Dear Chump Lady,
So, I was reading a single mom blog today and she was talking about how the single dads out there seem like they feel more “pressure” to have more kids. She thinks it has something to do with how they were in “long, miserable, sexless” marriages and now that they got out, they want to go and bang young chicks. But the young chicks aren’t THAT young, so they might want to have babies again so the guy kinda goes along with it… (like trying to get with younger women is a good reason to have another kid anyway! and I’m sure these awesome guys waited until they got out of their miserable, sexless marriage.)
I actually think, going by things my ex has said, that a lot of these guys in fact just want to “start over” with a “new” family and selfishly don’t want anyone that already has baggage even though they already have their own.
Anyway, my main point that I got sidetracked from is this miserable, sexless marriage excuse! Do you believe there is such a thing? Or are they all just cheaters making excuses? I think women that haven’t been cheated on might tend to believe this actually does occur A LOT. But I think I might believe it’s true in 1% of the cases where it’s claimed. I think this excuse epitomizes chump blaming. And perfectly reasonable people actually believe it!
Dear another Erica,
Do I believe sexless marriages exist? Yes. Do I believe sexless marriage is used as an excuse to cheat. Yes. Or as an excuse to dump the wife and bang younger women? Yes again.
There are so many variables here. Look, a guy might describe three times a week as “sexless” if, in his opinion, that’s not enough sex. Or he might be in a marriage in which his partner is sexually withholding and unaffectionate. You know, actually sexless. But neither situation is an excuse for cheating — not enough sex or no sex. It’s a reason to either manage your expectations, get your ass in therapy, or demand a divorce.
If those single dads left sexless marriages honestly and want to hook up with a younger woman and start over on the baby thing? That’s their choice. The price of admission is still changing diapers when your contemporaries are empty nesters. I don’t think that makes them cheaters or jerks — just guys who are going to be rethinking this shit when they’re paying retirement costs and college tuition simultaneously.
If those single dads invented the “sexless marriage” excuse to trade in for a younger model? Well, they’re douchebags, of course. And we’ll see how much sex they’ll be having with a colicky three-month old around.
I agree that the sexless marriage excuse for infidelity comes up a LOT. (Anyone read the stable of male commentators on HuffPo?) Chumps get really sensitive on this issue, understandably. It’s bad enough chumps get blamed for the cheating. But to imply that it’s because we suck at sex? Really? Gee, thanks. It’s hugely insulting. I can’t speak to other people’s marriages, and I don’t want to be TMI or anything, but sex wasn’t a problem with my cheating ex and me. When DDay hit, I was gobsmacked in part because I assumed men only cheat when they aren’t getting it at home. (One of many stupid ideas I had about infidelity pre-DDay…. that should be its own post…) That dog was fed.
And I don’t think I’m alone on this. What’s also interesting to me on the “sexless marriage” issue is how hideously common it is for CHUMPS to suffer the sexless marriage. It’s one of the biggest cheating red flags there is — your spouse suddenly doesn’t want to have sex with you. They’re quite content to have no sex at all, where once they used to quite enjoy sex with you. And there’s no medical issue, no crisis, just a gee, I’d rather not. And why is this? BECAUSE THEY’RE FUCKING SOMEONE ELSE.
So to then have that turned around — projected — as “I was in a sexless marriage” is utter mindfuckery.
All that said — I also think the sexless marriage is real. It may be for medical or hormonal reasons. It may be because someone has gotten overweight or has hygiene issues that repulse their spouse. It may be because of mental illness or addiction. Or it may be because someone is a passive aggressive withholding jerk. Whatever the case — two people are married and they aren’t having sex.
If one person is deeply miserable about this, and it’s not a mutual, agreed upon sexlessness — I think it’s incumbent upon the other spouse to address the issue and not withdraw further. If someone is not having sex with you, and they won’t discuss it, or work on it, and they withhold? I think that is form of emotional abuse. It’s a kind of infidelity — they’ve checked out of their marriage.
So when I see those comments on HuffPo, I try to engage. I don’t want to minimize the legitimate pain of being in a sexless marriage. Of being on the receiving end of someone who is rejecting you in the most intimate way. It’s horrible. I lived this in my first marriage (and quite frankly, I wonder now if he wasn’t cheating). It drove me round the bend. I wrote about this before
, how I did all sorts of cost-benefit analyses of whether or not I should cheat on him. Yeah, really. Me. Chump Lady. By the grace of God I didn’t — and I’d like to tell you it was my moral compass that stopped me, and maybe it did. But frankly, if you’d asked me back then, I’d probably tell you he deserved it, or he wouldn’t care, or his withholding was a manifestation of his mental illness and I must stick by him in sickness and in health… but I don’t know if I can do that and never have sex again… I weighed all my options. And just going there made me realize — whoa. I want out
. It was very hard to admit that to myself. And even harder to divorce him and be a single mother with a four year old.
You know what blows my mind now? That when I was thinking about cheating then THAT was somehow less shameful than being divorced. Isn’t that fucking NUTS? Divorce stigma is alive and IMO it’s far bigger than cheater stigma. I bailed because I realized what I really wanted was my freedom. To lay down the burden of being married to him AND to be able to date freely.
What I say to people who are in miserable, sexless marriages is GET OUT. If you’re that miserable? You’ll end it. If you don’t end it? You’re not that miserable. Sticking around is cake eating or some other kind of profound dysfunction. There’s nothing noble about martyring yourself to a bad marriage.
They don’t expect you to say that — and that’s how you tell the difference, another Erica. Those “the sexless marriage drove me to cheat” guys want you to say “Oh you get a pass, buddy. Yeah, she deserves it for giving you blue balls.” IMO, anyone who is truly in a miserable marriage feels relief at the thought of ending it. (They might feel guilty about that, but oh, they feel the relief. And they LEAVE.) And anyone who thinks a sexless marriage is an excuse to stay married and CHEAT? That person is a cake eater. They want both the affair and the “bad marriage,” because it gives them a pretext for fucking around. The “sexlessness” doesn’t upset them — no, it’s the ticket to the banquet of fuckbuddies. A banquet of cake. And I promise you, the marriage is probably not sexless either.