“My Wife No Longer Wants Monogamy Or Kids”

I’m 34, my wife is 33. We’ve been together for four years and have been going through a really tricky patch starting nine months ago when my wife changed her mind about wanting children, and she also decided she no longer wanted to have a monogamous relationship. I’m not comfortable with either of those things – it seems as if our marriage might be ending.

It started while I was in recovery from a chronic illness that I had been sick with for almost a year. I know the period of my being sick was very hard for her; I didn’t have a lot of time or energy for her, and I was emotionally and physically distant while I focused on getting better. Now that I am in recovery, the last six months I’ve felt the best I’ve ever been, and I’ve been much more present, giving, and loving. It seems, though, that I am too late, and she has now disconnected from me.

Her wanting to be non-monogamous is really difficult. She’s said some pretty hurtful things – such as telling tell me she couldn’t say she wouldn’t have sex with anyone else, including our friends – which she’s since apologized for coming out the way it did, albeit many months later, and has said she hasn’t acted on these threats. It’s not just the statements that are hurtful – these same friends were once mutual friends, though over the year she has been excluding me from events with them and downplaying flirtatious behavior from one of them. She’s also started spending many weekends each month going away on surfing trips with a group. Since we both work long hours during the week, we don’t have a lot of quality time together. My trust for her has been really shaken, and it’s hard to build it back.

Changing her mind on children is really difficult. We planned our life and our family together for those first few years. This included planning our parenting styles, child care arrangements, and names and making sure our dog would be the right age to have a newborn around. She has also said hurtful things about this: That it was all a fantasy, and she as just “trying it out.” Again, she’s come back and apologized for saying this. I really miss her being more marriage- and family-focused; these are fundamental values to me. At 34, I also need to make some tough decisions around my desire and plans to have a child (I’m also a woman).

We’re on a waiting list for marriage counseling through my workplace, which will hopefully provide some support. I feel like I’m still in love with someone who has changed, and I’m hanging around hoping that it’s just a temporary change (although she now says that it’s not and that I should accept this). It’s so very difficult to accept that the person you fell in love with is no longer there. Should I let go? — Shaken Trust

It doesn’t sound good. Your wife emotionally abandoned you at a time when you needed her most (the “sickness” part of “in sickness and in health”), has said hurtful things, and has said that she’s changed her mind on fundamental values and lifestyles that a married couple must be onboard with and that these changes are permanent. You say you’re on a waiting list for marriage counseling through your workplace: Whose idea was this? Is your wife even interested in trying to save this marriage? When you two talk about fixing your issues, what is it that you envision for the future of your marriage? If you envision and hope for kids and monogamy and she wants something different, how on earth do you even meet in the middle?

I’d say your lack of children at this point is a blessing. You can get out of this marriage with one less complication (and it’s a big one when it exists). You’re young enough that you still have plenty of time to meet someone else and have a family (or to even have kids on your own). And I would hope that if you do decide to end the marriage, that you can eventually look back at this experience — your getting sick and your wife changing her tune on everything — as a blessing in disguise. You got to see her true colors before you’d invested a lifetime together and before you had children together. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see this as another life experience that gives you clearer perspective about your own values and what values are most important that you share with a partner.


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  1. This made me sad. I have no advice, but I’m sorry you’re going through this, LW. I hope all the best for you, and I am glad your health is better than ever.

  2. Stilgar666 says:

    Isolating you from mutual friends, so she can flirt with them? That is really messed up. But, if one of them is openly coming onto her, they weren’t good friends to begin with.

    It doesn’t sound like she cares about the marriage anymore, and is just trying to keep you around for security and so she doesn’t look like the bad guy. She wants to be able to say “We have an open marriage, I can have sex with whomever I want, Husband is cool with this.”

    LW, you have been through a lot, its not fair at all. Its time to phoenix up and rise from the ashes.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      Not that it makes a difference to the letter, but LW is a woman also. I guess it makes a slight difference in that if she wants to have children through her own pregnancy, it gives her less time to find the right partner.

      1. Stilgar666 says:

        Missed that. Hetero-normative prejudices reared their ugly heads.

        Changing your mind on a woman partner concerning biological kids after years in a relationship is especially cruel.

    2. There’s an understandable aspect in that people change over time and change their minds. That leads to relationship problems, breakups, and divorces.

      Beyond that here is how she handled it. If she had come to the LW with honesty and integrity, there would be more reason to save things.

      She doesn’t get to declare the marriage as open and doesn’t get to act on it just because she told the LW her plan. Telling someone she’s going to do the wrong thing doesn’t make it right. If her hope was that he would be okay with it, she would have approached it more empathetically and sympathetically. She really doesn’t want to be the one to end this.

      This will be a hard time no matter what. I have found individual counseling to be very helpful during transitions.

      1. Pronoun fix, *If her hope was that the LW would be okay with it

      2. artsygirl says:

        I agree Sketchee – also the LW’s wife seems like she lashes out in ways intended to hurt the LW and only steps them back many months later. If the LW’s wife truly wanted to open up the marriage and change her mind on children she should sit down with the LW and calmly discuss these major issues rather than use them as weapons during fights. I really feel bad for the LW since it sounds like she is really between a rock and a hard place.

  3. My heart aches for this LW. Your spouse essentially became someone different overnight, and has been treating you like crap. I’d be inclined to believe her when she says this change of heart is not temporary. Even if this WAS temporary, do you honestly feel you could build that trust back up? You already admitted having a difficult in those attempts.

    Keep yourself on the waiting list for counseling through your workplace, but go alone. The counselor can help you process your feelings regarding all that has transpired, and how to work through all of it. They can also provide emotional support through the divorce process, if that’s what you ultimately decide on doing.

    Hope your recovery from illness stays strong, and remember that you have an online community rooting for you.

  4. I hate to say it, but from reading this I think she already has that foot out the door. Maybe she is already sleeping with one of these friends or someone else, or plans to very soon.
    She knows that you want children and monogamy, so she’s throwing something at you that will make you end the marriage, or she’s subconsciously pushing against having kids because she knows she doesn’t want this long term and knows that would just complicate the inevitable end of the marriage. All of this is so you can initiate the divorce and she doesn’t have to be the bad guy who left their spouse when they were ill.

  5. She changed the rules. That’s so unfair… but it happens. You do not have to accept the new rules and it is clear that you don’t. I understand that you still are in love with who you thought she was and who she led you to believe she was. But she isn’t that person anymore…I’m so sorry. You can try counselling but if she has made up her mind then I’m afraid the relationship is over and there may not be much point. On the plus side, you are still young enough to find what you want and your health is on the mend! Good luck!

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Yeah I actually might recommend against couples therapy in this case. Your wife doesn’t want children. I don’t think its fair to those potential children to try to talk her back into it. If you go to therapy and she decides she does want children, how long before she changes her mind again? How many children will be brought into the world with a mother who doesn’t want them by that point?
      This is a fundamental incompatiblity, not a disagreement over the color of the couch. You can’t compromise by having half a child.

  6. Therapy for yourself, yourmarriage is past saving. Your wife has moved on already. Non-monogamy is a huge and unfair change in the marriage agreement to spring on a spouse and based upon her behavior she has already implemented this change unilaterally.

    The change on now not wanting kids is less straight forward. It likely springs in part from feeling less connected to you and less certain that your marriage will last and that you’ll be able to co-parent together. It may also be related to your chronic illness. I don’t know what your health problem is, but at your age a lot of chronic health problems have a strong genetic component. It is not unreasonable to question your prior decision to have a child, because of the risk of inherited disease. I have relatives who have chosen to remain childless for this reason. On the other hand, people do change their view to either no longer want children or decide they want children after all.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      I was wondering if the illness had an impact on the decision, too. Either for genetics reasons, or for the wife fearing that she might need to become the sole caregiver should the LW’s condition worsen again. Certainly nobody knows for sure that their spouse will remain healthy and capable forever when they decide to have a child, but given there is maybe a higher likelihood of that happening in this case given the chronic illness.

      All hope is not lost for the LW– not everyone would see it this way. There are plenty of people who are willing to take on that risk (even women who have children without a spouse at all, because they so strongly want a child), but it seems the wife is not that person.

  7. dinoceros says:

    I also suspect that counseling for the two of you together may not be helpful. That tends to be most helpful if the issue is that you are having trouble communicating, but still want the same general thing. It sounds like she doesn’t want to be married anymore, not to mention not having kids. Counseling isn’t going to change that.

  8. I had a relationship dissolve due to my falling ill as well. My wife would yell at me for laying around all day without putting the two and two together that the medicine I was taking prevented me from doing anything but sleep for 3-5 hours at a time. My routine was: Take medicine, fall asleep for 3+ hours. Wake up, try to do stuff through the illness, take medicine, fall asleep for 3+ hours. It made me realize that she didn’t really put my needs at a priority at all, and I think this is where the LW finds herself as well. We tried couples counseling but ultimately we couldn’t make it work. I wish LW the best, maybe there IS something worth saving here, but only time will tell….

  9. Get ooouuuuuuuut. Consider yourself lucky that you don’t have kids with his person. who won’t even do you the courtesy of finding strangers to cheat on you with. Throwing time and energy into saving a marriage with such a person will be an exercise in will-sapping failure.

  10. Cheesecaker2911 says:

    First let me say that a partner that isn’t willing to fulfill the “in sickness and in health” part of the vows is already a partner that didn’t understand the vows they took. Throw that in with the sudden desire to not be monogamous and lack of desire to have children, and this marriage is already done.

    You now firmly disagree on two of the very basic fundamentals of a marriage/relationship. Like everyone else has already said, there’s no point in counseling when the other party has made up their mind. Get a lawyer/mediator and start severing the ties legally, so you can move on, heal yourself, and find a new partner to start your family with.

  11. bittergaymark says:

    This is a bait and switch and so NOT cool. I am ALL ABOUT open relationships, but I think that BOTH partners need to genuinely want this for that to work… I think its time to cut your losses and MOA. Waiting around is only bound to disappoint.

  12. If she doesn’t want to go to marriage counseling, then it sounds like it is time to move on. She totally wants something different at this point. Or is she on some meds/drugs/misusing alcohol? Has she maybe had a mental breakdown/life crisis from the strain of you being ill so long? You need to get down to why the change and see if this is temporary or permanent.

  13. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

    I’m so sorry. A few seasons of The L Word will show you what a classic story this is. Lesbians/queer women/etc stereotypically have a hard time ending relationships and she’s taking a standard tactic. And while it’s cruddy, I actually think it’s really possible that she’s telling the truth when she says all your mutual talk about having a family was mostly a fantasy for her; two women have the luxury (such as it is) of keeping it all hypothetical because they don’t face the day-to-day risk/chance of pregnancy that heterosexual couples do. Or she might genuinely have changed her mind but is reluctant to say so. I used to be married to a woman, and we certainly talked about having a family for years, but when it got to be time to think about it more seriously, I started putting it off because subconsciously I think I knew I didn’t want to have kids with my partner. She cheated, we got divorced, it’s really really good we didn’t have kids. Best of luck to you.

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