Married out of obligation

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


I am 34 years old and we have been married for almost 4 years. I had been dating her for about a year while living and working in my hometown when I received a job opportunity to work in another country. I then moved there and towards the end of the third year, and finding my friends getting married, I thought I should get married too and since she had been with me throughout the long distance relationship, I felt I should marry her. I felt it was the right thing to do. Or out of obligation I felt I had to marry her.

From the honeymoon things were not very smooth with us having close to no sex and for the first time I finding myself not attracted to her. After the marriage ceremony, she moved in to my place and eversince, our marriage has been going through constant arguements with close to no sex (maybe 2~3 times year). Before marriage, I was an overall happy guy, maybe a little concerned about the direction of my career at times but, always finding refuge and peace at home. After I brought her into my life, I was no longer finding this peace at home, and the couple life without sex was something I just could not understand.

But I do attribute a part of this problem to myself as I find myself physically not attracted to my wife, which is something I should’ve dealt with before plunging into the marriage. And with her attempts to avoid sex and hide herself while dressing, this lack of attraction has gotten worse. Because I was not finding peace and comfort at home, I often found myself hanging around the neighbourhood park after work, drinking a beer and preparing myself for home.

One of the arguements she would say was why I chose to marry. I genuinely feel that I had not really thought through the marriage and I am paying the consequences. Life overseas got difficult as I was unable to find comfort in my own home and eventually I left my job to return to my home country. I was secretly hoping that she would then leave me as I chose to go work for a company that paid less and
was not a specialized firm. I now found myself working for a company I did not wish to work for, with lower salary, and yet still having discomfort at home.

Things really hadn’t changed and I was now worse off than before. She does mention that she would like to have kids sometime next year but I find myselft thinking do I really even want to have children with this women? Maybe after the numerous arguements that she has lost all respect for me but I often find myself being talked down by her and even in public. She has a close friend who got married around the time that we did but recently divorced. The man had left home to return to his parents home and the wives were having a laugh over it.

I can see that I should’ve dealt with the problem of my not being physically attracted to her before deciding to get married but her disrespect for me now is the last straw. I really see no meaning to this marriage. From our arguements, I have left home a couple of times to return in a few days. I have stayed at my parents place or motels. When we now argue, she picks up the suitcase and tells me to please leave and think about the marriage and herself for a few months and then come back.

I really am at a loss as to what I should do. I have since left the low paying job to go at it alone but living at home with her is just becoming unbearable.

A: There is a truism that relationships tend to end as they began. You married out of some mistaken idea of obligation. Now you find you can’t leave, in spite of all the ways the relationship is unsatisfying.

What I don’t understand is why your wife stays with you, much less wants to make a family with you. You have let her know that don’t find her attractive and that you think your marriage was a mistake. To hold onto some self-respect, she lets you know that she isn’t interested in sex with you and she makes home uncomfortable for you. The two of you are in some kind of standoff of mutual disrespect.

I’m sure I don’t understand the nuances of Asian culture that makes this all make a kind of sense. In America, I would urge the two of you to see a marriage counselor to see if there is any way to either make a marriage that works for you or to help you part company in a way that is as agreeable as possible. Either direction would let the two of you move forward in life. If marriage counselors are available in your country, I hope you will consider making an appointment.

I do know from experience that arranged marriages between very different people can work – if both people are genuinely committed to making each other happy. If one or both of you can’t do that, I hope there is a way for you to separate and wish each other luck in finding a loving partner. You both deserve a happier life.

I wish you both well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Married out of obligation. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/08/married-out-of-obligation/