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Marriage crumbling - advice needed please

(60 Posts)
DesperateDH Fri 12-Apr-13 13:23:44

Hi,

I've lurked here for a little while looking for advice but finally plucked up the courage to ask. I have a couple of very close friends to talk to, but their mutual and I would like some objective (and preferably female) guidance.

The situation is this:

I am a 45yr old man. I have been married to my wife for almost 23 years. We have two beautiful children (7 & 5) who mean everything to me.

I find myself becoming ever more sad (and feeling lonely) as the days, weeks and years pass. I feel like I am no longer required in the relationship - just here to provide a home and money.

Before we were married, we had a fabulous relationship. Loving, mutual respect, shared interests and a decent physical side.

After we were married, there was an almost instant stop to the physical part of our relationship (it was 3 weeks before we consummated our marriage). The rest of the relationship remained strong - we laughed together and still deeply loved each other.

Fast-forward to our mid 30s. The relationship is still pretty good but the physical side is almost non-existent. My wife just isn't interested and has never once initiated any intimacy. I try to talk about this as it's creating a strain (on me) - my wife doesn't think it's the most important part of a relationship (for her, fair enough).

Still in our mid-30's, the biological alarm-clock goes off and my wife is terrified of being too old to have children so, when at the correct time of the calendar, we have more sex than we've ever had in our previous 13 years of marriage. For me, though, it's mechanical, functional and not particularly pleasurable. We are successful though and are blessed with a beautiful daughter and a son 18 months later.

We're both now in our 40s and our son is approaching 6 years old - his conception was the last time we had sex. There have been two "fumblings" since, but my wife lost interest. I know this may sound a bit selfish, but in our 23 years of marriage, we've had sex 22 times. I have never forced myself on her or asked her to "lie back and think of England".

I don't know whether it's biological, but I've found myself looking at other women more and more lately. I have never done anything about it and, although I have gone over the scenario again and again in my head, I just could not bring myself to leave my children.

I do love my wife, and I tell her so, but I don't think it's reciprocated.

I just don't know what to do. All I want is a "normal" relationship.

DesperateDH.

ImperialBlether Fri 12-Apr-13 13:34:52

It must be awful living like that.

What does your wife say if you talk to her about it? Does she say she wants a more physical relationship? Is she affectionate to you? Does she flinch if you touch her?

I would try not to go down the route where you're getting involved with other people. I'd try to sort out the marriage and then, if you can't for whatever reason, I'd leave and try to find someone who wanted a full relationship.

MooncupGoddess Fri 12-Apr-13 13:38:55

Gosh, poor you. I guess what sticks out in your post is not so much that your wife has lost interest in sex since having children, but that before that you spent 15ish years in a sexless marriage.

Do you know why you didn't address this at the time? I wonder if it would be worth you booking a few sessions with a counsellor to talk through your feelings and reactions... it sounds like you feel very trapped and powerless.

DesperateDH Fri 12-Apr-13 13:48:25

Thank you for your replies.

My wife doesn't flinch if I touch her, but she never responds. A good morning kiss or one on my return from work is just a peck.

I really don't want to get involved with others - I confess, I have thought about it, even thought about paying (just to "scratch the itch") but just couldn't do it. It would break her heart and mine.

I tried to address this before the arrival of the children, but it always ended in an unpleasant argument. That's one thing we rarely do - argue and fight... maybe we should. I have also suggested we visit Relate but there always seem to be excuses made as to why we don't need to.

It it me, or it it a bit dusty in here... Glad I'm working from home today.

tightfortime Fri 12-Apr-13 13:48:33

I have heard this before. There are women - very few mind you - who have no interest in sex but want children, so they marry a sperm donor and a mortgage payer and refuse to discuss it further.

I’ve heard of this twice.

One of the women involved even admitted it to me; she didn’t fancy him or especially like him but he was a good dad to their two kids (the only time they had sex too interestingly) and paid the bills. Very cold woman she is.

That husband spent his time having multiple affairs until he fell in love, left her and is happy now with the OW. She didn't especially care once she got his money which said it all.

The other one is still there, still begging her to talk, see a counsellor, taking her away on weekends, romantic holidays, killing himself to make her happy and she just doesn’t see what the problem is. It’s all a bit catholic in that case, she came from a very strict religious upbringing and I think she sees sex as a chore, for kids and to be ‘tolerated’ a few times a year.

Maybe your wife is one of these, in which case, your marriage is dead.

BUT most women aren’t like this and if it used to be good, used to be tactile, loving, open, warm etc then something is seriously pissing her off and she’s using withholding sex to punish you.

Doe she feel like she does everything at home? Are the kids exhausting? Do you spend any time together as a couple anymore? Could she genuinely be depressed? Has she suffered body image issues since the kids? Is there awfulness in her sexual past that has been ignited by age or becoming a mother?

There’s a million reasons but the biggest problem here is that you are pressurising her (she thinks) and she has clammed up and it’s a vicious circle.

Tell her you think there is an issue, that your marriage needs work, what can you do to make sure that happens? What will make her talk to you again? Take sex off the agenda first and try and get her to open up. I bet she’s telling her friends...why not you or a counsellor?

No confrontation, time alone away from the kids, no pressure and just ask her to talk to you. And don’t expect any revelations to become foreplay to a great making-up session. Show her the pressure is off and she might talk.

Or thirdly, she’s getting it elsewhere.

Lucyellensmum95 Fri 12-Apr-13 13:51:20

I second what mooncup said - i know a couple of women who sound just like your wife, i think they sound incredibly selfish tbh.

I think counselling is relaly important. Im 42 and DP is 49, we have been together 21 years and sex is still extremely important to both of us. Its not just about "getting off" its about being close.

The problem is, it has been going on for so long - you are asking your wife to completely change, i really think you both need to talk about this and find a way to move on.

I really feel for you OP xx

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Apr-13 13:56:43

Much as I hate to admit it, I think tightfortime's description of a woman looking for sperm donor and mortgage payer is right on the money. Even if it wasn't, it must be a crappy way to live....

I think the reason you're so miserable OP is because you can't bring yourself to leave because of the children. There is much more to life and there are far worse things than parenting 50/50

ImperialBlether Fri 12-Apr-13 14:04:53

It's very telling that you feel lonely and as though you're no longer needed in the relationship.

On a practical level could you afford to move out? Could you afford to buy somewhere close by? Or could your house be sold and two smaller ones be bought with the money and an extra mortgage? Please don't say you wouldn't deprive your children of their home.

You have equal importance in your family. If you split up, you would have the right to have the children 50/50 and because of that you and your wife would be entitled to the same type of housing.

Frankly, I don't think your situation is going to change. If your wife has been sexually cold to you for decades, a threat of lawyers is unlikely to bring about anything but a temporary solution. And who wants sex if the partner doesn't want it?

Look at the practicalities first. Don't think you are depriving your wife of the children if you have 50/50 custody. Think of it that she is depriving you, by her actions.

By the way, does she go onto MN?

YonirockandrollbutIlikeit Fri 12-Apr-13 14:10:52

I feel so sad for you OP.

I would definitely suggest going to Relate, even if it's on your own. They may be able to help you decide a way forward.

cjel Fri 12-Apr-13 14:20:56

I don't know if I'm way off, but if you get on well in every way except to sex, do you think your wife may have been abused in the past?

countingto10 Fri 12-Apr-13 14:21:51

These peoples are supposed to be very good (more geared to sex issues than Relate). I think you probably need to go counselling on your own to sort your own thoughts and feelings out and hopefully she will join but ultimately you cannot change people only how you react to them. Your marriage may not survive but hopefully the counselling will put you in a better place mentally to cope with that.

Good luck.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 14:31:38

You don't sound selfish. Successful relationships are based on reciprocity and mutual understanding. The fact that she does not want to discuss something of such importance to you is worrying.

I think that you need to lay on the line how unhappy you are and that you have thought of splitting up. She may accuse you of pressurising her and try to guilt trip you into letting the status quo continue. Let her know you understand she may be scared to open up about this but it's time for some complete honesty - assuming you are prepared for that.

If she won't discuss it, then you have your answer, nothing will change.

DesperateDH Fri 12-Apr-13 14:33:17

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments... I've tried to reply to the questions below:

still begging her to talk, see a counsellor, taking her away on weekends, romantic holidays, killing himself to make her happy and she just doesn’t see what the problem is. It’s all a bit catholic in that case, she came from a very strict religious upbringing and I think she sees sex as a chore, for kids and to be ‘tolerated’ a few times a year.
This sounds about right - although she wasn't brought up in a religeous household. Her side of the family seem to find it difficult to express their emotions... I (and my side of the family) don't; we're very openly emotional and expressive.

....then something is seriously pissing her off and she’s using withholding sex to punish you.
I don't think its a punishment, but there could be something pissing her off - more in a bit.

Does she feel like she does everything at home?
Possibly, although I do all the kitchen side of things - cooking, washing up etc. - she works part time (12 hours a week over three days, and term time only)

Do you spend any time together as a couple anymore?
Not really, we're both too tired - she heads off to bed at 9:30 every night - and she's not interested unless we do something with friends.

Has she suffered body image issues since the kids?
Yes, but from well before kids. She stopped looking after herself many years ago. Eating junk and no exercise, whereas I try to eat healthily and keep moderately fit. I wish I could do more but time and guilt (for doing my own thing) prevent it.

^Is there awfulness in her sexual past that has been ignited by age or becoming a mother?^
This could be the crux. When she was 17 (we were dating each other from 16) her Dad left home to live with another woman. This woman was a former prostitute - we guess her Dad had seen her as a client and then progressed into a relationship. She took him for everything he had.

There’s a million reasons but the biggest problem here is that you are pressurising her (she thinks) and she has clammed up and it’s a vicious circle.
The last thing I want to do is pressurise her - I note you said "she thinks" - that would be terrible.

I bet she’s telling her friends...why not you or a counsellor?
Oh yes. I've mentioned this too.

Or thirdly, she’s getting it elsewhere.
I don't think so, I really dont.

I think they sound incredibly selfish tbh.
I don't think she's being consciously selfish, she's just not like that.

sex is still extremely important to both of us. Its not just about "getting off" its about being close.
I couldn't agree more.

The problem is, it has been going on for so long - you are asking your wife to completely change, i really think you both need to talk about this and find a way to move on.
I'll try suggesting Relate again. The thing is, it's very difficult to enter any conversation as it ends up with her crying and running out the door to the car - we start these discussions but never finish them.

I think the reason you're so miserable OP is because you can't bring yourself to leave because of the children.
100% correct - my life would be completely empty without them

On a practical level could you afford to move out? Could you afford to buy somewhere close by? Or could your house be sold and two smaller ones be bought with the money and an extra mortgage? Please don't say you wouldn't deprive your children of their home.
I guess so. But...... I wouldn't want to deprive the babies of their home. I know, I know.

By the way, does she go onto MN?
I really don't know. I guess if the does and see's this discussion, she'll know it's about us as there are too many details here.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 12-Apr-13 14:44:11

"100% correct - my life would be completely empty without them"

You wouldn't lose your children if you didn't live with their mother. You'd be with them 50% of the time or whatever you agreed between you. You children wouldn't be deprived of a home, they'd have two homes with a happy parent in each.

BTW I really don't buy Dad leaving when she was 17 as a reason why she'd suddenly go off sex six or seven years later. A father leaving can often result in trust issues with a new partner but is very unlikely to stop a sex-life several years down the track with an existing one. Too tenuous.

Lucyellensmum95 Fri 12-Apr-13 14:48:08

You sound like a lovely lovely man - your wife is missing out on so much, it makes me feel so sad, for both of you actually. That is what i would want her to read if she is reading this, that she has a loving husband who has put up with the loneliness for many years and tha SHE is missing out on a loving sexual relationship. I really hope you get some help with this, maybe relate would be a good place to start, maybe you should have counselling seperately? If it is her issue with sex, discussing it together may be too much pressure. Sex should be for both partner's, this isn't about her giving you sex to keep you happy (i know you know this) it is about you both feeling close to each other. Do you cuddle etc? Maybe you could start wtih just doing that? No actual sex, just cuddling and touching, with the understanding that, at the moment, unless she wants to, it will go no further.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 14:48:30

I think it is easy for some women to get into a habit, especially when DC small, of not wanting sex - tiredness and feeling emotionally drained being the main reason. Then the more you don't have sex, the more you don't want to, and the more you tell yourself it it not important. Vicious circle, and one that can be added to by feeling pressurised (" why should I?")

Well maybe it never was as important to her - low sex drive - but i think the problem is that it's easy to pretend it is of little importance to the relationship.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 14:49:49

Good point LEM, and one I should have made in my last post.

DesperateDH Fri 12-Apr-13 14:53:18

BTW I really don't buy Dad leaving when she was 17 as a reason why she'd suddenly go off sex six or seven years later. A father leaving can often result in trust issues with a new partner but is very unlikely to stop a sex-life several years down the track with an existing one. Too tenuous.
I don't know. Maybe I'm looking for reasons where there aren't any.

Do you cuddle etc? Maybe you could start with just doing that?
We used to. But as she now goes to bed so early (and quite often into the spare room), it rarely happens now.

I need to pull myself together now and go get the children from school. I'll check back later.

Thank you all so much. Maybe I'm not going mad after-all.

StephaniePowers Fri 12-Apr-13 14:55:03

Sometimes women don't respond to physical attention because the man almost immediately takes it as a cue for sex.

It's a horrible feeling when someone is being physically close to you but you know if you show any signal then he'll be suggesting a shag. It breeds coldness.

Sorry, just to respond to but one of the issues in your post...

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 15:03:38

I agree Sthanoe, and unfortunately that is more acute when there hasn't been much sex. Another vicious circle.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 15:04:04

Stephanie!

StephaniePowers Fri 12-Apr-13 15:07:10

It's not a vicious circle. You talk about it and ask if she wants affection with no expectation of sex from you. If she says yes then you both show physical affection without sex. It really really is simple.

However it's different from the problem that she and you have no sex life. It's just that in men's minds it's all one issue. It really isn't.

missmaybe Fri 12-Apr-13 15:07:49

Do you think your wife may have long-term low level depression? What you have mentioned about self-esteem and taking care of herself rings some bells. Also, about going to bed early - sleeping a lot and being a bit reclusive can be a symptom of depression.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 15:31:42

Stephanie

It is. Vicous circle if no one confronts what is going on, and that seems to be the problem.

We don't have any evidence that the OP wants sex everytime he hads a cuddle, although he might. Otoh, wife might think he does.

Whatever, i think we are agreeing that talking need to happen.

StephaniePowers Fri 12-Apr-13 15:40:07

Sorry. Totally projecting (as if that weren't obvious!).

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