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If You Must Join A Cult, Make It A Sex Cult

On Friday, I went for a drive with my youngest son on the country roads near our house in Kentucky. The day was sunny and the air was crisp. I had a lot on my mind, not the least of which was coming to terms with the conclusion that my love for my wife of fifteen years could now be expressed in the past tense: “I loved her” rather than “I love her.”
 
By chance, I found myself crossing the Kentucky River and heading back up the opposite bluff on U.S. Route 68, a winding two-lane engraved on a landscape of weathered stone walls, rolling fields, and autumn trees. Beautiful, if you like that sort of thing. (Not everybody does – if she had been there, Mrs. Fish would have harrumphed and complained about the unsanitary moss on the old stones and the pollen count of the dust motes dancing in the columns of afternoon light filtering through the trees.)
 
As I neared the intersection with Kentucky Route 33, I saw lined up neatly on the slope to my right the buildings of Shaker Village, a nineteenth-century town established and occupied by the Shakers, a religious sect known for spare, functional furniture and the unshakable teaching that men and women should remain separate and chaste. Their buildings even had separate entrances and staircases for men and women.
 
If you’ve ever had the idea that our refusers should just all go off and live together by themselves, then this is the sort of place they might end up. The Shakers had been an anti-sex cult, and there I was in downtown Refuserville. The Shakers themselves died off long ago (duh!) and the only shaking going on is the shakedown involved in buying a ticket to tour the restored buildings.
 
In a sense, staying in a sexless marriage is a bit like being in a two-person anti-sex cult, where our love for our refuser controls us just as surely as if we were true believers mesmerized by a charismatic leader. We spend years without normal affection, we endure abuse, we crave the crumbs of attention we get, and above all we stick around because it’s unthinkable that we could ever live without the one we love. Myself, I’ve stuck around for over 16 years.
 
I know almost to the day when my wife stopped loving me (or stopped making an effort to pretend she did.) I had been married in 1996 and the intimacy went downhill quickly. Still, “it was good except for the sex” until 2003 when I didn’t get into the graduate program my wife had set her financial hopes and future plans on. I got into one almost as good, but we had to move for me to attend. Then later, after school, my career never really took off as planned despite my best efforts. Her career did and she couldn’t have gotten started without my help, but that didn’t matter to her. I was a failure and she treated me as such, even as I worked as hard as I could and also took on the responsibility of raising our children as the primary parent.
 
Nonetheless, for a further 102 months, from that day in 2003 until just last week, I loved my wife. I loved her despite the tirades and the rejections and the insults. For years believed I could cope by turning the other cheek, by making a point of doing a nice gesture for her every day, and trying my best to make myself into someone she could love. Last month, after 15 years of marriage, she pointed out to me in front of our children that love and respect have to be earned. I asked if I had earned hers, and she answered “Not yet.”
 
There must be a point in every former cult member’s life when suddenly the realization hits that the Leader is really just full of bullshit, that we’re just being used, that the Leader is simply not worthy of our love.
 
If you’ve read my first story, you’ll know I’ve been out of work for over a year after my industry collapsed as a late casualty of the recession. I wrote that I was completely dependent upon my wife’s income and health insurance, and my long-term exit plan for myself and my children absolutely requires I have a decent job with benefits and a future.
 
Men and women were known to have run away from Shaker Village, even after fifteen or more years there, to go on and create normal live. I think I know how they must have felt as they went about their daily tasks, but secretly counting their pennies and getting ready to go.
 
You see, I got a call last week – I start my new job tomorrow and it’s better than my old one.
 
Fish
 
 P.S. I can’t resist using Oneida silverware in our house. That company has its roots in the business operations of a similar nineteenth-century religious commune, but one featuring “complex marriage” – in other words, it was a sex cult, not an anti-sex cult. It’s sad that the biggest thrill I get these days is contemplating my silverware drawer.
FishnoiseX FishnoiseX 46-50, M 16 Responses Oct 23, 2011

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Contempt and disrespect seem to go hand in hand with many of our marriages. <br />
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What happened to love and compassion, forgiveness and understanding? It is though they forgot our humanity.

I love (and use) Oneida...haha and now I love it even more. We moved from spooning to forking...but when it came to merely cutting me down...I moved on.

Fish - You are a terrific writer if nothing else. You should seriously get your own column in some magazine or newspaper or perhaps write the great American novel or more excellent short stories such as this one. Very glad for you that got your new job and now you can be free of the cult of lovelessness. Your wife is cruel beyond words. To do that to you in front of the children is unbearably harsh. Your resilience and seemingly good spirits are remarkable. The historical tidbits regarding the Shakers and Oneida silverwear were delicious and relevant too.

Were she MY wife she would have to blow me in front of God AND the neighbors as soon as I hit the doorway from my first day of work AND she'd better be hugging on me in front of the kids<br />
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Sheesh!!! What a *****!!!<br />
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Btw you'd better make sure she isn't sleeping with somebody else either.

Great story. I wish you the best, I am in a situation much like yours. I wish you the best of luck

SO happy you've gotten a good job and that you won't be dependent on her anymore.....I'd join the cult too.....her comment to you about earning respect was so out of line.....especially in fron of your children....<br />
Best wishes for a great outcome with your new job....

Hope you give her a great fun playtime in the bed before you go, just so she'll have a reminder of what she rejected and will be missing. Go get 'em, Fish -- and by 'em I mean every obstacle and challenge before you in life. I hope that as you progress, you are accompanied, sooner or later, by a loving mate.

This story got me fired up. You are the F'n man fish. This is inspirational and pumps me up!

Fish:<br />
That is such a great story, even though it is a sad one at it's heart. Great revelation and great comparison. Wonder if the shakers were started by a bunch of refusers. <br />
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In so many ways I can relate to your story. I am sorry it has come to the place you need to leave. Two or three years ago, I would not have understood that, but I do now. Not getting love, support, respect, and such really does wear on you. I wish you happiness in your new job and new life.

The Shakers were started by a married woman who had some spiritual revelations -- I'm not sure what happened to her husband, but I can imagine he had some revelations of his own.

I can't believe she said that, love and respect have to be earned?? WTF! You are her husband were the hell is her love and respect after everything you done for your family and her. Who does she think she is, saying cruel remarks in front of your kids like that. She needs to step off her pedestal pronto. Congratualtions on th job :) Are you contemplating leaving her in the future? Hope you find happiness, you deserve it! x

this is such an excellent and well written story Mr. Fish, but you know how well you write without me telling you I'm sure!! <br />
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I so sympathise with your situation on many levels. The sexless one of course, which is what brings me to read your story, but the financial aspects too. I've been unemployed for 12 months myself and have found it a difficult, soul destroying time. I've always been family breadwinner so you can imagine how tough this has been. Not unique in itself these days, I know, but tough anyhow. I started back at college with a view to re-building my career in the near future. <br />
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Your story was so warming and hopeful as well as beautifully observed and with wry humour. I wish you so much luck and love in your future with someone who appreciates you. It's nothing less than any of us deserve after all.

It's absolutely awful, being without work, when you know you can do the job just as well as the people who are working. I applied for about 150 positions -- every one of which I was perfectly qualified to do -- and got just six interviews. I understand your plight perfectly.

I would join your group marriage solely on the basis of your in-joke about the silverware. Seriously. A scholar who wants a polyamorous family? I AM SO THAT THING.

Come on in! But we're not mingling our book collections -- marriage is no place for THAT kind of intimacy!

Certainly, no promiscuous lending, but.... reading key passages aloud as foreplay?

Like "One fish, two fish . . ."?

Excellent story and great insight, Fish.<br />
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Congragulations on your new job. May you make SCADS of money...after you launch!!

Well I guess some of us are just slow learners. Mostly I think we are eternal optimists thinking that it's not really that bad and surely they couldn't really be that much of an ******* but then one day it finally gets to the point where we just can't ignore it anymore because the fireworks are going off and the huge sign is floating over their head with the arrow that says ******* pointing right at them. Then we really feel dumb, then our problems really begin because we have two choices to either try and cover for ourselves and make it look like we knew what we were doing or play dumb and pretend we knew nothing about it the whole time and that this is a heavenly revelation sent from the Gods. Basically we are good people and expect others to be the same and we are confounded by people that don't act with decency or compassion toward other people. Sorry she was a *****. But it looks like it's finally come to a place where you need to do something about the situation for your own self preservation. Maybe you need to start your own colony now that you got a new job and don't invite her since she doesn't approve of you. Maybe you need to withdraw all of your approval from her and start practicing that good old All American Hand Gesture. You know the one Hand Raised High Extended Middle Finger with a hearty cry of **** You instead of High Ho Silver Ware. Good Luck.

Re starting my own colony: A few of the under-appreciated moms I hang out with and I have kicked around the idea recently, wholly in jest, of pooling our money and buying a big old house in the countryside near here so we can raise our combined dozen kids together without having to deal with our respective ungrateful / unhappy / unpleasant spouses. Dogs &amp; horses optional.

what a great idea! I love it!

Send me the address. I'll be there.

Mr. Fish, You said...."Last month, after 15 years of marriage, she pointed out to me in front of our children that love and respect have to be earned. I asked if I had earned hers, and she answered “Not yet.”... I bet she would be offended if you had said this.. yet....... Maybe you should address this matter with her...Suggesting that her words whither honest or just being mean were not setting a good model for the kids... and is that the way she really feels...? after all you have done for her and the family and she does not respect or love you ! ! ! ! ! I think some people, not just spouses forget that their job or position in the world is temporal. Getting the big head over having a current position reveals a lot about a person. <br />
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You are not a failure.. You seem to have been a devoted husband. Little people are always trying to make themselves look good at other people's expense. I have had people all my life trying to make themselves feel/look better by trying to make me look bad... occasionally even my wife does this. I try to gently laugh them off and put them in their place, in a kind way....I know who i am even when it does seem as tho i am not much in the world's eyes. I am loved by God.

Thanks for the kind words.

Congratulations on the new job, and all the changes that will follow. Deprogramming may be difficult, but you'll be better off out of that cult. Please excuse me now while I go and check on my cutlery ... I never knew silverware was so sexy!

How do you think "spooning" got its name?

What about forking??? Couldn't resist.