How am I supposed to leave my best friend?

Things are bad and I (32F) am miserable. We have had many years of a dead bedroom due to, I have recently discovered, his history of sexual abuse. He also has significant mental health problems and I have had to be his carer for a long time. On the back of feeling deeply unhappy and unwanted, I had an affair that was meant to be purely sexual but became romantic. That affair is over, I have come clean and we are now able to be warm and open with each other again.

The difficulty is that I just don’t know if I can ever feel romantically inclined towards him ever again. My feelings have become mired in years of pain and rejection, and our dynamic is completely off. Yet at the same time, he is so loving and such a wonderful person. We enjoy each other’s company. We have a lovely home together.

I am increasingly thinking that this marriage will not make me happy in the long term, although I am forcing myself to sit with these feelings for a while. But I am so utterly miserable when I consider either future. A sexless, passionless life with a man who I love very much but who cannot provoke those feelings within me? Or a devastating break up and a life of uncertainty, losing my home and causing pain to all around me?

Another hideous aspect to all of this is the idea of having children. Trying to conceive is what really brought out issues to the fore, and now is clearly not the time for he and I to continue trying. Yet am I throwing away my chance to be a parent with someone who loves me if I leave him? This is what my mother keeps unhelpfully suggesting. What if I never meet anyone else who loves me like this or who would make such a caring father? I know it’s not a good reason to stay in a marriage, but it frightens me.

I feel very frightened about the future and stuck in this place of limbo. I’m someone who likes to make decisions, act and try to forge my own happiness, but I feel utterly paralysed. I know no one here has the answers, but I’m wondering if there are any relevant experiences of divorcing a partner you really, truly love?

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Read your post again, as if it was written by anyone else, what would you tell them to do?

I’m widowed now, but had a very happy marriage.
What you describe is not a proper marriage to me, it’s an uneasy relationship between familiar friends. You do all the giving, but what do you get back in return?
Unconditional love, a feeling of team work, you and me against the world?

When you are 60, how will you feel looking back on your life?
Happy, fulfilled, a mum, grandchildren? A life well lived?
Or an unfulfilled life?

We can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you this. If you don’t look after yourself, consider your own needs, your own dreams, your own aspirations, no one else will!

Hi Chetan,
Have you thought about going to Relate or talking to a professional about your relationship problems? I think that is the best thing to do. Even if your husband won’t go with you - you’ll find it helpful to discuss your worries with a professional. Has your husband spoken to a professional about his abuse?

Hello, Chetan. I entirely agree with Karen. Relate would be a very good place to discuss this and would help you to sort out your feelings and gain a clearer idea where to go next. We need to be clearer on some points.

I take it your husband was the victim of sexual abuse. Do you think this is related to his mental problems? In what way do you care for him?

Do you think he feels towards you in the same way as you do to him? If you did decide to go your separate ways, it would not not need to be an acrimonious separation, but how do you think he might feel about it? It sounds as though you would both find a divorce an upsetting experience, even if you both were to agree this was the best way to go.

It sounds as though you would like children of your own. What are his feelings on this? Is it a case that you would both like children but he cannot “perform”? Would you both consider adoption as the next best thing?

Think these points through carefully before you go to see the counsellor, and make a list to take along, so that you can be sure all points are discussed. Best wishes!

There is specialist help and support available for ALL victims of sexual abuse/assault which can cause a lot of mental health issues years after the abuse.

Contacting Victim support may be a good start for your partner, emotional support, counselling will be available and its free.

Or the GP, NHS England have introduced support for victims of sexual assault/abuse.

Hi Chetan
I am 58 and lived through your predicament. With hindsight I might have made some different choices at your age. Some one said in a post how will you feel when you get to 60 looking back on your life, will you feel fulfilled - reading your post i suspect the answer will be no. It’s hard but you need to look after your life as well. Ian

Hello again, Chetan. Londonbound has provided a very useful link here; I have had a look through it myself.

It seems to me that your husband’s mental issues are the key to the problem and this is where attention would be of benefit. I don’t know, of course, whether he has already availed himself to the NHS sexual assault victim support or a similar service. Perhaps you could give us an idea of just how much care he needs.

Bear in mind that even if you could find a way to have children in his present circumstances, children themselves would need a lot of care, particularly in their early years. If your husband also requires a lot of care you might find you have taken a lot on. Do you both have jobs?

You obviously are very fond of each other. If you could find a way to alleviate his mental problems, things could start to fall into place.

Do go along to Relate, and take with you any ideas you pick up from this Forum. Best wishes!