Feeling Helpless In Marriage Hell

I have been married to my wife for 21 years (we have two children). Sex has been a steep uphill struggle. My wife has never really wanted sex, whereas I'm 3X a day capable. Even in our young 20's there were years (yes YEARS) that passed and my wife acted as if no sex was just fine.  When she did allow it (read mercy-sex), I could just feel that she did it out of obligation. However, she wanted a baby before 30 and we started having some sex, and she got pregnant quickly--actually after the third try. Not bad. After that there was no sex whatsoever for 20 months (9 months after delivery). After that, wham, pregnant again after four more encounters. Ditto. No sex for another 21 months. Where does that leave a extremely vigorous young man? This has been the trend. I felt ecstatic to get sex once every six months. Label me oversexed if you like, but I could easily have sex three times a day. Six months w/o sex is eternity. Now its been years. I'm a capable, healthy, in shape man.

She's  is gone a lot (3-4 days a week). I've been both mom and dad since my children were born. When home, she's "tired;" I've heard it a million times. After 15 years of excruciating patience, just forlorn and heartbroken, I gave up on sex with her. Yea, I know, just fix it, but I can't fix somebody else I've learned. I'm not perfect either. I still love her, care for her, keep my eyes off of others, committed to her, and take every precaution to meet my family's needs. An affair or any extra-marital sex has been absolutely out of the question for me.  After years with no sex, 1000s of turndowns, interminable foul moods, my hands slapped for even touching her, denials of access, and "headaches", something has broke within me. To hell with it. I resolve:I will not renig on my commitment, and that isn't a cop-out.  I stopped wanting to have sex with her. Further, I stopped wanting to even have the desire to have sex with her. There's no desire to have desire--a weird non-feeling. I truly care for her, but sexual passion for her just left me dissillusioned, disheartened and ExtrEEEmly !^*%# frustrated. She was so heartless about it. I remember begging her to just be a little more open and she relished making me "sleep on the couch," using sex to manipulate me.  Quid pro quo is one thing, but sexual  manipulation of a spouse is horrible--especially when it is a power play. I felt like I was just around to sire her children and once that was done, I was just here to support them and care for them.
Now, here's the twist. About 6 months ago, my mother-in-law died and my wife has been acting much more selfishly and egocentrically ever since. Something snapped. I'm very puzzled, but there's lots of turmoil in her past with her mom and family that's hidden, secrets that she won't reveal.
Then last week she dropped a bomb: said she was considering a separation or a divorce. One of the reasons was because "we had not had sex in so long an that she felt like it wasn't normal and it was my fault." I was too hurt, cut deeply, to even talke about it since she will refuse to see she's projecting. Suddenly, she claims she wanted sex, but I was the problem. She puts a damn pillow in between us in the bed as a barrier. When home, she goes to bed every night about 7pm and watches soap operas till 10 and then falls asleep.

I have ever been faithful, available, true, dedicated, and supportive--trying to give her space and time to rest. But she has almost returned to a stage of adolescence and immaturity. An example: our 18th wedding anniversary: I bought her a new beautiful vase with very nice flowers and a card to express my love to her. I couldn't get them to her as she was flying in. I put them on our table and she got home before me. Later I got home and my daughters were there when she asked me what the flowers were for. My daughter said in disbelief "mommy don't you know?" She said "no." My daughter reminder her that it was our anniversary. She had completly forgotten and kinda blew it off as insignificant. This and many other callous behaviors (dozens of "occasions") have given me an intuition that she just doesn't give a damn about me or our marriage.

BTW, if she divorces me, I'm double screwed because I will be fired from my job soon after the divorce, no questions asked. Don't ask, just believe me. With no job, custody would surely be in her favor. I'd have no leg left to stand on and she knows this. In fact, I think that's the only reason she's been holding back, she'd feel guilty for destroying a man's whole life when he's done nothing but be good and gentle to her.

Update 3/21: My wife has affirmed plans to separate or divorce. She also has demanded that I change my job so that when she leaves I won't get fired. ?? It just looks like she wants me to switch jobs so she can easily and without guilt, divorce me. If she divorces now, I lose my job, and my ability to support our two children. Is my job the only thing keeping her from divorcing? She saw a counselor alone. No help for me. The lady told my wife that divorcing me was a good thing for her. And the counselor didn't even try to look into inner conflicts.

Looks like I'm screwed: I'll lose wife, family, job, home, and in the  social circles I'm in, I'll definitely be a divorced outcast (read loser). Somehow that just isn't fair to someone who has tried his hardest to make things right. God help me.


dogwood dogwood
41-45, M
11 Responses Feb 16, 2008

Have you looked at this development from the otherside of the looking glass? I know that the potential pain and suffering will be great, but it is momentary compared to the chronic and toxic situation which you have endured. Sometimes we are shown a way forward which isn't what we expected. I'm not saying that should you divorce, things will be easy. In fact based on what you've shared, things will be extremely awful - but there can be an end in sight and the possibility of a happier future for you is greater. Just my opinion. Whatever you decide, stay well.

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I should have known their is alot more to it. I have to say, based on what you have shared you have lived quite an examplary life with an exceptional degree of faithfulness and perseverance. I dont know if my wife will improve. But if she does not, behaving as you have is my goal. I am blessed with a wife who is courageous enough to deal with her issues, but i am scared they are overwhelming and she may give up. I know i should do everything i can to support and encourage her, but instead i throw temper tantrums and get depressed. (i posted my story it explains more). This site is helping me realize some things. I am going to a counselor next week too. He has been through it too, and if he is not a Godsend i dont know what is. Thank you for your prayers. I am praying for you now. Hope the counseling goes well for both of you.

Jack,<br />
Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate the time you took to respond. Well things have developed rather badly. Yesterday she said this "isn't a phase I'm going through, I'm serious." She doesn't want to work things out. But I have repeatedly, kindly, gently, tried to. Intimacy isn't the only issue for her. She refuses to give it another go as you suggest. I specifically asked. I think there are some deeper buried issues she's never shared with me. There's angst there. She has agreed to talk to a counselor alone. So maybe that will help. As things stand, it looks like she has chosen to throw in the towel. She doesn't want to destroy my career. I think she understands that isn't in her best interest, esp with two children. I'm disillusioned and bewildered. I ask for your prayers. Know that you have mine. I am getting some counseling this week. <br />
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As for your situation, if your wife is willing to try, then you are far better off. My wife has never ever done anything to try to improve or "work on" our relationship. I exercise good listening and communication skills, but she short circuits when I ask her a simple clarification question in intentionally sympathetic or neutral toned voice. If your wife is willing to work on things, by all means, encourage her. Let her go to conferences, or workshops, or retreats, or get books and tapes, or whatever. It will be worth it.

Brother, hate to blow your cover but I have to guess you teach at a seminary. I could be wrong. I go to one right now. I thank you for sharing your story. I am at the beginning of a similar story of my own. We are on year three of marriage, and it has been around 8 months since we've had sex. Before that "uphill battle" is an accurate description. I do not see it getting better anytime soon. My wife has some serious issues. She actually tries to work on them, but really seems to be stuck. So seeing how Im half your age and only beginning to understand how you have felt all these years, you'd think Id ask you for pointers or something, but being the arrogant student I am I have to say this: I know she has been an absolute b%#$% but if now she actually seems interested in intimacy, and acts as though she wants to split for that reason, then perhaps it would make the most sense to give it a shot. Because i have been there and am there now, I know that you have endured COUNTLESS hours enduring the pain of this and trying to make it happen...the best years of your life. So I have to think that if you have endured all that you have, then wouldnt it be throwing it all away to not take her up on her offer? Would it not be the ultimate victory to have endured all this hardship, and to prevail in your goal? Youve been faithful all this time(and I dont know if i will be aqs good as you have been im only 26), and I understand that at the same time you must be tempted to hate her guts. But from over here if you refuse to give her another shot at intimacy now, and she leaves...it would seem to me that all that God-honoring effort would not be duly honored. I mean, she could be full of sh%T. You might say, "ok honey lets give it a shot" and she turns you down again because she is crazy. But its not going to kill you, because you have endured decades of this, you know the drill. Just my thoughts. I put "sexless marriage hell" into the google search engine and this is what i found.

I really thank you all for your input. This is hard to discuss with people I know, friends etc. It could make things worse since they love my wife too. Who knows. Uncharted waters for me. <br />
Nerdoleptic you are right about the complications. My girls are 14 and 16 and hypersocial. To move them would bring lots of unforeseen problems that as a father I don't want them to deal with. Hyman, I probably could land a new job, but like Nerdoleptic said, who knows where. Really, the girls are my primary concern. I want them to be stable. If my wife moves forward with her threat, I'll have to start some defensive strategies. I'll probably start insisting on counseling, but that's a coin toss with her attitude.

Well, Hyman, proximity to the two teen daughters might be the crux of the issue. If she can get him fired, that likely means he would need to move to another town or state - wherever he gets his best job offer. Then of course, it's going to be quite sporadic, how often he sees the girls.<br />
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Although, with the mom being a world traveler and being gone that much, they might just award YOU custody, Cityzen. Then you'd have to drag the girls...kicking and screaming, probably, to your new academic setting. It IS crappy timing, that's for sure. Are they young teens, or almost graduating HS?

You've defined the boundaries of your situation. In some ways it's unique, but mostly, it's not. And functionally, you are faced with the same decision the rest of us are. <br />
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So act. Or don't. Your move.

with a phd and college teaching experience, i am sure you will find another job. i hope you have enough assets to take care of your kids. if your wife leaves you at your age you will not have trouble finding a lady-friend. check the demographics. i believe you will be better off in a year if you divorce happens. your wife needs individual counciling for her grief. check with the psychology folks at your university for some help for both of you. use your obvious intelligence and connections to help your situation. good luck

So what is she, the provost of your college or something? How can she get you fired? And what would be the point of that (doesn't she want you to be able to contribute to the daughters' welfare?)<br />
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I don't have any constructive advice for you, but I sympathize for the ugly situation you find yourself in, and wish you the best of luck in navigating it. It is awful that she can turn this around and make you look like the one who doesn't want sex, after all these years. .

WOW - that sux. My wife does this in a much smaller way - i try and try and she pushes me away - then after i give up she comes cross with the "you don't touch me" routine. - your situation is very much more magnified - i hope it works out for you. - my advice is to get another job lined up and then bolt!!!!!!!

My heart breaks for you. Maybe you can contest the divorce and drag it out for so long that it becomes more of a pain for her than it is for you.