Tell Me About It: We were pregnant (at 20) so got married and, in retrospect, it was way too early in the relationship
We were pregnant (at 20) so got married and, in retrospect, it was way too early in the relationship. The early years of our relationship were so busy and full of stress, with financial worries, struggling with housing and childcare responsibilities that we never really had a chance to be young with enough money to enjoy ourselves.
Now we are at retirement stages and to be honest I’m frightened of the prospect of spending all this free time with my husband as I’m not at all sure that he is someone I would choose if I had another chance.
Romance died almost as soon as the first pregnancy and we have been loyal to each other (we have two other children) but there is no sense of the two of us facing the world or any piece of longing or desire. I feel very lucky with my lot, I have great grown-up kids that I am proud of, I had a career that satisfied and enough of a pension to cushion the years ahead. But, I feel lonely and disappointed too and am wondering if there is anything more that can be created between us.
I find I keep going back to the idea that I missed out on having flings, of finding a passion that consumed or a soul mate that excited me. I know my husband is a good man, that he too must have his regrets and unfulfilled dreams, but we don’t talk about anything like that, and it would be a struggle to try. It weirdly feels like the first decision to get married, that we are now deciding if we can stay together on our own for the next couple of decades. That first decision was made in duress and I’m afraid that we will slip into continuing without any sense of actually choosing it.
If I bring this up, I could be offering him false hope but doing nothing feels numbing for me.
You are right that you are facing a pivotal point in your life and this time you are doing it with foresight and awareness, so not doing anything seems like an impossibility for you.
Discuss what you would like in your lives and whether you think there is a possibility for this to happen for you as a couple
You are also right that bringing up the subject of staying together or not will bring instability and anxiety into your relationship. However, all this is doing is highlighting what is already happening. It seems that a pattern of coping and managing settled into your relationship while you were both young and you never had a chance to build up a bank of intimacy and connection that might have been allowed to grow over the years and act as a buffer to life’s pressures.
You have the time and capacity to give this your full attention but fear gets in the way. Fear of the consequences of talking, that it might push you into a physical relationship that you might find distasteful or that you will feel responsible for the hurt and suffering of a good man. You are not in charge of your husband’s feelings, he is. Offering him the opportunity to express his feelings and desires is honouring his agency and allowing him to be in charge of his own destiny, though he might find this difficult.
A pattern has emerged over the years where you have submerged your needs so that the family could thrive but that end goal is no longer there and now the underlying truth must be faced and the implications worked through. This requires effort, vulnerability and some faith that you both can cope with these conversations, regardless of the outcome.
It starts with some honesty and openness from you. Can you ask for some quality uninterrupted time with your husband to have a serious conversation and say that you expect it to be difficult for you? Ask what it has been like for him to live without romance and what that has done to him and what effect he thinks it has had on you. Maybe discuss what you would like in your lives and whether you think there is a possibility for this to happen for you as a couple; discuss what you might both need in terms of trying to become more intimate if you are prepared to take on the hard task of changing habits and patterns.
There is no going back, as you are now fully aware of this pivotal moment so do not overthink it but start the conversation as soon as you can
Realistically, these conversations will take time, with hurt and blame impeding understanding so do not give up at the first hurdle. The conversations themselves are so intimate that they should give you some indication of the possibility of real connection. If, at the end of this time period, you feel there is no chance of igniting desire and intimacy, you will have to decide if you can live with companionship or if you need to fully break with your marriage and enter the world of dating.
The conversations you have had will serve you well in any future relationship as vulnerability is core to closeness and you will need to undo the long-standing pattern of emotional distance that you have perfected over the years.
There is no going back, as you are now fully aware of this pivotal moment so do not overthink it but start the conversation as soon as you can.