Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Can you build a marriage with someone you like, but don't really love?

(68 Posts)
nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 13:34:22

DH and I have been together 5 years (with one DC, who's 3). He's a lovely man - kind, thoughtful and caring. All childcare is split pretty much 50/50 or maybe 70/30 to him, when he's not working (he's full time, I'm a SAHM at the moment)... on paper, he's the perfect husband. On paper. In real life I feel bored by our relationship and a bit bored by him and it's eating me alive. Before we got together I had quite an exciting life, and although I try to maintain that as much as possible, ultimately DH is a quiet, and sometimes quite grumpy man. Whilst I need to have a social whirl around me, with lots of cultural input (music, art, theatre, whatever), he doesn't, and although he's happy to go along with me wherever I want, I feel like I'm missing the intellectual stimulation of being with someone who's as enthusiastic about life as I am and his grumps get me down. As DS gets older and I get freer, I worry that I'm pulling away from him.

I feel like such a bitch. I always thought I was quite a nice person before I got married, now I feel horrible. Like I'm using him. Which maybe I am. I can't tell any more... I feel sometimes like I'm losing track of who I really am.

I suppose my question is can we make this marriage work? DH is a good man and he deserves to be happy. DS is an incredibly joyful, well-balanced child and I don't want to fuck him up seeing his parents in a miserable relationship (like I was, seeing my parents in theirs)... I want us all to be happy. DH loves me, from the bottom of his heart, and although I like him a lot and he's my best friend in so many ways, I don't really fancy him any more. We talk about most things and are always very supportive of each other, but that's the elephant in the room.

Sorry for the long post, there's so much to say and so much going round my head at the moment. I can't talk to anyone about it in RL and really I feel ashamed that I feel this way. I feel like I'm betraying him by thinking these things. To make matters worse, we're supposed to be ttc at the moment and it's shit or get off the pot time. I'm 40 and have had two MCs already this year, we can't really afford to waste any more time if we want to stay together. Help.

CailinDana Mon 08-Oct-12 13:41:45

Have you always felt this way about him or is it a new thing?

fergoose Mon 08-Oct-12 13:44:44

why would you want to settle for and stay with him if you don't really love him - seems such a waste don't you think?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 08-Oct-12 13:55:17

My parents have had a marriage like that for 50+ years. Both nice people in their own right but very little in common beyond being married. She started off finding him 'steady' but now he's 'boring'. He started off finding her 'lively' but now she's 'demanding'. It has led to a very unhappy atmosphere of resentment, arguments and low-level sniping. I'm not even sure they are friends. Now they are old, retired and not in the best of health, they are thrown together 24/7 and it's worse than ever. If you've had similar parents you'll know how that makes you feel as a kid.... you can look happy as a clam on the outside but it doesn't half mess up your adult relationships.

nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 14:30:32

Calin that's the question I ask myself a lot. I think maybe the signs were always there, I just chose to ignore them. Before DH I had a history of very terrible relationships and an unhappy family life but then my alcoholic (and EA) parent died, and I think I just went a bit OTT trying to sort my life out... I became wildly efficient about things, had therapy, lost lots of weight, got fit and then when I met DH he was so different to anyone else I knew I thought, that's it! My future! I can be happy! Which maybe I can't.

Fergoose and Cogito. I agree. But then I'm terrified of being on my own for the rest of my life. My self esteem is at an all time low and I gave up work after DS was born (a job I loved, but not sadly one that would combine with childcare unless I won the lottery) and I'm a bit adrift I suppose. DH anchors me and he understands me and I'm terrified to lose him.

fergoose Mon 08-Oct-12 14:32:57

But if you are not on your own you may miss the opportunity of finding someone who is right for you.

I get the terrified of being on your own - I am, and the thought of the next 40 years with nobody by my side makes me want to give up - but it is far better than being with the wrong person, which I was too btw.

Maybe you need to look at ways you can get back the exciting/social/cultural aspects of your life in ways that don't involve your DH? The idea that one person can be everything you need puts a lot of pressure on relationships - if you can spread your needs/likes/interests around a wider group of people it could take the pressure off, allowing your marriage to be one part of your life but not all of it. So spend time with friends, join cultural "groups", make room in your life for doing things you find exciting.

If once you've done that you still don't want your DH to be a mahor part of your life, then at least you gave it a go. But you might find his quiet dependability work well when you have other outlets.

nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 14:38:34

Cogito I'm sorry you had to go through that as a kid. I did too, it's hard. And it's right what you say about messing up adult relationships. Rebelling against my parents unhappy marriage is how I got into this mess (I found a man so completely opposite to my own firey father that I've managed to find one exactly like my long-suffering mother instead) sad

Offred Mon 08-Oct-12 14:40:56

Yes people

Offred Mon 08-Oct-12 14:43:11

Oops!! Yes people can definitely make a friendship into a marriage and you can with work grow love I think. The decision is do you want to?

strandednomore Mon 08-Oct-12 14:43:37

I am going to go slightly against the grain and suggest that what you are describing is fairly normal in many marriages. Having children changes relationships and you are never going to be the young, carefree people that you were before. Getting older, working full time or looking after small children - all these things will affect both you and your partner. I think people are too quick to give up on relationships, there's too many who have this view of the "ideal" that either doesn't exist or is very, very rare. Splitting up at this point could be disastrous for your dc, better to try and make a go of it and find ways other than your dh to make yourself happy. Even if it means doing things without him, even going off on weekend breaks or holidays on your own or with your dc. Don't underestimate what you have - you could be doing a lot worse.
Are you desperate for another dc or would you be happy with just one? Having another will put a lot more pressure on this relationship.

Viviennemary Mon 08-Oct-12 14:46:54

It might be better than marrying somebody you are head over heels with and then find out he is a selfish and not very nice person. Or you knew he was selfish and not very nice but you thought you could change him. Why does nice have to mean boring. Sometimes not very nice is boring and a lot worse besides.

nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 14:48:58

Fergoose that post made me cry. I'm splashing huge tears on the keyboard. The idea that I might find someone who's right for me... I just don't even dare to believe that could be true I suppose. I thought myself bloody lucky to have found DH. Who else would want me? I don't even like myself.

AMum I have been doing that, rebuilding my life after marriage I suppose. The trouble is, when do go out with friends (a couple of times a month now, which is great) I just feel so much more alive than when I'm with DH, the contrast is depressing.

strandednomore Mon 08-Oct-12 14:49:24

Glad to see I'm NOT actually going against the grain to suggest you try and stay and work at it rather than give up! Sorry have to post and run, but will check back later as I think this is an interesting debate for so many of us...

fergoose Mon 08-Oct-12 14:55:06

Noclue - I went for the safe option in my ex after a previous violent relationship - not only was he extremely boring, dull and safe he turned out to not be the gent I thought he was - but that is a whole other thread. And I never, ever fancied him - just went along with it as he was there and he adored me and he was steady and worked hard, good father, etc.

I was exactly the same, thought I was lucky, was actually so pathetically grateful that somebody would want to be with me - except I think I projected onto him what I thought he was - now the rose tinted specs are off I can see he was none of those things! And I did try and make it work, for 16 flipping years - it was him that gave up on everything, not me. Now I am just so angry I wasted my precious time on someone who was so wrong for me. So my advice is don't waste your life on someone who isn't right - but then only you know your own life don't you. Is your happiness which is the ultimate goal here isn't it.

Rather than just chucking in the towel, how about some counselling, either individually or together. Maybe help boost your self esteem and help you decide what it is you really do want. I wish you luck whatever you decide. I just think there is a whole world of possibilities out there, don't miss out on them due to fear.

nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 14:56:15

Thanks for all your replies, I have to go out in a while so will be off the thread but I'm so interested to hear what everyone has to say.

Vivienne this is exactly why I married DH. I debated it with myself for ages... I thought he'd be steady and kind and would make a great dad and he was and he is and he did. I do love him for that, but having DS changed how I think of things so much. I FINALLY got it about love and what love means. I look at DH and I see an adult version of DS and I think I have to leave him, I will hurt him too much. I hate the idea that someone like me would marry DS IYSWIM.

Stranded yes, I do want another child. More than anything. Which is why I've posted on here really, I need some clarity before either extending our family (with luck, time is not on our side) or leaving the relationship (meaning no more babies for me). Would it really blow things apart even more? Oh god, that would be terrible.

Viviennemary Mon 08-Oct-12 15:10:56

I hate to be a pessimist but how much chance is it that someone is going to come along that is kind and good and you also see stars when you look at him. Maybe and maybe not. But don't spend your life chasing rainbows. But others disagree with me if you wish.

Feckbox Mon 08-Oct-12 15:17:37

OP I think many marriages that start off with more of an obvious love get diluted over the years to more like what you describe.
I find it deeply depressing

garlicbutty Mon 08-Oct-12 15:27:08

I was going to ask how he really feels about love - in general, and how he loves you - but suspect you can't know the answer until you go to counselling. I've come to the conclusion that loving is a choice. I know it's a cliché; bear with me please!

People have their own styles of loving, their own manner of commitment and levels of give-and-take, etc. I'm not explaining this very well but it's probably a thread of its own. If your 'styles' are different, at least one of you will be feeling short-changed. A good counsellor would know how to draw this out from each of you. You'd then be in a better position to assess whether you can grow in love together (another cliché) or are actually short-changing each other on a permanent, if unintended, basis.

You would need a bloody good counsellor, I think, rather than a patcher-upper. And it'll doubtless be reassuring to you to know that happy divorces do exist and can, if it turns out that way, be facilitated by Relate.

I think you're very honest so I'm optimistic for your future smile Good luck.

Offred Mon 08-Oct-12 15:40:20

The thing is I don't really think any one person will be "right for" any one other person all the time forever. If you have a long term monogamous relationship you are committed to then that commitment is actually about working on things when you have disconnected I think.

It doesn't sound as if things are terribly wrong just that you are going through a rough patch where you are a bit disconnected from him after some upheaval and you feeling a bit suppressed by small children?

I don't believe at all that if you leave you will have the opportunity to find someone else who is perfect for you, I'm not sure that is very realistic. Anyone has the potential to become irritating. Where you get into trouble is when you make a choice to do something which goes against what you are actually willing to do, so if you choose to stay but aren't willing to let go of the fantasy ideal relationship and really focus on re-connecting (I assume?) with your dh for example.

How I see my dh is that when we married I committed willingly to him becoming a part of my family of similar standing to my parents, that I was committing myself to maintaining a relationship with him virtually unconditionally with few limitations placed on that. Some people choose to see spouses as more temporary fixtures and that's equally valid but that kind of marriage commitment is the kind I wanted and what we thought about and discussed and chose.

Relationships all need work and commitment if they are to last a long time. There's nothing wrong with finding all that too much and choosing not to have long term monogamous relationships if that's what makes you really happy. Equally sometimes "the perfect" relationship is one where the type of work you have to put in is the type you are willing to and this might be different with a different man (and better for you than with this one) but it is not likely in my opinion, that you'll find a long term partnership which is easy.

A best friend who loves you, if that is the worst it will be, is probably quite a good bet if you choose the relationship path but it takes two to fix it when it's hard, no elephants in the room, good communication and both working together. Also you need to decide when the work has become flogging of a dead horse if it doesn't improve.

What no-one is mentioning is that it is very often not about being unhappy with your partner at all this stuff, but about you feeling unhappy with yourself or your own life. You sound under a lot of pressure and I wonder if the Ttc is related to the urge you have to get away and be free?

Only you can choose, there's no objectively right or wrong path I think you must make a really considered choice and whatever it is has to be what you feel is right for you and not the right thing to do. Doing "the right thing" if it isn't what you want to do will just make you miserable.

Mumsyblouse Mon 08-Oct-12 15:59:33

I don't think comparing going out with your friends is at all a good comparison, you might only see your friends once a month, it's an opportunity to gossip, be vibrant, giggle and so on, but it's not everyday life at all, I am 'on show' a bit when I'm out and I couldn't keep it up 24/7. It's just one dimension of me, not the whole of me.

I agree with AMumin Scotland's assessment, I think that looking for both excitement/stimulation and quiet steading lovingness all in one person can be a mistake. I have a lot of excitement in my relationship as it is quite passionate and we laugh a lot. But the downside is that my husband is quite volatile, we argue a lot and we can make each other really unhappy. Your husband sounds like he has a lot going for him, not least that he will enable you to lead the life you want, in terms of being great at childcare, being supportive and loving. I am not sure I would throw all that away for what, the promise of a knight on a white charger. You may get someone next time who is really interesting and stimulating, but tiring and not as gentle. You don't get it all in one package.

That is not to say you should stay in a very unhappy marriage, of course you can leave. But to me, you are just discontent, a bit restless and looking for your husband to spice up your life. You are looking in the wrong place- go out there and live an interesting and stimulating life (hobbies, weekends away with friends, great career, travelling) with him behind you. If he holds you back, fair enough, but he sounds supportive and perhaps you do not appreciate how rare and loving that really is.

nocluenoclueatall Mon 08-Oct-12 16:29:18

Back in and reading these replies... such thoughtful, interesting, honest stuff. Am wrangling a toddler at the moment so can't really reply properly till I've had a proper read later (tomorrow probably) but I wanted to say thank you for replying.

I'd be interested to hear any more thoughts - anyone on here made something like this work? Or left and made that work? I do love DH in my own way, I'm just not "in love" with him. But then, I've never been in love with anyone now that I come to really think about it. Maybe this is just my way of loving, I don't know. What I thought was love before turned out to be unrequited lust and quite uncomfortable for all concerned...

Offred Mon 08-Oct-12 17:13:08

I've had periods of feeling I loved but wasn't in love with dh. I had a time recently where I wondered if it was actually over because I discovered dh hadn't been honest or open about something fundamental about himself and had done some spiteful punishing of me which I didn't know if I could live with. He has made a real change and I am prepared to leave if it isn't permanent but at the moment I do feel really in love with him and we've each done some good work on parts of our relationship that were a bit rotten.

I would say underneath underpinning our relationship is the commitment and the love then on the superficial level there are more temporary cycles of feelings of being in love, attraction, repulsion, irritation, frustration etc I've always found though that when I've been mad at him for things there have been elements I have caused so with this latest one my ball-breaky approach that expected him to say what he thought, felt or needed although not unreasonable, railroaded him and made him unhappy because of his lack of confidence and sometimes my jokey quips were hurting his feelings but he was too proud/cowardly to say. So even though the relationship problem was caused by something he needed to change about how he related to me there were things it was helpful for me to change about how I relate to him in order for him to actually be able to do that and that process of pain, assessment and compromise has brought us close recently. I think it is about being together even when you are mad with each other.

Being "in love" I think can't be sustained, relationships that are over are ones where there isn't balance between the effort put in on either side or the commitment felt or where one is very unhappy.

nocluenoclueatall Tue 09-Oct-12 10:54:29

Thanks everyone. There's much to think about here. I am actually prone to depression and I think that plays a role in this too. Because I'm TTC (well, sort of) I've not had any ADs, but when I did years ago, they really helped.

I think I miss my old life. As much as I adore DS and I love his company, I've become a suburban housewife, getting fat, worrying about getting the washing done and flapping about fertility cycles. That's so far away from what I thought was the "real" me that I panic sometimes I think, that I've lost my old self (someone I'd worked quite hard to be and was quite proud of - great life, great friends, great career etc).

Ultimately though, DH is an incredibly supportive man. He's encouraged me to go back to work / go to do an MA whatever I want and I know he'd be behind me 100% whatever I chose to do but I feel trapped by the child care at the moment. I've just put DS in preschool though, so that should give me some time to myself, to work things through.

I want to say thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me. It's such a difficult thing to talk about in RL and I'm actually quite surprised at most of these replies. I was expecting to get a flaming and a chorus of LTB (leave the bitch!) really so it's given me heart and definitely a fresh perspective. Maybe I'm not such a freak, maybe I can be happy, if that's what I choose.

I'm going out on a date with DH tonight. Hopefully we'll have a great night, have a bit of a laugh and re-connect with each other. We've both been under such incredible strain really (the MCs are just the tip of an iceberg, but that's a whole other story) and we're both licking wounds I suppose.

I'm sorry for your losses, I can imagine you have both been through a lot and are hurting.

I think you should take some time and focus on making yourself feel better, physically and mentally -- I think only then will you really be in a proper frame of mind to assess your relationship.

I have suffered from depression and general unhappiness with my life in the past, and A) it always makes things seem worse than they are, and B) it always inspires thoughts of escape. It seems so much easier to break everything and get away, than try to stay and change things.

I am similar in age to you, also have a toddler, and becoming a suburban housewife is also my worst fear smile I think if you were to go back to work or do a postgrad degree, it would do wonders for you. I think us depressives need a fair amount of 'outside' stuff to focus on or we go a bit crazy.

Have fun tonight smile

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now