How can you be intimate with your husband when they keep hurting you?

My husband is narcissistic. He doesn’t respect me or any boundaries. He expects sex even though he’s emotionally abusive. I don’t desire intimacy with him because he’s so hateful and doesn’t treat me or my kids good but I’m sticking it out because I feel trapped. I’m trying to also let God lead me. There’s too much to tell but this is a huge issue I’m dealing with with him. We’ve been to counseling but he doesn’t want to change. We’ve been together 15 years almost. We already separated for two months last year and he was doing better while we were apart but he’s gone back to his old ways. My kids don’t want us apart even though he’s not good to them. They also don’t want to give up where we live and they’re happy here. I don’t want to take that away from them. He refuses to leave however. He drinks alcohol and won’t stop even though I’ve asked him to stop. This has been an issue on and off since the beginning. He has a severe porn addiction. He suffers from depression. He has all the narcissistic characteristics. He’s so unstable. He’s caused me and my kids so much damage, especially my teen. We got out of debt and now he’s fixing to get us back in it because he thinks material things will make him happy . Everything is just getting worse and now I’m getting depressed. We all walk on egg shells around him. He makes a bunch of rules for our kids and harshly punished them when they don’t obey. He does nothing out of love. He cares only about what the kids make him look like to other people. He expects respect but won’t give it. I feel so helpless.
Asked by May May
Answered
11/29/2021
I'm so sorry to hear that you're going through all of that; that must be a daily struggle for you. I can't even imagine what it must be like--especially after 15 years together--to have to feel like you have to hold the family together like that when your husband isn't willing to put forth the same effort. Often in families where one partner has a problem with alcohol use or another addiction, it is very common for other family members to feel as though they have to make excuses for the person's behaviors, might feel responsible for the person's behaviors, or might even feel immense guilt and shame because of the person's behaviors--when those feelings really belong to the substance user. 
 
If your husband is truly unwilling to make changes, it might definitely be worth your while to consider what the next 15 years might look like if you choose to remain in the situation with him. Although I am certain you care for him and probably even still feel love for him, can your own emotional health tolerate another 15 years of the same behaviors? If not, it might be worth thinking about an exit plan--both for your own sake, as well as for the sake of the children. 
 
It might also be of benefit to you to consider getting involved in Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous. These are 12-step organizations with peer support groups (these are not psychotherapy/counseling groups), who can give you the additional needed emotional support while you are trying to figure this situation out and the long-term ramifications it may have for both you and your children. Al-Anon has information on it's website to help you better understand how it can help (https://al-anon.org/newcomers/how-can-i-help-my/alcoholic-spouse-or-partner/), as does Codependents Anonymous (https://coda.org/meeting-materials/patterns-and-characteristics-2011/). Both organizations offer meetings in person, as well as online and via telephone.
 
It might also be worth considering what attracted you to your husband in this first place. Often, individuals who tolerate these sorts of behaviors can have difficulty meeting their own emotional needs and end up attracted to others, who they perceive need their help or assistance in some way--definitely something, with which a competent psychotherapist can help you to explore.
 
Whatever you decide to ultimately do, I sincerely hope that you will consider how continuing to tolerate these sorts of behaviors will ultimately impact you and your children and that you will make yourself a priority--even if your husband chooses not to do so. Wishing you all the very best.
(MS, LPC-S, NCC)