The Point Of No Return - How Do You Know If You Have Reached It?

I read these stories on EP, in the ILIASM group, where one spouse is so put off with the other, and has no respect or desire left for the other, and the only way left to go is to dissolve the marriage. Obviously, these desperate situations took years to develop.  As long as I have been a member of ILIASM, I am reminded through these stories that yes, my situation could get worse.  Enna's story - Can You Fix Your Marriage - really got me thinking.  For sure, if my husband were not willing to go to marriage counseling, it would be a very bad sign.  His apparent willingness to try to improve our marriage along with me is the biggest factor, but there have to be other factors that might make any therapist say, "forget it". 

I have asked myself,  is my own marriage bad enough to call it quits?  I tried to research this, and found the following list. 

  • Does every situation, no matter how seemingly trivial, evolve into a fight?  No, most of the time not.
  • Do you or your spouse continually refer to hurtful events in the past? Not continually, but the hurt is there.  I am the only one who does this in our marriage.
  • Is all the respect gone from your relationship? Do you feel it is impossible to bring that respect back? No, I still respect his mind, his creativity, and his courage.
  • Have your goals and directions changed whereas your partner's have stayed the same? (Or vice versa.) This is hard to say since we communicate so little.
  • Is your partner no longer fostering your individual growth? He never did, unless it served his interests somehow.
  • Have you and your partner both changed so much that you no longer share moral, ethical, or lifestyle values? Moral, yes we still share.  Ethical, yes also still in common.  Lifestyle, not in common - he does not want to spend time together as a family.  Okay, two out of three ain't bad.
  • Have you and your spouse lost the art of compromise? When you disagree, are you unable to forge a path together that is acceptable to both?  Since we do not communicate, we do not even reach the point of compromise.
  • Do you and your spouse have a basic sexual incompatibility? Do you feel completely unattracted to each other? Despite help from professional therapists, have you stopped making love?  I am attracted to my husband still, but he is not very interested in sex.
So there we go.  I like to think this marriage can be salvaged.  Next counseling session is on Tuesday.
What do my EP ILIASM buddies think of this list?  Is there anything you think should be added?
EinEngel EinEngel 46-50, F 14 Responses Nov 1, 2012

Your Response


My W wouldn't even go to counselling or analysis. I asked for a divorce on a few occasions, she'd beg to give it another go - promising we'd both go to counselling or that she'd go to analysis to find out what was wrong (there were a few other quirks surfacing in her). Of course it never happened. I realise I was being strung along, but I was reluctant to end it. She really is an amiable and pleasant room mate, she's a good companion. She gets along with most people. Just walled away. Not on an obvious level, she's not guarded or defensive from a good friends point of view, but there's not much intimacy you're going to get out of her. To quote/paraphrase something I saw on this site "they don't want you, but they don't want to let you go". In truth, I still don't really have the slightest idea how I got to where I got. It's all plausible conjectures at best. As a community, I despair of us - f#ck me we're a bunch of idiots.<br />
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This is common stuff it seems. Since coming out of the closet on this matter, so to speak, I've had a couple of friends discuss their own situations, had lots of stories about friends of friends marriages and even randomly got a speed dating match with a woman with a similar backstory (I say randomly, because it's not like you're going to get on to this topic within the 3 minute allotted time - or at least you shouldn't...! - But I guess there's the possibility that people like us 'attract'), by the way, I recommend speed dating.<br />
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To pick up another reply in this thread, my W did finally go to analysis after I said "I'm done". Someone noted that some analysts have a limited range of what problems they tackle. Even my W complained that her's (the first one) came at it from a "what did your H do to you?" point of view, although to be fair, the analyst quickly did re-evaluate (after a few sessions she admitted she was out of her depth and suggested my W find another analyst).<br />
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I completely recognise the regret for having stayed in too long. Let's face it, most of us should have been/be more ballsy on this one. "F#ck me or I'm gone" - it's a perfectly reasonable thing to expect of your *sexual* partner. I do realise that there are cases where foot massages (I see you guys use 'scented candles' to express the same concept...) and better lingerie would fix things, but most of what I read here sounds like much further along in the game.<br />
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My 6 day view of this site (i.e. I know jack...) suggests many of the posters are in that pit of despair where they doubt they'll be able to find potential partners again (although maybe I'm projecting - certainly I was in that pit). But it's nonsense. If you've been repeatedly rejected for years you're unlikely to be rational on this issue. There are people of all ages and types dating, I've found it to be a positive experience. Yes, it's heartbreaking and complex, but it's wonderful to have lovers once again. We're people who want to have sex, love and be loved. In case you hadn't noticed, that's pretty normal.

"I am attracted to my husband still, but he is not very interested in sex."

As hard as it is to say, say this:

"I am attracted to my husband still, but he is not attracted to me."

could be. But I lost a bunch of weight, really improved my appearance, and when that did not work, I even asked him if he is gay but he says he isn't.

So this indicates that it really has nothing to do with you. When H and I met, I was rail thin. My weight has been up and down since. Size, miniskirts, cute clothes, smiles, weight gain, sweatpants, dour or sunny attitude--it has made no difference, nor has it for the other posters on this board.

Harry Stack Sullivan, quoted by Mira Kirschenbaum:
"When the satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one as is one's own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists."

...I read that and it occurred to me that, while my wife said she loved me, It never measured up to Sullivan's definition of love.

My wife is essentially a selfish person...not pathologically so...but she is. I wonder how many other refusers are...just too selfish to put in the work required to sustain a marital partner?

Yes, selfish. I must say my husband is intensely self-focused, but is excessively so under stress. Maybe that is why I could not see it during courtship, since his stress levels were much lower then.

About ten years ago, my W and I and a close friend of ours, were walking through a park in California. We startled a big old rattlesnake which raised up and rattled. We weren't that close so there was no real danger but it sets the heart racing. My W had either never, or rarely, encountered this situation. Her instinctive response was to grab myself and our friend and shove us in front of her, towards the snake.

Oh my. Telling. And yes, Hylie. This quote is stuck in my head. That is truly a definition of love.

Yipes, Tree... What a girl...
(Funny... I would have been all "WOW, check out that huge rattlesnake!" and then got out my camera and tried to get a really nice shot of mister rattlesnake...How do I know this? I've done similar with big alligators and copperheads. I find people more threatening than an 8-foot alligator, go figure...)

(Oh hell, I'm off-topic again...)

That is ok, you would have enjoyed where I lived on the coast of Mississippi. At the plant where I worked there was a guy whose main responsibility was to trap the wild hogs and alligators that had wandered onto the property.

3 More Responses

Hi Einengle,I will give you my simple reason for ending my marriage. After much more thought and energy Than i care to boils down to this:<br />
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The life she gives to me as her husband is not a life worth living. Period!<br />
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I do not mean this as I am suicidal...far from it. I mean this as I want/need so much more than she is willing to offer. I have decided....I am better off without her. And I am VERY confident in my decision.Good luck...listen closely to your true self and you will find your answer.<br />
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Forget the lists.

<p>Interesting to see that of these 8 questions you respond with one <br />
(1) pretty straight forward positive response.<br />
(2) pretty straight forward negative responses.<br />
(5) "qualified" responses that are actually negative responses.<br />
Taking those "qualified" responses as really being negative, you had a ratio of 12% positive and 88% "qualified" / negative responses.</p><p>That would not indicate a salvagable situation on the face of it.</p><p>As regards the counselling, if you are prepared to go "all in" here (both of you) and let the truths uncovered drive the outcome, you will get the 'right' result. But that result may well NOT be what you hoped / wished it to be. AND, said result may take YEARS to emerge.</p><p>Given Herr Engels level of dysfunction, another problem is likely to be the sheer endurance this process will require. You are looking at YEARS I reckon. He might not be up for such a marathon. You might not be up for such a marathon.<br />
Who could blame either of you from saying "I ain't up for another X years of this"</p><p>Tread your own path.</p>

I am hoping if we can fix our communication problem, the other stuff will get better, see?

Our therapy sessions, over four therapists, did not go well, and we abandoned therapy. But of those four therapists, the best one worked on us individually. Sometimes the other person was allowed to be present but not to speak. By far the best thing I got out of a solo session was to start losing my shame about my sexuality. I am still not there, but somewhat better than five years back. None of them was hopeful about restoring physical relations, and that has not happened.

My husband agreed to counseling too. We had our first session last week, and we have had a better week together. No great epiphany but closer somehow. Our next one is tomorrow. It will be the individual ones, and then we agreed to go away for the night, for some quality talking. Anxious to see what comes from it.

Your list was helpful to me...I have mostly positive answers to the questions. So I feel hopeful that we can reestablish a fulfilling marriage.Thank you

My answers are similar to yours for these questions. For me, the main question in determining whether to leave or not is about handling life afterwards. Do I have a supportive group of friends and/or family who would respect my decision and help me cope? Do I have a larger community/city/town in which I have made a place for myself or in which I enjoy living? Do I have gainful employment that allows for economic independence and/or meaningful connection with colleagues? Can I make a place for my offspring? All of these things either need to be in place or in process to ease the leaving.

Personally and historically, I have been profoundly isolated, with almost no skills for making connections. My H. changed all of that. I can't risk the very real and quantifiable consequences of breaking this first true connection in my life without the life skills to simultaneously move forward and let go. My efforts are focused on creating the aforementioned list.

I love this comment. These skills you list in your comment - you need them regardless of relationship status. And all marriages (dysfunctional or not) eventually end in tears - either through death or divorce, so being able to support yourself, have a support network established, care for children, etc. are required for any fully functioning, healthy adult. While your marriage might not survive - perhaps this experience will serve as the impetus to motivate you to improve your overall quality of life through gaining these skills.

Oh, well said, MVC!

Pure gold from sister TMBAWO

Excellent questions, WayOut. Yes, that list would have to be addressed as well. Unfortunately for me, my answers would be pretty close to yours, except for that I have extremely supportive parents who say they would take me in and help me get back on my feet.

Your parents know your situation?

Yes, they do.

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From my own personal experience, all the fact finding missions in the world will not tell you when you have reached the point of no return, as it is different for everyone. I do know when you reach it, you know it. It is a feeling deep within your gut and it will not be denied. It is at that point where nothing he does or says affects you anymore, you give up trying to fix things and start figuring out how to get out and taking neccessary steps to do so. It is not a bluff. Done is done, and you know it when you are.

The too good to leave, too bad to stay book is like one big giant checklist. It's good though.

I don't know if you have ever done the "Counselling" thing before, but be prepared for the single sessions (only with you).

When questions like the ones you list came up in my counselling session, some of the answers made our therapist raise her eyebrows in almost disbelief. I knew that was a bad sign.

In the one-on-one sessions, she would tell me that since I was the one that was thinking and more flexible, I would have to change. IE, wife could not and would not change and I had to accept that. She said the same things in the couples sessions afterward, but my wife never heard or understood it.

We ended the sessions with the common understanding that I had to change -- Get used to it and stop complaining. But my wife never understood why, or did not care. The fact was -- and was stated clearly by the therapist -- that wife was not interested in changing or compromising. YES, compromise was necessary, but all of that would be on my part. I got the message very clearly -- get used to the SM!!

This analysis will always take you in circles because your H isn't a horrible, abusing man. Neither is mine. He's a kind-hearted, loving man in his own way.

BUT (big but), he cannot be intimate with me and maybe not with anyone. The bottom line for me was I wanted intimacy in my life and he wasn't the one who could share that with me.

So, if you want intimacy and he can't share it with you, no amount of counseling will change that.

I wanted to believe too - for 22 years I believed. Now, after 2 months of separation, I see that he's really disabled in his ability to connect with people. I filled in those gaps at great personal cost. Now that I'm not doing that anymore, the gaps are visible and profound. Leaving was hard; moving on is hard; I started on an online dating site and that's really hard.

BUT (again big but) I dishonored myself by staying in a marriage that denied me some fundamental human needs. I can no longer dishonor myself, I walked over coals as you are doing to leave my marriage, and now, I am still on coals as I adjust to my new life, but at least I have a chance to find someone who truly wants to be with me.

Thanks for the warning...I find the process very superficial, but it only takes one!

What's up w/ Plenty of Fish? I've heard horror stories too.

No list only one question:

Do you feel well loved each and every day by your husband- no matter what is happening in the context of your marriage?

Good one. And the answer to that one for me is no.

And that is it. I "know" my wife loves me. I just haven't felt well-loved in an intimate, spousal relationship for most of my marriage.

Though even with that feeling, your EinEngel's words: "Lifestyle, not in common - he does not want to spend time together as a family. Okay, two out of three ain't bad." is a deal breaker.

No...Though he is saying it all the time...But refuse even discuss anything... It is not love, it is clinging and form of control...

Does anyone have another list?

Ray3218, your question suggests you know my first wife.

Ray, yes he does. Another great question.

Ray, if you include an extreme form of fundamentalist Christianity, then yes. Last I heard, that didn't work out, either.