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Marriage crumbling - advice needed please

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


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.


JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 15:44:41

No, need to apologise. I have also been there.

Leavenheath Fri 12-Apr-13 15:58:26

You might be on to something about her childhood OP. If she's had a religious upbringing (Catholic?) and her dad left for a prostitute, is it possible that the family left behind to care for her drummed it into her that sex was dirty and that men couldn't be trusted? And that this was simply reinforced by her catholic schooling? Has she got friends who also parrot this message?

NotDavidTennant Fri 12-Apr-13 16:17:16

'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'

Is there some particular issue that tends to provoke the crying?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 20:11:46


Are you sure that there is not anything that you do, or don't do, sexually that is alienating her?

huddlelikepenguins Fri 12-Apr-13 20:20:01

I heard of an interesting theory which said that the more you and your partner are soulmates, best friends, share all emotional thoughts etc. the less sexually attracted you are to each other. You almost need some tension in the form of misunderstandings to bring you closer together sexually.

Now that might be a load of bull but it would explain why sex tends to drop off once you live with/marry your partner.

OP, you haven't explained what your relationship is like outside of the bedroom - does she confide in you? Is she affectionate in other ways? Do you make the effort to try new things? Does she? If she's just seeing you like a best friend and is too comfortable, rather than seeing you as a sexual being, that may be where the problem lies.

ImperialBlether Fri 12-Apr-13 20:20:27

Do you think that's fair, Jamie? Would you ask that of a woman? They have had sex 23 times in 22 years. That's awful. For most of us, I think, we would have had sex 23 times in the first couple of months of starting a relationship with someone.

She clearly won't discuss it if she runs out crying when it's broached. Maybe she doesn't know how to explain it. She's gone on to have children with him; you'd think if he turned her stomach in the early days she wouldn't have done that.

Thisisaeuphemism Fri 12-Apr-13 20:25:56

If she refuses to talk about it, to work on it, to get counselling or whatever then I would leave if I were you.

I think she is treating you very badly.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 12-Apr-13 20:30:48


I don't mean to accuse. If you read my earlier posts, I am very sympathetic to the OP. i just read another relathionship thread, where the woman poster feels pressurised and her DH does things that irritate her. I wanted to just ask the question.

needastrongone Fri 12-Apr-13 21:03:25

OP you sound super. My mother sounds a little like your wife. I grew up thinking a silent marriage was a normal marriage and, just because my parents didnt argue, that they were happy. In fact, quite the opposite.

My dad is an open, tactile, emotional person. My dm isn't. I have no idea what she thinks or feels. I sometimes wonder if she is autistic or certainly on the spectrum somwhere. She can't relate to others at all, never mind her kids.

Dad left mum after 30+ years of marriage for an equally open lovely person and they are still together now after 20 years and I love her deeply. Dad is alive now in a way he wasn't when married to my mum.

Please don't think your kids won't pick up on your relationship at some level. I look back now with so many questions and a deep resentment of my mum, although I am desperately close to my father. I wish they hadn't stuck it out for our sake. I have no relationship with my mum and struggle to understand her coldness.

I am lucky enough to enjoy a deeply loving and happy marriage. My dh is my best friend, my lover and my soul mate. My kids see us kiss and cuddle but bicker and grumble at each other too. It's real and not what my parents experienced and we did as the 'norm'

Good luck. If you can't work to fix it, then this isn't your fault.

ohtobecleo Fri 12-Apr-13 21:07:15

needastrongone got there before me. Don't think that the kids won't pick up on your unhappiness. And don't forget that they'll learn about what healthy relationships look like from their parents. Happy and apart is healthier than unhappy under the same roof.

What you're describing sounds borderline EA to me.

DesperateDH Mon 15-Apr-13 12:26:26

Sorry I didn't manage to get back over the weekend. Your advice has given me some hope that all may not be lost. I tried to broach the subject again but was not immediately engaged. Difficult subjects are kind of skirted.

Stephanie. Thanks for your honest response - that's why I came here to ask for advice.

Missmaybe. Yes, we've both been treated for depression over the last few years. With me, it was succesful for quite a few years although I can feel myself spiralling down again now. My wife doesn't seem to be responding to treatment but doesn't seem to be doing anything to help herself either - she thinks popping a Citalopram will fix everything. I've explained that it is an aid to helping herself, but, as usual, only lip service is paid.

NotDavidTennant - Is there some particular issue that tends to provoke the crying? anything that is, while not necessarily confrontational, in opposition to her view or another (my) opinion that she doesn't agree with.

JamieandtheMagicTorch - Are you sure that there is not anything that you do, or don't do, sexually that is alienating her? Possibly. I'm not very experienced in the bedroom at all (having only had sex with two women - one after a break up age 20) and have been very keen to try and liven things up by trying something new. I am (almost) sneered at when I suggest this. Yet during jokey conversations with our friends, full of innuendo and general naughtiness, she's happy to participate and even hints that we have a great sex life. I had to leave the room on one recent occasion, I was so cross.

huddlelikepenguins - OP, you haven't explained what your relationship is like outside of the bedroom - does she confide in you? Is she affectionate in other ways? Do you make the effort to try new things? Does she? It's hard to tell... I used to think so, but I know she talks to her friends and her brother more than she talks to me. I try to make an effort to try new things and comment that change is good and healthy but it falls on deaf ears.

Needastrongone. Thank you. That really gives me hope.

Ohtobecleo - What you're describing sounds borderline EA to me. Sorry, you're going to have to help me with that one. EA?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 15-Apr-13 15:01:24

EA... Emotional Abuse or Psychological Bullying. Using the withdrawal of affection to control someone else's behaviour.

forumdonkey Mon 15-Apr-13 23:36:07

Hi OP, can I be blunt? I am 43 and have always enjoyed sex and had a really good sex life, even all the years that I was married. I am with a man and we have the most amazing sex life I have ever had or imagined. In a period we split and I started dating an amazing man, who was so good looking and literally had women falling at his feet, he'd had had many previous lovers I was shocked how boring and selfish he was in bed!! It was so mundane and boring I just lost the urge to rip his clothes off and was always left disappointed and unsatisfied at his 'selfishness'.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but what about doing a bit of research and trying new things, making sure your lady is the priority? If sex is exciting, exhilarating, passionate as well as loving for her, it might just bring her spark back.

Mumsyblouse Tue 16-Apr-13 00:40:03

forumdonkey lucky you but in this situation they haven't had sex for six years since the birth of the last child, so how on earth would the OP start performing his new tricks to win her over. And really, why should he, if my partner (even if I wasn't the best in bed) rejected me for six years in a row, I wouldn't feel very amorous myself.

I think looking at the quality of the sex is entirely misguided, it can't be that bad that you'd only want to do it once a year!

Loulybelle Tue 16-Apr-13 00:57:54

If my partner rejected me for 6 years, i'd start to think the issue was with me, in which it wouldnt be, and the fact she doesnt ever seem to want to discuss, sounds alarming.

Thisisaeuphemism Tue 16-Apr-13 07:07:46

Forumdonkey, that's not blunt, it's simply unhelpful and irrelevant.

Walkacrossthesand Tue 16-Apr-13 07:24:17

OP, I feel for you. Many posters are assuming that the sexual side withered when DCs arrived, but your OP states that the physical side was 'decent' until you married, and then (almost instantly?) refused by your wife, until needed for procreation - but she's happy to give friends etc the impression that you have a normal sex life, she cries and runs away to avoid talking about it with you, and seems not to care about what this feels like for you. It doesn't sound to me that she loves you like you love her - maybe the 'meal ticket' suggestion at the beginning is on the money, in which case it's ok for you to stop trying, you've tried for so long and got nowhere . We only have one life, its not too late for you to find passion - but it looks like you'll have to end your marriage to find it.

StephaniePowers Tue 16-Apr-13 11:56:55

paying lip service
anything where we simply don't agree
it falls on deaf ears

She is getting a lot of blame here without any real attempt to understand why she might, for example, discount what you say or not agree with you.

Perhaps she is depressed and fed up and not feeling the love because the above is the reaction to her attempts to communicate something. Running away in tears does give you some information beyond 'she doesn't agree with me'. If she is not listening to you then it might be because you haven't got to the heart of the matter.

Asking a bunch of women on an internet forum isn't really going to help but presumably a marriage counsellor will be able to get you both to listen to each other.

TicTacSir Tue 16-Apr-13 13:01:16

I have thought carefully about how to respond to your post. I am sorry that things are as bad as they seem. This is no marriage.
Instead of focusing on the question of sex, I'd be asking the following questions; either by sitting down and talking, or by letter if she's unwilling to engage.
1) Does she regret marrying you
2) Did she only have children with you because she was scared she would "miss the boat"
3) How does she envisage your old age together after the kids have grown up
4) Does she have feelings for anyone else
Until these issues are all addressed I don't think you should even consider sex as the main problem.
Best of luck op. You sound like a decent and caring husband.

DesperateDH Tue 16-Apr-13 13:16:49

Forumdonkey - I'm pleased for you that you have such a wonderful sex life (and a bit jealous). But please read my last post - I've tried to suggest things, to change things and to spice things up but she's not interested - and I'm not talking about weird stuff either! Anything other than standard missionary would be a good start!

Walkacrossthesand - You're quite correct; this is not a new issue, but one that has gone on for years and years. I've never directly asked for sex or "prodded her in the back", but always tried to initiate intimacy when we've been snuggled up in bed. Maybe I should be more blunt?! More assertive? ! State what I want for a change?! I've never done that before.

StephaniePowers - Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to blame anyone here. I'm trying to understand - which is precisely why I asked a bunch of Women on an internet forum smile - however, in order to do so, I need to be able to hold a grown-up conversation about a difficult subject (our failing relationship) without her walking away in tears as soon as she hears things she doesn't like or agree with.

DesperateDH Tue 16-Apr-13 13:19:38

TicTacSir - thank you for that. Some very good advice which I will most certainly take away.

BurtNo Tue 16-Apr-13 13:28:05

Best of luck OP - i am in a very similar position - i nearly sent myself mad trying to be a mind reader - i also tried being more assertive and demanding my DW be honest with me about our problems but it was counter-productive

it sounds to me like your DW might be avoiding all forms of intimacy - does she ever reveal her hopes and dreams to you - do you know what interests her currently? if she is keeping her inner thoughts from you then i suspect you have a mountain to climb

DesperateDH Tue 16-Apr-13 13:39:58

Sadly BurtNo, I have no idea what interests her currently sad

BurtNo Tue 16-Apr-13 13:54:24

sorry to hear that Desperate DH -maybe try a version of TicTacSir's item 3 as an open question to see how she fancies spending retirement?

MooncupGoddess Tue 16-Apr-13 13:59:07

OP - have you heard the saying 'you can't change other people, you can only change yourself'? It's very relevant here.

You say, 'I need to be able to hold a grown-up conversation about a difficult subject (our failing relationship) without her walking away in tears as soon as she hears things she doesn't like or agree with.'

But if she doesn't want to engage (and clearly she doesn't) you can't make her. By all means try your best, but at some point you're going to have to take control of your own life if you want anything to change. And yes, that might mean suggesting you split up. By refusing even to consider this, you are giving 100% of the power in the relationship to your wife.

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