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Has it passed the point of being fixable?

(26 Posts)
flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 12:12:36

I'm lost and need some help. Sorry if this is long.

DH and I have been together 8 years and married for 5. We have a 3 yr old DS. No other children but infertility and loss problems over the last 18 months. We are currently not ttc as we have not been getting on for a while and haven't had sex since January.

DH has been extremely iritable for months and months and pushed me away emotionally, would never talk to me and was just constantly grumpy. I was going through a hard time around the yr anniversary of one of the miscarriages and despite telling him how I felt he didn't ever ask about it. Unfortunately I became too close to a colleague and got involved in an EA which is now over. I know it's wrong but I was so lonely. I do have a lot of friends but am always seen as the strong one with the perfect life and the couple of times I have I'd to talk to friends I have felt very let down so it's put me off going back again.

DH now thinks he has depression and isn't happy with his life. Our marriage is in a mess. Neither of us know if we want to be with each other. I am really terrified of my family breaking up and my little boy not seeing his dad all the time. I am also scared I would never have another baby again if this happened as I have been desperate for a sibling for ds since day 1!

We both care about each other a lot but I feel that we are just very different people. We talked last night and agreed that knowing what we know now we would not get together again. But we also both say we love each other. Though I don't know if the love I feel for him is because he is the father of my lovely son.

Smetimes I think there is a lot of good stuff between us. We support eachother practically, we give eachother freedom, we both contribute equally to childcare, finances, housework. We are a great practical team. And most importantly we have a child together. A little boy who adores his mum and dad. I would never restrict access but as it is DH commutes to London 5 days per week so he would most likely move there if we split.

The other problem is sex. We've always had sex but it's always been very functional. I was quite a sexual person in other relationships but that side has gone in this one. Maybe that is a function of having a child, I don't know, but in my EA I felt sexual again. I think Dh is a good looking man but I don't feel attracted to him. It has been this way for a long time. Maybe always.

I am so confused and I don't know what to do. Do I work on my marriage or do I get out now while I am still young (31) so I have time to meet someone else and maybe have more children.

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 12:29:02

If you want to work on your marriage, your DH is going to need to be on board with that, and I think you'll need to try couple's counselling.

I think there are a few things going on in the relationship for both of you. If your DH is a reluctant talker, you're unlikely to get to the bottom of it without counselling, especially while you're consumed with your own problems.

I understand the EA. There's nothing quite like being lonely within a relationship; it's worse than being lonely out of one I think. However, there's a lot of unfulfilled needs in your life that you are looking for others to meet - your DH, your friends, an as-yet-unborn child. Are they simply masking something that needs to come from yourself maybe?

That said, I wouldn't underestimate the significance of not remembering ever feeling any real sexual attraction to your DH. If you've had that with other partners, it suggests a major incompatibility. For most people physical intimacy is a big part of the bond that helps keep a marriage strong and encourages emotional intimacy. Why do you think that the attraction is absent?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 08-May-13 12:35:02

" Maybe that is a function of having a child, I don't know, but in my EA I felt sexual again. I think Dh is a good looking man but I don't feel attracted to him."

Having children might affect the time you have or the energy you have but it shouldn't change how you feel about your partner. If you've never felt attracted to him you have to be honest with him about it. It would be very cruel to keep expecting him to be something he has never been and far kinder to call time. You can still love someone as a friend. You can still co-parent separately.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 12:48:13

@dahlen - I do tend to get my sense of self worth from others around me. It's a point I will think about that I look elsewhere to get my needs met. I've been to counselling and been given some interesting books which have made me think I am always putting others needs above my own. (it was the EA which sent me off to counselling as I was so shocked at my behaviour).

I think the attraction is absent because we are probably just good friends although one of the books I have been given "women who love too much" suggests that sometimes we find the steady guys not sexually attractive. I know sex is important but it feels like such a shallow reason to walk away from a marriage. When we had sex it was ok, but increasingly I've liked lights off and I never actually think about DH while we're doing it. Crikey that sounds awful.

@cogito having lurked on these boards I suppose I think that I should be grateful to have an honest, faithful, dependable man who is a good dad as a husband. To end the relationship because I don't "fancy" him makes me feel ridiculous. I'm a 31 year old mother for goodness sake. I keep telling myself to just be happy with my lot and stop being so greedy and selfish. After all, I might be left with a much worse prospect than I have now. I am scared of being single yes.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 08-May-13 12:57:08

Happy with your lot? hmm But it's not just the case of not fancying him is it? You had an emotional affair with someone because you were so lonely and you didn't feel 'sexual'. He's depressed and irritable. The marriage is 'a mess' and you can't even connect about something as painful and personal as losing a baby. So that's two lives heading for the buffers already. And in the middle of it all you have a little boy who is watching this very slow train-smash play out before his eyes and is thinking that all Mums and Dads behave this way towards each other. Kids in your DS's situation can pick up that Mum and Dad aren't happy. They can't possibly know why - adult love lives are not on their radar - so they often assume it's something they've done wrong. They can turn into people-pleasers as they grow up because they feel uncomfortable living in a home where laughter is rare. All kinds of unintended consequences.

So 'grateful' is not a good basis for the next 50 years of your life. Honesty is. Having values is. Being assertive is. Being brave is. There are far worse fates than being single

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 13:02:44

@cog gosh you've got me in floods of tears. I've never really seen it that black and white before.

I think we are pretty good at playing happy families in front of ds - it's a bit of a facade really i suppose if i feel emotionally lonely. I get the impression from lurking that you are very passionate about being single but do you not think its worth me working on the marriage? Or am I just flogging a dead horse and pro longing the inevitable.

And on another note - why am I not sexually attracted to him? He's nice looking, in great shape, smells good... The man I had the EA with who I was hugely attracted to was (on paper) not a patch...

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 13:04:09

It's not greedy and selfish to want a relationship in which stability AND attraction are a feature. That's a normal, healthy desire.

The longer you remain in the current situation, the less likely it is you will achieve it though. The solution is either to shake up your marriage or end it, but doing nothing will solve nothing.

Can I ask what your childhood was like and what your previous relationships have been like? I read a fascinating article once about how some women's subconscious brains confuse fear with sexual attraction, so the absence of fear tricks them into thinking they don't fancy someone (it's obviously a lot more complicated than that, but you get the gist). That might not apply in your case, but if you think it does it's again something that counselling could help with.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 08-May-13 13:17:25

It's worth you working on the marriage as long as you really think it's worth you working on the marriage. But no amount of 'work' will ever make you feel attracted to a man that you are not attracted to. I've met such men. Handsome, witty, intelligent, rich & on paper they are Mr Perfect... but I kiss them and it's like kissing my granny. No chemistry and not a damn thing I can do about it except sigh deeply, curse my DNA and move on to the next one.

Was there honestly never a time that your eyes met across a crowded room and you thought 'wow!'? No memory you can rake up and work with?

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 13:36:25

@dahlen - my childhood was (I believed!) pretty normal. Lived in my nuclear family as an only child and whilst we didn't have a lot we weren't poor. Both parents were teachers and very present in my life. We didn't really 'do' feelings in my family and looking back I think I had depression as a teen. I suffered badly from low self esteem and Went through a period of self harming. I just don't think I liked myself very much and I didn't think my mum liked me either. I certainly didn't like her. I do now but at the time I just thought she was out to ruin my life and hated me.

As for relationships, I've had a mixed bag. A couple of really nice blokes, both of whom I ended it with. One cause I was off to uni and wanted to play the field and one because he wanted to settle down and marry and I wanted to travel, and to be honest I didn't really fancy him by that point and my head had been turned by someone else.
I've also had 3 relationships with guys I have really really fancied. One ended badly as we were both very insecure in the relationship, one ended as the guy decided I wasn't right for him, and one was a long distance one which ended as neither of us was willing to move.

What do you make of that?! I often wonder if I married the steady guy as I was so hurt by the ones I had passionate feelings for. I think I made a conscious choice to marry someone I didn't think would hurt me.

I do agree that we need to shake it up or move on. It has been like this for a year but I equated that with all the infertility and baby loss stuff.

@cogito - I never think"wow" but I often think "isn't he nice". I have to say that is less and less though. Sometimes I feel annoyance when he talks, bored or (and this is awful) I just feel guilty and sorry for him. I feel like I made some promises in front of all my friends and family and that walking away would be giving up. I am also aware that having the EA has skewed my judgement as I had my head turned by someone else.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 08-May-13 14:11:24

" I feel like I made some promises in front of all my friends and family and that walking away would be giving up."

Anyone can make a mistake. No-one gets to the stage you're at overnight. Takes a catalogue of errors compounding one on the other to reach a point where an EA becomes a viable prospect and you're having conversations about 'knowing what we know now, we'd never have got together'. That's serious stuff that has taken a long time to realise. When you talk about 'giving up' therefore, it's not some rash decision made at the drop of a hat, it's a considered one - a sad one - that many others this year will also make.

Your friends & family are not the ones sitting in your skin, living your life. Neither, for that matter, is your DS. Your principle responsibility is to be true to yourself.

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 14:22:33

Excuse the pop psychology hmm but it sounds as though you've made a habit of going for emotionally unavailable types - in friendships as well as in romantic relationships - in a bid to 'fix' the emotional unavailability your experienced growing up. Part of your wanting another child may also be connected to this, particularly as you've now experienced the positive side of what overwhelming love for someone (your DS) can feel like.

<disclaimer - don't add too much credence to what I'm saying as I've never met you and know next to nothing about you, but if it resonates it's worth you exploring perhaps>

I can only echo what Cogito says about there being far worse things than being single, that being separated parents does not mean you can't be good parents, and that regardless of what your friends and family think, they don't have to live your life. And if they've been less than supportive to you, why would you even care for their approval?

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 14:37:30

@dahlen - now you've got me blubbing too.... I do feel I have no-one I can really talk to. I have tried with friends but I'm always conscious they have their own lives etc and they rarely ask how things are - but then I know that is also partly my doing as I am one who pretends as if everything is fine when in reality I feel like my life is crumbling. I don't like to burden.

I think that was the whole attraction of the EA. I felt like he 'got' me and we we able to talk to each other in a way neither of us have talked to anyone before. I totally fell for him hook line and sinker.

You may have something with your "pop psychology", I've read that it's common for people to look for relationships which allow them to exist in the role they played as a child in their home, so here I am 31 years old feeling desperately alone inside yet making out like everything is fine. Thinking that its 'normal' that nobody wants to talk feelings with me and thinking if I just act like everything is ok then it will be. That's pretty sad isn't it

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 08-May-13 14:50:42

It's sad. It would be sadder if you genuinely felt there was no alternative and your life came to a halt at just 31...

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 14:56:34

No (wo)man is an island and we all need to have people round us with whom we can share our fears and hopes without fear of feeling ridiculous or that we're overburdening others. That's not being needy, it's considered normal in a two-way healthy relationship, whether that's a marriage or just a friendship.

I don't know if it is the people around you at fault or whether you're erecting barriers where none need exist as a means of self-protection, but it's interesting that the first person you really shared your vulnerability with (your EA) was the one person who couldn't 'expose' that in your normal day-to-day life because he was always one step removed from it due to the clandestine nature of your relationship.

Ask yourself whether that may have been (subconsciously) deliberate, or whether your EA may have been the first recognition you've had that your needs and wants matter and that you want to share them with someone.

You chose to take that step outside the confines of your marriage because your relationship with your DH isn't established on those lines. It's harder to change something that already is than it is to start again from scratch with someone new. In some ways the EA shored up your marriage, and now it's gone it probably feels worse than ever. But as your self-respect will be shot if you have another EA, it's got to be make or break time.

Do you think your DH could learn to listen to you, to understand and empathise even if he doesn't agree with you? Even if it's a tall order, he should be willing to try or there really isn't any point in continuing in the relationship.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 15:10:36

@dahlen - can you explain what you mean by the EA shoring up the marriage?

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 15:12:51

While you were having your emotional needs met in your EA, it prevented you from realising how unhappy you were in your marriage. If you hadn't the EA you'd have probably reached the point you're at now a lot sooner.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 15:16:17

@dahlen - I so appreciate you taking the time to chat to a random Internet stranger about this.

I think the EA was more about someone actually taking the time to talk to me and telling me that it was important to talk about stuff and that I should. He literally prised things out of me. I miss him dreadfully. So yes, I think it was the first recognition that my needs and wants matter.

My DH does try to listen to me but he just ums and ahs about things and finds it really hard to express his feelings. He also is so focused on the practical that he forgets the emotional - ALL the time. I thought it would be ok because we were different but it is becoming a problem. I feel guilty because he is trying but it isn't working for me. And I don't want to share my thoughts and feelings with him because he either doesn't acknowledge them, or I don't feel I get the support I need. So we are stuck in a roundabout circle.

And then there is the physical aspect. I wondered if my EA had made me more "turned off" my husband but to be honest I've never been turned on my HIM, more just the situation and whatever I can close my eyes and think of.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 15:20:19

@dahlen - got it. Yes, that's what I realised. When I was in the EA I almost idolised my DH as some amazing man whilst punishing myself for being the evil cheating OW. So because I was getting my needs met (except the sexual ones, which I suddenly was very very aware of due to incredible attraction for the EA man) I was ok. Now there is no EA I feel lonely again.

I wonder if I am expecting too much from one person and if I should be accepting of what DH can offer (stability, friendship, good parenting, practical support) and look to friendships for the emotional needs. Although if I am honest with myself that's what I've been doing and it sent me trotting off to share my innermost thoughts with another man.

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 15:36:02

I don't think you're expecting too much from one person. None of us should expect a single person to fulfil ALL our needs, but wanting to be able to talk to, and have decent sex with, your own DH is not expecting too much. Thinking that it is is very much selling yourself short.

For a lot of people (not just women), the emotional connection is what sparks the physical attraction. If you're one of those people you owe it to yourself to find someone who can provide you with that.

You might find it helpful to take a less black-and-white response to the whole situation. Just as having an EA doesn't make you an evil woman, not being the man you need him to be doesn't make your DH a bad person. And he can be a lovely man, but if you choose to leave him that doesn't make you a bad person either. Sometimes relationships go wrong and it's no one's fault it's just because people are incompatible, or sometimes because people and circumstances change. There doesn't have to be a bad guy at all.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 15:44:14

@dahlen - yes, you are right. I think I always just assumed (because this is how the media portrays it) that divorced people hate each other. Actually most of the people I know who are separated are vey civil to each other.

With the EA when I first met him I was hugely physically attracted to him. It was literally like fireworks. I felt such an incredible connection. If I'm honest the only reason I didn't sleep with him was because I felt that would be cheating, and I could almost 'justify' an EA. (I know I can't by the way, it is still cheating.) he wanted me to leave and for us to give it a go. I do wonder if I should have done that but it just seemed so messy and I felt that because it was an affair it wasn't real. I wonder sometimes if I created blockers for myself because it was scary and difficult.

I am such a black and white person but have never thought of my life as black and white as wanting to talk to and have decent sex with your own dh is not expecting too much. That is a VERY good point. I feel like such an idiot for marrying someone I didn't really fancy.

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 15:52:53

Don't be. You made what you thought was the right judgement at the time. That's all any of us can do. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And fortunately, we have the capacity to learn from our mistakes and make our lives better than they would have been had we never made the mistake in the first place.

Everything I am now and everything I have is a direct result of everything that has gone wrong in my life. Sometimes out of my control and sometimes because of poor choices on my part. In overcoming that I now find myself the happiest I've ever been. There is no reason at all why you can't do the same.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 15:56:22

Thanks @dahlen...

Feels a bit like its dead in the water now sad

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 16:46:38

Maybe it is. In which case, you'll get through it, pick up the pieces and build a better life for yourself. The sooner you do that, the sooner you have that better life.

Maybe it isn't. Maybe building better communication between you and your H can ignite a spark between the two of you. But if that's to happen, you need to talk to him - using counselling if necessary. If it doesn't work it doesn't work. You're both still good people, your DS's dad, and know you tried everything.

It will all work out in the end.

flurostripes Wed 08-May-13 16:56:09

Can you still go to counselling if you've had an EA? I thought I read on here that it wasn't suitable if you'd cheated as the point was that you could be totally honest?

Dahlen Wed 08-May-13 21:45:36

Of course you can. It's better if you are honest because if you're holding back you may hold back bits that could really get to the heart of the problem in your bid to make sure you don't trip yourself up. But what you're really trying to do with counselling is get a third party to mediate between the two of you - to articulate things in a non-accusatory way that the other person can absorb, think about and respond to. You can do that without admitting to your EA.

However, given that it was an EA, rather than a sexual one, if it were me in your situation I'd think about bringing it up. Yes, it's still a betrayal and yes it may cause your DH to react angrily, with hurt and to call things off (in which case, that's kind of a decision made), but I think he needs to hear how badly you have needed some kind of human contact emotionally.

I can't promise you things will work out, but I can promise you that you will only become more miserable if you don't take the risk to either change things or leave.

Good luck. FWIW you sound like a person who is very open to examining their own motives, who is willing to take on criticism and responsibility. You deserve to be happy. Don't lose sight of that.

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