OK, here goes (I notice many start with something like that but it does feel right!)
I am slap bang in the middle of a very painful separation. My wife and I have been together for 11 years (married for nearly 6). We got together in our early 20's and lived a VERY different lifestyle back then. Band/music/gigs/parties etc (as I'm guessing is often the case at that age). We had an unexpected daughter 2 years later and of course, life changed in a big, positive way. Over the next few years we moved around a little, supported each other in kicking our careers off and finally settled out in the countryside in a nice village, 'middle-class bliss'. Over the years we have both made huge sacrifices for this life and in doing so, have slowly lost ourselves and each other. We are very different people to the ones we were back when we met. We've had some incredible times together, both us and with our daughter, but we have also been through some extremely tough times. Gradually, a feeling of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, has grown from a small niggle that we would sweep under the carpet whenever the other would raise it, to a huge elephant in the room. Subconsciously, we would change/blame everything under the sun - our jobs, our working hours, our location, another baby, our lifestyle, not owning a house/owning a house - until finally, just before Christmas, we realised that we had been changing/blaming the wrong thing and that there was nothing left but to finally look at the one thing left that we haven't addressed. Maybe it is 'us' that isn't right. I had thought this a few times over the years, worrying silently that maybe we were changing the wrong things but the thought of that being true was too painful, terrifying to do anything about. I've always done everything I possibly can to try and make sure she can be happy and has nothing to stress about, stupidly thinking that it would leave no option but to be happy. With hindsight now, I realise that that simply adds pressure, guilt and can even seem controlling - the exact opposite of my intention of course. In doing so, this also led to me becoming a shell of my former self (as with her) as we both just threw absolutely everything at the relationship and the maintenance of this 'perfect life', leaving nothing whatsoever for ourselves.
It was her that finally had the balls to raise it. I could tell something wasn't right when we had hardly seen each other over the weekend and she seemed to be doing everything possible to stay out at friends, parents etc. When we were finally together, I asked her if we were OK. Crap time to do it - 1 week before Christmas - but I just couldn't avoid it any more. She didn't sweep it this time. We talked about everything that we hadn't for the last few years, in many ways we were more honest than we'd ever been with each other. It made me be honest with myself as well, realising that I too hadn't been happy, not getting the same love back that I was willing to give. Willing to settle for a passionless relationship for the rest of my life, kidding myself that it's typical 'married life' and that we'd sort it out eventually.
We care deeply about each other, have an amazing friendship but that clearly isn't enough for a marriage and with an 8 year old daughter to think about, she needs 2 happy parents, not 2 half-parents.
I have huge respect for her having the courage to face this properly - I didn't and wasn't ready to just yet but then again, probably never would.
We agreed to get through Christmas and stick to the plans that we had made, for our daughters sake, which we did. It was incredibly tough but we did a great job and our respective families were great, considering that they knew what was happening to us. We kept talking whenever we got the chance, even at times laughing and joking about stuff (over wine) and were adamant that we can protect what we have left and use that to move on and have an amicable split. We haven't done anything horrible to each, haven't hurt each other, just drifted apart. If we don't do something about this now, then eventually one of us will do something stupid and that would be worse.
We didn't intent to tell our daughter until solid plans were in place but kids aren't daft - she eventually asked us straight out and we had to tell her earlier than planned.
Now that the dust has settled on Christmas and we are trying to sort out the practicalities, the reality is setting in and is more daunting that I could ever have imagined. I feel I have to be the one that moves out - to give our daughter as stable a home as possible, the maternal connection to her home should remain intact. I have to get somewhere close by and start from scratch, while still contributing to our current home.
I'm sleeping on the couch at the moment, we're both making lots of plans to make sure we are giving each other space while still having time with our daughter.
The hardest thing is knowing that she is mentally further on with this than I am. She has given this more thought than me, earlier than me, and it is so painful to see. I know we are doing the right thing but I miss the love (it really was there!). Now that we have admitted the problem, we no longer need to pretend but I almost wish we were (which isn't an option I know).
While looking for another place and making sure I have enough to furnish it so that my daughter has a nice place to come to, I can feel that we are in danger of damaging what we do have left (friendship, care etc) - just my presence at the moment seems to be making things worse but it's my home too, for now. I'm being as easy and reasonable as I can, I'm determined not to make things difficult but it feels so cold. Because we still do have nights alone every now and then, we sometimes end up talking over the same stuff again. Stuff that we have already come to terms with in positive ways is coming back around and getting another spin, sometimes negatively.
My friends are telling me that I am handling this amazingly and that we are both being very brave but I don't feel it. I can't shake the feeling that I wish we could flick a switch and be back in love, laughing with each other but I know that's an unhealthy way of thinking. I have to shake it - it's wanting something that had already gone, that wasn't there any more. I need to prepare for a new future.
I realise this is getting a bit 'stream-of consciousness' now. It's cathartic to write this down and it's hard to find anyone to talk to about this. It's such a lonely feeling. Reading some of the stuff on here does give me hope and I know that eventually, I will bounce back. I just feel like my heart and soul has been ripped out right now and I can't see how I'll ever feel any different!