Mature couple’s marriage lost its spark years ago

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to a man I’ll call “Ed” for 15 years. We are seniors, but he is 17 years older than I am. I have three children from a previous marriage who are grown and on their own. I think my husband is gay but never came out of the closet. He watches gay porn and once confessed to me he had a fantasy about another man. For the last 10 years, he has refused to have sex and is always making excuses (“I’m old,” “I’m tired,” “Tomorrow”).
Abby, I crave love and intimacy. Ed is cold, distant and a loner. He refuses to travel or do anything for fun. He’s well-off financially, never had kids and is a good provider. However, that is all he does. I want to leave him, but I feel guilty because of his age and because he has been a responsible provider over the years. I love him as a person, but not as a husband. Please advise. – DEPRESSED AND STUCK IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR D & S: There is more to marriage than sex. There is supposed to be communication, affection, mutual respect, understanding and compassion for each other. From what you have written, you have none of those.
Address this with Ed before you freeze to death. Ask him if marriage counseling would help him to better understand your needs. If he refuses, and all you get out of this marriage is access to his money, make an appointment with an attorney to discuss what your rights may be in the “equitable distribution” state of Pennsylvania after a 15-year marriage. After that, you will have a better idea of what to do.
DEAR ABBY: When I was in middle school, my mother made many poor decisions that culminated in her incarceration and a rather unpleasant boyfriend. Now that I have kids of my own, I feel I have more perspective on my mother’s choices – and it’s not a flattering picture.
After she was released, she still didn’t show up for any significant milestones in my or my siblings’ lives. Hearing about the poor decisions she continues to make gets me so upset that a phone call leaves me reeling for a couple days, if not weeks. I have reached the point where I can no longer maintain a relationship with her, so I have gone radio silent.
She has been reaching out for months, apologizing to me and begging for contact. When I get those messages, my heart drops. I know how painful it is when someone walks away, especially a family member. But I can’t listen to her anymore. How can I express this to her? I want to handle this with grace, but I just want to cry. – SILENT DAUGHTER IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR DAUGHTER: The “graceful” (and kinder) way to deal with your mother would be to end the radio silence and tell her the truth. Explain that she has missed all the significant milestones in your life, and you are unable to deal with the mess she has made of hers. This is why you prefer she no longer call or try to make contact. You can’t fix her, and she can’t change the past. Your mental health is important, and it is all right to move on.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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