can I ever really respect myself if I stay? Won’t I always feel like a weak man
I think you should reframe the question, and this is where two short books can help you reframe: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "The Way of the Superior Man" (with your wife's clutzy love bombing attempts, you could also lump in "The Manipulated Man" but that is harder to come by).
In any case, those two books will help you reframe it less about whether you are "weak" or whether you can respect yourself. In fact, it takes a tremendous amount of strength to stay. That is not weakness. It's the strength of a hero standing in the gap as the barbarian hordes come at him.
And this is where the innate, natural and healthy male inclination for self sacrifice can work against you, in this case. It can potentially override your self preservation instinct.
Self preservation should be the the order of the day, not self sacrifice.
Think about that. Find a redoubt. A safe place where you can heal. I mean this both literally and figuratively.
If your marriage isn't that place, then be done with it.
As far as reframing this negative self talk about "weakness ,' please read the books. But here's a short version: Instead, start asking yourself what YOU want out of life. What is your mission as a man, a relatively young man, with plenty of drive, testosterone, and energy to make the life you want? Your mission -- that thing you wanted to be as an even younger man before you found yourself hamstrung in a marriage to a Proverbs 30:20 woman -- that's YOU. It's your calling. Any woman, especially this woman, should be secondary to that. You don't sacrifice it for her or anyone else.
There's a great story about Ray Bradbury, the amazing prolific writer who was still churning out prose in his 90s with boundless energy and who wrote hundreds of short stories and countless novels, tells about his boyhood. He let some other children tease him out of his comic book collection. He grew sad and realized it was because he had let others dictate for him his passions. He never let it happen again. He wrote, "You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can't sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live."
The author of "The Way of the Superior Man" says "Closing down in the midst of pain is denial of a man’s true nature." Now that would be weakness. What you are doing is not weakness.
You're in a state of trauma and shock, but I want to give you some hope here. And there's really no better time for you to start pondering these things. You're about to pass through what Carl Jung called a rite of passage known as liminality.
Go through it. A lot of us still find ourselves moving through it. It's ok. Find out the kind of man you want to be. If you decide she earns the privilege of following you, great. Note well, I said she gets to follow you. That's not some chauvinistic bullshit, it's real. You could just as easily go into monk mode and do without a woman, especially her. It's not about forcing her into a meek role, it's about whether she now honors you and your priorities FIRST.
She lost the right to dictate anything, basically for a lifetime.
If she won't do that or is incapable, well, frankly throw her overboard and move on.
She's lost the privilege of simpering around you with false flattery.
Find that young man inside of you who was full of piss and vinegar and prepared to do things, make things, achieve things. And then make that your life. Your life, not hers.
[This message edited by Thumos at 6:53 PM, Thursday, November 4th]