Burnt out, hopeless, thinking of leaving everything behind
We are going through some challenging times in my life, and I wanted to get your perspectives as to if I am seeing things clearly. Because at this point, I am thinking of quitting my job, leave my family and go live with my parents in Canada, never to see my kids again.
I am 45, and my wife is 40. We have 4 healthy and beautiful kids together, ages ranging 6 through 11. We have been married 12 years. We did get married pretty quickly; only 13 month from our first date to our wedding. We had done some long-distance moves, mostly to pursue my job opportunities. We have been living in the "Silicon Valley" for the last 7 years, which I must say further contributed to our struggles; the cost of living is very high here, despite my 'high' salary. Plus we have no close family members nearby. Neither of us have any substance or gambling problems, and we have never cheated on each other (at least to my knowledge).
By anyone's measure, my wife is a beautiful, highly intelligent and well-educated woman; an Ivy League undergrad with a Ph.D in molecular biology, no-less. She also comes from a great family, who accepted me with open arms. I felt I was very lucky to have married her, even though my wife never held herself as such a "great catch". She attributes her low self-esteem to her mom being very sick during her childhood, which I admit I don't fully understand. In contrast, I have a pretty high (unrealistic?) self-esteem, where I approach most things in life with a lot of confidence, even though I know deep down I know how dumb/incapable I am. One of the things I love about my wife is that she is truly impressed about things I am able to accomplish (e.g. what I can negotiate to get paid), and that she believes in me as to I can do greater things in life.
I think it would be correct to say that things were very good between us until we had our 1st child. Once that baby was out, she became completely obsessed with our child and declared that she wanted to be a stay at home mom. She also decided not to pursue her science career, as it would take too much time away from the baby. I agreed to her at the time, and in retrospect I shouldn't have.
At that time I was on a work-visa in US, and my wife a "dependent". I'm from Canada, and being on a work-visa meant that we would have to leave the US, if I were to lose my job (even if we had an American child). So, having that uncertainty hanging over me created a great deal of stress on my part. Given that my wife had a life-science Ph.D from a prestigious US school would almost guarantee a Green Card (permanent residency status) within 18 month, once she starts to work. I finally got my Green Card 5 years after, which now allowed my wife to work part-time, or start a business. Meanwhile, we now had 4 children, plus much higher cost of living - which I am barely managing to pay for it all.
For the last 5 yrs, my wife working part-time was not feasible (or we thought) due to high cost of childcare. So she had been attempting at various business ventures, and unfortunately none of them would pan out. And last year, we had moved once again to be closer to my new higher-paying job, close to San Francisco, which was putting me on 3 to 4 hour daily commute... and with that our rent pretty much doubled again. Fast forward a year, we are now $70K in credit card debt, with no hope of savings for our retirement. (and we do not have any assets)
I consider myself a very progressive person, and my idea of marriage was of an equal partnership. While I still carry a lot of "old-school" cultural baggage, I firmly believe in equal rights for women, including equal pay for work, etc. And with that, I would have no stigma if my wife would be so successful and she were to make money than me. In fact, I would be SO happy, not having to have the sole financial burden of paying for it all... so I would be free to pursue more creative ventures that I dream of, one of which is to create my own business.
What my wife and I have been really fighting a lot, for the last 5 years, is around my wife's approach on managing her business (and her time). I never saw the planning and organization she would need, to make sure she has goals and metrics to measure her success (and failures). Also, as a side-effect of her low self-esteem, she would not take risks; she would only risk few hundred dollars. I am all for failing early and fast in whatever she's trying, so we can move onto trying something else. And my frustration grew over time, as she could have taken a job paying $100k/yr... instead of losing few thousand a year. Her reactions to my criticism were about her taking it personally, although I always try to keep my criticism to objectives, and not make it about her. e.g. one would do this, not that, because of XYZ (and not, you did this because you're so stupid). I can't seem to get through to her, that I am not her enemy and that she needs to objectively assess her business's success and failures, based on goals she set.
And meanwhile, my wife would not accept anything less than "best schools" for our kids, whereas I don't necessarily believe in best schools (as I have seen a lot of very successful who didn't go to "best" schools). And unfortunately, in the US, if you want to send your kids to good public schools, you have to live in really nice (and very expensive) areas, which is what we've been doing. Really, I feel (know) that we're out of our depth at this point; I have seen our neighbor driving a Porsche 918 Spyder, and our next door neighbor has a Bentley and Ferrari.
Most of days, all I hear from my wife is how tired she is. But at the same time, I have no idea what she does all day, after kids are dropped off at 8:30am and picked up at 2 and 3pm. She doesn't cook a lot, and we have our maid cleaning our house every 2 weeks. It really irks me that she had mentioned on few occasions, how our neighbors stay-at-home-moms have full-time nannies (and yes their husbands are either venture cap managers or sold successful Internet startups). She is on Facebook a lot (all the time?) as she is now trying to build Facebook-based business, which she had spent $9k of my parents-in-law's money so far, which hadn't shown any revenue for the last 6 months. Also, when I come home, kids have been mostly hooked up to iPads/computers, and they aren't doing "great" at school either; I feel my wife should be tutoring them more.
That said, I really do love and adore my wife, I think more so than most guys. In a way I am enabling us to get in such high debt, as we eat out 4-5 times a week... because it would help my "tired" wife. (BTW another thing I love about my wife is that she's physically very healthy; one less thing for me to worry about!) We spend about $3000/mo on eating out, and I honestly don't know why we spend another $1500/mo on groceries. I am pretty sure we throw out a lot of food... which again goes to my criticism of lack of planning around household. After ~$6k/mo rent, we're getting in debt, even at my $250k+/yr salary. Plus I get my wife things before she asks for them, and to date she had never asked for anything (e.g. jewelry, beauty products, latest & best Apple/Bose/Dyson stuff - $400 hairdryer!). I also make sure that her family is well taken care of whenever they visit, pack her mom's favorite chocolates when she visits her mom.
My wife agreed to looking for a full-time job, if she didn't have a profitable business by end of 2016. Now she is saying that it's too early to give up, and she only agreed to start looking for new job if she didn't meet her goal. That is really boiling my blood, as 1) she knew the intent of our agreement, and that 2) she will not honestly focus on her job search.
To add to that, my workplace is very stressful nowadays, due to people playing stupid politics and marginalizing my work.
Oh, and of course, our sex life: we do about once every 2-3 weeks, which is mostly due to my wife "being tired"/"not in mood"/"monthly visitor" (down from DAILY sex, pre-kids). Yes, that's another source of our tension as I have a pretty high sex-drive. That said, I really try hard to "not look at another woman twist", to be respectful to my wife.
Since last month, I have told my wife that I will exit from my current job and move to Canada... and perhaps I will NOT work, period. I will live off on welfare, and she can do whatever she needs to, to pay for all the "extras". Good news is that we get public healthcare and "decent" public education for kids, regardless where we are. I told her that she can come to Canada with kids with that understanding, or I am just gone. At this point, as much as I love my kids, I would be fine never seeing them again, if I will never have to fight the same fight again with my wife.
Last week, my wife left the country to visit her mom, who is going through cancer treatment, and she will be back tomorrow. Our kids had no school, so I took the week off to take care of them, spend time with my kids. What I just realized, is that I didn't really miss my wife for the last week. I wonder if I have just fallen out of love with her, after years of fights around same issues. I am pretty sure a lot of "respect" that I had for her is lost...
I will say that I am being very selfish, to entertain these ideas even at the cost of our children's hardship. I consider myself "enlightened", and to that extent I know that none of all this will matter in hundred years. My children will eventually die, and so their grandchildren, and so on. Given my limited life, I want to enjoy a little. I have spent last 12 years working my butt off, mostly to make more money year-after-year (which I have been succeeding) to support my family. I no longer have any hobbies, and I don't enjoy anything. I feel I need a major change in my life, for me to re-discover myself.
So I guess what I'm asking you all is this: Am I just having a "mid-life crisis", or have I really lost the love I had for my wife? If latter, do you think it's worth salvaging, or are we just delaying the inevitable (divorce)? Because what I think I need in this life, is a wife who 1) has her **** together, get stuff organized, especially her time, our finances, 2) wanting to have sex with me more often (until I can't!), 3) take interest in planning our retirement with me, and 4) restores "hope" in me.
In my wife's defense, I will say that I am not the easiest person to live with. I do exhibit some degree of OCD, I ask rationale for everything (not out of malice, however), and I am needy (i.e. I want to feel loved, over "duty"). I also have a lot of anger and rage at times, and I am extremely stubborn (and annoyingly right a lot).
FYI, while my wife has suggested us seeing a marriage counselor in the past, but I had refused as 1) MC will tell us the same thing that I already know, and 2) what makes a MC qualified to advise us? If you guys think that seeing a MC is still a good idea, please enlighten me as to what you've learned.
Thank you in advance for your perspectives, especially from women folks.