This isn't at all what I expected.

When I decided to begin posting on this forum, I imagined I would get a few generic words of encouragement ("hey, I hope everything works out for you"), take a few hits ("what kind of moron would stick around as long as you have?"), and maybe even get targeted by some spammers ("with this pill, you can increase your size and win back your girl!").

What I wasn't expecting was actual advice - and I wasn't expecting that advice to be mostly on the side of leaving my marriage. put things in perspective...people who decide to post on ILIASM tend to be already at the end of their ropes, so to speak - that is to say, posting here seems to be what many folks do when nothing else has worked. So it might make sense that a good number of those who have visited these shores have found that the best solution to their situation is to move on, having already exhausted other available options.

I know what moving on looks like - the good and the not-so-good - because I've done it before. And to be perfectly honest...I'm afraid.

In my professional life, I tend to be kind of fearless. I take chances. I put my work out there in a big way. I'm good under pressure. I'm that guy.

But when it comes to ending relationships, I'm a wimp.

So...what am I afraid of?

Well, the short answer is that I seem to be completely allergic to hurting someone else's heart - so much so, that I make avoiding the possibility of causing pain WAY more important than my own happiness.

So that's one thing.

Another thing I'm apparently afraid of is change.

I like my home. I like my current financial situation, which thankfully for the moment is very solid. I like that my kids have stability. I like many things about my life. And I'm afraid that if I make this change, things will be worse - for everyone.

But especially for me. What if I don't like my life as much afterwards?

Those of you who have been through it say that your lives are so much better now that you have moved on from your sexless marriages. Even with the guilt (over children, let's say). And the struggles with the ex over finances. And the lawyer bills. And the loss of the home you loved. After all of that - life is better.

When I think about a life that includes a happy, regular sexual relationship with a loving partner, I feel very hopeful. But what if I come to find that after all the hurt, the change, the financial hits - that it wasn't worth the cost?

That question really scares me the most.

So I'm did those of you who moved on deal with that fear? Do any of you have any regrets?
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25 Responses Feb 6, 2013

I would rather die than give up the hope of ever having a loving sexual relationship again.

Asked for divorce at the end of September.
Decided to try polyamory.
Monogamy ended up being so painful.
So it seemed logical enough to try open polyamory for a couple of years.

...Am now engaged in all the relationships I have time for. Woot.

I understand your fear. I have it too. I have been married for 25 years. I'm doing the work now, I hope to find the strength to stand up on my own and find and claim my happiness. I know for sure I won't find it where I am now.

"When I think about a life that includes a happy, regular sexual relationship with a loving partner, I feel very hopeful." ....that is the realty, isn't it? The HOPE that we keep in our hearts that there can be a happy life for us, if only, we could overcome our own fears. It took me a long time to admit my fears were keeping me in my marriage.

There is another person in my life who uses this reason for staying in his marriage.
.... "It's about you avoiding a bit of pain. It ain't directly about the pain it might cause her, it's about the pain it might cause YOU."

Thank you Baz for always being cut and dry without any BS. This is the truth of the matter.

yea that is a great analysis. Aren't all decisions made with uncertainty as to the outcome which breeds fear. I imagine your decisions at work have different consequences than decisions in a marriage. For instance, the currency you risk in marriage involves mental and emotional stability of people besides yourself, and likely, people you care (or have cared) deeply about and have pledged to protect and defend. Risking money or time, the currency of work, is fungible but risking the currency of marriage can make you feel you are going to screw up lives in ways you can't control.

Be wise and consider wise counsel. It might also be screwing up peoples lives staying in an unhealthy situation.

" did those of you who moved on deal with that fear? Do any of you have any regrets?"

I can't recall reading comments from anyone here who has left and has regrets. Nor can I recall anyone saying they wish they'd waited longer to leave.

There are a few, very few, ILIASM members who believe they have salvaged their marriage, and those cases seem to be ones where their partner has the same goal and is willing to put in equal effort for the marriage. Very few.

Keep reading.

I think "sancibancii's" reply below is worth a very good re-read of.

If your decision making process is being driven by being "completely allergic to hurting someone else's heart - so much so, that I make avoiding the possibility of causing pain WAY more important than my own happiness" then you truly do have a problem.

It is essentially a very selfish position you take. You don't want to feel bad, so you make the "easy" short term call to which is really all about you avoiding feeling bad, when clearly this choice is NOT in your longer term best interests. It is short term and selfish.

I'm not suggesting that you change your choice - that is entirely your business. But I am suggesting - strongly - that you be honest with yourself about your reasons for making the choice. It's about you avoiding a bit of pain. It ain't directly about the pain it might cause her, it's about the pain it might cause YOU.

Tread your own path.

This is SO true.
Last night I was discussing something with my husband - some decision he made about something involving one of our kids and how his decision didn't really produce positive results.
This turned into a disagreement with me saying something like "Well, it isn't my fault. *I* never make ANY decisions relating to this." And he said "Yes, I know. You refrain from making any decisions regarding this so you can never be blamed for the outcome."
Well, that was a wake up call.
If you think you are doing the same kind of thing- it's time to take a good look at yourself because well.. it's a total sissy move. (And I'm talking about me, too! lol)

Wish to clarify. Where I said yours is a selfish short term choice Brother AMM, it was not intended to be a personal criticism of YOU, rather it was directed at ALL of us - me included - to really get down to the truth of your real motivations in ones decision making.

I remember when I first started reading the stories on here (before I wrote my husband the letter and posted on here). When I found this site, I thought "Okay, probably another group of people telling each other to try scented candles, dress sexier and do more dishes."
Boy was I wrong! I actually found a group of people who truly UNDERSTOOD. I mean.. deeply. They lived this life WITH me.
It was such a comfort.

So I think it's lucky that you found yourself here. After awhile you're going to see yourself through their eyes and you'll be able to start making some decisions. There's no rush. Just look at this as a self awareness journey.

being afraid to hurt someone else .... hmm... it is always better in life to be honest.. and if it makes people cry... then sorry...
what you do now... is living in your own lie.. and hurting yourself.. and in the end double hurting your partner.
stop being selfish.... and go on in life.

Take back control of your life from the emotional pygmy that is your present partner!! I did it and I haven't regretted it, not for one single second. I do regret wasting as much time as I did trying to 'work on things' and 'get back on track' and all that other rubbish that people seem to believe will work. It doesn't - don't waste your time. I know how hard it is, believe me, and I know it's easier to drown slowly as you are now - please, start planning and get the hell out and join the living again x

I lived in a sexless marriage for some 18 years.
Sure, there had been sex - enough to breed two lovely daughters but in the bedroom I always had to be the instigator and refused continually. I could never decide whether she was lesbian, asexual or just plain did not fancy me.
Now, I'm going to bring love into the frame. I felt that I had enough love for both of us and that I could always make everything OK. Somewhere along the way I sought and got sex outside the marriage which was a wonderful boost to my ego .. Wow, a female found me attractive and did not push me away!
There were endless rows and sulks. To go away on holiday just meant change of backdrop for same old but more expensively.
My extra-marital liaison got discovered. We continued together, after all, what had really changed .. she seldom spoke to me, didn't have sex with me anyway.
The crunch came when my mother was close to death and she said that the only way in which she'd agree to have my children visit their granny was if I moved out when we returned home. That was enough. I felt that I no longer wanted to be with any woman who could place that kind of ultimatum on me. I left, with little.
I asked her what she wanted to make her really happy.
She said she wanted the house, and everything in it, for me to continue to pay the mortgage and to pay maintenance for the children. Against my solicitor's advice, I did all that.
I did not want to uproot the children from the home, so I moved in with a girlfriend, made the house over to my wife, continued to pay mortgage plus maintenance and even returned at her request to do maintenance on the property. She drove the kids against me.
In about 1988, I left her with a house worth upwards of £100k with a £20k mortgage, to which I continued payments for many years.
(Thanks to the internet, I discovered that it sold a few years ago for £642,500.)
I left the girlfriend with whom I was living and moved in with a younger model (with whom I am still friends, 20 years later.) I had another marriage for some 6 years then met my third wife, the one for whom everything has been worthwhile.
She took me on as someone who had little wealth or possessions and we have the best relationship anyone could wish. Great, daily sex life. Fun, fun, fun. Never a cross word. real soul-mates. We spend our life wanting the rest of the world to find the same happiness!
The last time I saw one of my children was 1995 and some while before that for the other. No contact. Not my wish but theirs. In 1995, we got their mother 'sectioned' - detained under the mental health act, but they released her after two weeks.
Summary - don't waste your life thinking that you can mend something you cannot.
Good luck. Try hard to keep a relationship with the kids.

I am so sorry you have to go through this. It seems as your battle is really with your own heart. In my opinion I think that when you are in love with someone being sexual is part of the fun of trusting in them. I'm sure you have exhausted every angle so I guess you have to make a choice on what is going to work for you and your family. I say good luck to you because either way someone is getting hurt. One of my good friends went through the same situatuion and he listened to gordon lightfoot a lot.

sounds like your sharing my boat....your exactly where i am afraid to make the first step or to hurt the other persons feelings, reasonably content but want it to be better, everything would be ok if the other half wasnt in the equation but dont know how to deal with that...i love my home i love my whole life ....unfortunately i dont feel the same for my partner...i love him in a way but im happier when hes out...we are like lodgers living in the same house....but i dont want to hurt him ....and i think he is kind of the same....i totally know where your coming from....far to scared to take that first step into the single life...even if the promise is happiness.

I find that I am staying in my marriage for the same reasons - I am very afraid of change. Financially I would start all over. My kids would lose their dad, or at a minimum would have to start planning their weekends around whether or not its me or him. I would have to move, sell the house, where would the dogs go? The kids would lose the dogs almost for sure, renting is usually not conducive to dogs. Anyhow. Different problems - sex not the issue - but SAME problems in the end. What to do what to do.....

i hear you......sounds like there are a lot of us in this boat...:(

It is possible to come up with all sorts of reasons to stay. A perusal of the last 20 stories would give you appropriate examples. "He's a great bloke otherwise". "My religion is against leaving" "what about the kids" "Can't leave until I finish school" etc etc etc.

YOUR position is that you are desparately unhappy in the environment. When you are desperately unhappy ENOUGH, that trumps everything else.

"So tell me punk, in all this excitement I plum forgot whether I've fired 5 'get a lawyers', or six. So punk, are ya feelin' desperately unhappy enough ? Well are ya ???" (apologies to Lt Harry Callaghan)

Tread your own path.


I found a book most useful when I was in a marriage conundrum-- It was called "Too Good to Leave, To Bad to Stay" (or something very similar-- it should come up in Amazon. I was in a sexless marriage too, and made due with maturbating because I'd lost all desire for my spouse, which I know was hard on him. We didn't have kids, so that was one last factor. We've both moved on to far more sexually satisfying relationships, each with a partner who has the attraction, but also offers real love, commitment, and companionship. By splitting up, we're allowed to be who really are. We're still great friends. As far as kids go, age makes a big difference. The 8-12 year olds are most vulnerable. If you think it's likely that you and your wife can be amicable and not criticize one another to the kids, that's all to the good. I think a stable, loving parenting style can happen after divorce. I know so many people who have pulled it off, and friends who were the product of divorce who grew up happy, productive, and well adjusted. Going through my divorce was the most painful thing I've ever experienced, but now, two years later, I can see it was better for both of us. Kids fear being sidelined for a new fancy partner; as long as they know you're their dad and they are at the top of your priority list, it could work out fine. If your marriage is sexless, I can't help but wonder if you wife feels some dissatisfaction as well.

I hate refusers. They make their most heinous acts seem practically invisible.

I gotta disagree about the kid's age timeframe....I think that (8-12) may be the BEST time to make a change, if divorce is inevitable (as it was for me)....they are young enough to trust, but old enough to understand relationships....just my 2 cents...

People who refuse to have sex? It's tough. I felt bad about it all the time. When he cheated on me, I forgave him because I knew I'd contributed to the problem. But on the other hand, we own our own bodies, and there were problems with trust and responsibility that no amount of talking could work out. I should have seen it as the bad sign that it was. Re: kids age- 6 or younger, they don't fully comprehend. 14 and up, they're beginning to be more independent. It's the age between when they're not really old enough to understand and they are old enough to have great fear and anger they don't know what to do with. But again, I think parents can handle these things with grace and care and not mess their kids up.

"But what if I come to find that after all the hurt, the change, the financial hits - that it wasn't worth the cost?"

What if you come to find that after all, staying wasn't worth the cost?

Staying has costs too.

Why don't you set up a flow chart to help you figure out where the debits and credits truly lie? Facts only please. Like, on one side: divorce = x amount alimony, child support, etc. Stay = no sex, no companionship, etc.

Oh and I second the comment below about "nice guys", my EX was too nice to say anything about his needs as well, apart from general passive aggressive bullsh*t like pushing me away and refusing anything sexual....

Ok so here's a thought for your to think about. Not answer here but ponder. You say your allergic to hurting others feelings. Why do you think so lowly of yourself and your happiness? It's not being selfish or mean to admit something is not working , end it and move on and allow the other person to move on as well.

Everyone is afraid of change. Change takes us out of our comfort zone. But change is growth. It's hard at first but once you get going it's liberating, exciting and new.

What or who would you be in you were not in this relationship? What do you daydream about?

Ok so what if you don't like your life afterwards? You can be in control of it and change it. If your not happy now what's the difference really beyond your keeping yourself in a sort of jail and not attempting to be free. Which can be a little scary which goes back tot he whole change thing.

Everyone has to make the choices that are right for them. Really think about what the cost is to yourself to stay in an unhappy relationship.

I am in a sexless relationship with an alcoholic. I sat for a long time being afraid untill change was forced upon me and I was terrified. Now I am working my own path and finding my own way but the change part was and still is scary. I am stil in the relationship but working on taking care of me and my needs which is helping me with the confidence to love myself more and be more honest daily to look at what I need vs what the other person needs.

I hope that makes sense.

Wishing you happiness how ever you find it.

Relate to being allergic to hurting someone -- especially if it's one's wife -- and especially if one hurt someone real bad almost 20 years ago and she wasn't even your wife. By the way, that old flame and I were about 50 at the time. That's when it hurts. The 30s have more time to recover.

Well its hard for people 2 understand how it makes u feel unless they are going thru a sexless marriage themselves AMusicalMind I know how it feels cuz im going thru it myself

AMM, when I came here I didnt like any of the options. They truly do sucketh. BUT seems like your situation is not roses either. I kept trying things that never quite fixed the problem. I finally ran out of ideas and patience. You'll get wherever you need to go and you are on the right path.

AMM, it is a process. And one that takes most of us a LONG time. You are new here and confronted with all this at once. Take your time to process it. There is no reason to feel you "must" sort everything out at once.

Read a lot of stories. Take part in a lot of discussions on those stories. Read the stories that individual posters have written previously. Type in a word or phrase in the search section and see what comes up.

Gradually working your way through all this will allow you the time to decide hat YOU want to do.

For the moment, forget all the ringing endorsements from those who are out.

Stick to the testimony of the vast majority of those who are still "in".

Do any of them seem particularly happy and / or fulfilled ?

You choose to stay, then that's your future.

Tread your own path.

"I seem to be completely allergic to hurting someone else's heart - so much so, that I make avoiding the possibility of causing pain WAY more important than my own happiness."

Aw, shucks, this makes you sound like such a nice, sweet, considerate guy. Try this reframe:

"I'm too spineless to stand up for my own reasonable expectations."

Ooooo, not so flattering a self-portrait in that light. I am reacting strongly to your self-perception for a number of reasons. First, after all those years of guided introspection, have any of your therapists ever challenged you? It doesn't sound like it. So I am righteously indignant about professionals not exactly doing right by you

Secondly, this kind of "I'm just too darn terrific a person to hurt a li'l fly" talk sounds just like my own h. He's a real risk taker at work, too. But it took him 18 years of marriage to say something about how the hangers in our closet irritated him to distraction. Really? $40 cured that. And, frankly, that's $40 he could have spent to solve the issue himself long ago instead of being unconsciously nagged by it every day. If he couldn't admit to himself, or to me, his true emotions about the hangers, well, how much the moreso is he not admitting to himself in regards to bigger things?

Everyone has a dark side. My experience with my h. tells me that nice guys who don't really admit this part of themselves exhibit a great deal of secret meanness. So while this comment may be about me and my own situation, there's a parallel here that would be well considered if only to discard it as a possibility.

I recommend you read two of my stories:
"Walk a Mile in Their Shoes" and "The Empathy Trap".

I DEFINITELY had that fear. But I realized that my STBX would never change, so I had two choices: stay and accept things as is, or leave. And I couldn't accept them, so I had to end it. I was far more scared of being trapped in an unhappy marriage than I was being alone and possibly winding up in a happy one!

Unless you are the refuser, how can ending the marriage not be worth the financial hit?

AMM does not need to be a refuser. He may just become well-trained with years of refusal. Refusal is old; financial hit is a new prospect.

AMM, you claimed at one point that the financial aspects of a split were quite do-able for you. Were you bullshitting ?