Should I give up on this marriage when there’s still so much good left?
November 25, 2016 2:07 AM   Subscribe

We fixed lots of things about our marriage since my last question, but sex remains an issue. How long should I keep trying?

This question was also from me, when I moved out for a month.

We’ve made progress in couples therapy, realising that we are both co-dependent. We feel closer than we have in years. We can now talk to each other about difficult emotions.

We get on so well, we make each other laugh, he makes me feel safe and secure and he’s a genuinely good, decent person. I do love him, and like him, whereas when we started therapy I felt a million miles away from him, living a separate life.

But I still don’t want to sleep with him, although I enjoy hugging him. We’re sleeping in separate rooms and we’ve only had sex once since I moved back. It was nice, I liked being close to him and making him happy, but I didn’t have any active desire for it and I haven’t missed having sex with him (although I still feel sexual desire in general). My husband thinks we need to try harder and start sleeping together again and I wonder if he's right.

In the meantime, the guy I had an affair with has cut off all contact, finally this time. He’s angry with me but said he’d be open to meeting up next year if I move out.

This has broken my heart. I’ve been in love with him for so long. But it has made me realise that I would like a sex life that I enjoy and actively participate in. But I'm worried it's too late for me.

In therapy a few weeks ago I told my husband about sleeping with my friend and that I had really strong feelings for him. He was hurt and upset but he still wants to give things a try and says he loves me. Soon after that, I said that we need to separate, and that I’m going to move out next year. He agreed but he doesn’t want it to happen.

The last couple of months have been the worst of my life. But being with my husband has sometimes made things better and I wonder if I just need that calm presence rather than chasing after the dream of a better relationship.

I’ll be giving up everything in my life if I leave my husband – someone I love, our life with our mutual friends, our history. And the challenges of moving out and disentangling our lives make my head spin. We own a home together, it has increased in value since we bought it but the idea of selling it and dividing up all our stuff seems impossible. And I’m not sure I can afford moving out in the short-term.

It’s also confusing with Christmas coming up – we agreed to spend it together with my family as it works logistically, and I’ll look at moving out next year. But I’m wondering if that’s a terrible idea. No-one in my family knows we're having problems.

My husband says it’s all down to me, and I have to decide whether to leave. As someone who has problems making decisions anyway, this is so hard.

I am so sick of feeling sad and low and everything being so painful all the time. I am worn down and exhausted of thinking about this.

I’m seeing a therapist to work on my shame and low self-esteem. I’m on anti-depressants, I’m journaling and writing down all my feelings, and I’ve read a huge amount of self-help books.

Maybe if I could just get through the sadness and guilt and fear of leaving, I would have more perspective? But then I think that I owe our marriage another chance, and I need to let the dust settle from my affair and its traumatic ending.

I want to do the right thing by myself and my husband but I don’t want to waste my life either. Should I try for longer? Or do I need to make a bold move?
posted by Concertion to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

As long as you are still mentally checked in to the other relationship, I don't think you can make this one work. If you had been the one to go NC, perhaps it would be different. But in your head, you still sound as though you have that door open. I'm pretty sure you can't bargain you're way into a commitment.
posted by frumiousb at 2:14 AM on November 25, 2016 [18 favorites]

I hear you. I've been basically where you are. I finally called time on my marriage on Dec 1st, seven years ago. (The pre-xmas thing was fine. We each went to our own families. It was nice.)

And the challenges of moving out and disentangling our lives make my head spin. We own a home together, it has increased in value since we bought it but the idea of selling it and dividing up all our stuff seems impossible. And I’m not sure I can afford moving out in the short-term.

Yup. It's not easy, it's expensive, it's exhausting, and it's worth it. But I had to get to a point of no return to be able to go through with it. I spent months if not years going back and forth like you are. I also met someone I clicked with better, and this was the final catalyst for me.

As someone who has problems making decisions anyway, this is so hard.

I have problems making decisions too, and what helps me is to find out as much information as I can about the decision I need to make, so here's an exercise for you. Make a plan. What is the absolute minimum you can do in order to leave? You already moved out short-term, so you can do the part about taking some stuff and finding a new place. What's stopping you doing that again, and making it permanent? You might not need to really worry about the logistics now if he can afford to keep the house by himself.

If you can't really afford it in the short-term but it will be fine once the house is sold, maybe taking on some short-term debt is worth it (I did this).

Once the final decision has been made that you guys are done it makes the rest of it a lot easier because it changes from 'should I deal with this' to 'I have to deal with this' and you find a way.

tl;dr: yes, you're so very done with this.
posted by corvine at 4:05 AM on November 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think sexual attraction isn't something you can talk yourself into, and it sounds like you are not sexually attracted to your husband.

If you had once been really attracted to him, but then got tired and stressed by the grind of everyday life or problems with your relationship and gradually lost your attraction to him, that would be different. But from your other questions, it sounds like you have never been attracted to him and just never realized it until recently, when you had an experience that showed you what real attraction feels like.

Breaking up will be hard and messy and scary because of all the unknowns, but it won't be impossible. You won't be giving up everything in your life, because you'll still have your family and your own friends and your therapist and yourself. People of all ages make new beginnings, and those new beginnings can lead to wonderful, amazing things, but first you have to give yourself permission to stop teetering on the edge of anxiety and fear and make the first leap.
posted by colfax at 4:11 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I want to do the right thing by myself and my husband but I don’t want to waste my life either.

I was on the other side. I ended my marriage over a decade ago* because my husband wasn't attracted to ME and I didn't want to waste MY life trying to make that happen. You love him and like him and he is a good decent person. Let him go so that he doesn't waste HIS life and can find someone whose heart sings when he comes home.

You can completely do this.

* I had to pause and calculate the time that had passed. I used to be able to tell you the exact number of days since my divorce. I mention this to tell you that even the most traumatic heartbreaks fade. I am remarried now, and our hearts sing a lovely duet every day.
posted by kimberussell at 6:33 AM on November 25, 2016 [11 favorites]

Here to add to the chorus.

My ex of 6 years and I broke up because we were great friends but the passion had gone, just like you describe. I didn't know how I was going to manage - quite apart from the pain of losing my best friend, partner, teammate of so many years, oh my goodness the practicalities, finding somewhere I could afford to move out to, figuring out my solitary finances. Dealing with the "oh wow single at your age" conversations. Yay being female.

It hurt so bad and it was a bleak time but as well as the sorrow and the grimness I remember a feeling of hope, and of renewal, like a tiny seed waiting to break through at the end of winter. Hang in there, and hang onto it.

To add my own postscript, I moved out, made time to figure out who I was now (after so many years of being part of someone else's life it's fascinating to see which bits of you come out from the shade). Then I met my current partner, and after many years of increasingly thin times, in terms of passion and desire, I felt like every day was a feast. Still do!

Also, my ex and I are still good friends. You don't have to lose it, and that took some of the worst pain away for me, knowing we both were up for doing the work to keep our friendship. It took two years to settle, but we did it. We went to each others' weddings a month apart!
posted by greenish at 6:42 AM on November 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you are already planning to leave and your husband knows this. Dragging it out isn't doing either of you any favors.
posted by emd3737 at 6:42 AM on November 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

You have one foot out the door and are more concerned about the end of you affair than your marriage. Stop dragging your feet and end it sooner rather than later. Your husband deserves better than you dragging his hopes along just because it's hard for you.

If you really don't want to leave stop saying you wil leavel, stop pinning for a guy that will always appear better than your husband as he's a fantasy guy that didn't have to do a proper relationship. Of course yippy don't want to sleep with your husband, as the other man is still holding prime spot in your head. That's fine but you don't get to use your husband to help you get over your boyfriend.
posted by wwax at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

In the meantime, the guy I had an affair with has cut off all contact, finally this time. He’s angry with me but said he’d be open to meeting up next year if I move out.

I've been your husband, so I'm pretty biased on this topic. But here's my biased advice for you: Take the boyfriend off the table.

Make your commitment to go non-contact on the boyfriend. Make the commitment that no matter what happens, you will never end up with him. No maybe meeting next year. No meeting ever. After you've made that commitment, than you can make a decision about your marriage with a clear head.

My guess is, things will not work out. I think you'll end up getting divorced anyway, but at least that way you'll be getting divorced because of you and your husband, not getting divorced because of your boyfriend. It's healthier for everyone.

You say you still love your husband, so do right by him. Cut boyfriend out of your life completely. Don't hold onto some hope of getting back together with him.
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:30 AM on November 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

As long as you are still mentally checked in to the other relationship, I don't think you can make this one work.

My experience and everything I have read to try to sort my crap indicates the exact opposite: The dysfunctional, painful marriage drives attraction to affairs. Affairs grow out of unhealthy marriages, not the other way around. An affair is like a blood transfusion for someone living with a vampire. (I am not blaming your husband here. Two perfectly good people can just be a terrible fit. This is not about blaming one of you.)

I have been celibate since my ex moved out. I spent about three months after he moved out getting my fill of male attention online, then made sudden, drastic life changes and have been much more "Meh, I can take it or leave it -- and if you are going to be an asshole to me, I can absolutely leave it" ever since. This was quite the shock to me as I had spent most of my marriage terrified to leave out of fear that I had no ability to say "no" and would promptly end up trapped in an even worse relationship -- cue visions of the relationship version of your favorite horror movie.

I’ll be giving up everything in my life if I leave my husband
No-one in my family knows we're having problems.

If your family really has no clue, and you feel no emotional connection to your husband that makes you desire him in spite of generally still having a healthy sex drive, then starting over may be the only means to figure out how to create a life that genuinely nurtures you in important ways that you currently seem to think are somehow wrong to desire. You sound to me like a plant withering away in the dark, longing for sunshine and feeling guilty that you cannot figure out how to force your leaves to be dark green without sunshine because, surely, a Good Girl could keep up appearances like everyone expects, and never mind reality.

You have no obligation to live in shadow.
posted by Michele in California at 7:33 AM on November 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your marriage is dying a slow and painful death. Put it out of its misery. The only hope for salvaging your relationship with your husband is to completely sever ties with the other guy and you clearly cannot do that. (see - Clinging to a possible meeting in a year).

Look: I really feel for you, getting married so young and not being able to experience young adulthood as a independent person. Your want for a fulfilling sex life is valid. But at this point you need to make the compassionate move of letting your husband go. It's not fair anymore.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:15 AM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

And the challenges of moving out and disentangling our lives make my head spin. We own a home together, it has increased in value since we bought it but the idea of selling it and dividing up all our stuff seems impossible. And I’m not sure I can afford moving out in the short-term.

Don't let logistics get in your way. You'll figure it out. Get a loan from family, crash on someone's couch. Freedom is worth any price and inconvenience.
posted by AFABulous at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I will add that the affair almost never turns into True Love. It typically ends not long after the marriage. An affair is about filling needs your spouse cannot. A good mate for you would fill the needs both of these men together fill. Neither one of these men is likely to make you happy long term -- and your misery will end far faster if you recognize that and stop trying to force it to work with either one of them.
posted by Michele in California at 8:45 AM on November 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's time to rip off the bandaid. It really is. You've settled in your marriage. You're not happy. And because you're not happy, neither is he.

I want to do the right thing by myself and my husband but I don’t want to waste my life either.
- OR HIS. If you stay, you'll be wasting your life AND his.

Should I try for longer?
- NO.

Or do I need to make a bold move?
- YES.

In the aftermath of my messy divorce, now almost 2 years out, my ex has realized that he is happier without me. I was everything to him - he worshipped the ground I walked on - so I agonized over breaking his heart. And now he fully admits that I wasn't the right person for him. He's in a much better relationship and a better place. Your husband wants kids and a life that's moving forward. Here, with you, he's stagnating, and you are depriving a good man of the potential for happiness. PLEASE, be kind to him and cut him loose. Any more waffling on your part will just be cruel.

Courage, courage, courage. Things always seem more difficult before you do them. Once you take that bold step, you will feel an incredible weight lifted. Go forth and create the life you want.

We exchanged memails a few months ago - go read those over. You can do this. Be strong!
posted by puppet du sock at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2016

To be blunt, it sounds like the main reason you're staying in the marriage is that it's convenient, and that's not a a good reason to keep a failed marriage going.
posted by Candleman at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to do the right thing by myself and my husband but I don’t want to waste my life either.

I know that it's not really a great thing to make decisions for others on what's best for them, but just because your husband wants to stick around doesn't mean that you're not 'doing right by him' if you leave. If you can't or aren't interested in fully committing to this relationship in a way that makes you happy, you owe it to him to leave.

My husband and I have been struggling for several years, and he has cheated. He feels like he has to stay but I've recently pointed out to him that I want to make this work if he genuinely does, but if he can't be happy in our marriage or doesn't really want to be here then he needs to go. If your husband only found out you cheated a few weeks ago, neither of you probably realizes yet just how tough a slog it is to move forward, and if you're not really okay with being in the relationship, it's going to drag on forever because he'll never be able to trust that you aren't looking for what you're missing outside your marriage.

tl;dr - don't stay because you think it's the right thing to do or because it's complicated to leave. If you aren't fully committed, file for divorce and let everyone start the process of moving on.
posted by Lamb_Chop at 10:50 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Once you've stepped outside the terms of your marriage (aka cheating) you should leave unless you are 100% committed to repairing the damage done to the relationship so it can succeed on its own terms. It doesn't sound like this is the case, so you should leave.
posted by diode at 11:52 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

This isn't so much advice as it is a repeated reaction to the askme posts you've made about your marriage. Every time I've read about your marriage I've brought it up to my husband (who also reads askme posts) and said "if this were us, I would want a divorce." He's agreed each time. The combination of infidelity, unhappiness, lack of mutual attraction, and little improvement definitely make me think you would be happy ending your marriage.

It takes a lot of strength to leave, especially with so much time put into your marriage but you've become friends, not partners (and definitely not lovers).
posted by toomanycurls at 3:49 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You are me a few years ago. Feel free to read some of my questions. Here is what I'd say to you, in no particular order:
-Leaving, and the aftermath, was the worst thing I ever went through. Seriously, I'm still getting over it. When you still love someone it is awful to walk away. I still miss my ex every day. So you're right not to underestimate the impact on you. Sometimes I wonder if I'd known exactly how hard it would be would I have done it. BUT when it came down to it I couldn't force my husband to live a lie any more. He deserved to find someone who had no second thought about being with him. That was the thing that finally, finally made my decision for me. I still think I could have handled it so much better. I don't think the guilt will ever go away. That's just part of making hard choices.
- Having said all that, you will get through it. I went to therapy. I developed (well, deepened) some bad habits. Try not to do that. Some people who you think will be supportive will not be, some people who you will be afraid to tell will surprise you with their compassion. Make sure you have support around you.
- Life goes on. It is like a bereavement and there will be days when you cry all day and then eventually you will realise you haven't cried for weeks. You'll feel guilty for feeling happy, but then you'll be happy and forget to feel guilty. Every memory of your ex will be painful as all hell, and then eventually some memories will make you smile.
- Be consistent. Do not be off-on-off with him. When you leave make it final and do not give him false hope.
- Contrary to the usual opinions, I am still with the person I had the affair with. We live together and are very much in love and it's a few years down the line. But I really wish I had had a definite period of time between ending my marriage and being with him. I definitely kept him at arm's length for a long time afterwards, but I wish it had actually been no contact. It was a really awful confusing time and looking back I wish I had the space to lick my wounds alone instead of trying to manage his feelings about things as well. If you can, leave the other relationship for now. It will actually give you both a better chance in the long run.
-You deserve to be truly happy, and part of that is living a life with someone who meets you on all levels, and that includes embracing your sexuality. It is not ok to minimise that side of you to pay for all the other lovely things about your relationship. I thought it wasn't possible to have everything, and I was wrong, and now I do, and it was a long painful road to get here and people got hurt along the way, and I wish things could have been different. But at least once a day my partner does or says something that reminds me why I'm here now and I couldn't go back. You'll get there too and you'll be ok.
posted by outoftime at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

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