Do I have this right -
She expected to be the stay at home mom, and then you suddenly lost your job and by circumstance became the stay at home dad because you needed her income?
In short, yes. We always had this dream of one of us being able to be our children's primary caregiver. I'm not exactly sure *how* we actually thought that was going to happen. Probably something along the lines of my wife staying home but building her own business or something.
Funny enough, my wife was looking so forward to maternity leave. She had all these plans for starting a 'mommy-blog' or something while also enjoying time with the new baby.
Turns out, her maternity leave time was way shorter than it appeared going in (who knew three months could go by so fast? lol) and we were overwhelmed just trying to keep everyone alive (it took us a couple months just to get breastfeeding going), forget about taking on projects.
And my wife has always been deeply ambivalent about staying at home vs working. She worked hard all her life (from the time she was 16), and she was raised to have working and being financially independent as her top priority. While she would have loved to be a SAHM, I'm sure, I'm also pretty sure she would have a lot of anxiety about that, also. She doesn't like working, but she doesn't ever want to stop, either. It's kind of a no-win situation.
How much of your problems do you think are a result of her grieving the life she pictured for herself that didn't come to be?
Many? Most? Same for me.
My wife was not someone I got together with nor married because of some hot passionate lustful attraction. She was attractive, don't get me wrong, but superficially, she wasn't even really my type at the time (she, of course, very much *became* my type over the years). We felt we had a remarkably stable, deep, loving connection, and just thought the world of each other. I was never really the marrying type (I didn't think), and it still took me five years (and some committed inspiring on her part) to propose.
I actually had a dream that got me into action after she made it clear she was no longer content to just be my girlfriend. In my dream, I met my 'perfect woman.' The woman who checked all the boxes on my 'perfect woman' list that I'd had since I was young. That 'perfect woman' said to me, "Now that we've found each other, when are we going to get married?" I replied, "Right away, of course! You're the perfect woman!" As soon as I said that, I realized that meant my real life partner would be out of my life forever, and I had this experience of a huge black hole open up in my heart. A hole my real life partner had formerly occupied. So I told Miss Perfect, "I'm sorry, I can't. I need to be with someone else."
I woke up from that dream and went out and bought a ring, lol.
So, yeah - I was head over heels in love with my wife for 15 years. I still am not totally clear what constitutes a 'honeymoon phase', because I feel like I had a 15 year honeymoon.
I'm not sure she felt quite the same way, but both of us have had to deal with "How the hell did this happen? Where are we, and how did we get here? This wasn't supposed to happen, ever. What happened to our lives?" Those questions are still being bandied about. She recently reached a pinnacle in her career, and she confessed the other day, "I thought there would be more. I've gotten to where I'm 'supposed' to be, but is this really it?"
Has she been doing any counselling just for herself? She sounds like she's got her own issues to unpack.
No. Sometimes I wish she would, but she's kind of like a guy. She's not at all comfortable with 'being vulnerable' and 'talking about her feelings' and all that 'emotional crap' (to use her words). Despite the fact that she is still very much a woman, with all the strong feelings and emotional-orientation that often comes with being a woman.
We're focused on MC for now (my request, after my spending several months in IC without really seeing the progress I wanted to see). We'll see what comes after.
What does your marriage counselor actually say to you in terms of advice?
Essentially, that I need to build my own strength and my own life, be there for her if she needs me, and to not look to my marriage to help prop me up in life.