'Our hot and cold marriage is making us both unhappy – how can I end it?'

'Our hot and cold marriage is making us both unhappy – how can I end it?'

‘My husband has a pattern of behaviour that’s exhausting.

He turns silent, closes himself off, starts drinking and is rude to me.

Then he switches to being loving and helpful for a few days, which is when we have sex. Then he goes back to silence and the pattern repeats.

‘We have children and bought a house recently so I can’t see how to get out.

‘Whenever I talk about separating he agrees and admits he’s not happy, yet he stays.

‘How can I end this suffering?’

Pulling a relationship back from the level of dissatisfaction yours has reached won’t be easy.

‘Only when you have sex with your husband does he feel good enough to treat you well and this is not sustainable,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin.

But nothing will change without change.

‘If he won’t or can’t change, then you will have to,’ says James McConnachie. ‘He isn’t nice to you for long periods. That’s not OK. I wonder if he knows that or if he’s in denial. I wonder about his drinking too.’

But you might want to understand what has triggered this pattern.

‘It could be an event, it could be that your husband is depressed,’ says Rudkin. If you can identify the trigger, a solution becomes more obvious but you’re lacking the energy to find it.

‘It’s clear you’re unhappy and I can only imagine that this situation is having a catastrophic effect on your children,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘Yet you seem unable to take action. Have you always felt that you have to overlook your own needs in favour of others?’

We get very little sense of where you stand in all of this, apart from feeling desperate.

‘There’s hope, though,’ says McConnachie. ‘You both agree that you’re not happy – and I mean you plural. So there’s common ground and that’s the best place to begin.’

You could consider couples therapy but if things have gone too far for any hope of reconciliation your next step should be talking to a lawyer about initiating divorce proceedings, which should be as civilised as possible for the sake of your children.

‘If you decide to separate, there’s information on how to divide assets –
such as property – and for agreeing on contact arrangements for the children,’ says Rudkin.

Your initial challenge is likely to be inertia so whatever you decide, seek support.

‘Imagine your relationship is like a train,’ says McConnachie. ‘You have to shift all that weight on to a new track so you’ll need a crane, such as a relationship therapist, who can help you find your own separate track.’

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

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