My mentally ill hubby blackmails me so I stay in a loveless marriage
I have been married for over two decades and we have a large family, with the older ones being adults. My husband was diagnosed with a serious mental disorder mid-way through our marriage, and has spent time in a psychiatric hospital. He is on a lot of medication, which he always takes. However, this has changed him from the man I married and I no longer love him. I stayed with him because I am a pretty loyal person and would not have left him during this difficult time. He is now pretty stable and I am ready to go, but he is not ready to let me.
The physical side of our relationship was never very strong, on my side, and unfortunately I ignored this and thought the other side would be enough, but with his diagnosis, this changed beyond recognition. I continued to have sex with him, because he would have sulked otherwise, but it has been nothing to me for years.
I have not allowed him to kiss or touch me in any intimate way — it is not an option. I could put up with the sex act, as long as there was no attempt at intimacy before or after. I had resigned myself to this being my lot in life and to put up with it for the children, but I have committed a cardinal mistake by getting emotionally involved with someone else and this has changed how I feel. My husband discovered I was texting and he was desperately upset. Even after this, we had sex, but I told him I wasn’t willing to continue in a sexual relationship with him and would prefer if we separated. This is not something he wants. It’s not only the physical relationship that is the issue — I find myself not wanting to be in his company at home, or in any social setting.
I realise this is a very sad and difficult situation for us all, but I feel that I would be happy when it is all done. We have two properties with not a huge debt, I have a reasonable job and he is on an invalidity pension. My two adult children are aware of the situation, including the emotional affair, and while they are sad and concerned, they are understanding.
I feel my husband is using emotional blackmail, by telling me I am destroying all our lives to make myself happy and that I have gone mad due to menopause. I am worried about the long-lasting impact on the children, but not sure they will thank me, in the long run, for staying just for them.
However, I don’t want to destroy them either. I don’t know if anything will come from the situation with this other man, but I feel I would ultimately be happier alone, than another 20 years with someone I don’t love. I have mentioned how I’m feeling to some close friends and family members and have only met with support and understanding. I didn’t tell them about the emotional affair.
The situation is now quite bad and there was one violent outburst — due to alcohol on his part — which involved all the children and was quite disturbing, but not physical. There is little communication as we have reached an impasse. I want to sell our home and buy another for myself and the children and he can have the other property with whatever access to the children he wants. He does not want this and threatens to tell them what a whore I am and how I ruined everyone for my own benefit.
Do you think counselling would help me or the children? He doesn’t want to hear about that, as he says I’m only looking for validation and I do know that counselling will not change my feelings or bring back any kind of desire that, if I’m honest, was never really there to begin with.
ATHIS is a very complex situation and somewhat beyond the scope of an advice column, so I urge you to seek help in the form of counselling. Even if your husband doesn’t want to attend, you need to speak to somebody on your own, and ultimately family therapy may be required. The website www.aware.ie is a good place to start as their focus is mental illness.
It seems to me that until you met the other man, you were prepared to stay in the marriage, even though you were unhappy, particularly sexually. However, meeting him has made you look at all aspects of your marriage and come to the conclusion that you cannot remain in it. Your husband, meanwhile, has had to deal with the onset and diagnosis of mental illness, the loss of his job and is now facing the loss of his wife and the loss of face that this will entail. I think that any decision you ultimately make should be taken with a view that this other man may not be a feature in your life. That would be much fairer to everybody. You will have to be aware that if you leave your marriage you will be accused of not honouring your marriage vows ‘in sickness and in health’. But I understand that you feel you cannot continue with your marriage. So seek help and guidance for what is ahead. You can contact Mary O’conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at email@example.com or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately