When To Leave A Sexless Marriage?

Am I afraid? Or am I hanging onto values drilled into me all my life such as commitment and responsibilities and using them as an excuse? How many of you have stayed in a sexless marriage because of uncertainty, whether that uncertainty is due to fear of hurting those closest to you in your life, including the spouse with whom you have lived this sexless marriage, or because of the belief you have to live up to commitments and responsibilities? I ask myself these questions every day.

I've been married for 35 years, married young. While dating my wife was usually reluctant when it came to physical intimacy. Being naive I thought this was natural and would change after we were married. Boy was I ever wrong. We've always remained friends, even though many of our interests are very different. To all accounts everyone thought we had a perfect marriage. However, when it came to sex, once a month was and has always been her limit. Even less in recent years, but then after so many years of hearing no, I've gotten to the point that I don't care nor have interest, at least on the home front - see below. We've discussed her lack of interest many times over the years, but to her it wasn't a problem. Like many of you I tried reading books and watching tapes on how to be a better lover, tried all the romance recommendations, essentially I wanted to make this work any way that I could and thought maybe it was my own lack of experience and skill. After our kids were off to college, I told her we needed to work this out or I was leaving her due to the lack of sex and physical intimacy. I suggested counseling, she didn't think we needed it. So I went alone for 6 months. Finally I interviewed lawyers and told her I was leaving. She begged me to stay, family pressure was brought to bear - good Catholic family hence the lifelong values - and she agreed to go to counseling with me. Surprise, surprise sex finally appeared in our marriage, but it sure felt like desperation sex - not too much can be worse than desperation sex. Counseling seemed to work for a while but slowly she went back to her old ways of lack of interest. I continued to blame myself and maybe a lack of skills causing her ambivalence towards sex. But after years of being hit on by women, I finally had an affair about seven years ago. I'll leave it with two comments on this experience, lack of skills didn't seem to be the issue and I found out what I was really, really missing. Eventually we relocated to be closer to her parents and take care of them as they are aging, and so my past affair came to an end. But I really missed those feelings of intimacy and eventually found another lover who I am currently seeing and who I have fallen in love with. I often think of leaving my marriage and have even spoken to an attorney but have failed to pull the trigger. Whether leaving would lead to a life with my current lover is uncertain as is any future, but if I leave it has to be for my happiness, not for another woman, or am I being naive?

Regardless, here's the issue and what I struggle with every single day. My wife comes from a small dysfunctional family. She is the only one who can take care of her aging parents. Her one sibling has her own personal challenges. My family, which is quite large, has become her family. I am also her best friend, and she has very few close friends. If I leave her, and pursue my own happiness, she will be taken care of economically, she is entitled to that. However, it is her emotional well being that has such a hold over me. I know her well enough that she will likely fall into depression - I'm not saying this or because I am banging my own drum. I'm saying this because I know how she has reacted before when I brought up discussion of and pursued a divorce. I also know she will look into the future and see her parents eventually gone and feel alone, especially as she will lose to some degree the depth of the relationships with my family. She will still have the relationship with our children, but trust me, she will be in despair as she has been very reliant on me throughout our marriage. It's just her personality. I know I am rambling a bit but I find myself consumed with the guilt I would feel by not living up to my commitment and responsibilities as a husband. I am constantly balancing this internal argument with myself knowing at the same time while I stay in this marriage I know I am not living up to my commitment and responsibilities to myself to ensure my own happiness. I do love my wife, but, yep here comes that common statement, I am no longer in love with her, nor have I been for a long time. I feel trapped by my commitments and responsibilities and can't seem to exit the trap. And to add a little more complexity to all of this, recently my wife has shown a little interest in sex, primarily because I am traveling on business so much and she is worried that I may be seeing someone. Yes, she has asked, and yes, I have denied it. Regardless, her overtures are too little too late and I am no longer interested in her physically. I'm sure many of you have similar situations or have lived them. I honestly feel caught in the middle. Your thoughts???
StayorGo1861 StayorGo1861
56-60, M
10 Responses Aug 28, 2012

IsAnyoneHappy,<br />
Thank you for your post. It seems to be a very common theme amongst the feedback that I have received of living your life and being responsible for one's own happiness. Clearly many have done so and haven't regretted doing so. It's great to hear from so many and get such support. I haven't made my decision yet, but the feedback is extremely helpful. Thanks.

I feel your pain.<br />
I managed 13 years of marriage and have recently stepped away leaving two young children, who I know it is difficult for, but I also know they will adapt and be better for it long term.<br />
<br />
Lots of stories here helped a great deal.<br />
<br />
But what I realised is:<br />
We are only here once, life is not a dress rehearsal.<br />
I didn't want to wake up in 10 or 5 or even 1 year from now and regret still being miserable.<br />
I am responsible for my own happiness, no one else.<br />
<br />
Good luck

I think you are right. I am in the beginning of the story you wrote... I should have understand the warning signs: she dress very conservatively, does not like to kiss, and so on.<br />
Since her pregnancy we did not have penetrative sex, two years. Only some petting, maybe twice a week but never daytime. <br />
I think that you should not leave. You are not that kind. Neither am I.<br />
We have this life for some unseen ununderstandable reason but you, my fried, made a promise 35 years ago. Keep it. Maybe you die tomorrow but will die with clean soul (not mentionning your affairs, but those are over, hopefully) regarding your really horror sexless life. I would do the same just without the affair.

Wow! I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of folks who responded. Being new to the site I wasn't sure of what to expect, or quite frankly, if all I would get is ridiculed for wanting to leave my marriage. Trust me if you don't already know this, there are other sites and that was my experience. I've also sought counseling but most counselors seemed biased that virtually every marriage can be saved, especially if your marriage isn't one in which you are in a knock down, drag out fight. It seems they believe if you love someone you should be able to fix the marriage. I believe you can love someone but it doesn't mean you can be happy with them- I didn't sign up to live with my sister. Two very different philosophies. You have all given me honest, non-judgemental opinions, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. You've also given me plenty to think about and consider, in many cases similar to my own thoughts, but a reconfirmation that I am not being a selfish *** helps. :-) <br />
<br />
SuntObosit, I am curious as to why you are in the same position. Can you share why you find it hard to leave? Thanks.

Your indecision is probably because this is a really hard and life changing decision. It's ok to take some time to decide. And I applaud you for wanting to fulfil your responsibilities to your spouse. You can continue to be supportive and inclusive and 'there' for the mother of your children. Whether she wants that support is another story and entirely her decision. <br />
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You have made your needs clear. She has been unwilling or unable to help you (sounds like a bit of both). Is this the way you want to spend the rest of your life?

Your story reads to me like the marriage is to all intents and purposes, dead.<br />
<br />
The real issue is if you want to formalise that reality by a physical parting to confirm the emotional parting which has already happened.<br />
<br />
Your story reads to me like that is exactly what you want, but are held up by concerns for your missus' mental well being should she have to put on her big girl panties and face the consequences of her actions.<br />
<br />
I offer you these observations -<br />
<br />
- #1 - that none of is are as important in a relationship as we think we are. (that is NOT a typo, NONE of us) and the likelyhood is that your missus would cope just fine as your ex missus.<br />
<br />
- #2 - that these areas of concern (like her parents care) and suchlike are things you can still be supportive of and involved in from a position of being her ex husband.<br />
<br />
What you are after, by my reading of your story, is essentially to be unmarried to her, but to still be involved in her life as a supportive person, a person who has years of history with her, still loves her in a real way (albeit not in a spousal way).<br />
<br />
Put your thinking cap on. These issues you have raised can be managed. All the things you want - to be unmarried to her, to still be a supportive influence in her life - are NOT mutually exclusive. These issues are only a roadblock if you choose them to be.<br />
<br />
Tread your own path.

We are all responsible for the consequences our life choices bring us. Your wife is responsible for the choices and subsequent consequnces on her continued desire to with hold sex in the marriage. <br />
<br />
Stay Strong & Good Luck

No choice comes without its share of pain or consequences. Right now, you have already chosen...to stay in limbo and your wife is trapped there too. One life to live.

I wish I had some advice for you. All I can really say is that your story is so like mine that it's scary. There are differences of course, but the similarities far outweigh them. Even our ages and the number of years we've been marriad are the same. I wish you luck.

It sounds to me like you have already made the choice .. Just deal with the emotions and it will be ok. Your first priority is to yourself. You are not responsible for how others react emotionally just your own choices and your own emotion .. Take care of you.

Angelina, I wish I could feel as if I am not responsible for the emotions of others. That is really the crux of the problem for me. I have struggled with this issue for years. I look at others who have gone through divorce and they make it look easy. I know it isn't, but they sure do make it look that way. Ironically my indecisiveness is so unlike my everyday personality. Thank you for your feedback.

I believe we are responsible for our impact on others.