Advice: My marriage is a war zone

They've been married for more than a decade, but his wife shows him no physical affection and home is a war zone. Should he leave?

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I have been married now for over 10 years. It has not been the smoothest of rides, but I have hung in there.

A few months ago as a result of a lot of stressful stuff I had a mini breakdown. My employer sent me to a psychologist to get me right again - it ended up I had a major depressive disorder and I ended up on medication to assist.

As any good psychologist would do he started to probe into the root cause of my issue so we could deal with it. I thought it was work pressure etc but some digging about my home life soon revealed it was far from normal, what I had been putting up with turns out to be a real issue and probably the root cause.

Basically what I have learned to live with and tolerated as normal was in his eyes an unacceptable situation. I have had had no physical relationship with my wife now for over five years, no signs of affection at all. I had tried but gave up because of the rejection, and we went from not much to nothing pretty quickly.

Home is a war zone. I can never do anything right, even when I try to help out I get it wrong. I think I pull my weight, I am the sole money earner and I cook and clean.  I have to tip-toe around and guard what I say in case I break the peace. 

Up until now I have hung on in the hope things will get better, but the psychologist basically said I should get out now because there is not much hope long term. He said it was better to get out now and build a new life while I am still in my early 40s rather than later in life when it's harder to rebuild.

I tried counselling many years ago, but she would have none of that. Amazingly enough there are school age kids in the mix now, so that complicates things. Please, can you help?

Lonely and unfulfilled

Ten years is a long time to be living with such difficulties in your relationship. It is good that your psychologist has helped you to get to the root of your depression. It really goes to show how getting professional help at the right time can make a big difference.

The thing is that your relationship needs professional help too. Couples often get into cycles of conflict that are disastrous for each other and for their families, however with the right help these cycles can be addressed and couples can find new and much more satisfying ways of being with each other.

You will need to decide if you want to explore the possibility of moving your relationship to a better place, or whether there has been too much water under the bridge and it's time to move on. Professional help from a good relationship counsellor is strongly advised in making this decision, as well as in helping you with either addressing the relationship issues, or in the separation. A good relationship counsellor will be able to assist in de-escalating conflict, clear decision making, resolving issues, making clear plans and ensuring the needs of the children are being addressed.

If you decide you want to address the issues in the relationship you will need to be clear with your wife that the relationship has not been working well for you for some time, that you are not willing to go on as it is, that you cannot work it out by yourselves, and that you need to get professional help. You will also need to be clear that if she is not willing to do this then you will be separating from her. She will realise that this is a significant issue and you are taking a stand for something better.

If you decide to separate without exploring the possibility of addressing the relationship issues you will need to think about where you can get support for that process, and have a plan for how you will go about it and how to communicate this to your wife. You will need to think about your children's needs in that process and know how to support them.

It's a tough call, but it's also time to bring things to a head. This kind of conflict is not good for you, and it is not good for your children. Research indicates that it is better for children to have separated parents than to have parents who are either in a lot of conflict or very withdrawn from one another.

Whatever you choose it is going to be an uncomfortable journey for a while. The good news is that as you start to address the issues you are building a brighter future for yourself, even if there is some tough ground to cover now. Make sure you have some good support through this process.

Wishing you strength,


For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.