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A Sailor's Life

I am a mariner. I work away from home for two months on an oil tanker and then I'm home on vacation for two months. The last couple of times I've come home, my wife of almost two years, now, has said she isn't really looking forward to having me back. Everything came to a head today while I was sitting in the airport and she said she is thinking about leaving me. She has been in counseling for over a year and apparently this is the conclusion she has come to.

We are both still virgins - 27 and 26. She has had past trauma and abusive relationships which have certainly left scars and she is not able to be intimate. This was really tough for me to come to grips with, at first, but for her sake I have learned to put the expectation of sex aside. After I did this, however, I noticed that my wife began to drift away emotionally. Any time I brought this up, she said it just made her want to pull away even more. I learned a few days ago that she was suicidal last year; this would've been about a year into our marriage. She never said a word to me but this is why she wanted to start counseling.

She says now that she didn't know who she was when we got married. We dated seriously for a year, were engaged for a year, and now have been married almost two years. The wedding marks the beginning of the change. Before the wedding, she was affectionate, trusting, loving, helpful, caring - you know, the sorts of things you look for in a spouse. Fast forwarding from the wedding: she says she is trying, but the reality (by her own admission) is that she has no desire to be close to me, no desire to have sex with anyone, ever, stated today that she simply does not trust me ("I have looked for it in myself, I have tried to force it, but it is just not there"), self-centered... She wouldn't even get out of the car to meet me at baggage claim. She stopped replying to me when I said "I love you," though she did say it back to me tonight before I went to sleep. I did get a kiss, as well.

The thing is, she claims now that she has been pretending all along. Any time I thought things were better, any time I was happy about anything in our marriage, she says that was because she was pretending. You'd think that nobody would know better than her what she was doing, but I am not convinced. Call it denial; you may be right. Is it possible for anyone - aside from a lifelong, practiced psychopath - to pretend for four years? To appear idealistically and philosophically consistent for two of those years?

She says now that she is done pretending. But aside from the initial awkwardness after I landed, and my exhaustion from travel and 75 days of backbreaking work, an outside observer would think that it was just a normal day in our lives.

I hope it's clear that I love my wife. I have been and am willing to sacrifice if it will genuinely benefit and help. I reach out. I back off. I try to help around the house. I support her constantly, telling her how proud I am for being a good woman - which she is. She bought a house for us while I was at sea this time and went to pains to keep me in the loop. Pictures, videos, constant updates. It was wonderful. I took it as a sign that things were improving - why would she buy a house for us if she was planning on leaving? She cares deeply for people, her high school students in particular. She has a strong sense of duty, which does frequently make things worse since she perceives herself as a failure.

Her focus, increasingly, seems to have been to carve an identity for herself. During a fight, she frequently says, "I didn't stop being a person when we got married!" She has begun to actively develop a feminist attitude, which is fine to a point, and she certainly has not passed it yet. She says she feels trapped, controlled, but I go out of my to prevent those feelings from arising. She seems to be doing it to herself. Seems to be cultivating reasons to leave out of thin air, without evidence and without talking to me about it. Pretty much everything I've learned about her has come from the middle of a fight.

This isn't what I wanted. I love her deeply. I have a vision of the wonderful marriage we could have if we overcame this, but I have had to come to terms with the fact that my vision is meaningless if she doesn't share it. I can want all of the best things in life for us, but it's not only up to me. She can leave anytime she wants, and so can I. I don't want to abandon her and I don't want to give up on a marriage that I believe God led us into.

I am planning to seek employment ashore as I feel a major contributor to our problems is my absence. It's easier to get mad at - and learn to hate - someone who's just a voice on the phone, just some words in an email. Our marriage is my top priority but I fear, deeply, that it is too late. That she already has one foot out the door and the only reason she wants to "try" is so that she doesn't feel like a failure. So she can write our marriage - OUR MARRIAGE! - off as, basically, a developmental exercise that was, ultimately, a mistake.

I am reaching out, but I don't know what I want to get back. Prevailing opinions here seem to be that if you're unhappy, you should get divorced. I think my wife is on a path that will lead her further into self-centeredness, away from the Lord, and away from me. I want what's best for both of us but it's impossible to see past today, let alone years down the road.

Any help you can offer would be much appreciated. Thank you for reading my very long, very sad story. God bless us.
Gouka Gouka 26-30 2 Responses Mar 21, 2012

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My heart breaks to hear you tell your story..Your wife has issues, but she needs to move towards resolving them rather than running from them She has to believe together you can do this. She needs to seek counseling for her sexual trauma and move towards a resolution. She cant deny you or herself sex forever. True being away is hard, but there are letters emails. Everyone deserves to be loved, deeply, truly . There is no try, you need to set goals and dates for a marriage to work successfully or end it and find another to love.

My heart breaks to hear you tell your story..Your wife has issues, but she needs to move towards resolving them rather than running from them She has to believe together you can do this. She needs to seek counseling for her sexual trauma and move towards a resolution. She cant deny you or herself sex forever. True being away is hard, but there are letters emails. Everyone deserves to be loved, deeply, truly . There is no try, you need to set goals and dates for a marriage to work successfully or end it and find another to love.

Thank you, Natalie. I agree with your assessment of her need to seek additional counseling, even though I think her current counselor is largely to blame for leading her down this road. I believe we need counseling together, but she refuses because she feels like it would be ganging up on her. You know, SHE'S the one with problems, SHE needs to change this, SHE needs to do/not do this or that... It's a feeling I can understand. And of course the last thing I want is for her to feel cornered. This woman is my wife, even if I do have trouble recognizing her as the same person sometimes. I will always be there for her.