I saw you on CBS Sunday Morning and I was drawn in with your genuine and feeling words. My living room is usually silent with only my husband and myself, but yesterday morning our visiting adult kids were wondering why CBS was on—and why there was so much talk about sex. You followed a piece on Masters and Johnson.
All day after their departure I sat in uncomfortable silence with my husband—our usual routine—thinking about writing to you concerning my dilemma. I have often thought of starting my own blog concerning my situation: I'm in my fifties, I'm married, and I'm annoyed 98% of the time by my spouse. This must be a symptom of not having sex for 12 years. And I am wondering... how do I remedy this nightmare? Most of my days are adventures in trying to figure out how I can survive this for one more day..
We've been married 22 years. He's my third husband. We have five children together and eight grandchildren. We are very active in the lives of three of our grandchildren. The two of us are an institution. We are "home base" for so many lives and I feel I cannot leave my husband because of that. I had my share of divorce in my early years—a string of abusive relationships/marriages.
Mostly I am hungry for touch. I want to be held, to be kissed, to be cuddled, and to have sex. No sex for 12 years is like a prison sentence. For the past eight years we have slept in separate bedrooms. When our youngest daughter moved out I took her room and turned it into my oasis. I put a lock on my door and won't let anyone in there. The rest of the house is all my husband. It's a big mess. He is a hoarder of junk, he puts nothing away, there's a corner in the living room where he plays video games on his phone and creeps on my Facebook all day and night. I love to have conversations. He only can only argue and he is incessantly negative and racist. When I am overwhelmed by his rantings I go to my room and lock the door.
I have survived so many difficulties in my life—domestic violence in prior relationships, a car accident that nearly killed me, a cancer diagnoses—but I possess an amazing will to survive and to overcome. But my marriage has me drowning in unhappiness. I struggle each moment I am awake with what I need to do. Do I hate him? No. I am not romantically in love with him. I have feelings for him of some kind. Maybe it is a love of some sort. But I don't like who he is though.
We stopped having sex—my choice—after so many years of crying in the dark after sex because he was never making love to me. He had to fantasize aloud about other women each time. Then came porn on the internet there and "experiments" that often ended with him hurting me physically. I vowed to never have sex with him again one night and that was it: Absolutely no intimacy of any kind for twelve years.
So what to do? I do not want to hurt my kids and grandkids but how do I overcome this? Any thoughts or advice? I am desperately in need of someone else's input.
I loved your piece on the show. You do good work with your life.
Grandma Is Dying Inside
You say you're trapped in this awful, loveless, sexless marriage, GIDI, but it doesn't sound like you're actually trapped. You aren't bedridden and dependent on your spouse for care, you aren't financially dependent on your spouse, you aren't nailed to the floor or glued to the ceiling. You cite only one not very compelling reason for staying: "We are 'home base' for so many lives and I feel I cannot leave my husband because of that."
Not good enough.
You are not obligated to spend the next three or four decades of your life rotting away in house filled with your husband's junk and your husband's racist rants and your husband's secondhand smoke just so your kids can drop by for brunch on Sunday mornings and tap you for free childcare the rest of the week. Divorcing your husband may hurt your kids and grandkids—and it may leave some of your kids scrambling to make other childcare arrangements—but the short-term hurt it causes the rest of the family couldn't possibly come close to outweighing the hurt staying for even six more months is gonna cause you.
Unless you really and truly can't go—unless there's a really, really good reason didn't share with me for staying—in which case stay.
But if you do stay, GIDI, there are a few things you need to say out loud to your kids:
1. "My marriage to your father is essentially over."
2. "Your father and I are going to remain married but, for my own sanity and his, we will be leading increasingly separate lives."
3. "I'm still mom and I'm still grandma and, yeah, I'm still technically a wife. But I am also my own person and I intend to enjoy the next few decades of my life."
And there are few things you need to say out loud to your husband:
1. "We haven't been intimate for more than a decade and we've obviously grown apart in other ways."
2. "Divorce, like the Duchess of Devonshire told the New York Times, is a huge fucking bore for everyone involved. So let's not get divorced."
3. "Even though we're not getting divorced—unless you decide to divorce me after hearing what comes next—we will be living together as glorified roommates, not as husband and wife. And we will, like our nation's Founding Fathers, show a decent respect to the opinions of mankind and not behave in ways that scandalize our children, our grandchildren, our friends, or our neighbors. But we are both free to do our own thing starting now—without permission and without apology. Oh, and I'm blocking you on Facebook."
Having to pretend—to your husband or your kids—that your marriage isn't broken and miserable is an additional misery, GIDI, but a single afternoon of radical truth telling can put an end to that bonus misery. And no longer having to pretend that a marriage isn't miserable and broken, being freed from the stress of keeping up appearances, can actually make being trapped in a miserable, broken marriage a little less miserable.
So what do you do after telling the truth? What comes after saying all those things that can't be unsaid?
You get to spend the next two or three decades—until you bury him or he buries you—doing whatever the fuck you want, GIDI. Roommates don't cook or clean for each other. Roommates don't eat all their meals together. Roommates don't take second jobs so they have an excuse not to hang out at night with each other.
And, hey, got the means to do some traveling? Go see old friends and family members in other parts of the country—even if you have to take the bus to get to them—and take your time coming back. Really loaded? Pack a suitcase full of great books—and a carryon bag full of great vibrators—and go on a couple of long, bi-annual round-the-world cruises. Got lots of money? Hire a contractor to turn your garage into a guest apartment while you're on that cruise—a guest room (and bathroom! and kitchen!) that will be yours and yours alone when you get back.
And finally, GIDI, see other men. Do it/them discreetly, do it/them without shame or guilt, and do it/them soon.