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My marriage has a dead heart

(42 Posts)
sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 12:17:02

Regular poster, NC'ed for this.

DH and I have been together for 14 years, married for 11 and we have two kids aged 8 and 5. I come from a background of divorce, step-parents and step-siblings. I purposely didn't marry until I was in my 30s and I was wary of marriage and continue to be terrified of failure (which, tbh, I'm still dealing with 35 years after my parents' marriage failed).

The problem is that DH have really drifted apart. We very rarely have sex (maybe five or six times a year), and when we do its not great. He's rather prudish and likes plain vanilla sex, whereas I crave something more adventurous and having had that with previous partners I know exactly what I'm missing. In the early days of our relationship he made an effort on this front - now he doesn't bother. And I've been rebuffed by him so many times sexually that for my own self-preservation I don't initiate things any more. We sleep in separate rooms and have done since I was pregnant with our second DC.

In terms of the rest of our life I'd say we're pretty happy in that we have two great kids, a lovely home, we're financially secure, we have nice holidays, we get on with our families, we have good friends locally and a social life - so on the surface its all hunky dory. But underneath its just dead. We sit in separate rooms in the evening and watch different things on TV. We don't touch or kiss or hug or anything very much. We live like brother and sister. I really, really don't want to split up and I know he doesn't either, but our marriage, when I'm honest with myself and face up to it (which is rarely), is a sham and I just don't know what to do. I'm completely financially dependent on him and would struggle to find well-paid work now. I used to earn good money before we had kids, but I haven't worked for eight years.

WTF shall I do? I'm thinking of trying to book some marriage counselling just for me. I honestly don't know if its salvageable. I think we love each other, but we're not 'in love' any more, and I'm not sure if we can get those feelings back or find a way forward without them.

stomachinknots Mon 09-May-16 12:23:27

Oof. A lot of this sounds very familiar to me. I've been reading the thread about 'people who have left marriages that weren't AWFUL but just unsatisfying' and that has a lot of people on it who are in similar spots. Your 'dead heart' line is bang on.

pensivepolly Mon 09-May-16 12:31:23

Sukiyaki , I can't believe it - I came here looking for help for exactly the situation you describe. I don't have to write my own post, because you've written it for me. It is uncanny how many details of my situation echo yours. I have no advice; if you don't mind, I will just camp out on your thread hoping someone has some to offer! Are you as sad as I am? I feel as if I suddenly woke up sometime within the past year and realised that there just isn't much left of my marriage. Things aren't acrimonious per se (although to me it's an ominous sign how many of my husband's habits that used to seem innocuous now annoy me); they're just flat. Dead at heart, as you say.

stomachinknots Mon 09-May-16 12:33:07

There's a lot to plough through here, but might be some useful nuggets? (The thread I referenced earlier.)

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/2592809-Curious-to-hear-from-people-who-have-left-marriages-that-werent-AWFUL-but-just-unsatisfying

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 12:33:20

There are probably millions of us stomach. People who don't have a good enough reason to split up and many good reasons not to, but really, honestly aren't that happy. I can tell you this - if I didn't have kids this relationship would have failed years ago - but I do and I can't put them through the every-other-weekend shit I had to put up with all through my childhood and the fucking step-parents sad, because while I'm pretty sure I would never marry again I have no idea what DH would do.

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 12:35:42

pensive flowers for you. Its shit isn't it.

And yes, I am sad. I feel I've failed - not only at marriage, but much than that I've failed my kids. And I can't see where this will end. I've even started to fantasise about DH having an affair so it won't be my fault if it falls apart. Realistically, this is unlikely, because his sex drive is much lower than mine.

pensivepolly Mon 09-May-16 12:47:23

flowers right back at you, sukiyaki. I love my husband as a friend, I respect him, I think he's a very fine person, but I don't know if I am "in love" with him anymore. I could see him being much happier with someone else - in fact, I feel bad because I think he doesn't even realise he could be happier than he is. My children are older than yours - we are facing an empty nest in a few short years - and I could see myself becoming that cliche, the "gray" divorcee. I'm wondering what life there is beyond that. You, on the other hand, are probably still young enough to have a new life with someone else....Could you see that as a possible upside?
I have a very good friend who divorced several years ago and she used to share your view of divorce as a kind of failure. But I see her as a brave woman who has made the best decision for herself and decided to get on with her life (which she has).

DistanceCall Mon 09-May-16 12:54:02

You say you don't want your marriage to fail. It has already failed, love.

You only get one life, and you should be happy. Happy parents are a very good thing for children, and right now they are seeing a relationship that doesn't work (believe me, they notice).

Divorce need not be horrendous - divorce when you were little is quite different from what it is these days.

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 13:04:33

I don't think it has failed yet distancecall. Neither of us has had an affair or left and I'm pretty sure that we both still want it to succeed. However, its in a pretty dire place and that I don't deny. From here we could both make a spectacular effort to salvage it - or we could decide not to.

What really worries me is that I feel fairly indifferent about my DH. I respect him and I can still look at him and find him attractive, but when I look at him I also see the things I don't like. The fact that he chooses to spend 90% of his time at home in front of his computer - mostly gaming. The fact that if I try to initiate physical contact he usually pushes me away. The fact that he is often moody and snappy with me and the DC and that we rarely have a good time together. If I want to have a good time, let my hair down and laugh, I go out with my friends.

stomachinknots Mon 09-May-16 14:06:16

From here we could both make a spectacular effort to salvage it - or we could decide not to.

That's the conundrum isn't it. To pour another few years into something that is already basically over. Or to shake hands and walk away now. From your description of him, it does sound like a bit worse than just 'living like brother and sister.' It sounds a bit worse than that.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Mon 09-May-16 14:12:11

I'm going to sound like a right cow here, but your last update - this is more than two people who have drifted apart.

He's spending 90% of his time gaming (addicted?)
If you touch him, he pushes you away.
He's moody, snappy and if you want to have a good time you do it out of the home.

The phrase 'living like brother and sister' has been used - I have a much better time with my brother than that! We laugh, hug hello, he sometimes even rubs my feet for me (though he moans about it and I have to pay him in wine). If my brother snaps at me I tell him to give his head a wobble, he says sorry, we sort it out.

I think your marriage has failed, in that both people in it are clearly very unhappy. Sorry. It seems to me like your DH is happy enough tootling along in the nice house, with the kids, getting to do what he wants to do, while you are silently screaming in the (separate) living room.

Is that what you wanted for your life, your one and only, precious shot at life?

(and hugs too, because I know that all sounds very harsh)

TheNaze73 Mon 09-May-16 14:35:39

I think you're existing & not living. I couldn't cope with what you are putting up with. flowers

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 14:43:46

It seems to me like your DH is happy enough tootling along in the nice house, with the kids, getting to do what he wants to do.

This is an accusation you could easily level at me too. I'm living a very nice life (at least on the surface). If we break up I'll have to go back to work - probably FT to make anywhere near the amount of money I'd need to support myself and the kids - and that will be a big and painful change for all three of us (if I could even FIND a job after all this time).

And yes, I have more fun with my brothers than I do with my DH. We used to have a lot in common, but nowadays we don't. I still have the same interests, but he doesn't seem to share them any more. All he does is work and play strategy games on his computer. He doesn't even particularly like going out any more. I love going out. He says 'You go and have fun. I'll see you later'. sad

I've been sitting here this afternoon trying to update my totally out-of-date CV. Last date I can put on there when I actually worked? 2008. And that's actually when my maternity leave ended, not started (which was in 2007).

minipie Mon 09-May-16 15:10:27

Have you said all this to him? Does he realise how unhappy you are? Have you asked him to give up gaming? Or attend marriage counselling?

If you did, you might find he'd might be horrified and make a real effort to change. Or he might not - but then at least you'd know, iyswim.

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 15:21:52

Well we've discussed it before and he's vowed to change and he has for a while .... and then the rot sets back in. Usually when he gets stressed at work, that's when he gets moody and starts gaming again (and he's been stressed at work about 80% of the time we've been together!), and if I dare to question him on it the answer I get is always the same 'Well if you'd go back to work then maybe I wouldn't have to be so stressed at work'. This is despite a joint decision having been made for me to be a SAHM and mostly because his job is so fucking demanding that it would be very hard for me to work and fit around him and the kids unless we had a nanny (which I really don't want to have and which I'd have to earn a fortune to justify). Ho hum. Fuck this is worse than I'd realised.

minipie Mon 09-May-16 15:55:31

Hmm tricky.

Do you think he really wants you to go back to work or is that just something he says to turn the blame on you? Would he really move to a less stressful job if you did go back to work?

Would general "downsizing" of your life be an option - I get the impression (may be wrong!) that you are fairly well off as a family. I wonder if he could move to a less stressful job and you stay as a SAHM if you - for example - moved to a smaller house/cheaper area? How would he react if you suggested this?

Having said all that - it really sounds like the gaming is a huge part of the problem - and that might continue even if you did go back to work or downsized. Trouble is, he needs to accept it's a problem and causing problems in order to stop doing it. Is there any other way he likes to relax that he could do instead of gaming - for example did he used to go to the gym (at least that is healthy and relieves stress better)?

It does sound like you both want to salvage things but are in a vicious cycle/rut - so something is needed to break out of that cycle. Maybe ask him to trial a ban on screens in the evenings for a month?

Mytummyisnotatrampoline Mon 09-May-16 15:58:21

I want to know how you actually end it. I too am stuck as I don't want to separate DS from his dad, but I'm so bloody miserable with the way things turned out for us. How do you tell someone that you like a and respect that you want them to leave?

He's a good man. He loves his child more than anything but we're not really anything other than housemates now. I can't remember the last time we cuddled or talked about anything that wasn't DS related.
He takes me for granted in that I pick up the slack (which is increasing as its cleAr he no longer really cares) and I accept it because I can't be the one to end it. I hated my dad for the longest time because he left us and I can't risk DS hating me because I initiated the end.
Like previous posters, I wish he would have an affair or just initiate the split but he won't. Like I said, he's a good guy.
Been together 11 years, DS is 2 and knowing that my 30s is going to be much of the sAme just makes me miserable.

sukiyaki Mon 09-May-16 17:22:17

Do you think he really wants you to go back to work or is that just something he says to turn the blame on you?
He defends his actions by attacking me - that's always been his form - but I also think that he feels we would have more in common again if I worked (which may well be true). He also thinks that if I shared the financial burden it would take some pressure off him (again, probably true). However, with me having not worked for 8 years and us having two DC its not quite so simple as me just 'finding a job', because we'd need childcare and that would be a pretty large chunk of my salary.

Would he really move to a less stressful job if you did go back to work?
No, he'd keep doing what he's doing - at least for now. He'd like to step back in the next five years or so (around the time he hits 50).

Downsizing our life - well our house is pretty much paid for and its in a really convenient location so no, selling the house wouldn't solve anything and we built it so its perfect for us.

But yes, his job and its stressfulness is a huge, huge problem, but its not the main reason for the disconnect between the two of us. That has happened through many years together, having kids, not prioritising our relationship or each other, both being very independent and self-sufficient, and just the fading of our chemistry. TBH he wasn't the best 'chemical' match I've ever had with someone, but in terms of other stuff (our interests, our goals, the life we wanted, family, etc), I thought we would weather the storms of life. But I'm not so sure any more. We both just seem to have lost interest and are now just pleasing ourselves (quite literally!)

DistanceCall Mon 09-May-16 23:57:58

Do you love him? I mean, really, properly love him? Do you feel that he loves you? That he looks forward to spending time with you, that he likes you, that he wants to share who he is with you? Do you feel that way?

sukiyaki Tue 10-May-16 10:24:26

Yes, I do love him. And he does love me.

Does he look forward to spending time with me? I have no idea! Mostly, I think he's just exhausted a lot of the time, worn down by work and responsibility. But when we do actually go out and do something its still really nice and we have a good time when we're on holiday and away from all the daily shit.

Does he like me? Yes. And I like him too. We chose either other wisely, 14 years back. We'd both had somewhat unhappy childhoods and we'd both had serious relationships with other people and had learned from those.

The main problem for both us, I think, is that after 14 years our marriage has just become stale and we've got into a rut both with lack of sex and bad habits (like gaming, in his case). But I still have hope, because we're both committed to this marriage. Neither of us want it to fail. We have such a good life otherwise that I can't imagine chucking that away - we both have too much to lose and so little to gain.

minipie Tue 10-May-16 12:13:36

I know this is SUCH a cliche but have you tried having a regular date night? Perhaps on a Saturday so you're not as tired as Friday and not yet worrying about work again on Monday.

minipie Tue 10-May-16 12:14:23

PS I'm not suggesting that is an "instant fix", just wondering if you'd tried it and if so did it help.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 10-May-16 12:42:18

sukiyaki,

What do you get out of this relationship now, what keeps you married to this man?. What needs of yours does he meet?.

Your marriage seems more than just stale; your own fear of failure is keeping you also within this marriage that died on the vine years ago.

How does he show you that he loves you, after all words are cheap. Its actions that matter and it looks as if gaming is more important to him than you are.

I do not doubt your commitment to the marriage but you cannot carry that on your own. How is he committed to this marriage exactly?. Or would you simply like to think that he is in your head because thinking otherwise is too painful to contemplate?. Denial is a powerful force.

Did you really choose each other wisely or did you simply replicate your own parents relationship in the type of person you chose?.

If it was not for these children would you and he be together now?. I would say not. If that is the case you should not stay for their sake; it rarely if ever works out well.

You cannot and must not teach your children that a loveless marriage is also their norm. They will likely simply go onto repeat that as you both did from your own childhoods. You also learnt about relationships first and foremost from your parents; what did they teach you and how can you start to unlearn all that rubbish (getting back to your fear of failure)?. It takes two to make a relationship and you cannot carry what is a poor relationship now on your own.

Your children are aware that things are not good between you as their mum and dad and they notice as well that you both sleep separately (your eldest child would likely be aware that not all her friends parents sleep in separate rooms). They pick up on all the unspoken vibes between you two, notice your indifference and the lack of conversation.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 10-May-16 12:47:11

"We have such a good life otherwise that I can't imagine chucking that away - we both have too much to lose and so little to gain".

If this what you have is a such a good life I would hate to think what your definition of a bad life would be.

This chucking away business smacks of the "sunken costs fallacy" which keeps people in poor relationships far longer than they should. People get bogged down by focusing on their sunk costs.

There are two ways to understand this process, both involving avoidance. One is an avoidance of disappointment or loss when something doesn’t work out. When a relationship doesn’t succeed, especially after a long period, especially after many shared experiences and especially after developing a hope that the relationship would be a good one, it is a loss. It is a loss of what might have been and an acknowledgement that a part of one’s life has been devoted to this endeavour.

Another angle to evaluate is that focus on “sunk cost” creates a distraction from one’s inner truth. The sentence often goes like, “I’ve already invested to much, so I can’t notice my thoughts and feelings that are telling me to end or change this relationship.”This is a type of insidious defence against noticing yourself. You enter into a neglectful relationship with yourself which divorces you from your inner thoughts and the quiet feelings that might guide you in your life. In other words, thinking about what already has been may prevent you from deciding what you want your life to be.

stomachinknots Tue 10-May-16 13:06:19

Well put, Atilla. I have a toxic 'sunk cost' relationship with my current car. I've spent so much money getting various bits of it fixed, that it seems ridiculous to get rid of it now. Better to keep ploughing money into it as more and more of its bits fall off. Right?

Lots of parallels to many marriages, no? smile

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