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My marriage has become a friendship - I need advice

(41 Posts)
widgeyp Fri 01-Dec-17 17:20:57

My husband and I have been together for 18 years, married for 16. We have three children aged 15, 12 & 10.

Approx 2.5 years ago I began to feel like I was drifting away from him emotionally. We have very busy lives, we both work (me part-time and him long hours) and by then we’d been married for 13 years, so I just thought it was probably normal in that our relationship was moving into another phase. I started to enjoy sex with him less and less, but again figured this was probably quite normal and just got on with it.

As time passed I became more and more unhappy. I would look forward to the times when he was away with work and I could be on my own (with the kids). Sex became more of a problem as I began to feel mild repulsion whenever we did it. His little habits which were never a problem before started to really grate on my nerves. Eventually I became so unhappy that I went to see a counsellor. She made me realise that I had to confront all of this and tell him how I felt.

I did this in May. It came as an enormous shock to my husband and we’ve had a really difficult year since. We’ve been at Relate for 3 months now, this has been helpful but only in making me realise that I’m pretty sure I’m “emotionally checked out” of our marriage. I feel as though I loved him when I was 27 but I’ve changed and at 45 I no longer do.

We’re both agreed we cannot continue in a freindship marriage and have briefly discussed separating. But I’m scared. I’m scared for the children, scared about how I’ll manage financially and I guess scared that ultimately it’ll be a terrible mistake and I’ll end up lonely. But equally I can’t face a future staying in this marriage and feeling the way I do. It’s also not fair on my husband.

I would really appreciate advice from people I don’t know personally. Have you been in this situation - what did you do?

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 01-Dec-17 17:29:26

Examine your fears re separating in more detail.

You only have to give your own self the permission to leave. Its not fair on either of you to stay together if you've already checked out of this marriage. He also needs to be free to find someone else as do you.

Is this what you want to teach your children about relationships, do not do your bit here to continue to teach your children that a loveless marriage is their "norm" too. Your children may well know already that something is amiss between mum and dad and they can and do pick up on all the vibes both spoken and unspoken.

User888881 Fri 01-Dec-17 17:33:09

If you really can't see a future then you have no choice really other than a platonic or open relationship. It will be tough for everyone though.

widgeyp Fri 01-Dec-17 18:08:54

Thanks Attila, you are right. The children do suspect something’s going on, not least because we have been out of the house for 2 hours every Thursday evening for 3 months (at Relate). But we don’t argue, ever. Sometimes I wonder if that’s been a contributing factor, in 18 years we’ve never really had an argument. My fear is rooted in the fact separating is such an enormous thing to do, to change everything, to disrupt and upset so many lives. It feels like stepping off of a cliff edge and not knowing what’s beneath.

caringdenise009 Fri 01-Dec-17 19:11:03

You would be teaching your children something valuable in life if you show them that noone has to stay in a relationship if it's making them unhappy,that it is possible to leave, co-parent amicably and live happily. There is a wealth of evidence that being brought up by unhappily married parents leads to children who can't make happy relationships. It sounds best all round if you bite the bullet and end things. So many couples keep going until their children leave and then split, leaving their children wondering why they had years of misery and tension visited on them.

widgeyp Sat 02-Dec-17 21:42:09

Thanks user888881 and caringdenise009. Of course you are both right and I think in my heart of hearts I know it’s over. It just seems so unspectacular; no abusive relationship, affairs, unreconcilable differences. It’s just fizzled out.

Allthecoolkids Sat 02-Dec-17 21:44:28

Your post makes me so sad. I really feel for both of you.

Is there anything that might rekindle your attraction?

widgeyp Mon 04-Dec-17 21:49:23

Allthecoolkids - I think this might have been possible 18 months ago (and I’ve only got myself to blame for burying my head in the sand for as long as a did) but I think it’s gone now. We’ve both done lots of research and had the benefit of advice from Relate but all the things we’ve tried; meals out together, nights away, reminiscing, listing each other’s good qualities, etc, etc just feel like going through the motions to me. We still get on, mostly, but as time passes those cute/annoying habits are blowing out of proportion and all those little things you forgive someone or overlook because you’re in love are becoming a problem.
I know of 2 friends of friends who separated from their husbands for the same reason and have never looked back but I was really hoping to hear from other people who might have been in this situation. Did you leave? Did you stay and turn it around? Or did you stay together and regret it?

digitallyremastered Mon 04-Dec-17 21:56:52

You need to either leave or redefine the relationship as a close friendship for parenting together. Within that you need to agree if you accept each other discretely seeing others perhaps or just waiting that out until the dc leave home. As it stands the bitterness of what is missing from your marriage will continue to fuel irritation and bitterness. Stop now snd it might be easier to salvage a decent coparenting relationship.

Backtoblack1 Mon 04-Dec-17 21:59:15

I could have written this. I have a ten year old and felt like my husband was like a friend or brother. He constantly wanted sex and it repulsed me. I would have carried on forever and been friends. But, we did split up. I’m not going to lie - it is really tough but 18 months down the line I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I would rather be single and where I am now than stuck in a marriage that was dead. I really miss doing family things though x

SSYMONDS Mon 04-Dec-17 22:00:04

Read 'mating in captivity' it's a really intelligent book on passion and long term relationships. I really think it's excellent and might help you see things differently.

wiltingfast Mon 04-Dec-17 22:12:36

Tbh there's no way I'd leave dh over sex. I think it's a bit mad tbh. Is it really that important to you? Throw up your whole life over it?

Only you can say really. I just find it hard to fathom attaching that much importance to it. It's just sex.

Aminuts23 Mon 04-Dec-17 22:20:04

This happened to me after 7 years. I just fell out of love with him, checked out emotionally. To be fair a lot of my reasons were his fault and his behaviour. He was desperately upset but I had to end it. No DC though so less complicated. I’ve never looked back, not even once

ivykaty44 Mon 04-Dec-17 22:30:26

Surely it’s better to split now than one of you further down the line meet someone and have a messy adultery divorce

If sex is repulsive with your oh that doesn’t mean he won’t still want an active sex lifetime at some point.

You can still do things as a family with jyst one parent and visa Versa

Change is scared and divorce is a big change, but better I would think to both be in control of that change as two sensible adults.

The alternative of having a divorce with three people envolved and letting the children live through that I believe would be unkind

HeddaGarbled Tue 05-Dec-17 00:51:45

I think it's completely normal for marriages to go through stages like this and completely normal to go off sex with someone you've been with for 18 years.

Do you have a career and an independent social life? These are important because then the family and marriage aren't the only focus of your attention.

Address the irritations, don't just put up with them and seethe.

I've been where you are now more than once in my 30 year marriage but am very glad that I didn't bail at the low points because, in my experience, the low points were temporary.

Peanutbuttercheese Tue 05-Dec-17 02:15:32

I thought I fell out of love with my husband and seperated from him at the beginning of the year. Three months of excruciating talks, his Father dying and many months down the line we are back together.

Part of the reason was to do with his sister but there was also a deep dissatisfaction on my part. We have been through a lot of heartache as well.

There was still love there it had just as it does often in long term marriages got put on the back burner while we grieved for a life lost it wore us both down.

If you really don't love him and don't want to be with him and have talked a lot then fair enough. If you are looking for anything that causes fireworks in your knickers well you may never find that.

scottishdiem Tue 05-Dec-17 02:34:18

You are being cruel to keep things going when you arent committed to making things better and selfish when only considering your feelings and concerns about staying.

Plenty of people do well after separating. You can get whatever it is you want and he can get someone who values that hard work he puts in for his family.

BrokenBattleDroid Tue 05-Dec-17 04:10:28

If you think it could have been rekindled 18 months ago then not all that much time has passed.

Obviously only you can decide what you would like to do, but (given no affairs, abuse etc and that you actually like each other) I sort of think periods like this are part of loving someone. It's not all roses and romance, sometimes love is an active choice, and not an easy one.

If that sounds very critical its not meant to be. Feeling unhappy in a relationship can be so claustrophobic and make you feel panicky to get out quick. Makes sure it's what you want though, don't rush. Not convinced Relate is always helpful (not saying it definitely isn't either) - all that pressure on yourselves and navel gazing to discover how you really feel and come up with meaningful things to say... Maybe a 6 months of no sex (so no pressure) and a weekly fun thing to do together (in order just to enjoy each other, you're friends after all right?) might be more useful for discovering your real feelings.

widgeyp Tue 05-Dec-17 19:54:58

Thanks so much for all your advice. The breadth of responses really does reflect the conflict I feel; some think I’m being cruel/selfish and should separate, others have been where I am have separated and are happier and others think it’s part of the highs and lows of marriage, have got through similar and advise to stick it out!
Thanks SSYMONDS, I did read Mating in Capativity, it was interesting but didn’t really help me...
HeddaGarbked I do have a career (albeit severely truncated due to being almost entirely the childcarer) and a social life. At the moment I’d much rather spend a night out with friends than OH.
And yes, wiltingfast, sex is important to me! I’m only 45 and fit and healthy. My libido isn’t high but I’d still like to be having sex I want and enjoy at least once or twice a week. It’s even more important to my husband.

Cctv923 Tue 05-Dec-17 19:59:17

Based on that, I don't think you can go on with it for another 25 years plus.

Do you still have sex even or has it stopped completely now you have brought it out in the open?

Noextremes2017 Tue 05-Dec-17 20:27:57

I feel for you OP and hope that you both find a way forward. Yes you get all views on here. These days there is very much a ‘you deserve it’ mentality and maybe couples don’t compromise and work at things so much as they used to. Not saying that applies to you .... only you know all the detail. From personal experience (35+ years married) there are plenty of highs and lows in marriage. It does not have to be a long slow decline - if you are both up for working on things.....,

widgeyp Tue 05-Dec-17 20:42:30

Cctv923, no we haven’t at all for almost 3 months now. We have “tried” several times but I just can’t face it, this is very difficult to describe but it feels like I’m with a friend rather than somebody I am sexually attracted to.

BrokenBattleDroid Tue 05-Dec-17 20:52:51

Have you considered a sex therapist rather than relate? It sounds like you've actually got quite a bit worth fighting for and sex is your biggest (dealbreaker) issue. Try hitting it head on before giving up?

BrokenBattleDroid Tue 05-Dec-17 20:54:33

Goes without saying don't force yourself to have sex when you don't want to - I mean address the issue of why you don't want to with a sex therapist before giving up, if that makes sense.

trumpetsolo Tue 05-Dec-17 21:14:26

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I came on here to write an almost identical post. I've been married for 11 years, together for 19 with three kids who are 10, 8 and 4 and have also fallen out of love with my husband. I can totally empathise with the feeling of relief when he's not here, the lack of drama and arguing, and being in limbo.

I've told him this, am seeing a counsellor to talk it through, but feel like I'm on a cliff edge. It's one thing to say you don't want to be in a relationship anymore, and a whole different and very hard thing to make that a reality. I find that prospect really overwhelming - trying to think through how it might work in a way that is of as little disruption to the kids as possible, whether he leaves or I do, where the kids stay. I feel like I should leave because I'm the one who wants out, he has said that he doesn't. But realistically I would need to have the kids most of the time because of the hours he works, which would mean taking them out of their home, which I don't want. The idea of forcing him to leave his home when he hasn't done anything wrong and doesn't want to seems so cruel though.

I can really empathise with everything you've described - the guilt for the kids, worry if it's the right choice, worry about sacrificing our security. But, I think for me what it boils down to is that I'm not happy and I want to be. We coexist and coparent and tiptoe round each other, but that is it.

I've not been more forceful and said 'I want to leave' I think for two reasons - 1) because I can't bear to be hurtful and 2) because at the moment we are bumbling along, and I am terrified about the process of separation and the confrontation that it will entail.

But, I know that letting us stay in limbo is even more cruel, and I know that I need to act and separate how I feel about the relationship from my feelings guilt about my children.

So no advice as such, but you are very much not alone. I've read the responses with interest, particularly those which are at odds with how I feel. I really struggle with the idea that feeling like this is something to 'get through' or be tolerated. I think regardless of whether I ever meet someone else, I want more than this.

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