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Unravelling Complicated Stories (1)

I have a long confusing story that I'm only starting to unravel.  I love him and we are best friends when it comes to most things in our life.  But, and this is a big but for me, there is this huge emotional gap.  The only real emotion he ever shares is anger.  It really raised its ugly head when my Mom got sick two years ago.  He doesn't know how to support me emotionally.  We talked through it, fought through it and then settled back into same 'ol same 'ol.  For the most part, I'm content, but I miss having an emotional connection.  Then, recently my Dad got sick.  This problem is once again highlighted and in my face once again.  I pretty much told him to step up already.  That I'm tired of feeling alone and isolated in our relationship.  Hell, I had more hugs, and people stopping in checking up on me from my friends at work than I did from my husband.  I TOLD him that too.  He doesn't seem to get it.

Don't get me wrong, he's been great in other ways - he's helped my Mom with her computer issues, he's cooked, he's made sure that the chores at our house are done so that I can focus on school when we were home.  These are all kind, thoughtful things to do for someone you love.  (and I know he loves me).  But they are done in silence.   We went a week back home without him asking me once how I was doing/feeling about my Dad.  It's strange.  It's cold.

The problem is.....I don't think he knows HOW to.  He was so emotionally abused as a kid that he doesn't have the ability to get there without help.  I've asked him to get help (years ago) and he doesn't want to (or maybe he doesn't feel he needs to).   

I think my husband is beyond a typical man when it comes to emotions.  I have cried in front of him and he doesn't know what to do with me.  When Mom was sick, it was very bad.  I was crying all the time and not getting the support I needed.  I finally blew up at him and told him that he'd better figure it out or we were done.  That *I* am an emotional being and need emotion.  He's all logic and he's damn cold about things.  Which brings me to the more sensitive subject.....one that this forum will really understand.  (I’ve been lurking and reading a lot here – thank you for sharing your stories – they have inspired me to share mine!)

We haven't had sex in three and a half years.  I can't even think about it at this point.  It's awkward and cold and always has been.  It's like he goes through the steps in his head.  It's mechanical.  In the beginning, we tried to work through it.  Lots of patience and talking and practicing.  In the 10 years that we've been together, I think we've had more years of NOT having sex than having sex now.  The last time before the 3+ mark was nearly 2 years.  And a year before that.    How do you fix something like that?  I have no idea.

Fortunately, I'm really busy, and that means I haven’t paid attention to the lack of sex.  I have mastered taking care of myself, but that's really nothing I want to be bragging about!  I miss having that closeness and that passion.  Something we never really had because sex was never really good between us.  I just always thought we'd get better at it, find the rhythm so to speak.  After 3-4 years of working it out, I gave up.  HE gave up.  And here we are now.

So the story starts with emotion and delves into physical.  I've asked him what he thinks, what we should do and there's silence.  I'm reaching the end of my rope and he doesn't even know it.  I'm certain if I go to counselling (and I have before) I will leave him.    I am angry at him for not trying and angry at myself for letting it go on for so long.    I don't know if I have the patience for more.  I've been lonely for so long.  There is a fire burning inside me again and I cannot ignore it a moment longer.  

It is such a relief to finally share my story.  I've recently opened up about this to two very special people in my life.  I've been holding on to this for so long hoping it would workout/change.  There's been so much inertia that I worry about opening the flood gates...once you push forward, it's hard to go back and I'm terrified of where that is going to take me.

One thing I have figured out, I want to live a full life, not part of a full life.

Thanks for listening.
Eikasia Eikasia 36-40, F 7 Responses Nov 4, 2011

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What causes people to shut down emotionally?<br />
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I have concluded that if it is not a mental incapacity, it is a result of trauma - emotional, sexual, physical. So if he was willing to deal with that, you might have a chance but it would be a long, hard road. I've been on it for 25 years though we've only really been dealing with it the last 5. So, if you love him and want to give it the time, there is always a chance. But he has to be willing to do his own work as you don't own his trauma and can't give him the roadmap. He must find his own way, and you must find yours as well.<br />
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But if you feel you've already given as much as you are able, then for everyone's sake, you should move toward your exit strategy. No one wins when everyone is suffering. Your life is valuable and important. So is his, but you can't save him. He can only save himself. You need to stake a claim in your own happiness regardless of what happens to your marriage. So create your life and if you want to continue to work together with him, then you're making a confident choice to do so.

Thanks Morningteatime for sharing your insights. They speak to me.

I believe I have come to a similar conclusion after this week's events (we've had many long hard conversations!).

He is finally awakening to the fact that he too isn't happy, that he wants to live a more emotional, intimate life. My heart breaks because I needed him to say this 3-4-5 years ago when we talked and talked and talked about it then.

Most days I feel like I am spent, I have no more energy to give to this relationship and after so many years of failing, how is this time going to be different? There is a glimmer of hope that things might change, but if that change happens, it's going to be a long, long, long time before *I* see any of the benefit of it.

Last night we talked about separation - having some time apart so we could both find our own paths and seeing if our paths will reconnect as he really considers how he's going to tackle his side of the equation. As you said, I don't own what's going on with him. I never have. I only ever tried to shed light on it so we could get past the demon (whatever it really is).

It occurs to me that both of you might benefit if you printed this thread and gave it to him. It sounds to me that he is in just as much pain as you are and he has no idea where to begin even to describe it.

Last week, I did tell him about the forum in an act of trying to get him to understand that he needed to reach out, reach, explore what is going in in his mind. At that point, I had not posted anything. Last night, he told me he read my post. While it felt weird to lose that anonymity, it was also such a relief to know that he knew, unequivocally, where my head is.

That is a pretty decent sign to me; he is involved enough to track this down. Where it leads, of course, is unknown, but he's not in a complete denial.

Wow, I would think if you told him what you just told us, it would light his fire. If not, well unfortunately you know what you may have to do. You know what your future holds if noting is done, so do you roll the dice?

For once I am going to take major issue with other contributors and say in summary at the outset that you both made a mistake getting married to one another and you both continue to make mistakes whether that is in the context of remaining together or in not getting divorced.<br />
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As you are the poster, my opinions will be directed at YOU. Firstly, try your damnedest to park the fury. It will eat you up inside, damage your health and complete distort your perspective.<br />
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Quote: "So the story starts with emotion and delves into physical". Yep, you do a very good job of summing the situation up. "Emotional maturity", "emotional intelligence", "emotional connectedness", etc, etc. I just love (not) the bull-**** pseudo-scientific catchphrases these non-expert relationship experts come up with. However, they are useful tags because we hope we all know what it means and that is what you are talking about here.<br />
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As an aside, it is possible that he might be clinically classified somewhere on the autism spectrum but I would strongly doubt it. Apart from which this sort of nonsense is tossed around far too effortlessly.<br />
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My WILD guess? As useful or as useless as anybody else's? He's AFRAID of you! He's afraid of women as a species in general! He's AFRAID of the situation! He's AFRAID of acting constructively because he's AFRAID that he will only make the situation worse by opening his big gob and blabbing incoherently or even worse saying something comprehensible that goes down like the Graf Zeppelin.<br />
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If there is any authenticity to this perception at all and you haven't already made the psychological 'move out' then you are going to have to change your strategy completely from being confrontational to being persuasive. The harder you push him the more firmly he becomes psychologically entrenched.<br />
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On top of that you have the issue of his childhood abuse that you fleetingly referred to. Where does it, if at all, sit in all this? You raise it as an issue but don't factor it in.<br />
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I am not being blunt to criticize you but to try to create an appropriate impact on your critical thinking on the issue.<br />
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Best wishes, really.

Thanks Kantbarsed for your insights - I appreciate you taking the time.

On some level I completely agree with you - I shouldn't have married him. There were red flags that I ignored. His emotionally abusive mother and the issues we had in the bedroom early on. I was naive, and I believed that love could fix all that. I believed we could communicate our way through it. I was patient - maybe too patient.

For the record, we haven't talked about our issue in a couple of years. We just go about our lives as roommates. This past Sunday, I broke and brought it all up again. I hope to find time to share that experience
here as well soon.

Bottom line - I think you are correct. He is afraid. He over thinks things. He's not overly social. He's afraid of looking like a fool in many situations. I believe this goes back to his childhood and how his mother constantly berated him (and still does) about never being good enough. I asked him 6 years ago to seek counselling of some sort. He never felt he had an issue that needed that level of help.

Thank you for the additional perspectives. I do worry that I have psychologically and emotionally moved on already. This is now my struggle. Stay and see if he will really work on it, or go and be free to find something that fits better.

Serious, stressful life events, such as you detailed, do have a tendancy to highlight and reveal underlying dysfunctions in relationships.<br />
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You have been coping over the years with various strategies, and now those same strategies have run thier course.<br />
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The next step is to find a different course to take. <br />
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And that is the difficult part.<br />
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I recommend you keep reading here, you might find something of value when you see how other's in similar situations (sexless marriages that is) have moved forward with improving their overall quality of life.<br />
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Additionally, you could have a few sessions in individual counselling to help you sort through your situation. Might be valuable.

Sounds like he does things because they need to be done, but you are correct we are emotional beings (those of us that are here in ILIASM), and for whatever reason he is not. Unfortunately there are many people who just don't feel the same way we do. We love touching those we care about, and doing things, for those we care about and making love to those we care about. There are many here who's DH or DW do not. There can be many explinations as Bazzar has alluded to, but the point is, they won't or can't change nore can we. So it goes back to the old 3 choices<br />
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1) Stay and deal with it<br />
2) Divorce<br />
3) Outsourcing<br />
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None are the answers any of us seek when we start here, but as I am sure you see there are very few "success" stories. The smartest thing for any of us to do is leave and start over with someone like us. The hardest part is getting to the point of realization.<br />
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Good luck and keep reading EP alot of clarity has come from here.

I reckon a few of a lay-experts here will have a field day in diagnosing this one. Aspergers syndrome would be my tip as the winner in the 'what is the "why"' stakes here.<br />
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Anyway. For some "why" or other he is emotionally distant and disconnected and intimacy averse. <br />
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Consequently, what you have to deal with is the fact that he is emotionally distant and disconnected and intimacy averse.<br />
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Your method(s) of dealing with it so far seem to have worked to some extent (after all, you are still there), but apparently those methods now are not working.<br />
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Might be time to re-think the whole thing. Maybe bringing the focus in on YOU, and what you'd like, and put him on hold while you do so.<br />
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You mention that you want a full life. On the balance of probability, given your story, that is not going to be possible in this relationship. He has a huge "why" (probably a few actually) that have brought about the dysfunctional state of the marriage - AND - he has no interest in even attempting to address those "whys". So it seems this is to be "it" for the foreseeable future.<br />
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To a passing internet stranger, it seems pretty obvious what you need to do. But even an internet stranger knows that "simple" does not mean "easy".<br />
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I wish you clarity as you weigh it all up for your eventual choice. Your choice won't be between "good / bad". It is likely to be between two options, both less than perfect.<br />
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Tread your own path.

Thank you Bazzaar.

I think deep down I already know that it is time to move on, which is why I finally reached out. I don't want to feel lonely and unwanted while in a relationship. Hell, I can feel that way living on my own!