This type of thing happens more than you’d think. I have known people in this position and have heard about plenty more.
I [36M] and my partner of 10 years [35F] are getting married in 3 months. Despite months of therapy it feels like our relationship has fallen apart, devolving into constant fights and different views of reality. I don’t know what to do.
Sorry this is a huge long ramble…
My partner and I have been together for almost 10 years. We have been living together for 6 years and engaged for almost 2. Prior to 6 months ago, I would say we had a pretty normal relationship. We ups and downs and some rough periods, but we always seemed to get through them. Though the following is quite negative, we have had a lot of amazing times and I always thought we’d be together forever. We certainly took our time getting engaged and formally planning out wedding which I know is unusual. Last spring we finally figured out our ideal wedding and worked together to get it fully planned out.
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Almost as soon as we had everything done with invitations in the mail I felt like our relationship started to unravel. We have been constantly arguing like never before, even in the “bad times”. Sometimes over big issues like should we move across the country, but often over petty, trivial things. Discussions as simple as what to eat for dinner became fights, sometimes huge, day ruining fights.
We both made pretty serious jumps in our careers around this time. I think we chalked the fighting up to work stress bleeding into our home life. We’ve had a history of putting things aside and pushing through for big events, so we figured we would do that here. And we did for things like a nice summer vacation for example, where it seemed like problems just went away for the 10 days. Incidentally, the previous year we both also started personal individual therapy and I think became much more aware of out needs and how to express them, especially myself.
The fighting continued and we had what I would call an “incident”. My fiance got blackout drunk at a fairly large party with many of our closest friends. She drunkenly yelled at a few of them, said hurtful things to me in front of them, and puked everywhere. She has previously had some issues with alcohol, never like this, but with drinking a bit too much and becoming a different person, so I was very, very sensitive to this particular incident.
The next day we got in a giant, day long fight about it. I stayed at a hotel for a night and when I returned said we had to go to couples therapy or I was leaving. She surprisingly agreed right away and seemed genuinely understanding of the pain caused by the event and the struggles we’ve been having. We’ve been in therapy since July, usually 2-3 times per month. We went through 3 different therapists before finding a good fit.
We uncovered a lot of issues for both of us that I think we would not have otherwise. Things like I don’t compliment her physically in public/social settings the way she would like. Or that me needing space after a rough day at work wasn’t a rejection of her. And that our distribution of housework was very lopsided (I was doing everything due to her stressful job). At first she wanted the therapy to be about her alcohol consumption, basically amounting to “I won’t get blackout drunk again”, but while of course it was part of it, I felt we had deeper issues and insisted we continue.
Now that we’ve moved past the alcohol it’s almost as if when we are discussing issues we are in two completely different realities. It’s constant he said, she said. For example, the other week I said to her “hey! you left the oven on!” when I noticed the oven going full blast / smoking hours after she heated something up. This turned into a giant fight with lots of yelling and crying.
In therapy she said that the tone of my exclamation implied I thought she was stupid and lazy. She said to her I had straight up “just called her a lazy bitch too stupid to turn off an oven”. She wanted me to own I was being abusive/toxic and hurt her deeply, intentional or not. This was profoundly shocking to me. From my POV I walked into the kitchen and saw red hot stove going so I said something. It wasn’t a grand statement on what I think of her as a person, I didn’t expound of how dangerous it was. It was just literal, single statement: the stove is on and smoke is coming out.
When we are able to get down deeper into discussion it almost always boils down to she feels extremely insecure in our relationship due to lack of compliments and that I feel unable to express myself or be heard due to her anger. Her response is anger / yelling, mine is to withdraw and be silent. She feels very critiqued by me and I feel very controlled by her requests to adjust my behavior. Insecurity was an issue in our relationship in the past, mainly with us not being engaged (her words), but it appears to not have actually been as securing as we had hoped.
It seems like everything we discuss is polar opposite in how we individually remember. Sometimes it’s even verifiable reality, like a text conversation, but after being shown it, she’ll say things like “yeah but I interpreted the words differently at the time”
Most of our fights seem to end at “you aren’t doing what you promised in therapy!” or “that’s not how it happened for me, stop denying my reality”. Even things as simple as voice tone have become issues. I previously had an issue speaking with a rude and/or aggressive tone when heated in discussion. I started speaking in a soft, somewhat deliberate monotone to combat this. Now that tone is rude and insulting.
The fights have become so tiring we have this weird “walking on eggshells” interactions to avoid them during the week just so we can function. Our sex life has also dwindled and even when we actively try we both know something is missing and it doesn’t feel very good. We do have some good days in there I have to say and I know we both want to get to a better place, but its like we are at a stalemate. Our therapist has focused on this “stalemate” concept and feels that we need to “put each other first” to prove to each other we care.
I’ve tried to do that based on strategies we agree on in therapy, say things like “ok, I’m sorry. Let me try to make this right. Tell me what you need” and asking questions about her feelings. While sometimes it does end the fight, more often the response will be “You can’t shut me down by apologizing quickly, you need to own this” or “It’s sickening to me to have to spell it out for you, what I need is for you to know how to support me, not constantly ask how”.
Lately the strategies from therapy seem to work even less and have almost become triggering events themselves. For example another strategy was for me to compliment her more throughout the day. Now when I do that she usually negates it by saying I’m just saying it as a matter of “checking the box” that I did the task from therapy and I don’t mean it.
My own therapist does not directly advise on “what I should do”, but does encourage me to be as honest with needs/feelings as possible and helps me uncover and express those. I feel like since I’ve become more aware of my own needs and been more steadfast in expressing them our problems have increased and that scares me.
I’ve come to realize I am completely unhappy and have been for months. It’s like I’m questioning my own sanity in all of our interactions they are so different when we discuss them.
I’ve tried to talk with my close friends and family (dad, brother) and down the line the answer is the same: cold feet and I need to man up. All of them insist it’s normal. I’m making too much of it. Everything will be bliss once we get married. Marriages are hard work, its pre wedding stress, etc etc.
This just feels different than cold feet. Therapy seems to have made us hyper aware of everything. My fiance has gone as far to say it’s the cause of our issues and would like to stop going completely (she’s been pushing to stop for months). I want to keep going because I feel like it’s the one place where we can discuss issues without it blowing up.
Though our wedding is pretty small its coming up fast and its a non stop barrage of excitement from our family regarding it. I am scared we are going to bury this, get married, and be right back where we left off or worse. I feel crazy for considering the fact that we might need to break up. I’m scared of it, bizarrely humiliated by the idea, and sick with guilt at the thought of “doing this” to my fiance.
I have no idea what to do. I am having trouble seeing a path forward it’s been escalating so much. I need some outside perspective. Have we been kidding ourselves and are living in a toxic relationship? Is the coming permanence shaking out all the loose parts of our relationship?
TL;DR: I [36M] and my partner of 10 years [35F] are getting married in 3 months. Despite 8+ months of therapy our relationship has become bitter fighting and accusations from both sides of not being a good partner. I don’t know if we have the ability to heal from here.
Let’s see. They are “constantly arguing like never before,” & “Discussions as simple as what to eat for dinner became fights, sometimes huge, day-ruining fights.” They are in couples’ therapy and “we are discussing issues we are in two completely different realities” along with “It seems like everything we discuss is the polar opposite in how we individually remember.” He also notes they are “walking on eggshells” and also says he’s, “completely unhappy.” This may be off base, but I’m just getting a borderline personality vibe from the woman involved if his description of her is accurate, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. No matter who’s right and who’s wrong, what this guy is describing is the sort of thing you typically hear right before a divorce and yet he’s about to get married.
Why would anyone do that? Well, because of the sunken cost fallacy. He’s already put so much time and effort into this relationship is he really just going to admit at 36-years-old that his 10-year-long relationship was a mistake? Then there’s the fact that he has a wedding coming up. Is he going to tell everyone it’s off, hurt her terribly, endure his family members who have no idea what’s going on telling him “he just has cold feet,” maybe eat some wedding costs and create a scandal? You’d be surprised at how often people think about all of this, cross their fingers and just hope for the best.
What you would not be surprised at is how often these sorts of marriages end in divorce within a few years’ time. There’s no way to really get statistics on it, but given how dysfunctional his relationship sounds right now even after months of therapy, what are the chances that this works out? 10%? 5%? 1%? Oh and if you think it sounds like she’s a nightmare for him now, wait until they’re in divorce court. Especially if they end up having kids. If this is what they’re like even BEFORE the marriage, can you imagine how difficult it would be to have her in his life for decades afterward because they share a child?
In the short term, if he calls off the marriage, he’s got to face a lot of pain, but it’s highly likely to be orders of magnitude worse over the long term if he goes through with it. Most people in this situation? They choose the long term pain. That’s usually a bad bet and that’s probably how it will turn out for him too if he goes that way.