Divorce, Depression, and The End of Family Travel
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything personal in this space. Truth be told, I try to keep it strictly a travel blog because who the hell wants to know about the person behind the computer? “Just tell me how to plan my trip to Ireland, thankyouverymuch.” But writing, whether it’s about travel or about my own life, is an outlet that I enjoy very much and it often helps to get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper. Or on a screen, in this case. So if you’re looking for a travel-related post then today is not your day. Please click away and wait for the next post because I’m about to get REAL personal and REAL heavy.
Anyone still with me? Well, here goes.
About 4 months ago I made the very agonizing decision to end my marriage of 12 years with Brandon. The reasons behind it were so very personal that only a few people knew why. Everyone else was just left to guess what went wrong. It’s an incredibly lonely experience to have to bottle one’s feelings up, an experience that I have had to endure for so many years. Which is why I’m turning to this space, my blog, to share with the world all the thoughts and feelings that I’ve been too embarrassed and afraid to share over the last year.
You see, the reason Brandon and I are getting divorced is because he stopped having sex with me. I don’t remember exactly the last time we had sex but it’s been over 5 years.
I’ll give that a minute to sink in.
When I first started getting turned down for sex my thoughts went to all the normal places: he’s cheating on me, he doesn’t find me attractive anymore, there’s something wrong with him hormonally, he’s….gay? I mean, what man doesn’t want sex with a willing participant?! I nagged this poor guy for 2 years about all of those things, taking my insecurity and paranoia out on him until he couldn’t take it anymore.
It was during one of these nagging rants that he finally told me the truth. He was asexual. “Non-sexual” was the term he actually used, he didn’t like the term “asexual” for some reason. What he meant was that he was no longer interested in sex. At all. With anyone. Not just sex, but intimacy as a whole. He simply didn’t feel the need for it and was perfectly happy living the rest of his life without it.
This news hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I couldn’t live the rest of my life without affection or intimacy but this man was my partner, my husband of 9 years (at the time). We had a child together and everything about our marriage was okay except for this one thing. A small, insignificant thing to him but an important thing to me. No, our marriage wasn’t perfect and his affection towards me was never the level I wanted it to be. It was always just enough. And because marriage is about compromise I dialed down my expectations and accepted the limited amount of affection he was able to give. Now I would be losing it all.
For the next 3 years I tried like hell to make our new situation work. I stopped nagging Brandon and accepted this new sexuality of his. It wasn’t his fault he didn’t want sex and I knew it wouldn’t be fair to ask him for something he didn’t have the capacity to give. I stopped beating myself up once I realized that this whole situation wasn’t because of me and began to quiet the voices in my head that had convinced me I was unattractive and unworthy. But I still had this void in my heart that I needed to fill.
So I did some solo travel to Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp, endeavors that Brandon fully supported, in an effort to fill this void. I wrote, I volunteered, I made new friends, I poured my heart and soul into the Curvy Kili Crew. But nothing seemed to work. I still missed and desperately craved intimacy. Eventually Brandon gave me a “hall pass” so I could get my physical needs met outside the marriage but I couldn’t wrap my head around that, even though I know many healthy open marriages exist. It just wasn’t for me.
Last summer my loneliness and depression hit an all-time high. I knew what I needed to do but folks, mom guilt is REAL. The thought of breaking up my family over some selfish physical needs was gut wrenching. My bipolar disorder only made the situation worse as I would get lost in my head for hours on end, imagining all the worst possible things about myself and reactions that people would have about this divorce. My thoughts mostly centered on Stink and how her world would be turned upside, all over a problem that was too complex for her to understand.
Eventually I dragged myself out of my depression and told Brandon about my decision to leave. He wholeheartedly accepted it; I think he knew that it would eventually come to this. We decided to wait a while before I moved out so I could get a job, save up some money and ease Stink into this as gently as possible. I moved into the guest room and we began taking turns parenting Stink solo.
I thought this process would be easy, at least easier than most divorce stories I hear about. Brandon and I still get along relatively well, my announcement didn’t exactly come as a surprise. And once I made the decision to leave I felt free enough to start meeting new people in the hopes of finding the intimacy that I had been craving for so long. And, let’s face it, the thought of going another full year without sex was just utterly depressing.
Unfortunately I would find out all too soon that this process would not be easy for me. A few weeks after we officially decided to split, around the same time I was getting out and meeting people, Brandon came to me with some news that would crush me. He was seeing a woman from work. He wasn’t so “non-sexual” after all, at least not when it came to other women. So the problem really was just me.
To say I handled that news poorly would be a gross understatement.
My close friends kept me from rolling off the deep end as my bipolar swung me into full depression. I felt betrayed, embarrassed, unattractive and incredibly confused. It took me weeks to pull myself back together, only to be dealt another blow. He had also had a divorce talk with Stink…without me. Again, I was back into my rabbit hole of depression for another few weeks, one that I’ve only recently managed to crawl out of.
I’m in a better place now and I hope that I will be for a while. I feel more optimistic than I have in months, my job hunt is looking promising, and I have confidence that I can make it on my own. But divorce sucks in general and it’s emotionally draining, especially for someone like me. This next year will be difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult years I’ll ever have. I know I’ll get through it, but it won’t be easy. Just worth it.
For whoever needs to hear it, whether you’re in a similar situation or not, you are worthy of love and affection. Don’t EVER let anyone convince you otherwise, yourself included.