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Spouse wishes for independent life

DEAR CAROLYN: I have a nice husband: responsible, holds a good job, does most of his chores around the house regularly, is a reasonably good dad, and is a Good Person. And I'm so restless and unappreciative of that right now. Maybe it's the pandemic but I honestly feel like it's deeper, and it's been brewing for a while. If you asked me what I want, it would be this:

1. Stay married, but see other people from time to time. (I don't have anyone in mind. I've never cheated. Not even sure I want to. But seems fair to be open to this.)

2. Live together in separate bedrooms, but sleep together from time to time.

3. Co-parent but travel independently and often. I'm a writer and I long to spend a month in different locations, just to soak up the sense of other places. My husband never travels unless I plan and direct the entire thing, and that's exhausting.

4. We'd be a family at holidays and other important events in our kids' lives, to disturb them as little as possible, but we wouldn't hide that our marriage is different from their friends' parents'. We'd be together when we're together but live independent lives, schedules allowing.

This is probably the most honest I've been about these selfish thoughts, and I can see this being hard on our kids, both under 12. I doubt my husband would consent to this. I don't know if I should indulge this line of thought or start shutting these ideas down.

I Want an Independent Life

I WANT AN INDEPENDENT LIFE: Doesn't everybody, except those who have one? The pandemic being greener on other sides and all.

"Shutting these ideas down" sounds like the first step toward estrangement, regardless.

It's counterintuitive, given you'd be banishing these thoughts as a way of recommitting to your husband — but if the marriage in its current form leaves you agitated and emotionally starved, then you're going to find some other way "out," be it divorce or distance or bickery contempt.

So it is an act of love for this Good Person you chose to try to reshape your marriage into something that enriches you both — and teaches your kids how to coexist without gritting your teeth.

It would also be an act of love to recognize the pandemic as an amplifier to whatever you're feeling. That means trying a smaller solution first, to a problem that might be smaller than COVID-claustrophobia would have you believe, to see if it's enough.

Since you have a wish list already — thank you! — choose one item promising the most relief for the least disruption. No. 3, yes, as soon as it's safe? Since it's milder than 1 and can even preempt it? Frame it for your husband as (you hope) a healthy expression of a fundamental — perfectly normal and OK! — difference between you two. See if he'll embrace it.

Families often manage business travel. If you do your same share of the work, just differently — vs. dumping it all on him — then this could tell you how much independence your well-being requires, whether he can be open to or (ideally) better for it, and whether this "difference" alone creates a more sustainably happy household.

Trust it, talk it, try it, add/subtract as needed. Good luck.

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