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