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Between a rock and a hard place
September 25, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I have recently separated from my wife of 6 years and have moved out of the family home into temporary accommodation. It has been about a month since I left and I am in a very confused place at the moment. My wife has put forward an ultimatum that is tearing me apart and I would appreciate some perspective from the hive mind.

Since separation and whilst waiting for relationship counseling my wife has admitted kissing another male and signing up to dating/hook up sites and arranged to meet someone but he cancelled at the last minute. She admits that she would have met him had he turned up. Throughout all this though she claims to still love me but dropped the bombshell that she has never ever been attracted to me. She has always been attracted to people who treat her badly so made the conscious choice to be someone she did not feel attracted to. She says that she fantasizes about other men when we have sex and as such I am left reeling with the notion that I have never had sex with someone who is attracted to me (she was/is my first love). She does not see this issue as a good reason to divorce (we have children) and has told me she is prepared to continue to 'live the lie' as she puts it. I find it very hard to understand how she can say she loves me when she has allowed me to live this illusion but she argues she has lied to herself. Her logic is that she will just end up repeating the behavior with someone else so is prepared to put up with the continuation of the status quo. I feel incredibly betrayed and upset and find it nigh on impossible to see a way through this which doesn't result in separation.

I do love my wife but do not perceive love in any of her actions towards me. I think I deserve to be with someone who is actually attracted to me. We had our first marriage counseling session and I was looking to the counselor for some guidance on whether the fact my wife is not attracted to me and never has been and more importantly never will be - is enough in itself to say this is damaging for all of us and should not continue. I was somewhat disappointed when the counselor said it was not her place to say and that it is down to the individual couple. My wife says the problem is just sex but I do not see it as sustainable for either of us. My wife is also putting me in the impossible situation of saying that she requires love and affection and if I do not give it to her she will get it elsewhere (hence the kissing this guy she met in a bar and signing up to various sites) but at the same time she is saying she is not attracted to me. I think for my own sanity I should draw a line under this but matters of the heart are rarely straightforward and I do still feel very strongly about her even given what she has put me through. Is it realistic to have a marriage based on attraction that is one way only? Throwaway email fifteenbillion@gmail.com. Thanks
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (79 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm so sorry this has has happened to you. But yeah, this is crazy. It seems like it's all about her. She's prepared to put you through all of this because she will just end up "repeating this behavior with someone else"? Where are you in that equation? Sounds like she's very selfish. I'm pretty sure this would be a dealbreaker for me. You deserve someone who wants to be with you, not someone who is just using you while they go out and do whatever they want.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:07 AM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Draw the line. Walk away. Your wife has issues that she needs to resolve through ordinary counseling, not relationship counseling. What she wants from you is irrelevant at this point; consider what you need and look for someone who can provide it.
posted by pipeski at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2012 [44 favorites]


Is it realistic to have a marriage based on attraction that is one way only?

I think you know the answer to this question.
posted by shivohum at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, that's awful. You are not wrong to leave. You deserve better!
posted by fullerenedream at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


"I can practically guarantee you infidelity if we continue in this relationship" is a reason for divorce so blatant that I'm not even sure there's anything to counter that.

Also, if you do decide to continue with the divorce, I have a feeling that whatever judiciary is overseeing this divorce will be rather interested to hear that she intends on willingly bringing men who seek to abuse her into the home where she and your children live.
posted by griphus at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2012 [36 favorites]


I think I deserve to be with someone who is actually attracted to me.

Yes, you certainly do. You deserve not only love, but some passion too! Read what you have written here. You know that getting out of this situation is the right choice. It's hard as hell but you are making the right decision.

Is it realistic to have a marriage based on attraction that is one way only?

Been there, done that, never ever ever going back. Love is a wonderful thing when you don't have to beg for it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


What your wife is doing to you is monumentally unfair. You have a right to feel betrayed and it's no wonder you're confused; her behavior is bizarre and inconsistent.

You do deserve to be with someone who is attracted to you, and - maybe more importantly - you also deserve to be with someone who treats you with basic decency and respect. This isn't just about sex - your wife is asking you to give up genuine happiness in favor of consciously "living a lie." If your wife wants to spend her life living under that set of rules that's her choice, but asking you to make that choice as well is beyond the pale. You don't have to accept this as okay. There are other people out there who will not put you in this situation.
posted by something something at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


I think I deserve to be with someone who is actually attracted to me. We had our first marriage counseling session and I was looking to the counselor for some guidance on whether the fact my wife is not attracted to me and never has been and more importantly never will be - is enough in itself to say this is damaging for all of us and should not continue. I was somewhat disappointed when the counselor said it was not her place to say and that it is down to the individual couple.

You're right that you deserve someone who is attracted to you, but also someone who respects you. Your wife does not respect you. She just doesn't. She's wasting your time in a cynical attempt to be with a good guy because she attracts pretty, but toxic people usually.

You have agency here. Don't let it be up to the counselor. Don't let it be up to your wife. Make the decisions that are right for YOU. You have the right not to accept being disrespected.

Marriage counseling is spinning your wheels at this point. I think you know it and I think you know things are over with her. I hope you have the courage to move on. I'm betting you do.
posted by inturnaround at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also this: "Since separation and whilst waiting for relationship counseling my wife has admitted kissing another male and signing up to dating/hook up sites and arranged to meet someone but he cancelled at the last minute. She admits that she would have met him had he turned up."

This is not what good people do to keep a relationship afloat. This is what shitty people do to try to rid themselves of guilt by making it someone else's problem.
posted by griphus at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's possible to have a marriage based on attraction that's one way only. But it's not possible to have a marriage where one partner does not respect the other partner.

Your wife is being mean and selfish and totally disrespectful to you. The only lie she's living is that she's a loving spouse.

She likes the lifestyle you have together, she likes the way you adore her, but it's not enough and apparently never will be.

The key here is that "she's attracted to people who treat her badly." Jesus, that's horrible. WHO in their right mind would want to be treated badly? Why would you want your children to have this woman as their role-model?

It sounds to me like your wife need some serious therapy, it's not a marriage counselor thing, except in that this person can help you negotiate a healthy road through your impending divorce. In the meantime, get a lawyer and start protecting yourself and your children.

You DO deserve someone who values you, who loves you and who makes you feel special and safe. Your wife is not capable of being that person.

As for the children, if your wife wants to be with someone who treats her badly, he probably wouldn't blink if that person treated your kids badly too. With that in mind, you need to fight for custody to protect the children.

While you are still civil to each other find a way to be excellent co-parents and
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you're OK with having a "monogamish" relationship, that could theoretically work. Such setups tend to skew heavily in favor of the woman though (in practical terms, "being able to have the occasional affair" - without any limiting parameters - usually results in a situation where the woman has a "harem" of lovers she can choose from, whereas the man has fewer options) so if you do this, make absolutely sure you negotiate a deal that is more favorable to you and ensures more equality.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:13 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least she's being honest?

If you two can agree on the terms of an open marriage, then it would be workable, but if you don't want a relationship on those terms or can't find a path to that, then she needs to find someone who can.
She is telling you what she wants, this isn't about you, this is about her not getting what she needs and telling you very plainly what "the price of admission" to her heart is.

If that's too much to pay, move on.
posted by roboton666 at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only you (and your wife) can decide what is OK for your marriage.

If you feel so strongly about the issue that you moved out for a month already, I think your feelings are pretty clear. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find someone who is attracted to you but love is a complex emotion and sexual attraction is only one small part of it. Its completely possible for her to love you without being attracted to you.

Maybe I'm mixing up the chain of events here but it seems that for some reason she told you she wasn't attracted to you. You left about a month ago. At some point during the separation she sought affection elsewhere.
If this is the correct sequence I think a lot of people are being really unfair to your wife.
You've been happily married for 6 years with no infidelity on either part and you've not mentioned any other problems you're having prior to this point. Is she asking for an open marriage? What was the context of this revelation? I don't take her statement to mean that she intends to cheat on you/wants an open relationship, it sounds like she wants you to come home and resume your life the way it was before. For a month she has been without your love an affection so she's trying to get it elsewhere, she's telling she's not willing to go without for an indefinite period while you try to make a decision.

The only person who can tell you if you can have a marriage where the attraction is only one-way is you. Marriages have survived worse.
posted by missmagenta at 7:26 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


While you sort out the relationship piece, also take a bit of time to consult with an attorney. Since there is a home involved, and children, your actions at this point could impact on how a divorce, should it go in that direction, turns out.

And, I agree with the those above that indicate that her position does not bode well in terms of a positive, loving relationship for EITHER of you. It is probably time to move on.
posted by HuronBob at 7:28 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


she is prepared to continue to 'live the lie' as she puts it. I find it very hard to understand how she can say she loves me when she has allowed me to live this illusion but she argues she has lied to herself. Her logic is that she will just end up repeating the behavior with someone else so is prepared to put up with the continuation of the status quo. I feel incredibly betrayed and upset and find it nigh on impossible to see a way through this which doesn't result in separation.

She's setting up a situation where you're basically obligated to leave her so that you can look like the bad guy.
posted by deanc at 7:32 AM on September 25, 2012 [34 favorites]


Yeah... somehow, I feel like years of lying about her attraction to you is not the best of foundations upon which to start an open relationship. Especially one where the power lies with her, and you only go along with it because you want to stay with her.

She does not see this issue as a good reason to divorce (we have children) and has told me she is prepared to continue to 'live the lie' as she puts it.

Naturally she would think that, because she has set this situation up such that she has all the power, a la:

My wife is also putting me in the impossible situation of saying that she requires love and affection and if I do not give it to her she will get it elsewhere (hence the kissing this guy she met in a bar and signing up to various sites) but at the same time she is saying she is not attracted to me.

Dangling the carrot of "her love" with threats of infidelity for noncompliance is not the fairest negotiation tactic, but it works because it plays on your desire to keep her happy. There's nothing in here for your happiness; only protection against one thing that would make you unhappy - her leaving. But she's not providing true affection while she's in the relationship. What's in this deal for you?

If you want to make this work, she'll have to address some of your needs too, instead of you only worrying about hers. Your partner should be a partner in that. You can have a marriage without attraction, but you need to decide whether that would make you happy.
posted by Paper rabies at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


That your wife could do these things to you and tell you about them without the slightest remorse shows that she does not respect you. She will not start respecting you if allow her to cuckold you with impunity as she has expressed her intention to do.

I am very reluctant to recommend divorce to anyone but in this case, your wife has checked out permanently and I question if you were ever married in the first place. I would proceed with the divorce and of course, keeping your children's best interests in mind when doing so.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


She's used you for her purposes for 6 years, and now wants more?Attorney up, or you'll never recover your pride.

Her 'attraction to those who treat her badly' is one hell of a hilarious narrative she's spun up. okay frankly I hate your wife and I haven't even met her. Go fall in love with someone worthy of your affection and support. Someday the kids will understand.
posted by MangyCarface at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your wife has been behaving like a con artist, essentially. Now she is admitting the con... but... and but still... will you stay with her?


Yeah this is awful. There's no great answer here, but from an outsider's perspective you should get away from her.
posted by Patbon at 7:37 AM on September 25, 2012


If you're OK with having a "monogamish" relationship, that could theoretically work

I know we're all on Team Poly around here, but years of lying and deception is not the best way to start an open marriage. Especially since the OP seems to feel hurt and betrayed by the idea that his wife is considering sleeping with other people.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:38 AM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Okay, look.

Plenty of people in (mostly not America) get married without much love/attraction at first and make it work very well, stay together for years, have lots of mutual respect and happiness and so forth. Arranged marriages are very common outside of the US/Western Europe and, especially if everyone expects that this is how things will work, it's totally doable. "Everyone" here includes the folks around you, BTW.

Plenty of people are in relationships with someone who has what (from however many miles away and based entirely on a few paragraphs of text description) sure sounds like a diagnosable mental illness, and make it work very well, stay together for years, have lots of mutual respect and happiness and so forth.

You have been married for years and it's not working (when and why did you move out?) I agree with those above that she doesn't seem to be demonstrating much respect for you. The "it's been a month, we haven't started counseling, therefore I'm going to hook up with a hot guy" plan (which she actually did everything she could to follow through on) is a terrible sign. The fact that her solution to the "I'm attracted to bad boys" problem was "marry a guy I am not attracted to but keep that secret from him" (instead of individual counseling, or honesty, or both) is a terrible sign.

You should be in individual counseling. So should she, but you are better able to control your actions than hers (you can't control hers, and I sort of suspect she's kind of crappy at controlling hers, too.) Marriage counseling is often about figuring out whether or not (and how) to get a divorce, so I'm not on the "stop doing the marriage counseling" train.

Please make sure to get some counseling/outside support for your children, BTW. Daddy moving out of the home is a HUGE DEAL and I am sort of not believing that you (or your wife) are doing a very good job of helping them right now. Yes, I know they're still little kids - being four or five and having Daddy move out of the home is still a huge deal that requires real engagement on the part of both parents (and/or the help of professionals.)

You have the right to want to be in a monogamous, loving, mutually respectful, honest, etc., relationship. You do not have the right to be in that exact kind of relationship with this exact person - she has made it pretty clear you can't have that relationship with her, and she gets exactly as much say in that as you do. You can choose either to have a not-that-relationship with her, or not be in a relationship with her at all. Personally, this would be a pretty huge dealbreaker for me - the "I'm not going to change, I'm seeing other people" bit, far more than the "I'm not physically attracted to you very much bit." It is OK for monogamy to be a deal-breaker issue for you.
posted by SMPA at 7:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wow. This sounds awful. Is this new behavior from your wife? How had the relationship been through the years? With the kids? It just seems incredibly bizarre to me that someone could be so baldly self-centered and cruel. I mean, the notion that a person can demand love and affection from one party while stating that they can return neither is just so....crazy. For the sake of your kids, I'd urge her to have her head and health examined by a doctor before you go further.

I'd also write down in a factual way with dates and any evidence you have all this stuff about other men and dating profiles. Custody of your children will depend on it. I'm not saying she's a bad mom but she sounds like she's going through some sort of crisis and that's not fair to inflict on the children. And that's a conversation that you'll be having.

Are you a good dad? If not, start practicing. Get the kids up and ready for their day. Make the lunches. Do the shopping. Your wife has checked out of the partnership and I think your actions will make this clear. You have some ultimatums to make here, too.

Are you seeing a therapist on your own? Maybe skip the couples therapy for awhile and concentrate on yourself. I don't see how your relationship can be saved. Not unless she goes to the doctor and uncovers a health issue that is treatable. You need to place your mental health and your children's health and happiness at the forefront of your mind and actions. Maybe it would be good for her to move out for a fixed period of time. And you should be discussing your current and future plans with a therapist and a lawyer. Replaying the past right now is poison and you really can't trust anything your wife is saying about the past. She's an unreliable narrator. Don't let her dictate the conversation.

Can you two carry on in some fashion? Maybe. But you need to get a break to clear your head and determine what life you want to lead from this point forward. I'm not seeing how this atmosphere works for you. What she's offering just ain't much. And I don't see it lasting even if you agree to it.

Take care of yourself. Love your children. Do anything you can to clear your head and shake off her demands so you can operate in your best interests.
posted by amanda at 7:40 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was somewhat disappointed when the counselor said it was not her place to say and that it is down to the individual couple.

"The couple" includes you. And if you're accustomed to, or afraid of, your wife unilaterally defining what "the couple" wants here, let me rephrase what the counselor said: "it's up to each of you as individuals to figure out your own needs; and as a couple to negotiate how to meet those needs".

Is it realistic to have a marriage based on attraction that is one way only?

Yes, but only if it's a mutual decision, and it takes a lot of work, respect, care and compromise. You're being placed in a unilateral "ransom situation" by a very disrespectful partner (did you two even discuss other partners before she tried hooking up with them? sounds to me like no), being forced to accept very painful terms without any indication of her caring what you need.

It's pretty clear that you don't want a relationship of that form, or specifically this relationship, in that form, from what you've written here. You have every right to that preference.

Also Nthing what everyone else above has said re: kids. Take care of 'em. They don't understand what's going on, but they sure feel it when something's wrong.
posted by ead at 7:47 AM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


You're just setting yourself up for a long trip on the pain train if you don't end this marriage now.

As previously mentioned, she obviously does not respect you and has told you as much when she told you she is going to do what she wants regardless of your feelings.

To answer your question: I don't think you would have a monogamous marriage if you stuck around. She told you as much. If you're OK with that (I know some men are), then, by all means, stick around.

I think you owe it to yourself to give yourself the life that you want and not the one she's forcing on you. In a marriage, you should be your spouse's priority....not simply an option.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:54 AM on September 25, 2012


I'd like to balance some of the calls for fighting hard for custody to protect the kids from the "bad boys" (with respect though---I do think it's an important issue to keep on one's radar.)
There's a balance there, and I think it depends a lot on how abusive these bad boys are really going to be, and other factors in how contentious the divorce will be otherwise. If you can achieve an amicable divorce, without as much fighting in the negotiations, that may have more a positive impact on the kids' well-being than would keeping them away from this harm that may be fairly abstract and hypothetical. It's really helpful if the kids can see the parents working things out. Mediation is a good idea if the two of you both are willing, and even if not, it may make good kid-sense to pick and choose battles and leave things you might have fought for.
posted by spbmp at 7:55 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with everything said here.

I was married to someone who blamed much, if not all, of our problems on me. We went to counseling together, and I went to individual sessions, but no amount of hard work on my part could change what he said or did.

That included not having sex for our entire 4.5-year marriage, nor for the year preceding it, based on certain assumptions about me and my comfort level that he never actually discussed with me until it was too late.

Finally I came out and told him how unhappy I was, and that things needed to change. "Well, I'm happy, and I like the way things are, so you need to figure out how to make yourself happy," he said. And that was his version of caring about me and our marriage.

The marriage ended when HE finally decided that things weren't working out. Even though I was unhappy, I kept trying -- much like it sounds like you're doing right now. And then he had the GALL to ask me not to have sex with anyone until our divorce was final, because "I don't want someone else to be the first person to have sex with you during our marriage." Maybe you should have thought of that before you made the decision to be a complete and utter jackass, jackass.

Being with someone who loves and respects you is SO eyeopening after you've gone through crap like this. Unbelievable. Thrilling. Beautiful. And I'm here to tell you that it'll be even better for you, because you know how bad things can really be. I hope you find the courage to leave and to find the love that this person doesn't seem to think you deserve -- because you so, so do.

MeMail me any time if you'd like to talk.
posted by Madamina at 8:00 AM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


A lot of people have given you some really good advice about what you deserve (a mutually satisfying relationship with someone who loves you as much as you love them), and a bit about what your wife deserves (someone who can give her what she wants, or if what she wants isn't healthy, counseling). I want to talk a little about what your kids deserve.

Your wife is, in some sense, right, in that it would be best for your kids if they had two parents who were in a stable, committed relationship with one another that would model for them what healthy love looks like. She is wrong, however, to think that the two of you can provide that for them. "Living the lie" does not give them that stable foundation to understand how to have healthy relationships. Instead, it gives them an incredibly warped sense of what love is and how to treat other people. You absolutely cannot show your kids a stable marriage when your marriage is built on this much disrespect and deceit.

There are times when it might make sense to stay together for the children. A couple who, for example, love one another deeply and get along well, but mostly as friends, might be able to pull it off, at least for a while. But your relationship is filled with contempt and anger and lying and dysfunction. It's not good for your kids to be around that. And it's not good for them to see you so unhappy, modeling for them that you don't deserve to be loved. They will learn that they don't deserve to be loved either.

In a relationship where trust and love have been broken to this degree, I would urge you to seek, through counseling, the healthiest, most respectful separation you can. If you can't bring yourself to do it because you deserve it, do it because your kids deserve it.
posted by decathecting at 8:02 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


your wife is crazy. run away.
posted by Flood at 8:02 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's your problem in a nutshell. You are acting like you don't want to give her that love and affection and now she wants it from you.

This is a person who has personality issues you cannot solve. I think a divorce is in the cards here.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on September 25, 2012


Your wife sounds like a total jerk, and I'm sorry you're going through this. But I'd like to point out that there are basically two questions here.

#1, If you are willing and able to accept how she feels about you in terms of attraction, can you then make the marriage work to that extent? The answer to that one is "yes". Marriage isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. There will certainly be a number of complicating factors, and that doesn't mean you'll automatically be successful, but you could, if you decided that's what you wanted, and if it's what she really wants, too.

#2, Given that this very clearly is not what you want and you aren't able to accept how she feels about you, which is incredibly normal and would likely be the reaction of the vast majority of people, should you go ahead and get divorced? And the answer to that one is hell yes. DTMFA.

Given her behavior, I don't think a happy marriage where she basically puts herself in the place of a prostitute is really what she wants, what she wants is affirmation of something. Of what, I can't say. But it doesn't really matter, because she's treating you like shit and making excuses for it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2012


Sexual attraction is a powerful thing. Your wife is probably in pain and has been for a while. As much as it sucks for you to be in a relationship with someone who is not attracted to you, it probably sucks for her to be in a relationship with someone she is not attracted to. (It's debatable which is worse.)

She made a mistake a long time ago, before you had kids. She agreed to marry you because she probably thought she could be ok with it. A lot of people make dumb judgment calls like that, driven by fear and wishful thinking. A lot of people make the arguments in this thread here, about marriages being about love and not just sex, blah blah blah. It was a mistake on her part to get married and have kids, and it's a mistake that has kept on getting worse until now.

You two are now in a bad, hurtful, and sad situation that needs to be worked out. One way to work it out is divorce, and from an outsider's perspective the most likely, as it is probably best for both adults even if the kids lose out. BUT I think that all the "your wife is a jerk/prostitute/etc" is not at all productive.

Try to put yourself in her shoes and understand that she's hurting too, and is also a human with her own strong wants and needs and things that are important. Not because she necessarily "deserves" this kind of respect, but because you can't really have productive conversations or move the situation forward positively, without it.
posted by kellybird at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am a lover of bad boys. I love the uncaring, strong, wild, mysterious chase. Every. Second. Of. It. However, I realize that though they could provide me with all the sexy I could every hope for, the same people are usually lacking in the emotional support and respect area.

So what did I do? Looked for "good guys" that I was attracted to. Yes, it was extremely hard to find someone who was kind and compatible yet also attractive to me, but I wasn't deterred. As a result, I have been lucky enough to be with a few great (for me) men over the years.

But that was the hard way. The easier, yet more immoral*, way would be to cobble together the perfect partner by being involved with many men and using each for the individual quality I wanted.

So her needs are:

1) Emotional support: You
2) Admiration: You
3) Hot dirty sex: Other Men
4) Mystery and adventure: Other, Other Men
5) Feeling of security: You
6) Entertainment: More Other Men

If that is they way she wants to live, that's up to her, but you are not required to be on board with it. You are allowed to be a "whole husband" to a "whole wife" not just 1/3 of one.

*Only immoral because she kept this from you, and thus didn't allow you the chance to approve or reject the arrangement.
posted by Shouraku at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I find it very hard to understand how she can say she loves me when she has allowed me to live this illusion but she argues she has lied to herself

I honestly find it hard to believe that someone can have a relationship, marry, have children together and then realise they have "lied to themselves" and actually never were attracted their partner. To me, that sounds more like she is recasting the narrative of your relationship to fit a new world-view. That sounds like something someone very confused and hurt and not able to articulate their feelings with honesty would say. Often women that want men to abuse them are re-inacting trauma; are you aware of any history of trauma in her life? Is there a possibility of mental illness on either of your parts?

Because you refer to her as your first love I wonder if both of you are still young, like in your twenties, because that is a time of fluctuating identities and it sounds like in the past few years her identity has gone from "who she though she is" to "wife" to "mother". Has there been much stability in her life the past five years (same job, same home, same support network), too much instability can certainly lead to a lack of resources in dealing with mental health. BUT too much sameness can also be detrimental (there is a reason there is a cliche about SAHM moms feeling they have lost their identity - until children are six or so parenthood is basically surviving each day - let along making any progress forward). Obviously I have no idea about the circumstances of her life but it is something to thing about. As well, Post Partum depression is incredibly common and can show up well after the birth of the baby. THe children's ages factor a lot in this too; are they close in age, or very young? As you know, young children ride their parents hard and put them away wet. It would be completely normal for both of you to feel drained and resourceless.

Why did you leave the home? If you are trying to work on your marriage it is generally a really bad idea to leave unless one or both people in the relationship are unable to control their emotions, limit discussions/arguments to a mutually agreed time and the two people act civilised around each other. Who has the children right now? Who is controlling the money? What story have to agreed to tell people about the seperation (and is it inviting judgement from other people)? It is great you have a counsellor (although a shame there was no counselling before you moved out and then a long wait after) but what other support are the two of you relying on?

Would you consider moving back, with agreed-upon ground rules (like no seeking attention outside the marriage, intensive counselling both individual and joint, relationship discussions only in front of the counsellor, mutual respect etc).

Askme has a tendancy to yell DHMFA and anyone encountering a problem in their relationship. But the reality is that you can't dump her; she is the mother of your children and although your relationship may change (for better or for worse, living together or apart), it is not going to end. You, your wife and your children will be far better served trying to work out your problems/needs/challenges together and arriving at solutions together (which yes, may include divorce). Have you seen all the "how do I sit my divorced parents who hate each other at my wedding" threads? Don't become those parents.
posted by saucysault at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would reframe the problem this way:

"My wife has a personal issue (kind of like alcoholism or drug addiction) which she is consciously aware of and actively rejecting but does not yet know how to solve. Can we get through this?"

My marriage had somewhat similar issues. We were married for 22 years. The dealbreaker which led to divorce was wholly unrelated to my affairs and emotional difficulties. Neither one of us regrets marrying or staying together in part for the benefit of our kids until the kids were older.

I would also add that sexual attraction is more pliable than most people seem to think. Just because she doesn't find you hot now doesn't mean she never will. Plus, people often don't know how to effectively communicate about a problem like this. It takes time and effort to come up with language that more accurately reflects a complex situation than "I don't love you and never really did."

I have already written the throwaway email address. I will leave it up to the op to decide if my take on things is anything he wants more of.

Sorry you are going through this. Best of luck, whatever you decide.
posted by Michele in California at 8:49 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey OP, I have a lot of sympathy for you concerning your disappointment about your counseling session. I go to therapists and expect them to listen to the facts and give me the answers. That's what they're for, right? No. Not really. That's what AskMe is for. Therapists have a different function - especially when they're conducting couples therapy. The therapist is there to facilitate communication, and while I'm not a therapist and I don't understand the finer points of that, I guarantee that means staying away from potentially destabilizing statements like "Your wife's feelings and behaviors are acceptable justification for you to divorce her." That kind of a statement is guaranteed to shut your wife down and make the rest of the counseling unproductive.

As for the rest, I'd like to reiterate a couple of points that I think are important:

1) You are master of your own ship. You call the shots and you say what is acceptable and unacceptable to you. Nobody else - not your therapist, not your wife, and not strangers on the internet - can tell you what is okay for you.

2) Please consult a lawyer. You are at a Crisis Management Point right now, and if you're handling this without ALL the requisite professionals, you're not handling it completely. Whether you and your wife divorce or work this out and live to be 107 together, you need to consult a lawyer RIGHT NOW because taking a misstep during this difficult time can be costly and irreparable. And I'm not saying that from a slimy "take her for everything she's got" perspective. You need to think about your children. And one very important aspect of their future is your financial stability. Mucking this up by doing the Wrong Thing could cost you - and them - BIG.
posted by jph at 8:52 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think now is the time to firmly stand up for yourself. I am not telling you to divorce ( but please see I am not telling you NOT to either) but you need to tell her that she can't have her cake and eat it too. My ultimatum would be either she works on developing an attraction to her HUSBAND (it's not impossible, people in arranged marriages in other cultures do manage this) or she accepts the fact that you do not wish to be affectionate with someone who does not desire it. She also needs to know that any other further forays into seeking out other men is a total dealbreaker and will definitely lead to the end of your marriage.

Don't whine, don't cry, and don't put up with her bull hockey. Because it is bull hockey.


There are no guarantees but I suspect if you refuse to lay down and be her doormat things have a chance of getting better. And if they don't they will still get better because you will be free to find someone else who will treat you better.

And PLEASE see a lawyer.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2012


I'm going to take a different angle here and hypothetically advocate on behalf of your children. This is obviously not a good situation for you, but what about your kids? You didn't mention much about them. Are you putting their well-being first in your considerations? Most commentators here said your wife is being selfish, and certainly that seems to be the case, but please also think about whether you might also be doing anything, or thinking in any way, that puts your kids' needs after your own needs. I'm not saying you are doing that, I'm just reminding you of the importance of looking out for them. I'm one of those people who believes that divorce is almost always the worst thing for kids (that's not to say there's anything wrong with single parenting, but that's not the same as a divorce situation or joint but separate parenting), but I know that other people have different views on that. I think you need to decide whether you believe it would be best for your kids for you and your wife to stay together, and if so, consider some of the good ideas other people have suggested here that may enable you to do that but also enable you to be happy. Mutual respect, admiration, and attraction are important components of a successful marriage, but there are also things that are important for a successful childhood and a successful life, and I think a stable and loving household, even if just ostensibly so, are so important in a child's life. Of course if your wife is truly looney, and teaching your children bad values and behavior, that's a different story.
posted by Dansaman at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2012


Sexual attraction is a powerful thing. Your wife is probably in pain and has been for a while. As much as it sucks for you to be in a relationship with someone who is not attracted to you, it probably sucks for her to be in a relationship with someone she is not attracted to.

I can understand that. But that is absolutely no reason for the OP's wife to show him incredibly callous, thoughtless disrespect by going off and getting kisses/"affection" from random guys in bars. Even though I would consider this action cheating (if not condoned and/or acknowledged by the other spouse), the least she could do would be looking for affection, and expressing it, in private.

Doing it in public throws up so, so many red flags about how much she values her commitment to this marriage. Hell, think about the kids. What if one of their friends' parents saw her doing this? What if one of her kids' friends saw it themselves? She's disrespecting the kids, too.

Most marriage vows involve honoring your spouse and your marriage. It's entirely possible to do that without feeling love or attraction for the person you married. She's not doing it.
posted by Madamina at 9:01 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Don't live the lie. That sucks, for you and your kids, because it is better for them to see a good relationship, or no relationship, than an unhappy one.

Divorce only requires one adult to set healthy boundaries, and in this case, that's going to be you.
posted by zippy at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're going to get some folks telling you that divorce is the worst thing that can happen to kids. I disagree; I believe that spending 18+ years in a house with two people who actively dislike each other modeling "adult relationships" for you is a much worse fate. It was for me. If you and your wife can work things out so that while neither of you are being satisfied in the relationship you can continue to care for one another and model that for your kids, it would be okay for them. If you can't realistically get to that point, end it.
posted by crankylex at 9:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is fairly simple to me. You are in a very unhappy situation. You deserve happiness. Your wife has suggested many actions that will help her happiness, but none that are mutual. Your children will suffer more from being in an unhappy home situation with two parents than they will if you amicably and maturely choose to divorce. Trust me on this. Get a good counselor for yourself and suggest the same to her. And probably for the kiddoes,too. Then go find someone who will respect you as the good person you are. They do exist. Or so I have heard.
posted by Isadorady at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2012


Man, I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. That is absolutely awful, in every way. If I were you, I would end it immediately. You deserve so much better than this.

Another data point that I don't see mentioned: Your kids. Your kids deserve to grow up watching a healthy marriage relationship, as that will likely become a template for what they desire in their adult lives. This is not a healthy marriage relationship, and it's likely that your kids, as they get older, will start to figure out what's going on. And that's not good for them. Find yourself a healthy relationship, someone who loves and values you, and let that be the template that your kids see.
posted by jbickers at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to come in here from a position of empathy.

First, your wife is not necessarily a bad human being. She appears to have made a decision that a lot of people make - should I be with someone who is bad for me, or good for me? Some time ago, she realized that she could not trust her internal attractor sensors because she was only attracted to abusive individuals. There are a ton of AskMes on this very subject. "Help, how do I stop being attracted to these guys and find decent guys?" It sounds like she wasn't able to start being attracted to good guys - which happens for a lot of reasons, most notably abuse in the home or domestic violence early on.

So she made the decision to be with someone that she cared about, but wasn't in love with. And she didn't tell you that she wasn't in love with you, before she married you and had kids. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I think that she probably thought she could make it work. And she obviously did for quite some time, if you have small children. At the same time, she's been feeling somewhat empty - like you do, if you're not in a love relationship. And for whatever reason, she told you, and you're reeling and hurt and betrayed.

Which is normal. The only person you've ever loved has told you they've been living a lie for years - that they never really were attracted to you. That you weren't really lovable, didn't really win your bride and ride off into the sunset. You were a compromise, a fall-back guy.

That's an icky feeling to have, and an icky place to be in. And the choice she is asking you to make is essentially to give up the chance of being loved, forever. Give up that feeling of loving and being loved in return.

It is, essentially, selfish.

I don't think she can do better at the moment, but that doesn't mean you have to be stuck here. But I want to urge you to think of her with compassion. She seems a deeply damaged human being, not a malicious one.
posted by corb at 9:37 AM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


As I said, I respect that other people have a different view about divorce. And of course every situation is different. The most persuasive essay I've read about divorce being the worst possible thing for kids is this essay by the late Nora Ephron. Please read it before you make any final decisions.

This paragraph in particular stands out:

"I can't think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can't kid yourself about that, although many people do. They say things like, "It's better for children not to grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage." But unless the par­ents are beating each other up, or abusing the children, kids are better off if their parents are together. Chil­dren are much too young to shuttle between houses. They're too young to handle the idea that the two peo­ple they love most in the world don't love each other anymore, if they ever did. They're too young to under­stand that all the wishful thinking in the world won't bring their parents back together. And the newfangled rigmarole of joint custody doesn't do anything to ease the cold reality: in order to see one parent, the divorced child must walk out on the other."
posted by Dansaman at 9:47 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe this ship has sailed. But are you 100% sure she does not have a serious mental health situation? Is there any remote possibility she could be going through mania? Early menopause? (Yes, it can cause massive amounts of emotional instability.) Grave's Disease / Hyperthyroid? How long has this been happening, from your point of view? Did things shift recently?

Of course we cannot diagnose her. And neither can you. And you're not obligated to fix her or make her seek treatment. But it is something to consider.
posted by barnone at 9:51 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I can't think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can't kid yourself about that, although many people do. They say things like, "It's better for children not to grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage." But unless the par­ents are beating each other up, or abusing the children, kids are better off if their parents are together.

That is such total fucking bullshit I don't know where to begin. Your kids deserve to see their parents happy.

Your wife's not a bad person, but you two are completely incompatible, and that doesn't get better.
posted by moammargaret at 10:09 AM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Hi. I'm sorry you're going through this. You've been given a lot of great advice and encouragement already, so I'm basically just reinforcing things that have already been said.

"Since separation and whilst waiting for relationship counseling my wife has admitted kissing another male and signing up to dating/hook up sites and arranged to meet someone but he cancelled at the last minute. She admits that she would have met him had he turned up."
This was a cruel bit of honesty on her part. As terrible as it might seem, it is also useful for legal reasons in establishing fault, if the two of you do decide to get a divorce. Tangible proof is better than hearsay, if you have it, but documenting is still a good idea. Provides dates and places for admissions of this nature. I know that might sound cold-hearted, but you might need this to protect yourself and your children.

"Throughout all this though she claims to still love me but dropped the bombshell that she has never ever been attracted to me. She has always been attracted to people who treat her badly so made the conscious choice to be someone she did not feel attracted to."
Your wife needs personal therapy, and likely with someone who is capable of unpicking the snarl of a charmer/denier. This is up to her to get, but it wouldn't be out of place to encourage it specifically, once.

"She says that she fantasizes about other men when we have sex and as such I am left reeling with the notion that I have never had sex with someone who is attracted to me (she was/is my first love)."
I am so sorry. Again, it's honest but cruel. It is important to take in that honesty does not need to be cruel.

"She does not see this issue as a good reason to divorce (we have children) and has told me she is prepared to continue to 'live the lie' as she puts it. I find it very hard to understand how she can say she loves me when she has allowed me to live this illusion but she argues she has lied to herself."
Of course she won't see this as reason to divorce - she has a vested interest in having the status quo, remaining safe, and letting her cruelty slide. She didn't just lie to herself. She has created a life with you based on a central decision on her part that really should have landed her in counseling long before, and certainly should have been challenged before children were brought into it. She may well love you, in an intrinsically familial fashion. But I think her definition and understanding of "love" may be broken, so I would not rely on this as a way to get through this fracture.

"Her logic is that she will just end up repeating the behavior with someone else so is prepared to put up with the continuation of the status quo."
1) She really does need therapy AND 2) as daunting as it may sound, I think if the two of you do divorce, you should seek custody of the children.

"I feel incredibly betrayed and upset and find it nigh on impossible to see a way through this which doesn't result in separation."
Feeling betrayed here is completely normal. Being upset is absolutely a fair response. Seeing this as an irrevocable destruction of the foundation upon which you thought your marriage was built is utterly understandable. I hope you are allowing yourself these feelings, as it's the only way to ultimately work through them.

"I do love my wife but do not perceive love in any of her actions towards me."
This is a crucial realisation to honour as you make your decisions. Don't let go of this extremely valuable awareness. It will help you when things are even less clear and even more frightening.

"I think I deserve to be with someone who is actually attracted to me."
You do. You do. You do.

"We had our first marriage counseling session and I was looking to the counselor for some guidance on whether the fact my wife is not attracted to me and never has been and more importantly never will be - is enough in itself to say this is damaging for all of us and should not continue. I was somewhat disappointed when the counselor said it was not her place to say and that it is down to the individual couple."
A technically accurate answer on the part of the counselor, and I imagine it would have felt like a gut-punch, as it sounds like you'd been hoping for a voice of reason and guidance. The counselor, as others have said, is putting the decision-making of whether or not you can be part of a couple where that is true back into your lap, since it is how it apparently will be if you decide to stay with your wife. From the anguish you express here, I do not get the feeling that you will find this to be a comfortable or rewarding arrangement, no matter how much simpler it might be in other areas.

I also think you would be well served and comforted by pursuing therapy for yourself. This is a huge fracture, and having someone help you work through it will make you stronger and more capable.

"My wife says the problem is just sex but I do not see it as sustainable for either of us."
Many (maybe even most) people are reassured and encouraged by the attraction of their spouse beyond the mechanics of sex, and the fact that she cannot see how this goes beyond sex seems like a pretty clear validation of your concern.

"My wife is also putting me in the impossible situation of saying that she requires love and affection and if I do not give it to her she will get it elsewhere (hence the kissing this guy she met in a bar and signing up to various sites) but at the same time she is saying she is not attracted to me."
That is a vile cruelty, and I'm sorry she's doing this to you. She cannot require love and affection, for one, and especially not if she's not giving it in return (love isn't sex, and, as you said above, you are not perceiving love in her actions toward you; affection is part of the language of tenderness, and she is certainly not being tender or affectionate with you). Demanding physical fulfillment and attention through emotional and situational manipulation is base coercion, which removes willingness - and thus happy consent - from the manipulated party. That is abusive, and you should not be abused.

"I think for my own sanity I should draw a line under this but matters of the heart are rarely straightforward and I do still feel very strongly about her even given what she has put me through."
I think you are right. Of course you still feel strongly - you had not put this relationship into a compartment of convenience and have been authentic in your commitment and devotion. You have the right to own those feelings and honour them...and, if you do decide to divorce, grieve them.

"Is it realistic to have a marriage based on attraction that is one way only?"
Not unless you are capable of looking at the marriage as a business deal, operate the home as a base of operations, pursue your own happiness on the side without drama between you and the wife flaring up, and keep all of the weirdness away from the kids. That sounds impossible and completely unsatisfying to me, personally, and all the things you say before this lead me to believe you will find it to be the same. Don't martyr yourself. You deserve better.
posted by batmonkey at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"[S]he has never ever been attracted to me" isn't fully consistent with her requiring love and affection from you (which she will get elsewhere, if necessary) or with her telling you that she has been lying to herself.

My point is that while she may currently believe what she is telling you, I suspect she is re-writing her complicated history to make things seem more consistent than is actually the case. That doesn't solve your problem, but it does suggest that you shouldn't believe that she was never, ever attracted to you or that this is some sort of con. The reality might be that she was (and is) attracted to you, but not as much as she would like or not in the way that she associates with danger and excitement.

I agree that her recent actions are cruel (some things, even if true, should never be said), and you have every right to be angry, upset, and unsure as to whether there is a future in this relationship. I think you should ask her to withdraw her ultimatum, and see if she is willing to deal with her own problems. Let her know that you might be interested in continuing the relationship, but not as a lie. She should deal with her shit (perhaps in personal therapy) , figure out what she really wants and thinks, and then see if she can offer you the love, attraction, and affection that you deserve. If not, then it probably makes sense to end the marriage.

Please do focus on the kids. Divorce is sometimes necessary and may be in your case, but it really is tough on kids. In my experience, parents lie to themselves about that all too often because the truth is hard to live with. However, if you face up to the issue, you can work to mitigate the harm. They need stability and love, and they need you in their lives as a dad.
posted by Area Man at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Please do focus on the kids. Divorce is sometimes necessary and may be in your case, but it really is tough on kids. In my experience, parents lie to themselves about that all too often because the truth is hard to live with. However, if you face up to the issue, you can work to mitigate the harm. They need stability and love, and they need you in their lives as a dad.

Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree here. I feel like I'm always coming in to these threads to advocate for divorce instead of staying together for the kids, and I'm gonna do it again. My father cheated on my mother for several years, was not attracted to her, and hated her guts by the time they divorced when I was eight. Was the divorce difficult on me? Of course. Would I rather go thorugh that than see my mother in a completely unfair and emotionally damaging marriage, while my father got to reap the benefits of being married without any of the emotional turmoil? You betcha.

I agree that children need stability, but stability does not come from a marriage on such emotionally shaky ground as this one. Stability can come from two parents living in separate homes and not in a relationship who are committed to being the best parents that they can be for their children - separately.
posted by anotheraccount at 10:36 AM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Is this new behavior from your wife? How had the relationship been through the years? With the kids? It just seems incredibly bizarre to me that someone could be so baldly self-centered and cruel. I mean, the notion that a person can demand love and affection from one party while stating that they can return neither is just so....crazy. For the sake of your kids, I'd urge her to have her head and health examined by a doctor before you go further.

This was my thought. Maybe she's having a mental break or something?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:37 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your kids are learning from both of you how to live in a relationship (example: your wife and her desire for abuse). For your kids' sake, do not model passively accepting this kind of strong-arming, blackmail, cheating, etc. Even if it LOOKS like passive acceptance it'll be a problem.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the divorce question, I don't think there's one answer fits all. Each situation is different, and some people are probably too quick to divorce and others too slow to divorce. The important takeaway from that side discussion should probably be that divorce should not be treated lightly, and the best interests of children should be at the top of any priority list. My original intent in focusing on the children was to make sure their interests were fully considered since I didn't see much mention of them in the original question. I think we can all agree that the children's best interest is extremely important.
posted by Dansaman at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2012


Move on and start the process as quickly as possible.

As for the kids - "it's better to come from a broken home than live in one." I would be concerned that your wife is attracted to men who treat her badly and the affect that will have on the kids.
posted by incandissonance at 10:47 AM on September 25, 2012


(I perceived Area Man's answer to be that even if divorce is what happens, the focus even during and after the divorce should be getting the kids through it with stability and love and the presence of their father...perhaps I misunderstood, but that's the message I'm supporting)
posted by batmonkey at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my earlier comment, when I said it was possible to make such a relationship work, that doesn't mean I was advocating for it in this specific situation. You need to make a list of the things that you want out of your relationship. Then take it to your wife and see what she's willing to offer you, possibly work out a deal where she gets one thing on her list for every thing you get on your list.

If she refuses to give you anything on your list, DTMFA. Or if she wants more than she's willing to give - also, DTMFA. No relationship is perfect, but a refusal to negotiate is absolute dealbreaker territory since it reflects a self-centered personality type that will take more and more from you until you're an empty husk.

Also, if your wife is on dating/hook up sites and actively meeting people, you're totally entitled to cheat on her at this point, regardless of whether you both decide to divorce or work on fixing the relationship. In fact, I strongly recommend it - you'll feel much more sexually desirable, and possible even get some vindictive satisfaction.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, batmonkey understood my advice. I'm not saying they should stay together for the kids. I don't want to lay that on the OP. This is a really problematic situation, and divorce might be warranted. Whatever happens, however, the kids need their dad and they stability in their lives.
posted by Area Man at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2012


I think your wife knows my ex...T

That she would marry with this level of deception is really the critical indicator to me. It's not that she didn't have the self-awareness then, but does now. I think the likelihood of a good outcome for both your kids and yourself is to move on. And really, the cruelty and bluntness of her statements and behavior is just, well, mean. I'm really glad I'm not married to a mean person any longer.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, if your wife is on dating/hook up sites and actively meeting people, you're totally entitled to cheat on her at this point, regardless of whether you both decide to divorce or work on fixing the relationship. In fact, I strongly recommend it - you'll feel much more sexually desirable, and possible even get some vindictive satisfaction.

Um... I guess I think this is really poor advice. I'm not really jiving with any of wolfdreams01 suggestions, actually. Getting into an eye-for-an-eye territory does nothing to stabilize for the kids or stabilize for yourself. And, frankly, bringing MORE people into your drama with one night stands just... don't do it. It's not a solution to your problems today.

I also think, barring violence or extreme quarreling, that you should be at home. I understand why you don't want to be there but unless you are "walking out" on this family, I think you should do your best to co-exist while you work it out. "It" being defined as whatever you two need to resolve this issue – even if that is ultimately divorce. If she's uncomfortable with you being there (and you're able to be respectful and not violent) then she can move out.

It's a tough, tough situation. My heart goes out to your family and I hope you're able to find some peace in this storm.
posted by amanda at 11:12 AM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Your instincts are right. What she's doing is wrong on multiple levels. You know this. She's trying to keep you in the marriage to use you. Continuing will only make things worse. It's time to leave.

You can do better. You can find someone who treats you like you treat her.
posted by cnc at 11:21 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, wow.

I usually agree with wolfdream01, above, but I gotta say - advocating for cheating, and negotiating lists of needs and wishes with someone who has been so selfish and disengenous with you, is just adding HEAPS of unnecessary drama and prolonging the agony. But especially the cheating=drama, and it will make you feel badly, plus possibly impact your legal standing in th divorce. Don't do any of that.

Seek a lawyer. End this. Move on to someone with more integrity and character. Plenty of women out there are more mature, emotionally stable, and genuine than your current spouse. The sooner you end this marriage, the sooner you can find lasting happiness.


-----


Incidentally, you mentioned that your wife admitted to fantasizing about other men during sex and how that made you feel.

First of all, your wife's fantasies are not a reflection on you. It is normal to fantasize during sex. Everyone does it at one point or another, regularly or not. Sure, you hope the other person is fantasizing that you are both together on a pirate ship (Ay, matey!!) but really, you can't judge your desirability level based on what gets the other person "in the mood and over the top" in the privacy of their own mind while having sex. That's about the other person, not you.

Just wanted to let you know that her fantasy life is nothing for you to worry about, it does not reflect on you. A lawyer should evaluate what impact these statements carry in a divorce, since saying these things to you depending on the context might be is grounds for "cruelty," but again, it does not reflect on your sexuality or desirability.

Hope that helped.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:28 AM on September 25, 2012


I have never seen a relationship successfully go from "supposedly monogamous, but with one partner cheating" to "healthy open relationship." Not once, not ever. Never seen it, and I know dozens of people in healthy open relationships. So I would suggest that that isn't at all in the cards for you.

So, the question is, do you want to stay in this relationship? And the therapist was absolutely right that it isn't their place to answer the question for you. I myself could never stay with someone who had said that being with me was "living a lie." But that's me. You have to make that decision for yourself.

As for the kids, I think that being an engaged and loving parent who models healthy, mature behavior for children is far, far more important than living in the same house with the other parent. Maybe you can do both, but I know I couldn't in this situation.

Best to you in this difficult time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:29 AM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I usually agree with wolfdream01, above, but I gotta say - advocating for cheating, and negotiating lists of needs and wishes with someone who has been so selfish and disengenous with you, is just adding HEAPS of unnecessary drama and prolonging the agony.

Look, in normal situations, I would never advocate for cheating. (I have never cheated on anybody I've been involved with, even though I've occasionally facilitated other people's cheating.) But it's obvious this man's wife isn't looking out for his interests at all, so he needs to look out for his own. An eye for an eye makes perfect sense here.

As far as turning this into a healthy monogamish relationship, do I think his wife will be willing to negotiate? Probably not. But his wife's refusal will make her true agenda more obvious, and allow the OP to move on with a minimum of regrets, knowing that he tried his best to make things work and that there was nothing more he could do.

When me and my first girlfriend were having problems, I made a good faith effort to work things out with her and that enabled me to go forward without regrets once we broke up. She, on the other hand, had plenty of regrets (she cheated on two separate boyfriends with me and once even hinted at getting back together - which I hinted at declining). There's a lot to be said for trying your best, even if you suspect the effort will be futile. Getting emotional closure is priceless.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:57 AM on September 25, 2012


"An eye for an eye" is a shitty strategy in marriage.

Either the OP decides the marriage is over, in which case he can start dating with a clear conscience, or he commits to trusting his wife and being trustworthy himself in trying to make it work, or they both agree to open up the relationship.

Him pretending to be monogamous and cheating isn't going to make anything work better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


An eye for an eye makes perfect sense here.

Look. When you're on your own and no one is depending on you? Sure. Burn the whole thing down. Bring it to rubble. Tear your life into little pieces if you want. But when there are kids involved, you'll get no sympathy from me (or many) with this eye for an eye bullshit. It's selfish. It doesn't "right the scales." It might feel good in the moment but the aftermath is unlikely to result in a better place.

knowing that he tried his best to make things work and that there was nothing more he could do

This, I agree with. Going out and screwing around seems like that runs counter to this end.

Anyway, I do trust the OP to know what he can or cannot do to get things under control. I'm more worried for his mental state currently and whether he's doing all he can to try to get it together. I don't think engaging in revenge fantasies will, ultimately, put this guy's life back together.
posted by amanda at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Looking out for his own," to me, means setting a great example for his kids by taking care of his own life first, then his kids' lives, and THEN possibly integrating another person into this already volatile mix that will always include the mother of his children.

This is a terribly difficult time for everyone involved, and there are plenty of ways of finding support and caring without going all tit for tat on questionable choices.
posted by Madamina at 12:07 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe this was mentioned upthread, but--if divorce happens--make sure to keep an eye on how much time the kids are spending around mom's "bad boys" who treat her badly (even if just emotionally). The trope of the abusive stepfather (or string of "stepfathers") stepping up and darkening childhoods after nice, stable dad exits stage left is a stereotype for a reason.
posted by availablelight at 12:48 PM on September 25, 2012


your narrative is a little confusing - is this the reason you separated or did all of this come out after the separation? do you believe her when she says she has never been attracted to you? does she have any history of mania or depression? i know this is anonymous, but you can update through the mods if you'd like.

if this is all actually how she feels, the reason you separated, and she isn't in the midst of any emotional trauma, i think you have to make the separation permanent. if there are other factors, or this is something she said in a heat of argument, or she's prone to big sweeping statements about how things have always been true (even when they haven't) i think there's value in counseling towards reconciliation if it's an outcome you both honestly want.
posted by nadawi at 12:54 PM on September 25, 2012


Lawyer up and look into divorce. You can still be a good parent to your kids even if you're no longer partners with their other biological parent. If you stay, your kids will notice the weirdness and develop weird ideas about how relationships are supposed to be. You don't need to "martyr" yourself to be a good parent, your kids need at least one healthy parent to look up to and receive support from, so be that parent.

And don't cheat, don't stoop to her level.
posted by Hawk V at 1:20 PM on September 25, 2012


Really sorry to hear about this situation. It sounds like your wife has said some very cold and cruel things which must have been incredibly hard for you to hear if you have been loving and vulnerable in this relationship. I work as a relationship therapist and for me Suacysalt has it.

I have heard this story (I am not and never have been attracted to you despite choosing, courting and marrying you and repeatedly having sex with you) from a few different individuals in couples. My experience is that it's almost always a rewriting of the relationship narrative to fit new feelings and desires. Specifically, I have seen it used to push the other person away in a very final way without having to say the dreaded words. It is an avenue that shuts down real therapeutic work for your therapist and keeps them and you away from more painful, emotional avenues of exploration. Our subconscious minds can be very ingenious in the ways they find to protect us from things we don't want to handle.

Like your own therapist I can't tell you what to do with this information but, honestly, I've only ever seen this end in seperation. If you want to understand what you are both feeling and what you want you can keep trying to explore this in therapy. Your wife may not ever be prepared to really open up about what is happening for her, though. Take care of yourself.
posted by Dorothia at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Throughout all this though she claims to still love me but dropped the bombshell that she has never ever been attracted to me.

This relationship is over; it's just if you care to admit it. Even if you accept this, she is going to leave you the moment something better comes along.
posted by spaltavian at 2:00 PM on September 25, 2012


When my ex-husband was on the way out, he said some extremely unpleasant and untrue things. I personally think he was trying to get me to be the one who left, or who filed or whatever, mostly to diminish his guilt over how crappy he was acting.

The attraction thing? it's an excuse. My ex said something similar about love. As are many things she might be saying now. Perhaps she feels they are true, or true for her now, but mostly she's doing everything she can to push you away. Don't take it all at face value.

Continue to go to couples counseling, if she's willing. Absolutely go to counseling by yourself.

You have a lot of decisions to make. Talk to your support network.
posted by dreamling at 2:56 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was reminded of this post when reading yours. Please pay attention to the stuff about how the wife wants to hook up with abusive men and how it will affect the kids.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:54 PM on September 25, 2012


Good heavens, how unkind. Take a long break; don't even think about reconciling unless things are much, much better. Get therapy. Learn to expect people to treat you better. You deserve far better than this.
posted by theora55 at 6:20 PM on September 25, 2012


I have a feeling that your wife is trying to "force" you to make the decision on the marriage so that she doesn't have to accept responsibility for the decision (meaning, she can play the victim and say "he left me"). It sounds very similar to what my ex husband did...he wasn't going to be pleased or fulfilled with anything I did, and yet couldn't give me any concrete suggestions on how to make things better. Four years after the end of our marriage I can see how he was very quietly manipulating me so that I would believe that his unhappiness and depression was my fault...all while he refused to do ANYTHING to improve his happiness. Even when we separated, I had to file all the paperwork and do the work for the divorce proceedings...I think he would have stayed separated forever because he just wasn't going to do the work.

Honestly, this might be the ultimatum you want. I know you probably don't want your marriage to end but if she's playing this game ("I'm have no physical feelings for you, but if you don't show me love I'll find it elsewhere"=no matter what you do I'll go to other men if I want to") you will never win. You won't ever be able to make her happy because she doesn't want to be happy. Anything you do won't fill whatever is missing in her. I hate to say that, but I think it's something for you to really think about.

I'm sorry you're in this situation. I know it's tough.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's setting up a situation where you're basically obligated to leave her so that you can look like the bad guy.

This for truth. That way she can blame you for breaking up the marriage, leaving the kids, yadda yadda yadda, all your fault. DTMFA.

You deserve someone to love who will love you in return. Your kids deserve to see a father modeling a loving husband and parent for them.

See if you can get your wife into counseling with regard to the children's health and wellbeing. That's what's required of you. Beyond that, she's on her own.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:53 PM on September 25, 2012


No, an open marriage will not work in a situation like this.

No, you should not cheat to spite her.

Just get divorced. Life is too short for this bullshit. Kids need to grow up knowing that you don't stay together and be miserable just because that's what we do. They have to be taught to be active participants in their own lives. If someone's making you feel like crap, you don't just put up with it because that's what we do. I'm not saying it will be easy, but, it might be less horrendous for you all than it is now.

And, yeah, then go forth and find someone who's attracted to you and try to be happy.
posted by heyjude at 2:15 AM on September 26, 2012


I'd like to weigh in with an opinion that opposes the pile-on. I got out of an abusive relationship several years ago and was explicitly told by many people (and have seen this advice given on Mefi as well) to seek out men that were "safe" even if I didn't feel as attracted to them.

I did this, and had a few long-term relationships with men who did not light my fire but seemed safe and "smart" choices for me to make. Two of these men wanted to marry me, and I probably could have done the deed if I had really wanted to. After each breakup, some particularly nasty family members told me that I had lost my only chance at happiness with a "normal" guy, and that I should go crawling back to my exes, begging them to take me.

If I had, I would have wound up like your wife a few years later, not attracted to my husband, desperately unsure in a marriage to a "nice" guy like you.

I'm really, really glad I didn't end up there, but I can see where your wife is coming from, and empathize with both of you.

Because of these experiences, I have a very different opinion than most of the people above. I think this is the MOMENT OF TRUE COMMITMENT to the marriage, for both of you.

There's been a lot of crap, a lot of lies, a lot of hiding, a lot of fear in the past several years. All of that is now coming to light, and can be cleaned up together, and you can both move on in a more healthy way. This is the moment the marriage becomes more than just a story you each tell yourselves. It's the moment it becomes real.

She is sharing her real truth with you at this point. You were apart for a month. She did NOT cheat on you. She is coming clean about some pretty embarrassing stuff (she tried to hook up, the guy stood her up).

I would take what she says in the spirit of honesty and desperation in which she is saying it. I would set some real boundaries but also accept her and show her your real love and pain. This is a moment for both of you to be real and honest together -- possibly in the presence of a loving and understanding counselor.

Don't agree to anything you don't want (like non-monogamy), but really think deeply about who she is, who you are, and how the two of you can move forward.

I think there is a future for your relationship, if you are both very honest, build on what you love about each other, and re-commit in a new way.
posted by 3491again at 6:43 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe that she was lying to herself, especially if she was young when you got together and you're her first love.

Our culture tells women so much messed up stuff that it's completely plausible that women confuse finding someone handsome, kind, and funny, with actually being attracted to someone. I have so many friends who thought there was something wrong with their libidos until they accidentally stumbled into relationships with men to whom they were actually attracted.

Being attracted to bad boys could be a sign also of immaturity or just emotional unavailability.

Having years of marriage and kids doesn't make someone sexually and emotionally mature with regards to romantic relationships. It can actually be a huge distraction from self knowledge.

All this to say that your emotional generosity to her, as a woman you love and the mother of your children, is probably well warranted.

That said, my goal for you would not be saving the relationship. It would be amicably getting to a place of greater individual development and effective coparenting, as romantically independent people. Therapy alone and as a couple seems like a great plan for now.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:03 PM on September 29, 2012


You DO deserve someone better- don't settle for anything less. it is hard when marriage/children are involved but you need to dig deep and figure out what will make YOU happy and stick to it. It's not fair how you are being treated. Hugs.
posted by love2much at 5:07 AM on November 2, 2012


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