a brain in a vat. I feel it in the same way that I imagine a soldier who enlists feels about serving his country. That its worth sacrificing for, worth struggling for and worth dying for.

My wife thinks its a cool, healthy hobby. For me, its life. It is why I’m here. Its an ideology and a never ending process to realize.

I actually got into writing a bit after my revelation and one of the first things I wrote about was how she was my anchor. I was like a balloon filled with helium ready to float off into new, exciting, uncharted territory. Willing to risk suffering or death for a cause. And she was the string with one end tied to me and the other tied to the ground. It was romantic in a way. But also, made me wonder if I really wanted or needed to be tied to the ground. Is it better that way? Safer, sure. More familiar, sure. But better? I dont know.

I still feel this way. She anchors me to a lot of things that I would have let go of if i was on my own. That has been good and bad. But that string causes tension and is limiting. And sometimes she just wants me to hang around the ground, even though I’m full of helium… it just isnt my nature to want to ride the brakes on something I’m passionate about.

Part of it is age too. I mean, I’m young, healthy, motivated and passionate. I have a warriors mentality. I feel like the best way I can be of service to the earth at this point in my life is to bust ass, be productive as possible and make huge changes. One day I will be old, disabled, tired or dead. Then I will have to slow down. Then maybe my best way of being in service to the earth will change. But there are more than enough unhelpful people around right now. Shouldn’t us able bodied, motivated, passionate people do what we can while we can?

Then again, without her I would probably burn out, get injured and maybe even die an earlier death. Not that any of that is bad or wrong, but its also not helpful either…
 
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I don't usually respond without reading through a whole thread. I simply do not have that time but after the first 5 or 6 posts, I have some thing to add that I hope are constructive.

Three marriages - the first was too soon, wrong person, neither willing to do what it took and no kids.

Second was 27 years, the first 15 years or so were pretty good. The last part was okay. Four children nearly raised and the breakup came down to not being able to fix what was broken and what was broken was hurting the minor children.

Third marriage is to my absolute soul mate. After ten years of very hard work, we now have the relationship that most dream about. But it still requires lots of talking, remembering every day to focus on the positive and shared life objectives.

If there is anything on which to build, it is nearly always worth the time and effort to find out if it can work.
No relationship will ever just happen or continue to go on without serious hard work, forgiveness, forebearance and true sacrifice on both sides.
 
Brody Ekberg
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M Waisman wrote:
I'm happily married for almost 19 years. We met in our late 20's. We were engaged and a few weeks later learned that I was pregnant. We have 3 kids (awesome teenagers) and a farm now. We've always been happy to be together and we get along quite well on a daily basis. We don't have resentment or lists of things to change about the other. Our marriage is mostly natural and very loving. We are respectful and kind and appreciative of one another's contributions (and idiosyncracies). We share most interest and values (nature, independence, politics, family values) but not all (if he wants to tell me about his latest financial report, I listen, knowing it's important to him). We also have varying strengths and weaknesses that we can use in an ebb and flow.

We've had a lot of struggles and loss the last few years. Most of my nuclear family has turned on me because of my mother's triangulation and behavior, and we didn't get the covid shots so dearest friends were all saying they wouldn't socialize indoors with us. A lot of death too. I'm mostly an optimistic and gratitude-practicing kind of person but I needed him to help me through my sadness. I don't know exactly how it happened but I was asking for his help (go to therapy with me, write this letter with me, understand my sadness). His response felt cold and he was unwilling. I was astounded by his apathetic reactions and learned that he is not the omni-loving man I thought. It was a year+ of loathing being with him and treating each other wholly disrespectfully before we could get to the bottom of it. He would write something nice in a card but no action. It wasn't until he came to me crying that I saw him caring. I'd recently written a long letter as a journal practice about what I was feeling so I shared it with him (I never looked at it after I wrote it) and that was the turning point for us.

I could never imagine divorce as an answer before but that year made me see how a lot of healing and growth (as you say) may happen when a marriage ends. I felt exhausted by marriage.

The reason this worked for us is because we are emotionally intelligent  and generally good communicators. When he listens (nobody's perfect!), he listens very well. He and I know not to knitpick. We were able to have a brief, tearful conversation, creating understanding, rather than litigate events and we acknowledged our own faults and responsibility for how things devolved. He apologized for making me feel the way I did and showed that he was remorseful and that was enough for me.

A couple of things I've had to keep repeating to myself and ideas- We cannot mistreat those closest to us.  Do not make roommate problems, marriage problems (especially easy to resort to in a rut), and not to assign the problem to the person. Someone suggested a book that must be by the same author as my suggestion- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. OH BOY. I learned so much about myself. Hubs listened to parts of the book when I asked him to. Super helpful. When we were younger, my husband and I would read to each other in bed. Anything. It could be that if you read that book (or something else- even fiction) aloud to each other you could increase understanding, healing and growth. Ask your wife to choose 12 flowers from a seed catalog and see what you can grow. Figure out what makes her happy and try to do it with regularity, even if it's really little, like bringing her tea or watching a game while you winter sow. Tell her when she does something you really like. Retreating is also helpful...set parameters/make a goal of something to delve into and each take (separately) a half day, a weekend, a week... and come back to each other with what's been discovered. Growth can happen together AND apart. But you know that. Give gifts to the marriage- a meditation app, sauna date, sushi night, whatever suits the couple.

If you look at matchmaking cultures, they often have successful and happy marriages, I think, because the individuals are generally kind, tolerant/non-judgemental and open-minded with people's flaws/baggage/misdeeds. I think happy marriages can be either a really good complement and match (like mine), or they can be quite different individuals BOTH full of respect and compassion for the other.





It sounds to me like you two have a lot going for you! I think starting out as good communicators would have been a big help for my wife and I. We have had to learn to be good communicators and are still working on that. Im sure it also helps to not have any resentments or anything you would like to change about eachother. I think my wife and I have been trying to change eachother consciously and uncomfortable throughout our entire relationship and that is partly what has caused resentments. It is also what has caused me to question whether we love eachother for who we are or if we love the idea of who we could become.

I am going to get that book since it seems so relevant and comes with so many recommendations. My wife has mentioned reading in bed at night as opposed to watching tv, so maybe we could read that to eachother. Usually our evenings consist of her falling asleep in front of the tv while i stretch and massage my own sore muscles on the floor. It’s less than fulfilling!

I like the flower idea too. I will probably try to plant some flowers that she specifically likes this spring and maybe even see if she wants to help.

And yes, we should do more things together as a couple. More date nights and quality time together. Its just been a struggle for me to stay motivated in that respect because shes been so depressed, anxious and resentful for years that she was just super unpleasant to be around. Lots of complaining and criticizing to the point of ruining all of the time we spent together. But i think that is changing now, hopefully not just temporarily.

You mentioned being non-judgmental and it’s obvious to me how that would be a good thing in a relationship. We judge eachother. I may judge her more than she judges me, and even if I don’t vocalize it she can feel it. But the thing is, if she’s doing something self destructive, counterproductive or honestly, kind of being crazy, how cant I judge her? At least internally. And when I feel so strongly about something and she has the complete opposite perspective and can’t justify it with any sound reasoning (flat earth), how cant I judge her? If it were just a random person on the street i could just laugh it off and walk away. But I live with this woman, i am committed to her and she may be the future mother of my children. If she’s being unreasonable, self destructive or kind of crazy, am I just supposed to let it go and think “to each their own”? I dont want our future children to adopt silly ideas, self destructive behaviors or illogical reasoning.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Karen Lee Mack wrote:I don't usually respond without reading through a whole thread. I simply do not have that time but after the first 5 or 6 posts, I have some thing to add that I hope are constructive.

Three marriages - the first was too soon, wrong person, neither willing to do what it took and no kids.

Second was 27 years, the first 15 years or so were pretty good. The last part was okay. Four children nearly raised and the breakup came down to not being able to fix what was broken and what was broken was hurting the minor children.

Third marriage is to my absolute soul mate. After ten years of very hard work, we now have the relationship that most dream about. But it still requires lots of talking, remembering every day to focus on the positive and shared life objectives.

If there is anything on which to build, it is nearly always worth the time and effort to find out if it can work.
No relationship will ever just happen or continue to go on without serious hard work, forgiveness, forebearance and true sacrifice on both sides.



If you dont mind me asking, how is it that you feel your current partner is your soul mate? Not trying to cause doubts in you, but I always assumed when people talked about their soul mate that their relationship would be smooth, harmonious and not require so much work and effort.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:So, I guess what I want to know is, how many of you out there are happily married and have been for years? Happy like you dont have resentment , dont silently (or not so silently) think your spouse is crazy, dont have a long list of things you would like to change about them, and really feel like you have harmonious growth as a couple. Do you feel that you and your partner are very compatible (meaning your differences lead to harmonious growth for both) or are you happily married because of how much hard work, tongue biting and compromise you’ve had to put in?



I'm happily married and we're rounding the corner on 27 years. But we do have resentments, we (mostly correctly) identify the ways that we're crazy, we have (maybe not long) lists of things we'd enjoy changing about each other if it were possible, and we have definitely experienced harmonious growth together. I'm not sure if we meet your criteria. We're compatible because we choose to be. Every day. Sometimes it's hard work, but mostly it's a joy.

We choose to be in love. In my experience, it's not a thing that just happens to us and sticks around by itself. It's a thing that we cultivate. We share interests where we can -- even adopting new hobbies to do together. We touch each other and do each other favors. We cook for each other and also together. Even when it's hard to find the time and energy, we make sure not to go too long without having sex, and make sure it's satisfying for both of us. We read aloud and go on road-trips and walks and talk candidly about our own mental health. We usually buy ourselves a joint Christmas present which takes time working together to figure out. We look through seed catalogs and dream about spring-planting. We play and we work. And we worry about money as a team instead of alone. We have occasionally gone to counseling together because getting through rough times was the most important thing.

Do I have some fairy tale idea of what a happy, healthy marriage could look like?



I can't tell for sure. But if you aren't happy, you aren't happy.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

M Waisman wrote:
I'm happily married for almost 19 years. We met in our late 20's. We were engaged and a few weeks later learned that I was pregnant. We have 3 kids (awesome teenagers) and a farm now. We've always been happy to be together and we get along quite well on a daily basis. We don't have resentment or lists of things to change about the other. Our marriage is mostly natural and very loving. We are respectful and kind and appreciative of one another's contributions (and idiosyncracies). We share most interest and values (nature, independence, politics, family values) but not all (if he wants to tell me about his latest financial report, I listen, knowing it's important to him). We also have varying strengths and weaknesses that we can use in an ebb and flow.

We've had a lot of struggles and loss the last few years. Most of my nuclear family has turned on me because of my mother's triangulation and behavior, and we didn't get the covid shots so dearest friends were all saying they wouldn't socialize indoors with us. A lot of death too. I'm mostly an optimistic and gratitude-practicing kind of person but I needed him to help me through my sadness. I don't know exactly how it happened but I was asking for his help (go to therapy with me, write this letter with me, understand my sadness). His response felt cold and he was unwilling. I was astounded by his apathetic reactions and learned that he is not the omni-loving man I thought. It was a year+ of loathing being with him and treating each other wholly disrespectfully before we could get to the bottom of it. He would write something nice in a card but no action. It wasn't until he came to me crying that I saw him caring. I'd recently written a long letter as a journal practice about what I was feeling so I shared it with him (I never looked at it after I wrote it) and that was the turning point for us.

I could never imagine divorce as an answer before but that year made me see how a lot of healing and growth (as you say) may happen when a marriage ends. I felt exhausted by marriage.

The reason this worked for us is because we are emotionally intelligent  and generally good communicators. When he listens (nobody's perfect!), he listens very well. He and I know not to knitpick. We were able to have a brief, tearful conversation, creating understanding, rather than litigate events and we acknowledged our own faults and responsibility for how things devolved. He apologized for making me feel the way I did and showed that he was remorseful and that was enough for me.

A couple of things I've had to keep repeating to myself and ideas- We cannot mistreat those closest to us.  Do not make roommate problems, marriage problems (especially easy to resort to in a rut), and not to assign the problem to the person. Someone suggested a book that must be by the same author as my suggestion- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. OH BOY. I learned so much about myself. Hubs listened to parts of the book when I asked him to. Super helpful. When we were younger, my husband and I would read to each other in bed. Anything. It could be that if you read that book (or something else- even fiction) aloud to each other you could increase understanding, healing and growth. Ask your wife to choose 12 flowers from a seed catalog and see what you can grow. Figure out what makes her happy and try to do it with regularity, even if it's really little, like bringing her tea or watching a game while you winter sow. Tell her when she does something you really like. Retreating is also helpful...set parameters/make a goal of something to delve into and each take (separately) a half day, a weekend, a week... and come back to each other with what's been discovered. Growth can happen together AND apart. But you know that. Give gifts to the marriage- a meditation app, sauna date, sushi night, whatever suits the couple.

If you look at matchmaking cultures, they often have successful and happy marriages, I think, because the individuals are generally kind, tolerant/non-judgemental and open-minded with people's flaws/baggage/misdeeds. I think happy marriages can be either a really good complement and match (like mine), or they can be quite different individuals BOTH full of respect and compassion for the other.





It sounds to me like you two have a lot going for you! I think starting out as good communicators would have been a big help for my wife and I. We have had to learn to be good communicators and are still working on that. Im sure it also helps to not have any resentments or anything you would like to change about eachother. I think my wife and I have been trying to change eachother consciously and uncomfortable throughout our entire relationship and that is partly what has caused resentments. It is also what has caused me to question whether we love eachother for who we are or if we love the idea of who we could become.

I am going to get that book since it seems so relevant and comes with so many recommendations. My wife has mentioned reading in bed at night as opposed to watching tv, so maybe we could read that to eachother. Usually our evenings consist of her falling asleep in front of the tv while i stretch and massage my own sore muscles on the floor. It’s less than fulfilling!

I like the flower idea too. I will probably try to plant some flowers that she specifically likes this spring and maybe even see if she wants to help.

And yes, we should do more things together as a couple. More date nights and quality time together. Its just been a struggle for me to stay motivated in that respect because shes been so depressed, anxious and resentful for years that she was just super unpleasant to be around. Lots of complaining and criticizing to the point of ruining all of the time we spent together. But i think that is changing now, hopefully not just temporarily.

You mentioned being non-judgmental and it’s obvious to me how that would be a good thing in a relationship. We judge eachother. I may judge her more than she judges me, and even if I don’t vocalize it she can feel it. But the thing is, if she’s doing something self destructive, counterproductive or honestly, kind of being crazy, how cant I judge her? At least internally. And when I feel so strongly about something and she has the complete opposite perspective and can’t justify it with any sound reasoning (flat earth), how cant I judge her? If it were just a random person on the street i could just laugh it off and walk away. But I live with this woman, i am committed to her and she may be the future mother of my children. If she’s being unreasonable, self destructive or kind of crazy, am I just supposed to let it go and think “to each their own”? I dont want our future children to adopt silly ideas, self destructive behaviors or illogical reasoning.



Yeah. I'm not entirely unlike your wife in some ways. Only recently did I understand better that I am categorically a "highly sensitive person" and how my parents (just one, really) had such a huge impact on me. Knowing that I'm not crazy AND that I don't want to repeat those ways I was taught AND that my critical ways was sabotaging myself helped me immensely. It sounds like your wife is similar in some regards. Habits are hard to change but I'm determined not to become my mother and to not let my old family relationships dictate my happiness. It's possible! And requires patience galore. One habit I developed while depressed was holing up in my bedroom alone and streaming whatever tv. As absurd as it sounds, I learned a lot watching stupid reality dating tv.  I'd see how people did or did not communicate well and see ourselves reflected too. A fun dive into psychoanalysis that provided some escapism and a few lessons.

It's hard, as someone with emotional intelligence or calm demeanor to not automatically put yourself on a "better than" pedostal but that's precisely the judgement to avoid, IMO. Also, when something feels abusive, it's good to call it. I can barely talk to my siblings or mother because I feel like a pile of shit after most encounters. That's not worth it. It all depends on self-evolution and personality types- where your thresholds are. And just grow the flowers for her. She'll help if she wants to but it can be something you do for her.

It's never too late to set some goals.
 
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