One woman answers the question: should I stay in a marriage without chemistry?

Updated Oct 28 2020
Guest post by Alex
Divorced AF glass available here.

I wrote the Offbeat Home post I'm not attracted to my husband: Marriage without chemistry? in 2013. [One of the most popular posts on Offbeat Home & Life, of all time. -Ed] After 6 years of working on myself, finding myself, and trying to do absolutely everything I could to save the marriage… I finally had the strength to call it quits.

I spent years researching, years in therapy, years working on past issues, and years meditating… but unfortunately still had no feelings what so ever for my husband.

I also realized that he was NEVER going to change, and NEVER going to work on the marriage. With all the personal development I had done, I feel like I outgrew him in the end.

Some of the key factors in my decision were also that we all moved back to my home in New Zealand, where we have the financial support to live separately.

Also, me learning to love myself enough to know that I can be loved by someone else and love back.

Most of all, I learned that a marriage ending does NOT necessarily mean you are tearing your children's lives apart. With love, respect, and influence, your children do not have to suffer ongoing trauma from a marriage ending!

I actually couldn't believe how many people made it into such a bloody negative thing and how so many articles said that staying together for the children (despite your own unhappiness) is the best thing to do.

Well, sorry but I think that's completely wrong! My children are thriving. They have two parents who adore them and co-parent completely amicably, we still do things together and everyone is happier.

When you dig a bit deeper into the research, you will find that most children bounce back with minimal damage as long as their NEEDS ARE MET. This can be done as a couple or separately! Do everything you can to try saving things, but if it ain't working, it ain't working.

You can't force yourself to love someone, you shouldn't stay in a marriage just because that's the person you married! People change.

It takes both sides to make it work. If one person is putting all the work in and other one isn't, it's move on. It is NOT unrealistic to want love and to be in love! What a load of garbage that is! I think people who think that's unrealistic obviously don't have very much self-worth.

I want a great love, that goes on forever. Of course passion and chemistry will fade, but when both people work on a marriage, your love can last.

I have now seen it first hand. You just have to meet the right person. So if love like this is important to you, don't give up hope.

If you're dealing with similar challenges in your relationship, here area few books that may help you in your process:

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey! I know a lot of people who would benefit from this and from your message.

  2. YES YES YES to Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay! I went through something very similar to the the author and I found this book to be the most helpful in my journey. I hadn't read the others, I'm sure they're very good too, but I think Too Good to Leave… is essential reading for someone who is struggling with leaving. Love and prayers for everyone who needs books like this – it's heart-breakingly hard, but you're not alone!

  3. Agree on this so hard. My parents stayed together for me and it was so hard seeing them unhappy for a very long time instead of going all in with new partners.
    People change and that's OK!

  4. So I'm going through the thick of it right now. Every single thing the author mentioned is what my current state is and truthfully has always been. We've been married for 10 years. Together for 15 and have 3 young children. I don't want to be touched by him but I do love him. We operate very well as friends and poorly when it comes to intimacy. No chemistry from my part and I can date that back to 6 months after dating.

    I thought it was a libido issue but I crave sex. Just not from him. So hard to even have the convo with him. I'm seeing a therapist for the first time this Saturday. I really don't know where we will end up but I know things can't stay the same.

    I'm going to look into the books mentioned as well. Glad to know I'm not alone. All the fears of what can happen if I do leave haunts me just as much as if I do stay….

  5. This article and your first one on the subject really resonated with me in every way. I'm struggling still with should I leave or stay because he is a good man, but chemistry is no existent and always has been. sexless relationship since we met. I'm going to check out the books you mentioned and focus on me. We did therapy but still not changes.

  6. First thank you for sharing your experience and for posting an update. I identified with your post completely. I'm going through the same thing and feel so very alone in this. I see a therapist but ultimately I know I have to be the one to decide what to do. I have an 8 year old daughter who is very attached to her father and for now I've chosen to place her needs above my own.

    For years I haven't even wanted to admit to myself what I'm really feeling but then my head was turned by someone else. We became friends and though it never materialized into a physical affair, in many ways it would qualify as an emotional affair. Someone that felt like a soul mate; but that's neither here nor there as it will never progress further.

    The truth that is so difficult and guilt-inducing to admit is that I'm not at all attracted to my husband and I am not sure that I ever really was. I'm confused now (13 years after getting married) how I convinced myself it was the right move. We never had chemistry or passion. We had friendship and I convinced myself that this was enough. And perhaps it is for some, I thought it would be for me and it turns out it isn't.

    Adding insult to injury- we no longer feel like friends. We argue a lot. We both feel disconnected and disrespected from each other. I'm happier when he goes on business trips and I don't have to act. It feels like we don't have any overlapping interests at all. So talking with him is a struggle b/c we can't just have those great conversations I crave.

    We have sex maybe 5 times a year at this point……And yet even saying all these things aloud (and to my therapist as well) and I still know I don't have the courage to leave. I'm too scared of what would be around the corner – a child who despises me for breaking up our home…..financial challenges….and possibly being alone forever.

    I commend you for doing the work, sharing your story and having the fortitude to move on with your life. Best of luck. M

    • Mathilda you are certainly not alone, in fact we are living the same story! We married 13yrs ago, together 17!!! I have never really felt a physical attraction to him, however he is a good looking man. I allowed our relationship fully aware that it probably wasn't going to get better, however he is such a good man. Our child is 11yrs old & he is a fantastic father.

      our sex life has always been terrible, even from the beginning, I thought I could deal with it but I can no longer pretend. We have not had sex in 8 YEARS!!! We are both very physically fit & healthy, in great shape & very attractive people. It's been so difficult.

      I saw a Psychic who said I was so stuck & actually told me to leave my husband as my soulmate was waiting. I knew who this 'soulmate' was & I am very attracted to this man to the point I asked for a separation from my husband & he has been very supportive, moving to the spare room etc. Nothing has happened with this other person & I don't know if it will …

      I have started meditation & going very deep internally, seeking answers, I am terrified of leaving but feel equally as terrified to stay. As I write this, I know what to do but it doesn't make it any easier. Good luck.

  7. I have read my life story. I’m having an extremely hard time deciding whether to leave or stay. My husband and I have been together for 18years and married for 17. He is a great friend, awesome dad and wonderful provider but I am not sexually attracted to him and never been. We have been arguing about sex our entire relationship and though I don’t want to hurt his feelings I’ve come to accept I can’t force myself to make love to him. I squirm and feel agitated every time he touch me and it’s not fair to him. I too thought it was my libido but I got honest with myself because I still crave sex just not with him.
    Feeling Hopeless,
    N. Smith

  8. Wow, could have written this myself, and all the comments resonate with me also. So surprising that this is not something talked about more, as clearly it is not an uncommon situation. I have never thought sex was an essential part of a fulfilling life for me, and thought that partnership, security etc… could be enough. Unfortunately, my husband does not feel that way, and has been rejected by me (and hurt by it ) for the majority of our marriage. It’s difficult to try and force yourself to be intimate with someone out of pity or kindness, and resentment builds easily. As I enter a different phase of life where I can focus on my own needs more, it has become clear to me that I can be attracted to someone sexually, but not to the man I married. It’s hard to think about leaving, when there are so many other great aspects of the partnership. In a way , having discreet affairs feels kinder than leaving a good man simply because I am not attracted to him in the way he needs and wants. Maybe if one is fulfilled sexually elsewhere it’s possible to ‘go along with it’ when needed at home to keep the peace? Hoping to find some clarity through therapy and reading, thank you for book recommendations!

    • We have become “business partners” in that our “ business” is raising our children. For years I have had ZERO attraction to my husband, and actually cringe when he does touch me. He recently tried recently to passionately kiss me, and it creeped me out terribly. I used to be able to pretend and keep it to myself, but I just can’t do it anymore.

      I am so afraid to be alone. All my friends are married, and I live in a small town with very few attractive men. I stay because of my kids, fear of being alone, and wonder if I will always be alone if I leave. It will be a financial struggle for us to pay for two residences, and the idea of the kids having to go back and forth makes me cry. I read someone’s statement on here where she stated it would be better to be unfaithful than to disrupt the livelihood of the family.
      I made the stupid mistake of listening to a therapist who suggested I tell my husband that I am not attracted to him anymore. I wasn’t attracted to him anymore for many reasons, and most of those reasons he could not change. So now we operate as roommates. He knows for sure now (we’ve been married for over 20 years…you can read each other’s minds by that point) how I feel, and has tried numerous times to “let me go” if that’s what I want. He has suggested that he get an apartment, and stating that we would be better as friends. ( totally true).
      But, out of fear, here I sit. I KNOW what I need to do, but I just can’t do it.

  9. I can't tell you how much I wish i could be face to face with all of you because I need so much help! My husband is awesome and loyal and a super dad, but emotionally, we are not on the same page and never were sexually either. We are both so afraid to give up what we have built together- we have a nice home and were financially ok. He got an apartment and hasn't moved in yet because he and I both panic when we think about it, so we have been paying for an empty apartment for 4 months. What a waste. Our kids are 16, 20, and 23, and they know how miserable we are, but we also can be friendly to each other, so it is so confusing. I want a great love- a man who will make me feel loved and understood and safe in his arms. I feel so bad for wanting that and feel I should be grateful for what I have. We have separate bedrooms for 3 years, and I am sick to my stomach every day. I went to psychics and therapists and am driving my friends nuts. I'm going to try to look at those books. I feel like a chicken and I am stuck and not happy.

  10. This is so unbelievable, and although I know nobody personally here, I felt for the first time that I could be understood from some people in the world still, as I read the blog and the posts.

    I’m 28 years old and still trying to find out what to do, with feelings of guilt, disappointment in me and trying to be fair enough, while fighting against my fear against insecurity and stability.

    I met my husband 3 years ago, soon after I was dumped from my ex , whom I passionately loved, which caused me a lot of heartbreak and insecurity. And after months later I just wanted to have fun and for once in my life enjoy the night and sleep with that guy who seemed so different and crazy, that I could move on easily with my life afterwards. That night the sex was great, but I knew we were totally different. He was older than me, I had a much stronger educational background than he did, we had very different jobs which could have be defined as a huge status difference, and I would never defined him as the picture of the man I had in my imagination to marry sometime later in life.

    But just after the sex and within 2 days time, he was so different, so caring, so secure, so human, so thoughtful and so open, that I felt for him. And after a few months he wanted me to move in into his place, after one year we got married. No man in my life before had made me feel so good, so secure, safe and stable before. I always trusted him, although we were very different I always pushed myself to see the nice guy and perfect husband qualities in him. I made excuses and stand against all the people, who criticised us on the grounds that we belong to different worlds , by saying ,, but he is the best and most wholeheartedly man I’ve ever met in my life”. I knew he would never let me down, I knew he would love me all the way long, stay loyal forever, and do anything to make me feel happy. I was more than convinced that this was the right decision. However as time passed by, I found him no more attractive, I didn’t want to sleep with him, I wanted him to look a bit different, dressed up a bit different in a way, the men do in my job environment. He didn’t. I was no more living happily in the country side with him, which I only decided to do so for him at the beginning(I was grown up in a mega city) and I was not enjoying the time spent with his environment anymore. And it all started then, I felt desperate and I distanced myself from my husband. And I started having an affair with a colleague. Short after that, I knew that I felt more than just a sexual attraction. I didn’t confess my husband this truth but I told him that I was not sure about what I want and felt for him anymore, and I didn’t wanted to be unfair to him anymore, because he was the best person I knew in my life and deserved someone who can give all the love back to him. So I moved out. I was in love with my colleague and I still am. He was perfect we really did have the click. However after a period of time he did left me. And I felt like “this is the real world outside, which includes lots of bad guys and heartbreaks, and I’ve just mistreated the best man in the world, instead of being thankful for what I had.”. I felt like it was all my ,,wanting all at the same time” and I just made a huge failure.

    Recently my husband spoke to me and said he’d like to give it at least a try. I was so vulnerable, feeling so guilty for everything and disappointed in me thinking like as if everything was perfect and I’ve just spoiled it all. I hated myself for doing all to this person with the most beautiful heart in the world. And I realised how I missed being safe and loved and having stability. But I was not sure if I could get back my romantic feelings and attraction for my husband. And I was feeling so guilty and bad about what I did to him and about how I broke him by leaving him, that I didn’t want to promise him something again, on which I can’t hold on later and cause him a heartbreak again. So I told him that I can’t guarantee it but I’d like to try it.

    Right now, I’m trying my best. I’m trying to devote myself in him and do everything what he deserves. I logically want to give him the love back which he gaved me. I’m trying to convince myself for stability and security in change of being madly in love. Because it never ended good for me. But I still can’t feel this romantic feelings or lust against him. I love him as a person so much. I can cuddle with him for hours, but when we kiss or have sex , I just don’t have those feelings. I make them to make him feel happy, hoping that someday I’ll gain those feelings for him again. On the other side, if those feelings are not there after sometime, I still don’t know if it’s worth to stay in a marriage where one feels secure and stable, and loves the personality and if there exists nothing more.

    I’m totally a mess..

  11. From the opposite perspective,I have been with my wife for 23 years,I’m 61 she 47,Sex had never been great,but in the last 16 years we would be intimate once or twice a year,sometimes as long as 18 months would pass.we slept in the same bed,but she would never sleep without PJ’s on,even in the hot summers.

    We have been financially secure,with two properties,we had a popular musical 80’s Duo,Had a blast together,playing once or twice a week,,we had some lovely social friends,and apart from Sex,which caused hurt an resentment for many years,but I learnt to cope with it,and it became less of an issue as 8 hit 60

    A year ago we decided to move to Spain,as she has Psioratic Arthiritis,Sold our house,paid up the mortgage and bought this place outright,moved here in October,In mid January after missing her Gym and Running,she started hiking at my suggestion with a fella I’d known for a couple of years,and a totally unexpected thing happened,,,she fell head over heels,and this non existent Libido suddenly shot through the roof,I found out before she slept with him,and she even saw him a couple of times,but that line wasn’t crossed.he dumped her before it got serious,and I spent 4 months trying to save our marriage,grieving for us,and supporting her grief at losing this soul mate !! In lockdown,so neither of us could escape it,,What a mess and a totally heartbreaking situation.

    She moved out a month ago,and it’s been 5 months since I found the texts that Incriminated them.she tells me she loves me to bits,but not in THAT way,we were to make a new life here in the sun,we had a little income from our rental,her p/t job,as she had been kept on,and we were to gig our 80’s to hen nights here.now our plans have been shattered,as she wants to be single,he doesn’t appear to have come running now she is free,they are in contact,but he keeps her at arms length.she has very quickly built a completely new friends base,we see each other once or twice a week,and apart from some obvious upsets,w get on well,I Just can’t get over it as quickly as she has,as I still feel about her as I ever did,she feels guilty,she misses me,but feels she has done the right thing for both of us,but I had no plan B !! It hurts like hell,and I can’t bare the thought of her with someone else.

    • To add,I wasn’t ready,but have been on a few dates,it just didn’t feel right,and I feel robbed of our great life,and the promise of an even better one,here in the sun,she just seems to bet with a load of older ladies doing lunch Etc,spent 2000 euros on living in a crappy little place,with 2 of our 4 dogs,and I know she misses our home and many aspects of “Us” but is adamant to stick it out,I have told her to come home,don’t worry about the Money,let# jus5 pic’ up where we left off,we were ok for all those years,

  12. I needed to read this and all these comments. This is how I've been feeling, but thought I was losing my mind – my husband is amazing – kind, generous, loving, patient. We are excellent friends and I do not find him sexually attractive. I don't want to kiss him or have sex with him. I thought that our friendship would be enough.I thought it was a libido issue, but I have had an affair and want to have sex with this man, so I think it truly is that I do not have those feelings for my husband. He found out about the affair and we are almost about to separate and then divorce. He wants to try and work it out, but I have been going back and forth not sure what to do. Am I crazy to throw away what is an excellent partnership for sexual reasons? I was really starting to think so, but having read these experiences and not feeling quite so alone. I think I am brave enough to pursue what I want and sex is important.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this. It gives me some hope.

    My husband and I met in high school, and have been together over 10 years, married for 5. I knew even before I agreed to date him that something wasn't right, but I ignored it because my prior relationships had been disasters, I was a mess, and he was a great friend. We had a fairly normal sex life for maybe a couple years. Now I think for the past seven or eight it's been less than twice a year or so. Since we married, maybe 3-4 times.

    He's a great guy. Works hard, has interesting hobbies, is fun to hang out with. We make great friends, roommates, and even life partners (not without issues of course, but what relationship is?), but there is just none of the romance. I know that initial love and infatuation fades, but I also know it's possible to keep wanting your partner, to love and respect them and not have to fight a reaction to pull back when they touch you. It's gone on for so long now that when he says he still loves me and wants all those things, I have a tough time believing him because I've neglected him so much.

    But I cannot seem to make myself feel those things for him. Fondness, oh yes. I love him. I want the best for him. That includes a chance for him to find a partner who loves and appreciates him the way he deserves, because it's looking more and more to me like I am just not that person, and we both deserve better.

    I asked for a separation, and he's been mostly good about it. The rest will have to wait until I find a way to move out, I think.

  14. It so relieving to see all of these posts. I have been feeling this same exact way and thought I was crazy. I have been married for 36 years. Have been unhappy the last 10 or so. I am not in any way attracted to my husband. Its been over a year since we had sex. He is a great person and has been a very good provider for our family. But at this point in my life I feel like I want to be completely happy for the remainder of my years on this earth. I am 57. I just dont know what to do. I have been talking to a guy I new as a teenager. I am very attracted to him. He keeps his distance because Im married and he has been on the other side of things. He was married for 21 years and his wife was cheating on him for 10 of those. I am so horribly confused by all of this.

  15. I respectfully disagree with all these comments. You put a man through unnecessary pain because you never found him attractive yet decided to marry him anyway, then divorced him for doing nothing wrong other than support you, be a good husband, help create your kids and take care of the family like a man should… and we're supposed to SUPPORT you and cheer you on? "I had the strength to leave…" leave what? A supportive man who loved and cared for you and even went along with how you wanted to handle the separation? No thank you. Plus, you make a glaring contradiction here: you want to find love, but know that passion and chemistry will fade (spoiler: it shouldn't), and that when it does you have to be willing to work with the other person to make it work… and yet, isn't that exactly what happened with you and your ex-husband? For shame.

    • Agreed. In the first article, she mentioned how great of a husband he was, they worked well together, same parenting style, etc. The glaring issue is SHE wasn't attracted to him. Couldn't stand his smell. Put a pillow between him and her, and so on….

      Then in this article she blames HIM for not changing! HIM! How is he supposed to change her being attracted to him? She has told herself that all this happened because HE didn't change! Good grief.

  16. I think you are definitely over simplifying it. People change so much, particularly women, who when they have small children crave security as they are biologically programmed to do. Once your children age, it’s common to go through a rebirth of sorts and re examine your own needs and desires since you can now focus on them. That’s not to say that spouses can’t grow and change together, and of course every situation is completely unique, but to assume that a woman who married a man she didn’t feel physically passionate about is a selfish person is reductive and overly simplistic.

  17. Everyone read this sentence….

    "I also realized that he was NEVER going to change, and NEVER going to work on the marriage."

    She went on and on about how great of a husband and father he is. But then it was still he who needed to change. Not her. He. It's now his fault in her eyes. From what you said in the first article, what more can he possibly be as a man?!

    Lady…

    For pete's sake. That paragraph was hard to read.

  18. Wonder what angry man forum this was linked to that caused this brigade?

    Imagine being so offended about a year+ old article that you need to come post and insult the original author and commenters, who you don't even know and who affect your life in no way whatsoever.

    You all need to grow up and go back to where you came from.

  19. Your problem was that you needed a bad boy, a drug addict, an alcoholic of sorts. That's natural.
    In the course of history the conquerors, the dudes who where the most 'irrational' were the best to have the power, Atila the Conqueror was a bad ass dude, full of violence but the most powerful.
    So having a brute at bed is most likely linking to have the power over yourself. That's why women like 'gangsta' and drug addicts, killers, etc, so much.

  20. Hey, friends. I'm Ariel, the publisher of Offbeat Home & Life. I'm not the author of this post, but this is my website.

    This post is old AF but got linked by both Reddit and a popular Youtuber. I can see that a lot of menfolks are coming into these comments with a lot of hurt and hostility.

    Look, guys: I fucking feel you. Five years ago, my husband of 18 years abruptly left me for someone else. I was destroyed — betrayed, angry AF, and sadder than I'd ever been in my entire life. As the breadwinner, I had supported my husband through thick and thin. I raged and wasn't sure I'd ever recover.

    This is to say, I super understand the hostility. And I also know how much hurt is behind the hostility.

    I learned firsthand that my rage and bitterness only fucked ME over. You could waste the rest of your life hating the people who've betrayed you, or you can funnel that energy (and oh, anger is VERY ENERGIZING!) into life-changing personal development work that will change the rest of your life.

    So yeah: be as angry as you need to for a while. Make generalizations! Rage about bitches! Feel the bitterness! Blame everyone!

    (That said, DO NOT leave shitty comments on my website. I pay the hosting fees around here, and I don't allow folks to use my platform to abuse people.)

    But know this: a brutal divorce is an amazing opportunity to dig into life-changing work that can shift the course of your life. You can stop picking partners who shit on you. You can stop feeling like everyone's out to get you. You can start feeling like you have agency in your life again.

    Step 1? Forget about your ex! (Seriously: Fuck them! They don't deserve your energy anymore!)
    Step 2: Focus on yourself.

    It's funny…. I wrote my book "Shitshow to Afterglow" thinking it would be mostly women reading it, but it turns out that it's a lot of dudes. I'm starting to think I should have called it "Shitshow to AfterBRO" because there are so many guys emailing me being like "holy shit, thank you for writing this."

    So, my fellow betrayed beloveds: forget your ex, get the book, change your life: https://amzn.to/2TzJQjy

Comments are closed.