230: She Wants Us To Try Counselling

I have never been in a situation of dating a partnered man who was running the risk of becoming single. I date these guys because it means I will never need to have those conversations.

I had a message from Leigh the other day to say there were rumblings in ‘domestic bliss’ as he calls it. It turns out his wife wants them to do counselling to get their ‘not normal’ relationship back on track or something to that effect. Leigh is very unsure about it.

Given they’ve been in this comfy sexless ‘let’s not really address this’ middle ground for over 20 years, I don’t quite know what she is hoping to achieve. But I don’t doubt that a year of pandemic lockdown triggered a realisation as to the lack of normality in their relationship (something which has never escaped him or I). She is clearly getting bored of it all.

Busy lives, work, social lives and kids are very good at masking problems in a marriage. If you don’t have time to catch your breath, it’s easy to ignore that niggling concern in the back of your mind, especially if everything else seems to tick along quite smoothly. If you’re in a relatively comfortable situation, you don’t want to rock the boat. But Leigh’s kids left home six years ago now (about the time he started finding his intimate connections elsewhere), and he feels safe with the way things are, and not having to deal with it. He doesn’t want to have to face splitting up, carving up his life and dealing with the fall-out, and as far as he is concerned there is no intimacy left between them. That is why he chose to go down the affair route. I don’t blame him. Really I don’t.

It is in my best interests to keep his mind open to this and keep them together. I have no interest in having this man to myself in any sense of the word (and that is very much regardless of Daniel’s appearance). If Leigh finds himself single or in more troubled water, I don’t want to be singled out as his go-to safety net, although I have no idea if that would be the case.

There is more to this of course. There are other people to protect. Children who will be vulnerable to the trauma, Leigh’s main reason for staying above all else. Everything would fall down like a pack of cards if his wife were to decide there was no option but for them to split up, but at least it would be a better ending than if she found out he was having affairs. There are no bad guys in amicable separations, and no sides for friends and family to take.

Now that ‘Mrs Leigh’ has suggested counselling, I suspect he is not going to be able to wriggle out of this. If he refuses she isn’t going to take that well, and if he goes, he’s going to be boxed into corners and have to agree or refuse to comply with whatever suggestions are made, or at least speak honestly as to what he feels for her and their relationship. Given that they have had discussions in the past and had agreed that ‘no sex is better than bad sex’ I am suspicious as to what she wants from this.

Either way, if Leigh doesn’t or can’t show willing, that is still likely to spell the end for them, and if he doesn’t want to strip back their relationship to what it was before the kids (given there doesn’t seem to be any sexual compatibility there), he’s going to have to fake it to make it, which is what he’s been doing all this time anyway and, in truth, it gets neither of them anywhere.

It was inevitable that at some point this was going to catch up with them. You can’t live like that, contentedly for all that time, and not have someone break eventually and face the reality that the relationship isn’t right. Leigh thinks that her enthusiasm for this new idea will fizzle and things will go back to the way they were. I don’t think that will happen long term. Women don’t forget. Once they get the bit between their teeth, they don’t let go. If she stops mentioning it, in six months time she’ll be asking again or she will have found someone else.

They aren’t old. They are both in their early fifties. That, in my opinion, is the best years of their lives wasted on a sexless agreement to simply get on with raising a family for the sake of other people, which is what this all boils down to. It’s a pitiful way to look back on your life. And there’s still time. Age is no barrier to a decent sex life and intimacy. But how do you change things when you have been so set in your ways? Perhaps not for him, since he’s been having affairs for seven years now, but presumably for her, assuming she hasn’t been up to the same tricks as him, or that this hasn’t been triggered by her meeting someone else. If he is being asked to reignite the spark in their relationship, this could end badly and if he isn’t, I’m not sure what her idea of a counselling is going to look like.

Things have a habit of working themselves out naturally – for me at least. Not long after our conversation, Leigh asked if we could take a break whilst he tried to work his way around this new landscape. He reminded me that if I met someone else, that was fine by him. He has not asked me to wait for him. I decided not to mention Daniel, which isn’t a given, yet.

Even so, Daniel is a distraction and so my happy compliance with Leigh’s request must have been a bit of a surprise, or at least a relief, to him, though I have never given him any hassle. I was secretly hoping that Leigh was going to take a step back at some point, Maybe I could feel it coming. It’s all less complicated this way. I am pleased that Leigh at least wants to try to work through this with his wife, though I don’t think he is doing it because he wants the same resolution as she does. He’s happy keeping his head well and truly below the parapet.

I don’t think it’s going to end well. But that is not my problem to negotiate.

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