Question : I feel I am in an extremely draining marriage. My husband is NEVER there for me physically or emotionally. I feel there is hardly a marriage anymore between us anymore. But then he tells me that he still loves me, cares for me and can’t live without me. I have also found him flirting with other women (which he doesn’t like to talk about…)
I do not know if I should hold on or move on. I don’t even know if I should trust my feelings about our marriage or what he says about our marriage.
Answer : A lot of people are in a relationship/marriage that is quite ‘dead’. But it is quite hard for someone who is actively a part of the story to see that it is long over and now is only being stretched and dragged (akin to some of the television soaps).
Dragging a story that is long over drains everybody involved. And somehow there are always reasons like ‘hope’, ‘an old promise’ or ‘the kids’ that tend to keep people waiting eternally in such relationships and marriages.
Since you have talked about a confusion about whether this relationship is really working for you or not, I am listing below some quick pointers that are indicators of a broken relationship. If you find these traits in your relationship with your husband, then perhaps you should know that at this point, the relationship is definitely broken.
1. You Give more than your Receive
At the end of the day, you are left with the feeling that you have done so much for your partner and you are not quite sure if you have received as much from him/her. You feel drained at the end of each day. This is just a feeling deep within.
[Read this post on “Tolerate, Adjust and Compromise” if you want to read up more about this.]
2. They are Emotionally Unavailable
You are the one who buys the gifts, who waits for the special occasions, who tries to keep a conversation alive. You are the one that is constantly trying to connect but there is no such initiative from their end. On a day that matters to you the most – your promotion, your parents’ wedding anniversary, your book-release function, your birthday or that important (scary) doctor’s checkup – they don’t seem to be there (Physically, Mentally, Emotionally)
3. They are Poor Communicators
If you find that there is always a struggle to communicate, very hard to reach him/her on phone or to get a clear answer, it’s a clear red flag. Perhaps you might find yourself talking to each other mostly on WhatsApp, and love is expressed only through emojis. Sometimes the partner just cuts off communication for no apparent reason and it is up to you to figure out why he/she is upset and console him/her.
4. There is always an excuse ready
There is always a story ready that you just cannot refuse. None of your plans with your partner work. They are always either overworked, stressed, busy, tired or financially constrained. Even when you catch them “red-handed“, they will have an explanation to convince you (or confuse you!).
5. They hide behind their Past
There is usually a tendency to dwell in the past, either glorifying their previous relationship and how you are no match to their previous partner OR cursing the start of the current relationship with you. Either ways, they seem to use that as a crutch to justify their present behaviour. They would never want to just own up, take charge and decide to set things right from now on.
If you find that you are in a relationship with many of these traits, you have some red-flags to look at. A good place to start is to figure out what it is that you want in a relationship.
Commitment is a big ask and oftentimes people commit before they really are ready to commit. If that has been your story or your partner’s story, you need to understand that it might be a relief to let go of the relationship. Sometimes you are making things easy for all involved when you make that (extremely scary) choice. In letting go, you are also making the space for life to unfold in a new way.
However, be aware that there are always a hundred different layers to an issue – especially a marriage that is breaking down. It would be a good idea to meet a marriage counselor (both you and your partner preferably) and figure out a way forward that works for both you.
NOTE : The questions and answers in this series are compilations of discussions during therapeutic sessions with my clients. These are not generic pieces of advice. I am deeply aware that these answers can seem way too simplistic for people actually going through similar situations. Please comment or connect with me if you find yourself grappling with something I have expressed.