SL Letter of the Day: For Better or Worse


If you can't leave the alcoholic husband for your own sake, do it for the kids. They don't deserve to be locked in a household with one alcoholic parent and another who is absolutely miserable. And yes, they have a clue that something is wrong; kids aren't stupid.
Dan, she may live in a state where if your spouse doesn't agree you're trapped in a years-long grind and nasty child-custody outcome. Pennsylvania, California...
OTOH, she may as well get started on that grind now...
Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn!!! Now! This train wreck is only starting, it's going to get worse.

The only advice I would give is that you have a plan in place. Seems obvious, but people sometimes wait until the last straw stage and then storm out. Not a good idea with children. Get legal advice first, then start planning.
This one is over. Shuffle out the paperwork and start writing some checks.
I completely and totally agree with #1. Neither of my parents were alcoholics, but they were both unhappy and stuck in a loveless marriage. Growing up in that household, with no alternate models of marriage, made me think for a really long time that, after awhile, spouses just stopped loving other and settled into an amicable toleration. Needless to say, I had a rather unrealistic viewpoint of relationships, and it took me awhile to really nail down how to properly do a long-term relationship (especially with someone who wasn't an emotionally abusive bully, like my dad).

Don't let your kids grow up thinking that it's okay to treat their spouse like this, or that it's okay to be treated like this. Because however much divorce might traumatize them, growing up not knowing what an authentic, loving relationship looks like is probably going to be worse. You deserve to be happy, and your children deserve to see you happy, too.
Dan is so quick to prescribe lying about nonmonogamy. It must be all the letters from sexually abandoned partners that he gets. Like this one. Except,
" I have since told him that I will not initiate sex any more."
If that's the only way he can have sex with her, then didn't she abandon the sex life...

otoh If they agreed to see other people he may discover he likes sex again too.

And dishonesty in counseling does defeat the point, I don't think this is giving him a last chance.
THATH: get out now, while you still have a shred of self-worth left.
@6: Honestly, being told by my mother that dad was moving out and that they were thinking about divorce came as a huge relief to my brothers and me. We thought the problem was much, much worse.
My only additional advice would be to keep the other man you're seeing a secret, or stop seeing him until after the divorce is finalized. If you go through with a divorce (which I strongly agree with), and your husband finds out about the other man, he (or his lawyers) will use that as ammunition against you. They'll try to paint you as the bad girl, the trollop, the irresponsible parent, a CPOS, etc.

Don't give them that ammunition. That could cause all sorts of problems, especially dealing with child custody.

Good point about keeping the other guy a secret. If she's putting things in place, it might be a good idea to stop seeing him at all, at least till the divorce is final.
I would start by assuming there's something huge you don't know about your husband. Have you ever sat down and asked him if he likes his life? Has he been screened for depression? If not, I would ask him to go get screened and talk to a therapist. He is always going to be your kids' father, and it would be useful to try to help him get a handle on whatever secret is destroying his life and your marriage. Especially because sometimes those secrets (depression, mental illness) are heritable and it would be good to have more information about his situation, to give your kids.

Also, if you don't want to be a CPOS, in my opinion, you should stop having sex with him, even if he initiates. Or tell him the truth. Maybe that will shock him out of complacency. I don't think adultery in this situation would count very much against you in a child custody dispute, not given his alcoholism and refusal to have sex with you more often than a few times a year.
Cheating could potentially be an issue in a divorce, should things get ugly.
Dan: seriously? One part of the couple is convinced they're divorcing when they seek counseling? I have to disagree. Counseling can be awesome if you just want an even better relationship. Are you just reacting to Dear Prudence?
Apparently none of these things (cheating,etc) matter in no-fault WA. in my experience. just sayin.
"For better or worse" only works if both people are actually working on the relationship. He's long since checked out. You don't need his permission to get a divorce.
@16, alcoholism doesn't affect child-custody?
#7 Blame the victim, much?
Maybe between getting a divorce and not being able to see his kids every day, dude will finally hit rock bottom and seek help.

She has to decide for herself what her threshold is - keeping in mind the well-being of their kids - and figure out what she wants to do.

I have a relative who stuck with her husband through a bout with alcohol addiction, and they've stayed married for the 20+ years since. But he was willing to get help and get treatment before it got to the point of separation and divorce. This guy doesn't sound like he understands that he has a problem.
>marrying a heavy drinker

Well there you go.
@7: If asking for a divorce and announcing that you will no longer initiate sex doesn't scream "last chance" to your partner, nothing does. Which is Dan's point.
LW, glad you had the good sense to go find a man to give you a bit of lovin ..
Having said that; So, you say you are still attracted to your husband, father of your children?
The alcohol may very well have something to do with his reduced libido. Insidious drug. Obviously, this man is suffering. Qu is, do you want to front him with some clear ultimatums or not?
He's gotta give up the grog.
Attend intensive therapy to ascertain why he hid in alcohol.
Face the fact, that you have had enough. He seriously makes
Solid moves, each moment, each day to turn around his sludge, or you're off .
That you've taken on a lover, is in a way, you saying you've given up, maybe? That you just can't push the lug up the hill anymore?
Only you really know how much love and patience you have left
To help this man deal with his issues. He is the father of your children- and from what you say, he makes an effort to be a good dad.
Maybe, close down the lover for a month. Front your husband with clear non negotiable expectations.
Give him that month to show very real signs of change, as well as the co therapy you are attending.
If he wants his family, then he's got to work to keep them.
And you have to very very clearly draw a line in the sand, that this is the final chance for him. That's all contingent on if you want this marriage in a new form, or your done.
The lover.. I sense your husbands inner struggle, his damage, and do feel for him. But, I fully understand, you going and getting with a man who just enjoys you..
Do you tell your husband of this man? Maybe not if you're really going for a final, and that's FinaL chance to repair.
If you're done with it all, and just want out- be careful, if you do continue seeing your lover, while you do that work of separating. Good Luck.
Lavagirl and Erica it's not her job to save him. And she couldn't do that even if she wanted to. He has to be willing to save himself. He has to do the work and get his shit together.

At best she can give him an ultimatum and hope it works to snap him out of it, but it seems this guy has chosen alcohol of his family multiple times. It's best to get out before the situation worsens.
I don't think the LW's husband wants to be married to her any more, or to be a father. I suspect that's why he's drinking.

All the LW can do is leave. It's up to him to treat it as a wake-up call or a welcome relief.
Well, I've been called an adulteress and it pretty much sucked. Technically he was correct but still, it's an ugly, loaded word. So either call off the affair or stay mum and seek a separation/divorce.

I don't think she owes him much of anything. It sounds like she's tried to salvage something that isn't worth the effort. Loveless, toxic relationships impact everyone.

Really all she's asking from Dan is permission to get out.
I asked him for a divorce; he declined.

Go to a lawyer, and check out your legal options. The sooner the better.
"When a married couple sits down in a counselor's office at least one person on the couch is already convinced it's over."
I have to disagree on this point. It may often be the case but, sometimes people just want the communication tools and an outside party to help them work through their issues.
What @26 said--in fact, he really just sounds like he doesn't want to be an adult. He does the bare fucking minimum (holds down a job, but doesn't pay bills) to qualify as an adult.

I'm sympathetic to the man--god knows what happened that has made reality seem so bad that he needs to drink himself to oblivion. But as the child of an alcoholic, and having previously been married to a former alcoholic, I say ditch him. Let him hit rock bottom on his own, because as long as you're there to pick up the pieces and keep him afloat, he's never going to get better.

He may drink himself to death, he may get help. Either way, that's not your responsibility. Move on, and get legal advice.
@25, "Lavagirl and Erica it's not her job to save him" -- no, but what's the harm in encouraging him to be screened for depression if he hasn't ever been?
I am not sure enough attention has been paid to the financial side of this failure.

If whatever it is that is sinking him (and I don't think it's exclusively alcohol) has already put your family in dire financial straights (IRS and creditors issues) then even if you want to keep the marriage together, THATH, you should seriously consider a Legel Separation (if not a divorce) for the sake of your kids, if no one else. You'll still be married, but if he goes under, he won't take the rest of you with him.

Seriously, the person you need to be seeing on the side (right the fuck now) is a lawyer.
Damn, her husband clearly needs a lot of help and therapy and he clearly has no interest in getting it and getting better. That's sad.
"When a married couple sits down in a counselor's office at least one person on the couch is already convinced it's over."

Dan, I usually agree with you, but that statement is complete and utter bullshit and will have the effect of preventing some couples from getting into counseling when it's still early enough to make a difference.

My husband and I went to a counselor for a few months about 15 years ago because we were having a difficult time with some issues and were stuck on how to deal with them. We went because we could both see that were headed in a bad direction and wanted to "re-route" ourselves before it became an insurmountable problem. It worked. We learned what we were doing wrong as a couple, and what we could do to make things better. We've been together 18 years now and we're both still incredibly in love and committed to each other, and, yes, very happy.
@22@7: "If asking for a divorce and announcing that you will no longer initiate sex doesn't scream "last chance" to your partner, nothing does. Which is Dan's point. "

Those things scream "it's over, I'm done" to me, especially if he isn't ok initiating sex. I fail to see how trying to end a marriage or ending an unfortunate sex life is a last chance. With the lying on top of that... Why hold him back from moving on anymore? He sounds miserable.

But maybe being miserable for years is ok as long as they keep living under the same roof for the kids' sake, idk

At least she could give him permission for outside contact and pass the second check, while still continuing to lie about her affair, failing the first check. She does have to live with the consequences of her actions, but she also has new choices to make every day.

caveat: If he's still financially dangerous or needs medical attention, those are bigger problems.
Is LW SB's spouse?
I'm with @29 and @34. Let's not add to the stigma that couples counseling is only ever a last resort. My husband of 11 years and I have met with counselors during two different difficult periods, and our marriage is stronger than ever.
@35: I fail to see how trying to end a marriage or ending an unfortunate sex life is a last chance.

How long is she supposed to endure an esteem-shredding and all but sexless marriage? Simply because he agreed to counseling does not mean his efforts (which, as I far as I can tell, solely consist of going to counseling) are enough for her to stay indefinitely. If he doesn't want his marriage to end, shouldn't he do more to keep it alive than decline divorce? Like, say, trying to get okay with initiating sex at the very least? Her wanting out of that cycle of rejection (or the marriage for that matter) should have lit a fire under his ass to make things better if he wanted to stay married- which he says he does.

Why hold him back from moving on anymore? He sounds miserable.

Who's holding him back apart from himself?
@38@35@22@7 Yes she's somewhat dutifully "enduring" their problems. A last chance is a last effort to solve problems, not waiting for him to change while secretly moving on herself. I call this a cowardly ending, not a last chance. She hasn't given him an opportunity to work it out WITH her, but she might stop cheating and start having sex with him again if he suddenly changes himself. He didn't. Big surprise. I don't see why she's continuing to expect him to change or why Dan thinks that's a good idea.

"Her wanting out of that cycle of rejection (or the marriage for that matter) should have lit a fire under his ass to make things better if he wanted to stay married- which he says he does."
Actions and words can conflict. I listen to the actions. She describes a lack of fire.

"Who's holding him back apart from himself?"
Maybe he's falling apart because he's still attempting monotonogamy on the misguided assumption that his wife is as well.

And I wouldn't blame her for leaving at all from how she tells it. But I think it's silly to call what she's doing "giving her marriage a last chance". I'd call it scavenging to salvage what she can from a sinking ship before jumping overboard, I don't see any evidence she's working to plug up the holes in the hull anymore.

Maybe the next letter will be from hubby, complaining that he could barely have sex with his wife after 17 years but was really trying until she unilaterally ended the minimal sex life they had enjoyed. Then Dan can yell at THATH for abandonment, and give him permission to cheat and "hang in there" too.
@39: It doesn't exactly sound like there's much "enjoyment" going on of what even you admit is a "minimal sex life"...
@39 You implied this earlier, too, "unilateral". If they only have sex when she initiates, and that isn't a negotiated thing or a kink or anything...her not initiating isn't some unfair deprivation of sex on her part. FFS. He's a grownup with vocal cords, he could ask for sex. He doesn't, so he doesn't get sex. Which as far as we can tell is fine by him, so I've no idea why you're so committed to depicting this as unfair on her part.
@39 My impression from the letter was that for many years the LW and her husband had sex only when she initiated and that often her attempts to initiate were typically shut down, but once "every few months" he responded positively and they had sex (which from the description doesn't sound like it was terribly enjoyable for either party). Under those conditions, I would classifying saying "I won't initiate any more" as "shoving the ball firmly into his court," not as "unilaterally end[ing] the minimal sex life they had enjoyed." Responding to someone who acts as though he has no interest in sex with you by saying you won't actively go out of your way to try to have sex with him, is not a unilateral action--both parties had a hand in that outcome and if the husband wants to have sex with his wife, he should says so or actually initiate a sexual encounter.

Even so, I agree that it doesn't sound like the LW is interested in giving the marriage another chance, so much as she is reluctant to make a final end and wants to be able to tell herself that she tried and tried, that she gave him so many chances, etc., so that she can get comfortable with a decision that she has basically already made.

The most intriguing part of this letter: "I asked him for a divorce; he declined." How did that conversation go, exactly? "Let's get divorced." "Nah, let's stay married." "Ok, but I am done initiating sex with you." "Great, what a relief! But remember: no divorce!"
@31 Even if he goes a for a screening is he willing to do the work to get out of depression. Is he willing to stop drinking, take his meds, find a therapist he can open up to?

This guy hasn't been willing to do anything about his problems so far, and while depression can cause some shitty behavior not all shitty behavior stems from depression.

If she does this I think she should do it on the way out the door. Not stick around waiting to see if he changes.
@41 FFS. You're going to tell a sub hubby that he doesn't need sub sex, he has vocal chords and can man up and dom his wife if he wants sex?

If the only sex on the table is occasional wife-initiated style, and she decides to take it off the table because it's occasional, there is no sex left on the table.
Eek. The letter doesn't say that the only sex on the table was wife-initiated, actually. Conceivably he could initiate the successful sex encounters although he has "no sexual urges" and is "not actively engaged". I think. My bad. I still think that abandonment is not usually one sided.
@39 Why should she work to 'plug up the holes' when hubby has shown he'd much rather go down with the ship with a beer in hand?

She should not be expected to carry this relationship by herself, nor should the job of fixing things be her sole responsibility. At what point do his actions come in to play? And for how long should she put herself and her kids through hell to proved that she tried?
Attending marriage counseling sessions doesn't make her a hypocrite. It demonstrates that she is willing to try even if she doesn't think it will work. It indicates that she is thorough and that she thinks major decisions through.
@39: Maybe he's falling apart because he's still attempting monotonogamy on the misguided assumption that his wife is as well.

"Honey, I have spent the past several years in a drunken stupor and run up a secret crippling debt and sexually rejected you (that's what "reluctantly and with no foreplay" amounts to) because monogamy is boring."

If the husband has kept his public 'front' together so far, congratulations, but alcoholism does not go away or reverse itself. It gets worse, and he'll be less and less able to 'maintain' as time passes. It certainly seems to have eaten away his libido and caring as a spouse.

If he reads the writing on the wall and sobers up? All bets are off. If not, she has no reason to stay. Al Anon has a mixed message for some of this. Whether she stays or goes, the booze is HIS problem and not her fault, nor anything she can fix on her own.

So building a relationship on the side is not being a 'cheater' in the normal sense. Certainly divorcing the drunk is the safest move.
@44 Where did you get 'sub hubby' from exactly?

Here's stuff we actually heard: "He, conversely, has no sexual urges and never—NEVER—responds to me any more." "There is no foreplay; he is not actively engaged." That doesn't sound submissive, it sounds like he's asexual, not attracted to his wife, or has no libido for other (possibly medical/alcohol-related) reasons.

Also, just generally: I am a fucking sub, and yeah, I am a grownup with vocal cords. Initiating sex is NOT domming, or topping, or a big ask: it's a basic level of communication. Even subs who are already actively subbing (not just...initiating, and will enter the role during sex) can ask for sex, they just aren't likely to demand it, require it, anything like that.

And finally: subs aren't subs all the fucking time. There are a few 24/7 lifestylers but even they negotiate first, which involves talking (or writing, if they happen not to have vocal cords). The idea that subs don't ask for sex and just wait to have it forced on us is rape-myth bullshit on the level of 50 Shades.

tl;dr: "Not initiating" doesn't mean submissive; and submissives do actually initiate and consent to sex like other actual people.
@50 I thought my reply is clear.

Taking away the only sex acceptable to a spouse is ending a sex life.

And finally, passive is more sub than dom but I made no claim that this hubby was a sub. I asked you a question you didn't answer. FFS untwist the shorts
@48 "Honey, I have spent the past several years in a drunken stupor and run up a secret crippling debt and sexually rejected you because monogamy is boring."

Isn't that the cliche when monogamy gets boring and you don't divorce or cheat?
@46 I already said I wouldn't blame her for leaving. I do think the best idea for both is to abandon ship, I'm in general agreement with other posters on this. But not about the cheating or abandonment judgement.
@52: Isn't (alcoholism, secretly running up crushing debt, secretly not paying joint income tax, and sexual rejection) the cliche when monogamy gets boring and you don't divorce or cheat?

Um... no? People take up golf?

Today on "MRAs of Savage Love," Philophile's double standards and wife-blaming! Come on over and have yourself a peek; see the amazing Philophile bend over backwards to prove THATH's husband does, in fact, have a sex drive!

Admission free!
@55 Shit that was awesome. The funniest part is that I'm a woman, imagining how I'd feel if my husband got to the point where he'd constantly try to initiate sex that was barely enjoyable for me. Maybe I had never initiated because I was always afraid it would be frustrating in the end . Even if I managed to come once in a while, I'd be miserable. If he then got pissed that I wasn't responding enough for him and stopped, I'd call it sexual abandonment. I'm sure I wouldn't mind the stopping as much as the overall sex life. And if he were cheating on top of that while I felt duty bound to monogamy I'd be so pissed!
@39 "She hasn't given him an opportunity to work it out WITH her..."

He doesn't deserve that chance.

The best way for an emotionally abusive, irresponsible dick to keep a crappy relationship going is to insist he deserves another chance, to bitch that he didn't get a clear enough warning, etc. Goodness knows I dealt with that. There will never be enough chances for that kind of prick.

I'm fucking sorry, but any sane human being knows his conduct is not acceptable to anyone with a shred of self-respect. If he's genuinely surprised when she walks out, it's because he's so dysfunctional he has no idea what a decent relationship looks like. In any case, it's not her problem. She has to look out for herself and her kids. He can deal with his own issues before he dates someone else again, or drink himself to death--and good fucking riddance.
Has she considered sending her husband to a psychiatrist?

It sounds to me like this guy might have some kind of underlying health problem that's driving his lack of interest in sex, stupid behavior, and self-medication with alcohol. A shrink might be able to identify the underlying problem and treat it.
@56 Women can be misogynists to. And can you tell us what alternate universe letter you are reading? Because in THIS letter the LW stopped asking for sex because her husband made it clear he didn't want to fuck her. I don't see how that's 'sexual abandonment' on her part since as far she knows he doesn't want to, or can't, have sex with anymore.
Document everything. Get a divorce.
@56 The last time I remember being mistaken for a man was MUDding over 10 years ago. So many "he"s describing me was quite the mind warp. Outing myself as female was an immature impulse to shock back.

I want my last post in this thread to be on point. Dan's bare bone advice, continue counseling, keep the side dish, keep playing along until you leave, was quite good. The waiver of rules 1 & 2, the pot shot at counseling, painting this as a noble last chance, was not. She didn't call it a last chance. "I am, ultimately, setting myself up to leave him"

I think she should feel guilty about cheating, and every time she does, think about what brought her to this affair and how she will ensure it never happens in the future. Not because I think she's as bad as him or all cheaters should burn in hell or non monogamy can't work; honest non monogamy can work well. But whether she just chose the wrong man to endure until the sex got too bad, or she contributed to the demise, she stayed long enough to cheat before she left. That's a good line to know if she doesn't want it to happen again. And if it lights a fire under her ass about the divorce or separation, so she can stop the secret life and bring her happiness into the open, all the better.

@59 Yeah she stopped sex because she's mad that "he never—NEVER—responds to me any more", that's what I said. The one who rejects the last kind of acceptable sex has abandoned the sex life. Frequent, unapologetic rejection is an offense as well. And if my advice is based on how I'd feel stepping into the husband's shoes, and assuming the wife is male, how exactly could it be misogynistic?
Philophile, are you actually @replying yourself? My apologies for choosing the wrong pronoun; I'll correct that shit ASAP. But male, female, genderqueer... no one's obligated to keep throwing sex at unresponsive partners who make them feel like shit. Yet you keep finding reasons THATH's at fault here.

Even in your last missive, you think THATH "should feel guilty about cheating." If anything, I think THATH sounds guilty as heck in the letter; was she not guilty enough? Why is it her fault that the "sex life has ended"? Because she doesn't want to keep throwing herself at a frigid husband, who makes her feel like shit?

If the genders were reversed, would you be so invested in proving THATH is somehow at fault for the marriage souring? Would you insist, as you have been doing, that THATH must have done something wrong, or that he's (in this hypothetical) is "denying" or "ending" his wife a sex life she doesn't appear to want?

Being a woman doesn't mean your advice isn't sexist.
FWIW, Philophile, in a 1700-word article I only used a male pronoun for you six times. I referred to you by (user)name at least twenty times. So I don't know which litany you're referring to.
Start the divorce proceedings NOW. I waited several decades and did everything I could to interest my husband in me, in our beautiful child, and in himself. He was terribly underemployed and showed no interest in anything except puttering around the house and pronouncing judgments on everything I was doing wrong. It took a long time to end the marriage, but oh God, I am so very very glad that I did! By the time our separation was final (prior to the divorce) he was already sponging off some other woman. It felt great to wash my financial, emotional, and sexual hands of him. Everything has been better since then! It can be for you too!