Ask Andrew – I have been living in a sexless marriage but I want more
My Partner and I have been together for 28 years and have been married for 24 and have 3 children. I have not been happy with various aspects of our relationship for many years and have considered leaving on several occasions. We have not had an intimate relationship for about 10 years due initially to having a young child but then we seemed to have different bedtimes and we fell into a relationship where I would describe us as ‘being friends. Although I used to feel very emotional and get angry and argue with him about many issues, I eventually felt I had to stop feeling this emotional about things as it was not achieving anything except making me feel worse. In the end I felt like I took on a parental role in the relationship (and still do feel this to some extent).
About 5 years ago we went to Relate to find out where to go with things. He did not want the relationship to end and I did not want it to continue. Sexually it was dead for me and I no longer wanted to have an intimate relationship with him, he still wanted to and had felt that given time we could get intimacy back. My biggest concern was about the children and the effects of a separation/divorce on them.
Through the counselling we came to an agreement whereby we would remain living together but have separate bedrooms and no intimacy and he had to accept that there was no chance of sex ever happening. We would try to have an amicable relationship and focus on working together for the benefit of the children. We acknowledged that one of the biggest risks to this set up would be if either one of us met someone else, but felt that we would face up to that issue if it ever happened.
This has worked reasonably well over the last 5 years but recently I have felt the “is this it?” notions and in order to stop it being “it” I got a new job and have tried to get new interests into my life. These actions have made me feel better about myself and a bit more settled. However a month ago I met someone else, and launched into a very passionate affair. This has taken me by surprise, both in that I would happily jump into bed with someone I barely know and with someone who is also married.
At first I just wanted this person and “felt why not, it is just a bit of fun?’, and we were both in relationships that lacked sexual intimacy and therefore justified what we were doing on that basis. However, I really like this person, it is not just the sex and I have begun (rather late I suspect) to think of the consequences of my actions including the hurt it will cause to all.
My dilemma is what to do now? Obviously I need to end the relationship but that is going to be very hard to do and I am not sure I know how to do it. Also this situation has made me realise that I do want a relationship that includes sex and love, but that is not something I want or even think is achievable from my relationship with my husband.
I would be interested in your advice.
It sounds like you have been a huge journey recently and despite all the pain and heartache, I have this strange sense of joy. You don’t want to live a half life any more. Hurrah! But I’m also aware that there will be a lot of pain on the road ahead for you, your husband, your lover and your children.
So where do you go from here? I think you need to understand how you got into this mess in the first place. Why did the love drain out of your relationship? Please see ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ and why were you so certain you NEVER wanted sex with your husband again. For the second part, I would look at ‘Make love like a prairie vole’ which explains why we can find sexual intimacy so difficult with someone we know so well. (However, it is never to late to turn from brother and sister into lovers again)
I think you’re right that you do need to end this affair – not only because it is not going anywhere but if you do decide to end your marriage it will make everything more messy and make it harder for your husband and your children (who will be tempted to take sides). I think you also have to be honest with your husband about what’s been going on. He will probably have guessed and your honesty now will open a variety of possible options.
You could find that he is incredibly jealous, he does want a sexual relationship and is desperate to save your marriage. (If you want to know how to restart your sexual relationship ‘Make love like a Prairie Vole’ will outline how). It could be that he will confess to similar affairs and that you either reshape your old contract to stay together or agree to part amicably. Whatever happens, your honesty will allow you to remain friends and communicate better. (If you want to understand how not to be his parent – see the section on TA in Help your partner say yes). This will lay the foundations for being good co-parents and will minimise the fall out on your children.
Finally, I would urge you not to panic or make any quick decisions. Read, think everything through, you’ve taken years to get into this mess, it will take time to get out of it but HONESTY is the key – with yourself and everybody else.
So it will be difficult journey but it’s got to be better than where you are now.