Two Sexless Marriages, One Affair, One Divorce, And Who Knows What's Next

Hi everyone, this is my first time posting here. I apologize in advance for it being so long, but this is not an easy story to tell. Some of you will probably think this belongs on the "I Am the Other Woman” thread, but I wanted to post here because the story begins with my sexless marriage and because after reading your stories, my hope is that many of you will be able to relate to what I’ve been through and have empathy rather than judging me.

My husband and I were married for 10 years, and things were going downhill for many of those years for a variety of reasons, a lack of sex being only one of many. However, we also have three children, which made divorce unthinkable to me for much of that time.

My husband suffered from a variety of sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction and a greatly diminished interest in sex due to longstanding issues with untreated depression; he also suffered from a great deal of insecurity and anger surrounding those issues. I understand that it is a spouse’s responsibility to stand by their partner in such a situation, but the problem was that my husband refused to communicate with me about any of it, refused to seek treatment for his depression, and even blamed me for the problems. I went to great lengths to “spice things up” for us, believe me, including lingerie, suggestive requests, "sexting," and just plain coming on to him as often as possible (I am not at all shy when it comes to sex), but none of it made any difference. We also tried couples therapy, but that only seemed to make things worse: the therapist was more focused on teaching me to come to peace with the situation than on encouraging my husband to open up to me about his issues. (She told me to exercise more to “get rid of my unwanted sexual energy,” which made me furious – my sexual energy is NOT unwanted, at least not by me! My sexual energy is a beautiful, healthy, and unique aspect of my being that should be nurtured and cherished, not something to be gotten rid of! She also suggested that I get a “booty call” ... but I’ll get to that in a bit.)

Although we never got to a point where there was absolutely no sex, by the end we had dribbled down to once every 3-4 months or so – definitely not enough for me. We would often attempt sex, getting me all hot and bothered, only to have things flounder during foreplay or to have him say he wasn’t really interested at the moment. (He once told me he felt “blasé” about making love to me – one of the most hurtful moments of my life.) These failed attempts left me feeling humiliated, angry, and in tears of pure frustration – to which my husband usually responded that I was “overreacting.” Although my friends sometimes laughed when I said so, I was not joking when I said that my horniness was literally driving me crazy and becoming almost physically painful. In a marriage that was already very troubled by communication and intimacy issues of all kinds, this situation left me feeling desperate and as if I was drowning in loneliness.

For the record (and not that it matters, as I know this situation was NOT my fault), while I may not be a model, I am an attractive and fit woman with a nice figure who enjoys getting dressed up and looking sexy for her man – this was not a problem caused by me changing physically or “letting myself go.”

So, last summer after a great deal of angry discussion, my husband agreed to let me see other people “if that is what I needed to be happy.” I never did so, however, partly because I just didn’t meet anyone to my liking and partly because I knew he wasn’t truly ok with it – he was being spiteful and mean to me about petty things around the house, and I knew it was because he was resentful about our “arrangement.” So I let him know that I was calling the agreement off, and also that I hadn’t been with anyone else. However, I also told him that it was very, very important to me that he talk to me about his feelings about the situation. (As unfair or stupid as it may sound, there was a part of me that was hurt that he had agreed to the arrangement – why wouldn’t he make an effort to give me what I needed so that we didn’t have to get to that point? Why was he willing to let me be with other people rather than try to figure out how to make love to me more often himself?) He said he didn’t really know how he felt at that time. I said fair enough, but could he please put some thought into it and talk to me about it later.

Well, long story short, he never did talk to me about it, and to me, that was sort of the last straw – it seemed like he just didn’t really care what I did, or at least not enough to be open with me about what was going on with him. At that point, I decided I was going to meet someone else.

And again long story short, I did. About a month later I met a man who was also in a sexless marriage – he and his wife had not had sex for more than a year at the time when we met. We had instant, insanely powerful sexual chemistry, although we did not become lovers right away. But it went far beyond sex. Firstly, we had such a deep understanding about and empathy for what the other was going through – that we weren’t just selfish, horny ********, that living in sexless, loveless marriages had left us both lonely beyond words and starving just to be held and touched and seen, not just for sex. Both of us also have children and therefore understood how trapped the other felt – that we couldn't escape to freedom and happiness in our lives without doing terrible damage to the people we loved the most in the world. As we got to know each other more deeply, we also found that beyond our particular situations at that moment in time, we had a great deal in common and seemed quite compatible in general, far more so than we were with our spouses (both of us were in “opposites attract”-type marriages wherein the attraction had long since faded).

We made an agreement that while neither of us wanted a broken family, we could be “secret friends”—which yes, meant “friends with benefits,” but also so much more than that. We really did become each other’s best friends, just having fun together, talking about everyday life, our children, etc., and being there for each other when things were ugly at home. At that time, our agreement seemed like the very best thing in the world to me – someone I could be open and intimate with both sexually and emotionally without having to tear about my children’s family, a way for me to get my needs met without getting a divorce.

Long story short again, the two of us soon fell deeply in love and also began a passionate physical love affair that has been the best sex either of us has ever had. He got married very young and has said that he has never before experienced the kind of sexual freedom and openness that we have together. (Even before things went sour in their marriage, he says his wife was never very into sex and generally liked it to be over as quickly as possible.) But beyond the sex, we just have a level of intimacy and openness together that neither of us has ever experienced. And we also were both so unspeakably relieved to be free of the crushing loneliness we had been living with – he said (and I agree) that we “saved each other.” He had been wishing someone would just "put a bullet in his head and put him out of his misery" for some time, while I was feeling as though my life was over, that I only existed to take care of other people – and now suddenly we both had someone who loved us and who we could love in return. It was bliss.

I know that for many of you, none of this will justify the fact that our relationship is an affair  – and I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind about that. But I also know there are those here who will understand exactly what I’m talking about and how easily someone could fall into such a situation when they have been unhappy and desperate for years.

Unfortunately (for me, at least), this was not a situation that could last. I am not good at pretending or keeping secrets, and it soon became obvious to my husband that something was up with me. What a tragedy for us that he only came to desire me when the sexual energy I was receiving from my new relationship had me all aglow, dancing and singing in the kitchen while I cooked, and generally just loving life! When he asked if I had been with someone else, I didn’t try to hide it – I just told him the truth. Long story short, we tried for a few weeks to make it work while I continued to see my boyfriend (as crazy as that sounds, he was willing to try to be in an open marriage), but no big surprise, it soon became obvious to me that it was just too late for us – I no longer loved my husband and didn’t *want* to try to love him again. I asked him for a divorce soon after.

I know many of you can relate to it when I say, aside from the issues surrounding the children (which break my heart on a daily basis), I am SO HAPPY to be free of my marriage. The more distance I get from the situation, the more amazed I am by how long I stayed when the relationship just wasn’t ever going to be healthy or happy for me. Going through the divorce is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and yet I am so proud of myself for finding the strength to do it – to take the hard road if that’s what I have to do to earn the life I deserve. I know I will be so strong when this is over, and that I will have a beautiful life even if it takes some time to get there.

The other side of the coin, however, is that my boyfriend is not ready to leave his wife. Please don’t get me wrong: I would never put any pressure on him to do so. I have INFINITE empathy for  the position he is in because I have been there myself. He loves his children dearly (he is a stay at home father and has basically lived for his children for many years). I understand all too well how god awful it is to feel as though you hold your own happiness in one hand and your children’s in the other, and that you can have one or the other but not both. It took me TWO YEARS from the time I first started thinking about it to finally work up the courage to ask for a divorce. I have never and WILL never ask him to leave his wife – in fact, I’ve even talked him into staying a few times because I’m concerned about his ability to handle what would happen next and because I don’t want to be the cause of his marriage ending. As my own divorce has progressed, I have cried in his arms knowing that I DO NOT want him to have to go through what I am enduring. (He says he knows he will have to someday, and that eventually it will all be ok, and I know that’s his choice, but I still can’t help feeling this way.)

But I also feel plain and simply torn with guilt a great deal of the time because of his wife. My emotions about it swing back and forth wildly – when he tells me that they don’t sleep in the same bed any more, that they never say I love you, that they don’t even kiss good night anymore, when I think about how unhappy he was for so many years, than I feel that if she doesn't want to, I should be able to give him what he needs, to love him and make him happy. But I know that if she ever finds out and their family implodes, none of that will justify what we have done. And I know that there are two sides to every story, that I don’t know her side of things, and that none of what he’s told me or experienced will justify our actions in her eyes.

I have tried to end our relationship before because of these feelings, and he has broken down in tears every time, begging me not to send him back to a life that feels like living death to him. (I know that sounds dramatic but I also know many of you know how real that feeling can be.) I have never had the strength to go through with it. I know this will all sound like a cop-out to many or even perhaps most of you, but ever since I met him and felt my own loneliness and hunger for life mirrored back at me through his skin, all I have wanted was to make him happy. He is so beautiful when he’s happy.

So, as we stand now, I am proceeding with my divorce as quickly as possible. My husband and I still live together for the moment (you can imagine how much fun that is, I’m sure), but I hope to be moving out with my children as soon as possible. I have made it clear to my boyfriend that while I have no exact timetable in mind and will NEVER ask him to change his situation to suit me, I won’t be able to be his mistress forever – that someday, when my own life is less complicated, when my children have recovered from the blow of the divorce, when I’m free to share my own bed with someone again, I will need him to (in his words) “**** or get off the pot.” For his part, he has said that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, but that it will take some time to make that happen. I try not to put too much faith into that one way or another -- it's what I want too, but for now I have to chart a path forward for my children and myself that will work entirely under my own steam. In other words, I want to be with him forever, but I can't and don't count on it.

So why am I writing this now? I guess because reading all of your experiences resonated so strongly with me and I just wanted to feel heard by people who might possible be able to understand. I know some of you may just want to attack me because of the adultery, and I guess I deserve that, but if you do decide to go that route, please know that I’ve already called myself all those names and had all those thoughts all on my own, so you can probably just save your breath. To the rest of you I send so much love -- whether you stay in your marriage or not, I wish you the strength to find your own path to happiness and peace. Know that you deserve to have your needs met, that you are a human being who deserves to be loved and touched and held. I’m going to get there someday soon too!
graciecat1 graciecat1
36-40, F
12 Responses May 1, 2012

"none of that will justify what we have done." why do do younhaveto justify it, and to whom? His wife does not care how it happened, just that her life will change. And anyway, it's not your problem. Get your ducks Ina row, get out and find the life you want. <br />
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He can do what he wants, what he needs to; you just got done "managing" an overgrown boy's life, why are you in such a hurry to do it again? Don't pressure him, but see him for what he is- when the ride ends, it's time to get off. Your story gives me hope, thank you for sharing.!

You are so brave and sencere....<br />
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I loved how you dealt with your dissapointments and how you dealt with high risk situations....<br />
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Keep it up girl;)

Your plan has plainly worked for you and you should be commended for your openness and approach to this important issue in your life. What is at issue her e and will continue to be for you is your friend nd' hesitancy in resolving his issues.<br />
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I get the impression here from your comments that his financial circumstance may preclude his ever becoming a part of your life in teh near future. Committing one wholeheartedly emotions to persons while still encumbered with the crushing demands of familial responsibilities is, at least from my perspective, a potential problem thta may never be solved adequately.. That is why I have for many years made divorce an absolute no issue when engaged in affairs. <br />
Dalliances can satisfy what we most need in our lives but when emotions are let loose the game plan changes dramatically.<br />
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You seem at a point where you are free as you originally planned to be but he is not and from my point of view you insistence thta he makes a decision will grow and further complicate a dilemma that appears to be in its early state of potential discord. Pressing him will merely change teh dynamics of your relationship I can assure you. However that being said no matter which way it goes you will still are free to seek out any new avenue thta may open for you.<br />
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I wish you all teh best and hope thta all will work out for you.

Hi,<br />
I trully understand what you are going through.<br />
I have sex with my wife once every 3 to 4 weeks, which is very hard for me.<br />
We have two great children, which I love them dearly.<br />
I hope that my picture will change one day for the better.<br />
I can asure you that there are many couple in the picture, more that what we think, which is very sad.

Thank you<br />
I understand all too well how god awful it is to feel as though you hold your own happiness in one hand and your children’s in the other, and that you can have one or the other but not both.<br />

Ask the boyfriend to detail his exact exit strategy from his sexless marriage. Request a full and frank disclosure of his exact plans, the landmark dates in the process, the strategies he has considered for the inevitable speed humps in the process.<br />
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If he can't come up with the detail of his exit strategy there and then, you can safely assume no such plan exists. And if no such plan exists then there is no intent on his part to be fully available for you.<br />
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And you would need to conduct yourself accordingly.<br />
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Tread your own path.

Thank you to everyone who is commenting here, every one means so much to me. I have been a lurker here for some time but didn't yet have the courage or the words to share my story. I'm so glad I finally did! I have been able to share my story with a few friends, but it is so different to interact with people who can actually understand the experience. Love and blessing to you all.

Hi there<br />
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No judgement from me either ! I have not had sex with my wife for nearly 7 years, mostly as a result of an illness which left her without any desire and me not willing to accept "duty sex". I think you have shown incredible patience with others and yourself, and it seems clear to me that you have no desire to hurt anyone.<br />
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I find it very difficult to leave after over 25 years of marriage to someone who, through no fault of her own, does not have the tools, inclination or desire to "fix" what is broken. She has no family and no other connections really except for a husband and daughter (who is grown up). I also dont have the heart (or the courage) to tell her that my needs are there and that I have on 2 occasions sought them elsewhere. I do agree with you in one respect - FWB does not work unless the other person IS your friend. The 2 brief "encounters" (I would not call them affairs because they did not last more than a night or 2) proved to me beyond doubt that this is about more than sexuality - it's about finding someone who understand.<br />
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I wish you all Godspeed<br />
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Congratulations on your strength to take action regarding your horrible situation. It is also possible that your boyfriend may never leave his wife, leaving you feling that yopu broke up your marriage for nothing. <br />
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Whatever happens dont feel that way. You have done well in seperating yourself from a sexless miserable marriage. If only more people here had your strentgh. <br />
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I wish you well for the future. You have some tough decisions ahead of you.<br />
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Stay Strong

Thank you for your response! I am definitely not leaving my husband for my boyfriend -- although the relationship helped me see things more clearly, I know I was headed down this road no matter what. Even if my boyfriend disappeared tomorrow, I would still be getting the divorce.

Thanks for your story. I'm heading down a similar path but neither of us has kids involved and neither of us wants to leave our spouse. Mine is ok with it hers, not so much.

Your FWB is torn between his love for you and his desire to "do the right thing" for his children. Introduce him to this forum. Encourage him to do as you have done and read the many stories and posts here. Encourage him to write his own story.<br />
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ILIASM is the help many of us have needed to see that our marriages are not only bad for us but that our children are also at risk from remaining in a toxic marriage situation. Whilst there are different schools of thought on this, it is nevertheless helpful to be aware of both.<br />
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Eventually you must decide if you can live a "half life" with your FWB who remains with one foot in two camps - or to cut him adrift and take the chance of finding true love with someone who will commit himself whole heartedly to you.<br />
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I would advise you NOT to be "endlessly patient" with your FWB because that gives him "permission" to stay exactly as he is. He needs to understand that your patience and understanding do not extend to living half a life so he can live a whole one! You have already done that once (albeit in different circumstances) and you do NOT need to do it all over again . . . !!!

I was thinking that you were too kind in giving your FWB so much time and I was also feeling guilty that I had not given my ex-lover the extensive consideration that you did. But maybe that was because I heard him talking to her in a sweet voice on the phone and he called her "honey" and all of a sudden I doubted him. Turns out that once I told him to **** or get off the pot, he showed his true colors. He refused to do either and would practically harass me with emails to persuade me to continue being his mistress (it really worked for him). Since then I am piecing together his wife's side of the story and the picture which is revealed is that he is controlling, just like my Refuser. I almost repeated the same mistake.

Thank you for your response! I have no intention of staying in this situation forever, but I also don't think it's right for me to ask for a change until I have something to offer in return -- a home and a life for us to build together -- and I won't be able to do that until my divorce is final and I feel confident that my children are stable and ready for me to move on. Until then, we are both living half lives, and I can't ask for more than I can give in return.

Thank you for your insights and sharing. I suspect a similar situation in my neck of the woods.

You won't find a lot of people who will attack you for outsourcing your needs here. Don't worry about that unless they are people from outside the ILIASM community who just wander in here. That occasionally happens. <br />
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The first half of your story about your SM, the ED, the freedom to go outside the marriage -- that is my story to a "t". It is so close to my story that I am going to need a few hours to sit with my emotions after reading your story before I can give a good clearheaded response because it struck so close to home. But I will tell you that you are not alone in any sense. I and many others here have been where you are and made hard choices like you are making.<br />
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Don't call yourself names. Around here many of us take the belief that our spouses broke their vows by unilaterally declaring the marriage sexless, negating "to have and to hold" well before we ever considered outsourcing. As one member put it the other day "It's cheating if you are pushing the spouse away by developing a relationship with someone else. If the spouse has already checked out of the marriage then there is no marriage to be unfaithful to."<br />
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Best to you. I will post more or PM you when I have my thoughts in order.

Hi, CWDYG! I don't feel guilty about cheating on my husband at all, and knowing that was a big part of how I finally came to the decision to leave -- obviously I no longer love him the way he deserves to be loved, either. But I do feel guilty about my boyfriend's wife. I believe their relationship was already over before I came along, but meeting me has pretty much destroyed any desire my boyfriend has to improve things with her. And just the obvious aspects of lying etc. don't sit right with me.

grace, I have a dear friend in a very similar situation. She hasn't met the wife personally and only relies on his accounting of the situation. There is such a powerful chemistry and desperation and understanding between my friend and this man. After years of being ignored and avoided, then there is this connection. My friend is in agony as she always stood on this high moral ground where she would never even consider a relationship with a man who is committed to someone else. Alas, it is so difficult. Because the man this married man who has spent years and years and years in a loveless marriage, devoid of any physical contact, just the thought of this man, the promise of his closeness sends her mind and senses into a whirlwind, filled with everything and so impossible to sort out. She pines for him waiting at his beck and call, like a loaded gun standing ready at the door, then sometimes hides because she can't bear the inevitable ending to their brief times, when they finally come together the joy, the pleasure, the lovemaking, the talking, the touching, the togetherness is like sunlight after a wicked cold storm. But then the agony of goodbye, when he rushes off off off back back back into his loveless world. Why must he rush? Why must he hurry home to an empty cold bed when I . . . I . . . I. . . stand right here warm, waiting wanting to love love love him? I bitter goodbyes. His children are grown but he is so afraid. so afraid of everything. Or maybe he is just saying this to fool .