My husband refuses to divorce me even though he doesn’t love me

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My husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have 3 kids under the age of 5. I loved him at first, but he doesn’t love me.

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He’s in the military and has been since he was 18. We moved around a lot so I was constantly raising the kids on my own. I physically couldn’t do it anymore and so I moved back to our hometown when he got deployed.

He doesn’t want me to get a job, but I’ve worked from home for the last 5 years and I just can’t do it anymore. When I moved back home I realized he doesn’t actually love me. All the couples around me were loving to each other, my husband and I hardly ever interacted. They were considerate and caring. Hell, strangers were being nicer to me than my husband had ever been. My mother-in-law even thought my husband’s actions were strange and commented on how they jeopardized my health. He has put me in harm before, even forcing me to do things I’d rather not do.

Not that long ago, my friend who helps me out sometimes was hanging out with me and my kids. My son, who is 3, called him dad. I realized how unhappy I was with my life with my husband.

I called him and said I don’t think I love him and how I felt like I was being controlled. I wanted a divorce. He was a little surprised, but knew I wasn’t joking because we’ve had this same conversation several times in the past 4 years.

He did the same thing he always does and tried to convince me on why I needed to stay (financial security, the kids’ sake, etc.) I was pretty adamant and he said we would talk about it when he got home.

The next few times he has called, my husband acts like nothing happened. I talked about it with him again and he just says we aren’t getting a divorce, I’m being dramatic, or that someone is manipulating me into thinking I’m so unhappy (anyone from my mom, my friend, his mom, social media moms, etc.)

Recently that same friend has been taking me out on to dinner with the kids and several of our mutual friends have told me that he likes me, which I reciprocate, but I’m not suppose to because I’m not technically divorced. I should clarify these dinners are with the mutual friends (5 people) plus all of our kids, they are not dates and my kids are hanging out with friends.

Anonymous ethicist: Firstly, it’s crucial to acknowledge that feeling loved and supported in a relationship is a fundamental need. The lack of emotional support and care from your husband, as you’ve described, is understandably painful and can lead to a profound sense of isolation and distress. It’s also concerning to hear about instances where you’ve felt put in harm’s way or forced to do things against your will, which are serious issues that need addressing.

The fact that your son referred to your friend as “dad” is a telling sign of the emotional void that might be felt within your household. It underscores not just your unhappiness but potentially that of your children too, even if they might not fully understand or express it. Children are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on emotional dynamics, even from a very young age.

Regarding your feelings toward your friend, it’s normal to yearn for affection and connection, especially when you’re feeling undervalued in your current relationship. However, navigating this while still legally married and considering divorce is complex. It’s important to proceed with caution, keeping in mind the emotional well-being of yourself, your children, and also respecting the boundaries of your current marital status, despite its challenges.

Here’s some advice on how to approach your situation:

  1. Seek Professional Support: Engaging with a therapist or counselor, especially one experienced in marital issues, can provide you with the space to explore your feelings and thoughts in a supportive environment. They can also offer strategies to cope with the emotional stress you’re experiencing.
  2. Legal Advice: Given the complexity of your situation, consulting with a family law attorney could provide clarity on your rights and the best steps forward regarding separation or divorce. This is especially important considering the financial and custodial considerations involved.
  3. Communicate Your Needs Clearly: While you’ve attempted this with your husband, it’s clear the message is not being fully received or respected. It may help to have a structured conversation about your needs and concerns, possibly with the assistance of a mediator or counselor, to ensure your voice is heard.
  4. Self-Care and Support Network: Lean on your support network during this time. Friends, family, and support groups can provide emotional support and practical help. Prioritizing your well-being is crucial, not just for your sake but for your children’s as well.
  5. Consider the Children: In all actions and decisions, consider the impact on your children. They will need support and reassurance through any changes in their family structure. Open, age-appropriate communication about the changes happening in their life is vital.

Finally, remember that your happiness and well-being are important. Making decisions that lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life for you and your children is not selfish but necessary. It’s a difficult path, but one that leads to a better future for all involved.

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