Some background: Married 12 1/2 years, 2 kids in elementary school. I have been a stay-at-home-mom for 10 years. My husband travels for work, something he started doing about 8 years ago.
About 7 years ago, I started having horrible pelvic pain. Doctors said it was rupturing cysts. Then maybe fibroids. Then they said it was all in my mind. I went from doctor to doctor over the course of the past 7 years, trying anything from birth control pills to steroids to opioids to antidepressants to yoga — whatever they told me to do. I probably was in pain 22 out of 30 days each month. I have so many emergency room visits I can’t count them. I just knew I had cancer or was dying or something.
You can imagine that this much pain does not really lend itself to a great sex life, but I tried to do the best I could, having sex with him a few times a month until about 2 years ago when the pain got so bad I just couldn’t do it. I am ashamed to admit we went about 16 months with no sex at all. And it’s entirely my fault.
In addition to horrible pain, I was also alone 90% of the time while my husband traveled for work. It was really hard. Little kids are tough. I was all alone — no family in town. I did 100% of childcare, and 100% of housecare, and it was really tough, but I felt like I was fulfilling my duty as a wife. When he was home, I tried to make life as carefree as possible, making sure he didn’t have to lift a finger. I planned fun activities, etc. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do to be a good wife, even if sex was an issue.
Finally, last fall I found a doctor who figured out my problem: endometriosis. I went on a regimen of drugs and became mostly pain free within a few months. The endo had jacked my hormones all up, so getting that under control meant I felt so much better — I had a libido, I was less anxious, I was less depressed. I was so thrilled. I (awkwardly at first) resumed a sex life with my husband. Things seemed wonderful. I was so glad to have that all behind me.
And then, at the beginning of the summer, my husband moved out. Said he wasn’t happy with me, and that he deserved to be happy with his one precious life (his words.) A few weeks after the moved out, I discovered video and picture proof that he was having an affair with a coworker — they traveled together, of course, so plenty of opportunity.
Once I discovered that, he said that he felt neglected by me and lonely, and like he wasn’t important, etc. He said the affair only lasted 4 months until the coworker said “enough” because he wasn’t leaving me. He swears the affair has not resumed. I honestly have no way of knowing that to be true or not, because he still travels.
So here’s my question: This was all my fault. I neglected him. I didn’t push through and have sex with him even though I knew it was important. I know my actions led him to his affair. He was lonely, and felt neglected. I did that.
We went to counseling for a bit but it wasn’t very helpful — he felt a lot of pressure to commit to the marriage and said it wasn’t helping him to find clarity. We stay in touch — he probably talks to me now more than he did in the past 3 years combined. And he has (and I’m ashamed to admit this) asked me for sex a number of times, and I have given it to him. He asks me over to watch movies at his place when he has the kids, etc.
Sorry this is so drawn out. My question for you is this: since I messed this up, primarily due to sex issues, should I continue to have sex with him when he expresses interest in it during this separation? Several of the “save my marriage” type books all say that if the spouse wants sex, you should serve it up. But we live in a state that requires a year’s separation before filing for divorce — I don’t know if I can continue to feel like “any port in a storm” without knowing his intentions. He doesn’t like to be pushed, or asked if he’s considering coming home, etc.
I don’t know what to do. You always tell people “you didn’t cause this — he is an asshole and made an asshole decision” — but in this case, I did cause it. So do I just suck it up and do whatever he needs, including having sex with him when he wants it? Will that be enough?
All My Fault
No AMF it will not “be enough.” Not unless you can promise never to get sick again, or have needs that don’t center around him, or fail to become a smorgasbord of pussy. “Enough” is an ever-moving goal post with cheaters. All my usual theories apply here. Sorry. You’re doing the pick me dance. He’s a cake eater. And yes, he’s an asshole.
The fallacy you’re falling for is the Unmet Needs Cause Cheaters to Cheat. No, lousy character causes cheaters to cheat. Your inability to have sex does not effect his ability to lead a double life. That’s on him.
Moreover, if you follow the supposition that Unmet Needs Cause Cheaters to Cheat, then you having sex with him (meeting his Need) should reverse the cheating (his Need is met!) But Holy Blameshifting Batman! It’s not working! So, you’re asking me — is it enough? Surely, it’s not the need that’s in question — it must be you. You’re Not Doing It Right.
Look, I’m not saying 16 months without sex doesn’t suck. It sucks. But so does having an illness that sends you to the hospital in pain. Your husband had a whole decision tree of options other than cheating. He could a) say “I can’t live in a sexless marriage” — let’s discuss options, b) Consider sex options that don’t require genitals (the hands and mouth still work!), c) Tough it out on the sex until you get your medical issues sorted, d) Not tough it out and be honest and fair in a divorce settlement.
He didn’t do those things — he cheated on you with a co-worker. And a guy who cheats with a co-worker, IMO, (and with the cynicism that comes from reading my mail) is probably someone who has cheated before during that seven years on the road. Just an educated guess. Anyway, given all the available HONEST ways of addressing this problem, he chose a selfish, hurtful way to get what he wanted at the expense of everyone else — your marriage, your health, and your children’s intact home life.
Here’s ANOTHER indication of his character — knowing that sex HURTS you — he presses for it anyway. And here’s another — knowing that you want to save your marriage — he REFUSES to commit to it. But he will enjoy sex (cake and kibbles!) with you anyway.
AMF — why do you want this guy? How could you ever trust him? Are all bets off if you get cancer? Or have the impertinence to age?
Also I worry that financial vulnerability is clouding your judgement. And I worry that in that year-long separation until divorce, he’s having sex with you so that you can’t use his infidelity against him. In many states having sex with a cheater is considered “forgiving” it. Don’t think he doesn’t know that.
I think your energies would be better spent getting a kick ass lawyer to press for a generous settlement with spousal support until you get on feet. Find a career where you can support yourself and your kids and live independent of this asshole. And then find a nice, decent boyfriend who deserves your libido. Close the cake bakery! Good luck.