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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.

LaQueen Sat 13-Oct-12 11:45:57

But offred I think a good marriage should be like a deep well. Everytime your life gets pretty shit, you know you can dip a bucket into your well and draw up the good, exciting, replenishing water.

It should be your marriage that sustains you against all the crap that life throws at you. When you get home, you should be able to close the door, and you're in your own private universe, where for juts a few hours you know you're inviolate.

Outside pressures can have an influence on you, obviously. But, you should know that you can face them all, because of the strength you can draw on from your relationship.

garlicbutty Sat 13-Oct-12 00:07:54

smile Offred.

I think it isn't right to talk about the solution to one man being another

I certainly agree with you there!

I don't think it is right to say going through a really tough time in recent history will have had no impact on your feelings about your relationship/yourself.

No, of course not. But stressful times can be a valid test of a relationship.

How much of a problem with the relationship that is depends you can't easily tell while you are still in it.

I think this is why many have suggested OP get away from it for a while. Are you still here, noclue?

MummysHappyPills Fri 12-Oct-12 23:57:13

Sounds very much like I could have written your post. Am going to go back and read replies with interest. So can't really offer any advice I'm afraid.

Offred Fri 12-Oct-12 23:54:34

I don't think you are understanding what I'm saying. I'm certainly not jaded.

I am not saying loving should require work or that people should work at relationships. I do not know anyone who has been in love with their partner every second of their relationship and i know a lot of really happily married couples. I'm making a distinction there between loving and being in love. If I stopped loving my husband I wouldn't stay and that's the part I think might only possibly be affected by being clinically depressed but the "in love" part is more transient and superficial and is the part I'm saying can sometimes need some work and isn't always there and is affected by how you feel. In any case it is possible this op is depressed she has said as much and this is why I'm advising caution (not against, advising caution) about leaving her marriage to be exciting and find a great romance.

I have also said that people need to do what makes them happiest. I've never been saying people should stay together but I think it isn't right to talk about the solution to one man being another as has been on this thread and I don't think it is right to say going through a really tough time in recent history will have had no impact on your feelings about your relationship/yourself. How much of a problem with the relationship that is depends you can't easily tell while you are still in it.

My relationship is joyful, it certainly isn't bleak.

garlicbutty Fri 12-Oct-12 23:39:37

YY, I get what you mean Offred, it's just that I'm cautious of advocating hard work on relationships as there's already so much pressure on people - particularly women - to stay married with little regard for their own fulfilment. If a relationship needs work, this should never mean working to suppress one's own feelings or against one's own interests. But that is often what's meant by the phrase.

Your posts on this thread do actually sound quite jaded and, yes, grim, to me at least. There definitely are couples who stay in love for ever. It's quite rare, as it requires a matched attitude to partnership as well as effervescent chemistry and general compatibility. But it happens! I maintain that loving shouldn't feel like work - and disagree with your belief that a down time would discolour a person's view of the whole relationship. Unless they're clinically depressed or have some other perception-warping condition, grown women are quite capable of knowing how they felt five years ago as well as how they feel today.

DistanceCall Fri 12-Oct-12 22:30:32

If you don't love your husband, don't stay with him. It's not fair on you, your husband, or your children.

We only have one life.

Offred Fri 12-Oct-12 22:13:56

I think long term relationships do need maintenance and effort the problem comes when you choose the wrong person whether that's because they are abusive or because you are never going to be satisfied with them. That's why the person and the relationship have to be worth it and also you have to know yourself and be happy with yourself in order to be happy in an intense long term relationship. I think happy and in love all the time is too good to be true if I'm honest. To weather all storms you need to be able to withstand all types of feelings.

Offred Fri 12-Oct-12 22:06:55

But a grim slog with few pleasures is absolutely not what I was saying. What I was saying is that it is normal to have temporary feelings of not being "in love" in a long relationship where there is a background of love. I simply do not believe that there are people who actually always feel in love with their long term partner no matter what they or the partner do or what is happening in their lives and relationships.

panicnotanymore Fri 12-Oct-12 21:44:32

The issue I'm picking up here is you do not enjoy being a stay at home mum and feel you have lost part of yourself. That has nothing what so ever to do with your DH.

Sort that one out first.

Then re-examine your marriage.

If you leave you will still be a stay at home mum, but one who does 100% of the childcare, and does not have someone at home to pick up the slack and enable you to have a break.

If when all is said and done and you've exhausted that avenue, you still can't see a future with your DH, be fair to him and leave. A life with someone who doesn't want you is no life at all.

garlicbutty Fri 12-Oct-12 18:54:23

Unusually for yours truly, Offred, I find myself agreeing more with LeQ than with you on this. My relationships have been hard slog. That turned out to be, I now realise, because I was trying to be more accepting of abuse ... and, inextricably, because they didn't love me in the way I understand love (ie, not wanting to hurt your partner).

Two of the most damaging myths I internalised as a child were: Love hurts; You always hurt the one you love - this was an old song, oft repeated by my parents. Getting older, people told me You have to work at marriage. That last may be true but, coupled with the other two mission statements, meant I took on the wrong kind of 'work' at relationships.

These days I can see what a successful marriage looks like - and, more importantly, how it feels. It's far more like LeQueen's than some grim slog with thinly-spread pleasures. Since marriage is optional, why would one opt for that?

Offred Fri 12-Oct-12 18:29:41

I don't find my relationship is that detached from my life actually. I also don't find it easy being in a relationship at all. I think it is quite normal to take frustrations out on the people closest to you too. I would never find it easy to be in a relationship at all but then I don't think that it is only easy things that are worth doing or that hard things are unhappy necessarily.

LaQueen Fri 12-Oct-12 14:10:57

garlic in the OP's shoes, I would call some time out, and separate for a while. I think staying the relationship, living with her DH, means she won't be able to see the wood for the trees.

She needs some space, so she can pause and experience what it's like to be without him, and take stock of her life. She most definitely shouldn't see anyone else, she needs to get to know herself, as a woman on her own.

It's short term pain, for long term gain.

I genuinely believe that your marriage should be pretty easy, otherwise you probably haven't married someone who is that good for you. It really shouldn't require lots of hard work...

When life can often be hard work - your marriage should be an easy, walk in the park, surely?

Offred Fri 12-Oct-12 12:55:58

My ideas when I got married were that staying together long term would very likely be very difficult because it is a difficult thing for anyone to do. i expected us to go through really testing times and judged the relationship based on how i thought I would feel about it during those times not the good ones. i have always thought that my love for dh and the person that he is makes the work in a long term monogamous relationship worth it. He has been the most amazing husband despite not being a perfect person. So I suppose I wasn't coming at it from a perspective of finding someone who was always going to make me feel happy, in love, nice etc but that I wanted someone who I loved even when I didn't feel happy, in love or nice about them and very importantly, who was worth that level of feeling and commitment.

BUT that was because marriage was the best choice for me and my children for a lot of reasons and pretty much ultimately dictated what kinds of relationships I could have with different types of people. Fundamentally if it turned out, no matter how nice he might be, that I didn't actually love dh anymore then I would like to think I would leave and I would think that was the right thing to do and I think dh would respect me for that and we'd be really good friends eventually.

Don't know whether that makes me ridiculously naive and idealistic or a major pessimist!!

garlicbutty Fri 12-Oct-12 12:20:51

leQueen, you're being positively inspiring on this thread!

I've got to say my ideas were pretty well identical to yours when I married (both times blush) but, to simplify, I wrongly chose partners who didn't share them. So, while I can offer a ton of advice on trying to fix what turned out to be unfixable, I'm possibly not the best source of advice for OP.

What do you recommend to her?

noclue I could have practically written your OP. I am a lot more dynamic and outgoing than DH and he is happy just steadily and quietly living his life, staying in - I need more stimulation and the lack of social life combined with having been a SAHM for the past 6 years is stifling. I have recently come to the realisation that I haven't quite kicked the PND I had after DS2 was born 4 years ago, so am now addressing that. Our sex life isn't great at the moment, despite the fact that we're supposedly ttc (albeit very halfheartedly after 2 MCs), but it's not always bad.

The last thing I want to do is walk out on my marriage and break up a family because I was feeling bored/ restless and wondering 'Is this it?' so I am trying to look at all the individual aspects of my life to see what I can change which might increase my confidence/ happiness. It's not always obvious what the real cause of dissatisfaction is. I've been blaming it on my marriage, but I think I'm just projecting my feelings about my life onto my marriage and blaming DH for bringing me down, when I need to take more responsibility for my own happiness and mental wellbeing.

So, in my case I am now

- Addressing my depression - am taking St John's Wort - if after 4-6 weeks there is no improvement, I will go to the GP for further advice/ ADs
- Looking into MAs - I want to be mentally challenged
- Looking for part-time work - for the above reasons, but also because I have realised that being financially dependent on someone else makes me a bit panicky (due to my own upbringing)
- Taking up new hobbies - DH is happy to stay home and play on the computer whilst the DC are in bed? Brilliant! I can go and join an amateur theatre group/ go out with friends/ see exhibitions and concerts which don't interest him etc.
- Working on counting my blessings - when I speak to my friends about their relationships, I realise just how damn lucky I am to have a steady, reliable DH who loves me and the DC, works hard, does his fair share round the house and wants me to be happy.

Already, I am starting to feel happier with myself, and bringing that renewed enthusiasm back into my marriage. I know it'll be a slow process, and my depression is still there, but I am starting to realise I can still be myself and be happily married to DH. I'm sure our sex life will get back on track eventually, but in the meantime, I've realised there's a lot that I can do to make myself happier and as a result feel more content with my marriage.

Sorry for the long post, but hope you find something in my experience useful.

greeneyed Fri 12-Oct-12 08:57:07

OP I am similar age and know several people who feel in a very similar way at the moment, I think it's quite often the course of things. Love, marraige, babies then oh we've run out of steam. For me I suspect it is hormonal/biological to ensure we meet another partner and extend the gene pool. For me, I see it that I have two choices, a series of intense relationships which last maybe 7 years max then on to the next or opt for the emotional (and financial) stabilty of marraige. I've chosen the latter. I married my husband for reasons that were right at the time as did you and he still ticks a lot of the boxes! I just don't see the point in dismantling everything to start again only to find the next relationship feels the same in a few years. Thereks obviously posters on this thread who disprove this theory but in my experience it's true for a lot of people.

LaQueen Thu 11-Oct-12 13:26:42

confusing I think it's important that we all try and fight against the low-level, resigned bitterness that can so easily seep into a marriage.

I'm not saying that it always has to be hearts and rose, far from it, real life isn't like that. But, when life gets shit, your marriage should be a private universe you can hide in.

saffronwblue Thu 11-Oct-12 09:42:22

OP I just wanted to say that your negative feelings towards your DH may be part of the grieving process for your lost pregnancies.

Having been through this, I think sometimes you can build up negative feelings towards a part of your life that you can control ( ie if you stay with DH) rather than the part of your life that you can't control ( TTC). So focusing on what is not perfect in your marriage gives you a feeling of power, which none of us has when it comes to pregnancy.

I'm not trying to diminish how you feel, but wondered if you have thought about this angle.

deliasmithy Thu 11-Oct-12 01:48:51

No clue: these are my thoughts/questions on reading this thread:

1. You acknowledge that some of the unhappiness isn't to do with DH, but rather a re-evaluation of where you are going in life. Is it worth exploring that avenue first? IME what we initially think isthe problem ends up not being the problem.

2. Have you spoken to him about how you feel? Not suggesting mentioning your feelings of love, but rather the ones you mentioned of feeling trapped, in need of mental stimulation, more exciting life etc.

3. I think love and its meaning differs for everyone. What do you feel it means? Not meant to be patronising, just can be helpful to see what boxes you have ticked, and what areas are missing.

4. Would counselling help?

SanctuaryMoon Wed 10-Oct-12 22:03:10

This has been an interesting read for me too, OP, so much of what you have said rings true with me as well. It's been helpful to read. I hope that things seem brighter today x

Confusingtimesahead Wed 10-Oct-12 21:51:52

Exactly, I sometimes think that on here, it can all be a little bitter, rightly so quite often, but your words feel that we should be fighting for love and for that 'something else again' with the one we have built our families with. smile

LaQueen Wed 10-Oct-12 21:30:14

Why, that's very kind of you confusing - I aim to please smile

I have just observed, time and again, people getting married and staying together, and it's very clear that although it's alright it's very far from good.

I just don't see why you'd sell yourself so short. You can fill your life up with friends, and nice people, and that's great...but, I think your husband should be something else again. Else why marry them?

Confusingtimesahead Wed 10-Oct-12 21:09:18

Just re-read LaQueens posts - you are a breath of fresh air on these relationship pages! Keep spreading your lovely words!

greeneyed Wed 10-Oct-12 08:29:43

OP I feel a little similar at the moment BUT absolutely agree with everything offred has said.

Offred Wed 10-Oct-12 07:03:55

That's not what I mean. I wouldn't stay with someone where the relationship had become companionable. I mean that it isn't realistic to always feel in love with someone as in you are likely to have cycles where the superficial feelings change and I think I would be very wary of saying to someone who sounds a bit depressed that the reason her feelings are a bit dampened is because her husband isn't right for her. If this is not down to her feelings about herself and life and the great stress she's been under then I wouldn't say to settle for something mediocre but I'm wary of saying leave and find the answer in another relationship always and especially wary of saying to someone who seems a little depressed that the problem is her dh who is perfectly nice.

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