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My Husband Is Dragging Me Down

I try not to live with regrets, but sometimes it's hard not to think that I should have left my husband a long time ago. He is a very intelligent and talented man who I love very much, but he is constantly moody and has been depressed for much of our relationship. He lives in constant fear and always seems to be annoyed or angry at someone or about something. One of his good friends once referred to the latter problem as an "overdeveloped sense of justice." Certainly, my husband seems to think the world and people in general owe him something.

I guess I should have seen it as a sign of trouble when he said he thought I was the only person who really understood him, but I'll chalk this oversight up to being younger and more naiive when we met. Maybe that's just something people say when they are in love.

Before we even had our first date I told him about my plans to pursue a Ph.D., which in my field almost always means a cross-country move and several years of very little income. On our first date he expressed his willingness to live just about anywhere if life took him there. He has often talked about how he sometimes regrets stopping at his M.A. and understands the talent and work it takes to even be admitted to a doctoral program. based on the way our relationship started, I trusted wholeheartedly that he would be willing to support me in an endeavor that was so central to my sense of identity. However, in reality my journey to the Ph.D. program has involved almost constant heel-dragging and complaints from my hubby.

His resistance has gone on for about 4 years straight. Essentially, up until a few months ago he's said "we'll go if we can," whatever the hell that means, and complained about me not being a domestic goddess while he worked an average of 15 hours a week to my 60+. I eventually decided that I had to be true to myself and would go with or without him, as painful as it would be to leave someone who I love very much. When I had my Ph.D. offer letters in hand and he still refused to make a decision for several weeks I did my best to be patient with him, not wanting to force his hand. However, as the deadlines for accepting or rejecting the offers approached, I became increasingly anxious and upset, eventually deciding that I had to leave him for both of our sakes. He was completely baffled by this, despite the fact that he had known how important my Ph.D. was to me for years and we had engaged in many emotional discussions about how unhappy this decision was making us both. That was the night he agreed to support me and come along, eloquently talking me out of my decision to leave. The fact is, he says all the right things but rarely follows through. He promised to commit to the decision and be a team player, but instead he has since spent most of his time watching T.V. and surfing the Internet while I have done about 95% of the work to move his insane amount of stuff across the country.

When I confront him about his behavior, no matter how gently, he becomes extremely defensive and refuses to talk, so I  usually just suck it up and do all the work in addition to trying to keep up with my school work and pretending to be a put together person so I can build relationships in a new and alien place. I feel like I cannot have feelings or be honest around him because he can't even handle his own feelings. Several of my friends and family members have seen some of this first hand and have suggested that the relationship may not be worth saving, but I have stubborly held on because I love him, possibly beyond reason.

We have been married for 4 years now and I think the biggest problem is that I have grown up immensely, while he has developed very little. However, after going through all of this, I have found myself becoming more bitter and angry that I ever wanted to be. I feel like my husband is an anchor dragging me down and making everything 10x harder than it needs to be. Now that we are here, I feel stuck. Because he has an unhealthy attachment to his "stuff" and could not get rid of much of anything when we moved, we are living well beyond our means (storage fees, a more expensive apartment than we can reasonably afford, etc.) and quickly using up our savings. However, he is doing almost nothing to look for a job, insisting on a very narrow and unrealistic focus in his search. While I understand his idealism and wishes to have a job worthy of his talents and M.A., I am afraid that if he does not find some sort of job soon we will not be able to afford groceries, much less all of our bills. I am also tired of being the only person he interacts with all day.

I love him, but I am so tired of being dragged down because he cannot seem to man up and do what needs to be done.
fedupgrad fedupgrad 26-30 4 Responses Sep 7, 2012

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Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It has been nearly 2 years and little has changed. I have tried everything I could imagine to work things out, but will spare you the list. I told my husband that I am leaving two weeks ago. I had an attorney draw up papers for a dissolution of marriage and will be moving in with a friend this week while my husband visits family in California. I am fortunate to have a strong support system, both here and at home. I know I will be okay and I know this is what must happen if I am to live my best possible life, even if it is deeply sad and quite frightening in the meantime.

Your husband is passive aggressive. As you are a highly educated woman, I recommend you read all you can about passive aggressive husbands. As a wife of one, I fully sympathize with your pain. These types of men (maybe the woman version, too) don't want to give much, but they like to control. So, they'll sabotage our efforts at getting ahead. Try Nora Femenia. She has books out.

I agree with this reply from meryissues. I've now read a book called "living with the passive aggressive man" and also a book called "codependent no more." The book about the passive aggressive man, I will warn you, just makes me angry every time I read a bit of it. But that is because it seems spot-on, for my situation at least. It also does not offer a ton of hope in terms of keeping a relationship with passive aggressive people, but the book is FAR from useless.

I have had some success asserting my own needs with specificity and respect. Mind you, I've had no "success" getting my passive aggressive husband to actually meet the needs; but that is not really the only point. Voicing the needs myself, hearing whatever version of "no" or "yes" but not really, that he responds, helps me to feel less confused and insane. And it clarifies for me what choices I can (and ultimately must) make. Best of luck to you. I feel you have a better life ahead of you than this man is allowing you to have.

Is it possible your husband has low self-esteem or feels self-conscious about his professional life? You mentioned he is picky in his job search. I wonder whether he would be willing to get counseling and treatment to deal with that issue. To me it sounds like a confidence problem, among other things. I wish you the best with your situation and I hope you don't have to end up choosing between your career and your relationship. If you do, I hope you can find wisdom and strength for it. I know from experience that it can be very difficult to talk to someone about their low self esteem, because even mentioning it is a hit to their pride. Keep us all posted, and congratulations on pursuing your career so conscientiously.

He will only drag you down even more as you become more successful in your field of expertise. You love him but you MUST love yourself more. Give yourself a chnace to be better.