I have been living separately from my wife (8 years) for 4,5 months now and she has clearly communicated that she is not coming back. We have two small kids (2,5 and 5,5) and just built an amazing family house together.
Last years have been extremely tough for her (and for me as well). In her own words, long process of almost 2 years, but now she’s is sure that staying / reconciling was making her utterly unhappy. She got into depression staying in a relationship that was damaging to her.
I am her second husband. She is great partner to be together with. Smart, good looking, ambitious, great conversationalist, devoted to family – and most importantly, she loved me like crazy. We both told to each other that we also are best sex partners (true). We have very similar life goals and set of values, as well as common social background. She has some problems with anger control and fear of abandonment, but nothing that would undermine the core of relationship (in my resentment I thought that it is big deal, but now I see that it was my inability to deal with it/help her).
So what went wrong – or rather what I did?
I always considered myself one of the good guys – smart, educated, rather charming towards her and respectful to others. But boy, oh boy, I was so oblivious to my shortcomings and emotional unavailability that held back my love towards her.
Well, the honest version is that in many aspects I was crappy partner for definitely last 3-4 years and abused her trust. We also were not the best in addressing the conflicts between us (either ignoring or escalating to unnecessary level; I played big part in ignoring calls for help). To come to this conclusion was an extremely hard and painful for me. I never even considered that there is something actually wrong in how I communicate (with contempt and resentment).
Even if my wife multiple times signalled that things are not ok –I ignored that completely. And I took it as an insult to myself (‘an objective person’) and in turn emotionally hurt her through resentment to the impossible extent. On the other hand, over the years I also voiced my concerns about all the emotional outbursts, as well as the lack of warmth towards me sometimes and felt that it was not being addressed. We never addressed this properly. That also built the resentment in me.
Core our relationship become very dysfunctional. Now I realise that my response to her worries was to bury and never talk about them and make a breakfasts on weekdays or try to be positive and nice so she forgets about her worries. That was my way of solving problems – the positivity and moving things aside (it kind of works for me). At that point in time I truly thought that I was helping her and had a hard time understanding why you would not like it (as this was the only way I knew).
I see how much resentment and contempt it has created in me and her. I got meaner and meaner overtime (no violence, no screaming, but small remarks, manipulations of truth and signs of contempt on quite a regular basis). It poisoned all the other aspects of our relationships. I tried to compensate for it by building a house for family and taking her and the family to our small trips or making breakfasts, working in the garden, etc. "If I put all this time into making a nice garden, then for sure my wife will see that I really care for her and love her". I dedicated crazy amount of time for all of this.
Sounds stupid, but that was my thinking about many things in our relationships. As somehow this compensates.... Instead of 'house and garden' I could have invested hours in sitting down and really listening to what she wanted to say – that would have been a much better choice. Unfortunately, at that time it was my only way that I knew to show that I care. All of these actions did not address the main worry that she was trying to communicate me – to be heard and acknowledged as own person in our relationship. Not an extension of me or not someone who is just a living co-buddy.
I thought that by putting an environment around her, somehow she would see that I love and I care for her. Which again – it did not address the main worry that she was trying to communicate. And it created in me some terrible response ('she does not understand me and rejects my help'. It is terrible how the brain finds a way to excuse oneself...).
I took it as some kind of insult to all of the things that I thought I tried with all my heart. I just felt it was a rejection of my ways and rejection of my love (which it obviously was not). It sound so stupid when I speak it out/write out loud. In the end, I did not recognise myself – how I could become this person, full with resent and contempt. My wife also felt that towards me in return.
On top of that – I cheated her with prostitutes (4 times over 3 years – 2018, 2019 and early 2020 on business trips. It happened literally during the best years of my life (having kids and building a house). I could not held the guilt and spilled the beans to her in summer of 2020. That kind of was start of downfall and ended in me moving out October 2021 (I apologised in 2020, but if I am honest to myself – at that time I did not feel a real remorse for what I did. I did apology just because. We also did not process my cheating at all and somehow treated like it was nothing). It was terrible and I cannot believe that I was so shallow to pursue this as some kind of ego solution to my own problems. It was a conscious decision that I blamed on her (in simple terms, I created an image in my head that she is some kind of villain towards me, we are not having much sex, life is terrible at home, she would not care anyways). The reality is much worse – I was absolutely ignorant about anyone else besides me, weak to admit to myself my own problems, and simply not-man enough to give her respect that she deserve. I acted with a mind of an insulted teenager, not a fully rounded person ('it is me that feels crappy, I am entitled to have some fun in my life'). There is 0% of BLAME ON HER. I can only partially imagine what kind of trust-breaking and heart-breaking experience it was for her and after understanding that - it hurts me terribly every day to think of the suffering it brought.
Around 4 months ago I had complete emotional breakdown / kind of catharsis. I was showering and it hit me - how much pain I have put on her and kids shoulders. I felt this pain so vividly that I just sat under the shower and let the pain take over. It was so terrible that I ended up crying and weeping for more than 2 hours. It felt it like I broke into million pieces. It was a moment when I decided that I have to mold this new person that will come out of this pain and guilt. I do not want to be my previous self and no matter how hard it will be, I will work to not be that person ever again.
What I did:
- 3,5 months ago started therapy, that helped a lot to acknowledge my responsibility and not subconsciously blame my wife for my own actions;
-Observed my actions and emotions around my wife to change communication patterns. Both in terms of respect and acknowledging my role and my actions;
-For 3 months made an inventory of my feelings/communication with her every day. There still was contempt and some blaming, but now it is almost gone;
-Really paid attention to listening to her (when possible). Still struggling not to enforce my views, but much, much less than before.
- have read 10+ books on the psychology to understand my own issues;
-changed diet habits and am in the best shape of last 10 years;
-restored relationship with my and my wife’s family.
We tried to reconcile around New Year, but we took it too fast and the nasty things came out (in a small amount, but enough to hurt to come out). After that the door was closed. Now she is clear that there is no way forward.
I still follow all this process of recognition with the doing right actions, day by day, by day, by day (being present with kids, helping her with taking our dog, household chores, communicating with respect etc. there are harder moments of battling with my old self, but new one is winning most of the time). But I think she was already partially disconnecting by that time and became more distant and resented me for doing all this demonstration to her in last two months (she was looking for conflicts without a reason; I felt that she still is angry with me).
I do see myself as a different person in the future. Rebuilding is an extremely nasty process, as I had to come to terms to damage that was done, what pain caused to my family and what were real reasons behind. It still will take a lot of time.
Two days ago she told me: "I understand you think you can be different and better - but I do not want to check it by trying anymore. I did that for many years and I am not interested anymore."
Now we are kind of done. As for the kids, we have zero conflict – they stay two days / week at my new place and I am taking them 3 out of 5 days to kindergarten in the mornings. We exchange/talk about them almost on daily basis. I do not intend to pursue my legal interests for the common house and I clearly communicated that to her. She was very cordial and was even open to discuss the sale and reasonable split of profits (towards end of the year; that gives me some time window). We both still have our pictures on social networks. I see that she is recovering from being unhappy – and I told her that I am happy for her to see that she is having yourself back - smiling, happy with herself and being in a good place. That is worth a lot.
I said that I plan to work hard on earning back the respect, even if for co-parenting, to which she is ok with.
Is there any positive experience of coming back from situations like mine?
There is too much bad things to restore them right away. What we had in last years, has to be destroyed and rebuilt into something totally new and totally different. So it does not poison anything that might come in future. But she is very clear where she stands. So I do not have any other choice to respect that.
I suppose the first step is to accept her choice of not wanting to try and not having respect for me, focus on parenting and be supportive in the communication occasions with her? And then what?
What could be my plans for say, next 3 months?
I know it is an extremely long shot, but I would like to take my chances and draw some positive experience, if there is any.