Time to end the marriage?

Thank you to those who did snow chat yesterday.

I'm in my early 50s and have been married to my second husband for almost 20 years. For most of the marriage, he was a closet alcoholic and would never get help. We have one child together, and I concentrated on her, trying to raise her and shield her from a broken home.

It worked for the most part; she is now almost grown and is a well-adjusted young woman. I am proud of my kids, and I stayed in this marriage for them. I know that the general feeling is that it's not a good idea to do that ... but I wanted them to be raised in a stable home, and aside for the marriage issues, it was. I have thought many times over the years about life after children – if I would stay with my husband. We are very compatible together, and I generally like him as a person, but I get nothing from him. He's not abusive or anything, just very neglectful and selfish. My needs come last with him. He is an introvert, and really just holes up all the time. Not much communication, and no sex for many years due to a medical condition he refuses to address.

He did stop drinking this past year due to medical issues (not because of what it was doing to our family). This ongoing medical condition, diagnosed years ago, is also part of why I stayed. He is stable but his future could change any minute with a new scan. I am wrestling with whether to stay with him or leave and try to find some happiness elsewhere.

I don't want him to face what could possibly be another medical battle alone, but on the other hand, I am giving up the rest of my life for someone who basically puts zero effort in our marriage.

– Torn

The first thing I'll suggest is therapy. No surprise there.

You've dealt with a lot in this marriage – sickness, alcoholism, isolation, etc. It sounds like you've compartmentalized your feelings for years, and that it's finally time to figure out how these experiences have affected you. It's best to start in a professional's office. Allow yourself to process everything that got you to this place.

As you consider your options, please know that when it comes to your marriage, this does not have to be an all-or-nothing decision. My guess is that you are ready to leave, but that you're worried about your husband – as a friend. It’s important to understand that divorced couples do not have to dissolve every part of their partnership. Many former couples are still friends, co-parents, and even caregivers, when necessary.

I'm not suggesting that you'd be there for him the way you are now, but you might be in the ways that work best for both of you. Please consider the possibilities.

– Meredith

Readers? Should she consider walking away? Would a divorce mean cutting all ties?