I Grew Up In A Sexless Marriage

I was tempted to join this group, not because I live in a sexless marriage but because I grew up in one.   I first posted this story in the "I Believe In the Sanctity of Marriage Group" and was urged by friends and others to repost it here.  I didn't post it here at first because I would have felt like an interloper.  But my friends have made me feel like an invited guest, so I have the courage to say what I'm going to say here on this group knowing it might be challenging and confronting but will nevertheless be received kindly.

I came on EP to write a weight loss blog and found that one of the largest if not the largest group here is for people living in sexless marriages.  I wish I had the answer.  But as you all know, it just aint that simple.  I do however have some reflections to share from what I have personally lived through and the more we share and talk about these things the more light comes to our understanding.  So, for what it is worth, I am going to share something of what it was like from a child's point of view.

I wanted to talk about my parents' "marriage".  I put marriage in inverted commas because I question whether it was ever a valid marriage.  My mother and father were both baptised Christians when they married for the second time in a registry office, their previous spouses still alive.  My brother and sister and I were born out of wedlock. Please understand that I am looking at this from the Christian perspective.  When I talk about "validity" and "invalidity" I am meaning it in a specific context, i.e. whether in the sight of God the Sacrament of Matrimony takes place.  In my parents' case, given that it was a case of remarriage for each of them, and outside the Church, I would dare to say it probably didn't.

Are you feeling outraged, dear viewer?  That I am scrutinizing my own parents' marriage and passing judgement on it?  Well, I dare to, because whether or not the marriage is valid goes to the heart of whether or not it can or should be saved when it goes horribly wrong.

My father passed away in July last year, and left his books to my mother.  They had separated about twelve years previously, if my memory serves me correctly.  And we, their children, jumped for joy when they did because it was a dreadful situation when they were together.

More about that in a minute.  Why did I mention the books?  Well, in the early days of their relationship, their big thing was to go to the library, borrow 20 books each, read them, then swap them over and read the other person's.  Doesn't that sound neat?  I would just LOVE it if someone in my life would do that with me.  That would, I imagine, give a couple a lot to talk about.  Even after Dad died, Mum lovingly sorted through his books and categorized them and arranged them on her own shelves and has since been reading them.  But there were other things that cemented their togetherness too, besides the four children.  They were involved in the community Progress Association and had meetings in our home.  They got things done in the community, like the kindergarten they set up and all the tree planting they did.

And then, one day about the time I was 9 years old, they stopped having sex.  I know, because my mother told me.  Why?  I don't know.  But I do know that they were no longer borrowing books from the library, reading them and swapping them.  I do know that my mother was now working night shift and they were hardly together at the same time any more.  And I do know that it was also around that time that my father started having extra marital affairs.

And I want to say something about what it was like growing up in this situation.  My mother was lonely and she started confiding all her thoughts, fears and problems in her children.  My younger sister was barely school age when she started having to take on the burden of adult responsibilities.  And this has affected her deeply.  When the cracks in the marriage finally came to the surface and disintregation was inevitable, my father started confiding in me, and I told him in no uncertain terms that I am not a marriage guidance counsellor and as a parent he should not be discussing such things with his child.  But the fact is, we already had many long years of experience dealing with the marital problems via my mother, and that was in the years when we were too young to know how to draw the line.

My parents were never talking at any close level, and like the absence of sex, absence of communication is another symptom of a relationship that lacks intimacy.  An they were never talking at a close level with us about our own fears, hopes and joys. Instead, they were too wrapped up in their own world of devastation.  So communication was all superficial.  My mother became expert at pretending that everything is alright.  She never addressed the issues with my father.

And there were some pretty big issues.  Like, children.  My Mum adored kids and wanted a large family.  My father put the brakes on after he was criticized for having four already by his sister.  My mother resented her sister-in-law's interference and patronizing judgment.  My older brother was treated abusively by my father and there was never any serious intervention from my mother.  Although it was never discussed, we as children worked it out that his parentage was different. 

No, it all got swept under the carpet.  My father coped by having affairs, and us kids lived with the fallout from this on my devastated mother.  To see Mum hurt like that hurt us to the core.  It made us feel insecure, like our whole world was collapsing.  But as long as my miserable mother continued to cook and clean for him, they both tolerated the situation.  You know how that felt for us kids?  Just dreadful.  We felt insecure.  We felt powerless.  We didn't like the atmosphere at home.

It had become a massively dysfunctional family, with both parents being emotionally unavailable.   There was abuse going on and everybody hiding it.  My older brother was my father's whipping post.  I could say a lot more.  We were all affected in different ways.  My brother would get flogged to within an inch of his life.  I remember my brother marking off the days  days on the calendar till he would be old enough to leave home.  14 years and 7 months.  I did try phoning the police once when I was about 9 but I knew the embarassment would kill my mother so I  hung up.  I was already trying to protect my mother's feelings.  In the end, my brother committed suicide.  And no-one's feelings were protected then.

A marriage with no sex is a sick place to be, unless of course there are health reasons.  It should be telling you that you need to talk to your spouse and I would say, based on my own experience, that this should be with a mediator.  That is because you either lack communication skills, or there is too big an imbalance of power in the situation.  You need to establish such things as whether your marriage is really valid, or what you can do to create more time together, or what you can do to reestablish intimacy.  This is especially true when children are involved no matter how old they are.

By the time my parents finally separated a whole heap of upset had happened involving their grandchildren.  Mediators were contacted and refused to become involved because, as they said, the situation is too far gone.  The situation was, we could not visit my parents with my father there and my father was keeping my mother a prisoner in the home.

Sick marriages have repurcussions for children and grandchildren.  They destroy everybody's happiness.  They are like a millstone tied around your neck, robbing you of the flowering and develpment that happens in a close and loving environment. That is all I wanted to say.  Hopefully for some it will shed light on the situation.
perseverer perseverer 51-55, F 64 Responses Mar 19, 2011

Your Response


Wow I don't know what to say except.... thank you. I'm sorry for the pain you have gone through but thank you for sharing this story with all of us to really think about something so simple (at least you would think that initially) as sex in a marriage.

Thank you, Excellency and Longrun for your thoughts and comments. The funny thing us, when I look back on my childhood, I do not see it as being a sad one. Most of the time it was awesome. There were sad chapters, but a lot of good times, too.

Thank you for sharing, I am sorry that you grew up in such a bad set of circumstances.

I want to say something sad, but I know you probably are moving on, so I don't want to bring back anything from this story.

Your EP name is fitting indeed---a perserverer.

KataGrete, thank you for your empathy. My heart goes out to everyone suffering these marital dilemmas. Both my parents suffered terribly, especially my mother. I always welcome sharing and discussion as any wisdom gained, whether from my own experience growing up, or from what friends have generously shared, helps to complete the picture of what goes wrong and what we can do to preserve our sanity and self esteem. I appreciate your kind affirmations and the fact that you cared enough to leave your sweet and thoughtful comment. Blessings to you in abundance!

What a beautiful ending! Thank you so much for sharing it and God bless you and your family.

Thank you!!! After my dads death my mom lived 7 years,and the great new is that she finally let Jesus come into her heart, and she started attending church constantly, with my husband, children, and sister.

She was very kind and would share great wisdom with the young ladies. She became a great assest for the kingdom of God right here on earth!!!!!

Nananelson, thank you for this beautiful letter with its dramatic truth. You have conveyed what you wanted to say very well and to great affect, I think. My first observation would be your father's wisdom at the end of his life, about leaving his first wife for a prettier woman, that he knew that this was the wrong thing to do and he probably regarded the suffering he incurred in his subsequent remarriage as just punishment for his action. The second observation I would make is the kindness of God, that whatever the mess is we make of our lives, He is there drawing good out of it and never, ever abandoning us. That your mother's affair ended in such a tragic and abrupt manner is not surprising to me as time and time again I see retribution striking swiftly for the sake of the elect.

My own father died knowing he was forgiven and loved and in a manner that left me thinking that he made his peace with God. Family is a powerful thing, even a sexless or otherwise dysfunctional family. You have given me much to think about. Thank you once again.

I am not a good writer as everyone is, please bear with me, I came to EP by accident trying to find out how to write what I cannot share with those that I know.

But I am also a Christian who have gone through many challenges in my life, messed up alot, but still I thank God for his mercy.

My parents life was the opposite, my Dad was a true born again Christian, and my Mom was the one who had an extra marital affair on him. My two older siblings received Christ in their life after they got grown, and started college, my older brother was at home, and my older sister went to another state.

I remember very vividly about my moms affair, she would take us with her sometimes and leave as a decoy, or to throw my dad off,sometimes I think that he knew, you see he was twenty years older than my mom.

She would drill us not to tell in fear of my dad killing her. This other man in her life made my Christmas look so big, because I go gifts from my dad, and him. but a little 5 to 11 year old would think that this was the life. See I didn't understand at that time what was going on, only if I wanted my mom to live, not to tell, and I didn't, but kept it bottled in my mind.

Well back to after my brother and sister accepted Jesus in their life, my dad was truly blessed because his prayers were answered. They warned this guy, and I hope Ep don't get the wrong idea concerning this, to stop seeing my mom or God would intervin

This man called my mom for a date, she could not make it, that evening he was involved in a bad accident, when his car broke down on the freway, he was DOA on arrival to the hospital.

Both my mom and dad are deceased not, but they lived some twenty more years in a sexless marriaige, before my dad died he shared with me on how he shouldn't left his frist wife to marry my mom because she was so pretty, well I wouldn't be here if he stayed with his first wife.


Moxxie, you are a brave strong independent woman of great strength of character. I admire you enormously. Each of us has his / her own "path" (I wonder where I got that? lol!!), and you are following your's. Know you have my complete support as you do.

Perseverer, each situation is so unique to the individuals. I love my children but I am no martyr. If I had endured the verbal/physical abuse that your mother experienced, I would have been long gone. The truth is that no marriage is perfect due to our human failings. At some point in every marriage, we are faced with the decision to stay or leave. I just believe that the decision becomes very complicated when minor children are involved. I don't endorse staying in a relationship just for the sake of the kids. It was a priority for me, I stayed for many reasons including financial security, which may not be too noble but it was emminently practical!

Enna, I always appreciate your comments and insights. I also wondered what my children knew so recently I made discreet inquiries during conversations with my children and the resulting answers I got actually surprised me. They do not know that their father and I have lived a sexless life. They do know we had a less than perfect marriage. They know we had big problems with communication. This is okay, this is real life and they understand no relationship is perfect. So at this time, I think it is just wiser to keep the sexlessness to myself.

When I first came to EP, I was at a pinnacle of my anger and ready to exit my marriage. But life happens and my spouse became very ill with cancer. I stayed to help him out of compassion and concern for another human being. Call it codependancy or whatever but the benefit to me is that my anger has abated considerably. This past year has drawn us closer and I am more at peace even though the marriage is still sexless. Right now, my heart says to stay and so I will. It is just not my time to leave and it may never be.

But Enna, I think you did the right thing for you and Baz. It was your time!

Mox, my heart goes out to you. I urge you to recognise that your adult children will be sad about your situation - for both their parents. But they will NOT be devastated by the sexual part of the equation IMO. There is no need for them to know how LONG this has been going on - just that it is the reality now and that you can no longer tolerate it.

You might be surprised and find they have known, or at least suspected, this was the case for a long time. Once adult children are in sexual relationships of their own, they can clearly see that this is NOT happening for their parents. . . . if that is the case.

They may well think YOU are happy with the status quo - altho your discussions with them have probably given them cause to think otherwise . . . .

And you have at least another twenty years of good life ahead of you. Ask yourself this:

"If my children knew, when standing around my death bed, that I had stayed in my marriage simply because I did not want them to think ill of their Dad, what would they say?"

MoxxieM thank you so much for your thoughtful and balanced comment. You are very brave. And I agree with you, that a process of deep introspection needs to take place when a marriage is in trouble, and that if the children are secure and happy within their family home, that their welfare should be considered above all. I applaud the fact that you and your husband are able to be civil and courteous to each other. Unfortunately, my father only began to appreciate the importance of this after my mother left him, and he tried many times in the years following to get her to go out with him, but her judgment about the situation was keener for the separation and she had no desire whatsoever to get embroiled in his abusive pattern of relating again. May I also add that I was impressed by the manner in which you spoke of your husband, He has obviously caused you deep unhappiness, yet you spoke of him kindly. I pray for peace and resolution for you, too.

Perserverer, I have come late to this discussion. I thank you for posting your story. The issue of how a sexless marriage affects the children (if any) born into that situation has troubled me for a long time. I appreciate your story because it comes from both your personal childhood experience and the insightful, educated perspective of a mature adult.

I have just spent considerable time reading and reading and reading all the comments. There were so many comments that struck a chord with me. I wholeheartedly believe that children are formed and influenced by their upbringing and environment and carry many beliefs, values and perspectives into their adult relationships.

I also believe that each relationship is unique. If there are no children involved, I encourage the person to leave a sexless marriage/relationship and begin again. But when the relationship involves young children, I believe that the decision to stay or leave a sexless marriage becomes very complex and ALL facets of the marriage and family life must be evaluated to determine the best course of action for EVERY family member. For example, while a sexless marriage is very difficult to live in day by day, the seperation from a loving parent may be more traumatic for the children and so their welfare comes first.

I made such a choice almost 23 years ago. My marriage became sexless due to several issues, foremost being my spouse's difficulty with intimacy and communication. However my spouse was not verbally cruel or physically abusive to me. We were and have always remained civil and courteous to each other. I had 3 young children and while my marriage was horribly flawed, my spouse adored his children and was a loving, caring father. First and most importantly, if I left their father, my children would have lost his day to day presence in their lives and all the wonderful benefits of his parenting on a daily basis. Secondly, if I left I would have plunged my children into poverty, an unnecessary financial hardship I did not want to inflict on my children.

I stayed. Did I live a lie? Yes, in regards to portraying a "happy" marriage. No, in regards to having a happy family life. My children were happy, secure and well cared for. Together, my spouse and I are very good, loving parents. We just were not too good in the intimacy issues.

I thought when the children were grown, I would leave. But the "lie" now bites me! My children know that we did not have a perfect life. All families have issues. But..., they don't know about the sexlessness. I just don't want them to know because they love their dad so much that I think it would be detrimental to their relationship with him if they knew he had such severe sexual dysfunction issues. I stay for other reasons now too, but the "lie" is one of the top reasons.

Meanwhile, I talk to my adult children frequently about the importance of adult sexuality in loving relationships and really stress that sexual problems are a sign of relationship/communication problems that should not be ignored.

Each situation is unique. The decision to stay or go cannot be made without careful, thoughtful deliberation if there are children involved. I believe for me and my family, I made the right decision but only time will tell. I pray for peace and resolution for all the ILIASM members. It is the most I can offer to so many heartbroken people.

perseverer - You got it right. I think whenever someone "challenges" another's way of thinking, then no matter how much you try not to get your panties in a twist, it will still happen.

Thank you for giving me a lot to think about and to perhaps see things in a different light. I'm going to keep going strong and hopefully my husband and I can work this out. Also good luck to you! :)

FairyGold - " was just a big misunderstanding..." True, but I wonder if it wasn't something else as well. As soon as comments to this story started appearing I recognized the nervous tension behind many of them, the nervous tension that comes from living in a stressful situation.

You get used to it and forget what it is doing to you. It was clear to me that people were reacting defensively because of the pain they are going through. It is entirely to your credit that you kept giving me the opportunity to explain what I was trying to say. Once the nervous tension was dissipated, it all became clearer. Thank you for your perseverance, and good luck with working through your issues.

Cumbersome - the handle you have on your situation is awesome. Your son has a wonderful, very wise and grounded Dad. He will come to appreciate that more and more as he gets older and learns how trustworthy your judgment is.

You have a lot resting on those big shoulders of yours. You REALLY need to be taking good care of yourself.

Options for coping with difficult marriages are just not that clear cut, are they. Man, it can get complicated. Your reasons for staying are very responsible and very sound. But do make sure you prioritize your own health. Much depends on it.

perseverer - Thanks for replying back! Now that you have clarified things, I can see that it was just a big misunderstanding. I guess I got a hold of the wrong end, which can sometimes happen when discussing things over the internet.

I knew when I saw this statement from you "And in saying that marriage is meant to be sexual, it was never meant to denigrate the love between a couple who for medical or mental health reasons can no longer have sex. Not at all." Yup, you got it!

I'm also not trying to say that living in a sexless marriage due to physical/mental reasons is peaches and cream all the time either. There are still issues that need to be worked out before you can reach a point where you feel content with the whole situation, which is why I am here.

Thanks again for sharing your story and comments!


There is a quote from your previous letter that I thought was marvellous and I would like to republish it here:

"It is very hard to get the refuser to see that life shouldn't be like this and that they need help. You could compare it to trying to help an alcoholic or drug addict. To them, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way that they are living. They think that they do not have a problem, YOU have a problem with their addiction (or lack of sex.)"

Now, how on earth do two such people end up in a marriage together? I am convinced that it doesn't just happen. At any rate, there is the all important challenge; how DO you get the refuser (or the addict or the mental health person) to see that they shouldn't be living like that? From where I am coming from, an important first step is to actually get to the point where you realize that YOU are part of the problem too.

It was jumping ahead to that step that made me classify it as a background issue. So sorry for confusing you, FairyGold, it is not what you said, but the inference I very quickly drew from it. I do believe that background consideration is just as important for a refusal situation as it is for an alcoholic or mental illness one. I could be wrong. It is just a strong hunch.

FairyGold, I can assure you, I am not being sarcastic. Not that on occasion I can't be sarcastic, but certainly not in such a forum as this.

Now, for the very important points you raised about people who cannot, for medical reasons, engage in sex. Those specific instances are not beyond help and help should be sought. But if there was a serious reason that sex could never be performed, even right from the outset - let's say because of physical deformity - then from my point of view, as a devout Catholic, that would be an impediment to marriage. THAT is how important it is to us Micks that marriage is meant to be sexual. As for other occurring patholigies, my heart goes out to the spouses who have to lovingly support their loved ones in spite of the absence of sex. No, you don't abandon someone jsut because they are sick. I knew a man whose wife became severely schiszophrenic and had to be permanently hospitalized. He was so faithful to her, and never stopped caring for her. The example he set to his children was heroic and superb.

But please do not construe by that that I stand in judgment of someone who just cannot stand it. No, indeed, my heart goes out to you, too. Until we have been in those shoes we do not know how we ourselves would act.

"People are unhappy i their sexless marriage because of the lack of love and affection that usually accompanies sex."

Beautifully put, FairyGold. Sex is not a commodity, devoid of emotional intimacy. Where there is sexlessness, so often (but not always) there is also emotional deprivation. I do recognize the suffering that is in these marriages. And in saying that marriage is meant to be sexual, it was never meant to denigrate the love between a couple who for medical or mental health reasons can no longer have sex. Not at all.

And the thing about kids always knowing that their parents are, FairyGold, I did not say that. That was an inference drawn from what I said about kids knowing more than we give them credit for.

Let me reiterate. I am not "lumping everything into one category." I said that marriage is meant to be sexual, not that all marriages are at every time able to be sexual. I can't remember if I was at all categorical about thinking spouses of refusers are necessarily codependents, it was just a model that I found helpful. If I did sound categorical and dogmatic about it then I most sincerely apologize. And I never said that I always think kids know if their parents are sexless, just that kids are pretty cluey and will absorb the pathology in the adult relationship even if they know nothing specific about it.

Your anecdote about your own parents' divorce is most relevant and illustrates the harm that results from unecessarily destroying a child's whole world. In my own situation, I am glad I stuck it out. But please do not infer that I am being judgmental of those who do not. As you have said, everybody's marriage is different, and I would not blame someone if they thought that I, as a child, should have been removed from the harmful impact of my father.


Yes, you really are a man I admire. You are brave, strong and hyper critical, as anyone living in a NDP relationship needs to be. You have big shoulders and one of the warmest most caring hearts I have seen. You can reach into the horrible messes in other people's lives and offer consolation just by appreciating the beauty that is in the sufferer's soul.

And what a survivor you are. Instead of acting purely in your own interests you have sacrificed your possible happiness in a relationship to keep your child's world as secure as possible. I really admire that.

I am so sorry that you lost your own folks so early in life at an age when you needed guidance. And you said it all, "Survival is the only option." And here's to the marvellous resilience built into human nature.

When I said that I am honoured that someone I admire even read my story let alone commented on it, it doesn't mean I think I am undeserving! I am a best selling author for goodness sake! It just means that it means a lot to me that you read it and took as much interest in it as you did. And in spite of my literary success, it always has and always will mean a lot to me when someone reads my work whose perspective I respect.

When I said, "But it was extraordinary, the need he had to go right into it and make sense of it," you might be amused to know I could say exactly the same thing about myself. I assure you I would never be sarcastic about such important issues. I was recognizing that you were picking up on important elements, even if you weren't at that stage articulating their importance to yourself but rather reacting defensively. You most emphatically do not come across as a confused person. On the contrary, you know your demons and you have been processing through them.

"What a background produced that response", Cumbersome, I am not being sarcastic. And I made that statement not knowing the first thing about your background. If I could use a comparison to illustrate what I was trying to say, my friend Shepherdess said in my story about my daughter, "I know you." Now, she was not in my friendship circle at that time and in reality she does not know me. But she meant, "I recognize you." And now that we are friends, it is true that we have so much in common in our circumstances that it does feel like we recognized each other. In your case, I recognized in your response a background involving dealing with personality disorders. It was just a very strong hunch that turned out to be spot on. Just as Shepherdess's hunch that I had a family dealing with multiple mental health issues turned out to be spot on.

Codependance is not the dirty word for me that it appears to be for everyone else. No, it doesn't mean I thought you went along with everything your wife said and did any more than I went along with everything my husband said or did. To me, codependence means that inadvertantly I was propping up my husband's and sons' illness. I could never have discerned that in myself. And I am inclined to agree with FairyGold that refusal is kind of like an illness. When I was first confonted with this notion, I reacted quite strongly because I thought I was doing everything to help the situation, not fester it. In the years since I have understood codependence and embraced that aspect of my personality, I have come to appreciate its strengths. It does make you able to survive hairy situations. It does make you super responsible. It does make you able to achieve in spite of your interior grief. But it is a demon you have to guard against. It can facillitate an illness without you even realizing it. You do have to step back and let go.

Cumbersome, there is no way in the world I would hurl something like codependence as an accusation. It is not a weakness either, in my opinion. And if it doesn't apply to you, then what the heck! Ignore it! It's no skin off my nose. I am not the one living in a sexless marriage. Just a mental illness one. It was just a theory that kind of fitted, from where I am coming from.

"Also, without the pain we go through, we would never achieve the depths of pleasure either."That is exactly how I feel about my marriage and I very much appreciated this comment. And no, Cumbersome, I know you are not trying to attack me. You are someone who really needs to tease out the truth. I totally get where you are coming from.

perseverer - Umm thanks....I think. I don't know if you are trying to be sarcastic or not, I don't pick up on things like that so well. I'll just say thank you to be on the safe side.

I'm going to say that I disagree that all marriages are meant to be sexual. Some people have no choice whether they can have sex or not. Some men have problems with erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, etc. Some women have hormonal problems (such as menopause) or they have painful disorders like Endometriosis. Some spouses have horrible illnesses that make everyday a living hell for them.

How are they supposed to put that aside? They can't. Sure some things can be helped along with medication, but not all things. Should these people never marry because they can't fulfill the sexual aspect of their marriage?

The same can be said of people with severe mental illnesses or victims of sexual abuse. If they are still capable of showing love in other ways to their spouse, then what is sex? I think a lot of people would agree that they aren't unhappy in their sexless marriage because of SEX. You can get sex anytime if you really try. People are unhappy in their sexless marriage because of the lack of love and affection that usually accompanies sex.

If you have a situation where it is impossible for your spouse to have sex but you love each other, then you have to decide whether sex is important or love is important. It is not so cut and dry! All marriages are not meant to be sexual because not all marriages CAN be sexual.

I don't really understand what you mean by "And finally I am having a good laugh, because what you said about the background impacting on the present is exactly what I have been trying to say all along." This leaves me very puzzled. Where is this coming from? Did I talk about backgrounds?

Maybe I'm just slow, I have no idea.

Also the thing about kids secretly knowing that their parents marriage is sexless is not always true. I can guarantee it, I know this from my own experience. I had not even the slightest clue that my parents were sexless. I didn't even know that they had any problems, until the day that they told me they were getting divorced! I'm not kidding either. I guess that is why I found it so traumatizing. I thought they were the perfect married couple and then they dropped a huge bomb on me.

Just out of curiosity, why do you feel the need to lump everything into one category? I'm not trying to make a joke, but is it your codependency and your need to organize? I just find it interesting that you seem to think all marriages are meant to be sexual, that all the refused people are codependent, that all children know about their parents' sexless marriage, that everything in the present is due to something in the past, etc. What about not all situations and people are the same? Everyone has a different story, everyone has a different spouse, and everyone has a different marriage.

FairyGold, I hope my reply to Cumbersome answered your concerns about the "living a lie" statement. I ONLY meant it in the context that all marriages are meant to be sexual. I have no doubt that you and Cumbersome are doing an excellent job in your most trying circumstances.

FairyGold, I appreciate your reflections about the role played by mental illness in refusal situations. And the good news is that mental illnesses can be understood and worked with in many cases. I think that applies equally to whether the mental illness concerns the refuser or the refused. At least, I can say that for me, in my situation, understanding it and getting counselling over it made a whole heap of difference.

And finally I am having a good laugh, because what you said about the background impacting on the present is exactly what I have been trying to say all along.

Thank you for your gracious reply.


"Who is someone like me?"A devout Catholic with a devout Catholic's understanding about marriage and about sex in marriage.

"Are you different in some way?"

Considering the group, "I Am a Devout Catholic" has only 7 members, I would dare to say that yes, I probably am different to most. So I will try to explain a little more about who I am and what I meant.A devout Catholic is someone who really believes in and lives the Catholic Faith.

When it comes to marriage, sex is integral to the very definition of the word. For Catholics like me, all other relationships are celibate.Sex in marriage differentiates it from other relationships. It has the highest priority. To refuse sex would be considered a mortal sin, worthy of hellfire. In my story, "Once We Were Sexless But Now We Are Sexy As" I admitted to refusing my husband for a time and I tried to explain how that came about. And it was reading a book about the life of a married saint that made me realise that what I was doing was wrong, in spite of my injured feelings and insecurity. Imagine if I did not have that Catholic formation and never came across such a book with such a lived example of the Faith? A marriage in which a partner is refusing sex would be considered a marriage in crisis.

When I said, "I wish you could see how you come across to someone like me" it was in response to the notion that children can grow up unaffected if affairs are kept secret. I was trying to highlight that for someone like me, a devout Catholic, though I agree with you 100% about adults keeping their affairs to themselves, I must disagree that children will remain unaffected. And that is because of what I believe is happening in a spiritual and psychological sense.

FairyGold maintained that her children are fine and don't know about her sexlessness. And it may come as some surprise for you all to know that in spite of the shadow over my childhood, I still think of it as a happy one. I am sure my parents would have thought I was just fine - a happy, playful child with friends and doing well at school. Nothing obvious in my health or behaviour to warrant concern.

Nevertheless, I married a man with BPD and Depression. Is that a coincidence? I don't think so. Is that the end of the world? No. In fact, having worked through it all and come out the other side, it just makes me love him all the more dearly.

"Are you superior to any other person here on EP? or in ILIASM?"

No, I am not superior to any other person here on EP or in ILIASM. But I do have this advantage - I live in a happy, sexually fulfilled marriage.That does not make me a superior person; it makes me a more fortunate person, and I am humble and grateful about it.

Considering that at one stage our marriage was sexless but is now intimate, I feel that I have a winning perspective. It does not mean I have the answer for everyone. But it does mean that I found the treasure buried in the field.

I feel blessed. I won't say it was all God's work and we had nothing to do with it because my husband and I co-operated with God's grace. We did the work. We went through having someone come into our home every week for years. We built up a support network to cope withthe mental health issues. We erected boundaries, we scrutinized our behaviour towards one another and to our children. We were answerable to authorities and we answered them. I should explain here what I mean by "authorities". In a psychiatric situation, some areas give psychiatric personnel authority to uplift children if they think that mental illness is going to impact on their health. We were accountable for getting our problems dealt with.

And we stayed together, through thick and thin. We moved overseas to get away from the sick family. And we moved overseas again to get new employment after the one we were in was toxic to the point of impacting on my husband's mental health.

We protected and built upon our Catholic marriage and moved into a community of other devout Catholics.We both work in a traditional Catholic School. All the children in our school come from families which have the same values as ours.

It is, in a sense, a very romantic community. The sense of marriage and family life is very strong. The children in our community tend to marry fairly young and have lots of children. There is a pride and an opnness about the beauty of marriage that was especially attractive to me, given my background. It has taught me a lot.

I found a light to guide my steps through a complicated and difficult marriage. I weathered the storms in a spirit of faith. And from where I am at now I can truly say, keep plugging at it. With the grace of God, everything is possible.

perseverer - Don't even worry about it. I missed your comment anyway, so what I don't know won't hurt me! We are all human and sometimes even the best of us lash out. I've been guilty on quite a few occasions.

Sometimes I also forget that there is a real person on the other side of the screen. I get too involved in the actual discussion and things don't always come out sounding right. I guess sometimes I think of the discussion in a logical sense only and not in an emotional way. In other words, I like to play devil's advocate on occasion.

One thing that I wanted to throw out there as food for thought....I wanted to jump back into the "living a lie" thing. I get where you are trying to go with this and yes, it may be true in situations where the marriage is not only sexless but abusive. It works when the refuser is using sex as a form of control, punishment, etc.

You stated that marriage is meant to be sexual. Yes, it is supposed to be that way for normal people. But a refuser spouse is not normal by whatever normal standards may be. In my opinion, it is up to refused spouse to decide whether the reason for the lack of sex is legit or not.

I think a great deal of sexless marriages can be contributed to mental issues and health issues. I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't think a lot of them are because the refuser is an awful person who wants to make everyone's life a living hell. Maybe a small percent, but not too many. It wouldn't make any sense. Why would someone live like that? They would be punishing themselves too. If that were the case, then it would take us right back to mental illness.

The refused spouse has to again weigh the pros and cons. A lot of people live with "sick" spouses whether it be physical or mental. It could be Diabetes, Bipolar Disorder, Cancer, Asperger's Syndrome, so on and so forth...I'm sure at some point during any marriage there will be a hurdle like this to overcome.

Perhaps being sexless is also a "sickness". I'm not trying to be funny or downplay this. I think this could very well be true. In a lot of cases unfortunately, I think it is a longterm illness. It is very hard to get the refuser to see that life shouldn't be like this and that they need help. You could compare it to trying to help an alcoholic or drug addict. To them, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way that they are living. They think that they do not have a problem, YOU have a problem with their addiction (or lack of sex).

So is it living a lie if you decide not to abandon your "sick" spouse? Every marriage has some sort of little hiccup...are they all living lies?

I've never met one couple in my whole life where everything was dandy and perfect in their relationship. Maybe to other people they appeared to be perfect, because there is no need to air your dirty laundry in public. Couples have problems all the time and they should keep them secret from their children. No parent should unload their problems on their child.

If you love your spouse and you are sticking by them and trying to make it work....tell me how that is living a lie? It would be living a lie if you didn't love your spouse. I'm not stupid. A lot of people here give off the notion that they could really care less about their refuser spouse. Why are they still with them though? It couldn't be because they actually love them, now could it?

What my children see is really what they get. If I laugh with their father, it is because I want to laugh. If I joke with him, it is because I want to joke. If I play a game of Yahtzee with him, it is because I want to play. None of it is made up for the children's benefit.

My husband and I have a problem IN the bedroom. Obviously my children are never going to see THAT. I'm not fooling them into believing anything, because that aspect is none of their business.

What they get is a normal loving Mom and Dad. Yes, you can be in a sexless marriage that is not loveless.

That to me is the difference between living a lie or not. Are you trying to convince your children that there is still love between Mom and Dad when there isn't? That is a lie. Are you in a loving marriage, but neglecting to tell your children about your sexual problems? That is not a lie.


When I said, "You are living a lie," I meant it in just one sense and one sense only: that marriage is meant to be a sexual relationship.

So all your rhetoric about whether you, FairyGold and GaDiddy are "living a lie" because you choose to stay for the children is a distortion of what I was saying, which you have taken out of context and used to misrepresent me.

"I still think you could have listened to what he would have to say for himself over one cup of coffee. Not that you owed him but that maybe it could have brought closure for you."

Closure for what? I knew what the situation was. There was no question in my mind at all about what the problems were or who the main problem was. The one big question I did have was how on earth did someone as wonderful as my mother end up with someone like my father? And Cumbersome, I have you to thank for helping me to find the answer because of your excellent posts on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

As for that cup of coffee...This is what it was like trying to talk with Dad:

Me: Hello, Dad, how are you?

Dad: Alright. I am writing an article about how we need to wake up and recognize reality and stop all this religious nonsense.

Me: We've been down this road before Dad and that's not what I wanted to talk about...

Dad: You know the Muslims have built a mosque in Hobart


Me: Dad, can I ask you something about Mum?"

Dad: The politicians are making a big mistake letting so many muslims into the country.

In other words, he talked at you, not with you, and delighted in being as offensive as possible. I have had many attempted conversations with Dad, and they all were about his agenda and his agenda only, which was anti religion, pro climate change, pro overpopulation and what a wonderful person he is and how many people have acknowledged him for being such an amazing person.

So although I tried and tried and tried, it wasn't until the very last time I saw him alive that I felt we connected at all. you can read about it in my story, "A Catholic Daughter's Obituary for her Atheist Father" in the "I Am Catholic" group.

"Parents hiding their affair from the children repulsive? I don't think ANY children should be exposed to an affair that one of their parents is having whether the child is 5 or 50."

You missed in this quote the bit of my quote which says, " 'protect' the children..." and that was the all important bit.

What I find repulsive is the notion that children can be protected from the breakdown in the marriage just because the affair is being kept secret. The affair is just a manifestation of a whole range of interpersonal anomalies in the relationship. I totally agree that affairs should be kept hidden from children. But thinking you are "protecting" your children from your sick marriage just because you keep the affair secret is a form of self-deception. Granted, in a difficult marriage you just have to do the best you can.

What do you mean, "At what age should children be allowed to live a lie?" That is SUCH a distortion of what I said that words almost fail me.

Children learn about ways of relating in an ozmosis like way. They absorb what they grow up with. If the marriage is sick, if a parent is emotionally unavailable, the impacts heavily on a child. As an adult, that child will be attracted psychologically to someone who will challenge them to resolve this unresolved aspect of their childhood.

It was in the context of the question of whether parents should stay or leave that I said, "A lot depends upon the age of the child and the degree of acrimony between the parents."

It was much easier for me as an adult to accept my parents' split than it would have been when I was a 9 year old child. When my father had the first affair I imagined that he was going to walk out on my mother, and it made me feel very insecure. I was relieved when life went on as before. That is, until my brother got his next beating.

In your situation, I do believe that you are making the right decision by staying. It is your son's best chance for safety, security and stability.


"My answer was that Perseverer's childhood review and implying that the 'sexless marriage' was the cause of the pain and unhappiness."

"The cause was not the sexless marriage. There was too much other stuff going on."

"Sick marriages have repurcussions for children and grandchildren."

Cumbersome, something went terribly wrong in my parents' marriage. In my opinion, sexlessness and abuse were all manifestations of the same root cause, the breakdown in the adult relationship. In the case of the breakdown of MY parents' relationship the consequences were even more severe because of what each of them brought into the marriage in terms of their own background of dysfunction.

I thought flying stone put it quite well. "Perhaps the lack of intimacy underscored the dysfunction of not being able to support each other and being open. It is a way of closing off the other person and not acknowledging them."

I am not trying to say that sexlessness caused physical and sexual abuse and prompted extra marital affairs. But rather, that the dynamics in the relationship broke down; the marriage then became characterized by sexlessness, physical abuse, sexual abuse and extra marital affairs.

I see all those factors as being symptoms of the one cause - the breakdown in the adult relationship. Not the breakdown in EVERY adult relationship, but certainly in the breakdown of my parents' relationship.

I can just as easily say that it does not necessarily follow that because a couple is sexless that they are unloving or irresponsible or are going to abuse their children.

"In philomath's reply towards me 'maybe the father physically abused the mother too.'"

No, he didn't. He just used to shut himself away in the garage with a flagon of wine and a big bag of crisps and hibernated there.

We, as children, embarassed him. My sister has Perthae's disease and was in broomstick plaster. He found it too humiliating to be seen in public with a disabled child. And after she was out of plaster, the habit of shunning us continued.

We were never good enough for him. He once told me that my head is too small for the rest of my body. Even when I was one place off being Dux of the school I wasn't good enough because I wasn't Dux.

With my mother he was like this over meals. Instead of eating the meal, he would shuffle the food around on his plate with his fork, complain that it wasn't to his liking, or had some condiment added to it and he wouldn't eat it as the food had been tampered with.

It took us decades to figure out he had already eaten out with his girlfriend and was feigning criticism to cover his lack of appetite.

You said to philomath, "So you're saying that the dad would not have had an affair? The mom would not have been lonely and leaned on the kids? The dad would not have given beatings? Or sexual abuse? All if the marriage was not sexless?"

Please note this was YOUR inference about what I was saying, not MINE.

The perspective I did try to emphasise, both in my story and in the correspondence following it is that a lot depends on whether the marriage is valid sacramentally.

In a valid sacramental marriage, the graces needed to cope with the trials in the relationship are there. And I was at pains to point out that I did not think my parents had a valid, sacramental marriage.

Therefore, it lacked grace.

Perverse tendencies that might have been tempered and brought into submission with prayer, were given free reign and just became worse with the passage of time.

To understand my father's treatment of my mother and his attitude towards his children - he was a user. He viewed us as objects of his possible financial gain. He exploited us. He felt that he could do better than us. He used my brother, my mother's son to her first husband, as a whipping post and others as objects of sexual gratification.

It was a power thing. He had a paedophile mentality. He thought that it was natural for children to have sex and that adults going overseas to solicit children in third world countries were doing them a favour.

So what I am saying is, it is worth considering the role, if any, that God plays in your marriage. Because the grace of God is what can bring healing in a situation as bad as my parents'.

When my husband and I were engaged as a Catholic couple, there was an inventory, the object of which was to discover any possible problems. It was very thorough. After doing the inventory we were taken through it by the priest.

We were thoroughly grounded in our responsibilities as Catholics - to welcome children lovingly as a gift from God. We attended evenings for engaged couples - and these were taken by a happily married couple who convened group discussions about a range of issues pertinent to marriage.

All this was missing from my parents' marriage. There was no safety net. In my opinion, this is especially true about the lack of sacramental grace.

Can I be so sure? Can I really be so sure that the grace of God is what makes all the difference? And what would I say to other couples in an unhappy situation who are prayerful Christians? Or sincere servants of God?

All I know is this. I came into this marriage with every potential problem under the sun. My husband at one stage was diagnosed with BPD. And I have been through some pretty tough times. And I was a sincere, prayerful Christian in those times.

And now - we are happily married. That diagnosis could not be made of my husband now. He is a loving, caring attentive husband. We have survived 29 years of marriage and we have great times and great sex. We have created many, many, happy memories for our children, and that is in spite of all the mental health problems.

What has happened is a miracle of transformation. And in my opinion, that is a) because of God's grace and b) because we believed and persevered. We co-operated with God's grace by living a prayerful, sacramental life. And eventually, it came right.

Now to Baz's question about staying for the kids argument.

This has got, necessarily, to have everything to do with how well the parents can co-operate.

Let me give a reason for parents staying - me who jumped for joy when my own parents split. You are doing a great favour to the children if you can keep together their childhood home. Or, for that matter, as many pieces of a child's security as possible.

NOTE - it was not MY argument that the solution to sexlessnes is leaving and breaking up the child's whole world. MY argument is for a process of introspection about whether it is possible to save the marriage and then take appropriate steps to doing so. But also, that in a badly deteriorated and pathological situation it is better for the child to remove him from an abusive person.

I will add another argument from my own situation which is not a sexless one, but a mental health one.

There was a stage in our marriage when things were very bad because of psychosis. I was strongly encouraged to leave. I was even urged to leave. My mother begged me to leave. My husband's behaviour was seen as harmful to the children. Authorities threatened to "uplift" them and put them in foster homes.

And I stayed. I told everyone - the doctors, the authorities, my mother - that you don't abandon someone because they are sick. I educated my children about mental illness. I told them we all had to expect some unpleasantness, but that it would pass, and Dad would get well again and stay well most of the time.

And he did.

Until I posted this story, I was not a member of ILIASM. I made it clear at the outset that I didn't post the story here at first because I felt like an interloper. So I can hardly be blamed for not realizing that people are inclined to favour leaving in this group. That is an argument that strikes me as being as specious as it is unreasonable. On that subject - no-one should judge but the couple it concerns. Unless, as in my parents' case, it is so sick that one party needs to be rescued from the other party.

P.S. I deleted my last comment because it was a case of me striking back cornered and was not exactly the best reflection. Apologies to FairyGold for my roughness. Thank you again for all the efforts.

Thank you all for reading and contributing. You have all helped me in different ways to gain insight.

perseverer - I think we are beating a dead horse. It was interesting to discuss anyway! :)

GaDiddy - Thank you as always! :) You have excellent comments as well. I enjoy reading them, even if to some people they come across as harsh. I do get exactly what you are trying to say!

FairyGold, I agree with you about not overgeneralizing, but I still think that upbringing "magically" propels us towards certain people far more often than you concede. Take for example the paedophile's ability to pick victims of abuse in a crowd just by looking at them, or the powerful boom that is called, "love at first sight.". FairyGold, I think we will just have to agree to disagree.