This must be what an unhappy marriage feels like: that sinking feeling when you know you can't bear another evening treading on eggshells, minding what you say and trying not to get drawn into an ugly row.
That sense of dread in the pit of your stomach when you open your eyes in the morning and think to yourself: what's going to go wrong today? How can I avoid getting drawn into some extended family bickering? But you know there's going to be a problem of some kind, because there always is.
You know they married you for your money and you both did your best to overcome vast cultural differences, but now the love is long gone. You want out.
You want nothing more than to pack your clothes and personal papers into a nice, new wheeled suitcase, say goodbye to your partner and trundle down the drive towards freedom. But you can't leave, do you see? You can't leave because of the children.
This must be what it feels like to be a Western politician dealing with the Middle East nowadays. What did we ever see in them, our suited friends must be asking themselves.
It was all so promising once: we wanted their oil and they wanted our money. Modern society is based on oil. Oil defines us; it defines our way of life.
We wanted central heating in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. We wanted hot meals and cold drinks on demand.
We wanted to drive to the newsagent's for a pint of milk and the TV guide. We wanted cities that light up at night, trains and planes in constant use, shops that stay open 365 days-a-year.
We wanted a wide range of food and clothes. And they wanted these things, too, but they needed our money. And so we formed a relationship even though we knew in our hearts it was never going to work.
We always knew the sparkle and shine of first love would wear away and we'd be left staring dully across the dining table at one another. They'd be wishing they'd married someone from China or India. And we'd be wishing we'd thrown in our lot with the eco-nuts.
Religion complicates things further in the Middle East, of course, as it complicates things everywhere.
Different tribal affiliations, cultures, religions, classes and castes: and all of these watching one another for signs of discrimination. Who can blame them? We in Northern Ireland cut each other's throats over council houses and low-paid jobs in the Civil Service.
Why wouldn't the Middle East be a political powder-keg? For beneath the shifting sands lies billions of dollars worth of black gold.
But in spite of all that, our leaders did their best to rub along with people we do not understand. They understand us, I suppose.
They know we are nominally Christian and we like Christmas trees in the windows of our nice houses and a car at the door. But we will never understand the people of the Middle East, will we?
We'll never take the time to understand the minutiae of their ways and beliefs. We are bewildered by TV pictures of burnt-out tanks and cars smouldering on desert highways.
We are bewildered by men in puffy jackets and headbands waving automatic weapons. Where are the women and children, we ask? There must be millions of women and children: where are they?
Where are the hills, the green fields and babbling brooks? Where are the flowers, the shops and playgrounds? What do these people do all day besides wave their fists at BBC reporters?
Do these people know we mean them no harm? We don't want to impose our culture or our values on them, or bomb their villages or interfere in their politics.
Okay, we don't want to see poor girls and boys denied an education. Okay, we don't want to see women compelled to wear veils, or gay people persecuted.
But it's none of our business, really, is it? Emotionally, physically, spiritually, the marriage is over. It was a mistake and we want to put it behind us and move on.
If only we could negotiate a divorce, but continue to share access to the children (sorry, the oil).
If only the eco-nuts could give us the children (sorry, energy supply) we are looking for, we could pack our wheeled suitcase and trundle down the drive to freedom.