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Struggling so much without kissing and sex

(17 Posts)
jaffacakesabiscuit Mon 11-May-20 12:11:54

I (female, mid forties) have been in a long term relationship with my partner (male, mid forties), with children (teenagers and tweenagers), and we've been together nearly 20 years.

My partner has developed, over the past decade, severe mental health issues which mean that, amongst other things, he is not comfortable with sex/kissing etc. This didn't happen all at once, it got gradually worse over time (many years), and for the past couple of years has been at the stage where we do not have sex or kiss at all.

He is a great father to the children (and spends more time with them than I do, as he only works part time), and his issues do not impact on his ability to parent well. So far, I have kept things together well enough that we are a happy family, as far as the children can see. To be honest I think we both compensate for our relationship problems by making the most of every possible moment of family time for walks, bike rides, cinema trips (although not at the moment!), meals out, card games and a million other things. It's only after they go off to bed, and I'm sat with my partner, that I start to feel really upset.

At times, his mental health is poor enough that he will contemplate taking his own life, but this is rare. I definitely feel responsible for his mental wellbeing, and hate myself when I make things worse for him.

Most of the time I manage to keep my unhappiness from him, but sometimes it all gets too much, and I might speak to him angrily about something for no reason, or find myself withdrawing from him completely and ignoring him for the evening. He doesn't deserve my anger, but sometimes I can't stop myself from hurting him because of my frustration.

If I tell him I am unhappy, he becomes really upset himself, puts his head in his hands and tells me how he has tried everything (and he really has). He doesn't want to think about how it effects me, because it makes him feel so worthless.

I spoke to him about an open marriage last week. He said he doesn't feel it's right to stop me, but that he doesn't know how he'd cope with me sleeping with someone else.

I don't know what I'm asking really. I love him, and I believe he loves me, and I don't want to leave him. But I'm so lonely.

OP’s posts: |
LouiseTrees Mon 11-May-20 12:20:14

Has he really tried everything? Has he had counselling (individual and as a couple), hypnotherapy? Is it definitely mental and not physical also eg would viagra help? I think it sounds like he wouldn’t take an open marriage well and the kids could blame you for any issues if you went through with it.

jaffacakesabiscuit Mon 11-May-20 12:28:06


Yes, we did have relationship counselling together, and he still has counselling now for his own issues. He tried hypnotherapy (not for sex issues, but for other issues), but didn't get on with it at all. It is definitely in his head - he saw a doctor a few years ago about his testosterone, and it was fine. He is physically capable (or at least he was when we last tried a couple of years ago).

I think if I force an open marriage on him it would destroy him. I don't know that he'd blame me, but I'd definitely blame myself.

Yes, the children absolutely adore him. If I were to hurt him I don't know what it would do to them.

OP’s posts: |
LouiseTrees Mon 11-May-20 12:32:09

He sounds like he needs meds for depression and anxiety but it’s difficult to tackle them without understanding the original source of the problem.

OliviaBenson Mon 11-May-20 12:33:49

Gosh op. It isn't a marriage really, it's friendship. I couldn't live like that. You aren't responsible for his MH or happiness.

Has he tried counselling? Both alone and couples counselling with you? How about tablets?

He's holding you hostage to his MH.

jaffacakesabiscuit Mon 11-May-20 12:37:49


He is already on a cocktail of meds for those things (his MH problems are more extensive than just anxiety and depression though), which keep things mostly under control. Those meds do have possible side effects of reducing libido, but he basically needs them to stay safe and well.

OP’s posts: |
Maisieme Mon 11-May-20 12:44:53

It must be very difficult. If it were me and I loved my husband, as I do, I would live with it and accept it. I know that will be a minority opinion.

Gawdsake2020 Mon 11-May-20 12:47:03

I would leave him. But remain friends.

I’m really sorry but he can’t hold you hostage forever because of his MH. He either needs to try harder, or let you go.

jaffacakesabiscuit Mon 11-May-20 14:31:05


I've tried to accept it. In my head I think I have, but it just feels like I have to keep stamping down my need for intimacy, and no matter how many times I do that, it always rears its head sooner or later.


I don't think he can try any harder. I can tell when I confront him that he's got nothing more to give. It's not his fault he's the way he is.

I can't leave him. I'd be too worried about how he would cope, and my children would never forgive me for breaking up everything we have.

OP’s posts: |
category12 Mon 11-May-20 14:39:35

You don't have to sacrifice a normal life and your happiness for another person. Maybe it's time to consider whether this is really how you're going to spend the rest of your life. It doesn't sound like his mental illness is ever going to go away.

You could support him as a friend instead of a wife, and your dc would adapt.

daytriptovulcan Mon 11-May-20 14:55:00

He has closed down your sex life. Is it right he has control to do that to you. People here will tell you to leave him so you can have sex again, but you don't want to leave him. The pragmatic thing would be to take a lover, and feel revitalised again. Doing this might also lighten the burden of guilt he feels for harming you by making you celebrate against your will. He might notice you become happier.

Anothernick Mon 11-May-20 15:54:00

Hmmm it is a tiny bit hard to believe that he is such a great dad if showing affection to you in any way is taboo. Does he hug the kids? If so why is it so hard to do the same for you? If not then he is not showing the level of affection that a parent would generally show. And if you never kiss you will not be teaching them how normal loving relationships work. There is just a hint in your OP that all these family trips and card games might be something of a facade - an attempt to create a "normal" life which is actually not the reality of your situation. Kids are very perceptive - I wonder what yours really think.

Even if your DH has MH issues he can, presumably, understand your need for intimacy and appreciate that he is not meeting it. Withdrawing into self-pity every time you raise it is manipulative and, health notwithstanding, corrosive to your relationship. You cannot live your life under the constant threat of him blaming you for his own health problems, they are primarily his problems and only he can deal with them. You can only do so much, and it seems to me that both of you are placing too much on your shoulders, the burden needs to be shared more evenly.

jaffacakesabiscuit Mon 11-May-20 16:07:43


He's certainly affectionate with the children - he doesn't have a problem hugging them or me.

I do take your point about the not-kissing not teaching my kids about loving relationships though. That is a sad thought.

I think he does understand my need for intimacy, but the fact that he can't meet it causes him so much anguish that he just buries it. He never tries to make it his fault, he just can't deal with it.

OP’s posts: |
ConkerGame Mon 11-May-20 17:04:04

I don’t understand the not kissing. Not even on the cheek or the top of the head? Or the hand?

We are all different but in your situation I wouldn’t be able to cope and would have to leave. The idea of an open marriage is appealing but let’s face it who wants to be a third wheel? And you’d almost certainly end up developing feelings for your sexual partner. I think there’s too much scope for it to go wrong.

I think in your shoes I would go for the gentle break - start by sleeping in separate rooms, as what’s the difference anyway? Then start to do more and more things independently (after lockdown!) like your own hobbies and socialising. Then eventually you will just be like housemates anyway and it won’t be so much of a shock when the actual split happens.

You can still be a close friend to him but you deserve intimacy and he can’t give it to you so is not filling the role of a husband.

ChristmasFluff Mon 11-May-20 18:19:40

Please don't forget that this is your one life - you don't get to do it over, or rewind at the end. This is it.

Is this how you want to spend it?

If not, then you can begin to take steps to change it. You have become enmeshed with your husband, and taken on his problems as your problems. He has not done the same for you. Let him continue to deal with his problems, and you get to dealing with your own problems.

Instead of telling yourself you cannot do x, y, or z because of how it will affect him, begin to consider how the status quo is affecting you.

And then, if you choose to stay as things are - remember it is your choice. It is a choice you can change at any point.

spookybitches Mon 11-May-20 18:33:28

Just wanted to say how much I feel for you in this situation, it sounds like you're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

There has been some great advice given so far, wishing you all the best in whatever you decide to do.

Wallywobbles Mon 11-May-20 18:53:20

Separating doesn't have to be high drama and anguish. I had a friend at school. Parents lived on the same street. Great friends. Just couldn't be married

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