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Losing Hope

Hello everyone

I hope that this is the right place to ask this question and any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I know my story won’t be unique.

I am married and have two children with my wife, and one step child from my wife’s previous relationship. My daughter is 5, and my son is 2, my stepson 15 going on grumpy old man. My wife and I have been married 5 years this year.

I just want to begin by saying that marriage and a family was always my dream.

I met my wife and immediately knew that she was special, and that in many ways she was the one who I had been waiting for. The relationship became very intense very quickly, some would probably say too quickly, but hey – when you know you know, right? Very soon we fell in the club with our daughter and the dream we shared was well on the way.

After the birth of our beautiful daughter though, things started to change very dramatically. My wife was absolutely annihilated by post natal depression and it was truly heartbreaking to see. I did all that I could and supported her in every single way that I could, because there was nothing I could do other than that. Inherently I knew that no matter what I did, it wouldn’t make her feel better. It affected every aspect of the relationship, which is understandable, and I felt the appropriate thing to do was to not focus on us as a couple, but do everything I could as a parent and let her recover and get better in her own time.

She did begin to get better in time, which was great to see, and she returned to university to complete her degree, which was brilliant. She has so much ambition and it was awesome to see her getting back to where she wanted to be. To help her I left my job to look after our daughter and I hoped that taking the pressure of child care away would be a massive boost. But the depression came back in waves and unfortunately she had to leave her course as she wasn’t in the right place for it, which I understood.

I stayed at home for some time after this to help and be supportive and in some way there was a return but I don’t feel our relationship as a couple ever returned to normal. There was a 5 or 6 month period where my wife just wasn’t comfortable with sex or physical contact and I completely respected and understood that.

I am not a man who believes physical intimacy is my right, or the be all and end all. in the grand scheme of things, her health was and still is more important.

We did return to some level of normality as I say, but there was something which didn’t seem quite right but I could never put my finger on it, so put it down to my own anxieties.

We had another child, our beautiful son, and the post natal depression returned again. We were better placed I think to know what to do because of the past experience, but we got into much the same cycle where we focused on the parenting rather than us as a couple so that my wife could recover at her own pace without any pressures.

In short, much the same things happened and slowly but surely we again returned to a level of normality, but still some way from how things were between us at the outset. The intimacy side of things didn’t though, as although she seemed willing, I felt it was one sided and in some way I eventually began to feel like it was something she felt she had to do, or was obliged to do… which didn’t make me feel good so I distanced myself physically. Like I said before, I don’t feel entitled and I would rather wait until she was ready.

I felt if we took time, and slowly began to focus on us as a couple, the old magic would return. I certainly wasn’t in any rush. I know I’m lucky.

At the same time that this was all happening, it has become apparent that our daughter has behavioural difficulties, which we believe are ASD related and as such she is on the pathway for diagnosis. Over the course of time her behaviour has progressed to the point where from the moment she wakes up we’re constantly fighting fires, and dealing with melt downs and diffusing arguments between her and her little brother who now, as a toddler, is learning from her behaviour and becoming increasingly difficult too.

This escalation has meant that every night when I return from work, my wife is quite rightly tired, spent fed up and needing time to herself to just relax a little before we both have to get on with the everyday tasks which need to be done. I completely understand how my wife feels, and I end up feeling so guilty going to work and leaving her to deal with the children all day.

When I have a day off, we can’t spend time with the children together because of our daughters difficulties, and it tends to be a case of divide and conquer. The upshot of which being that even when I’m off work, we don’t get time together either as a family, or as a couple.

My relationship with the children isn’t fantastic as I have to spend so much time at work, to be blunt to make ends meet. I leave early and am often back when they are in bed. Finances are hard for everyone at the moment and I know a lot of people have to work what they have to to pay the bills. But when I am with either of them on my own, our relationship seems so much better when they have my undivided attention.

It’s a vicious cycle, and we are at the stage where we have discussed together how we aren’t even a couple any more. There’s so little time for anything other than the essentials and we have drifted considerably from where we once were. She has also confided in me that she believes she may have been the victim of sexual abuse when she was a child which was a horrendous bombshell. I had no idea, and I can’t tell you how I felt (on her behalf). Again, I wasn’t angry for me, I was angry and upset for her.

Being entirely honest this has put even more distance between us as I want her to have all the space she needs to get the help that she needs, which she is seeking however the counselling has a 26 week waiting list to begin. But I’m so happy she has reached out and is looking to get some answers and deal with what is such a horrible situation for her.

I don’t want the next passage to come across as selfish, or that I’m ungrateful. But I have felt that after years and years of standing back and being supportive and doing what needed to be done that I have been left behind a bit. And that I don’t feel I can be honest about how unhappy I am or how unfulfilled I feel, for fear of adding pressure where it’s not needed. In short, I’m terrified that the best thing all round would be for me to remove myself from the situation and focus on improving my relationship with the children meaning my wife would get a proper break at the weekends, and also not have the pressure of feeling like she wasn’t giving me any focus or attention. I have never said that to her, but she has said to me that this was one of her worries. I, of course, have told her that she shouldn’t apply that pressure to herself as she has enough going on.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I feel like my world has crumbled around me to dust. I just want to do the right thing.

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