Inside the mind of a workaholic

I am sleeping in the downstairs bedroom. Alone. Or sometimes with the dog.

I hate writing this story because I want to be a person you admire, but I also hate not writing it. Because I want to be a person I admire. I want to be a person known for honesty.

Which means I need to tell you that I wish I cared more that I’m not talking to the Farmer.

I hate that I have stories I don’t want to tell. Because I have found that almost always, the secrets we keep matter a lot to us, but they don’t matter to other people.

For example, I emailed to Melissa one day. “I have a secret: I drank wine at breakfast today and I haven’t stopped.”

I thought Melissa would email back that I’m an idiot and I’ll be in rehab.

But she emailed back, “I forgot to get a refill for Lexapro and today is the first time in a year that I’ve initiated sex.”

Secrets are fun. That’s what I try to tell myself. It’s fun to not have to have a secret anymore, really.

It’s very hard to tell which of our secrets are huge and which are small. Like, I did not think it was a big deal when I said I was having a miscarriage, but that was a huge deal to a huge number of people. And I thought it was a huge deal when I said I was trying anti-anxiety meds, but no one really cared. What is a huge secret to you and what is a huge secret to everyone else is so different.

Which makes me feel unsure about secrets.

But I read a piece in the Wall St. Journal about a safari guide in Zimbabwe. He is one of the most famous safari guides in the world, and he says he tells people to “never run away from an animal. Always go slowly. Unless I tell you to run. Then run.”

And there was one time when he was guiding a man and woman through some elephants, and a mother elephant started chasing them. So they had to run. They ran for about half a mile, and they still hadn’t gotten away. And the woman said, “I can’t go anymore. I can’t run anymore. I just can’t.”

And the guide said, “Okay. I’ll have to shoot the elephant.”

Then she said, “No. I’ll keep running.” And she did.

I think we are like that. That if the alternative is terrible, we can keep running. But first we have to really believe the alternative is terrible.

I wish I felt more fulfilled being in a marriage with the Farmer. I love retreating to my work. I read that men who have stay-at-home wives treat women at work like their wives. That might be nice. I should go get an office job.

I should set new, really high traffic goals for my blog, and meet them. Web stats are like crack: I could be obsessed and look at them every day and not care about my personal life.

But I don’t want another divorce. And the kids really love the Farmer. So I guess we are doing a trade right now. I cook and clean. And he lets me raise my kids on the farm. And the kids love him. We have not exactly discussed this trade. In fact, I have not spoken more than a few words to him in weeks.

And there was a fight. Of course. The fight was: I say something. He gets pissed off that I said it. I get hurt that he’s pissed off. I can’t remember the fight. The topic or anything.

I remember what the kids saw, though:  He kicked me out of the house in front of the kids.

The kids left with me.

The next day, my seven-year-old said, “Dad. I’m sorry you had such a bad day yesterday. I’m sorry you kicked Mom out of the house.”

The Farmer said, “I didn’t kick her out of the house I….” (I can’t remember what else he said.)

And my son said, “Well you told her to get out of the house twice. And you put her stuff on the porch.”

The Farmer said, “I lost my temper. That was wrong. I should not lose my temper.”

Later. Days later. When I had already stopped talking to the Farmer, I checked in with my seven-year-old while we were driving.

“How are you feeling about the divorce?”

He asked if I was talking about divorce between me and the Farmer.

I said, no, I’m talking about the divorce that actually happened, between me and my Ex.

My son said, “I am worried that Dad is going to throw you out of the house and then I will just live with him on the farm with him and I’m worried you won’t have a place to live.”

That killed me. So many different ways it killed me.

It is well known that as a rational act of self-preservation kids will often identify with the aggressor in the marriage. And that’s what happening at my house. So I can’t let the kids see us have a fight again because our fights are not safe for them to see.

I reviewed my options. Couples therapy has been totally useless. The therapist told us he thought we were hopeless.  And divorce is out of the question because I think it’s completely selfish with kids. So I decided it’s my job to figure out how to be in this house without ever having another fight with the Farmer again. Because the fights are too costly emotionally to the kids.

Which means I’m retreating to my work. My work is always there for me. And I’m so good at work. And my work is interesting and fun and I meet such cool people. So for now, that’s my best solution.

That’s the end of the post. There.

But I thought it sounded like my life is going to hell. So I did some searches about being a workaholic. I thought it would be good to write about the virtues of having a great career to turn to if your personal life sucks. I wanted to give you links to research about how people with great careers can use them as tools to create resilience.

But there were no links. There were only links about how people gain resilience from intimate relationships. And, frankly, all the research about workaholics is that they are neurotic, delusional and lonely.

I love retreating to work so much. But I didn’t want to have to tell you that because it’s so lame. So last night, I did my webinar  at 8pm. And at 9pm I walked up to the Farmer, after two months of not talking to him, and I said, “I want you to hug me.”

I think he was surprised to see me even walk into his bedroom which two months ago was our shared bedroom.

He looked at me.

He said, “You must be really happy after that call. It sounded like you guys were having lots of fun.”

I said, “No. I’m sad actually. I’m sad that we are not trying hard enough at the relationship. I’m sad that work is so much more fun than my personal life.”

He hugged me.

And that is why, I think, that stories have so much power. We so much want a happy ending.


202 replies
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  1. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    You keep saying that divorce is bad for kids.

    But I think you are missing the fact that that may be so against marriages that work. Or marriages that start working again. I am not aware on any studies that separated out unhappy marriages where the adults knew the marriage was bad, but staying together, and then compared the two groups of kids.

    If that’s the reason you’re staying, it might be time to rethink it again. With the hug it sounds a bit more complex but…trading a future against statistics, vs. dealing with the present reality, does not sound like a good tradeoff for me, and isn’t what you’ve done professionally either.

    • Shandra
      Shandra says:

      P.S. I do get the workaholic stuff. After my daughter died, both my husband and I turned to work of various kinds and he in particular entered a long tunnel of crazy long days. It helped in the short term, but in the long term it impacted his health and our family. Still, sometimes you just do need to lose yourself in what makes you feel stronger.

  2. S. Miller
    S. Miller says:

    I think that you have a harder time figuring out what secrets would matter to other people because of your Asperger’s.

    Secrets that matter more typically involve other people or involve breaking some standard social contract. As someone with Asperger’s, you would have a hard time understanding standard social contracts that are not generally verbalized. Standard social contracts involve how most of us believe everyone else should behave.

    The anxiety medication doesn’t matter because a lot of people know someone who is taking anxiety medication. Most women do not explicitly discuss exclusively female related medical issues at work. That means that the discussion about your miscarriage at work really bothered people, and the time that you mentioned that your favorite job was the one with the crazy hours where you said you needed time off that ended up with you telling a whole group of men that you needed time off for an abortion. The closest most people come to discussing female medical issues at work involve maybe some superficial discussion of pregnancy. Superficial discussion may involve “When are you due?” or “How much time are you going to have to take to go to appointments related to pregnancy?”

    Having women at work treated like wives by men with stay-at-home wives is bad news.

  3. Janet
    Janet says:

    Reading between the lines – he’s obviously hitting you and verbally abusing you too. It’s his farm, you don’t own it. Get out and take the kids with you. Run.

    • Dustin
      Dustin says:

      Every day you stay with the farmer you teach your sons that they should abuse their future partners like the farmer abuses you. Just like your parents taught you. Break the cycle. Listen to Janet and run.

    • Gentry
      Gentry says:

      Reading between the lines it is easy to see that abuse and neglect can be a two-way street.
      If someone is the antagonizer is that not abuse?

    • Lisa Gulli Popkins
      Lisa Gulli Popkins says:

      I thought I was imagining it; I am a RN, and I also see abuse of a sort. I do not know how you are together in private, but Asbergers is a difficult disorder to manage when you are inside of it. I think you two need to see a specialist in Asbergers together; and he needs to really understand what that term means. He needs to know more, and he needs to see the difference between you, the individual, and you, the person who lives with Asbergers. He needs to meet many others with Asbergers too, and you should become invoved with Asbergers support groups. I have 3 family members with Asbergers, and my best friends middle son is Asbergers too.

  4. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Good for you taking the first step…asking for the hug!!! Also, you should get another marriage counselor. They are not all the same and each is not right for everyone.

    • Amanda
      Amanda says:

      ok, I missed the post where he physically hurt you. That is a BIG problem. I’m a huge advocate for working things out, but abuse changes things.

      • Angela
        Angela says:

        EVERY TIME the farmer is mentioned, I think about the bruise he gave her (well, the one she showed everybody; I’m sure she has had other injuries). Physical violence, emotional and verbal abuse? There is no study in the world that can convince me that raising kids in this type of situation is worse than divorce. I mean, DEAR GOD, is this the only farm in the world? What price do those kids have to pay to live there?

        • crazychicknlady
          crazychicknlady says:

          Besides (and this has been bothering me since the no divorce post), those boys have already been through the divorce that matters – the one to their father.

          That’s the marriage Penelope should have been struggling so hard to keep together. NOT the one to their Step-Dad. Since she botched the first marriage, if she wanted things to be as stable as possible for her kids she should have moved close to their father so they could have lots of time with him. Also, she should have kept out of any new relationships until her boys were grown. Or at least kept her dating life from impacting her boys by only dating when they were with their Dad and putting off remarrying till they were grown.

          I expect there is zero research out there to support that the second divorce will be worse on them than staying in an unstable, abusive situation.

  5. Adam
    Adam says:

    Hi Penelope,

    That’s great that you are at least talking about your feelings with the Farmer. Hopefully it will make way for more open dialogue. It seems to me that work is your ‘flight’ mechanism instead of fighting, and while work will always be appealing to you it cannot fix your personal life.

    I think you either need to recommit to your relationship or quit with purpose. Until then you’re really just stringing everyone (yourself included) along.


    • Cath
      Cath says:

      I lived in an abusive relationship for too long and it was a hard decision to leave. Now my oldest daughter, 31, still “hates” that I waited so long to leave and my youngest daughter, 25, “hates” that I didn’t try a little harder to make it work so she could say she didn’t come from a divorced family (I did try for 19 years but my husband, as an abusive personality, it was never about me or the kids personally- it was about him solving any daily issues he had with life by dishing whatever he felt like out to me and eventually to the kids to make himself feel better.)
      My youngest doesn’t remember, but that is why I left because eventually he started in on our children. I guess it wasn’t fulfilling enough for him anymore to hit and degrade just me.
      Wow, there I said it!
      Its been 14 years since I saw him and whatever else I have or don’t have, I have common peace and dignity.

  6. Janet
    Janet says:

    That was a lovely story; the hug brought tears to my eyes. The children are happy but is the farmer happy with your relationship as it is?

    • Tyler
      Tyler says:

      Her husband kicking her out of the house and her kids full of anxiety that she’ll end up homeless equals a “lovely story”? WTF…

    • GingerR
      GingerR says:

      I agree. You get to have sex, you have a few moments with your partner alone when you’re both naked, it keeps things going. Marriage may be, “till death do you part” but nobody ever said it’ll always be happy. Life isn’t always happy. Accept it and capitalize on the fact that you’ve got somebody there to have sex with.

  7. ER
    ER says:

    I hate that relationships are so hard for me. I look at friends who make it look easy or really do have an easier time with them. And I wish they’d just be more honest so I’d know I am not the only one struggling.
    But it’s embarassing to be honest. One is too vulnerable, whereas pretending gives you some semblence of outer confidence, like a goal you might still reach because people think you can (and don’t know otherwise).

  8. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I’ve been married three times. And divorced three times. The last one I was insanely happy. I adored him and he adored me. Except he molested my daughter. Too good to be true; was.
    Now I am engaged to a man who works too many hours at hard labor. But he’s honest and loyal.
    The one thing I’d do over for my kids of I could would be to not get married again until they’re grown.
    If the Farmer is loyal and honest and a good dad, count your blessings and suck it up or raise them alone until they’re grown.

  9. Don
    Don says:

    After many failed relationships with women, I have come to realize that BOTH people have to want to get along. This sounds simple and obvious, but it is not. My first ex wife woke up each morning wanting to start a fight. She succeeded 100% of the time, until I divorced her. She kept succeeding even after she moved out with the kids, until I no longer saw the kids any longer.

    I don’t know if there is a woman out there who is done fighting. But, I will keep looking.

  10. Chantell
    Chantell says:

    From one suspended-between-career-and-family woman to another: Forget yourself. Forget everything you know (a lot, I realize) about love and marriage, and apply that incisive mind to deciphering and meeting the Farmer’s needs. Wiping his ass doesn’t qualify; creating tranquility might.

    • Ros
      Ros says:

      Why should she sacrifice/”forget herself” to meet his needs instead of him sacrificing to meet hers, or both of them reaching out to each other?

      Some relationships can be fixed. Both parties have to want that. I’ve been in a relationship that only worked when I lay down and took whatever he wanted to dish out, and that stopped when I decided I cared enough about something to argue with him (aka: no, I’m not giving away my cat because you want to move us across the country from my family. Dude.)

      The advice to “be a better wife and he’ll care more/not beat you/give you a place to raise your children/provide, and then you’ll be happy” is straight from the 50s, and it didn’t work then, either.

      If work makes you happy, go be happy. You don’t need someone beating you as a “partner” in that. If you can’t manage a relationship, what exactly is wrong with being happy alone?

  11. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Your blog post makes perfect sense to me, and I am not a workaholic by nature. Work is more enjoyable than the relationship because it’s easier. You are good at your work, and you are not good at relationships (as you have said many times before). Work provides gratification through the hard metrics and accolades that you accumulate, whereas relationships are much less well-defined.

    I have been through divorce (no kids), and am now remarried (one kid), and I understand completely your feeling that you can’t get divorced because of what it would do to your kids. But I am not sure that you are going about staying in the relationship in the right way. No marriage survives without intimacy, and I would say physical intimacy. To put it another way, I have seen several marriages fall apart due to lack of sex.

    So if you want to stay married to the Farmer, you’d better start having sex with him, and regularly. And if sex is out of the question, than the relationship is doomed.

  12. Jean
    Jean says:

    I think we tend to expect too much in general from our romantic relationships. If you weren’t married and you were just dating the Farmer, you might be happy with what he is able to offer. I speak from personal experience of finding myself continually dissatisfied over time with my partners. I think getting a great deal of enjoyment from your work, your children, and your friendships is healthy and probably the only way your marriage will survive without driving you both to be miserable.

  13. TW
    TW says:

    Re: hitting.
    If the hitting/abuse is still continuing, you should leave. But you already know that.

    Re: kids seeing fights.
    Not having another fight ever is unrealistic. At best, you’ll end up having secret fights, and the kids will see through that bullshit. So, don’t worry about the kids seeing you fight. But make sure they see you make up.

    Re: making up.
    Here’s something to try. Whenever you have a fight, always be the one to initiate the making-up. Don’t necessarily take the blame. But take that first step to initiate the talking. Not communicating is bullshit. If you’re afraid of talking too much, try writing a letter, handing it to him, and waiting while he reads it.

    P.S. Just read the Brazen Careerist. It’s good!

  14. DG
    DG says:

    Hundreds of people have told her to get out. She’s not leaving. Most likely she has no place else to go, or at least no place suitable for her kids. This arrangement may be her best and most stable option.

  15. redrock
    redrock says:

    The secrets which matter are the secrets we are taught as kids are important to keep. Each family has their own way, and their own secrets. I also think that kids associate with a house by itself as a place of stability – a house cannot walk away so one has to stay at the house (or farm) and by association with the person who stays with the house. The connection is to a place (ok, thats my take on the reaction of your kid…) and where many days are spent. I think young kids have a hard time to envisage another place.

    And I find silence a more powerful punishment then talking or fighting.

  16. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Oh- the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous ones of all. They are the foundation of who we are and when we tell them, even small ones, they send an unconscious message to our true selves that we are not worthy of our own truths.

    Tell yourself the truth- what do you want. Then own the decision and don’t look back. Whether it is to stay for the kids, to ask for what you need, to continue to work on the relationship, just own the decision. There are no straight roads and no perfect solutions and anything that we medicate ourselves with ( work! drugs, alcohol, food) to avoid facing the truth- is incredibly dangerous.

    Take the time, sleep in the bedroom- decide what you want- You’re on the right path- by speaking the truth- asking for one hug at a time.

  17. Gerry
    Gerry says:

    Wow, you realize that having a toxic parent has a huge negative effect on your children. You are physically abused, and your boys get this as an example of acceptible behaviour towards women. And yet you stay, because you think all these things are less bad for them than a divorce? You need help! And to get out. And maby, because you like facts so much, start checking out how many cases of domestic violence end in murder. How many murders are domestic ones. And when you are doing your research anyway, how often spouse abuse gets expanded with child abuse.

  18. Lynn Lawrence
    Lynn Lawrence says:


    With only this microcosm of info, I think you may be the agressor in the marriage. By agressor, I mean the more turbulent one. Your vision is big, your ideas are disruptive and take a lot of energy to produce.

    I think the reason the kids might envision themselves at the farm with Dad is because he is more even, and the farm is nurturing,

    Also, Homeschooling can get very unsettling if one is constantly questioning and seeking fit.
    If you just think of the old traditional role models of family, dad could pour himself into work with no harm, no foul…often the pressures of work came home

  19. Liane
    Liane says:

    Relationships are very complicated – just celebrated our 30-year anniversary and even with many years of counseling, we still have episodes where we are both reactive, not listening, not understanding, and certainly not loving. If two people truly feel loved by each other, a lot of the insecurities eventually heal. It sounds like in your marriage, both of you have unhealthy elements and you push each others’ buttons. It doesn’t excuse physical abuse, but I suspect you are also abusive in some ways.

    Check out “The Healing Code.” There’s a great book and lots of info on the internet. It’s a way to heal the childhood wounds that we react out of in our adult life. By having those reactive wounds still present, it wears down our immune systems with constant stress and makes us physically ill. The newest science is fascinating. They are finding amazing things about our bodies and how they work, and our memories.

  20. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Dear Penelope,

    You get so personal in such a public forum, and although many readers would find your exposure to be exploitive in some ways, I understand why you do it and what social benefits blossom from searing honesty.

    You have also made it clear that you invite opinions, so here is mine.

    From the little you have shared with us I believe there is still a loving need from both of you to stay together. It’s NOT only about your boys.

    The “love” however, is contaminated by other serious issues which you and the Farmer carried before you two formed a union. I do not know what those personal hurdles are, besides your Aspergers syndrome, but I believe they are significant ideas that create in both of you, a lack of love and respect for yourselves. And this repressed disappointment is mirrored back to both of you within your relationship.

    It’s my opinion that deep soul-searching about self-respect is needed to resolve your antagonism toward each other.

    I think on a very deep level, maybe at an subconscious level, you both realize that your personal problems are not GENERATED by the marriage, but are REVEALED through marriage.

    This deep recognition of your mutual self-judgment is the ultimate reason why you and the Farmer stay together. And on a soul-consciousness level, your children understand this as well.

    I don’t know if you and the farmer have the capacity to express your personal fears to each other – not about the marriage, not about blame, but about YOURSELVES. If you haven’t approached those confessions yet (which you write about in your blog), that raw conversation is a good place to start rebuilding the trust.


    • Evy MacPhee
      Evy MacPhee says:

      I read this on the way to get breakfast out of the frig.

      I found myself yelling at you, Penelope, in my head.

      I like you. I care about you. I want the best, happiest for you.

      That being said, *I* want to shake you. *I* want to shove you. *I* want to punch you, myself.

      I would never do that (I walk away), though I wonder how well I would fare if I lived with you and dealt with your extreme provocation. The extreme provocation shows through in everything you write about your relationships, except those with your children.

      Why? Because you are not working on the hard stuff,emotions, for yourself. You are so smart, so incisive, so good at research and you kept saying, “I have Aspergers.” as if that is the end of the conversation.

      In my opinion, and I have had 30 YEARS if therapy, you need to learn about emotions. Yours and other people’s.

      A few things I will say initially. I know you were raised by wolves. Myself, I was raised by werewolves. We’ve discussed this before in these blog comments.

      Concerning emotions: Everyone has them. Many of us are stupid about them, particularly when we have not had good role modeling by our parents.

      Read the following three times:

      Everyone has a RIGHT to their emotions.

      You and everyone else does NOT have a right to tell someone they SHOULD not have an emotion.

      Each of us has a right to complain about how others express and act on their emotions. We do not have a right to complain about others HAVING those emotions.

      For example, if when the Farmer is pissed off at you, he hits you or yells at you or tells you that you are a worthless person or threatens to burn down the house, you have a right to say, “When you are pissed off at me or something I have said, I would prefer and respond better if you said something like ‘I am pissed off at you and need some time to deal with my feelings by myself’ or ‘I will write you a letter about my feelings instead of talking with you’ or whatever works for you guys.

      Having been raised by werewolves myself, my father regularly pimped me out and planned to have me murdered as soon as he died, I did not find anything that truly helped me understand and deal with my feelings until my 60’s.

      What worked for me has been listening endlessly, every day, to the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, on CD for about three years. Then I have the information in my head when the feelings arise. It has been and is supposed to be slow.

      Different things work for different people. I don’t know what will work for you.

      It seems to me, that you need to focus on your own need for empathy and the Farmer’s need for empathy.

      The problem with psychopaths, the extreme people who suffer from lack of empathy, is now beginning to be addressed in teenagers. If male teenagers, pardon my sexism, can learn empathy, YOU can very slowly learn to improve a little at a time on empathy for yourself and for him. It won’t hurt you to demonstrate empathy in front of and to your kids, either.

      The younger who notices when you aren’t smiling has empathy at his age and I think it must be some trick of previously unexpressed genes or fate.

      Here are some websites by people who help me understand and deal with my own and other people’s feelings:
      This is the woman doing major work on empathy.
      This is about using meditation to befriend you own feelings.
      This is the website of my teacher, Pema Chodron. It is not just what she says, it is how she says it and the tone of her voice.
      She writes about relationships.

      Here’s an article by Harriet Lerner:

      One of her books:

      You have developed yourself so that you know how to make money, impress people, get outer things.

      About inner things, you are like a baby who is just learning to sit up by herself. If you want your relationships and inner life to improve, and it seems that you do, change your focus for a while so that baby can learn to crawl, stand, toddle and walk on her own. It will take work. Painful, painful hard work. Attention.

      I am really sorry you are and have been suffering so very much.

      If sending you blessings would help, I do.

      You DESERVE to understand emotions and empathy and use that understanding to improve your life.

      • Dye-Happy
        Dye-Happy says:

        Evy, you sound like a very wise person and I’d like to read more from you. Do you have a website? FB? I googled your name but either you are very, very active out here or several people use your name. Thanks!

        • Evy MacPhee
          Evy MacPhee says:

          Thank you for the kind words.

          I had better have learned something in 30 years of therapy and still counting.

          I am on FB as Evy MacPhee. I just looked. I don’t know how to give you my email besides just posting it.

          I will post it, then remove it after I hear from you.

          I am happy to share with you what I have learned and where I have learned it from

          All the best,


          • Dye-Happy
            Dye-Happy says:

            Hi, Evy. For some reason I’m not finding you on FB by Evy MacPhee. stupid search function…I know. it’s not sentient. Still.

            I am trying my best to figure out branding so I’ve posted my website, plus i’m Jonya Pacey on FB and am careful who I add.

          • Evy MacPhee
            Evy MacPhee says:

            I found your FB page and subscribed to it.

            I can’t figure out how to friend you.

            Perhaps inspiration will strike tomorrow. Or maybe I will throw myself on the mercy of someone who is better with FB than I am.

            I will persist. You may do so, too.

      • musikproStL
        musikproStL says:

        There IS a lot of wisdom in this commentary. I hope it’s beneficial. In a recent blog, Penelope wrote the most INTJ’s don’t want children or certainly not more than one and while I was at first stunned, I also immediately realized that she was right. My whole childhood I steadfastly maintained that I didn’t want kids and wasn’t all that certain about marriage, either. I mean, I knew I wanted to love and be loved but I didn’t want the daily reality of marriage and children. Unfortunately, instead of honoring that position, my family repeated their mantra of “when you find the right man, you’ll want marriage and kids,” and not knowing better, when I finally fell in love, I allowed myself to believe that I wanted marriage and children.

        I was fortunate to only have one child before I realized that one was all I could handle and I didn’t want to stay married. Life as a single parent was much better than as an unhappy spouse. I have an excellent education, great credentials, good jobs and work that I really enjoy. I was able to afford the network of people I needed to support a full life for my son and I, cello lessons, soccer leagues, camps, vacations, etc.

        Penelope, you may want to re-examine marriage/family in relation to your personality type. During my marriage, I often thought of how much happier I’d be if we just lived separately, but nearby. That way, we could date and have a love affair without all the conflict and boredom that comes with living together. By the time we divorced (after 10 years), there wasn’t enough love left for an affair, but we were able to remain friendly and co-parent effectively.

        Living separately does not preclude having a love affair with the Farmer, and it might bring a lot more harmony into both you and your kids’ lives.

      • Angie
        Angie says:

        I found Brene Brown’s books very helpful. I also just listened to an interview with Marsha Lucas that sounds promising. She’s a psychologist who uses the neuroscience of emotions in her treatment, especially through mindfulness meditation. I learned just from the interview that I have an attachment style that is consistently detrimental to my relationships. I’m look forward to reading her book.

        The interview is here:

        Her website is here:

      • Unhappy Belle
        Unhappy Belle says:

        In almost every aspect I find myself eerily similar to Penelope. People around me say that I’m attractive, fun and funny, yet they also sense that I need to work on finding a ‘true inner peace and happiness within yourself’. I’ve sought external validation through blogging and other social media.. And whilst people like my opinions and philosophies, this has not filled the void in me.. Which is why I’m here reading this today. To learn to find inner peace and happiness.

        I’m also seeing a guy on and off who would not commit. (We were steady until i caught him having a ‘fling’– as he puts it) I never knew who the other woman was, why he did it, or what went wrong with us. And every time I seek an answer, or to have a need addressed, he makes it clear to me that we are ‘different’ and ‘would not work out’ (but when I go along with his needs then the r/ship gets all cozy). This is really highly emotionally draining and soul/self-esteem damaging. Clearly this is a one-sided relationship. For every challenge we face, I’m out alone in the world, on the Internet searching for help and answers… But this guy seem happy to let the relationship die of a natural death. Seems like he has lost the mojo for love and loving. With me at least, perhaps.

        Thank you for your advice on ‘the baby who needs to learn how to crawl, toddle and stand on her own’. Indeed, the past 1-2 years have been a very painful path but this journey has to take place.

        After that, I hope I will be whole again to love unconditionally, someone who is also whole enough to love and receive unconditionally in return.

        I feel sorry for Penelope that life is throwing this challenge to her. It is painful, but perhaps a test to make her stronger? I doubt Farmer is the one for her permanently.

        P/s I suspect Penelope might be a Gemini too? Or is this just common to most women?

        Love, kind regards.

    • Mary Beth Williams
      Mary Beth Williams says:

      Irv, I just want to say that your comments are brilliant and so insightful…thank you….

    • JML
      JML says:

      Irv, I really don’t know what to say. This is such an insightful and obvious comment. I now have a whole new perspective that makes so much sense. Thanks.

  21. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think you guys will find this interesting. The reality TV people came to our house to shoot for a few days. Interviewed us over the course of tons of hours. Interviewed the people who know us really well. And they read my blog, of course.

    And you know what the biggest problem is for the reality show right now? That the TV people think everyone can relate to us. That we look very normal and our arguments are normal and our complaints about each other are normal.


    • Tyler
      Tyler says:

      But they ARE normal. That’s the reality of most relationships. Sucks, eh? We’re all pushed to get into one only to find that in reality, most relationships equal misery. Who came up with this rotten idea that relationships are the only way to happiness? It’s not even remotely true.

    • Irving Podolsky
      Irving Podolsky says:

      Yes, of course! That’s why I wrote what I did – out of the experience with my own marriage…which is going on 38 years…and we’re still rounding off the sharp edges!


      • Irving Podolsky
        Irving Podolsky says:

        Whoa… Just read what I wrote.

        To be more specific – I’m responding to Penelope, not Tyler.

        I have found that if two people are committed to learning to love and be kind to themselves, they can learn to support their spouses.

  22. Karen
    Karen says:

    Oh Penelope. I have known this sadness, and the bargains, and the relentless searching for the right answer. I have followed your story for years, and want you to know that even in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin you are not alone. Please fix your self a cup of tea, sit in your favorite chair, close your eyes for a moment, and breathe. Repeat. Every moment is different from the last one, and the best advice my mother ever gave me when I was stuck with decisions is this: all that really matters is what you are going to do next.

  23. Tyler
    Tyler says:

    If I had a relationship like this I’d be happier at work too.

    There is no magic ingredient in relationships that makes them pleasant or worthwhile. Some people get really lucky and find a great relationship. Most people, from what I can tell, are pretty miserable in their relationships, so don’t feel bad about how you are and that you prefer work to your relationship. It’s unfair to expect everyone to get a Disney ending; so few really do. So feel fine about leaving and not looking back – do what makes YOU happy, and living with someone who kicks you out of the house and whom you can barely talk to does not really sound like it’s too happy.

  24. linda Clark
    linda Clark says:

    thank you for your total honesty. i know that courage is not the absence of fear, but taking action while experiencing fear.
    your posts are ALWAYS deep and courageous. you serve as an honesty model for me to speak what might be hard for me to say or others to hear.
    i really appreciate you.
    you are awesome. thanks for caring so much about your children.i was 10 when my father divorced my mother. my father didn’t care about his 5 children. he just left us and proceeded to denigrate our mother while supporting us below the poverty level. he used our deprivation to try to force our mom to take an 8-5 job so he could stop paying $50 a month alimony to her. what a bastard.

  25. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    I admire you, and your honesty. Hope all this is just a phase and that it becomes easier for you and your kids.

  26. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I am floored by your honesty. I have so much respect for you for writing this post. I was in a marriage once that was unhappy. And I couldn’t be honest about it even to my best friends. I don’t think I was honest even to myself, as a matter of fact. I started blogging some time ago and my number one priority was to be honest. To say things the way they are, even if that meant I might come across as an unlikable person. I wrote a post about my struggles to love my child instantly the minute he was born. As you said, I hated writing it, but I also hated not writing it. So I did. And it turned out it was not such a secret as I expected it to be. And it turned out many women out there felt the same, and it helped them to know they are not the only ones and that somebody said it out loud. I am sure many people relate to what you are going through. And I am sure many people appreciate that you wrote about it and that you are honest about it, because being honest about personal relationships is the hardest thing ever. I think you do need a hug. A big one. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but there is a quote from that movie: “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end yet.”

  27. Aleta
    Aleta says:

    Some days I wonder why I read your blog. Then on days like today, I remember. It’s posts like this that keep me coming back. They make me feel better about myself because I realize there are a lot of people out there trying to figure it all out and make it work.

  28. Helene K
    Helene K says:

    Whenever I fight with my boyfriend, I’m the one who goes away and are pissed for a long time. He’s the one who comes to talk.

    When we fight, I’m the one who call him names.

    He has this wonderful quality that he checks back in with me after the dust has settled a little bit. I’m too stubborn for that and hold grudges. I have a lot too learn from him and I need to learn his fighting qualities.

    One has too “give in” a little bit afterwards, but it seems none of you are willing.

    So make a rule at least for yourself. After 24 hours I will speak to him, and the conversation can start like this:

    “Yesterday we had a fight, and I have made this new rule that now I will talk to you the day afterwards”.
    Then you can speak about something innocent like “I read in the newspapers that giving bread to ducks make children happy”. You can avoid any touchy subject, but starting to talk even for two sentences is a huge step forward.

    And find a new therapist.

  29. Carla Aston
    Carla Aston says:

    There’s so much here to comment on I don’t know where to begin. I’ll just say, I’ve been where you are. I lived through it. Getting by. Coping. Wondering why on earth my life ended up being like this. Been in that difficult position of having the kids experience my problems and knowing that it’s affecting them. It’s gut-wrenching and it breaks your heart. It’s really hard.

    Being a workaholic is a saving grace. You can lose yourself in it and escape, even for a bit. Thankfully you aren’t trapped by not making enough money so that you can get out if you want.

    I think driven people, workaholics, find it harder to be happy. Better to be a little lazy and happy? No. Just no.

  30. Anna Redgate
    Anna Redgate says:

    I have been reading you for years. During this time I have started a company (I still like to think of as a start-up, but it really isn’t, just not as profitable as I want yet), been in a great 8 year relationship (that is not always great) but usually it is.

    We started Imago Therapy. We did this with a weekend couples workshop with Rick Brown. A weekend is the only length a double type A couple can handle. It was great. We continue, as regularly as we can with an Imago therapist out of Miami, Rachel Levy, who has a different style than Rick, but is equally skilled.

    We need to do all of this remotely as our business are in a community devoid of great resources of all kinds, including great restaurants.

    I have two kids from a former marriage. He has one. We keep separate households, which can be not so great, and also fabulous. It costs a bit more, but has upsides to blending too soon.

    My kids love him loads, as do I. With our our Imago supports we may not have made it to this really connected place with clear and loving communication. Just a thought.

    I truly enjoy your blog in so many ways. Especially your candor.

    Thank you, Anna

  31. SmackJack
    SmackJack says:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Why does my first post say the above and no one elses?
    Can people see my first post?

  32. L. Mary
    L. Mary says:

    …”without ever having another fight. Because fights are too costly emotionally for kids.” Kids do benefit from seeing a respectful disagreement and how to resolve it. It is the manner in which a couple fights that is significant.
    If your marriage counselor gave up on you, then you need to find a different counselor. And, you need to learn how to “fight”
    correctly. Modeling forgiveness, respect, apologies, etc.
    IF you are blurting out hurtful comments, then one needs to evaluate WHY one is doing so. And, it’s not just honesty or Aspbergers.

  33. RJ McHatton
    RJ McHatton says:

    Very moving and emotional article. Thanks for sharing. You have a very unique writing style that makes it seem you are telling us your inner thoughts. I very much liked your words about secrets and about trying harder to make a relationship work. Great writing.

  34. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Gratitude. My guess is that’s what you are feeling Penelope. There’s so many good comments here. It’s easy to see why you love this blog and community.

  35. Sarah Crossan
    Sarah Crossan says:

    In my counseling world, an assessment with the two of you (based only on the limited information presented in the blog) would point to both of you needing individual therapy first and only couples therapy later, after addressing certain things individually. It seems above all that for the safety (physical and/or emotional) of everyone on the farm, you both need to explore alternative ways of coping with the feelings that lead to fights; before you can develop new ways for handling disagreements jointly, you each need ways of dealing with that immediate emotion when you want to fight and the kids are around or when you’re pushing each other toward coming to blows and need to stop before it goes that far.

    The real problem seems to be that you both have coping strategies that have been very valuable in other areas of your life but are now like land mines underneath you both each time you try to negotiate a truce – it works for a while, but then someone steps on a mine and all hell breaks loose. The only answer is to dig up the mines and help each other avoid the ones that are left and holes all around. Of course, the analogy is straightforward and the reality is way more complicated – but I hope you can find your way through it, at least until the kids are grown and all options are back on the table.


    • Liane
      Liane says:

      Well said, Sarah!

      My husband and I went through 6 counselors before we found one that really worked for us. Ten years later, we still give her a call when needed.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      This makes me think of a book my son is using with a counselor, “A 5 is Against the Law.” It grades behaviors on a scale, and also feelings, so a person can become aware of how he is feeling, when anxiety/anger are escalating and the person is at risk of behavior getting out of control. the book is meant for young people, but it could be useful for simple ground rules for a couple willing to try.

  36. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Couples therapy doesn’t work and isn’t recommended for people in abusive relationships. It ups the ante. Now you know that firsthand.

    Divorce is bad for kids but physical violence in the home is worse. That’s what the studies say and I know you know that because you once posted a study that said that. I consider throwing a mother out on the porch in view of her children an act of violence. That’s in addition to your own violence (throwing things, self-harm, etc.) and the violence the Farmer has committed against you and your children (throwing you into the bedpost, pushing you down in front of one of your sons). Now you know that, too.

    You know I had a crazy, dysfunctional childhood and was sexually abused. I’m okay now. It’s possible. I couldn’t be in the relationship you’re in now. I would rather die. Seriously. It sounds awful. And I would rather die than let my kids live with the Farmer. Of course they love him. Abusers are charming. I loved the man who sexually abused me for years. You loved your father. It doesn’t mean that abusive people are good for us and it doesn’t mean our sense of love isn’t totally fucked and warped. Because it is. And you’re the grown-up now and just like you decide what’s best for your kids (homeschooling, gluten-free, etc.), it’s time to decide that they deserve better than this home.

    You’re doing what your parents did.

    Borderline personality disorder. It’s not your fault. I don’t have BPD but I know someone who does and she’s okay now and she helps others with BPD. I am sure in my bones it’s what you have. I know from other posts that you’ve thought it too. Dialectical behavior therapy. Do it.

    I’m not demonizing your abusive behavior or the Farmer’s. I don’t know his deal but I think I might know yours and you two need to separate and you need intensive therapy by yourself. And your kids deserve better and have already been shaped by the abuse. You are both abusing them by allowing this to continue. Not a judgement, just the truth.

  37. Olena
    Olena says:

    It was not a happy ending it was a sad ending… You are so talented and intelligent don’t deserve a nicer treatment? Really? From millions of men on this planet you would chose the one who kicks you out of the house like a dog? From millions of scenarios of your life you would chose the one where you are not happy in your personal life? What price are you going to pay for that hug? Is it really worth it? Penelope, you don’t need a couples therapy you need your own therapy to improve your self-esteem. And don’t try to hide behind “I am doing it for kids” because the only thing they need is a happy mother!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      A mother’s happiness is not a black and white thing. Of course there are varying degrees of happiness.

      However kids living with both parents and kids living with divorced parents is black and white.

      On top of that, there is decent research which I publish on this blog all the time and no one wants to hear, that kids need two parents living with them way more than they need a happy mom. Since we don’t even know what the word happy means, this makes intuitive sense. But also, most kids don’t even notice if their parents are happy. Please, most adults don’t even admit when they are not happy, so how can we say kids notice it.

      If there is not physical abuse, clearly it’s better for the kids to be with both parents. And there is not physical abuse in this story. And I’m just plain blown away by how fast people are to say kids are better off with divorced parents.

      I just think that’s delusional. I think you people who think divorce is fine – you are the delusional ones. You are delusional that it’s okay for parents to each get a new home so they can be happier and in the process kids don’t have any home: because having two homes is like having no home. A home is not two.


      • musikproStL
        musikproStL says:

        Do you have longitudinal data that shows what happens to the kids of unhappy, in-tact marriages? Any data that shows what happens to daughters and sons who marry after growing up “happy” in a home populated by warring or cold-warring parents?

        While it might be better for kids to live in those homes until they’re 18, what I’d really like to know is what they think when they’re 28, or 38? I was one of those kids and I really can’t say I benefitted from my parents staying together until I was 20. What I learned is what my mother did: swallowed her suffering and sorrow and did what had to be done to get along and keep the family together. That didn’t help when I married and repeated her example, internalizing anger until it became depression.

        What did help was talking to her and having her understand how unhappy I was at 38 and 10 years into a marriage which mirrored hers in many ways. When she told me that she understood and would not be disappointed in me for leaving my marriage with a 5 year old son, that made a huge difference.

        Getting therapy and raising my son as an independent, competent mother rather than as a depressed, angry wife was infinitely better for my son. Would his life had been better living with 2 happy parents? Undoubtedly. But was it also better with a single happy mother than it ever would have been with the depressed, angry mother he had while I was married to his father.

        In your situation Penelope, maybe all you need is separate bedrooms. As talented, creative and insightful as you are professionally, it comes through your blogs loud and clear that you are no picnic to live with. It’s almost as if the fantastic talent is balanced by an equal amount of challenge in getting along with others. I sometimes think that because you have such a tough time with the relationship aspects of Asperger’s that you think because you’re struggling with that, that others should cut you some slack; I think the opposite is true: you should cut the Farmer some slack because he can’t begin to fathom some of the ways in which you’re clueless to what he wants and needs from you.

        I agree with the others who’ve suggested continued therapy. Both of you need time and space and gentleness with each other. It has to be tough to deal with your intensity and frustrating to deal with his withdrawing, but from where I sit, both reactions are equally reasonable and unworkable. Good luck finding the middle ground.

      • Olena
        Olena says:

        Penelope, your phrase “Since we don’t even know what the word happy means” explains everything. Obviously you don’t know what it means that is why it is so hard for you to make a decision. All this story is about HIM and KIDS. What about you? Are you an empty space there? Any costly sacrifices for children don’t do any good, don’t be even surprised if they wouldn’t approve what you did when they grow up. I am saying it as a mother of 23 years old who is on her own now. Kids will leave you one day and if you didn’t build any emotional support system by then you will have a really hard time to adjust. Nobody says you need a divorce right away. I think everything you need now is to find out what really happiness in relationship means to you. Stop thinking about anybody else because it is not about them and go deep inside. It is not a question “divorce or not divorce” it is Penelope who is waiting for you.

      • Olena
        Olena says:

        “As long as I am in emotionally abusive relationship, not physically abusive I am ok” this is what I heard. Let me ask you, where is your threshold? What if physical abuse happens? Will you say “As long as he doesn’t kill me I am ok”? You know that it takes two people to dance and they teach each other the way they want to be treated. At the moment you are being treated disrespectfully.There is only one answer : As long as your self-esteem is low you will be treated appropriately. Changing the partner won’t help. Only you can help yourself.

      • Angela
        Angela says:

        You ARE in a physically abusive relationship. You showed us a picture. Did you forget? I didn’t. And, your kids probably didn’t, either. If you are going to stay no matter what that man does or says, okay. But, please stop trying to justify it with these insane studies. Your kids are growing up in a violent environment.

      • Brad
        Brad says:

        Barely speaking, sleeping in separate rooms for months, “there is not physical abuse in this story”. You call this a marriage. And we’re delusional?

      • Briar
        Briar says:

        But Penelope, there IS physical abuse. Even if it hasn’t happened lately, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

        My daughter is an Aspie. Very often, you are my model of what a strong willed, intelligent autistic woman can do with her life, even if she’s not so strong in the social arena. But I gotta tell you, it TERRIFIES me to think that someday, she might stay, not just in an abusive marriage, but also an apparently loveless one, just because the numbers tell her that divorce is bad for the kids.

        Look, I’m not saying leave. What I am saying is that you should treat your marriage with as much passion as your career, and you’d never leave your career laying in the mud like this.

      • duh
        duh says:

        H Y P O C R I T !

        You ARE divorced. From their dad. This is just a guy you met a few years ago who happens to own a nice farm that you like to play on. You’re using him.

      • Cathy0
        Cathy0 says:

        You’ve posted all this before. And people have told you leave before. And you don’t.
        Why post it then?
        Are you wanting us to validate your choice to stay?
        There are lots of disturbing things about your situation, but for me the worst is your justification of the decision to stay ‘for the kids’.
        If you can’t see that a happy single parent household is better for the kids than an unhappy two-parent one, that’s a big problem. (Or is it really YOU whole doesn’t want a single parent home and not the kids at all?)
        “Living with divorced parents is black and white.” Ummm, no. And let’s not forget – THEIR PARENTS ARE DIVORCED.
        “I want to stay and grow and get better and be someone who doesn’t just give up.”
        OK, while that’s admirable, the logic is flawed. If you are in a broken relationship, the answer is not to work harder and harder and harder and never give up. You’re muddling up cause and effect.
        The cause is not a lack of effort. Therefore, the solution can not be more effort.
        To put it another way, since the cause is something else (let’s say basic incompatibility), to choose hard work as the cure is fatally flawed.

  38. Dusti Arab
    Dusti Arab says:

    Wow, look at all of these awesome people who have life figured out and think it’s great to give advice to someone they have very little in common with.

    I hope you find the peace you’re craving, Penelope. I hope I do, too. This story resonated in a painful way, and I wish there was an easier answer.

    • Olena
      Olena says:

      There is no easier answer only for those who live in fear and keep hoping. Those who are true to themselves and take full responsibility for their own happiness regardless of circumstances are doing just fine!

    • Simone
      Simone says:

      @Dusti Arab….Thank you for your comment. You said exactly what I was thinking and feeling. No one has the right answers because there are none. Every choice has both positive and negative outcomes.

      Ms. Trunk is choosing what works best for her and her family. Offering advice as if we’re the ones who have to live with the fallout, is reckless and naive. This isn’t Hollywood folks, grow up and join the rest of us in the real world. Couples fight and nothing is perfect, relationships are hard even between people who love each other.

      If I’ve learned anything it rarely is a question of love, its all the other things one must learn: how to be respectful, set boundaries, show compassion and empathy when your exhausted and cranky but your partner needs you in that moment, etc. And judging from the toxic comments here, its clearly something most of you have not learned.

      Ms. Trunk, for what its worth, I for one respect your stance on divorce speaking as a child of divorce who twenty years after my parents divorce would still give anything to have them back together. And as you would guess knowing there’s four of us: two of my siblings agree and two of us don’t. So the research is right on that score.

      Just because you have options, doesn’t make those options easy. There are consequences to everything and I for one admire and respect you for making the decision that sides with the well-being of your children ahead of your own. Whether it means staying or going, only you can know.

      • nothopeful
        nothopeful says:

        do couples throw each other out of the house? punch each other? In front of kids? Yes, penelope can make whatever decision she wants to about her life and her children. but she does put at least part of her life out on her blog for everyone to see and comment on. If she were truly sure of her decisions and actions, she would a)not leave comments open and b) not blog about it. How can she not be conflicted about staying with an abusive partner, even it she justifies it as “for the kids”? Her workaholic behavior tells anyone that much.

  39. Elena
    Elena says:

    I loved this post but my heart aches for you guys. Where’s that security of family (“marriage”) you’re fighting for, while your children watch you be thrown out by the Farmer, and furthermore feel there’s a possibility of you not staying long term? Is there anything worse than humiliating the other parent in front of children? You and Farmer need to figure out what you can do to make this relationship sacred to you both… not just important, but sacred. Until then, I guess more counseling or more work-escape might help until then.

  40. Marianna
    Marianna says:

    Penelope, Great post. Made me cry. I think can help you. I recently wrote a book about recurring issues and have developed a therapy involving figuring out the source of the issues.

  41. Jane
    Jane says:

    Given all the rationale, it’s still not easy because we’re humans and we are guided by our emotions, meaning I can somewhat understand why you guys acted the way you guys did, arguing, him throwing you out of the house in front of the kids. There is one time I got mad so suddenly that I noticied my heart pounding harder, literally like the cartoon where they show the character’s blood level rising, it amazes me how powerful emotions can be and how much effort we have exert to catch ourselves and change (prevent) our behavior.

    But like your safari elephant metaphor, your kids are the elephants and you’ll do whatever it takes to not hurt them….again. But it’s not only that they shouldn’t see you guys fighting, that “protection” also encompasses the values you’re teaching them. You need to be the role model. So being “kicked out” is unacceptable. And saying that you have to try to save your relationship is unacceptable just like shooting the elephant is unacceptable (to the lady running). It’s BOTH you and the farmer that have to do that, both of you have to be the role model, both of you have to always think about your actions in front of the kids; so to throw out and to being thrown out are both unacceptable; both of you have to work together, because you guys are a team now.

    Whatever guilty you may have because you think you brought chaos into the farmer’s life or whatever his reasons maybe for not controlling his anger and actions (bc he’s never been in a relationship(s) before), both of you need to step up your games and move beyond this because you both saw how crazy you guys were together and you both made the decision to get marry anyway. There was nothing hidden so no need for guilt and to go from not having a relationship to now being married, you learn, you learn bc your life dependent it, you can’t just push ppl away, you have responsibilities now.

    Since you don’t think marriage counseling works, maybe both of you should read the Sedona method. It has helped me in regards to fear, but the book is to help you overcome all kinds of emotions, emotions that have become so dominate in your life that it’s unhealthy. It takes time for the method to show it works because we have lived with our emotions and behavior for so long. So have patience.

    Also, the couple’s therapist, maybe it’s like those medication for serious illness, sometimes you have try more to find the right fit?

    Best of luck to you and your family and thank you for the honesty and for sharing and for allowing us to share with you :).

  42. Carla Hinkle
    Carla Hinkle says:

    I really wish you would stick to career advice because when I read posts like these, the whole situation is so screwed up it hurts to read it. I love the career advice, but…

    For whatever reason (Asberger’s, childhood abuse, whatever), your emotional intelligence is pretty much zero. ZERO. I think you have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like or how one might function. I don’t care what the reality TV people told you — they were only there for a few days. THIS RELATIONSHIP IS NOT HEALTHY. It is damaging to everyone involved (you, kids, Farmer). Damaging emotionally and I’m pretty sure physically as well.

    There is NO CHANCE you will never have another fight with the Farmer again. NONE. Even people in good relationships have fights sometimes. But people in good relationships do not have serial, escalating fights over and over and over that end with someone getting hurt or someone getting thrown out of the house — with or without the kids.

    The kids are ALREADY BEING DAMAGED BY THIS RELATIONSHIP. They can tell when a relationship is all screwed up. They will NEVER FORGET you being hit and thrown out of the house. They will NEVER FORGET that you didn’t remove yourself (and them) from this crazy situation. Even if they love the Farmer (and the farm) (and it sounds like they do). They will be re-living this situation in their minds for years and years and years.

    I’m not even touching the subject of fault. For all I know you are the one initiating the fights, saying horrible things to the Farmer, whatever. It doesn’t even matter at this point.

    Maybe you and the Farmer can find a way to have a healthy relationship. I am not a counselor or therapist; I have no idea. But I cannot see how the relationship can be addressed with you living there on the farm, in what is essentially a tinderbox, you and the Farmer both apparently bombs, rigged and ready to blow god knows when.

    Again, I love the career advice. That is why I keep coming back. But this stuff? Please. PLEASE get help.

  43. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    I used to be in a relationship full of conflict and it was so exhausting and distressing. I am not sure who was the ‘aggressor’, whether one of us was to blame or both of us. I’ve been in relationships without conflict, so I hope I can be again. My relationship ended a year ago, and now my life is so much less complex, so much calmer. I want to be in another relationship, for a number of reasons, one of which is to have children and also for financial reasons. But for you, you have children, you are great at making money, what about eliminating the conflict, stress and chaos caused by being in a relationship? Could it not be perfect, just you and the kids?

    I read your blog a lot, and thought I’d share my two cents…although of course none of us readers really know you or the farmer, so we can only hypothesise.

  44. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    I don’t think it is ever a good idea to stay together just for the kids sake. It doesn’t seem like they are learning to have healthy relationships, does it? Just the fact that they would rather stay with the farmer. That line is screaming out at me.

    I have been reading your blog for a long time now. About as long as you and the farmer have been together and It seems like you have been unhappy for most of that time. Even before you were married there were problems. At some point you are going to have to decide what you need to do for yourself and your family.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It is so easy to get a divorce. It’s so easy to ask for a do-over. It’s so easy to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. And it’s so shallow. I want to stay and grow and get better and be someone who doesn’t just give up or blame someone else or take the easy route.

      I really admire people who can keep a marriage together because every couple that lasts says that it’s really really hard. I want to be like those people. I want to do something really really hard.

      I have learned in the past that when you do something really really hard, most people tell you to give up. It seems a marriage is no different.


      • Olena
        Olena says:

        Penelope are you fooling yourself? Happy relationships are easy and enjoyable, you don’t need to work really really hard.

        • Dye-Happy
          Dye-Happy says:

          Yes, yes you usually do have to work at marriage. Married 30 years and observed married people for most of my life, getting a better understanding of how we all fit together as each day passes. Human relationships are usually not easy ones. I’m glad you have a easy relationship, Olena, and I hope it stays that way, but most of us have to work hard to balance things out and to achieve a win-win for both parties.

        • EB
          EB says:

          There’s no such thing as an easy long-term relationship. Some personalities have an easier time of living with another person, others have left. Driven people aren’t easy to live with (I say this, being one) particularly if we’ve got baggage we’re still working through. Including being labelled the ‘difficult, provocative’ person in the family, which leads to habitual interactions that can be less than ideal. Combatitive, even. As a way to mitigate our personality traits we’ll often choose someone who’s our opposite in many ways, the alkaline to our acid.

          My partner is a wonderful guy, most of the time. People love him, he has many social graces I don’t, people think we’re the perfect couple. Even after nine years we’re still a work in progress, and have worked through some of our toughest times in the past year. He comes off as incredibly laid-back, and he can be. But, given certain circumstances, he’s been provoked – by me, by extreme physical, financial and mental stress – into behavior that is totally unacceptable. It’s taken us years to talk things through. To understand where some of these things come from. To understand my part in it as well, without blaming anyone.

          Even for couples who are on a more even keel, there’s no such thing as an easy ride. There are infidelities to deal with, divisions of labor and finances, the kinds of things Penelope deals with in her blog all the time. The key is to look at the situations which have surrounded the explosive times, put them into perspective, look at what they’ve had in common, and to avoid them in the future.
          (Fighting of course is inevitable, it’s how we fight then make up that’s important. And I’d keep it out of the kids’ earshot when possible.)

          • Cathy0
            Cathy0 says:

            EB, sorry but there are easy long-term relationships. Or, at least ones that are mostly easy. I’m in one (Coming up 20 years) Where each of you looks out for and helps and supports the other, where there’s laughter, fun and affection and no one would ever even consider throwing the other one out. Or leaving.
            Of course, in every relationship there are TIMES when it is harder, where more effort is required to ensure the wheels keep running smoothly. But the expression “all relationships are hard work” is not correct. More correct to say, “all relationships require hard work sometimes”.
            In my experience, it should be easy, mostly.
            I’m sure many of you will disagree whether it exists but I’m here to say, there is at least ONE, genuinely happy relationship.

        • victoria
          victoria says:

          I think that depends a lot on the personalities involved.

          I’ve been married 10 years, together for 12. I can honestly say it’s been incredibly easy. We talk about difficult things, we are emotionally intimate, we have good sex. We don’t fight; I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had a real argument and we’ve never engaged in name-calling or holding grudges. Even when external circumstances were tough. I have no crystal ball to see how things will go over the next however many years, and I know sometimes marriages that seem like good ones go kaput, but we’re happy and we don’t take each other for granted.

          My parents have been married 45+. I know they have some major disagreements in politics and whatnot. But I don’t ever remember them fighting. My mom says they did have one big argument, before I was born, over a child-rearing issue.

          That said, I don’t think that low-conflict is the only way to run a marriage. It works for my husband and me because we have no desire to control each other and because we’re both very, very calm. (If, say, he forgets to call on his way home to tell me he’s running late, I don’t use that as an excuse to pick a fight. And when I tell him, later on, that I wish he’d call when he’s running late, he apologizes sincerely without getting defensive. And that’s the end of it.)

          I really don’t think that only people who share those two traits can have happy marriages, but people who don’t have them will likely have higher-conflict marriages that can still be very healthy. Whether they’re happy or not, I can’t say.

        • Simone
          Simone says:

          @Olena Madame, I don’t know what planet your from or what pixie dust you snort at night but with your comment you’ve proven that your the delusional one and no one should be looking to you for advice. I’d love to ask whatever idiot is in a relationship with you how happy they are.

          Even a five-year old knows relationships are hard work. Yes, even the happy ones. How the hell do you think they got that way? Moron.

          • Olena
            Olena says:

            To build a happy relationship you have to be happy yourself first (financially independent, emotionally stable, even-tempered, addiction-free, nutritionally balanced, physically active and full of high self-esteem). You attract only those partners who are exactly what you are. Happy people with high integrity don’t partner with lowlife. Whatever hell you are in is just a reflection of yourself. So just accept the fact that some people neither work too hard on their job and making a good living nor they work too hard on their relationship and have it succeeded. Start working hard on yourself, Simone, and you may be lucky to live on my planet too.

      • Andrea
        Andrea says:

        I think the only thing my ex-husband got right was when he said: “Things should not be this hard.” Back then I had the same thoughts as you. I wanted to work on the relationship and prove him wrong. He didn’t give me a chance and left. We didn’t have kids together, which means it was much easier (didn’t feel like easy, though, I can tell you that much). Looking back now at that relationship, with much time passed and in a relationship that works and never required much effort, I know for myself that he was right. Things do not need to be this hard. I think you never realize or admit it before you live it. I think that’s OK. I think if you want to work on your relationship and become a better person, you should try it. But keep in mind that sometimes getting the courage to leave, to change the situation, to start from scratch, is much much harder of a project than to stay in the same position, where you are comfortable, even if not happy, but still comfortable, because you know what to expect from the next day. I can’t (and by no means want) to tell you what to do, I just wanted to let you know that things don’t have to be hard.

      • Shandra
        Shandra says:

        I’ve been married 18 years, we lost our first child shortly after her birth, and before that I spent years coughing up trauma while my husband and I dealt with the fallout.

        So I know about work and staying together. But my husband and I never, ever crossed certain lines you both have. I think you are making a mistake thinking this is your do-or-die situation.

  45. Carolyn
    Carolyn says:

    Penelope – I have two comments:

    (1) You wrote: “I wish I felt more fulfilled being in a marriage with the Farmer. I love retreating to my work.” You know, that is perfectly OK. How in the world can you be ‘more fulfilled’ in your marriage when it is as volatile and complex as your’s is? Sometimes we must accept our marriages for what they are — ours’ and nobody else’s. Each marriage is different and has unique qualities that make it work. Maybe your marriage demands that you retreat to your work more often than not. If that’s what it takes to help you recharge and gain some strength to handle personal issues, then that is good. Go for it. Fulfillment is slow to come by. Find out what kind of fulfillment you need from him, then ask for it. Seek it. Obviously, you seek for fulfillment in your work, and you get it. Seek for it in your marriage, and you’ll get it.


    (2) If your marriage is as stressful as you’ve been writing about – for a very long time – then it is stressful for the entire family. Stress isn’t good for any of you, and the kids cannot be happy or settled or healthy in that enviornment. And, that is when I say it’s OK to separate. Live a separate life from the farmer if it means peace and a healthy environment for your boys. They are who matter most. Not you or the farmer. You are grown-ups, fully matured and living your lives. The boys are only developing and deserve a healthy mental life as much as a healthy physical life.

    If, from what I’ve read, your marriage is as difficult and abusive as you’ve written about, then you’re only being selfish by staying in it for your moral beliefs. Your boys and you will be much happier, and more fulfilled, living separately from the Farmer peace and love.
    And, you wrote of how your son is worried about you. And you wrote of how you cannot commit to the marriage nor a divorce.

    • Simone
      Simone says:

      Sensible comment but I think you’ve missed that the boys love the Farmer and probably want to stay. Had her boy’s expressed that they weren’t happy on the farm or felt threaten or afraid of the Farmer, I think its safe to say Penelope would have left already.

      And since her decision is based on the well being of her boys instead of her own selfish needs, where she might have left if it was her alone, makes this all the more admirable. In this throwaway society its nice to seem someone treat marriage and raising children with the respect that it deserves.

      And for those telling her to leave and start over, what happens when she has the same issues with someone new? Would you suggest she leave that one too? Rinse and repeat..eventually those shirts will come out white. This is a relationship not a goddamn iPhone.

      Promises and vows were mad. Love how you Moron’s keep forgetting that part. And don’t tell me things changed or that your not a Moron for leaving your own failed relationships. If you don’t know how to keep your promises then you shouldn’t have been making them in the first place.

    • Simone
      Simone says:

      Sensible comment but I think you’ve missed that the boys love the Farmer and probably want to stay. Had her boy’s expressed that they weren’t happy on the farm or felt threaten or afraid of the Farmer, I think its safe to say Penelope would have left already.

      And since her decision is based on the well being of her boys instead of her own selfish needs, where she might have left if it was her alone, makes this all the more admirable. In this throwaway society its nice to seem someone treat marriage and raising children with the respect that it deserves.

      And for those telling her to leave and start over, what happens when she has the same issues with someone new? Would you suggest she leave that one too? Rinse and repeat..eventually those shirts will come out white. This is a relationship not a goddamn iPhone.

      Promises and vows were made. Love how you Moron’s keep forgetting that part. And don’t tell me things changed or that your not a Moron for leaving your own failed relationships. If you don’t know how to keep your promises then you shouldn’t have been making them in the first place.

  46. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    There is one other thing I forgot to mention. Your kids like the farm. Now. When they are young.

    But they might not like it so much when they become teens. I know this because I lived it. Country living for many teens means drinking too much and getting pregnant for the lack of other more creative activities. I am not saying all kids react this way but some do. Just keep it in mind when making decisions based on young children’s desires.

    • Leslie
      Leslie says:

      Penelope does a great job of making sure her sons have interesting things to do that are not farming related. She has mentioned that they play musical instruments and they take field trips to museums. The great thing about learning to farm is that it teaches practical business skills as well as learning about growing food and raising livestock.

      As someone who grew up in a suburb by parents who couldn’t wait to get off their parent’s farm I missed out on that experience. I am learning about beekeeping now though.

    • Violeta
      Violeta says:

      Agree with you, Roberta. Kids tend to love farms. And, it seems that Penelope’s kids are not an exception. They seem to be quite happy living on the farm. However, I think that the same cannot be said for Penelope.
      I actually have a hard time understanding how a girl like Penelope can spend more than a week living on a farm. I cannot even imagine a girl like Penelope taking a vacation on a farm. In my mind’s eye, I can see Penelope being happy only in a city. The real kind of city, that is. Not a town, not a village.
      Geography definitely contributes to our overall happiness.

  47. Maria
    Maria says:

    Thank you for your honesty. I hope it gives you a starting point in which to build on, or even change your mind from.

    It always does for me.

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