It's still many years until our youngest child is grown, and thus by Dr. Laura's rules I'd be free to leave the marriage, but lately a thought crossed my mind:
Do I have a moral obligation to tell my wife if I plan to leave, and if so, how far in advance?Obviously, she'd be informed at the time if I physically moved out of the house and/or had her served with divorce papers. But I'm wondering if I'd have a moral obligation to tell her in advance of that.
I referred to staying married until the kids are 18/out of high school as Dr. Laura's rule, but I have adopted it as well because I agree. To be sure, Dr. Laura does advise people to remove themselves and their children from an abusive situation (either leaving or kicking out the abuser), but absent actual abuse, the best thing is to stay and raise the kids and be polite and civil (and if at all possible, affectionate) to the other spouse.
The way I see it these are the basic possibilities for the future, in no particular order:
1) I die before the kids are grown.
2) My wife dies before the kids are grown.
3) We die simultaneously before the kids are grown.
4) My wife leaves with the kids or kicks me out before the kids are grown.
5) My wife does Strike Three and so I leave with the kids or kick her out before the kids are grown.
6) We make it to the empty nest state of our life alive and together.
All of those are, to varying degrees, realistic possibilities. I really need to do everything I can to prevent the first one from happening - not so much for my sake, but for the kids. As such I need to become a health nut and make sure I'm getting all the medical tests I should be.
I also need to be sure that, should both of us still be alive, the kids do leave and don't get into the mindset that they need to take care of their mother. I'm willing to let the kids still live at home through a Bachelor's Degree at college provided they abide by our rules, go to school full time and advance quickly towards graduation, and work at least part-time. Should we both live and still be together, the sixth possibility will either come when the youngest kid his 18 or 4-5 years later.
So what should I do if we're likely reaching six, meaning I will be leaving?
I can see that, for some marriages, it would the nice thing to give a wife as much warning as possible, at least on one level. However, due to the realities of my wife's mental and physical conditions, it might add worry to her life or make her suicidal. I'm not entirely sure she wouldn't try to kill me in a way that wouldn't look like murder or suicide (she won't want to forfeit the insurance payoffs that are void with suicide). It might be more convenient to claim something like domestic abuse and have me arrested.
My guess is that a lawyer would tell me that, strategically (and, based on their experience, better for my protection), it would be best to do the surprise tactic (move out while she's not home, have her served after I'm gone).
There is the very real possibility I'd stay. Why, someone might ask, would I stay given the fraud on which this marriage was built, the poor treatment, the drain on me that it has been? Well, I have no desire to get into another exclusive relationship. Yes, I want sex. No, I don't think fornication is OK. Realistically, knowing me, I'd probably limit my "sex life" to masturbation (which I don't think is inherently sinful) and the occasional hook-up when I slip up. Staying would also mean not having to deal with the hassles and expenses of getting divorced, or the social fallout. Since I'll have to financially support her either way for the rest of my life, if there is anything I get out of her presence, I might as well take it. But would anything outweigh the drawbacks of staying (which would include enduring her mood swings and nagging)? After all, I know from experience that NOT being in a relationship is better than being in a bad one.
Other husbands have stayed even though they have it as bad or worse, for reasons such as inertia, they're boiled frogs who've gotten used to the hot water or have had all of the life sucked out of them, the Stockholm Syndrome, or even because they're as messed up as their wives and that's just the dance they do together (another concept from Dr. Laura).
Assuming I would leave, though, is there a moral obligation and a "right" amount of time to give her?
I can imagine she'd beg for us to get marital therapy or she would say she'll get therapy. Those would be wastes. Our marriage has a birth defect that can't be mitigated. It will always be there as long as we're married. Currently, our family or members of our family are seeing no fewer than four mental health/therapy professionals. As strange as it is, she's the one who is spending the least amount of time doing so.
If were considering moral obligations, tou might ask, "Didn't you make vows to her?" Well, yes, I did, but those were made on false pretenses. And, like I said, financially, I'll be taking care of her either way. It's the law. So I wouldn't have any reason to feel guilty about that. It might be that for my self preservation, I need to leave. I don't see any moral failing on my part if I do. If I'm mistaken, please comment on how, because to me, the only moral question here is whether or not I have an obligation to warn her.
Practically, no longer living with her wouldn't be much of a loss. Currently, she drives the kids around some of the time (that would no longer be an issue because the kids would be handling their own transportation by then), prepares dinner very rarely, and only does some of the shopping, and that's pretty much it. I can handle all the shopping I'll need myself. I feed myself most of the time (one of the other adults with us will prepare dinner more often than my wife, but only about once every week or two).
Emotionally, when she isn't being hostile we have friendly talks (we're in agreement on religion, politics, and most current events) but that's sort of a matter of convenience. I would have plenty of people to talk with if I wasn't stuck with her and being butler to her and the kids.
I probably wouldn't miss the infrequent, inhibited sex.
If she were to come home to our recently empty nest to discover I'd left and that I was filing for divorce, there is no small chance she'd do herself in. So maybe I'd have the moral obligation to do the ol' "dump them on the therapist" tactic by making the announcement at the start of a therapy hour, having already informed the therapist of my wife's suicidal history, and then walking out early into the hour so she'd be in good hands? Should she not kill herself, she'd likely go live with or would move in at least one of her siblings. She wouldn't live alone (although she probably could if she worked hard at it), not without having people do things for her to the point she really wouldn't be living alone.
Some of her family and some of the people we know would probably give me crap. I'd either shrug my shoulders and wave them off or point out that they're bashing me for having stayed and raised the kids when most people would have left 15-20 years before.
She has no idea I'm of the mindset that the reason I'm staying for now is to raise the kids. That's because there's no point in telling her I'm not happy or asking for her to change anything. She won't. So I behave as though everything is fine and I'm in love with her. I did yell at her in the past out of frustration, I've said a few things to her in therapy (more than I thought I should, but still holding back), and I've tried to gently discuss improving our sex life with the focus on making things better for he only to have it reminded/reinforced that even doing anything is a burden to her. But those things were all a while ago and I've put on a good face ever since. I play the butler without complaining or giving any indication I'm tired of it or put out. When she nags me, complains about me, or ridicules me (usually via text) I stay silent or apologize and wait for her mood to improve. When she cancels our dates, I don't complain or get pissy. We aren't fighting about anything right now, the last thing being me caving on drugging our son. I am affectionate with her as far as she allows me to be.
So, if I were to leave, it would be a shock to her. Telling her ahead of time would probably be a slightly less shocking. But should I?
Now the flip side to all of this is that maybe she's doing the same thing with me. Maybe she feels like she's obligated to give me that mercy sex and wants to be free of it. Maybe she's wanted to leave ever since I last yelled or the time before that or the time before that. Maybe she's just itching to be rid of me and be able to spend the money without any deference to me, and is just staying for now for the sake of the kids. There are a few reasons why I don't think this is the case, including: she doesn't seem to be capable of holding back telling me what she thinks, based on many things she probably wishes she could take back; she has previously left with the kids for an open-ended length of time, but came back; her parents are still together despite having multiple problems that cause many to divorce, and I don't think she could stand "failing" where her parents "succeeded", especially considering she sees herself as morally superior to her mother and me as morally superior to her father; and she did start a therapy session a while ago by telling me she was "done" with the marriage, but that didn't go any further and things got better from her perspective (meaning, worse for me).
If you have any thoughts about all of this, please share them.