Terminal Optimist

Thank you! I suspect it's a cliché but it's such a relief to know that I’m not alone. I've never contributed to anything like this before, so please excuse me for being a novice.
I've been married for 8 years and prior to that my wife and I dated for 5 years. Before we were married our sex life was very good - it was so spontaneous and relaxed.
My wife is a beautiful woman - a social worker - she is the love of my life. We have two beautiful children and, maybe our problems began around the time our second child was born - to be honest it's been a while, so I forget the exact dates.
My wife has always been shy and, it's beyond me, but somehow she doesn't realize how attractive she. I tell her regularly, but she's an expert in refuting compliments. Her work involves the protection of abused children and she's great at her job. Over the years it has taken a lot out of her though and, lately, she’s finally started to talk about it.
Along with looking after our 2 cherubs, there's little time left for us – pretty standard story really. For half a decade we were only intimate once every month or two. I was awful to begin with - I felt very unattractive - just sulked - all very childish. Over the 5 years, I confronted the issue probably twice a year and, to be honest, most times I was left feeling like a bit of a pervert for wanting more physical contact – like I should be on a sex register. It was our wedding anniversary 3 months ago. I planned everything - I left a glass of champagne in our bedroom for her to find, along with some new lingerie and I booked the babysitter so that we could go out to a restaurant. That night we made love - and again one week later - yes – that’s right - two weeks in a row!
Unfortunately, after that we stopped doing it again.
I don't want to go into our background in too much detail, neither of us is depressed, nor did we have affairs - we are in love, best friends and both enjoyed the sex in the rare event that it happened. Somehow, between juggling work, kids and house chores, she said it was easier to say "not now" when I try to instigate sex and, subsequently, I took the role of the one that kept trying. We've both discussed, many many times, the importance of sex for a marriage, and marriage over work. However, somehow, it's so easy to say these things, and it's really hard to do ANYTHING about it.
Last week, I did something I thought I'd never do. To be honest, I don't know what happened. There was nothing unusual about the evening, we watched TV and we both went to bed early. Just a regular night. Lying in bed we talked for a few minutes about nothing of very much interest and I lent over and kissed her goodnight. She said she loved me and I said I loved her as we always did. Nothing unusual.
As I rolled over, something strange happened. Normally, a few minutes after I turn over I guess I fall asleep - I don't really know. This time I lay there for a few moments, and suddenly a red mist descended over my eyes. I only felt extreme anger. I hated this situation. Why was was it happening to me? Why was our marriage being killed slowly and surely? I made a vow when we got married to be monogamous and my wife was withdrawing sex. She was controlling me - how ****ing dare she! Strangely in this anger I felt extremely relaxed.
I rolled over, opened my eyes, and said calmly "I think that we're in trouble". In response, she said something like 'she didn't have any time for this now' and 'why didn't I bring it up earlier in the evening'. This, in fairness, is a pretty standard reply to my twice yearly confrontations, so nothing unusual there. But, the next thing that happened was different and, in retrospect, a bit scary. It was one of those outer body experiences. You can hear yourself taking and watch yourself doing something, whilst being completely passive – just a casual observer.
I recall saying that I thought our marriage was dying because we'd lost intimacy, and I needed to leave. This wasn't planned and - at that moment - I felt very relaxed. I calmly packed a bag and left the house. In the process I recall there was tears, shouting and an accusation of an affair etc. - but my overwhelming memory was of tranquility. I put my arm round her before I left and said that I was really sorry.
It was evening and, bizarrely, I drove straight into work. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one there. I remember enjoying being in the office when no one was around - I just sat at my desk all night - I didn't do any work - I recall feeling like it was the last day of term at school and - in a very odd way it was a fun night. The next day my wife and I texted each other and agreed to meet.
Our meeting was a little tearful but there was no shouting - it was OK. We talked and she told me she wanted to quit her job – I said fine. That afternoon she asked her parents to take the kids to the park. Just after they left she undid the zip on my jeans and she gave me oral sex – then I gave her oral sex. It was great. We had more sex that night - and every night since. I'm in shock. If I read this, I'd accuse myself of histrionic behavior - an amateur dramatist - 'crying for help'. However, it didn't seem like that at the time - it was totally unpremeditated and I didn't feel in control of myself whatsoever - shockingly liberating. At the time of leaving the house it just felt like skipping school - like I'd managed to wriggle out of the cage for a few hours, naughty but nice, like I was having an affair - which I wasn't - I really didn't have any long-term plans once I'd left - I just wanted to get out the house. In retrospect it was hurtful selfish behavior - I didn't want to think about what my wife had been going through with work and the family - however I just needed to get away from this woman. A week on is still very early days. However, in an odd way, this episode seems to have directed us into a great place - for the first time in 5 years the issues that were rarely mentioned have been swept aside. My wife did what she said she’d do and has quit her job. She now talks about retraining as a teacher, but she doesn't really know - whatever makes her happy. As for our future, my worry it that this won't last, that we'll slip back into old ways but, the terminal optimist in me, says that we’ll do just fine. The kids are creating merry hell downstairs - so they're happy – as always. The past seven days has only been a taste, but it’s more than I ever hoped for - I just desperately hope that others can have the intimacy that they deserve too.
asrltk0 asrltk0
36-40, M
16 Responses Jul 21, 2010

Ok I am still a bit caught up in mem11363's comment about frightening his wife to arouse her. Seriously, I am glad it works for you but how long will it last? You must both be a little frustrated and tired due to the emotional roller coaster of feeling. Honestly, it seems Mem, that both you and your wife are playing games and not getting to the source of anything, her by refusing and you by trying to make her jealous or creating some sort of fear factor. Just curious, what is to stop her from going out and finding someone else, possibly taking it farther than a phone number to get back at your "ruthless" behavior. I am having a difficult time believing that what you are doing is nothing but crying wolf by telling her you are getting other women's phone numbers or maybe you have taken it farther and have not admitted it. Either she will know you are playing a game or she will just decide to play the game a little better,possibly to create voltage in your relationship,and find a lover or other things to do that do not involve the ultimatum. In my case, the ultimatums of if you do not have sex with me I will find a lover never ever worked. Nor did the ultimatum of leaving, I tried that many times too. One day I just had to decide to stay in my sexless marriage and take a lover or leave the marriage altogether. I did tell him he had forced me to make different choices and I followed through on my choice. I do not have an affair to get back at him. I just decided that there were things about him I still loved but sex was not going to happen. There is so much more facets to my marriage than just the sex. I do know he is happier now that I don't nag him for sex and we get along. Marriage is an ever evolving journey. One day I may decide to jump ship but for now my marriage is what it is. Asrltko, I still totally have faith that your marriage will survive because you are being honest with each other at an early stage in your marriage. Many of us, myself included, can be in the denial stage for a long time before we admit there is a problem. You and your wife are working on this part of your marriage together and reaching solutions.

fair enough mem11363 - I'm open to any good ideas - the more that get posted the better.

I am not "mean", simply determined to be treated fairly and have my needs respected. <br />
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When I begin to question that I behave in a very calm, intentional and ruthless manner. It does seem that me being "kind but indecisive" is a huge turn OFF and me being "ruthless and determined" is a huge turn ON. I don't blame her for this, it is how she is wired.

Thanks Wisiwig, Kelki, enna30 and mem11363 for your latest comments and advice. I hope this works too. <br />
Last night, we decided to take a night off following a suggestion from ME (!) Instead we gave each other a massage. Interestingly, my wife opted to concentrate her efforts below the wasteline and, subsequently, I awake with extremely relaxed buttocks.<br />
mem11363, I’m sure the ‘treat them mean - keep them keen’ philosophy holds some truth. I guess, we all like things that are difficult to attain or that we can’t have. Ultimately, I hope we can to avoid going down the route of needing a lover. I’m sure that scenario would be extremely traumatic. Therefore I’d hope to be able to minimize any pain, guilt or bitterness.<br />
I just feel I need to reply to this question of ‘hope’ (comment by ‘GaDad’ above). Personally, I think hope is an essential part of living. There’s just one certainty in life: we’re all going to die. However, we don’t give up living, since the inevitable is going to happen anyway. Instead, do the best with the life we are given – since all the available evidence suggests - this is the only one we’re getting. I must declare I’m probably the least qualified person talk about relationships, emotions or feelings for the following reasons: I’ve never seen a councilor or read a book on the subject and I skipped most of my psychiatry attachment at medical school. In fact, this is the only internet forum I have ever been a member of and I joined about one week ago. However, in that week, I have found out that this forum is full of amazing, genuine people who eloquently express heartfelt stories: people who deserve intimacy. I don’t wish to be over melodramatic but the stuff that I’ve read in this forum has changed my life for the better. If there is just one other person out there who doesn't give up and, at some point in the future, finds a way to experience a single week of intimacy with the person they love – as I have done - then this was worth posting. Personally I don’t believe for a moment that this forum doesn’t contain a single person who’s partner learns to be intimate again. I understand that some people need to stay within a marriage when the relationship has completely ended. Others after many years of unreciprocated effort eventually are forced to separate. In both cases, I truly hope these people find the love, intimacy and companionship that they deserve elsewhere without any guilt or regret. To be honest, who can say for certain if my wife and I are going to ‘make it’ or not? Christ, one of us may get hit by a ****ing bus tomorrow. However, if I do get hit by that bus, I don’t want the last thought that goes through my head to be “what if?”

Kelki,<br />
I can only speak to what has worked very well, and very consistently for me. And that has been the "mating in captivity" approach that Perel writes about. As for "devoid of feeling" not sure what you mean. The OP is not cold, just tired of being refused. And me - I am just a HD guy who figured out how to create voltage across my W's sexual circuit board.

mem11363,<br />
Hmmmm! That would not work on any man I know or me for that matter. But I am glad it worked for you..... If marriage was just a contract to be fulfilled devoid of feeling etc. none of us would be in the sinking ship we are.

Great post. Just keep one thing in mind - because it WILL help you. <br />
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Your wife is like most wives. Half of her craves total stability and comfort. And half of her craves risk and excitement. The risk and excitement links directly to passion and desire. So when you give her total stability you KILL her desire. <br />
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Your CONTRACT is really good. But ultimately what will keep her turned on is the excitement/fear that she has of you taking a lover. So when she starts to violate your contract - and eventually she will just to test you - you need to start going out. And when you start going out, let her know that during a 2-4 week period you will be evaluating potential lovers and somewhere between 15-30 days into her breach you will go home with one of them. And she may test you dearly. You may need to make out with a woman in a bar and come home and say "I kissed this woman and have her number" and then just smile and ask "do you want me to come home to our bed tomorrow night?"<br />
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Many people will say this is unfair - it is abusive etc. Not so. If you need to frighten your W to arouse her - then do it. The REALLY weird thing about this is she will love you MORE for doing that, not less. And yes I do have personal experience with this and it did work well for me. I didn't actually have to kiss anyone else - just state my plan to do so. <br />
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When she begins to "test" you, TALKING will not work with her.

The very best chance anyone on this forum has of a recovery is when BOTH partners are willing to work on the issue. It seems that both of you ARE willing to do this, so I am very hopeful of a recovery for you.<br />
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A special note to the wife of asrltk0: congratulations on being one of the very few spouses who have the strength, the courage, the grace and the LOVE to work on this with your husband.<br />
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I suggest you read the many stories and forum posts here to help you further understand the depth and significance of the refuser issue. And please read the stories of people who have left relationships, started new ones, etc. so you can see that this issue really IS a deal breaker. <br />
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My partner and I met here on ILIASM. We both left marriages where our spouses were refusers - he after 30 years of marriage; me after 20. So you can see that many of us work VERY hard to rescue our marriages - but in the end, if our spouses can't or won't join us in the effort, it goes for nought.<br />
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Every best wish to you both for your future happiness.

Gosh I want this to work out for the two of you too and I believe it will! Shame on those of you that cannot see the blue sky anymore. To live in a sexless marriage is one thing, but to be so bitter about it is wrong too. To state, "The truth is his wife does not love him anymore" is awful and in your infinite wisdom to know that the sex will "fall off again" is almost wishing him failure. What if his wife really is working on this. asrltk0, the best to you and yours. Stay in touch with the forum , we obviously need the optimism.

Oh God I do hope it works for you. Best of luck. Keep talking and maybe just maybe you will be one of the success stories. Fingers crossed.

Thank you again for all your honest and realistic responses. You are amazing people and you might not realize quite how much you have done to help me. My wife and I have continued to make love every night and, in the process, we have been able to explore a few fantasies, which has been a lot of fun after the drought. However, in the long term, we both know this is unsustainable. In fact, if we carry on at this rate, I’m going to refuse in a day or two. We both talked a lot about our past and present, but we got stuck on how to address our future. After re-reading this posting and your comments - to use the ‘SCROOGE’ analogy of the first commenter (‘LakeTahoeBoy’)– your responses are the perfect ‘GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME’. In fact, I told my wife that I’d posted this story online and we read it together last night. Your comments really help to take a realistic look into the future. Subsequently, it took us just a few minutes to agree this plan:<br />
1) As from Monday, we will have sex at least 3 times a week (unless we are physically in different countries, or one of us is suffering from a major illness – ‘headaches’ not included)<br />
2) In the event that that one partner refuses to meet this contract, the refuser will allow the other partner to take a lover.<br />
3) For the sake of our children, if the contract is broken, neither partner will leave the marriage.<br />
4) Adultery outside this contract will result in separation and divorce.<br />
5) We will review this contract when we are 50 years old (12 years).<br />
Ultimately, we know the statistics are really awful. That said, unlike characters in a Dickens novel, we both have some control over our future. Right now, the only things that I can be certain of are that we’ve committed to this agreement and, whatever the future holds, we’re going to make the best of it.

I too went thru something similar in the past (quite a many years ago). The wife, like most, blamed work, stress, being tired.... Finally, she decided to go part time. She did this for many years. It was by far the best in terms of long term relationship and intimacy we ever had. Eventually, she ended up going back fulltime (against my plea to not go back). But she said work really needed her and gave in for that and more money I guess. She swore she would quit or go back part time if things started to go bad.<br />
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I can't remember how many years ago that happened, probably about 4 or so. I have since moved out. Things went to bad again - in fact much lower than before.<br />
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In hindsight, here is my thought on the matter: I think that for her to give me intimacy and affection was in essence a job in itself. So by taking away work (going part time, or quiting in your case), they have eliminated a 2nd job and can now pay more attention to intimacy (for them a job).<br />
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But since they really aren't into it, this job of intimacy becomes much harder than their original job. So eventually she will change jobs again.<br />
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In the meantime, ride the wave and enjoy. But when the signs start coming and you see it happening, don't kid yourself any longer.<br />
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Oh and make sure she knows that there is no early retirement in this job.

many thanks for your comments and advice - being new to this format - it's much appreciated and so reassuring to know that others have been through it all too. Whoever thought of this group needs a medal! Deep down I know that the odds are in favor of a return to old habits, so I'll definitely do as you suggest and I'll continue to talk to her about the years of hurt and rejection that I felt and the importance of intimacy to our marriage. However - right now - for the first time in years, life is really good - I'll be sure to keep you posted on how I get on...wish me luck!

GA, <br />
Agreed. I was about to tell him The Truth: his wife no longer loves him but I held my tongue. That is why I tell him to keep up expecting regular sex and that there is no good reason to refuse which comes down to the same thing in a practical sense. In the 1% chance that things go back to normal in his marriage, he will have done the right thing by nipping this nonsense in the bud and in so doing, recognizing the bitter truth we all face. <br />
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TO, <br />
There is a 99% chance that your wife shuts down again. You have to be ready to recognize it sooner rather than later and you probably will. At that time, do not accept excuses, do not think you need to help her more around the house, do not buy more lingerie, do not hold scented candle light vigils and do not pour her any more champagne because there is something she does not want to tell you and she knows you do not want to heart it. <br />
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Good luck.

Just keep up expecting regular sex. <br />
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Remember: there is NO good reason for your wife to go back to refusal. <br />
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What you are doing is normal. You are not the only one to leave the house, get to work early and stare at a wall.

I would encourage you to have a serious talk with her that clearly delineates the importance of this issue in your marriage. (You may have alreadyu done this . . . ) Explain that the hurt, the rejection and the lack of intimacy are the real problem - and these occur because of the lack of sex.<br />
Confirm your love for her and your appreciation for her efforts in re-establishing your love life. And discuss how you can BOTH continue to get what you want and need from your marriage without one having to compromise entirely for the other. Good luck for the future.