It sounds like you are in an extremely painful and unfulfilling marriage and this painful situation has been going on for a very long time. This is obviously a very sticky situation. The fact that children are involved in your relationship makes it all the more challenging. I’m sure you also have some personal shortcomings that contribute to the unhappiness in your marriage and your wife’s obvious dissatisfaction. However, regardless of each of your role in the marital misery, something obviously has to change.
If you have tried communicating about these issues with her over and over and she has been unwilling to communicate and unresponsive to your deep concerns, marriage counseling is probably your best shot for trying to ensure the survival and healing of the marriage. People can exist for years, even decades, in miserable relationships and a part of their soul dies in the process. You may already be at this point.
I would suggest making another concerted effort to see if the marriage can be improved or saved. Really listen to her and if you have not already done so, do your best to change the behaviors she is most unhappy about. You might try reading the book, “After the Honeymoon: How conflict can improve your relationship” by Daniel B. Wile. This is one of many excellent books that deal with how to change the dynamics in troubled marriages; and there are many other excellent resources available as well.
Clearly convey to your wife the critical point you are at in the relationship and let her know that you are at a personal tipping point in your ability to continue in the marriage. Encourage her to view marriage counseling as a valid option for addressing these serious marital issues and encourage her to choose the counselor if she wishes. The consequences of not doing so are the potential dissolution of the marriage.
If none of this works, you really only have two realistic options: you can leave the marriage or you can decide to stay and make the best of a terrible marital relationship. Your decision will depend on a variety of factors: your age, the age of your children, your life-stage, and which situation you believe will ultimately be the least damaging to the kids. Sometimes there is no good solution and in this case you would have to decide whether the damage to you and your children is greater by having them live with parents who are together in a highly dysfunctional marriage or living in a situation of divorce with the sadness and complications that inevitably accompany this difficult life decision.
There is no right answer. But if the marriage is sucking your soul out of you and robbing you of your sense of worth and value, you have to assess the costs associated with staying or leaving the marriage. Children are usually resilient and have a great capacity for healing. You and your wife both have the potential to find fulfillment in other relationships characterized by greater health and, hopefully, a better partner fit for each of you.
Whether or not to divorce is a wrenching and heart-rending decision. Given your wife’s tendencies toward avoidance, passivity and emotional harshness, it seems that this decision and taking the initiative will probably fall onto you. I would advise you to seek counseling to sort out your needs and feelings and what will be best for you and the family in the long-term before taking irreversible action. There are situations that can be healed and some that cannot. Only you can determine whether this marriage can truly heal or whether it is best to let go.