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Some Revelations In Sex Therapy...

Therapy session was interesting last week. As a recovered/recovering addict, it was interesting to hear him talk about love and sex as part of the addiction process. The therapist got him talking about past relationships, and he stated he usually just fell out of interest and became the refuser in most relationships. Some he didn't but these didn't appear to last long enough for the cycle to complete. He never was in a relationship where he was refused. I could strangle him because on numerous occassions he painted a picture where our situation was a new scenario for him, and the other relationships didn't suffer these type of issues. The tactics that he used in the past to keep me distanced sexually were mean and looking back, I can't believe I put up with it for so long.

It was really interesting to hear him state that he would prefer to be more dominant, and that I moved to fast for him. All this time I have been trying to focus on keeping him aroused and doing all the work and he feels he can't keep up and never tells me anything. It is kind of hard to know what to do when the other person gives no feedback! For the longest time, I have felt sex was something I inflicted on him and I eventually stopped initiating because it just became to anxiety ridden and embarrassing. I told them that I would be thrilled for some initiation and guidance from him, but the parameters he kept setting to reduce his anxiety were too crazy for me to be able to garner any enjoyment. First, I need to be open to him and keep trying while he rebuffs all my advances. Then, he states that he wants to take the lead and go slower but he didn't want me to show too much arousal or move to fast. I told him there is no way I can initiate at this stage because it skyrockets his anxiety level to high and he shuts down. I told him that he needed to do let me know what felt right and set the pace and I would stay with it and not push for more. But, I told him that if he doesn't initiate and move forward then I will not indefinitely wait and if efforts are not being actively made, I will not be put on hold and put off as before. No sex is still a deal breaker.

So, we are talking about it. We have been physically reengaging through light touch, kissing, and massage. Neither one of us is ready to move forward with anything more, though we did make out a bit the other night.

After living in a sexless marriage for any duration, the whole process of reinitiating sex becomes awkward and fraught with anxiety and tension. Even the refused who want sex can't just jump back in. All the rejection and confusion and baggage created by the dynamic of a sexless marriage has to be cleared in order to move forward. This isn't an easy process. I think we all believe that sex should just happen, but in the reality of marital problems and long standing/never addressed issues around the individuals and couple in the relationship, it just doesn't work that way.

Jumping into bed without addressing all of it just sets up a viscious circle where the scenarios of rejection, anxiety, and hopelessness just get more and more established.

After five months of therapy focusing on issues mainly outside sex, we are JUST starting to be able to address the sex issues.

I don't know what will happen. He has slowly yet consistently been more and more open. And, at least he is telling me what the hell is going on in his head around sex.
rosedl rosedl 41-45, F 9 Responses Oct 9, 2010

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Thanks for sharing this - fascinating to read, even coming so late to the post...<br />
It's such a dance to re-initate after a break. You sound like you were making all the right moves...<br />
"sex was something I inflicted on him" made me assess whether this is how my partner feels - I'm sure it's not, I'm sure it's just viewed as a vice of mine...

Ultimately, it worked.

I have a sex life. With a different man. We split.

I held the boundary. One time in a year was not enough.

My wife and I simply stopped having sex years ago. I honestly didn't give it much thought, but have been plauged by anxiety for months now. It is affecting my life in so many ways. We have two children, and we get along pretty well, but there is no passion, romance, or touching. Bringing any kind of intimacy back is going to take some major work, and I feel that she would prefer we just left it alone. But my fear for our future and my own health are forcing me to take steps to fix it. I so envy people who have intimacy.

I just wanted to concur with what Bazzar posted - kudos to you for working diligently to fix matters (ie. sticking with the process).... it isn't easy and it is likely like a slow march through a swamp of misery.... so, again, kudos.<br />
Best of luck in all of this.

Thanks Enna and everyone.<br />
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I should point out that I am fully aware that I may lose my husband at the end of this process.. If my husband can't overcome his anxiety and address the issue, it will be the end of our marriage. But, it just doesn't ride on him. There are all kinds of way I am being called out and need to come to the table for this to work. Honestly, the problems that led to the sexless marriage (on both sides), if left unaddressed would have been the end of our marriage anyway. In order to reconnect, ANYONE in a sexless marriage is going to have to bear some anxiety and awkwardness. It is one of the reasons that it is so hard to rekindle sex, even if the partners are willing and wanting. Both my husband and I, we WANT to have sex with each other. The problem is that we have so much fear, anxiety, and self-consciousness around sex, it is hard to open up to one another and be vulnerable. Letting go of past hurt and staying with the present moment of new possibility is our goal. We both know full well that we will both feel awkward and anxious at times. You have to walk through the anxiety to get to the other side. Otherwise, it is just a endless cycle of avoidance. I am so glad we have a good sex therapist. <br />
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Duke, I would love a link to the discussion group about male sexual anxiety. It would be interesting reading.

Rose, you are a strong, kind and caring woman. I so respect your chutzpah in sticking with this process. I honestly believe that we men only experience REAL growth when we put our fragile ego's aside, and I COMPLETELY agree with your no nonsense approach. YOU GO GIRL!!!

Duke speaks the truth, folks. Dismiss it as you may or explain it away in accordance with your own worldview regarding sex and sexuality, but again, Duke speats the truth.

Way out of my level of expertise re 'motives' etc.<br />
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Just want to say rosedl, that I continue to admire your tenacity in sticking to your process, and ability to accept that it is to unfold as the truth dictates.<br />
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The 'right' result will emerge. And, I suspect, it will not be long off now.<br />
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Tread your own path.

I'm in no way qualified to judge, but it does seem to me that your husband's issues about sex are NOT just located in anxiety performance. They seem to be about CONTROL. . . By constantly changing the goal posts on you, you can NEVER meet his "demands" . . . . This way he keeps control over you.<br />
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I know you have explored this and many other issues, so I guess I'm just putting this out there for the benefit of Duke. Duke, there is no doubt he does have these performance issues, but the "no pressure" approach rarely works for Refused spouses.<br />
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"No pressure" usually results in:<br />
a) no attempts at ALL by spouse to engage - at ANY level of intimacy, not just actual sex<br />
b) the "belief" (no matter how much evidence there may be to the contrary!) that the spouse is now happy with (or at least resigned to) no sex AND no intimacy<br />
c) the understanding (reasonable enough to assume IMO) that this issue is NOT a deal breaker.<br />
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This is not only true for sexlessness, but for other issues (such as addictions). If the spouse takes a "no pressure" attitude, the other one feels "let off the hook" - and therefore chooses to do NOTHING.<br />
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I encourage you (Duke, that is!) to read all of Rose's stories here. I doubt you will find ANYONE on ILIASM who has put MORE effort into trying to redeem her marriage.

Sorry Dukeleto, but no sex is a deal breaker and after YEARS of doing everything from being the initiator to completely backing off for months at a time to give him room, I am done playing that game.<br />
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I just spent five months working on issues outside of sex to clear the way for this new phase of work. I have far more then met him half way. <br />
<br />
My sole requirement is that he keeps reaching out and moving forward with our physical intimacy. I am not demanding sex now. I am not expecting intercourse when he comes closer for touch. It doesn't have to happen overnight and he has plenty of time to work with reconnecting with me. HOWEVER, he does not have the luxury of putting this work off any longer.<br />
<br />
The no sex is a deal breaker is not a threat. It is a reality. I will not remain sexless for the rest of my life. Won't do it nor should he have such a selfish expectation. Our entire sex life has been ruled by his anxiety for years and the time has come to lay it on the table. <br />
<br />
Sadly, it wasn't until he took my 'or else' seriously and pushed me about as far as you can push a woman that he was willing to do the work. <br />
<br />
My establishing my own boundaries for what I need in my marriage to be fulfilled and happy is not a threat. It is crucial for my own sense of well being.<br />
<br />
The sensitive male ego will have to deal. There are two people in this relationship, and my needs, desires, and my own sensitive ego from dealing with years of rejection and criticism trump his fears. As it is, this whole process and pace is STILL dictated by him. I am giving him a CHANCE to overcome this demon and move forward with a physical relationship with a loving woman. I am not asking him to show any more strength then I have been willing to give.