Where to Begin?

I am quite desperate and would welcome any help you can provide.

First, my story:

My wife and I have been married for 10 years. We have two children, ages 7 and 6. They mean the world to me. About 5 years ago, my wife developed a chronic disease. No traditional doctor has been able to diagnose the problem. They claim nothing is wrong with her… My wife is very tired, moody, depressed. She cannot eat normal foods, and hence has a very restrictive diet. She has other symptoms, as well, caused by her weakened immune system. She cannot work, even though she has two college degrees. Some days it’s fine, other days she sleeps until the afternoon. At one time she was looking for a job. Now she doesn’t bother. On some days she seems great. She’s happy, it’s my old wife again. But this rarely lasts more than a day. Then it’s back to her depression.

Her relationship with the kids is terrible. She has a short fuse and is constantly irritable. She usually wakes up to scream at the kids to be quiet, then goes back to sleep. She often yells at me in front of the kids. She is severely depressed. She won’t seek any professional (psychiatric) help, since she’s afraid people will think her illness is in her head.

She has begun to talk to other women with similar, chronic fatigue symptoms. I had hoped this would make her feel better, knowing she was not alone. But the opposite has happened - these women are equally depressed, and it has brought her down even more. Now she believes she will always be this way.

I have tried to support her. But her approach is that she is suffering, so everyone around her must suffer, as well. We fight constantly. Today was a typical day: I work from my home office in an executive position, taking calls and answering emails constantly, occasionally traveling. The kids are off from school this week. So I fixed their breakfast, fixed their lunch, walked the dog, while juggling my many calls and other work related tasks. My wife woke up in the late afternoon, later complaining how she has to do everything around the house, all the cooking, cleaning, etc!!! Some of my colleagues call me Mr. Mom, since I’m often on a call from hockey practice, waiting in line to pick the kids up from school, etc. They don’t know why I’m always doing this, probably assuming my wife works long hours. But she’s usually on the couch feeling sorry for herself instead of helping the kids.

Everyday is a fight, and she is constantly yelling in front of the children. We sleep in separate rooms. The kids are stressed about the situation, and I can tell they get very upset when she screams (obviously), often at me, sometimes at them, over the silliest things (leaving a plate on the table, making too much noise when going up the stairs, etc.). The kids have stopped listening, too, in protest.

I have only stayed this long with my wife because of the kids. But I just can’t take much more of this. My fear, however, is that she will get custody of the kids, even though I know they would never choose to live with their Mother over me. I fear what will happen to them if I’m relegated to weekends only with them. My wife loves them, but she is not the Motherly type. And with her illness, who knows what she will be able to do with them.

I’ve tried my best to be supportive of my wife. Maybe I could have done more. I’m not perfect. But her behavior, especially over the past year, has deteriorated to the point that it’s impossible to be with her. My work has suffered. I have no energy. The kids are caught in the middle. Etc.

I need to talk to someone. Perhaps separation and divorce is the only option. This will mean selling our wonderful house and renting two small apartments, I suppose… It will also be hell for the kids, especially if my wife eventually gains custody. I know they will rebel against her. They often come into my bed at night. They never go to hers.

There are so many other issues I need to speak with someone about. But the bottom line is the kids. That’s my main concern.

How should I get started? Should I speak to a lawyer? What should I expect? I never thought I would get a divorce, but I just can’t go on living like this.


Sounds like you are really at wits end. I think that you should separate and divorce for your own sanity and for the sake of the kids.

I’m no lawyer, but from what I’ve heard NC is gender-neutral on assigning custody and you sound like you are the one doing the real parenting, which should work in your favor.

You should consider putting a portion of this post on the Legal section and let one of the lawyers give you their opinion on the custody issue, since obviously that is a big point for you.

Good luck!

I have a question or two.

1.) During the times when your wife is “like her old self”, is that when she tends to get a bit irritable?

2.) How well does she sleep? You said there are days that she sleeps all day…are there days when she sleeps little or goes to bed really late?

It does sound like your wife needs to see a psychiatrist, although it also sounds like the only way you will get her there is if she agrees to go as part of couples counselling.

It sounds like your wife is severly depressed and maybe even suffering from some kind of mood disorder (although I am no doctor). You should do anything you can to get her to a psychiatric specialist. I don’t think you should divorce or separate maybe just get her some counseling and even some marriage counseling for the both of you.

Believe me Separating/Divorce is not always the answer. The ones who suffer are your kids. It sounds like your marital problems could have started because of her depression/moodiness. Don’t give up on your family, you will have alot less problems getting your wife therapy and the medication she may need than the pain and emotional trauma that comes from a divorce.

it sounds like either one of two things severe anxiety/depression or fibroid myalgia…

Your wife has a serious problem that only a doctor can diagnose. Why is she sleeping all day? That is not normal! There are so many medications that could make a big difference in the way your wife feels. If she is making your life miserable simply because of her inertia and irritability, divorce isn’t the answer. You married her for “better or worse, in sickness and in health”. What are her passions? Has she given those up for you and the kids? What does she enjoy? She’s obviously intelligent because she has two degrees! Have you considered marriage counseling? You need to go see someone…the both of you. Does she want a divorce? Sounds like she would disintegrate on her own! Something isn’t right with her, apparently. I’d seek professional advice (medical) before legal in this case. Good luck.

Your wife obviously has some issues. She needs to exhaust all resources to find out what is wrong with her. If she refuses to get help (even if it IS a psychotherapist), then you need to to what it going to be best for you and the kids. START MAKING NOTES OF EVERYTHING!! Cannot stress this enough! See a lawyer and find out what your options are. Any mental illness in her family? What does her family think about her situation? I hope this works out for you.

You are very kind to your ill wife. I am not attorney. I can’t give your legal advice. But emotionally, I guess your wife suffers from the mental problem. I think you could send kids to your parents or friends. And then you just go to resort or the places you spent the honey moon only with your wife. Thus you could be calm down and talk more things. Then make the decision what to do next.

I read your post and cringed, “was this how my husband might describe me to someone in his frustration?” I can only suggest that you do your best to look at things from her perspective–after being married over 20 years I have learned there are ALWAYS two sides to every story. Have you made unilateral decisions in your relationship that might have caused her to feel resentment toward the children? Are you supportive of her interests, whatever they might be, or do you undermine and sabotage them? Have you made an effort to truly be kind to her, to help her, to show her you love her and want her to love you?

I made a unilateral decision to send our first two children to a school 30 minutes away from our house (to a town where I was working, so I could be close to them since my husband was often out the state). It caused 15 years of festering bitterness and undermined his relationship with our boys since he felt he had no real authority in raising them. I could not understand this. Now he has decided to send our 5 year old daughter to the public school in our area, which I am extremely uncomfortable with. Recognizing the error of my previous ways, I decided he needed to have this decision be up to him. And now I see how it has taken away my desire to be involved with the school and that a big part of parenting is out of my hands. I am going to attempt to make peace with this decision and be supportive of it to the extent I can. But I realize with hindsight the fallibility of making decisions that a spouse does not support.

My father remarried very happily and he has this advice for me:

  1. There are no unilateral decisions for us.
  2. Every day I tell myself, “this is the woman I asked to marry me.”