To Tell The Kids Or Not To Tell The Kids

Is it a good idea to let children (14 & 17) know about marital problems?  Our 25½ year marriage has come close to the brink of breakup once before the kids were born and once when they were in elementary school.  Their father and I live in a sexless marriage (for almost 10 years) but we have been able to remain friends and affectionate most of the time but this is deteriorating again. I have tried to separate because I am the refuser and I think he can do better.  He says he loves me and wants to stay together no matter what.  We are going through a bad patch right now and I often think it would be best to separate but have a million reasons why it is not a good idea.  

I do not like the ‘couple’ we represent to the kids as marital bliss (ha).  I think we can recognize their maturity by letting them in on our, not so unusual, story and let them know that we have experienced many ups and downs which they no doubt have felt and that we work together to find solutions. This is of course when we are communicating well.  My hubby is not going to like this idea because he feels emasculated by my lack of libido and does not want anyone to know.  I think it is good to let our kids know that we can still cope and weather through with a major thing like sex missing.  I just think that they have a right to know and I feel we now they are old enough and that we are living a lie if we don’t tell them.  Our oldest will be going away to school in the fall.  I think it is more fair to both kids to tell them while they are both at home and can see how we continue to make efforts to work through it.  Also,  we are more available to both and they to each other, if they need to talk about it.

What are your thoughts about this?  I am going to start counseling again but I really admire how respectful and caring the responses on this site are.  Maybe since I don’t talk about this with anyone in real life this is a good outlet for me.  I will write a longer version of our story under experiences soon.  Thanks for reading and your feedback.

strattochi strattochi
51-55, F
43 Responses Feb 19, 2010

No way. You've made it this far. Once the second child is away at school, maybe you'll feel more comfortable addressing the situation. I cant' imagine how any man could go without sex.<br />
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I am angry & bitter but when I read others stories, my situation doesn't seem so bad.

I think you should set him free-like the other poster said he is grasping at straws doing everything in his power to hold on to his fantasy that will never come true. I think the kindest and most compassionate thing would be to let him go and not just give permission for him to have lovers..I would think once he has a taste again of what it could be like with you if only you would submit would only increase the misery not help it. As I said before about talking to kids since that is the topic I still feel they should not be privy to details only that you and he differ in some areas of your marriage..I still just do not think kids that young need to hear all those details..<br />
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Im sorry if my previous post was angry but I do not get it..To me when you love and care for someone you give your body and soul to them..and as long as they give theirs in return there should be nothing that would stop you short of medical reasons not to give yourself in love completely..but thats just me..

strattochi,<br />
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If you could cope with your emotions regarding your husband taking on a lover or indeed several lovers then this may ultimately be a good solution if your husband could eventually get his head round it. I must admit if I knew my wife and I could have the same emotional and business partnership as we have now but with me being able to have as much sexual freedom as I liked I would be in heaven both having my cake and eating it. It would be perfect unadulterated bliss.<br />
I wish more of our partners would present us with such a golden opportunity.

You are really head-strong about finding your husband a mistress even after he says he does not want one?

btw-I would never tell the kids without first discussing it with hubby, we are a team. The problem is coming to agreement.

btw-I would never tell the kids without first discussing it with hubby, we are a team. The problem is coming to agreement.

JustMe52-thanks for getting me back on track. I appreciate what you say and it is what I feel is right too. My husband and I have worked very hard to have open communication with the kids about all topics EXCEPT our lack of sex. We talk about sex openly with them, acknowledging the normalcy of it but leave out the detail that I have no desire for it. We only have one tv so we watch action, drama, comedy and chic flicks together as a family which brings up a lot of topics. My 14-year old still has the normal "I don't want to think about sex as it relates to my parents" attitude and we respect that. But this openness feels so hypocritical when I expect their openness, they (especially 17year old daughter) give it but do not offer my own on this topic.<br />
I don't think it would destroy their future sex lives. <br />
I think a brief (no need for details) mention of our incompatible libidos would give them an understanding of the diversity of sex drives that obviously truly exists in contrast to what is portrayed in tv and movies. The answers I am getting here confirms this even more. <br />
A lot of you people feel that those of use who are not sexual are somehow less human. I for one have eliminated something I found frustrating and unfulfiling, the only problem with that is that I am married to someone who does not agree. However, there was NOTHING in my marriage vows that said I would have sex with my husband if I don't want to. I think it is time to let this charade die, not everyone loves sex, and that is fine. Good on you if you do! Another charade is that we should be able to fulfill all humanly needs for our spouse. Sometimes it takes more than one person to do that. We expect so much out of each other - maybe that is why our society is so stressed and it is time to accept and quit being so possessive!!!!!!

BeMySelf - no matter how right you may be I find it excruciating to bring up a separation/divorce to him again. He always talks me out of it for exactly the reasons you say. <br />
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What was that website for marrieds that you used? Maybe I can find some happiness for him, like you found. I think I would be ecstatic for him if he found someone else who fulfilled him in that way or even in all ways. Of course I would pay the price if I couldn't handle it as well as I think I could.

You keep saying it's wrong but it is wronger than you can ever ever imagine.<br />
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No-one would rather argue than be happy, He is just saying that in the vain vain hope that you might give the man some love. He lies because he is terrified, trapped, lonely, lost, he probably does not even know what he is anymore, just prays every day not to be put through anymore humiliation just to have something that is normal, healthy and good.<br />
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And now you want to drag your kids into your sexless drama. I think you should see that therapist quick.

OMG- my husband and I's minds are wired. He woke up this morning after I posted the above and said "I would rather fight with you than have sex with any other woman". We do communicate, we just have different perspectives on what is our life could be with or without the other as our spouse.<br />
I replied that "it may not be best for us though".

The biggest bit of history is that I went to counseling at the beginning of our sexual relationship, we had been friends for 4 years before that. My issue was I did not feel sexual toward the man I professed to love. We figured I was fine with sex without love (or probably more accurately as a way to get love) but not with sex as an ex<x>pression of love. We never really resolved it but figured it would be resolved through our good relationship in all other facets of our life together. We figured there were some sexual issues that we from my past that were responsible and we would overcome them. We did not overcome them. I went along as the dutiful wife having sex with him. I could probably count on one hand the times I initiated anything and those were out of duty too. I just never felt the chemistry for him and that was not there at the beginning, middle or now. I can not fake that. My main error was that I made a conscious decision that if he loved as much as he seemed too that it must be right for me, he was stable, intelligent, kind, great sense of humor, and was great at communicating his feelings; on top of that he is good looking too! He is an awesome friend and companion to me for 30 years and father for 17. <br />
He is in mid-life and I can imagine that he is freaking out with the prospect of never having his beloved sex again. I want my friend back but I cannot/will not give him sex. I have considered hooking him up with someone, not a prostitute, so that he can have sex. Women react to him favourably, although he does not see it. I really am not afraid that he will find the woman of his dreams this way, in a way I wish he would. He deserves to be loved in the way he has loved me, but I can't, no matter how much we both wish it. The chemistry is just not there! That fact is the thing that makes me cry more than anything else.

Thanks to those who have posted a reply who are open-minded enough to see that we don't not want sex just to inconvenience you who do. Especially thank you to the younger voices after all you are the perspectives I want to hear. The others of us may have lost perspective of how much silence is harmful. Arcadia thanks especially to you, I was there in high school too and felt like the glue that held my parents unhappily together. They never divorced and there was much resentment and control between the two.<br />
As for those who are thinking "there is something she is not telling us" - YES, you caught me, for heavan's sake, there is 50+ years of life that I have not 'revealed'. I will, when I get the chance, write a longer story of summing it up but you will never know all that goes into my decisions. I am thinking of blogging it as I recall and rehash. <br />
For those of you who wonder if my husband will be invited yes, when I think he is ready to hear all of this. I think he will benefit from hearing he is not alone, nor am I.<br />
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I looked up passive-aggressive behaviour on the wiki and it may speaks volumes of my husband's behaviour actually rather than mine - " It can manifest itself as learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible. It is a defense mechanism, and usually only partly conscious." The learned helplessness is the one that pushes me toward fulfilling my fantasy of leaving.

I agree with AC and some other posters in thinking there is definately something else below the surface here that we dont know. To me in telling your children what is going on feel like you want to martyr yourself in some way. Even though you admit you are the problem you are still saying "Look at me and how wonderful I am for releasing him from our marriage" Give me a break. They are too young to be told this kind of thing. You honestly want to ruin their own dreams of a potential happy marriage. They may be blissfully unaware of your problems or they may know everything but I dont think you should say a word until a month or so before you decide to divorce and with the help of a child therapist to be there so both parents dont say anything that can damage them.<br />
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Oh and btw I am ashamed that my husband is starting to refuse me. Its humiliating and hurtful how could it not be construed as such?<br />
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Again I think you are not telling us everything as refusers do is it because your so exhausted from all your new chores your husband dumped on you for not giving him sex? Yes you inadvertently showed us a little glimpse of your true self there without even realizing it..Uh huh!!! It never fails a refuser will always show their passive aggressive selfs eventually..Do your kids a favor and leave them out of it.

Just an opinion . but do you really think if you have an unhappy relationship that your kids dont know about it already? No matter what you show at the surface of it , children are bound to know the truth.I wont be surprised if they havent sensed already

As someone who was once the 14-year-old in your story....my parents split when I was 15 and my brother was a senior in high school. In our situation - my mother had some issues and often screamed/yelled at Dad and us. When I was 14 my Dad had shared with me that he was thinking about leaving. This was helpful for me, because I felt so trapped in our home. It was good for my brother and I to know that Dad understood our hell and that we had a way out - when he left we would have a "second home" to go to and have the choice to leave as well. I ended up having the strength to stay in my mom's home until I was 17 because I had an out - I could go visit my Dad.<br />
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Now, my brother and I were different emotionally than my friends - in my biased opinion. So, coming from this background, my advice: Be honest with your children about the emotions/love in your marriage and the fact that it may not last forever. I do not think you have to sit them down in an awkward family meeting type thing. But as you watch movies, hear songs, deal with your kids dating lives - you know questions come up in conversation. As they do - feel free to answer honestly. DO NOT share about the sex. Your kids do NOT need to know about your sex life - it is uncomfortable for them and could affect how they view sex. They shouldn't know whether you are or are not - either way - it sounds like the base issues in your marriage are not JUST about sex anyway - so IMO I don't think this is lying to your kids.<br />
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That said - you also have to respect your husband's views on this. If he is very uncomfortable sharing with the kids you need to defer to that unless you leave. As you go through your counseling, ask yourself if your reasons for wanting to "Be honest" with your kids are really about them or you? Make sure your children's emotional needs are at the foremost of this issue.

I am betting no matter how hard you have tried to hide the problems the kids already know "something". MY friends always did when I was around those ages.

defanitely. i am 15 going to turn 16, and i think it is best to talk to them. it also depends on how close you are with them. ive never had a mother figure in my life and always find myself wishing i did so that we could talk about everything. if you dont talk to them and things keep getting worse its going to be a surprise to them if you guys seperate. Tell them or at least the 17year old because if i was your daughter i would want to know.

I think you are right BD. I think "sex" is something our children, especially adolescents, neither want nor need to know about - when it comes to their parents' sex lives.<br />
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And Joanie, I think you are right too. . . I tried to "put on a good show" for my kids about my sexless marriage - implying that we were having a full relationship by spending time in each other's rooms. . . without being overt about it. Years later my adult chn told me they "always knew" we were sexless . . . maybe they did, maybe they didn't. But the important thing is that they BELIEVE they always knew this. . . <br />
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And it negatively affected their development in terms of intimacy IMHO . . .

I think your kids probably have some idea your marriage is not perfect.. my parents tried to act this way I saw right through it, and I was still in elementary school. Not to sound weird, but I'm sure your kids know you don't have sex.. because they would probably know if u were. I think its important you and ur husband are unified in terms of setting rules for ur kids, not abusing each other/fighting in front of ur kids and those sorts of things.. but beyond that it jus seems to be a waste of energy to be putting on a show for everyone. If one of your kids got married, and was not happy for whatever reasons, for years.. would you advocate them to stay? Would you tell them to just put a smile on their face and act as though everything is OK when its really not?

I agree that the children should be told that the parents are going through some difficulties. I don't think they should just wake up one day and Dad (or Mom) has his bags by the door and is leaving. Also, I agree with Enna30 that counseling could be helpful in navigating the life change.<br />
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However, I think it is wrong to lay adult problems at children's feet. They will NOT understand. Yes, they may grasp the facts at a superficial level, but they do not have the maturity and life experience to truly understand. And as I have said previously, I don't think they should be expected to.

Raven makes a lot of sense IMO. I too think laying it al out for your children is unnecessarily intense for them, but they DO need to know your marriage is in serious trouble.<br />
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Because, at some level, they already DO know this, even if they are not yet consciously admitting it to themselves. . . <br />
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Family counselling with a genuine and experienced family counsellor might help you to work out the best ways forward for your family. I hope you can resolve your difficulties with a minimum of hurt and damage to each member of your family.

Here's a story that actually happened around Thanksgiving.<br />
My son, who is 30 and teaches at two universities finally told me that I was the jerk in his life that had set him back and caused him to seek counselors. Why?<br />
It was something I and others in the family had not told him while he was in grad school.<br />
His mother and I seperated and divorsed. He did not see it coming. No one e-mailed it to him. He felt like punching me, he said while we stood at two am in the rain in Superior WI.<br />
Yes he was under the influence. I was not. I placed my hand over his heart and told him I love him. I told him that most of what went on between his mother and I will always be between his mother and I. That we seperated, was unknown to anyone one who could e-mail him and that if he wanted to know more, he could have asked.<br />
When I offered to take the blame, he called me a martyr. He just wanted to be with his anger.<br />
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I had told him when I knew that the break up was happening. He thought everyone else was "in the loop" Honestly, he was the only one I told directly.<br />
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Wait or do not wait, it will be a topic for a while. Nothing is solved in one conversation. I would try to explain it all. Some would not. There is noting a 14 year old cannot understand. There is plenty that they do not want to hear.<br />
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Talk with a family counselor (something I wish I had done). Lay it out. A go from there. OR you could do as I did an allow your children to find counseling on their own when the actually feel the need.

tell em

Are you kidding.. what exactly are you thinking of telling them? What is the message? I am in agreement with BD, Andy, Maryran and CoolDude. How about you and you husband talk to a child psychologist or such and figure out what is best for them to know, what you should share ... if you are planning to separate or divorce. Seems like it may relieve you to let them know "the" (your, his ?) truth .. what is this message. Will it help them. I think it is inappropriate to talk to your children about your sex lives (if your husband does and isn't willing to protect them, that is another matter about what to say). Bottom line, it is not their relationship, not their problem. What is the point? Seems very odd, like there is a subtle blame game .. or that you or your H are looking for your children to validate that the marriage isn't working. That is not right, think about it.

Richard. No check mate buddy. It is exactly as you said, sometimes these things are much easier to see when you are an outsider. I think that is why this group is such a useful place for us to hang out at and talk to the fellow sexless people. <br />
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I totally understand what you are saying. There were no major warning signs when you got married. The problem is, they change later in life and there is no way to know in advanced. It sucks when the rules change mid-game.<br />
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Bud, I think you should look into that lover anyways, this was her idea at the beginning and it doesn't matter if she doesn't remember it now.

I grew up always wondering what it was that kept my parents together, and over time it seems like things have only gotten worse. I'm starting to wonder if they would be happier if they were apart.<br />
But they never tell me or my brother ANYTHING. Sometimes I just feel like I'm the burden that keeps them stuck in the same house. <br />
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Just because you don't tell them doesn't mean they don't notice.

CoolDudeVA,<br />
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You've got me check mate and you have my respect and admiration. It sometimes takes others to see what should have been obvious tor us to see ourselves.<br />
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Actually my wife did start out quite hot for the first three years before we married. Her nickname by one of her boyfriends was Eveready. When she expressed her desire to marry me I did put to her that I actually had a higher libido than her but she said that if it ever became a problem then she would resolve it by allowing me to have a lover or try especially hard to satisfy me herself. Whatever problems we had we would work together and find a solution. I had grown to adore her with all my heart by that stage and our libidos were much more matched than they are now. As the conversation we had together was so important to me I have always remembered the exact details. Unfortunately when I reminded her of our conversation a few years ago she conveniently said that she couldn't honestly remember ever saying it.<br />
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So CoolDude you were correct in your analysis and I let myself down with my impetuous love for my wife all those years ago.

"He was always very open about his unusual sex life when I next stayed with him at the age of 13. He told me that he was a bit of a ram and his sexual capacity was far greater than my mother's. I accepted this and thought non the worse of him."<br />
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"If your children learn at an early age that relationships with mismatched libidos are not ideal for both partners then it may save them from a great deal of sadness and heartache later on in their lives. "<br />
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Richard, that knowledge did not help you at all, did it?

strattochi,<br />
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A big whole hearted welcome to our group.<br />
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Thank you so very much for your openess in exposing yourself to our group. Please stay with us and keep posting because I am sure that you can help a lot of us to begin to understand and not dehumanise everyone who has a naturally low libido. It is unfortunately human nature and pack instinct to attack minorities which low libido people represent in this group. You are being honest and candid about your lack of need for sex and can possibly answer questions which our own partners just cannot or are incapable of answering. My wife for example cannot explain why she finds so many normal sexual pleasures distasteful and impossible to do. She justs says things like Ugh, don't go down there but is incapable of explaining why it is so terrible.<br />
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I think I am in the minority here in my thoughts about your children. My father left my mother when I was only 4 and had a multitude of sexual partners for over half a century. Some of his partners stayed with him for decades and accepted his promiscuity. They said he was great fun to be with, made them laugh and gave them a great time in bed. He was always very open about his unusual sex life when I next stayed with him at the age of 13. He told me that he was a bit of a ram and his sexual capacity was far greater than my mother's. I accepted this and thought non the worse of him.<br />
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Maybe this has flavoured my believe to be open and honest about everything in life not just things of a sexual nature. If we make our completely normal and natural sexual desires a secret from our children then surely it is giving them the message that we are ashamed of our healthy physical needs for physical love and passion. In most loving relationships it is normal to express our love for each other by having sex. <br />
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You say that your husband will feel emasculated by your lack of sex drive and wants to keep it a secret.. My wife is totally the opposite. She feels that she is to blame for our lack of sex and feels an overwhelming sense of guilt but does not want anyone else to know about it. But like you she thinks that she has failed me in our marriage and has said that I can have sex with other people as long as it is kept secret because she is so ashamed that she cannot satisfy me. <br />
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Getting back to your original question I don't see that it is wrong in you telling your children that your husband is more tactile and passionate than you. You do not have to expand on the sexual detail and make it a big deal. If your children learn at an early age that relationships with mismatched libidos are not ideal for both partners then it may save them from a great deal of sadness and heartache later on in their lives. <br />
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Please keep posting to enlighten our perspectives.

Because there are a lot of really good things, especially our kids, about the relationship. It is not unidimensional like some seem to feel about about SMs. If it was only about sex we would have been out of it a long time ago.

not there at all - kinda warped early years of sex when I didn't say or was afraid to say no. Before my now hubby and I got involved I saw him as asexual, never with a woman and thought he was fine without it. He saw me as liberated and fairly promiscuous. We each saw in each other what we wanted to live with but therefore were a very bad match sexually.

Strat, do you have sexual feelings towards other men or is it not there at all?

vegas- I told him 10 years ago that I would totally understand if he decided to be with someone else - just for sex, or for more- I guess I have not reiterated it frequently since then but I am pretty sure he knows I would not be jealous or mad. In fact I think it would make me happy for him. I repeat - I have no sexual feelings for him whatsoever but I would like him to be happy but not at the expense of loosing myself. I am no good to anyone as that much of an emotional zombie.<br />
qx#2 - I go through periods where I fantasize about leaving or him leaving. For most of the last 10 years I feel like I have lived with one foot out the door. All I need to see is that he would indeed benefit. Right now, I am feeling pretty overwhelmed by household duties some of which he used to share in but are being held ransom for sex.

Ok, it is an overwhelming 'no' to telling the kids and most of your reasons I agree with. Perspective is what I am trying to get here and I am getting a lot of it - thank you for that. Aside from some hostility, which I am guessing is because most of you are in the 'refused' camp, my fear is that our kids, especially our daughter who I share a very talkative relationship with, will feel deceived and lied to when they discover so much was below the surface. Maybe I have watched too many movies.<br />
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If sex was the only important thing in our marriage I would never have gotten married. I thought that physical love would come from our friendship but it never has for me. He always felt passion for me but I have never been able to reciprocate, feels to me kinda like ******* my brother would. I have platonic love for him.<br />
Andy- Hubby is a wonderful, loving person with great integrity and I have for years mourned that I cannot give him the love and sex he surely could find with someone else. We went through many years of as you say - "terrible for your husband, why don't you jump happily in the sack with him and give him what he needs emotionally and physically, even though it doesn't crank your personal chain?" and I was on anti-depressants and thinking I should just disappear from my family's life and they would all be better for it and finally I said no to the dutiful sex - I was living a lie and couldn't do it anymore, I wanted a divorce. He said he could do without, could we just stay together. (this was not the first he knew of my lack of interest)

For the love of mercy, teaching kids how to openly communicate?? <br />
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This desire to teach the kids to solve difficult problems is a diversion. There is more to this than whether the kids should know about their parents' sex life. That is not the root of this nonsense here. <br />
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Stratt, <br />
Let me see here. " Tommy, Suzie. Come here now. Mommy and Daddy want to teach you how to solve adult problems. I do not want to have sex with Daddy but Daddy still loves me. He still wants to stay with me no matter what. Daddy is wrong because I know he can do better -- whatever that means. See, kids, Daddy's opinion is wrong. Therefore, I insist on divorcing so that everybody will be happy. Make sense? Good. That is how adults solve problems. Now, go play. "

Thanks for your responses - wow, there is a lot of middle ground there!!<br />
Stevie- I have no problem living with my lack of libido, I don't miss it. But I feel terrible for my husband who does. We never were a match sexually but we have always been each other's best friend and we, generally, treat each other with respect and love, just not so well in our bad times. <br />
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blackdress- thanks for your opinion but wouldn't it demonstrate how to communicate through tough issues and show respect for them?

No, I think it would be a selfish and harmful thing for you to do. They will learn how to deal with life's tough issues when they need to. And it should be their own issues, not any that you bestow upon them

I am firmly in the NO camp. Kids do not need to know about their parents sex life. Do not pass your issues to your children.

Thanks for your responses - wow, there is a lot of middle ground there!!<br />
Stevie- I have no problem living with my lack of libido, I don't miss it. But I feel terrible for my husband who does. We never were a match sexually but we have always been each other's best friend and we, generally, treat each other with respect and love, just not so well in our bad times. <br />
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blackdress- thanks for your opinion but wouldn't it demonstrate how to communicate through tough issues and show respect for them?

Something does not add up. <br />
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Stratt, <br />
I read your story and I am going to have to wait until you re-write or expand on this because you are clearly holding back. There is something motivating your refusal which is critical and you know it. <br />
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Those are my thoughts.

What Andy and BD said...plus:<br />
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The LAST thing in the world that a 14 year-old and a 17 year-old want to know about is their parents' sex lives. To them, you are their mother first and foremost. They have no consciousness of you and their father as sexual creatures; or what awareness they do have, I guarantee they push out of their heads as quickly as possible. What goes on in your bedroom is absolutely none of their business.<br />
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It's unfair to your oldest to have that child be away at school and worrying about how the two of you are doing. It may change their decisions about whether to attend school away from home or not. Not fair.<br />
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You mention 'recognizing their maturity'. They are not mature. Recognize what maturity they are beginning to gain by allowing them to do something that is meaningful to THEM, not to YOU.<br />
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If your family life is contentious enough that they notice, you can address the 'working our problem' through WITHOUT the explanation why. <br />
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I think the appropriate time for them to hear about your story is...when they are 40.

It is an adult decision. End of story. They will choose sides, they might feel they are responsible in some way… you never know how 'south' it could go.<br />
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No, no, and no.

I say NO WAY should children be privy to what is going on between their parents. NEVER any details. The parent-child relationship is not one of peers. There are too many other dynamics that will be tainted if they know these things, and it will in effect "force" them to choose sides.<br />
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Just my opinion, but one that is very, very strong on this matter.