Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | November 8, 2009

The Beginning of the End is Still a Beginning… Right?

Two weeks ago — Sunday night, October 25th — my wife and I finally had a talk about our financial situation. The business we’ve been working on for years has been battered by the sustained downturn in the economy, my side-income as a consultant has dwindled, and we are no longer able to pay our bills. My wife has been working on our business, but is otherwise not bringing any income into the household (and hasn’t for years — by her choice, and much to my chagrin). The situation has been bad for most of this year, but my wife and I have gotten very good at postponing talking about difficult things.

And as you might imagine from that last little piece of information, there have been other problems in our marriage itself that go well beyond our current financial crisis. In particular, there’s the fact that she doesn’t love me — at least, not in any sense beyond the Platonic meaning of the word. She and I have long been the World’s Most Compatible Roommates, but it has taken me years to come to terms with the fact that our marriage is a business relationship and little more.

Penny* and I had always wanted kids, and we both share a great deal of the all-important Common Ground, but sadly, that’s not enough to make a marriage work. I must say this: I did love her. Truly. Madly. Passionately. Our relationship started as a long-distance gig that imploded when we finally lived in the same city. When we patched things up, I made promises about the future. I meant them. And I kept them. But I kept them even as it was becoming clear, way back then, that our commitment to each other was a bit one-sided. I believe she settled for me. She had to choose between two suitors, and I was, I suspect, the ‘safe’ choice.

Given the nature of our break-up and reconciliation all those years ago, my confidantes expressed doubts about Penny’s and my impending marriage. While I acknowledged their concerns, it also seemed to me at the time that, well, nobody ever made any money betting against me. It has taken me all this time to realize that they weren’t betting against me; they were betting against us. Actually, they were betting against her. And as much as I loved her (still love her, actually), it pains me to admit that I knew then just as I know now that, yes, they were right.

Penny and I married ten years ago this past August. We have three beautiful, intelligent, healthy children. We share a decent house built to our specs, that we designed with the notion of raising our planned four children in. Our financial situation right now is a mess, but I think it could be salvageable. It is salvageable.

But, as I said, we are little more than roommates. I could count on one hand the number of times we’ve had sex since (and including) our middle child was conceived over five years ago. By the current clinical definition of ‘sexless marriage’ (sex occurring no more frequently than ten times in a given calendar year), we’ve had a sexless marriage right from the start. I had long thought that, well, there’s more to life than sex. Right? It’s such a small part of the whole… marriage ‘package’, I guess, right? Just one aspect of a great big myriad. I’m certainly not so shallow as to base my satisfaction with my marriage just on that… am I?

I’m sorry… was that the sound of you smacking your forehead?

More on that subject later.

The point is: I’ve surprised myself by discovering that I do, in fact, need a healthy, adult sexual relationship with my partner. I also (oh yes, this is weird) need the occasional kiss. Hugs. To occasionally hold hands. To say, and hear back, “I love you.”

Ten years of rejection can wear you down. It erodes self-confidence in ways I never would have imagined. Somewhere during Penny’s most recent pregnancy (going on two years ago), I think the person I used to be finally just gave up and died, taking with him any ambition, hope, sense of humor, sense of pride, sense of self-worth, or even sense of self that I used to have. Just died. Cause of death? Asphyxiation.

Even so, I’ve feared the notion of divorce. I’ve dreaded it. What about the kids? What if I just end up living alone, a hollowed out shell? At least if we stay married, I’ll have someone to talk to, right? Never mind that in my marriage (to an introvert, by the way — more on that later, too), I’ve become increasingly isolated from other people. From my network of friends and colleagues.

Over a year ago, I told Penny that I was going to see a couples counselor because I was unhappy in our marriage, but that I wanted to save it. She agreed to go with me. She helped pick the therapist. It didn’t work out all that well. Nor did the therapist after that.

But, during those sessions, the dreaded “D” word was let out of the proverbial Genie’s bottle, and after it was out, the unthinkable eventually became… thinkable.

So, two weeks ago, as Penny and I finally discussed our options regarding resetting our financial situation, I reluctantly brought up the fact that if our marriage was not going to become more than a business relationship, then it’s time to consider resetting that, as well. For the second time ever (the first being during a couples counseling session over a year ago), we talked about what a divorce would look like.

She had no qualms about it at all.

(I get the sense she’s been secretly wanting a divorce for years.)

I still have qualms about it. I still feel like divorce equals failure, that our children are going to be hurt, that I may lose some of my ‘fatherness’ with the children I love so much, that I will end up just a lonely, bitter old bastard when all is said and done.

But I’m increasingly aware that, no, that’s what I sign up for if I stay in a soul-sucking marriage that has no hope for improvement. Penny — so far, at least — seems to be willing to work out the terms of our divorce as amicably as one could hope. We both sincerely want what is best for the kids and, quite frankly, we don’t have enough financial assets worth fighting over at this point.

There have been a number of mixed signals these past two weeks regarding whether Penny is serious about us divorcing. But as much as I’ve been resisting the notion of divorce, I realize that I’ve already been grieving the loss of our marriage for years. It’s time to move past the grief. “The only way out is through,” and all that.

This isn’t quite the end, but we’ve passed the point of no return. It is, at the very least, the beginning of the end. My mood swings over the past two weeks notwithstanding, I’m ready to move on. I’m cautiously optimistic that this is, in fact, the beginning of a new beginning.

* No, Penny is not her real name. But, for the sake of making the situation clear, I need to call her something, and Penny suits her.



  1. Wow. At least I can take some comfort in knowing that there’s another person out there with the same concerns and struggles I’m having. It’s funny; just knowing that one little fact makes it easier to move forward.

    Keep putting one foot forward, and taking care of one little thing at a time. You (I) will survive this.

  2. Wow. I know I’m starting at the beginning here but I swear Bill could have wrote that post when him and I were together about his wife. Same for me. Very well written.

  3. […] week after our first Talk About Divorce, Penny greeted me in the morning with an announcement that she had been crunching some numbers […]

  4. I ended a 7 year relationship when I was 27. Yes, I was still young, no we weren’t married and we didn’t have kids. Hell, we didn’t even own property. But it was time, it was for the best, it has taken long to get over it but I’m happier now than I ever imagined was possible. You can be happy too. You’ll get there too, but not if you don’t start down that long, and very lonely, road.

  5. As much as this might pain you, it sounds to me like you were intended only to be the father of her children. Now that you have completed that task, what point is there for her to remain married to you?

    You may still love her, but you have needs that aren’t being met. As long as you can come to an agreement regarding joint custody of your kids, you aren’t going to lose your family. You can and should gain your life back. You will be a better parent to your kids if you do!

  6. i wanted to start from the beginning too.

  7. […] you can see if you start reading this blog from the beginning – which was just a few months ago! — I had long dreaded, dreaded, dreaded the notion […]

  8. Wow, I hadn’t read this post before (I must have jumped into reading soon thereafter) – I think this date – only in 2008 – was probably just a couple days or so shy of when Pete and I had “the talk” that was the beginning of the end of my marriage. How strange, to be so closely aligned like that. Or, another thing we have in common on our journeys? 😉

  9. Wow, look how far you’ve come since then! Can you believe it? Looks like you made it out the other side.

    Congratulations. 🙂

    (I’m also amazed that the people commenting when you started this blog are the same ones commenting now! That gives me hope, that we’ll all still be in each other’s blog lives – or real lives- for a long time!)

  10. […] I started this blog, with an entry entitled The Beginning of the End is Still a Beginning… Right?, I was struggling to come to terms with the increasingly inevitable end of my marriage. By getting […]

  11. Hi there Seattle,
    I really can sympathise with your situation and I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. I’ve decided to leave my sexless marriage of almost 13 years at the end of this year. Its good to know that my situation is not unique and there are others out there also coping with similar situations. I too have turned to the internet (and my own online journal aka blog) for support and to also tell my story. Its sad but also rather reassuring to know that people’s stories are often remarkably similar…

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