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The Love Blog
Dear Stella: Can a marriage be sustained without healthy intimacy?
My husband (of 4 years) and I have been having marital problems. For about a year, my husband's affection towards me gradually waned until about the only time I received any was when he wanted sex.
Last spring we took a trip to Italy that was supposed to be the honeymoon we never got to take, in the hopes of reconnecting with each other. Unfortunately, we ended up fighting more than we sparked any romance. About a week after we returned from the trip, I left for a 6-wk Officer Basic Course in the Army. A week after I left he met another woman at a friend's wedding that he became infatuated with, and two weeks after that he called to tell me he didn't love me anymore.
He wouldn't talk to me about it until I got home, so I spent the last half of OBC preparing myself to come home to a broken marriage and find a way to move on. When I got home, he decided his words and actions were in a moment of loneliness and that he did still love me. He asked me to forgive him for what he said, and even harder, to forget about his behavior for the past year. He promised he would change and would never make the same mistake again.
We have been in counseling for several months and my husband has made many of the changes he had promised. There were many times one of us was ready to split for good, but it looks like we may have finally reached a place where we can move on and rebuild our marriage.
Our reconciliation is so fragile right now that I am not able to talk to him about my problem. Is this something that can return as our relationship heals? Should I force myself to show affection I don't feel with the hope it will help the feelings return? Can a marriage be sustained without healthy intimacy?
Can a marriage be sustained without healthy intimacy? The answer is yes, but you wouldn't want to be in it!
My first inclination, Blue, was to tell you to run, don't walk, out of this miserable marriage! Life is too short to spend it with a man who you can't even stand to touch you!
But then, I gave it some more thought. This is a marriage you are trying to save. Who's to say that you two can't get back enough love and affection to make your partnership viable again? Yours is a situation that deserves some thoughtful, serious advice.
This is going to take some hard work and patience on both your parts. It would be easier to just call it quits, and opt for divorce. Couples jump at that solution a little too freely today. In our parents day, marriage was considered more permanent of an institution. Sometimes, even to the extreme. Stay together no matter what, because marriage was supposed to be forever!
I advocate a compromise between these two extremes. It is too early for you to throw in the towel, Blue. You must give this relationship every possible chance to re-bloom; give it your best shot, so that you will not regret the ultimate decision must you make. Then you will know in your heart that you explored all options, gave this a fighting chance and then made an "informed decision".
Hopefully, you guys are working with a skilled marriage counselor, who can provide guidance to help steer you two back together. I know you are supremely hurt by your husband's betrayal, so much so that he may have just stomped out every bit of love you had for him. And honestly, things don't look very promising from here. You are actually saying that intimacy with this man is repulsive to you! It would be a very long and difficult process to recover from such a sad situation back to the state of "healthy intimacy" you mentioned in your letter.
You stated "our reconciliation is so fragile now that I am not able to talk to him about my problem". My advice to you? Don't reveal this to him. There is nothing he can do to fix it, and you have nothing to gain by telling him how you feel right now. He is not likely to understand or ever forgive you if you confess that you can hardly stand to touch him!
Give the counseling your all. Try to listen to your husband, to understand, and try your best to forgive him. Forgiveness is the only possible chance for this to work. Give the whole process more time to play out.
You will eventually come to a point where you will know what to do. Either honest affection and intimacy takes hold and grows, or you will become more and more miserable. You'll reach a point where you will clearly see how you want to spend the rest of your life, and you will take that path.
Brighter days lie ahead for you, Blue, I am sure of it. I was in exactly the same situation you are in right now. I am glad I took the time to make sure before I took my path.
Just another small bit of advice... you never said if you had children. DO NOT GET PREGNANT. It will not heal your marriage, but instead will make things infinitely more complicated and difficult.
Good luck to you!