Living in a Pretend Marriage – The Love is Fake

On the mantel is a beautiful picture of mom, dad, the son, the daughter and the family mutt… all smiling, looking so happy. The reality is mom and dad sleep in separate rooms, they never kiss, never hold hands. Birthdays and anniversaries go by without any real resemblance of celebration. And on the outside, the marriage looks so perfect with the nice house, perfect car and well dressed kids. But on the inside, two people are simply pulling off one of life’s most common acts. Living in a pretend marriage. While people were shock, judgmental and horrified when Brad Pitt announced in a September 2011 interview that his ‘pretend’’ marriage to Jenifer Anniston had him playing the role of his life for real the truth is that millions of other people feel exactly the same way.

There might not be a voice to admit their frustration or lack of satisfaction in life. But dutifully they sit around the dinner table with the perceived perfection of marriage and family, waiting for the other person to finally ask for a divorce, or to get caught cheating, or to die so that they can be free from living the lie. For so many folks, getting out of a marriage is not as cut and dry as deciding that their happiness is worth the risk of financial doom, possible loneliness, lack of income or shelter, humiliation and breaking apart the family unit to save themselves. So they pretend. And they stay. And they wait. While life passes them by.

So life becomes like an episode of Survivor, waiting to see who will get voted off first. And the lies, and personal deceptions are just as deep as those on the hit primetime television show. So why do people do it? Why are so many people living in unhappy marriages and pretending to the rest of the world that all is perfectly well? After all for most of these people, they have been ‘checked out’’ of the marriage for some time. So what is up with the facade?

Researchers and family counsellors believe the reasons are broad and many. But perhaps the biggest reason that people become content to live a lie is because of fear. Fear of what might happen next. Fear of losing the children. Fear of losing the security that the marriage brings. It may seem like an oxy moron but the vivid truth is that a marriage can bring security without bringing happiness. Lots of people stay in their marriages and pretend to the world because they are fearful of what others might think or say about them if they divorce. Many others are paralyzed by the truth that their marriage is a big fat lie, and are stymied by a sense of failure that leaving or ending the fairy tale would bring to them.

Of course one of the most widespread reasons people continue to live in a pretend marriage is for the sake of the children. And the second most prevalent reason is financial security. Perhaps the very best word to describe how people are feeling in these pretend marriages is STUCK.

Marriage is an industry of sorts. And a socially resilient one at that. There are so many expectations both cultural and societal that push people towards marriage. And since today, many of the people married are products of the ‘pretend marriages’’ that their own parents were in, they find it difficult to lead the path and save themselves. Maybe they just don’t know how. Experts believe that as divorce becomes more socially acceptable among social groups and cultures, more and more people will decide to not get married to begin with, or will be more willing to get out of pretend marriages. Over the past decades more and more couples are choosing to just live together, which seems to come with less of the responsibilities that call for pretending than marital ‘bliss’’ defines with its nuptials. Living together, there is no ‘for better or for worse,’’ no oath, no standing before God and family and professing eternal commitment. And no risk of failure if it didn’t work out. No fear of people telling you that ‘they knew it wouldn’t work’” or ‘I told you so,’” like there is when a couple gets married.

If you are married, it’s also easy to see how time and commitments, responsibilities and stressors of life can make two people drift away from one another. And lots of people just aren’t sure how to handle the reconnect. Eventually, the emotional separation becomes so distanced that people cannot find their way back no matter how hard they try. Or perhaps they are just or unwilling. And many of these people living in pretend marriages aren’t necessarily unhappy, and are obviously getting some sort of payoff from the situation. While the marriage isn’t story book, it isn’t abusive or miserable either. For those people, what is the point of divorcing into uncharted territories when things are ‘‘fine’’ just the way they are?

Chances are that the perfect couple down the street from you, who seems constantly happy and absolutely perfect isn’t quite as perfect as they may seem on the outside. They may be sleeping in separate beds, barely speaking to one another, overlooking infidelity. Even if they show up at the PTA meeting, or the school awards ceremony or are constantly taking vacations in their mini-van they might not be as happily married as you think. Their efforts may be nothing more than going through the motions of what they believe is expected in a marriage, and putting on a show.

Until you walk in other people’s shoes you really know little about their journey. If you are married, chances are you have ‘pretended’’ a time or two at least to be something that you aren’t to save face around others. Maybe you have hid an argument, or hid a problem in the marriage from people that you love because it’s embarrassing or otherwise private. Point is, that each of us has a face for our personal life that doesn’t exactly match the face we show for others. And this extremely insightful when it comes to marriages.

17 thoughts on “Living in a Pretend Marriage – The Love is Fake”

  1. Single and drama-free! I’m soooo glad I’m single. I eat when I want, sleep when I want and go out when I want. I travel to places I’ve never been to. I buy myself anything I like. Don’t explain myself to anyone. Free as can be. I have always been self-sufficient, don’t need a man buzzing in my ear 24/7!! I hope you guys manage to find some solace.

    1. But does it feel empty? Sometimes we need to be challenged by others to grow. By nature we are pack animals and need socialization. Sometimes it’s how we reach higher emotional intelligence. I think with the right person you can still do all those things. I’ve been married 30 years and am fiercely independent. It’s hard for men to let go of power. I’m not sure we can ask for much more evolution from them…..

  2. Truth is, my husband cannot handle a divorce. For the sake of my children’s security in life, I must stay. 14 years to go until the youngest is 18. We tried a separation once. He made sure we had exactly what our children and I needed to survive, i.e. pay the bills, fill our gas tank, and have food in our cupboards. Besides these things he drained the account on bars, Internet dating, and porn sites. He destroyed my reputation with his family and our closest friends. Divorce was out of the picture. He would often tell me of how his brothers would encourage him to divorce me and to take the children, he would then state how he wouldn’t because he cared. Those “empty threats” scared me. I have young children who still need their mother. I haven’t worked in 11 plus years, and the idea of managing daycare and a job and a house is completely overwhelming. He stated that he would leave the children to me, but often hinted that besides the basic child support that the law required , I would be on my own. My husband is not mature enough to handle a divorce, and his family are cruel and have a heavy influence on him. So I stay. And as he has frequently stated, ” I pay the bills, I don’t cheat, and I have never hit you, there is no reason for divorce.”, it seems practical to stay. He works away from home, he Flys in to visit every few months. I don’t have to pretend very often, just via text messages and the nightly video phone calls. I have been open and honest with him about how I feel, but as long as it isn’t brought up, he continues as if nothing is a miss, and we retain the facade that is our marriage. Him happily married, viewed by his peers as a wonderful and sacrificing husband and father who works away from home to provide for his family. 14 years. 14 years. It will be okay.

  3. Sam that sounds like me. I have no family in this country, he pays for everything. I do everything in the house. 14 more years to go for me too. He’s been verbally abusive and walked out several times, then comes running back after a few days. I tried to ask his family to help him get help but he manipulated them against me and our friends, he made out it was me who was the problem not him.
    Everyone thinks he’s charming and such a delight but he’s an emotionally dead cold immature person. He’s a good dad but acts like a teenage child to me. I’ve never had a romantic date and when I ask why he says he doesn’t see the point.
    If I’m unwell he just ignores me and when I get upset he just gets annoyed. I hate him. I can’t wait for the day when he comes home from work and I’m not here. If we get divorced it’ll leave me in such a mess and disrupt the children. I feel repulsed having sex with him.
    I can’t wait until I can go back to work myself then at least I can work late so I don’t have to see him as much!

  4. The last 10 years of my 14 year marriage have been truly unhappy. We have put on a show for family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, authorities and everybody else. I have told him in his face I do not love him. I think that in reality I never have. I was turning 30 and felt the pressure to get married. He was 38 and also felt the social pressure to settle down. Within a year we were married. I relocated to Europe, where he is from and my misery started. He never had much intention to help me integrate in his culture, language and society. After over a decade living in here, I feel more foreigner and lonely than when I first arrived. I have considered taking my life. I wanted children but he didnt. Then when I turned 42, he now welcome the idea of little ones at home. But I couldn’t have a biological child anymore. So we started the road of in-vitro with an hand-picked egg donor. Four transfers failed, and more and more I am thinking it is God doing us a favor. We have two frozen embryos, that he wont let me use if I divorce him. I am considering finding my own egg donor and freezing those eggs on my own. If I finally decide to go through a divorce, I could just use a sperm donor to finally have the child I always wanted, but he didn’t. Deep down I resent him for denying me of a family when I could still have one. I dont wish him ill, but I just wish I didnt have to see daily his ugly face anymore. We dont even share a meal at the table, much less the bedroom. But he still thinks the marriage is very much OK, and until death do us apart. If only people knew.

    1. I hope you have since left this man. With no children to worry about, please quickly save yourself a lifetime of misery. Once you find your happiness again, there are lots of beautiful children waiting and needing to be adopted. Hugs!

  5. How do I continue to live like this?!! I’m slowly dying inside, and I have no one to talk to about it. It’s been 28 years of a present marriage for me. I feel like a fraud, because I’ve been playing the part of the “step ford wife” for all these years. It’s not been intentional for me. It’s due to empty promises of change on my husbands part. We’ve even been to counseling more times than I care to admit. All because he attempts to convince me that he wants to help “us”.

    These years have honestly killed the person I used to be. I am a shell of that long forgotten, passionate, light hearted, fun person. I no longer have a clear view of reality, and I no longer trust anyone nor anything.

    I’ve pretended to be happy and loved for so long, that I don’t know who I am anymore. I am sick to my stomach thinking about what a good little actress I’ve been for 28 YEARS!! It’s sick, and it disgusts me. I know no one would believe me if I tried to tell them. So I just quietly die a little more everyday. The loneliness is gut wrenching, and I KNOW God CANNOT desire this for His child. However I’m on disability, and I can’t afford myself on my own. Stuck doesn’t begin to describe this toxic game playing!!

  6. This was helpful to know I am not alone. Been living this for many years. First excuse, for the kids, which was valid in my opinion. Now they are grown so part of me wants to move on, but there is the fear of doing it (more that what others will think) and the financial hit. I am suffering silently because I have lost the best years of my life and will never get them back. Regret that I let it go on for so long and feel like I lived a lie. I have to believe that God does want more for me and has a better plan, whether I stay or go.

  7. Similar story but have been married for 9 years this year, however we spent many of those years dealing with long distance for graduate school and/or work.
    As we finally relocated to one city to be under same roof, i think we realized that we are not happy together but
    stayed married out of cultural stigma or lack of other options.
    Fast forward to today, after many personal career sacrifices, i am 9 months pregnant at age of 36 with a husband who stated that said i will kill our baby and that i shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. Great supportive words considering I’m due any day!

  8. Coming up on 28 years and 25 of them are all a facade. He’s truly never considered me. He said he loved all of my experience and we were to be partners in all… business, family, relationship. We had our own business and he blocked all of my experience and controlled everything, I gave up hoping for fulfillment there and resigned myself to being a a work whore..doing something that I hated for money. He abandoned me in raising the kids and one was his who I adopted. Left me to parent alone and would block me at every turn. Doesn’t communicate at all..tell him we have to have sex and how we can’t go 6 months without it and I cannot be responsible for always leading. He always says he agrees and will do things differently and never does.Now the kids are gone, I’m 0
    pushing to liquidate our holdings because he won’t include me or consider me, and the only thing that keeps me here is thinking about the millions that I will lose which I have worked for if I divorce him. Coaching galore for 3 years and the coach asked him “have you ever considered that it is possible you don’t know everything?” I have literally done everything…and the man just doesn’t want to be interdependent. That is so much the problem with marriage… people who don’t want the true interdependence that leads to the deepest intimacy. It’s just what they describe…I’m waiting him out.

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