Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Can I rescue our relationship?(16 Posts)
I originally posted this in the Dadsnet forum but they suggested I post here as it's relatively quiet over there, it will be good to get a female perspective too.
Please bear with me, I'm new and have never opened up any of this to anyone before but I'm desperate for some advice to help me decide what to do about what has become an empty, loveless relationship after 20+ years together.
I'm 43, she is 50 now and we have 2 wonderful children. A boy of 11 and a girl of 17. We never got married, after the house, the kids and everything else we just never seemed to get around to it! We experienced the loss of our second daughter who was just a toddler back in 2002 from undiagnosed epilepsy, I only mention it to give a bit of background to the emotional turmoil we have experienced together.
In recent years, I would say the past 5 or 6 (maybe more), the intimate side of our relationship has petered out to nothing. In the past 3 years we have had sex 4 times but each time I know that she is only going through with it because she feels like it's her duty, she never lets me touch her, she actually physically recoils when I try to touch her and she certainly would never think of initiating sex or touching me! She insists that it's not my fault and that she just doesn't want sex, no matter who it was with but I don't know if that's the truth.
Up until the last month or two I have (stupidly) ignored the situation in the hope that it is something to do with menopause and that it will get better. I still love her very much and tell her often but I just feel like she is keeping her true feelings hidden from me in order to keep the relationship together and avoid the turmoil and financial loss that a breakup would cause.
Neither of us has ever been unfaithful to the other and there is no abuse or anything like that in her past. I have researched HSDD as I felt that that may be a possible cause but when she brought it up with her GP on a recent visit, she didn't seem to even know that it existed! We are now on a waiting list for psycho sexual counseling but this worries me because I think it's just going to expose our true differences and force us to separate (but then maybe that's for the best?).
As a 43 year old man, I feel like I have a lot to give and a lot of living still to do. I'm just not prepared to call time on my sex life just yet. I feel so empty and alone at the moment though, I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love but I don't know how or whether I can get her back. Does this sound like a lost cause? Anyone been through anything similar, how did it work out?
Thanks for listening
It's not easy.
I think it's a good sign that she is seeking help for it. So, wait and see.
Maybe speak to a different GP about your concerns?
If it doesn't change, then you have to decide what you value the most. The woman you married or your sex life.
If she tries enough to sort it out, but it still doesn't get better, you could consider it as another illness that would leave her unable to have sex.
But, you don't have to stay if you don't want to. Staying because you feel obliged to, would probably be more damaging for you and her than leaving.
It can be normal for a woman of your DW's age to feel a total lack of interest in sex. I think she has said load and clear that she just doesn't want or need it.
You are waiting to undertake councelling so that may be a turning point in your relationship. I think you need to be brave and tell her that you miss intimacy and that you are not sure that you can continue much longer in a sexless relationship. You don't need to give her an ultimatum but you do need to tell her how you are feeling.
I very much doubt that her feelings towards sex are going to change and you then have to make a decision as to whether to stay in this relationship or cut ties and try to find a new relationship that fulfills your needs. Hopefully you can end the relationship, if that is the road you go down, amicably so you can remain friends in the future as it sounds as if you still care for each other but you both want different things in life now.
Yes, my fear is that this is a one way street. When it's gone it's gone and there's no coming back! But the thought of splitting up after 20 years isn't exactly appealing either. Financially it would be a struggle as we are entirely dependent on my income but I think that emotionally it would be catastrophic for her. I feel nothing but guilt even considering it as an option tbh with you. After everything we've been through, survived these last 12 years and stayed strong, I should be her rock not considering bailing out!
It's only you that can make this decision. It would be tough if you separated but you will both survive and life will go on. Or Perhaps you can get control over your need for intimacy and live a relatively happy life with someone who could be your best friend. Whatever you decide, it's not going to be easy but you can't stay with her simply out of guilt, that would be wrong for both of you and you would probably end up resenting her.
Some soul searching and some honest discussion with her are required.
Sadly sometimes in life we have to make some very tough choices.
Why do you think it would be emotionally catastrophic to her?
I'm going to be honest here. I'd probably feel that way too if my partner of 20 years could not make it his utmost priority to get married to me, the mother of his children. Of course, she probably has different reasons to feel the way she feels but that's the one thing in your post that stood out to me straight away.
I think most of us would feel like the OP too if our partners didn't want sex at all and we did.
While a break up is likely to be hard, I'm sure she'd recover. I don't see why it would be "catastrophic" unless there is a specific reason.
I'm so sorry that you are in this position. It's so difficult when, through no fault of either person, libidos just don't match. What about everyday affection? Is there much non-sexual physical contact between you?
It sounds as if you don't really talk about this and that can add to the problem. You could try telling her that you don't want sex but that you do want physical intimacy. If she feels that there is no pressure to take it any further, she might actually enjoy being physically close to you which would be a first step towards rebuilding intimacy.
Thanks for all the support, it's really appreciated! Just to pick up on a few points...
We have started to talk about it and at the moment I'm more confused than ever, on one hand she says that it's just that she doesn't want it, doesn't have any of those kind of thoughts anymore etc, then on the other hand she reels off a list of things that I'm not doing - supporting her in family disputes, helping with chores and so on. So my thinking now is just to make a real effort ticking all of those boxes and then see where we stand. We are starting to try and get a little more physical contact as a first step but I'm under no illusions that this is going to be a long hard road!
I used the word 'catastrophic' because my dp isn't a strong person and I honestly think that the consequences of a break up on her would be too much. She's suffered from bouts of depression in the past unsurprisingly and her health isn't great, she suffers from hand eczema which can be quite debilitating too.
As for the marriage comment, I do take the point but honestly it's never been a big deal for us. Finances have never really allowed us to be in a position to have a wedding and the whilst the idea of running away and doing it on the cheap is appealing it would upset both of our families!
then on the other hand she reels off a list of things that I'm not doing - supporting her in family disputes, helping with chores and so on.
Ah, I did wonder and it doesn't surprise me.
It is fairly common to lose the wish to have sex with someone you actually resent.
It could be excuses, but it is possible that something has gone wrong in your relationship and the lack of sexual desire is a symptom, rather than a stand alone problem.
Do start being a good husband in sharing the home work load and in supporting her with other people (why haven't you so far?), but don't expect a quick fix. It sounds like there is a lot to work on before you gain sufficient intimacy for her to actually want to have physical intimacy with you.
I would bet that those complaints have existed before, but you haven't paid enough attention so far, until the sex wasn't there... Or she has chosen not to call you up on it, but has grown resenting you over the years.
I think you should lay off the sex for now and work on rebuilding your relationship with her. Don't pressure her at all. I would bet that if the emotional relationship can be salvaged, then the sex will follow.
And, by the way, some women suffer from depression because of their relationships and because of their partners. Something for you to think about.
If you separate, you may find yourself surprised at how strong she will be.
thelar - I just wanted to say, please don't feel scared about the counselling. It will be tough but you can't possibly get through this without talking, and it sounds as though the levels of resentment between you are such that you can't talk safely without someone else there to keep it on track. If you can possibly afford to go private with it, it might help as it sounds as though you need support now and waiting lists can be long.
Keep trying to do the supportive stuff, too. It's really important. Even if it feels like you're not getting anywhere with it - if she feels that the tasks are done routinely, without grumbling and without question it will be a big step. If things have got a bit out of hand, divide the house up into sections and work through one each day sorting things out as you go (you might find the Flylady tips on the household management section of this site helpful).
This is about far more than the practical - it's about her trusting you again.
Sex drive is a complex thing. Part physical, part mental of course. Internal things like depression and anxiety can affect someone's ability to relax enough to feel sexual. Stressful living conditions, lack of privacy, fatigue, illness, loss of body confidence etc. Externally, if there is any kind of resentment or dislike of you as an individual then that's going to get in the way. Hear what everyone is saying about sharing chores and being supportive but, then again, it's not unheard of for someone who has gone off having sex with a partner to then try to retro-rationalise why in a way that puts the ball back in the partner's court rather than admit any sort of personal fault. Bear that in mind.
Sex aside are you intimate as couple? Do you hold hands, cuddle on the sofa, share private jokes, kiss in public? For my money, good sex is just the ultimate expression of intimacy. If there's none of the low-level stuff to work with, I think things are well and truly dead & you're really going to struggle.
As Cogito said, low level physical intimacy is also important.
It can be very difficult to switch from no contact to sex, although sensory overload could also happen if the opposite happens.
I'd make sure that you get time for physical intimacy without the expectancy that it leads to sex.
Lweji said: "some women suffer from depression because of their relationships and because of their partners."
Quite a thought provoking statement. :-)
Yes, isn't it. Hopefully it has been helpful, over the last 8 months or so
Zombie thread alert
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.