There is no intimacy in my marriage

I need to experience closeness and tenderness with a woman

PROBLEM: After serious soul-searching about whether or not I should come out about my situation, I’ve decided to ask for help. I married a woman who was way out of my league, after a long on-off courtship. I allowed my heart to rule my head, against all advice of family and close friends. The day I signed that register was the worst of my life.

I could have, because of the very limited physical side of the relationship, got an annulment, but “decency” prevented me. Children followed and put an end to that idea. They resulted from temperature methods, where I felt I was an artificial-insemination man.

Time has moved on. We’re in the throes of education and all it entails. Money is a major issue. I am trapped. I’m in the last quarter of life. I need to experience closeness and tenderness with a woman.

ADVICE: Your letter is very sad. It seems that, from the very beginning, your relationship was on tentative ground. To say that your wedding day was the worst day of your life is heartbreaking. You have strong principles, you are standing by your word, and you have continued to be a husband and father. That you are willing to sacrifice your own life for your family is admirable.

However, it also seems that over the years you have denied your own needs for intimacy and that you have not told your partner of your extreme unhappiness. You are both adults in this relationship and are both responsible for what the relationship becomes.

You say that you plan to continue with the situation because money is a major issue, and your children have education needs, but you must also consider what they are learning about what is normal in relationships.

The first three points in an article in Scientific American a few years ago, about the top 10 parenting competencies, are relevant to you: 1 is affection and love; 2 is the parents’ own stress management; and 3 is relationship skills between the parents.

This means that the most important thing for children is that their parents express affection, that they are happy in themselves and that they like and respect each other. None of these things seem to be happening in your family, so you may want to reconsider your sacrifice in the interests of your children. You are not happy or fulfilled, and neither do you feel that love is expressed to you by your partner in an emotional or physical way.

If your life continues in this way, you may be at risk of depression or taking action that you might later regret. When unhappy, many men turn towards outward action: for example, getting drunk, hitting a wall or having an affair. When discovered, they then have to face the consequences of their actions, while the original underlying unhappiness is not addressed.

If one of your children was in an unloving, cold, sexless relationship and they came to you for advice, what would you suggest? I’ve no doubt that you would want them to take action in order to lead a fulfilling and worthwhile life.

There is another issue: the woman you live with may also be silently suffering. Does she not deserve the opportunity for her views on your life together to be heard? Resolving the situation will require the two of you to face each other honestly and with courage, to achieve what is best for all of you.

You are so lacking in intimacy and care that you may be feeling very vulnerable, and you might find that you need help to address the issues in your relationship.

The first step is to tell one of the family members or friends who warned you against the relationship in the first place and who will be understanding. This might help you to come to a decision: do you want help to salvage the relationship or to end it?

The Irish Mediation Service is excellent and free. It offers advice in ending relationships, even where there are serious financial and childcare issues. Should you decide to end the relationship, you will then be free to seek a real and true love in your life.