Am I Wrong to Leave My Marriage If My Needs Are Not Getting Met?

Am I Wrong to Leave My Marriage If My Needs Are Not Getting Met?


I am having problems with my husband.

He is intelligent but not driven. He is outgoing but is rough around the edges in social settings. He rarely holds my hand, cuddles or kisses me beyond a peck hello or goodbye. We have sex less than 10 times a year, and that has been going on for 7-8 years despite my asking him how we could fix it. Recently I found out he has been taking care of his own needs with porn. If that were in addition to a great sex life I wouldn’t care. Instead it feels like it took away from our sex life.

Our conversations are superficial. We can take a five-hour road trip and barely talk in the car on the way there. He isn’t interested. When we go out to party he binge drinks, becoming another person who often flirts with other women or seems to not be present in his own body. I have begged on several occasions for this behavior to change and it never does.

On the flip side we share a common interest in my college football team, music, concerts, travel, food and more. We are true partners when it comes to taking care of the house and make all big decisions together. While our friendship is fabulous as far as going and doing our romantic life is obviously lacking. I know passion isn’t everything and it waxes and wanes throughout a marriage. But he has always lacked the ability to communicate and show affection. I guess when I married him at age 24 I didn’t realize how important a loving connection was to me. In fact our courtship was full of drama over these same issues.

We have tried counseling. He says he can change the binging, but so far hasn’t. He says he can’t change his communication style. I can’t speak my mind, share a personal frustration or cry about something and expect his support. He shuts down. There are past substance abuse issues that concern me, along with his continued looking at porn. We don’t have children. We are 38 and 40.

I’m so confused. I can’t imagine another 40 years without affection and communication. Am I expecting too much? –Annie

No, Annie, you’re not expecting too much.

You’re just illustrating Reason #587 as to why you shouldn’t get married when you’re 24 years old.

If you’re like 75% of people who marry before the age of 25, you’ll get divorced.

You’re marrying for love, but you don’t know anything about LIFE.

You may be lucky and get it right, but if you’re like 75% of people who marry before the age of 25, you won’t. And you’ll get divorced.

Which is what I recommend to you.

Now before anybody gets on my case because I’m advocating a rash measure to a total stranger who wrote me a 500-word email, I acknowledge that.

Join our conversation (72 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Agreed!!     What an intolerable marriage! Leave now, you are young enough to start over. 

    1. 1.1

      No wonder people divorce so much… one letter and the husband is prosecuted. What is so INTOLERABLE about this marriage. I hear no abuse, no serious addiction problem… 
      Not everything in the marriage is about her needs. How about his needs. I had the same feelings in my marriage for 10 years. I got a divorce because I also acted in a hurry. everyone told me to get a divorce. I deserved better, I could get a better man. Well probably I could. But what about this ‘good man’ who always respected me and made a commitment. When i told myself that marriage was not about ME only, a lot of things changed. And I have to say, I get a lot more of the things I want now in my marriage because I am not anxious about it. It takes 2 to tango.

      1. 1.1.1

        wow, you bring up a very important point so many ignore:  come in a relationship to give,  not to expect to just get, get get.  Give and a funny thing happens and that is the other person will start to feel the love and more motivated to reciprocate!
        that’s the kind of relationship that’s on fire!
        good for you for being aware and bring about change!

      2. 1.1.2

        I agree.  Beware advice like this.

  2. 2

    I was married at 21. When I divorced at 32, I thought to myself if nothing changes in the next 8 years, will I kick myself for staying? the answer was yes. I knew from the 10 years before that nothing would change. people don’t change unless they want to and they don’t change unless it is painfull for them to stay they way there are. The only change you can control is your own. I agree with Evan. It’s time to move on and find the love you want. 

    1. 2.1

      That’s an interesting way to look at it. Rather than looking back at what you’ve already invested and stand to lose by leaving, you’re looking at what you’d stand to lose if you stayed and nothing changed.

      How’d that decision work out for you in the end?

  3. 3

    I felt that pain for 20 years before I finally left and am now in my second year of rebuilding my life after years with a narcissist.  And if you’re not sure what a narcissist is, look it up and then re-read her letter.  It has little to do with arrogance and everything to do with lack of empathy.   Everyone deserves to be heard.  A patner should be interested in your life.  Your needs should be met and if you’ve spent all this time supressing your needs, your self esteem is flushed to the point where you begin to believe you don’t have any needs.  I lost myself in such a relationship.  Run…. don’t walk, and don’t look back. 

  4. 4

    Although I’m not into quickly suggesting a divorce, I have to agree with Evan in this particular situation. It’s a marriage that should not have started in the first place.
    There are way too many issues touching basic needs and basic relationship functioning, there has been multiple requests for change, there has been unsuccessful counseling, there has been years of patience,…
    To me, divorce is the last option. And it’s exactly where this couple seems to be. Despite all the challenges, it looks like the Letter Writer has really tried hard to make it work by using various apporaches and giving it time. Since there is no young children involved, I see no point in continuing to suffer at this point.
    Warning: one more emotionally unavailable man will soon be released in the dating pool!

  5. 5

    I just got out of a marriage of 20 years EXACTLY like this. Don’t waste anymore of your life. It won’t get any better. He’s already told you (as my ex did) he isn’t going to change, then he’s followed it up with years of unchanged behavior. It is a take it or leave proposition, and I would leave.

  6. 6

    I’m intrigued why some people in their 20s are so eager to get married. I’ve changed significantly even between ages 25-28! I have some old friends that married at ages 24 and 26 to pretty much their first bf – are you really so eager for a guys attention that you marry the first person who comes along before you do any personal development of your own? I certainly got a stronger sense of myself and men after spending years after college moving, dating, making friends, and trying new activities.  I’m not sure they’ll get divorced, but I picture some heavy questioning by the time they’re in their early 30s. 

    1. 6.1



      As someone who got married when I was 22 (and got divorced 5 years later), I can tell you it had nothing to do wanting a guy’s attention and marrying the first guy who came along. I was pretty and had had other boyfriends.


      For me, it had to do with coming from an extremely volatile, emotionally unstable childhood and family background, and then losing the one person who represented stability, my brother. I craved stability, security and unconditional love. I found a guy who represented all of that, and came from a close, stable, loving family who loved me too. In my grieving, emotionally wounded state, I thought how wonderful it would be to be a part of that and I thought marriage was the answer. I thought I would be able to create around myself the kind of family I had not had.


      As I healed and grew up, I saw that my ex-husband and I were not right for each other. But my point is, I have seen a lot of young people get married for this reason. Yes, of course it’s ideal to spend a few years dating different people and getting to know yourself and growing up as a person, and I absolutely see that now. But to a naive, emotionally damaged young person, sometimes marriage and kids seems like the answer to a lot of their problems. Of course it isn’t, and I tell people every chance I get that it’s rarely a good idea to get married young and how much value there is in waiting.

  7. 7

    BTDT, do it Annie, you will be glad you did. And, because you two have a good friendship, you’ll remain on civil, friendly terms. You both deserve a happier life, either on your own or with someone who is a better match. One thing in Annie’s letter that I find really scary is the mention of substance abuse, binge drinking, and the most scary of them all — her mention of her husband saying that he wants to cut down on drinking, but not being able to. Giant red flag.
    @ Jenna #6, as today’s commenter Chris would say, do not judge, lest you be judged 😉 We don’t know these two people’s situation as it was 15-20 years ago. In my case, it was a different time and a different country. We met in college, and then I graduated and had to move to another town for work. The way things worked where we lived back then, it was either make arrangements to get married, or never see each other again. This was before Internet, skype, cell phones, or email. We were in love and not ready to break up just because one of us was graduating college. Yes we were a horrible match as husband/wife (even though we did very well as boyfriend/girlfriend) and probably should’ve never gotten married, but, if I was in that situation again, I’m not sure if I would’ve had the willpower to do things differently. I don’t know why Annie got married at the same age I did, but I would never go as far as to imply that she did it out of desperation, because I don’t know any of the details and never will.

  8. 8
    Jackie H.

    Thank goodness you don’t have children…Keep it moving girl!

  9. 9

    Goldie #7
    Yes, the substance abuse and binge drinking jumped out at me too. The husband could be self-medicating if he’s depressed, and alcoholism often leads to a loss of libido. Annie cannot “fix” a man who doesn’t want to change.
    I wouldn’t be too hard on Jenna, though. After all, Annie writes, “But he has always lacked the ability to communicate and show affection. I guess when I married him at age 24 I didn’t realize how important a loving connection was to me. In fact our courtship was full of drama over these same issues.” Makes me wonder why she married him, as well.

  10. 10

    Spot on Evan.

  11. 11
    Jennifer Hammond

    Absolutely 100% agree!  This writer could have been me.  I got out, and have never been happier.

  12. 12

    He sounds exactly like my estranged, soon to be ex wife except her version of substance abuse was charity work; a way to escape from real responsibilities.  I endured it for our two children.  Decades without being in the same bedroom. let alone touching each other triggers more physical diseases than depression.  Actually, sex 10 times a year doesn’t sound too bad.  It’s realistic in the stress of ordinary life when one of you doesn’t want to cope.
    I disagree that 25 is too young to marry.  Further experience, other than marriage itself isn’t going to teach you much.  I am still in contact with many of my Primary School class from decades ago.  Bullying idiots at 9 years old are bullying idiots at 59 and the same applies to the decent people.  The blind remain the blind. “I was too young to marry” is the divorcing woman’s way of avoiding responsibility.

  13. 13

    To Jenna #6 and others who wonder why these young people marry so young:
    Go visit and read the main bloggers’ posts or some entries on the “waiting” board. The website (while somewhat useful when planning a wedding) is full of 20-something women either desperate for marriage (“waiting”) OR in the process of getting (often lavishly) married to their first significant other. In recent blog entries they actually relate their frustration at hearing comments along the lines of “Oh honey, you are too young to get married”, explaining that “they’re just lucky to have found The One early in life”, that they are mature, wise, take marriage seriously, etc.
    They do not understand that it’s actually very common to be in a long relationship in late teens/early twenties (and therefore possibly believe that you have found “The One”). It does not mean that it should lead to marriage. The wise ones grow up while in those relationships, but let them run their course, and marry someone AFTER they have finished growing up and discovered who they truly are. These young women do not know how much change lies ahead and how unlikely they will remain compatible to their spouse through all these changes.You do not know what you do not know, right?
    75% of those who actually marry that first significant partner in their early- or mid- twenties do end up divorcing them in their thirties, claiming that “they grew apart” (or because of any other issue that a twenty-something is unable to diagnose), despite all former vows of “understanding what marriage entails” and a stubborn confidence in the resilience of their commitment.
    To their defense, what’s the alternative? You have been in a 5+ year happy relationship and you receive a proposal at 22. Must be hard to say “Let’s wait six more years”. For some, a marriage in their early twenties and a divorce in their late twenties/early thirties are unfortunately what’s going to be needed to drive the point home.

  14. 14

    Fusee #13
    “To their defense, what’s the alternative? You have been in a 5+ year happy relationship and you receive a proposal at 22. Must be hard to say “Let’s wait six more years”.”
    That might make more sense if the relationship is happy, but in the OP’s case, it doesn’t sound like it was such a good relationship even in the dating phase. I’ve long felt that some marriages are more about conformity (at least for one of the spouses) than they are commitment, though, and I guess this proves the point.

  15. 15

    No argument here, Evan. Get out of there! Take it from someone who stuck it out with the carbon copy of  Mr. “that’s just my communication style.” Believe him, because he’s telling you the truth, but he’s also admitting that he doesn’t plan to change…..he’s an as-is dude. Whether he’s capable of change is irrelevant, because he won’t.  7-8 yrs of this communication style is way more than enough to prove that point.  You are not asking too much. If you can’t turn to your husband in times of need for support and affection, what’s the point of being a couple? There is none.  ou are ripping yourself off and meanwhile, your life is still happening. It’s not waiting for you. I’m totally non-objective here, but I believe being around that kind of lackluster, dispassionate, we’re-together-due-to-nothing-but-sheer-momentum is downright soul-depleting. This is not the normal fading of fireworks, the settled-in, comfortable relationship you’re talking about.  You’ve made your point, and he’s made his choice to keep the status quo.  Go get your more.
    As for why do people under 25 marry?  Same reason everyone else does, except at that age you don’t yet have the capacity for a more wide-angle assessment.   And don’t forget the crazy-in-love component that convinces people it means they were “meant to be.”  Only not. My personal recommendation on marriage is even more severe — I believe no one is ready for marriage until at least age 30, and then see how things are going after 4-5 yrs before making the huge leap into childbearing.  And I do mean huge.

  16. 16

    @Jenna #6
    I don’t think people marry early out of desperation. Is it immaturity?  Maybe. A desire for a nice, shiny ring or a big, fairytale wedding? Maybe.  Not desperation, though. When you’re 24, you think you own the world, that nothing bad can happen to you and that your options are endless. I can also think of plenty of reasons why someone would get married early.  I’ve read the statistics and I don’t necessarily encourage early marriage but I know that it can work if you have the right mindset.  You never really stop changing.  You probably change more in your 20s than you do later in life but there’s no real end.  One of my close friends began dating her husband when they were both 15. They were little more than children and more attracted to the idea of love than they were to each other. They admit it freely today. Nevertheless, they managed to stay together for 10 years through a heck of a lot: parental resistance, a couple of years spent away from each other for university, the death of a parent and other challenges.  They finally tied the knot and 25 and just had their first child (at 30). My friend is obviously the exception but my point is that it really depends on the kind of person you are, how well you know yourself and how much work you put into the relationship. You can be 24, 28, 32 or 40 but if you you aren’t willing to compromise heavily, you are in trouble.  My friend was lucky enough to grow with her husband. They developed likes, dislikes and interests together.  They have had years together to figure out who they are, to enjoy each other, to travel and to do things that people in love do: 10 years before marriage and 5 years after.  Of course, there was always the possibility that at so young an age they would grow in completely opposite directions but like anything else, that’s a risk.
    On the other hand, my husband and I would probably not have liked each other very much had we met in our early 20s.  We were very different people then and wouldn’t have taken a chance on each other.  And yet, here we are!  I do sometimes wish we had met and married earlier.  I’m 31 this year and if we decide to have children (we will very possibly not), we don’t have a huge window.  I would prefer to be done childbearing by the time I’m 35 for various reasons but I don’t feel that I’ve had enough time with him to build our lives.  I guess everything in life is a tradeoff.
    In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that early marriage is the way to go; most people are not mature enough. What I am saying is that there are advantages and dismissing it outright is short sighted.  Any marriage requires a lot of commitment.  One could argue that the older you are, the better equipped you will be to handle the responsibility.

  17. 17

    I was married at 22; divorced 12 years later with 3 kids. It was a very painful experience. Being a born-again type, it’s hard to give a nod of approval (not that my *approval* matters); that having been said, I have compassion for the OP as I was in the same sort of marriage. My ex had anger issues and was verbally abusive to me and our children. Getting out became a matter of self-preservation. I never entered the marriage thinking I’d just get out if I didn’t like it. I truly believed I spoke my vows until death do us part. However, we don’t often know who we are at 22 let alone who our spouse is. I can’t pass judgement on the OP for wanting to get out. A bad marriage is a very lonely place to be.

  18. 18

    I have known several women who could have written a letter very similar to the OP.  None of them changed their husbands no matter how long they tried to make it work.  All of them found a better life after letting go of an unworkable marriage.
    @ Fusee #13
    Well said!!!
    Hind sight may be said to be 20/20 but it is the experience that gives us that clearer vision.  Wisdom often comes at a price.

  19. 19

    People do buck the trend,they successfully marry young, remarry,with children from previous relationships, across religions and races, and age gaps. But the basic principle still stands – it has to be a solid relationship. Affectionate, intimate, with respect, care, kindness. It seems so achievable, it’s not magic, I wonder why we miss the mark so often. 
    He’s the person he was when you married him and he won’t change. My father is  basically a good person but he isn’t affectionate or warm. He’s in his eighties and only recently started warming up to his own children!  It is very very hard for these people to change.
    Ironically, the only thing that might prompt him to change is if you left him and he had a crisis.  And even then I reckon it would take years rather than months, and he might not.  While you’re still around, he’s got no incentive.
    I’m not a particularly liberally minded person, by the way, I’m a christian but even the bible says that although divorce is not part of the divine plan, it was permitted because the people’s hearts were hard.  That’s what you’ve got, a hard-hearted husband. To be vulnerable and to bare your heart to another person takes so much courage, some of us just can’t do it.
    There’s more to a marriage than not getting divorced  Gritting your teeth for the next forty years doesn’t honour anyone, and not the institution of marriage either.

  20. 20

    I guess everything in life is a tradeoff. Yes If a woman waits too long chances of pregnancy are lower and birth defects higher. I believe people 25 and about were considered geriatric if first time mums.

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