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Escape or survive a loveless marriage?

Community Member

I'm 45 and my husband is 49. We've been married 11 years, with two kids aged 8 and 6. We haven’t had sex in more than 6 years. We’ve slept in separate beds for at least 5 years. There is zero affection or physical contact. (Before we had kids, no real issues.)
Over the years I have tried to address this many times. My husband was diagnosed with depression and low testosterone, but stopped taking his medication as he insisted it didn’t work. I’m not sure if he is still depressed - he seems content to live in this loveless and sexless marriage.
I begged him to try counselling, which he did for a few sessions about 2 years ago. Then I joined for 2 sessions - before he refused to go back. He didn't tell me - he just didn’t go back, despite me asking him to go several times. In the sessions I attended, he asked me not to nag him about our relationship and give him space. I did this and nothing happened. He has never once in all these years instigated a discussion of these issues.
At least on three occasions, having lost patience, I told him I wanted a divorce. He just says ok, then jumps into action, looking for somewhere to rent, etc. After me venting, he agrees to couples counselling - but never goes through with it. He just carries on as usual until the next time I get angry or upset.

Apart from this, he has not lifted a finger to save our marriage. He just says we should stay together ‘for the kids’. I really don’t matter to him at all. In my darkest moments I feel he also wants to stay together because I brought a lot more into the marriage financially (he had nothing).

I can barely stand to be in the same room as him now and avoid conversation. It’s hard to describe just how humiliating and lonely it’s been. He knows I’m very unhappy, but never asks me about it. Instead, he commonly treats me with disdain, rolling his eyes or dismissing anything I say. The therapist even pulled him up on this, but he doesn’t get it. If I raise I’m unhappy in any way whatsoever, he’ll turn away, raise his hand up to motion me to stop speaking and yell, ‘Get a divorce then.’

I'm being forced to accept this loveless, sexless marriage - or else. I’m heartbroken because I really wanted my kids to have a stable, ‘normal’ family life. I never wanted a divorce, but what choice do I have? How do people stay married just ‘for the kids’?
I’m so very lonely and tired of keeping up appearances. I’ve kept all of this to myself all these years and it has truly become unbearable.

53 Replies 53

Community Member

Hi Cathy

I can really hear the heartbreak in your post, and I feel so sad for you.

The only insight I can give you is from my own experience, which is that sometimes men will do anything to end a relationship, other than actually ending it. From his reactions to you wanting a divorce, through to his everyday behaviour and the lack of intimacy, everything suggests he wants to end the relationship, but simply hasn't got the wherewithal to do it himself, and is trying to give you the ammunition to do it for him. It's the coward's way out.

It sounds like you desperately want your marriage to be a success, but are very frustrated by his behaviour. I have been there many times myself. At some point, we do need to accept that we can't change the people we are in a relationship with, or control the situation, but only be in control of our own actions. It sounds like you want to be in a happy loving marriage with your husband, but he does not share this ambition. And unfortunately, it does really take two people to want the same thing when it comes to having a successful marriage.

If you will forgive me for being exceptionally blunt, it sounds like he's telling you what he wants (without having the courage to come out and say it) but it's not the answer you want, so you're refusing to hear it.

I don't know what the future will hold for you, or what decisions you will make, but I hope you find the happiness that you deserve.

Thank you so much, Jax. I really appreciate you being so honest with me. I have put the same thing to him on a number of occasions; that he wants me to be the one to end it, so I come out of this as the bad guy. And you can guarantee my mother will be the first to lay the blame at my feet for destroying my kids’ lives. I’m dreading it. She thinks he’s wonderful. But I guess I’m going to need to be a lot stronger than that to tackle what’s to come! I’m so grateful for you taking the time and care to respond to me.

Wow, amazing insight for me as I’m going through similar things/ thoughts to you, though net as bad!

Seriously, and honestly why do you bother? We get one crack at this life, so get out there and live it. Your kids will be fine, my parents got divorced when I was 4 and I survived.

What you describe is misery, how would leaving that be worse?

Thanks Farfaraway, it’s a good question! I guess originally I felt I wanted to support my husband in his struggles with depression. ‘For better and for worse’ and all that. His depression was really bad for a year or so. He was actually a great partner before. I thought at some stage he might appreciate it and put in some effort again. But mostly because of my children. My original post probably makes me sound weak and a pushover; in real life I am usually far from that - and these years have been characterised by a cycle of me patiently waiting for or suggesting change, losing hope, getting angry, then exploding. So I can’t say I’ve always behaved in the right way. But I know I don’t deserve this misery, as you put it. Thanks so much for your message - it’s given me much to think about.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Cathy, and a warm welcome to the forums.

I am really sorry to hear about your situation and for once I have deleted all of what I have written down, because I can relate to your story as unfortunately, pretty well, the same happened to my 25 year marriage.

My deepest feeling of sorrow reminds me so much of what happened, but do believe that for you to gain some happiness and the love you are wanting is to part your ways.

Your own health and enjoyment is of prime concern, you need to be healthy and now you're not and maybe there could be a chance where you can still communicate with each other, that's what my ex and I do.

I haven't been much help but keep going on, except this is your thread and not mine.

Best wishes.


I'm glad my experience has helped in some small way Cathy. It is very hard to leave a marriage, no matter how miserable you are, because it is something you invested hope, time and love into, and you have to let that go, and it hurts. Having said that, there is hope for a better life once it is done, and happiness either by yourself or with someone else, with whom you could potentially have that happy marriage you wanted.

I think Farfaraway is right, divorce will not scar your kids. What scars them is rage, resentment, arguments, and hurt. And sometimes we need to be a role model - when your kids are young adults, would you want them to feel they had no choice but to stay in a loveless relationship, or have the courage to go find their happiness?

People might judge, or decide it's your fault; but should you live a life of misery in fear of their casual thoughts and opinions? What will you wish you would have done 20 years from now, or when you're on your deathbed? Sometimes we need to let people have their opinions and not worry about them, even our families, and in return we live our lives that little bit more happily. And what have you got to be ashamed about? Stand tall, throw your head back, and declare that you are a strong woman who deserves to be happy, and you will not put up with a life of misery, and if they were really your friend or family, why would they expect you to.

If you do decide to leave, be smart and go see a lawyer and a financial advisor first. Work out budgets, money, child support, care arrangements, accommodation. I would also suggest a counsellor to work through emotional issues you will experience, it is good to work through them with a professional. Line your ducks up first, and it will benefit you and your children later on. You might not be able to afford as much, but we get too caught up in possessions anyway, love and happiness is what matters.

I hope you find your happiness, no matter what it looks like!

Hi Cathy, I do know from experience that it's much better to have 2 kids who are happy if the parents are divorced, they can visit who they want to in a jovial mood, rather than when the parents are together but not talking or arguing.

'Kids of divorce show no lasting negative effects on their grades or social skills, life satisfaction or self-esteem and they benefit from emotionally stable parents.'

There are decisions you might have to make.

Take care.


Community Member

Thank you, Geoff. No need to worry about hijacking this thread; any shared experiences make me feel less alone, I can assure you. It was amazing to wake up to these messages this morning. I’ve been quite emotional about it all day. That you don’t know me, but have taken time out to help me, is really something. Maybe I need to rethink divorce being the end of the world...especially as we are not exactly modelling a good marriage for our kids.

Thank you, Jax. Your words hit home. I’ve been scared to let go of my vision of how things should be. I should dream a new dream. And you are right, I shouldn’t be held back because I’m scared of what other people will think. I teach my kids that, so I should walk the talk. I will start to line my ducks up! I can see that if I leave, I need to be efficient and able to hold it together. That will hopefully help assure my kids that things will be ok. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your help, it means a lot. Thank you.