Guys, all of this is wonderful in theory. In practice, my wife and I made a deal while we were dating. She would bring her great body and willingness to have sex with me to the table, and I would bring my gigantic earning potential. You can call us both shallow and foolish, but those were our expectations. I didn't think I had anything to offer except my earning capacity. No woman ever paid me any attention until I graduated law school. Few paid me any attention after graduation, and it was very clear to me what attracted the few who showed any interest. Given how I presented myself, it was inevitable that I would attract someone who felt as Mrs. Hold does. Perhaps I was stupid to rely so heavily on my income potential, but at the time it seemed my only choice if I were to avoid being alone.

Bubbles, you know she would have more sex with me if I earned more. Why? Because she would respect me more. She would find me more sexually attractive if I had more self-confidence. And she would know that I could easily find someone else. A big part of our lack of progress in marriage counselling was her refusal to accept that the money mattered to her. She didn't want to think of herself that way. But framed as an issue of respect, I think she is now willing to accept that my inability to create the career and income she expected has dramatically reduced her attraction to me.

No, that doesn't explain why she refused to have sex on our honeymoon or during our first year of marriage. Yes, she would still have some residual PTSD issues to deal with. But she would be much more motivated to work on them if she respected and admired me and feared losing me. At this point, "losing" me would probably feel like relief rathe than loss.

Retread, I have a very unique niche practice. There are very few firms that do what we do. My skillset is more valuable here than just about any other firm I can think of. If I cannot build a practice here, I don't see how I can build a practice at a firm with a lesser reputation in our field. The fault is not primarily that they are shutting me out (although in many ways they are). The fault is primarily that I have lost faith in myself. I don't trust myself not to miss subtle points without the extensive support system I have here. And I find it difficult to even try to make things better. If I leave here, I will likely feel like even more of a failure, and find it that much harder to motivate myself to attempt success. I can easily see my fear of failure becoming paralyzing. As you say, I may not make as much as the mega-lawyers, but I make a decent living, and I am not willing to throw that away for a position that has more upside potential but also much more downside risk and triggers lots more anxiety.

As for how much I would have to earn to not feel like a failure, I would say somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 per year. That is about double what I make. In the past 10 years my salary has increased about $30,000. I don't think it is reasonable to expect it to increase by $200,000 any time soon.

I am simply too risk averse to do what needs to be done. Divorce Mrs. Hold. Get another job. Build up my self-confidence. And then go find a woman who is attracted to the new healthier me. I am too fearful of change. I would rather stay in the misery I know than leap into the unknown. Even though I am convinced that staying with Mrs. Hold and staying in this job almost assures that I will remain miserable, depressed and filled with self-loathing.

I haven't made any major changes in the 8+ years since I arrived here. Tried many therapists. Both individual and marital. I convinced myself 5 years ago that the marriage was doomed but I won't take any action until the kids graduate. D13 has only 5 more years home, so I have already served half of my "sentence". Then we shall see. Although by then it will probably be too late as regards the career. Perhaps not too late for me to find me.

When you can see it coming, duck!