Is Your Sexless Marriage Really Hopeless? Maybe Not. Please Read My Story!The question of hopelessness in a sexless marriage really depends ultimately on what the root problem is. After several years of being on this post, I have come to realize that there must be a thousand different reasons why a spouse will refuse intimacy, so if a solution is truly desired, action toward the solution must be custom-fitted to the problem.
Discovery of the problem, however, is often extremely difficult, since one partner might play cat-and-mouse with their feelings, as we have seen from many of you in this group. The refuser may not even know what his or her problem really is, so trying to drag it out of them will not work.
While this may be age-old advice, it still may also be the best - get the right kind of counseling. By right kind I mean a professional counselor who is equipped to deal with both parties involved. Even if you have to go to counseling alone, keep trying. If one doesn't seem to offer helpful advice, or does not seem to "get" your situation, try someone else. This is what I did, and after a dozen years of being in an sexless marriage, I finally had a breakthrough.
My refuser is a highly successful professional woman, extremely intelligent, divorced, with several children and a list of accomplishments that would make a Fortune 500 entrepreneur sit up and take notice. On top of that, she is beautiful, sometimes flirty, funny, and vivacious. We share common morals, values and interests, and she is my intellectual equal. She is without a doubt my best and closest friend. The problem is, she had no interest in sexual contact whatsoever, not even holding hands.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, while being treated for some anger and depression issues, that her doctor suspected that he might be dealing with a woman with an extremely high-functioning form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. Her high intelligence gave her the ability to develop many complex coping mechanisms, which allowed her to appear to be normal in a world that was actually completely foreign to her.
When my refuser told me about this possibility during one of our year-long separations, I did a fast study in the subject of this unusual form of autism. I learned that while the vast majority of Asperger’s people are male and are diagnosed fairly early in life, there are a few rare women who are affected by this neurological disorder and go relatively undetected for many years. Some Asperger’s women, especially the ones who are extremely intelligent and high-functioning, even marry and have children, although they are essentially neutral (asexual) in their sexual orientation. For the very few who ever marry, they are usually divorced within a few months to a few years.
I also learned that Asperger’s, being a neurological disorder in which the brain is simply wired that way from birth, does not respond to any kind of counseling, therapy, or drug treatments. People with Asperger’s are simply that way for life.
It was only a few weeks later that my wife's doctor’s suspicions were verified through extensive testing at a highly-respected university medical center specializing in autism spectrum disorders. The experts there classified her as a “textbook case” of Asperger’s Syndrome, worthy of further study. My wife was even compared to Temple Grandin, the most well known autistic person living today. Ms Grandin has been the subject of many books and autism studies, and a film on her life won many Grammy awards a couple of years ago. I was told that my wife is so much like Temple (although Temple never married) that they could have been clones of each other. I was told that my wife was literally one in a million.
In my situation, I now felt that I had only two options. I could either continue to put up with the pain of living in a sexless marriage, or I could justify filing for divorce due to her previously unrevealed sexual orientation. However, after a great deal of soul-searching, I realized that there might be a third option – actually doing something about her disorder by us leveraging off of her high intelligence and extensive, well-developed coping mechanisms.
My attempts to treat my wife as a “normal” person would often backfire, with her becoming angry and even showing outbursts of physical violence called “meltdowns.” It took us a long time before we were able to find counselors who actually understood how to deal with marriages between an Asperger’s and a neurologically normal ("neuro-typical" or NT) person. There are very few out there, but now that we knew what we were up against and what type of counselors we needed to find, we were able to locate one.
It would be a misrepresentation to say that our journey these past two years has been easy, because it has been anything but that. However, even after being told that there was little chance for a marriage like ours to survive, we have had some surprising and unexpected successes. Our challenges are unusual, but the small victories we have gained in getting closer together have been worth the hard work. Our marriage is still a work in progress, but then, isn’t every marriage?
Knowledge gives us the power to make good, informed decisions. It is my hope that everyone in this ILIASM group will look into the possibility that your refuser might be dealing with some form of autism. If you even suspect it, run, don’t walk, to a qualified counselor, psychiatrist, or clinic that deals with Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults and find out. Please let me know of your journey, your setbacks, your findings, and your successes. My best wishes will be with you all as you go through this.