It's not you, it's me
October 11, 2010 2:46 PM   Subscribe

How did you end your marriage, how do you tell your spouse in the kindest possible way? How would you want to be told?

My husband is a sweet guy, who I love. However, we have had an ongoing issue for much of our marriage which he has not addressed, though he has promised to, many times, and if you asked him, right now, he would say he was dealing with it.

He has no libido. We have had sex once in 5 years. His doctors (apparently) tell him he has to lose weight to get his libido back but to be honest, when he was a healthy weight, we didn't have sex very often. (For those who are about to say so, he insists he is not gay, he tells me he looks at women etc). Yes, we have had marriage counselling a number of times.

We have two children who will be hurt by us separating, but they have finished high school, and you know...

I don't hate him. I'm not angry anymore. I think this lack of libido is just who he is, and I want to have sex. We once tried the get-it-from-outside, and that didn't work, he tried to tolerate it, but asked me to stop.

The thing is, everything else aside, we get on great. He's my best friend. We like spending time together. I don't want to hurt him, but I know separating will devastate him.

I don't know where to start with this. He knows the lack of sex bothers me, and a lot, but to hit him with:" I'm leaving you", it just seems so cruel. On the other hand, I need sex.

(There's no need for suggestions on how to get him to have sex, I've tried for years and many different ways. Seriously, he's not interested. I am also certain he's not getting it elsewhere. This question is about the kindest way to end a marriage. I also don't anticipate any financial argument about splitting assets, no need for "lawyer up" advice. BTW, our marriage vows didn't say 'for better or worse', we promised to try to respect each other and we've done that.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If your marriage counselor was someone you trusted, I'd go back to that person for advice and possibly for some counseling for the two of you to talk about the best way to separate. But basically, this is going to suck. You just need to sit him down and tell him that you love him, but that you can't be married to him anymore. It's going to hurt you and hurt him and feel awful and it's going to suck. But you both sound like good people, and with time, you'll both get through this.
posted by decathecting at 2:53 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's really tough and I'm sorry you find yourself in this position. FWIW, as a stranger on the internet, it really sounds like you've made every possible good faith effort here and if going is what you need to do, I hope that works out the way you want it to.

What I'd want to hear is something definite but gentle, perhaps along the lines of "I love you but I can't live with you anymore. I'd like to talk about ending this marriage." If you are resolute in your actions, I think you can afford the generosity of being gentle in your speech.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:54 PM on October 11, 2010 [16 favorites]

Make sure you have temporary (or permanent) accommodations lined up before you break the news. He'll probably need a lot of time away from you, and it's best to start that as soon as possible.

If you can do it on a Friday, it will give him a few days to recover from the initial shock.

Aside from that I don't think there is any easy or kind way to do this. Say that you want to break up, be firm, and leave after answering his questions.

Best of luck, I did this last year and it's not easy.
posted by ripley_ at 2:55 PM on October 11, 2010

Anon: I know you don't want to hear this. However, please hear me out... as someone who had a very good, amicable, lovely divorce, and is now good friends with their ex.

Before you make any move, PLEASE, PLEASE, do your research, sock away some cash, have a support system set up. Plan for contingencies upon contingencies. I am not saying build an existential bomb shelter... but do have an existential "oh, shit!" backpack lined up, okay?

The person you know your spouse to be now is NOT THE SAME PERSON who will exist after you drop the bomb on them. I don't care how nice and sweet and understanding. The hardest thing about a divorce, IMHO, is seeing the "death" of the person you thought you fully knew and the "birth" of this new, semi-alien person.

That being said: you really can't go wrong with always, always taking the high road. This isn't to say you let yourself be a victim, of course... but during my negotiation and actual split, I made DAMNED SURE to never shout, manipulate, use the kid as a pawn, etc. And I have to say, it paid off in full. If you begin the talks in a kind, honest manner, even if things disintegrate, they will have started on a basis of goodness. If you start out bluntly and hurtfully, they'll only descend FURTHER from there, y'know?
posted by julthumbscrew at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2010 [30 favorites]

Don't let him keep his hopes up. If you mean "I refuse to change my mind no matter what you do or say," don't say "I dunno, I can't really think of anything you could do to change my mind" — say "I refuse to change my mind no matter etc. etc. etc."
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2010

My wife and I were in counseling before we decided to end it, and after some amount of that (can't remember how many weeks) as it became more clear there wasn't going to be a way to fix it, the decision was made / announced while at the therapist. I think this was good, she offered a bunch of advice on how to handle the immediate situation and having a third person there who understood the situation helped the initial reaction. However, in our case we both knew it was heading that way, and it was really just a question of who would come out and say it.

So I'm not sure how helpful that was, but it's at least an example. It sounds like he knows this could be coming? (I'm basing that off the counseling, discussions, etc). That can help, but even when you _know_ it's coming (like I did) the actual moment / day is really, really rough. Up until then you can hold out some hope, however small.

Also, once you know this is going to happen, be as nice as possible (this applies regardless of which side of the decision you're on). No good can come from being mean / angry at this point (well, you can and probably should _feel_ angry, but find other ways to express/deal with that). The more amicable this is, the better for both of you (and your kids). The time when anger would have mattered (in other words, when it might have made him realize what was going on, etc) is over, and now all it can do is complicate things (legally, financially, etc).

Last bit of advice is to physically separate ASAP. It took us about a month to do that and it was one of the worst months of my life. It's so painful to have to see that person every day after you know it's over. Don't have to finalize all asset splitting, etc, but living under the same roof after something like that is just a really bad idea.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

MeFi mail me if you'd like. I'd rather my answer be offline. But hugs and strength to you.
posted by ladygypsy at 3:18 PM on October 11, 2010

Couples marriage counseling is sometimes a prolonged and polite method of saying "We aren't working out. We need to go our separate ways. This is over." The key part is, during the counseling you both have to come to that decision together, or at least learn to frame things as "things aren't hunky dory and the time frame has been exceeded for repairing this."

There are important parts of this. For starters, if you've seen a counselor by yourself, I wouldn't recommend them as your couples counselor - you ARE asking someone to mediate the breakup of your relationship. Do it with your personal therapist and you are asking for it to be viewed as 2 vs 1.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:23 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am a bit afraid to say this, but a marriage counselor (a teacher of the subject)told me in confidence that by the time a couple came for counseling it was more often than not too late.

This is what Artie Shaw, the many times married musician said about divorce: call a cab and call a lawyer and go.

But here is what I think will next happen: your husband will tell you he will make a real effort, see a counselor etc if you give him more time to work on things. If that is so, be prepared for
how you will handle that.
My best (divorced after 21 years; and happily married in my 27th year with my 2nd wife).
posted by Postroad at 3:41 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did this a couple of years ago; I posted here a bit about it at the time. We had similar symptoms in our broken marriage, although they weren't the real reasons we split up. Here's what I did, and it went as well as these things can go: We had an amicable divorce and remain respectful of one another.

1) After I made the decision to tell him, I wrote out a couple of different phrases to see what would be the right combo of unambiguous and as sensitive as possible. I rehearsed them in writing, and then I rehearsed saying them out loud. Saying those words out loud was HUGE in terms of allowing myself to really feel and know the truth: that I didn't want to be married to him anymore.

2) I chose the date when I would break the news: our next counseling session. I thought I would die as we were walking up the stairs, as we sat down, as we took up our usual positions in the room. I didn't die. I just breathed in and out, keeping my focus.

3) When the counselor started off, I didn't let any time lapse before I made my declaration. I wanted my ex to have the option of the entire hour to process or yell at me or question me or whatever.

4) Once back at home, I made myself available as often and for as long as he wanted to answer all his questions. Never once did I waver, but I tried to be kind. I think I succeeded.

Because of this, 48 hours after my declaration he agreed: We should not be married, and he wished he had the courage to be the one to say it, and sooner. He praised me for my courage in the face of our joint denial.

From what you say, I suspect your husband won't be very surprised. He may likely be quite hurt, but I doubt he'll be surprised. It sounds like you genuinely like each other; use that loving relationship to guide your actions after you tell him. Stick around to answer questions. Do not waver. Tell him of the plans you've made to move on. I suspect he will soon do the same.

Good luck to you. And have courage. It will get better.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:57 PM on October 11, 2010 [14 favorites]

This is gonna suck, but I have only one bit of advice to offer; don't prevaricate. If you do decide to go, don't change your mind six months later when you're feeling lonely. If he really is as nice a guy as you say he is, you owe it to him not to jerk him along.
posted by Gilbert at 3:58 PM on October 11, 2010

MeFi mail me if you'd like. I'd rather my answer be offline. But hugs and strength to you.

Same here.
posted by davejay at 4:00 PM on October 11, 2010

If your children still live with you, please tell him when they are not around. My mother chose to tell my father first thing one morning while I was in the house. I came downstairs to find my father crying, and had no idea what was going on. It was very confusing and frightening. I know your kids are older than I was, but still, try and choose a time when he has a chance to recover and process it all alone (if he prefers) and not when he has to put on a brave face for other people.
posted by Joh at 4:10 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sometimes the sharpest cut is the kindest. Tell him you are leaving him because you need a sexual relationship.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yes. What Joh said. Even if they are in college. Don't tell him when your kids are home.
posted by morganannie at 5:51 PM on October 11, 2010

Dated a woman who suffered through years of a marriage like yours. Her life bloomed when she pulled together all her strength and cut him loose. Yours will, too - maybe not at first, but after the tears dry, and the lawyers are finished fattening up on your assets. (To minimize that, keep relations with him as positive and adult as possible throughout the divorce.)

You will come out of this happier. Best of luck. Sorry I can't offer any how-to advice, except: do it. Without loopholes for him to hope on. No wiggle room. Do it.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:05 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Before you go in, just make sure you know for sure whether or not you'd agree to stay longer if he suddenly decides, "I'll change! I'll go to a doctor! I'll do anything to keep you!" here. If you're totally done no matter what, stick with that no matter what he offers. But if this is secretly kind of an ultimatum... well, be aware of that for yourself.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good luck to you both.

If you're going to leave, I'd suggest doing it SOON, or waiting until after the holidays. November/December breakups are teh suck.
posted by cyndigo at 9:11 PM on October 11, 2010

but to hit him with:" I'm leaving you", it just seems so cruel.

So is refusing to have sex, and refusing to allow you to have sex elsewhere. As you follow all of the excellent advise above, especially DarlingBri's, keep in mind that as hurt as he may be, part of it is because he's in denial about the issue.
posted by Melismata at 9:24 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

"I don't hate you. I'm not angry anymore. I think this lack of libido is just who you are, and I want need to have sex."

You tried to keep your marriage together by seeking sex from others and he vetoed that. When he asked you to stop he basically signed the marriage's death warrant.
posted by Neofelis at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I dunno know. Marriage without making love to each other is basically a business partnership between good friends.

OP, I strongly suggest to you that this is about Intimacy, not sex.

If I were you, I might frame the conversation in gentle terms without referring to sex per se. I might use the term intimacy, as in intimacy with a small "i." He's got to know deep down. This disparity has been going on for a long long time. I don't see the point of making it his fault, and you don't sound inclined to go that route, either.

Keep this about, "We are not compatible on a deeper level. It's unfair to both of us to continue without this connection." etc.

I agree with someone above, your husband is in denial about his preferences and especially your resulting suffering. This is patently unfair to both of you. Another way of seeing this is that by going along and not making an issue of the disparity in the relationship, neither one of you is free to be truly happy. I think it is noble to divorce amicably under these circumstances.

I nth any and all advice above to work towards this conversation in a marriage counselor's office.

Good luck moving forward.
posted by jbenben at 10:40 AM on October 12, 2010

I agree with Ironmouth. My husband and I had a long-term issue that was never resolved and which I had always clearly told him that I couldn't overlook forever. I told him bluntly that I wanted a divorce because, as he was well aware, I could no longer live in those circumstances. The bluntness and honesty worked well for me; we moved forward, never had any real talk about getting back together, and were able to accept the finality. It was still painful, but I think much less so than it would have been had it not been so clear that we were beating a dead horse and that I would never be happy in doing so.
posted by mudlark at 12:46 PM on October 12, 2010

« Older Help me replace my bad habit with a good or at...   |   How can I find out how my credit card company... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.