Q. First of all, thank you for reading my letter. I’ve been married six years to a wonderful woman who has let me know she wants a divorce. We come from different backgrounds. My family is very religious. I am less religious than they are but more than she is.
Her grounds for divorce, as stated, are that I have left her feeling unwanted romantically — and frozen out with sex. This is because I’ve never wanted to hurt her, or to be seen as one of those guys who thinks about intimacy and “getting it on” all the time. I figured that if she wants it, I will wait for her to instigate, and be happy to comply. I didn’t know honestly it would have this effect.
She told me last week that she doesn’t care if our marriage burns to the ground. Two days after this conversation, she had sex with an alcoholic who lives two blocks away and is recently divorced. He has another girlfriend and is in an open relationship with her. I never wanted an open relationship and I don’t want a divorce, but what I want clearly doesn’t matter at this point.
Should I even bother trying marriage counseling at this point? She says she still cares about me and wants to be friends, but I feel hurt and betrayed. It kills me that I hurt her and that I’m not enough. How do I make this right? Or if I can’t, how do I move on?
OSTRACIZED IN OGDEN
A. I recommend the marriage counseling, not because it’ll save your marriage but because it’s a good place to ask questions. You can figure out why the two of you didn’t talk about how to approach sex — and what wasn’t working — until the love was gone. You can also discuss what a relationship might be like going forward. You might not want to be friends.
I assume you mentioned religion because your background played into the way you treated sex — like it was something you weren’t allowed to request. Therapy is also a good place to talk through the difference between initiating sex — letting someone know you want them — and bothering a person or making them feel uncomfortable. You assumed your needs would be a burden for your wife. It’d be good to figure out why.
Please remember that you do not want to be in an open relationship, and it sounds like you are, without your consent. The two of you might try negotiating alternatives so that you don’t have to end the marriage, but you are not required to want to watch your wife continue to build a relationship with someone down the street. If she’s sure she wants sex with other people, let her go.
You can move on, over time, by grieving, getting therapy on your own, and learning some lessons. You already know you want a partner who’s good at talking about uncomfortable topics. You want to be better about showing love and interest.
You have important information to get you to a new, wonderful phase of life. There is no specific fix for the relationship you’re in, only conversation and evolution to get to a place where you both can be happy.
I don’t blame her for feeling unwanted — she WAS unwanted. Skip the marriage counseling and go directly to individual counseling. Let her go and find someone compatible. You, sir, need to figure a LOT of stuff out before you venture into another relationship.
So sorry for your emotional pain. Sounds like your marriage might be too far gone to revive it, but you can always learn from it for the future and gain some valuable insight. Obviously you didn’t have the benefit of understanding normal, healthy, human sexuality — or have that behavior modeled for you. Also lacking is her ability to share her feelings with you honestly. So as a couple, what was missing was not only physical intimacy but emotional intimacy (the ability to trust each other with being vulnerable) as well. You can absolutely move on from here. Easy? No, but not impossible.
Let this be a lesson about opening up and communicating. It’s important to respect your partner, but of course people want to feel desired too. Both can coexist in marriage.
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