I feel trapped in a marriage that I think no longer works. I feel trapped because we have a close extended family who are constantly in our lives, and I do not know what to do. Our children are close to them. We have been in this bubble through the pandemic. When we are alone, we go through the motions of marriage and family life, but it does not feel real. We have no time for us as a family. It feels empty and a weight on me. I look at the future and see, in the years ahead, doing exactly what we are doing now. How do I fix this?
There are many reasons why you might be feeling isolated from your partner and family life. Not all of them mean the marriage must end to solve the problem. A balance to family life is particularly important. If you can achieve that, family life might feel more agreeable. There are several steps you need to take to determine why you are feeling this way.
It should start with a trip to your family physician to ensure your feelings are not, in part, related to anything physical. Most important with this step is that you be very honest with the doctor about how you are feeling. Even just sharing that with a professional will be a good first step.
In the meantime, you need to clearly define in your own mind what your alone feeling is about. Write down all the reasons why you feel a disconnect with your partner and family life. With that, also include what a better situation for you would look like. This will be helpful when you visit your doctor.
Perception is a big part of our feelings. Do you feel weighted by the presence of extended family, or does it feel like too much because of a general feeling of helplessness and loss of self-control over your life? Does each family visit cause anxiety and thus create a constant burden? Understanding your perception of this situation will help.
You will soon need to talk with your partner about your feelings. This will be a very crucial discussion. Be mindful that empathy will be helpful for a productive discussion. Your feelings may be a shock and the initial discussion should happen with compassion. Explain how you are feeling as clearly as possible. Then ask them to offer how they feel about your family life and marriage.
You need a solution that works for you. However, the very first question that requires an answer is why you feel this way. Close extended families can result in less alone time. That should be a priority. Find ways to create alone time. Combining it with some type of exercise will help freshen your problem-solving skills. Creating family time that does not involve extended family is also important.
It is a challenge with close extended families such as yours to keep some things private. Initially saying little or nothing about your feelings would work best for both you and your spouse. Keep your focus on your immediate family.
You need the space to identify any problems and then determine solutions to those problems that work. You also need a united front with the extended family. Decide how much or how little you want them involved.
There will come a point when friends and family will be offering opinions. Close families tend to care very much and do really mean well. However, your top priority initially is taking care of yourself. If they offer or initiate any conversation, do not hesitate to say that you really do not want to discuss it now and will let them know when you do.
It is best policy to offer little in the beginning. You are confused and trying to figure things out yourself and often when we are in that initial stage, we say things that we later regret. At this point the less said to extended family and friends the better. You may want to consider a counselor or a trusted close friend to listen and help you understand why you are feeling this way.
Go forward for a bit applying those strategies and see if things improve. Remember to make your feelings a priority. If you have been trying to please everyone we often end up not pleasing ourselves. You have identified how you feel and have made an important first step by naming the problem.
Understanding why you feel this way will be the next step and will give you the basis for finding a solution that works for you. It is a process.
Be patient with yourself.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.