Current Situation With Unhappy Marriage - Advice Appreciated

I am now aged 54 and have been married for 28 years. In many ways my wife is a wonderful woman. She is kind and caring, but there have always been issues which have blighted our marriage.

I think when I went into the marriage at the age of 26 I was still very naive. I really liked my wife, but I cannot in all truth say I ever felt a real passion for her. I just assumed that this would come in time – but it never really has.

Even before we were married my wife began to suffer from a good deal of ill health. She had (and still has) intense and regular migraines, which typically put her in bed for three days at a time. She has had many other illnesses and has simply been a sickly person.

This put great strain on me when our children were younger, as I often had to look after them as well as trying to balance a stressful job. Also my wife gave up work as soon as she got pregnant the first time and I have had to be the sole breadwinner ever since.

Another result of the ill health is that she has never been very interested in the sexual aspect of marriage. In the early years sex was sporadic to say the least - although we did have two children - as she conceived both times as soon as we tried for a child. But as soon as she was pregnant there was little more interest in sex again. Sex was always sporadic and then stopped completely.

Up to last autumn I had endured nearly 5 years without sexual contact. I eventually go so fed up that I decided to raise the issue more vociferously than ever before - even if it meant separation. We discussed it and eventually she apologised to me and we began to have a sex life again in December.

However, this did not last long as (completely unrelated) she has developed a prolapse and is waiting for an operation and a couple of months ago she lost all interest again – although she has apologised a few times. I cannot be sure if this medical condition is sufficiently serious to stop sexual activity or not – or is it just another excuse?

However, the events of the last year have made me realise it is not just about sex. We also have little in common and really don’t do much together. I am very active whereas my wife would rather just read a book. I want to travel and experience news things - but she has no such desire.

I know that she really loves me and would be devastated if I were to leave the marriage, but I feel increasingly trapped and unhappy. I told her how I was feeling earlier this week and she just said that I was being very selfish and dissatisfied with my lot. She said that I should be more grateful and thankful and not complain so much.

I truthfully just don’t know what to do. I went into marriage with the naïve view that it was about doing things together and having fun together and that by doing this you would grow together. Now - more and more - I find myself having fun with other people (work colleagues etc) and making excuses to work late because I just don’t want to go home.

I have put up with this unhappiness for so many years – for the sake of the (now grown up) children and now I just wonder if I can stand living like this for maybe another 25-30 years.

Also I am more and more aware of my mortality – not just dying, but concerned that if I don’t do some of the travelling and things I have always wanted to do soon, I will never do it as I get older and perhaps more infirm. I have friends my age who have already had health issues which preclude them from doing a lot.

I would just love to be with someone who I could really share my life with and not just a small part of my life. It is so frustrating every day.

This has been exacerbated in the last couple of years by me working with a younger woman who has the same interest as me. I am sure she is not in the least interested in me other than as a friend (but that doesn’t stop me fantasising that she could be). I doubt anything will ever happen between us, but it has opened my eyes to possibility. What if there is someone out there who would want to do the things I want to do and would want to share what remains of life with me.

So there you have it. Am I just extremely selfish? Should I just accept a small life for the sake of my wife? Or should I say enough is enough?

I know things can never change because of my wife’s ailments, so I either have to put up with it or get out of the marriage and into the unknown. I really feel torn to shreds inside. Can anyone else relate to this?
leander1957 leander1957
56-60, M
12 Responses Jul 19, 2012

Thank you for taking the time to respond ronnocoecniv.

It sounds like your own situation is much the same as mine. I think we all have to find our own solutions in the end and those will be different for each of us. In truth I have found mine since writing the story in July.

2012 was a traumatic year of self discovery for me, but it has led me to a better place. I believe that life will be kinder to me from now on.

I hope you can also find a solution to your situation.

Leander I am hearing your pain. As you know, I am outsourcing physical contact and it makes me feel human. Your use of the word "selfish" really troubles me. It means to put oneself first. If you don't and no-one else does either then you live your life somewhere down the food chain. Being focused on oneself when it comes to the most basic of needs is healthy. To do otherwise is not. To dismiss your basic needs by labelling them "selfish" is the height of hypocrisy. You MUST NOT let this situation continue. People will dismiss you for as long as you let them. I know because I have been dismissed whilst meeting others demands (actual and implied). What are the rewards for loyalty, long service and commitment? Token acknowledgement I would suggest and an occasional intimacy. If that's OK for you, keep doing what you are doing. If not, change your dance steps until you can find greater happiness. Don't waste another day and certainly stop wasting your life. In my life, I've wasted 3 more years than you so far and I regret that greatly. Our time for regret is over. Good luck, stay in touch.

your story is very similar to what im going through,except no kids.The sex life ,bad health,other things too. I have the same thoughts and wondering what to do stay or leave.Its a tough situation to be in and i wish i could give you an answer, but i need one also.

Many thanks for your kind words Richard.

I think I will take this opportunity to do a quick update of my situation. It would be fair to say that I have been on an emotional roller coaster these last few months. Frankly there are three overall solutions for someone in this position:

Accept it and live with it
Leave the marriage
Or outsource your needs.

I think at different times I have thought about doing all three at one point or another. I have had a couple of very frank discussions with the wife and said how unhappy I am, but they don’t really seem to get us anywhere.

She is quite dependent on me in terms of her health and this makes it very difficult to leave – yes perhaps I am being selfless, but when you have been together this long it is difficult to be hard hearted.

And to cap it all I found out a few weeks ago that the younger lady I work with has been having an affair with one of my colleagues behind her boyfriends back since March. I was a bit shocked – and maybe a little jealous, as he is only a few years younger than me. It is not that I ever thought it would go anywhere with her (as I said in my story) but somehow finding this out did knock the wind out of my sails. I have always tried to do the right thing and he is a family guy with two young children who seems to serially have affairs. I guess being a nice guy has its disadvantages!


You are one of nature's nice guys. You are by no means selfish, rather you are a saint! You cannot hold yourself hostage for the rest of your life being responsible for your wife's happiness at the expense of your own happiness.

I am fortunate that my wife has always worked very hard indeed all our married life including being a mother to our two children. In this respect I could never have wished for a more suitable partner. Without her toil and endeavour we could never have achieved our not inconsiderable business success. Eventhough our sex life falls far short of perfect I still find her ambition and work ethic an exciting combination.

I know that you always want to do the right thing in your relationship but it does seem that this is a very one sided affair and your personal happiness is taking a back seat in the marriage. The problem is that in order to get your just deserts you have no choice but to jump ship or at least agree on an arrangement that you can outsource your physical and emotional needs.

You do have my empathy because it appears that your life is being severely undersold.


All I can say is Wow. You need to find what's right for you and make yourself happy. If leaving is not a option then outsource your marriage. Nothing wrong with that. If she doesnt find out then she is not being hurt but make sure that your new partner are aware of the situation. Probly in the end you will find that you need to do whats right for you and you need to make yourself happy. Marriage is a two way street. It sounds like she is not on the same street as you. Believe me I know this street well lol.
Good luck to you my friend. I hope you get everything you deserve. You sound like a wounderful and patience man. Any woman would be lucky to have you as their special someone.

I can only say this, and what you do with it is up to you. True love brings joy to both. If it does not, then it is not true love. I'll add one more thing, which is a new litmus test for any future relationships I may have. "Do I feel loved?" You can also add, "do I feel understood, do I feel this person truly cares about me? My needs, my desires, my wellbeing? Are you going to live your life on your terms (even mutual terms is fine) or are you going to live your life by the terms of another? Good luck!

I fully understand your point Leander and if you have really tried everything, and it sounds like you have, it might be you are facing the end of this road. My heart bleeds for you and the difficult situstion you are in. Best of luck!

Many thanks to both jax10 and JustFindingMe for replying. When you are struggling within yourself it is helpful to unload.<br />
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I think there is truth in what both of you say. JFM hit the nail on the head when he said I am living within limits I have not set. I have tried to be kind and considerate and also helped when my wife has been ill – although I confess that after all these years my patience has run thin – but I try not to show this.<br />
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I have also tried to encourage my wife’s interest and do things she likes. I really don’t know what more I can do.<br />
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Jax10 is also right about not looking at other women – but when the sexual aspect is not being catered for in men - this is much harder to say than to do.<br />
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Only God knows why he put a much stronger sex urge in men than women (at least in general as I know from stories on here that some men have no interest in sex). It does cause untold frustration when this aspect is just not important to your partner. <br />
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It is all well and good jax10 to say that you should value other things than sex but in my opinion sex is the glue that keeps a good relationship functioning well. <br />
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I have realised over the years that I “love my wife” but I am “not in love” with her – that is a very different thing in my opinion. I guess it is what Christians call agape love (self sacrificing) rather than eros love (sexual and intimate). I would love to have both and find it hard to live without the latter.

Thanx just finding me, but what I said was my opinion ba<x>sed on my own reality and therefore not simply wrong - perhaps not suited in this case, as each has its own merit. Some of the things I mentioned could be applicable, others not, at the end of the day leander is the one that has to make the choice. I think you misconstrued what I was trying to say.<br />
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Leander, my deepest empathy with your situation. I hope you understood what I meant and I wish you all the best. You and your wife need to talk as she could be living in a fools paradise and totally unaware of your turmoil. Hope you find a solution that will make you happy. Regards, Jax

Firstly, most of what jax10 says is simply wrong. Marriage is so much more, but if the sex and intimacy aren't in place and simply catered too, then it can become a really, really big issue. Just check out the I Live In A Sexless Marriage group to see how much emotional damage can accrue. And it's about 50/50 men and women.<br />
Yes you may well try to engage in your wifes interests, but I got that you had. I got that she is relatively content and happy to do her own thing and you yours. But you are not. My take is that you are living within limits that are not your own. That won't change unless you change it. Be completely honest & upfront with your wife, tell her how you really feel. Judge by her response and ACTIONS if she is really interested in engaging with you, if not, the one thing jax10 did get right, you would probably best to divorce.

Hi, I am sorry to hear of your problem, but I must admit that you sound a lot like my husband in many aspects. Why are all men so focused on sex, a marriage is supposed to be about so much more than that!! Do you look after and support your wife when she is ill? I take it you don't - do you know this could leave her feeling unloved and uncared for? People who do not get migraines have no idea how bad it is - you should support her. You are also treading on dangerous ground with this female colleague of yours that shares all your interests and you are unfairly comparing your wife to her. You are only seeing the good side of this woman and not all her bad habits. Perhaps you should try and do a few things your wife is interested in, then she may be happy to do some of the things you like, or combine something she likes with yours, i.e. travel to a new place and while there search for some good bookstores? Forget about the colleague at work, that is being selfish and rather focus on getting you and your wife to spend more time together in a way you both enjoy. If you build up this closeness and intimacy, the sex might even happen again. If you can't see yourself doing this, then you probably do not love your wife as much as you believe and should rather do the respectable thing and get a divorce.