Can you live in a marriage without sex?

“Can you live in a marriage without sex?” she asked.

“Can you live in a marriage where I have a girlfriend?” I asked in response.

She paused thoughtfully. “Yes. I would have to.”


So how did we get here?

As you know, for the two weeks following The Big Announcement, Catherine was very adamant that she’d lost any sense of intimacy for me. The thought of having sex with me filled her with “dread” and “this pressure that was always looming over me” she would say. During those two weeks I was trying to convince her that there was too much at stake–most importantly the children Mary and Elizabeth. They were both young and sensitive and I was convinced a divorce would do significant harm to them (perhaps hot irreparable harm, but certainly significant harm). Catherine would argue that the children needed a “happy mommy” and that she was feeling so empty inside and the only way to get healthy would be away from me.

For two weeks I tried to convince her that our communication together was great, that we had proved time and again that we could work through anything with respect and patience. Yes, the intimacy had been a problem that plagued our relationship, but in the big scheme of things, the sex was relatively minor, and it was the intimacy was missing. If we could recapture the intimacy the healthy relationship would follow. Catherine herself had even said that she knew she could be a passionate person, and that one day she’d hope to be able to rekindle that (albeit, with someone other than me.)

Somewhere during this discourse, I offerred that we could try a sex-free marriage, so long as I could have a girlfriend. And then somewhere else, about 3 days later, she agreed to give it a try.

Initially I was ecstatic that she was even willing to look into saving our marriage. I had listened to about 19 straight days of insistance that divorce was the only answer. And then, she’d asked the question above.

And I have to tell you friends, I’m more than a bit nervous about a marriage without sex, but I’m free to get a girlfriend. It’s like telling me the world is flat. Of course, there are a slew of articles out there about what might be the cause of a sexless marriage, how to get it back on track, and what it really means. In the conversations that have followed, Catherine has been very clear with me: I can’t agree to make this work with the understanding that sex with her may eventually come back into the picture, for if that were the case the she says nothing has actually changed and that she’ll feel the pressure. I need to accept these conditions that I will never be with her, and I have to trust her that when I go outside the marriage (note not if but when… I have not agreed to a celibate marriage, just one without sex to her) that she will continue to love and support me.

To say I have grave concerns that could work, would be putting it mildly.

That said, the last few days with her she’s been more supportive and lovingly than she has been in months. Its obvious in her actions these days that she cares, and that she now wants the marriage to work. I may need to re-name the blog from Divorced D20 Dad to Sexless D20 Dad, but  she does seem to now stay together. She agrees that our family life is good, our time with the children is important, and that there are plenty of other things about me which she loves–maybe she read my perfect husband post?

Regardless, a week from today we’ll be going to her family therapist together. This will be the first time I’ve ever been to a therapist, and going where we’re in the room together will be interesting to say the least. Should be some quality posts about that coming up.

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“I hear what you’re saying…”

So on Friday after one of our usual long evening chats, Catherine said to me, “I want you to know, I hear what you’re saying, I know what’s at stake.”

The last 48-hours have been… interesting.

While I am not yet getting my hopes up over what she’s been telling me, her message has definitely softened a small bit. She has told me not to get my hopes up, but has said that she knows that the kids are the most important thing that we should both be concerned with (I agree) and that she has been doing a lot of considering on what she might be able to accept and not accept in the marriage in order to keep it together for their sake. As I mentioned in the earlier blog post, she says that her level of intimacy is effectively nil, but  that she knows that is because she was resentful of some of the things we’d done together. I think some of this new change of opinion comes on the heels of us spending must of Friday working with our finances and the banks on how we were about to separate our lives financially and otherwise.

Bottom line, I cannot get excited yet, as much as I’d like to. We have been having great dialog for the last few days, but she keeps reminding me: “Do not get your hopes up… I haven’t said I want to continue the marriage yet…” but I do know she is at least considering it. She says she’s going to talk to her therapist on Monday and her family next weekend and that will  give her a better idea.

It’s not much hope, but it is some.

“We were just talking about how you’re the perfect husband!”

This week I continued the slow distribution of news about the divorce to a few more friends. Most of my core group of friends now know, and I’ve started telling a few people whom I used to work with at my old job (I changed jobs about 6 months ago… I don’t think this had anything to do with the divorce, but more on that later…)

As I was telling a woman-friend with whom I used to work with the news she was flat-out shocked. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “And I was just talking with xxx about how you were the perfect husband! So devoted to your family, always there for your kids, but still very effective at work.”

“Well,” I said, “apparently that is not enough.”

I told my wife Catherine about this conversation when I got home from work. She did not seem surprised by my co-workers reaction, but also pointed out that these folks did not know me the way that she did.

I know I have not yet written the “Why is she divorcing you?” post (as I know that one is going to be long and complex) but I did some noodling last night after reading this article on Huffington Post, it actually got me thinking about the 6 key factors for any marriage to work.

Update: Catherine just came in as I was writing this and I asked her to rate our relationship (on a scale of 1-10) on those same factors. After some clarifications on my part (“You need to be judging me on these… not what you think I feel for you…”) she gave her perspective on where our relationship is:

  • Respect: 9
  • Trust: 8
  • Truth: 10
  • Friendship: 10
  • Intimacy–deep emotional connection: 3
  • Intimacy–physical attraction: 0 (ouch!)
  • Unconditional Love: 6

So there you have it, apparently we make great roommates, but not great partners.

“You’re not going to breakup with Daddy, are you?”

So, apparently this is the question that my younger daughter, whom I will start calling “Elizabeth”, asked my wife tonight, whom I will start calling “Catherine”,  before she took her to school. Catherine wanted to ask Elizabeth, “Why would you think that? Why would you ask such a thing?” but tells me that she did not feel comfortable making such a response in front of my mother who was also here.

So how did she answer?

“Me and Daddy are together.”

I, of course, think that my daughters, even 6 year old Elizabeth, is smarter than this and would see how that’s not necessarily a good answer to such a question. In my mind such a question would need to be answered with an emphatic, “Of course not! I love your father!” But, the kids will learn soon enough I suppose.

Catherine and I (it will take some getting used to calling her Catherine) talk about the divorce every night. We’ve actually done more talking about our marriage in the last 10 or so days since she broke the news than probably the entire previous two years. It really is sad. At this stage, I feel I’ve moved a bit past shock, and into acceptance, but still trying to keep the door open to give her room to change her mind. As I’ve done for much of the last two years, I’m not going to broach any subjects which I know will cause ire. She is a painfully stubborn woman, and our relationship is littered with decisions she’s made in anger which she’s regretted later. I’m hoping this will turn out to be one of those occasions, but deep down I know, that I will probably never be married to her again, and even if there was a chance of reconciliation, it is years away.

Sad-o-meter tonight is at a “Very”

Feb 5: Chasing Windmills

So, I promise in future updates I will give more backstory as to what led up to my wife, whom I’m going to need to come up with a clever “cover” name for, asked me for a divorce.  However, as I’m now on Day 8 (she asked for the divorce on Thurs Jan 27), I need to go with some of the more current events.

Some brief background: We’ve been married 10 years, had dated for 2 years prior to that. We have two girls (just turned 6 and about to turn 8) who mean the world to me and will be the hardest part about all this I’m sure.

Typical day: wake up and try to keep a straight face for my two daughters whom we’ve decided not to tell until May when they’re closer to the end of their school year. Go to work and try not to think about the inevitable formal split where I will be leaving the house and have less time with my kids. Come home from work and try to keep straight face for the kids until they go to bed. After the kids are down, we sit and discuss why she made this decision, and what if anything I can do to change her mind: counseling? compromise? temporary open marriage? There is nothing.

I actually find it odd that she can make such a decision like this, which will devastate my life, and no doubt the kids, without more input from me? It’s not like she could sell my car without my signature at least, how is it she can end my marriage?

I try to humor myself with “Well, what will my life be like once I’ve been excused?” Maybe I will be able to go to the Sundance Film Festival more regularly? Or covet Felicia Day more openly with reckless abandon? (No, friends, my Felicia Day crush is not what caused Her to tell me she wants the divorce, but I’ll save that for a later post when I can speak about it more coherently. It’s still a bit fresh.)

The Litany of Misery

So, after some WordPress chicanery to make sure that these posts will (hopefully) appear moderately anonymously, I will now begin the blog that will hopefully become a source of catharsis for recent events in my life.

A week ago today, my wife of 10 years, and mother of my two beautiful daughters, asked me for a divorce. Asked is probably too light a word, she TOLD me she wanted out.