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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 792
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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I have been married twice and now in my 3rd serious relationship.

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I have been married twice and now in my 3rd serious relationship. Each one lasts 10 yrs +/-, then things turn bad. Constant arguing, rudeness, inconsideration, secrets, and no sex. We've been to counselling on 3 different occasions, nothing helps. I'm on the verge of leaving this one now too. Am I too fussy, or is everybody out there that says they have a happy marriage just lying or settling for way less than I'm willing to settle for?

Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you today.

I don't believe that everyone who has a happy marriage is lying or settling for less, although, of course, there are, obviously, many couples for whom this is the case. But if you find that you're constantly involved in the same, repetitive pattern, such as the one you described - arguing, rudeness, inconsideration, etc, etc - then there are a few options I can think of off the bat that could be causing this. Even if you had ridiculously high expectations, it's not necessarily an explanation for why this keeps occurring. The first thing is that there's a reason why you keep choosing the partners you choose. I can't say for sure why this is happening for you, but sometimes, for example, people feel - subconsciously - like they don't deserve to be happy. Or, as another example, they didn't have the greatest of role models for relationships when they were growing up, so they don't learn what a healthy relationship looks like or how to "be" with another person.

But most commonly, at least from what I have seen in many of my clients who come for marriage and couples counseling, is that people have this underlying belief that their partner should meet all of their needs - whether you ask for this or not. Many people subconsciously want their partner to take care of them (I am not saying this is necessarily the case for you, but it is pretty common) but they don't explicitly ask for what they need. Over time, resentment builds up, fighting starts - usually the kind of pointless arguing that never resolves or gets to the heart of the matter - couples stop being intimate with each other, which causes even more problems, and people give up hope and, more often than not, choose to separate or live in misery with each other, believing that this is just "the way it is" - without realizing that sometimes, it's their own underlying thoughts and beliefs that caused this problem in the first place.

Now, I am not saying it's always this way, 100% of the time. It's often a combination of being resentful that your partner isn't meeting your needs - and choosing partners who aren't able to meet your needs. The expression, you can't be happy with someone else until you can be happy with yourself, is very true in a lot of these cases. You have to be able to be content and happy with yourself before you can be with someone else.

It's also tempting to leave relationships when things get tough. I do hear that you've been to counseling three times, but I am not sure if that means you've seen a counselor three times or you've been to see three different counselors. In any case, it takes time, work and commitment. There's no easy fix to relationship problems (as you know) and it's important to stick it out even when the going gets tough. That's the real test of a relationship - do you care about each other enough to work through this? Of course, that's an answer only you can give.

But I wouldn't give up on relationships altogether. You might try seeing a counselor on an individual basis, instead of couples counseling, for a little while. It's normal to have expectations of a relationship - but it's not normal or healthy to expect your partner to be a mind reader or to meet all of your needs - again, I'm not saying this is necessarily the case with you, but it is very common.

I'm sure you've already read it, but just in case, you might wish you pick up a copy of "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" by XXXXX XXXXX. If you've already read it, it's worth a re-read. If you're not familiar with it, you can read more about it on the author's website:
It's a helpful book that explains why a lot of common relationship problems occur, and how to deal with them (with or without counseling) before things get to the point where you're calling it quits.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions or need additional help. Best wishes.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I think you are right when you say I feel the need to be "taken care of". My father died when I was 4 yrs old, my mom raised my sister and I by herself and always complained about not enough money, don't be wasteful, no we can't do this or that we can't afford it. But I think it conveyed the message that I was always waiting for the bottom to fall out and we would have to move or she would send me away to foster care like she did with my sister when she became out of control as a teenager. I was always a "good girl" so she wouldn't send me away.


The men I have chosen have all been 100% different except for one thing, they are all workaholics. I've always had a comfortable+ life, but my needs aren't being met in other areas. We never travel, never do what I want to do. So the simple answer is find a girlfriend and go anyway.....well, they won't let me. They are jealous and controlling. They don't appear that way in the beginning, it comes out later. If I suggest I'm going out somewhere, who is going to be going, when am I going to be home, are there other men going? This last relationship is the worst, and it's turned into severe emotional abuse which has excalated into physical 3 times. He downplays his role, says the issues we have have nothing to do with him. It's my problem that I'm not happy, it's not him, it's me. Maybe so, but I can't solve it alone. We've been to counselling for weeks at at time, with 3 different counsellors each time, so I've tried to work on this one. There was a severely disabled child in the middle of this relationship and I thought that once she moved out things would get better, but it's hasn't, it's just "different". I am a flirty girl, very extroverted, very outgoing, upbeat, fun, and sexually expressive. They all love it in the beginning, show off their prize, enjoy the attention. The problem is about 3 yrs into it, they stifle me, stop drawing attention, put on something different, no we aren't going out tonight, no you can't go with Suzy, guys might hit on you. I don't have fun anymore, I don't do anything, I'm always working, no vacations, no days off. I suffer from depression really bad, so the constant arguing at home, no outside friends and activities slowly brings it on to the point where I'm so depressed, I can't stand life anymore...........and rightly so. No one wants to be someone's servant in life.


I have an appt with a reputable counsellor ALONE next week. I want to find out why I keep repeating this pattern. I went to see someone years ago by myself and he said I was a fool to stay in this relationship as long as I have. He couldn't not understand where my lack of confidence stems from as I appear bright and strong willed on the outside, but a terrified mouse on the inside. The men I choose appear completely different, but they must have similar traits that I'm choosing. Why do I have this need "to be with someone". I've always worked, always earned a decent wage, but I have no formal education, so I feel I can't make it alone, I need the security of "being taken care of" eventhough, it's obvious.......I take care of everyone else, except me.

Hi again,

I think a lot of what you've been dealing with in your relationships probably stems back, in a large part, to losing your dad at such a young age, and the subsequent impact that had on your mom (on a personal level, the loss of the significant romantic relationship in her life) as well as on her upbringing of you and your sister (the complaining that you mention.) It makes sense that you have this underlying desire to be taken care of - and to be honest with you, I think we all have that to a certain extent. And it also makes sense that you always had (and perhaps still have) this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

The fact that you've chosen men who are - or at least seem to be, regardless of your own financial circumstances - good financial providers also makes sense to me. But of course, the sacrifice you make in choosing a workaholic is the loss of pretty much all of the other areas of life. So you're right when you say the easy answer might be to go find a girlfriend - but I think there's a lot of things that won't be satisfied there - of course, the social contact, the longing to be close to someone else, etc - but there's a different kind of love that comes only from your spouse or significant other, and that's what (at least as far as I can surmise here) you're missing.

Now, since you're mentioning the emotional abuse aspect, it does put a different twist on what I've said. This jealousy/controlling aspect of your husband coupled with his unwillingness to acknowledge his role in the problems your relationship is experiencing is extremely troubling. Because of course it's not all you. It takes two to tango, and you both play an equal role here. So he needs to take responsibility for his part (needs to is one thing, whether he is willing to is another, of course.)

And it sounds like there's a big disconnect between who you inherently are (outgoing, extrovert, likes to socialize, etc) and who you feel you are allowed to be in this relationship. And I guess it's going to take some soul-searching on your part to see if you think this relationship can be salvaged or not, whether the controlling behavior can stop or not. You need to have fun, you need to be able to enjoy your life. This is no life at all, at least not what you are describing. It may be that you've tried the best you could so far and that's why you ended up where you are now - but maybe things are coming to a head now for a reason. Maybe NOW you are ready for more out of life and out of your relationships, whereas before maybe you were happier just to go with the flow of things or to accept what was thrown at you, so to speak.

I am really glad to hear that you'll be seeing a good counselor. And I am curious to hear how that goes, so please feel free to reply to this message if you'd like. I don't know if I'd say you're a fool to stay in a relationship like this, I more think that there's a lot of the abandoned little girl deep inside of you who's looking for love (not to sound trite but perhaps "in all the wrong places"?) And I think that is essentially at the heart of why you feel like you "need" to be with someone. I think part of the task of counseling for you at this point, is to realize that you don't "need" anyone. You are obviously a strong, intelligent woman who's more than capable of taking care of herself - regardless of the other factors you've mentioned - but you just need to realize that for yourself. I think what you've been through in your life has made you who you are today. And you need to acknowledge that and realize that you deserve more (whether it's with this man now or someone new.) Put yourself first - that's easier said than done, of course - but you deserve it. You just have to believe it.

I wish you loads of luck, and I have a feeling you will end up in a good place (a better place) than you are right now, with a bit of work, luck and patience. Hang in there.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

You have just said everything my few friends (the few I have left) have told me. This relationship is controlling and abusive and there is no hope at this point, and he/we didn't work hard enough in the beginning to fix the problems as they came about, so now the wheels have completely fallen off the bus.


So you are curious to hear what this counsellor says.... me to. I have been to several psychiatrists that just want to medicate my depression, but there isn't enough medication to fix a bad relationship, right? So I struggle to stay off meds because I think if the catalyst was gone, the depression would disappear as well.


Do I keep this link open until next week, or if I rate your help, does it conclude this matter and I can't reach you anymore? Not sure how to proceed at this point.


Thx, so far, you have been a great real "light bulb" moment, but maybe just hearing it from a professional objective point of view gives me the "it's okay to leave this one". I have huge guilt into staying because this is #3, and will I EVER be happy?? Btw, he's Mr. Perfect to the world (but you already knew that, didn't you?)

Yes, I agree - medication is not the solution here, because you're dealing with (I believe) more than something that can be "fixed" with medication. And I agree with your decision to stay off meds at this point, too. I think you're just at a turning point in your life - and hopefully, you'll be taking a turn for the better. You can be happy. And you deserve it. It's just a matter of making some difficult changes...but you can do it. It may not be easy but I think it will be worth it in the long run. You don't want to stay with someone who treats you this way and makes you miserable. You deserve to be appreciated.
And you can rate my answer now - and you can always post back to this thread, even if a few weeks (or months) go by, it stays open. And I'm always online :) Good luck to you!
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