My husband wants to be in another room

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Dear Meredith,

I've been married to my high school sweetheart for 20 years now and we share three children who are all in their teens. I'm not completely sure how it all started, but our relationship has been on the rocks for about the past five years and on really shaky ground for the past two. We're at a point now where we hardly speak or even sleep in the same room. We've both seen therapists separately (him for a few years) and are in marriage counseling as well (for six months), yet we still seem to be drifting further apart. He's been diagnosed with ptsd and dissociation/derealization, so I guess that explains part of the emotional shut down and shut out.

However, this still leaves me in the dark and lonely because he refuses to talk about anything outside of routine household/child maintenance/schedules with me. Our marriage counselor has given us "assignments" to help us to open up and connect, but he won't participate in those either. I'm so torn because I don't want to add to his suffering or turn my kids' lives upside down, but I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. For example, the kids and I went out of town this weekend for a big family event and he didn't want to go, so I didn't push it. We returned after two days and he spent the most of the evening on the balcony by himself, leaving the room we were in (he's told me in the past he goes out there to be alone, so not to join him), and then he came to the couch when the kids and I went to bed. I'd invited him to the bedroom when I went to bed, but he said he was going to watch television for a while, and then he never came. Even our kisses have become emotionless. There's nothing volatile and angry between us, there's just nothing. Am I just being too selfish or too needy to want more? Is this what long-term marriages look like?

– Alone in a Full House


"Is this what long-term marriages look like?"

This is what your marriage looks like. You have therapists who've told you why.

You and your husband are trying, it seems, but things aren't improving. So now what?

Use your couples counseling time to talk about what it would mean to stop working against your husband's desire to detach. Would living on his own add to his suffering or would it be a relief? What if there was a plan to separate as the kids get older?

I guess I'm wondering whether you're both working toward the same goal – to be better together. Maybe his version of "selfish and wanting more" involves leaving the marriage so you both can live your own lives without feeling like you're disappointing each other every day.

As far as the kids go, they probably know what's happening, right? It might be good for them to see their parents choose more happiness. Sometimes the healthiest choice is removing yourself from a hurtful situation.

You're not selfish for wanting more from a partner, and I'm sure it's painful for you to know that the person you love is waiting for you to be gone before he enters the room. That is not why you got married. You want to feel appreciated and loved. You want to feel like good company.

I'm not sure if your husband is capable of being the person who watches TV, cuddling with you on the couch.

If this isn't a marriage that can make either of you happy, your homework can be a reality check and next steps.

– Meredith

Readers? At what point do you make the choice to leave? What if the therapy is highlighting the problem instead of making it better?