Q. I’ve been married 30 years, the last 15 to 20 years sexless. I love my wife, but am no longer in love with her. She is more like a sister to me. If I had more courage and financial capability, I would have divorced her years ago. I also hate confrontation. I tried confronting her about the sex issue at times but never was able to. I hated her for it.
In the last year I’ve met a woman, a friend of friends, who I’ve fallen in love with. We have lots of common interests and always have a great time together. She is always sweet to me and feels like my soul mate. I feel alive again. The time we get to spend together is always in a group. She is married, but is strongly considering a divorce, from problems before we met. Her husband treats her terribly, which I’ve witnessed, but thankfully is not physically abusive. I have not told her about my love for her, and she has not said anything about love to me. She and I have both told each other how much we like spending time together, that the time together is the best time of our lives right now. Due to our circle of friends, we get to spend a lot of time together. The friends have sometimes expressed concern about the two of us, but we assure them that nothing is going on, which is the truth. They believe us, and so does my wife, but she is still suspicious. My love and my wife are now good friends!
Now even more complications: A couple of months ago, my wife and I finally had the sex talk. I think she had concerns about what was going on with me and the other woman, and she brought it up. She admitted it was mostly her fault, not that fault matters at this point. We have had sex since the talk, at first quite a bit, but it is already tapering off rapidly just like 20 years ago. I enjoy the sex, but don’t really feel anything for her. I am no longer attracted to her. I’ve tried to fall in love with her again by trying to notice her good qualities and actions and so on, but to no avail. I feel no emotional connection to her, just responsibility. We fight a lot and she is never sweet to me. I try to be nice to her, but it is difficult.
I’m sure you or your readers will suggest counseling. This would be financially very difficult, and I don’t think this would help me fall in love again. There has been too much damage, too much rejection, to ever have that happen again.
The funny thing is, this woman and I cannot even stop seeing each other. The group gatherings prevent that, and to tell everybody why we need to stop seeing each other would cause more pain than it would solve. Plus, seeing her socially is my only source of happiness right now. The pain inside me is building, and I feel like a dam ready to burst.
I know this sounds made up, but every word is true. Any advice at all?
Hopeless Soul, Mass.
A. I don’t know why you think that this letter sounds made up. Sadly, your issues are common. Marriage is hard. Lots of people develop crushes during long relationships. And I’d say the bulk of our letter writers want to avoid confrontation.
You guessed right — I’m going to suggest counseling, at the very least just for you. Find out whether it’s covered by your health insurance and ask your primary care physician for some recommendations. You need professional help to figure out what’s next. It might not fix your broken marriage, but it’ll put you in the right place to come up with a real plan for staying or going.
As for this other woman, you need to assume that she won’t leave her husband. Even if she does, I’m not convinced that she’d jump into your arms. If you decide that you want to live without your wife, you’ll be starting over without a partner — and maybe without that group of friends. This woman isn’t your magic plan B. Many letter writers talk about the expense of counseling, but if you’re sick, you go to the doctor. And if you’re very sick, you look into every treatment possible. Your marriage needs that kind of attention right now.
Counseling is generally less expensive than divorce. And in Massachusetts you should be covered for a lot of it.
You’re a really confused (and confusing) guy. And your unwillingness to consider counseling (and hiding behind finances to make your refusal sound reasonable) is just the tip of the iceberg.
The point of counseling isn’t to get you to “fall in love again.” The purpose is to allow you to figure out what you want and do so with some clarity and then to support you while you go about the process of putting things into action.
I think you need to build a different set of friends. Maybe that will give you a new perspective, and facilitate the actions already suggested by others.
Not to be too harsh, but I see a whole lotta LaZy here. If you can’t get a divorce for financial reasons, then guess what, buddy? You find a way to fix the finances so that you can. If you won’t do that, then you are lazy and complacent. The only person you can blame for that is the person staring back at you in the mirror. This is your fault and not your wife’s.
Are you looking for people to say it’s OK to divorce.
You said you tried “confronting” about the sex issue but was never actual able to? Instead of “confronting” her, why can’t you look at it as having a healthy discussion about your respective wants and needs?
Dear letter writer, gather some courage and leave your wife.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Mere-dith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.