Today, I’m happy to introduce you to personal coach, Michelle Leath who also blogs at Unlock Your Possibility. Michelle and her husband were married for sixteen years, together for twenty-one and had two children who were aged twelve and fourteen when the marriage ended. Michelle said they definitely had some communication issues even before they were married … “our engagement year and the first year of marriage was like hell.” Those communication issues continued throughout until Michelle reached a point of no return and knew she couldn’t commit to couples therapy. Here’s Michelle:
When the marriage was breaking down and things were getting worse and worse over the years, there had been times when the idea of going to counseling would come up or I’d read books, relationship books and ask him to read them too and he’d say, “Oh, no, no, I understand.” He wouldn’t do any of it.
I was in denial for a long time. I went to a couple of different counselors on my own, and a lot of this unhappiness was showing up in my life in different ways. I had an eating disorder that was problematic, I just was unhappy and I did not feel supported at all, I felt so lonely in my relationship and in my life. I just felt totally alone. I tried as best I could and I really did communicate with him. I was a psychology major, I tried strategic communication techniques to get him to understand, to tell him that, “This was what I need from you, can you give me this?” and it just never sunk in.
I went to my own counselors and I thought, “I don’t want to be a single parent, I don’t want to break up my family, I don’t know what I’ll do, maybe I’m wrong.” Whenever I would try to express my unhappiness, his response would be, “Well, you just probably need to go find another guy. You’re never going to be happy.”
Rather than being willing to work on himself, he’d shut me down like that and I’d end up panicked, like, “Oh my God, I don’t want to be alone, I don’t want us to break up” and then I’d back down. He’d try, a little bit, and he’d try to change his behavior, but it would always get back to the same issues. We just kept coming back to the same issues, around and around and around.
There came a point where someone very close to us was having an affair, and it brought to the surface to me that maybe my marriage wasn’t so bad. I thought maybe we could really use it as an opportunity to reconnect. I tried so hard to reach out and connect with him and it just didn’t work.
We were fighting over sex all the time. I didn’t want to have sex because I didn’t feel valued, or seen or loved, and that didn’t sit very well with him. There was a lot of tension in our relationship around that. There was one night where he said, “If we’re just going to be one of those couples that only has sex every six months, I’m not going to stick around” and I was, like, “OK, go ahead” and that was sort of when I meant it.
This was late December of 2009. So right after the holidays, I thought I’d better go figure out what the hell is going on.
I went to a therapist and said, “I don’t know if I can stand it. I don’t want to be married anymore, this is what’s been happening.” He said, “The first thing you should do is take sex off the table. Just go home and tell him it’s too stressful and you don’t even want that to be an issue and that you’re really not happy. If the sex is such a source of stress, then you don’t have to do it.” I didn’t know that, really I was like, “I can do that? Okay, cool!”
Once I finally got the courage and once I was finally able to admit to myself that I didn’t want to do it, that’s when knew I couldn’t go to counseling then. I was my own counselor a lot and it helped, but the idea of going to counseling with him, with my ex…it just didn’t feel right.
I didn’t want to sit there and try to figure out a way to make it work, because really, I had lost all trust. I’d really lost all trust in the man at that point. I just didn’t trust him anymore to hear me. I just was done. I finally just crossed the line. I passed the point of no return and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t even stomach the idea of going to counseling because I didn’t feel like I’d be authentic. I didn’t want it to work.
The Divorce Coach Says
In January 2010 Michelle told her husband that she was thinking about divorce and for the next eight months they were in the “trying” phase which she say was pretty dicey. he moved out in August 2010.
I know exactly where Michelle is coming from with this. Slightly different, my ex and I had tried couples counseling several times while we were married – each time seemed to address the surface issue but not the more fundamental conflicts and I realize now that my reluctance to confront conflict contributed to that. When I started to think that divorce might be an option I went to see a counselor on my own and shared with my husband that I was thinking of divorce.
We also had a period of trying but my heart wasn’t in it. As much as my husband at that point wanted to work on the marriage and wanted us to go to couples therapy, I was passed the point of no return. I really felt that if I was to go to a therapist’s office with him, I would be going through the motions. Emotionally, I’d already left the marriage and physically I didn’t want him touching me anymore. Like Michelle it was hard to admit that part to myself and even harder to say that to him. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever did.
Others have talked about the red flag of lack of sexual intimacy: Lisa struggled with a sexless marriage for over twenty years trying all sorts of remedies thinking it was her when all along it was her husband; Nancy found she was married to a cross-dresser and Iron Spine Sally’s husband was addicted to porn but not her.
What do you think? If there are no medical problems, is the lack of a sex in a marriage always a sign of deeper problems? Is there a point of no return when couples therapy isn’t an option?
Photo credit: Daquella manera