Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I've been with my husband for 16 years, married 10. We were friends at first, and it grew into a mutual love. Generally, we're great.
The not-so-great part is he stopped wanting sex, and it has been a source of contention for a few years now. Even with all the friendship and ability to talk issues out, this is one thing he just hasn't improved on. No doctor visits for it, no therapy, nothing.
We were going to try for kids. What can I do? If I stay, I'm probably sexless and childless, but if I leave, there's no guarantee I find the friendship and companion I have now. I feel betrayed by him and have laid this out for a therapist, but other than stay or go, I can't seem to make a decision.
Answer: No, leaving won't guarantee you'll find someone else, but there is a guarantee (reasonably speaking) that staying will cement you in this unsatisfying place.
And this is neither a guarantee nor a reason in itself to leave, but if you do meet someone with whom you have chemistry a year or 10 from now? Boom.
Meanwhile, if you're not angry yet at his unwillingness even to try to meet your needs, you may be soon, and the "friendship and companion" rock of your marriage will have a tough time holding up under the drip-drip-drip of resentment.
The barrier to leaving, I believe, is highest when you like the person you're with but don't like what the two of you create when you're together. In that case, you don't want to hurt the person, you don't necessarily even want to leave the person - and leaving anyone feels like this huge scary terrible thing - so you tell yourself over and over again that you can change the circumstances of your lives together. Right?
Eventually, though, time tells you whether something actually can or will change, and in this case, time seems to have spoken. Your decision feels like known vs. unknown, but, in most cases, the known is all you need.
Comment: My ex-husband and I found ourselves in our own version of this place, both growing resentful about the ways we didn't meet each other's needs.
We could have allowed that resentment to grow until we got divorced in a cloud of acrimony. Instead, we got divorced while it was still basically good.
Getting divorced was the best thing for our relationship. We're the best of friends. But we don't expect the same things that married couples expect from each other, so we're free to enjoy each other.
I've met a wonderful man with whom I'm much more compatible. He knew from the beginning that my relationship with my ex was important to me, and he's fine with that.
Comment: It isn't good. He is making no effort to improve the relationship. Staying tells him the status quo is OK. If you leave, that might show him what he stands to lose.
Reply: Right - but don't leave to wake someone up, leave because you want to leave. If it does wake someone up, that's a bonus (but not an obligation).
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.