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Continuing in a relationship when one partner is unhappy

(33 Posts)
DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 12:57:46

I'd welcome your views on this please, going to try and keep it factual rather than emotive as I'd like objective thoughts ...

Couple, S and B, have been together over 10 years, always fairly happy but with a bit of doubt niggling underneath it all for S about whether B is definitely the right person for them. Life's path continues, not getting any younger, take the decision to buy a family house, have kids. Now have 2 under 2.

S decides they are really not happy. Tells B. B is devastated, has known there was something wrong but not the extent of it. Wants them to stay together, B will do what they can to change to help S feel happy. S feels under a lot of pressure, does not want to break up family unit, hates self for making B so unhappy. S and B still together but things are just not right. S is resisting talking it through with a counsellor, B won't push it for fear this will precipitate the end.

S is unhappy but genuinely trying their best to keep it together for the sake of family. B knows things are wrong but can't cope with the thought of not being together / being single, and also breaking up the kids' home. Both S & B mindful of the financial impact of two households. Both horribly aware that this was not something they thought would happen to them. S terrified that they are going to be stuck in a limbo of unhappiness until the kids are grown up, which feels like a long time. Wierdly S & B get on in general, can go out with friends and have a nice time, talk about domestic details etc. It's amicable on the surface but the fundamentals are lacking.

Do you think anyone can continue in a relationship like this? For the sake of their partner and children?

buzzskeleton Wed 05-Oct-11 13:01:17

If S is genuinely trying their best to paper over the cracks, then why is S resisting counselling?

DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 13:08:27

S isn't sure what they would say at counselling as they are having difficulty articulating the exact nature of the problem. So ignore = paper over cracks. Counselling = rip off the paper and most of the plaster underneath too I think.

countingto10 Wed 05-Oct-11 13:18:45

I think counselling is the way here, for all involved and hopefully get some true honesty in the relationship. Interesting to know ages of those involved and whether mid life reckonings are having an effect. Some people do not weather mid life very well, especially if they have issues going back to childhood etc, that have never been tackled/resolved. May have nothing to do with the marriage at all but to do with S and their personal issues.

FWIW, I feel, when children are involved, everything possible should be done before throwing in the towel (violence/abuse/addicitions the exceptions).

DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 13:25:11

Thanks counting. Both S & B are mid-late 30s.

Punkatheart Wed 05-Oct-11 13:25:29

Well my OH left for these very reasons and would not even try at counselling. He went but put up immediate blocks. Yes, I feel everything should be done before just giving up - it is an insult to a long relationship to slink away. Things can change, improve, become clearer. That's the strength of counselling...

OneHandFlapping Wed 05-Oct-11 13:27:23

I think S is being selfish here. It is far too late in the day to worry about whether B is the right person. S decided to have children with B, and to my mind, the problems have to be much more serious than vague doubt to warrant breaking up the family.

S needs to look very closely at him/herself. If there are problems in the marriage, then counselling is the way. Otherwise S needs to find golas and satisfaction in other areas of life, rather than pinning all their discontent on B.

OneHandFlapping Wed 05-Oct-11 13:27:45

golas goals

buzzskeleton Wed 05-Oct-11 13:27:47

With 2 under 2, if S is the mum, is it possible that pnd is involved at all?

In all honesty, I think it's better to break up while the children are very young and won't know any different, than to struggle on until they're older and perhaps wind up bitter and angry with each other, unable to be amicable in the future.

If S doesn't love B any more (or perhaps never did), it's soul-destroying for B to be trying to make himself/herself someone they aren't to try to keep S.

Spellcheck Wed 05-Oct-11 13:52:49

I was in a marriage like this, I was B and xH was S. He couldn't/wouldn't admit something was wrong and we limped along for years. I exhausted myself trying to become what I thought he wanted me to be, anything to save the marriage. I kept trying to open up the lines of communication but again he couldn't or wouldn't.

In the end, he helped himself to someone else's wife. I didn't find out for a year or more afterwards. We carried on in the same way. I found it completely soul-destroying, had no self-esteem, and still he carried on 'not knowing' what he wanted, not wanting to hear the words 'I am a prick and I've let you down' come out of his mouth.

Eventually it all came to a head, I found strength from somewhere and insisted he left. That was what he wanted, so he could say I was the bad one for making him go...still took him three months to go. He only took what he wanted, left most of his old life here, the clothes that weren't fashionable or expensive enough, the wife who he couldn't even bear to look at. Because that was how bad it had got.

Kids were much better after he left, watching me fall apart and demean myself by grovelling to him all the time was not good for them and anyone who keeps a relationship limping along 'for the sake of the children' really should have a proper think about what the current situation is doing for them.

I don't know all the details, but from my experience I strongly suggest that for the sake of B's sanity and future happiness, and that of the dc, S should call it a day. Be honest and truthful, it's not B's fault but the relationship has run its course. Much kinder to everyone, I promise. Why should people have to live in misery like this? I do feel slightly sympathetic towards my idiot xH for living like that and not having the balls to do something about it.

Life goes on. As long as the dc feel loved and secure, it doesn't matter if there isn't much money as long as there is plenty of love in both homes for them they will be fine, and so will B and S.

I am happier now than I have ever been smile

garlicScaresVampires Wed 05-Oct-11 13:57:16

Keeping it short: I think it's better an healthier for everyone if they negotiate a civilised split. It is possible, though, to live successfully - if not happily - in a loveless marriage but, again, this has to be negotiated openly and civilly. They have to go to counselling. If desperate B is the one pushing for counselling and distanced S resists, that suggests S has a vested interest in the status quo. Which isn't very nice of them.

DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 14:01:34

spellcheck sad for what happened with you - but smile that you are now happy.

This is the crux isn't it - if one person (B) knows that the other (S) just isn't happy, how can B be happy themselves? I don't mean that in a "your happiness means more than mine way" but relating to B's self worth. Being with someone who doesn't seem to want to be with you, must be a massive drain on your self esteem, and take a lot of effort.

cestlavielife Wed 05-Oct-11 14:03:17

"S isn't sure what they would say at counselling" that is the whole point of a good counsellor - a good therapist will draw out the articualtion, ask the right questions which enables the aprties concerned to think and reach their own conslusions.

it makes no logical sense to think that only one personis unhappy - if S is unhappy that B cannot be happy with the situaiton as it is. surely B is not happy either (if only with the fact that S is unahppy) - but is in denail/doesnt wnat to confront it.

neither can make the other person happy - each is responsible for their own happiness. if the relationship causes unhappiness then time to confront that

DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 14:03:45

garlic - B isn't pushing for counselling because they suspect that everything will unravel under the spotlight. B is head down, keep going, play happy families - isn't that better than single, two households, and admitting that the person you love quite possibly doesn't love you enough?

garlicScaresVampires Wed 05-Oct-11 14:06:15

No. It's better to to be honest and address the options. Not good to build a family on a bed of denial & deceit, etc.

Charbon Wed 05-Oct-11 14:08:37

If the relationship has been bimbling along for 10 years, I'd wonder whether something has recently happened in S's life that has caused this new wave of doubts - possibly a bereavement and a feeling that life's too short, or possibly an alternative partner has entered the picture?

If either of those things are possible, in S's shoes, I'd take myself off for lone counselling and keep reminding myself that I must be honest with myself about whether I've really always had doubts, or whether recent events have caused dissatisfaction.

In B's shoes, I'd accept myself for who I am, while making reasonable changes if it would make S happier. I'd hope I'd have the wisdom to realise if there was actually nothing I could do to change S's feelings, other than being someone else. Therefore I would want this sorted out so that I wasn't always waiting for the axe to fall.

Doing nothing about it and hoping for the best wouldn't be an option for me personally.

buzzskeleton Wed 05-Oct-11 14:09:13

But suspecting/knowing deep-down that S doesn't love them enough is going to eat away at B's self-esteem anyway. Admitting the truth gives them both the opportunity to heal and go on to have happier lives apart: both of them possibly meeting other people who do love them enough.

Dragging it out may result in S (most likely) falling in love with someone else and things being smashed apart more dramatically later on when the dc are old enough to be more traumatised.

Spellcheck Wed 05-Oct-11 14:12:32

Hear, hear, garlic. Presumably both S and B want to be happy - and staying together playing 'happy families' while underneath no-one is happy is counterproductive. I wanted to pretend too, but eventually realised it's a hideously way to live, lying to myself, my family and friends, and worst of all my dc.

AnyFucker Wed 05-Oct-11 14:36:35

You are "S" yes ?

I reckon "S" is ripe for having her/his head turned by someone who seems more exciting, offers a way out etc and the fallout from that would be horrendous

"S" would be better to leave her/his marriage in an ethical way, before something bad happens, IMO

Is there something of that nature on the horizon for "S" ?

waterrat Wed 05-Oct-11 15:27:13

Surely s is being very unfair to b here? B will end up totally crushed, s needs to grasp the situation and either get counselling or end things. Life is too short for people to struggle on being miserable for the kids - believe me, one of my parents was like b ... I wish they had not wasted years trying to make i work

It is a myth that children want or need unhappy parents to stay together - all that teaches them is how to have unhappy dysfunctional relationships ...

If b and s move on with their lives they can both find happiness down the line which is far better for the children

DestinationUnknown Wed 05-Oct-11 16:07:01

I am neither. Both S and B are good friends, though S is a longer standing friend. They have both talked to me about it and sought my advice.

I know what I would do, but I am not S or B and feel very uncomfortable with pushing my views onto either of them, although I do have a very clear opinion in my own mind about all this. I have deliberately not said here who is S and who is B in order to be fair, as either could be coming from a "depressed woman" or "selfish man" stereotype and I needed some really objective perspective.

As far as I'm aware, and I have asked that question outright, there is no other person involved for S.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Wed 05-Oct-11 17:15:30

S chose to enter into a relationship with B even though they allegedly had 'niggling doubts' as to whether B was the right person for them.

How many times did S have 'niggling doubts' in previous relationships? Have they ever had a relationshipwhere they had no doubts whatsoever about the other party? If so, what happened to that relationship?

During the course of their 10 year relationship, is the first time that S has expressed their 'niggling doubts or have they been honest with B throughout?

Is having 'niggling doubts' S's way of having power over the other party to the relationship? Do they keep something back because they are scared of commitment to another person? Are they the type that is never satisfied with what, or who, they've got, always thinking that the grass may be greener elsewhere?

Is S a navel gazer, continually picking at the bits of fluff around their feelings while being unable to truly relate to others? Did S settle for B because it was an easier option than continuing to look for their 'perfect match'?

Given that, despite their 'niggling doubts', S chose, after some 7 years into their relationship with B, to bring 2 children into the equation, if S hasn't been entirely honest with B throughout, it seems entirely fitting that they 'hate self for making B unhappy' - but I suspect that S may have a sense of entitlement that inhibits self-loathing.

Did S commit to having children in the expectation that the arrival of dc would resolve their 'niggling doubts'? If so, they need one almighty kick up their self-centred arse.

As for the fundamentals are lacking it seems to me that in having a house, dc, and a loving partner in B, all of the fundamentals are in place in S's life and, as there are dc to consider, I agree with OHF's opinion that S needs to find goals and satisfaction in other areas of life, rather than pinning all their discontent on B.

BTW it's quite common for the arrival of dc to engender feelings of 'I want my unencumbered life back' If this is the case for S, they need to buckle down and stick with it as any doubt they have now will become more than 'niggling' in later life if they do the dirty on B and their dc.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Thu 06-Oct-11 04:40:56

As an addition, I'm addressing the issue of S terrified that they are going to be stuck in a limbo of unhappiness until the kids are grown up, which feels like a long time.

You can confidently tell S that if they put their self-absorbtion to one side, start fully participating in the lives of their dc, and take a genuine interest in growing the little people that they chose to bring into this world to adulthood, they'll find that time will fly by and that one day, and that day will arrive far quicker than they can possiby imagine at the moment, they'll look back and wonder where the time went.

In effect, any limbo that S believes themself to be in is of their own making.

aurynne Thu 06-Oct-11 05:04:10

All those who say "we separated and the children are so much happier"... These children should be asked again when they are 18... And their answers may surprise their parents. I don't argue about the need to separate in cases of abuse or infidelity... But really, when one of the two is just "not feeling it"... Sometimes it is good to remember that there are 2 little children who are definitely feeling it.

aurynne Thu 06-Oct-11 05:05:39

By the way, I would bet "S" has found someone else already. That "S is terrified that they are going to be stuck in a limbo of unhappiness"... sounds like drama-queen talk from someone who is already detached from their partner.

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