Why We Should Leave Our Sexless Marriages

These are my thoughts on why people should NOT stay in sexless marriages.   These are my reasons - and not everyone will agree - but I hope this will stimulate others to comment.  

There are many people on ILIASM that feel "stuck" in their marriages and cannot see how to make their lives better. I hope this will resonate with some of them and help them to make a decision - one way or the other.

Sex (especially good sex!) IS a very important part of life.  I used to see articles about how important sex was for ones physical and mental health and skip over these because they made me feel uncomfortable.   13 years of no sex at all will do that to you . . .!

Sex is not just for the young, the beautiful, the physically fit or the "body beautiful" . . . It is for each and everyone of us.   Sure, you might need to make some adjustments as you grow older - depending on your own conditions - but EVERYONE can and should enjoy sex IMHO.  It makes me sad to read comments  from ILIASM posters who truly seem to think they will never be able to enjoy sex again . . .

Many people fear the loss of their hard won assets - home, cars, household goods and much more.   Many years of hard work and sacrifice have gone to acquiring these things and it is natural to feel that you don't want to throw all that away.   But at the end of the day, what good are all these "things" if you are unhappy?   Can material things make up for the loss of personal satisfaction and happiness?

It can be very hard to make the decision to give up on these things - but ask yourself if ownership of these things really outweighs the happiness and joy you could experience if you were truly free to enjoy a loving relationship again?  And in most countries, divorce laws are basically reasonable to both parties.

Intimacy is even more important, IMHO, than sex.  And I believe sexless marriages cannot be truly intimate relationships.   Without intimacy, we are living lives deprived of true connection with our spouses.   Even if our marriages are warm, loving, respectful, non-aggressive and generally positive, living without intimacy and sex is soul destroying for most of us.

A huge factor for many is "how about the children?"  Opinions on this tend to polarise - for or against leaving your marriage - if you have children living at home.  Personally I think I made a BIG mistake not leaving and therefore exposing my children to a sexless marriage without intimacy during their formative years.  But others will not agree - and this must be a personal decision for each person.

FEAR is a huge factor for many of us.  Our self esteem and especially our self confidence have taken a very great battering.  We no longer believe in ourselves - we think we have nothing to offer others.  We feel unattractive, undesirable and not "worthy" of a great relationship.   We feel that if we DO leave our marriages, we will simply swap one type of loneliness for another - and is it worth it?

BUT!! Please know that this is your self confidence talking to you when it is at its lowest ebb.   That doesn't mean it is TRUE!  Give yourself the option to experience a wonderful relationship again.  And even if you don't find "true love" or your soulmate, you can enjoy sexual encounters, flirting and FUN without a guilty conscience . . .

Choosing NOT to get out of a sexless marriage is as much of a choice as choosing to leave.   I often read posts from people saying they are unable to make the decision to leave.  I suggest that they HAVE made a decision - and that the decision is to stay.

Yes, it takes courage to leave.  But it takes even more to stay in a destructive relationship - and for what purpose?   Even if you cannot leave NOW for any of a myriad of reasons, I encourage you to plan for a future where you can be free of your sexless marriage.

Whether this means getting a job, re-organising your finances, seeing a marriage counselor or having personal counseling, or any other actions - please consider putting into motion the steps you need to take for a better life for yourself.

It is a cliche - but VERY true neverthheless.  You only get ONE life.

enna30 enna30
56-60, F
28 Responses Oct 5, 2009

I have seen many posters who are newlyweds & I would like to say GET OUT NOW!!! my husband had LSD since the dating days. But, the good salesman he was ( & at the time though he's improved I believe he had NPD ) he coerced me into marriage. I think he was terrified I'd spread the rumor of why we broke up, which I never would've done. After we married, it just got worse. once a month, maybe, & for 'kids' in their late 20's that is just not normal! Yes, I did partake in all the usual suspects; lingerie, nice dinner, etc. to no avail. I actually met with a lawyer and because we were so new, I pushed for annulment. Well, needless to say, 2 kids later, he yet again convinced me to stay (I'll change, blah blah blah) & well we've been married 14 1/2 yrs & here I am on this site, so do you think things have changed? NO! I am 5 '7, 125 (hardly overweight), I am attractive, I get advances from men weekly. Nobody knows how frustrating, demeaning, demoralizing & depressing it is to live within 4 walls with someone who doesn't want you then go out into the world & you are wanted my male friends, strangers, etc. There is no redemption in the flattery because at home you are undesired. I will stay for the kids, but most posters here are correct. The damage ( esp to a woman!) that the low sex spouse does to the receiver is like an ugly irreversible domino effect. at this point I am just seething with resentment, so angry that I 'wasted' my prime years. But, like I said I have only myself to be angry with & I love my kids like crazy. I hope you spring chickens reading this take this advice & run with it. THEY DO NOT CHANGE!!! they do, however, try & convince you that they will if you stay, don't fall for it, I am only trying to save you from making my mistakes

For me (I'm a man) it's the kids that keep me here. Not for some abstract concept of what's "better" for them. It's because I want to be here - not in some apartment and seeing them on some custody schedule. Because since I'm a man, regardless of the fact that she is the one who has rejected me, I will be the one who has to leave. Once the kids grow up there will be nothing for me to stay here, but until then, it's everything.<br />
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Thank you for posting this though... I want so much for things to be different... yet doing nothing to make them so.

Leaving is not always that easy. When one is sick with an illness, has no one else (family or children) makes it even tougher. However, it makes one become very torn. My spouse has no other family, never had any children from his first marriage. I do understand that his health issues are a real problem for us. I get that! But, when he is prescribed medications to assist him with not being able to maintain his sexual dysfunction. Then I have no other answers. I just know that I am tired, tired, tired of the feelings of rejection.

Perhaps you should read my other stories. It would seem our situations are (were) very similar. But I have been "out" now for three years, and despite sadness for my marriage, I have never regretted leaving.

Sounds like the sort of uninformed and judgmental response of someone who knows nothing to me.

Excellent post Enna! I agree completely with all the points you made. I used to live in a sexless marriage myself for two years and experience all the intolerable pain that anyone could go through in a SLM. Leaving my husband was the hardest but also the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. Although having to cope with the hardship of being a single mom, I'm now enjoying my life so much more and having an amazing sex life with my current boyfriend. <br />
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I do believe that leaving or staying in a SLM is your personal choice. You shouldn't blame fate or anything else for the pain you have to face each day in a SLM. It takes a lot of courage to end a marriage but it is so WORTH it. <br />
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It's been a long and painful journey for me but I'm glad I've finally realized the true meaning of this cliche line "We got only one life to live and we deserve to be truly happy". :)

I have been in a sexless marriage for 7 years now. When we did have sex 2 1/2 years ago it was awkward. I told him I was unhappy and didnt want to be married to a passionless person. I have decided to exhaust all options by going to counseling. I love my husband like a friend but not as a lover. He doesn't want a divorce and is trying. Too little too late or am I giving up too fast? We have only had sex 3 times in 5 years! I am too young to live like this! I don't know if things will ever change? I have no doubt that I can be happy alone or with someone else. Should I leave?

OMG! I cannot believe how many of us sound so much a like. I am amazed. It is a tough decision on whether to "stay or leave" I get so tired of that ping pong ball on my shoulders each day. I am entering therapy as well. Have been going with him for a while now........it has settled NOTHING. Therefore, I am going for myself, by myself. I need to know what to do for me. I am done trying to keep this all together and my sanity at the same time.

I am two years ahead of you,.....and just feel two years older and like 2 more years of my life are wasted and unhappy. Do you have kids? That is the only thing holding me back.

Wow,..I am new to EP,..just saw your post is from 2011,......

Enna, I know you are right, and I hope I can take your wise advice. One thing that holds me back are all the inter family relationships, including with grown children. Since there appears to be no overt conflict in my marriage, and we do get along, it would be embarassing to try to explain why I am now leaving. I also think that at my age, I would never find anyone else anyway.

This is one of the hardest things in life. I am now living w/ my husband who is my best friend and we have a great life in every other way....just no sex. It's really getting to me. I justify leaving in a million ways, but never tell myself that I deserve a healthy sex life.

We all deserve a healthy, normal sex life. We all desire it. We also deseire the passion and romance, we desire someone to just hold us &amp; touch us. We should never think that we do not deserve it. If you have love &amp; passion growing up, you want it as an adult. Without it, I think we become cold and withdrawn people.

I think at some point your survival kicks in. Regardless of choice or not...you just have to leave because your soul will be damaged. The consequences all drop to nothing and you just act in a decision of self-love.

ok we are all pathetic, I am now a lier, cheater and spend to much money, the thing that ****** me off is that we allow these none sex, none intimacy people to control us, as I say this I am not stronger enough to walk out because everything else is so good in my marriage, I come and go as I please, spend money lie lie lie, yeah, I am angry, angry at me becuase I found my soul mate and it sucks.

YES, I am right there with you!!

Mag, at the risk of sounding harsh, does it really MATTER if some people see you as a failure? These are not people whose friendship or respect you need. Your family is obviously supporting you - and real friends will too.<br />
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I did not tell anyone but my closest and dearest the real reason for my leaving my marriage. I did not want to disrespect my husband by telling everyone the real reasons. Because we seemed so well suited outwardly, some people "dropped" me as a result. If those people actually asked me why, I simply said something like:<br />
"There are things that happen in a marriage that only the two people involved know about".<br />
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But you know what? Most people, even those who did not know the truth, simply offered their sympathy and support. I think you will find this will happen to you too. Stay respectful and caring of your wife - she probably cannot help being the way she is. By behaving honourably, NO ONE can criticise you. It is YOUR life - do take steps to make it a happier one.<br />
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Remember: You only get ONE life . . .

Many of us are going through these processes and it never gets easier . . . I can say that I still believe it IS worth leaving - but it must be what is RIGHT for you.

One of the big reasons for me not leaving my sexless marriage is fear. We have a quiet, peaceful marriage but no intimacy or communication. We were married for 10 years the first time. It was great but started turning sour after about a year of so. Divorced for 4 years. Remarried and it was a repeat performance but am still in it. One fear is that Iwould lose half or more of what I've worked hard for to accumulate, but the biggest fear is finding another lady who will promise before marriage that everything will be perfect but change after the marriage which I've experienced twice. That would leave me with many less "things" and money and still be alone. I don't think that there are any guarantees when it come to personal relationships. Both partners have to work hard, be considerate and be communicative for it to be successful - the very things that are lacking now.

Thank you Enna for your wisdom and your compassion... I also appreciate the wisdom in all the many comments here...<br />
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I had decided to stop reading, posting and commenting for a while, because I was just getting so stuck, and so depressed... was just going to stay in touch via PM's for a while... but this story is truly helpful. I'm glad I stopped by today to read it...<br />
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Enna... thanks again!

Mejael...first let ME say that I'm sorry if this offends you but I too am entitled to my opinion. I would truly love to understand yours...and maybe this is my age talking (I'm willing to 'own' that) I am after all old enough to be your mother...but: <br />
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U urself said tat one has to think b4 leavin, so why are u sayin tat ur dicidin to stay??<br />
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AUGGGGG......please....in the name of everything holy, if you indeed wish to have your opinion 'heard' and have it taken seriously...could you actually write the words...correctly?

Lookin4 is right, sometimes its not bout jus gettin up an leavin, especially when there are young children involved. If u sacrifice urself for ur children tat can't be called coward. Ur actually doin somethin for ur children, they grow up thinkin tat marriage can last long, unlike now a days tat if ur married for 1 yr tats considered ages. An again ur young children are tat, young, they won't knw if mommy or daddy have sex. Or wat are u gonna go on an tell ur kids, "oh sweety, ur daddy/mommy an I didn't have sex last nite, so mommy/daddy is really unhappy right now"?. I understand ur point of view Enna, I do but tats jus it, u urself said it its ur point of view, so u can't be sayin why aren't u leavin? We all did, then go bak an say oh I understand its special for everyone. <br />
I am sorry but I am not bashin wat u say I am merely givin my own opinion, tat sometimes jus cause someone can't get the courge to get an leave (when there are no kids) doesn't make them willingly stay, they are jus not sure an 100% fixed on their minds tat they can make it. U urself said tat one has to think b4 leavin, so why are u sayin tat ur dicidin to stay??<br />
I see wat ur tryin to say, but u can't jus put wat u think an try to make others feel bad for their unmade decisions, memeber ur own words, one life, how can u live it if ur unsure of urself?? Answer: u can't... <br />
This is my personal opinion, I am sorry if it offends but I am entitled to one.

My fellow ILASMers,<br />
You are an incredibly wise, thoughtful and intelligent group of people. Thank you so much for each and every comment. <br />
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I've briefly summarised the reasons for NOT leaving and they make a pretty powerful and persuasive list too.<br />
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I thank you for balancing my zeal with your common sense and your courteous replies that allow me to see that, for many, leaving is not an option. Or at least, not an option at present.<br />
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Blackdress says it is a process, and KFC says it is a journey. And this is very true for all of us - even those who have left our marriages know that the journey and the process are often very long and very slow . . . VB says there are some very big life lessons to learn - and this is something that takes us time. So true!<br />
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Guilt over leaving a spouse who is particularly fragile for any reason must be a huge impediment for some. If one's spouse is ill, elderly, disabled, unable to earn their own living, emotionally fragile - any one of many possible conditions - the other spouse has a sense of responsibility that dominates his/her own needs. Thanks Long Play for pointing out this very importtant issue.<br />
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Lookin4 made the point that the suffering one endures in a SLM may, in a sense, "paralyse" you. I suspect this is particularly true in long term marriages. The spouse doing without sex feels they have suffered as much as they can take - the added suffering caused by leaving the marriage is just too much to contemplate. . . This is an insight that will resonate with many I feel. Thanks LP.<br />
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Caseyb identified fear as a factor that encompasses many aspects of the decision to leave - fear of starting over, and fear of failing at the most important relationship. I think these are closely alligned. If you have failed in your most important relationship (despite all the effort you have given it) it is reasonable to expect you might fail again in another one. This would certainly add to the fear of starting over . . . Well said Caseyb.<br />
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And myheartmelts mentions the "its not soooo bad" factor - something we hear often on ILIASM. If all else in the relationship is at worst OK and at best, pretty good, is there reason enough to leave the marriage? <br />
I think many people feel their own needs and desires (particularly sexual) are not sufficient reason to cause upheaval in the lives of their other family members. Another point to remember - thanks MHM.<br />
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All of these points are great insights into why you might choose to stay rather than to leave.<br />
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No-one can judge anyone else for the decision that other person makes. Because each situation is unique - and each person is too. Some of us are blessed (or cursed?) with personalities that find such action more manageable than others. Some of us are blessed (or cursed?) with a higher level of commitment to the relationship itself. Who is to say what is right or wrong for anyone else?<br />
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May each of you find your own answer as you travel with the rest of us in our ILIASM "brother and sister hood"!!! My heart goes out to each and everyone of you.

Thank you. I didn't read any of the other comments but I took time to read your post a few times. your right.<br />
So I guess now it's just having the courage to get out. I have a plan now just scared.

Enna: Your post speaks volumes and touches many. There are so many reasons to stay, but even more reasons to go.<br />
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For me it all goes back to "the journey". We come into each other's life for a reason. I know my husband needed me to get where he is now. I pray for him everyday that he will grow and open his heart. My work is done now, and it is time for me to move on in my life.<br />
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I am on the verge of something really great. I see light at the end of my tunnel.<br />
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God Bless you Enna!<br />
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Love<br />

Great post and comments.<br />
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My thought - It's a process. Just because you are staying for now, doesn't mean you won't ever leave. It could be just the decision that at the present time, staying is better than leaving.<br />
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Maybe a compromise is in order - stay married and find sex somewhere else. It all depends on what it is you really want and what you decide you can live with. And figuring that out can be difficult.<br />
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Sex is a complicated thing with all sorts of satellite issues attached to it - intimacy, cultural mores, personal morality, religion, physical release, self-esteem, etc.

Great post, as usual. Guilt is another reason people don't leave, especially, as in my case, if the spouse that would be left is pretty much unable to support themselves. I admit that I'm afraid of the financial chaos that would result if I left. I've made a list of the material things I would really want to have an enjoyable life, and it really isn't all that much. However, I live in such an expensive area, I'd probably end up liveing in a pretty nasty place, and that I'm not sure I could take. If that were the case, I'd rather find a way to live a separate life in my own home - or wait for an inheritance (but still want my folks around as I love then both).

Very good point Lookin4! I think what I wanted to convey was that, by not leaving, you are in fact demonstrating your decision to remain. That doesn't mean you aren't in a state of flux - still trying to decide if you will - or will not - go. And I truly agree about the feelings of "paralysis".<br />
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My hope is that people in this situation will recognise that, to a large extent, the chains that bind them are not worthy ones. That the reality is that the reasons for staying are usually not as good as the reasons for leaving . . . <br />
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But every situation is unique - and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me.<br />
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It is just that those of us who HAVE left can tell others how worthwhile it is. One rarely hears anyone say:<br />
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"I wish I had never left my sexless marriage . . . "

Enna, I haven't commented or written anything for a while because sometimes I need time away from this forum for clarity, but your post is of a different sort---it says the type of things I need to remind myself on a regular basis. Thank you for reminding us that we not only have choices, but that we'll be OK even if we choose do what we never thought we'd have to.

I beg to differ with the predominant opinion here. Staying is not making a decision. It is merely avoiding more emminent suffering. It's sort of like a dog that has been penned up for years, they too have Stockholm syndrome. They don't know what to do. They don't take off running immediately. They don't even always understand that they have been freed. People are the same way. People in Sexless marriages are like prisoners to some degree. To many of them/us, they are still tethered to this dysfunctional life which they so despise, but just don't know what it takes or have what it takes to gain freedom. It is like a paralysis. And we have all those feelings previously discussed- being unworthy of being loved, etc, etc, etc

Excellent post... give one things to think about.

Enna, excellent post. Seems you are very reflective of late .. and I appreciate that as I'm doing my own soul searching. Thank you! - Y

Smile VB!! I agree! Once you are no longer under the oppression of the SLM, it seems all the more extraordinary that we were prepared to put up with it for so long. . . .

I think Enna makes more sense than some highly paid professionals I have known! I don't know what you do for a living but I think you missed your calling!

I agree, it is hard for people to see that staying is a choice. It may not be the best for a soul and a healthy life...but people choose to stay because it isn't sooooo bad???? I didn't stay... but my love is staying in his and it is tragic -