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I want to separate from my husband but don't know how

Community Member

I've been married for 20yrs and we have 2 healthy children. We are financially stable. I know I should be happy but I feel depressed and stuck. I no longer want to be married.

I care deeply about my husband, and he is a good man, but he has always been totally closed off to his emotions. Since the beginning I felt rejected and alone when he wouldn't talk to me. After we had our first child I asked him to come to marriage counselling, but he refused. Then I asked him to read a book I’d found helpful, but he was offended that I was 'picking on him' and very angry about it. He said hurtful things I’ve never been able to forget. I think it was then I started to shut him out the way I had always felt shut out by him. That was 8 years ago.

He finally agreed to counselling about 2yrs ago but I feel like it's only scratched the surface. I've asked him to do extra reading or even his own therapy but he refuses. I’ve tried to initiate some fun activities for us but we don’t enjoy the same things and neither of us end up having a good time.

Intimacy is also a problem. For years I was having sex in order to keep the peace and now I just feel used up, like I’m not even capable of enjoying it anymore. The idea of having sex with him makes me so anxious I feel physically ill. It’s been months since I’ve tried and I don't want to again. I've read about sexless marriage, but I know my husband wouldn't handle that. Sex is very important to him. but the real problem isn't the sex it's the lack of connection. I don't know how to feel connected to him anymore. I don't think I want to.

I dream of asking him for a separation, but how? I only work part time, and I don’t want to move the kids even if I could afford to. And it seems too cruel to ask my husband to move out. Should I stay until the kids are adults and waste another 10yrs of both of our lives? The alternative is to break my husband's heart and break up my family. But staying is just adding more layers to my resentment and I'm scared I'll end up hating him.

Has anyone been through anything like this? I’m still seeing my own counsellor, but I think it's gotten to the point where more talking about the same issues won't help. I need to take some action, because I can't stay in limbo. I'm not living just existing.

Thank you

126 Replies 126

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi GoodWitch,

I relate to some of the things you are saying and I know, it's a tough call. You don't want to rock the boat in case things can be improved within the relationship but meanwhile, not much changes.

Now I'm not suggesting you do this but, when my wife said 'I don't think we can keep going like this', that was enough for me to get help and start on some recovery for the things I had ignored for so long. It's great that you are seeing a counselor and perhaps you can talk to them about separation, (you probably have) what opportunities are left to get your hubby to the table and how to make that happen. Perhaps hubby doesn't realize how seriously this is affecting you?

You say you want to take action, is that something you can do within the relationship? Can you start doing the things that you would like to do, or at least some of them, without your husband? Show him that you are just going to get on with it, whether he is coming or not. I guess we have to weigh up the pros and cons. By the way, it sounds like you have given much care and compassion to your relationship, you have made many compromises for the sake of your family, you should be proud of that, not sad. And here you are, still on the track, trying to improve things, well done to you, now and then take some satisfaction from knowing that you haven't let up.

The fun activities sounds good, maybe you could try that again but smaller steps, keep at it. Does he understand that having a greater connection might lead to a better sex life? I guess he would feel sad that there is an issue with connection but he obviously isn't currently ready to work on that head on.

Sorry, I'm being no help at all! Talk any time, Jack.

Community Member

Oh wow, I can relate to pretty much everything you have said. I don’t have an answer to how to seperate though. But I do understand the aloneness you feel. It’s heartbreaking to desperately want to feel loved and connected to the man you are married too and it’s not happening.

Just wanted to let you know you are not alone. I believe there is hope.


Jack and Shell, it helps just to talk so thanks for responding.

I have said we can’t go on like this as that was the only way I got him to go to counselling. I’ve also said in a session that I don’t see the point in continuing in the relationship if he doesn’t make some effort to examine his own issues as I have done. I was crying and basically begging so I don’t see how he could have missed that I was at my wit’s end. That was a year ago and I still don’t feel he’s taken up the challenge. I’ve said as much to him and it didn’t go well, ended in a fight, which has made me wary of bringing it up yet again. I don’t know how many different ways I can say the same thing. And I have started doing more things on my own or with friends for my own mental health, but it only makes me too aware of the fact I have more fun without him. I’m happier when we are apart and that is pretty dreadful when you’re contemplating the rest of your life with a person.

Thanks so much Jack for saying I should be proud of still trying to improve things. I’m afraid my husband thinks I am looking for problems that aren’t there and that I am out to punish him for something. My quest for improvements = I'm judging him and telling him he's not good enough. It’s a much longer story than I’ve presented but it’s hard to condense 20yrs into the character limit. I've had low self esteem, which made me believe I didn't have the right to ask him to make changes. Now that my self-image has improved and I'm standing up for myself more, maybe it's too hard for him to handle. I also fear I might use alcohol as a way to escape the tension, because having a couple of glasses of wine does relax me. Addiction runs in my family tho so that scares me a lot. I even mentioned my fear to him and he said I was overreacting. I’m trying to choose healthy options, like yoga and walking, but sometimes when I do things on my own hubs accuses me of trying to escape my family, which isn’t true. I might be craving space from him but never from my children.

I feel like on one hand he is pushing me away while at the same time he's accusing me of running. I feel like nothing I do is right and I'm mentally exhausted from trying to figure it all out.

Hello GoodWitch, this is not an easy decision to make but if you're not happy in your 20 year marriage and the communication has broken down, then a compromise between the two of you may need to be made.

Being financially stable, with two healthy kids is not the perfect solution for a happy marriage, it maybe for a certain period, but long term you change in how you look at the situation, your personality becomes different and your favourite colour may even change and this is what's happened.

This is what happened to me after 25 years of being married my wife had had enough, I was depressed, using alcohol to self medicated and I wasn't getting any better, so she upped and left me, divorcing me along the way, I can't blame her.

We talk to eachother and I still love her but we couldn't live together again.

An option is to stay until the kids grow up or perhaps they may want to move with you, these are questions that you may need to talk over with your doctor because 10 years can be a long time.

You say 'that it will break your husband's heart', but what you need to do is look after yourself first and foremost.

Wish you the best and please reply when you are able to.


Community Member


reading your post, I felt like I am reading about my future. I am at the phase where this all has starterd happening and I am realising what a big mistake it was to get married to him and he doesn’t even know that this loveless life troubles me. I am very romantic at heart and my husband is a very simple man. Day and night he just bags about his work, his life! I’m feel like I am just his homemaker, tiffin and meal maker and mother of his kid. Again, intimacy is a problem as I want more if it and he simply doesn’t any! If I don’t initiate it ask, he can go on without having any for months.

I feel so lonely and tried to find work but not getting any despite having two post-graduate degrees. It feels like as if my life is doomed. Staying all day at home day after day, and this depressing Melbourne winter weather doesn’t help either.

I can see how my life will be if I stay in this marriage but again I want my boy to have a father and for his sake, I’ll have to stay like this.

Community Member

Thanks Geoff your words are very kind and helpful. Communication has totally broken down and that is a big deal for me, even if he would rather put his head in the sand and hope it all blows over. I am trying to take care of myself but it's so hard to imagine putting my own needs ahead of my kids and even my husband. I've always put everyone else first, didn't realise I was such a people pleaser until recently, but it turns out i am and very susceptible to the slightest suggestion I'm not being a 'good' person because of it.

Had a bad weekend when I felt so happy that husband left the house on Saturday night and I had the place to myself just me and the kids and it was so relaxing. Sunday when it was all 4 of us again I drank a bit too much because I couldn't stand how sad I felt. Then last night up with insomnia, feeling miserable and sleeping on the couch because I can't even stand listening to him breathe next to me when the sadness grips me. I feel like a terrible person even if I tell myself I'm not 1000 times.

I know I can't go on like this and I think it is a matter of working out the ins and outs of how a separation works now, not just wondering if I should do it. This situation is making me mentally and physically unhealthy with stress, I'm over medicating with alcohol and overeating too. But I'm heartbroken. I never understood how hard it was to wrestle with a decision like this I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Community Member

Hi MiaM I'm so sorry you are struggling with the same issues. It is very hard and I sympathise. I hope you do continue to look for work as having that bit of independence can be very comforting. I know despite my only being in part time admin work that is a bit boring and not best use of my degree that having a job helps me stay engaged with the world outside what is going on at home. It helps to have some work friends to talk to as well, so even if you are willing to apply for some things that don't require your post grad education it might be worth it for you emotionally. It's not fair but sometimes after we have kids we have to chose flexibility over job satisfaction and things like that (just another thing I've had to come to terms with myself, that I gave up what could have been a lucrative career to raise the kids while hubs has benefited to the point he earns decent money which I can never do now...these are the things they don't tell you about motherhood!)

If your husband is a good father he will always be in your child's life no matter what happens with you 2. Perhaps now is the time to push him to attend counselling. I wish I had pushed harder 10yrs ago when he first refused because I think the time for saving us passed sometime around then. I wouldn't recommend you wait and just hope things get better on their own as I've done. Make sure your husband knows how badly you need to address your issues now, as they won't get better with time. Take it from someone who knows.

Hello GoodWitch, thanks for your reply and what concerns me is your self medication with alcohol, because the more you feel down the worse it may become.

The reason you have to look after yourself, first of all, is that it will allow you a better frame of mind with your kids and start to give you some strength, that will make it a little bit easier to decide to separate if that's what you want to do.

The ins and outs of being separated maybe planned as you want them, but can change due to what happens each day, circumstances may change so they can't generally be known.

Remember when you were feeling relaxed, that means a happy life.

Hi MiaM, well done for replying and being a romantic is something I've missed out on for years, that's lovely.

Having 2 post-graduate degrees I hope that you are able to find some work, and if you like you could start your own thread.

Wish you both the very best.


Thank you so much GoodWitch for posting this thread. I have felt like such an ungrateful malcontent for feeling I wanted more from my marriage than I was getting, I have felt like this for years now but have lacked the courage to do anything about it. I, too, have been married for a long time (30 years) and have 2 wonderful children. I recently became a grandmother and, to anyone looking from the outside, I seem to have a wonderful life.

But I feel so lonely and depressed. My husband is a lovely man but we haven't been intimate for around 10 years and I feel I have changed a lot where he seems to have stayed much the same.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments in this thread - its comforting just to talk sometimes because I don't really have anyone to talk to at the moment. Thanks for sharing your story Geoff - it must have been hard to make the break but you were very brave. All the very best GoodWitch and if you need someone to talk to about this more I would be more than happy to help.