Advice | My marriage of 20 years is now loveless and sexless. Is counselling a waste of time? Ask Ellie
~ Q: Despite some excellent years with my wife of over 20 years, our marriage has been sour for a very long time. Even before we had children, intimacy was scattershot. This escalated after the children arrived.
There’d be regular “freezeout” periods lasting months, when she’d call me an idiot, undeserving, disgusting, that I made her skin crawl.
These periods kept lasting longer. Her hobbies take her away from home 10-to-20 hours a week and she complains that she’s had to sacrifice too much to marriage.
She’s even told our children that “studies show that people are happier when childless.”
I do the cooking; she criticizes every meal and the mess I leave. Everything’s defined by its cost to her, not its value. She provides no emotional support to me or our children. When called upon to support people in times of grief, she’ll avoid it at all cost — including my parents’ and siblings’ funerals.
About 12 years ago, after several years of rejection, I gave up on sex. After three years, she blamed me, saying I “didn’t try anymore.” After my heart attack, I received a single kiss the day after.
That was a decade ago. After I recovered, lost weight and regained my health, she made a brief motion to resume intimacy, but I no longer trust her. To the six years of little-to-no sex, I’ve added 10 years of none.
What precipitated the final break was being told that I “didn’t deserve it (sex)” which was a painful realization that this was transactional sex.
We now sleep in separate rooms. She blew up claiming that I “didn’t try anymore.”
I’ve never quit anything in my life but I’m ready to quit this marriage. Now she’s talking about leaving with the kids because I’m angry all the time.
I suggested marriage counselling. She said, “What’s the point?” but has reluctantly agreed. Is this now a waste of time?
A: If ever an entire household needed help with their relationships, it’s yours. Any professional counselling efforts — marital for sure, plus family-oriented therapy — seem sorely needed.
You describe a very self-serving partner with a pattern of pushing you away, then blaming you for the distance.
Your wife will likely reframe this account in counselling. But an experienced professional will see the driving forces involved and what maintains them on both sides, then inform you both.
It can help you give this marriage a second chance. Or it’ll confirm the need to separate. It’s worth the effort.
Your children will also benefit if they see positive changes in their parents’ relationship.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding letters about relatives’ weight gain issues during COVID-19 (March 9):
My father had weight difficulties for most of his life which probably contributed to his sudden death at 66.
However, negative or supposedly well-meaning comments don’t contribute anything positive to people with a weight problem. They don’t need anyone to tell them what they see for themselves.
I can never understand society’s obsession with weight. To me, it’s the latest prejudice.
I’ve personally received many negative comments. It was a health scare, not criticism, that prompted me to lose 50-plus pounds. It wasn’t easy in my late-60s, but necessary.
Sometimes people are overweight due to medication, physical or emotional illness.
Critics should realize that they aren’t perfect either. No matter the relationship, no one should preach this negativity under the supposedly “for-your-own-good” banner. More likely, it’ll push the targeted individual in the wrong direction.
Ellie’s tip of the day
A loveless, sexless blameful marriage won’t survive unless counselling brings new insights and mutual caring.