The Card

I am standing in the gift card aisle at Walmart desperately seeking an anniversary card for my wife of 22 years.   She is a good woman.  She gets up early to do the laundry before going to work.   When she comes home, she tends to all the chores that go along with running a household and raising 2 boys.   I love her dearly, and I know in her own way she loves me too, but trying to find a card nearly brings tears to my eyes and I have to hide my face from nearby customers.

Each card I take from the stand starts out OK on the front side..."For my wife" or "On our anniversary" or "To the woman I love".  But inside?  Inside each is a painful reminder of the emptiness I have tried to keep buried for so long.  The words "when our eyes meet across a crowded room and you give me that knowing smile" or "the gentle touch of your hand on mine" strike me like a hammer blow, re-opening a scarred old wound that never fully heals.  The one that says "I would marry you all over again" forces me to ask myself, would I?  Who writes this stuff?  Don't they know that not every marriage has that kind of intimacy, that kind of affection?  I can't buy any of these cards for the love of my life, because sadly they would all be lies, and I will not lie to her.   Finally, I find one that says "I am proud of you and all that you do" and that one will suffice.  

The past 22 years have not been all bad.  I have gone for years with the feelings of contentment and joy that go along with a good marriage, because for the most part, it is a good marriage.  But there are times, times when that part of me that I have had to cut off and cast aside, that part of me that craves to touch and be touched, times when that part comes flooding back into my soul like a tsunami, pushing me to the edge of the abyss.  Standing at the edge of that abyss with waves of sadness, anger and despair coursing over me, my stomach plunges with feelings of vertigo as I contemplate the prison in which I will likely spend the rest of my life.

It is times like these when the dreams begin.  Dreams of a love I once had before I met my wife.  A love that lasted only 2 years and yet was filled with more intimacy in both word and touch than I have experienced in the past 22.  I awake missing her badly and regretting the mistakes I made that caused me to lose her.  Dear God, is it a sin to wish I could be with her again?

And so I come here and find others with the same story.  And I am amazed at how they express the same things I feel, often using the very same words I have used in my own mind.  The feeling of living with a room-mate rather than a soul-mate.  The painful nights, every night, when you lie inches from your partner, but not touching and you may as well be a million miles away.  The sad discovery that it is actually easier to fall asleep when you are alone because the sharp awareness of her untouchable presence beside you is not there.  The electricity you feel when another woman casually touches your arm in innocent conversation, and you cannot get that feeling out of your head for days to come.

My wife is not a bad woman.  She is loyal, she cares for me, and she is not unkind to me, and in many ways we balance and complement each other.  We don't argue and we have a peaceful household. She does a good job of taking care of the house and she loves the kids.  If I had one word to describe her, it would be "practical". 

My problem is the same as many here have described.  She never initiates a touch, a kiss, a hug, an "I love you", or sex.  We don't hold hands or display affection of any kind in public. And while for the most part, she doesn't reject my touches, most of the time it feels as if she just tolerates them.  If I linger too long, or hug too long, she thinks I'm just trying to annoy her.  And while our marriage is not sexless, the sex we do have lacks the passion and intimacy I crave.  How I want her to WANT me to touch her.  How I want her to WANT to touch me!

Years ago, I talked to her about this, I let her know how painful it was to me that our marriage was void of intimacy and affection.  Her response was that she is not that type of person, that she married me for who I was without expecting me to change and I wouldn't expect her to change, would I?  I haven't brought it up again, but the past few weeks have been pretty bad for me and I may once again talk to her about how it is affecting me.

How UNFAIR it seems at times.  I am a toucher, an affectionate person, and I have NO outlet to express that side of myself.  I have a strong need that can never be filled.  To show affection, to receive affection, these are some of the reasons I got married in the first place!  I never dreamed that could be a problem when I got married.  I grew up in an affectionate home.  Shows like "Married With Children" taught me that while some men lacked passion and intimacy, that wasn't an issue with women, right?  Looking back, the warning signs were there early on, but I was too young and naive to recognize them.

And the feelings that my situation brings: sadness, depression, anger, apathy, guilt!  While most of the time, I can block these out, sometimes they threaten to overwhelm me.  In my weaker moments, I have to admit to entertaining thoughts of having an affair, of getting a divorce, of fantasizing about some way, any way, OUT!  It is a good thing that the opportunity to have an affair has never presented itself during those moments. I don't know if I would be strong enough to resist.

Some here would recommend I dissolve this marriage and find my soul-mate, and a part of me sometimes wishes that could be.  But for me, that is not an option. I vowed to remain married "till death do us part".  I have a strong faith in God and an unwavering belief that in his eyes, marriage is for life and that only death or infidelity can sever that bond.  I am ashamed to admit that in my lowest moments, I have wished she would have an affair so that I could be free to re-marry.  God, please forgive me!

And so I am left with one option, to make the best with what I have.  I have to learn to appreciate the ways she in which she does express her love.  I have to learn to express my love to her in ways she will appreciate.   I have to learn the true meaning of love:  unselfish giving without expecting anything (even a touch) in return.

P.S.  Just writing this down seems to have helped somewhat.

AChristianMan AChristianMan
19 Responses May 11, 2012

I do understand - and it is such a confusing place to be! I would really encourage you to keep talking to her, even if she is resistant at first. It is not an easy thing to discuss for anyone, and the issue is never as simple as her initial response implied. I wonder if she is just very uncomfortable with this aspect of herself - and may need to understand more fully what it means to you and how much it hurts before she can be motivated to open up about it? Good luck, and if you find any answers, please share!

As recently as 5 years ago, I believed in the permanence of marriage vows; that there were few excuses for divorce; and that one had to "make the best of it". Then one day while sitting at a friend's memorial service, I realized that I couldn't live that way any more - couldn't keep trying on my own to save a marriage that my husband clearly didn't value. We separated 6 months later. <br />
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Re the Christian aspect .... I spent last weekend at a women's retreat for my church. Two or three of the women had been married for more than 30 years, and a couple were widowed ... but I think the vast majority were divorced and remarried. <br />
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Welcome. Keep reading here. You'll see a lot of different perspectives. As for the comments - sometimes people are just trying to get you to challenge your thinking.

I won't address the vows issue, because your mind is made up.<br />
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However, do you realize you're not being honest with her? As your life mate, she deserves the truth, and you deserve to be able to tell the truth. You say, "For most of my marriage, I have been able to push my feelings of being neglected aside, but sometimes those feelings bubble up to the surface and overwhelm me." Tell her that! Say those exact words to her. It comes straight from your heart.<br />
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Whether she does anything about it or not is not within your control. But you owe it to her to tell her the truth. Your situation may not change one iota. Truth is necessary for love, and for love to grow, and you're depriving her of the chance to show her love for you because you haven't successfully communicated the seriousness of your feelings of neglect. You owe her and the marriage your WHOLE truth, not just the easy parts. Otherwise you're living a lie - both of you are - and I can't believe a loving God wants this for you.

Thank you nitwitty, you hit the nail on the head. And you must be a mindreader, because you have expressed the exact same things I have been thinking over the past few days.

She knows I desire affection and intimacy, but I have been guilty of not letting her know how deeply the lack of those is affecting me - and as you said, she deserves the truth.

I have always been better at expressing myself in writing, so I am going to compose a letter to her over the next few days as I find private time.

I wish she could read this and know your pain and that she would want to change, not change because you expect it but because you are unhappy and she is the one woman in your life whom you "get to be" intimate with, she is the only one who can do that with you within your vows.<br />
I live in a completely sexless marriage and I admire you for honoring your vows ,I did for 16 yrs ,I do not believe having an affair is right but that is what I chose to do.<br />
I think counseling is always a good idea, if she won't go with you go for yourself and get a few tools to work with to help.<br />
It always seems like all the people who abhor intimacy are married to all the people who adore it.

It's truly amazing how many of us married the wrong person. Counseling would be good, but my wife wouldn't go even to the counselor of her choice.

I'm not going to condemn anyone for staying in a marriage and honoring the vows they made to their spouse and their God. Yes, Ephesians 5 commands us to love our spouses, regardless of how they respond. (Now, if there's abuse, that's a different story ...) However, I also refuse to believe that divorce equals eternal damnation from God.<br />
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Julie Siebert, some of you might know as the Intimacy In Marriage website writer, literally pleads with spouses to make sex an integral part of their lives. She didn't in her first marriage, her husband walked out the door, she saw the light, and now her current hubby, the lucky dog, is reaping the benefits on a frequent basis.<br />
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Going around the table at a weekly Tuesday morning Bible study I'm in, I can point to two guys where their second marriages were a blessing. Indeed, they believe their marriages are Fort Knox-level rock solid, primarily because they have learned from the mistakes of their first marriage.<br />
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I'm here, so everyone has an idea about the state of my marriage. I'm staying. I'm honoring my vow. Is that permanent? Can't say for sure. I will spend a lot of time in prayer about it, and I will use the criteria MaryRyan posted about in her blog: If you divorce, make sure you go out able to truthfully say that you did everything you could to keep it together.<br />
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What I do know is this: I will someday be making up for the lost time --- whether it's with my wife or someone else.

How is this not abuse? He is harmed in a very major way, by her inaction, when he is contrained by fidelity. That is abuse in my book, and I',m no abuse maven.

The card problem is so true, it shines a light on how we really feel. And for a very long time I believed the same thing, that my faith left me no options except staying. I found some challenging and enlightening articles about Christianity, sexlessness and divorce that opened my eyes to a lot of things. One of the best ones is here:<br />
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I've confided in one friend in real life, she's a strong Christian woman. She told me that even if divorce was a sin, it was only one sin and we are already forgiven. Amen. <br />
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I'm still in it and trying, but I no longer believe that I'm trapped by my faith. Keep reading here, sometimes the replies sound harsh but harshness may be what you (or someone else) needs to jolt them into thinking about their situation differently. 

Wow. When I posted this, I expected a mixture of responses, some sympathetic, some encouraging, and yes, some flames. Truly, I didn't expect the overwhelming number of responses to be flames and attacks. "Pathetic", "doormat", "hiding behind God's robes"...phew.<br />
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Sorry, but in my defense, I have to disagree with these assessments. What many of you see as weakness and inability to "man up", I see as strength founded in my faith in God and in the love I have for my wife. For me, to give in to what I sometimes desire, to end the marriage and find bliss elsewhere, would be the easy, cowardly, selfish way out. For me, fighting for what I want, an unbroken home, a home with both a father and a mother for my children, a marriage that is accepted by God is what takes true courage, honor, and strength of character.<br />
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I know many of you believe that I would already have God's approval to get a divorce because of my wife's lack of intimacy. I don't want to get into a theological debate here, but I will say that it is my belief that God would not approve a divorce in my case. My understanding of what Christ himself taught on divorce is that adultery is the ONLY reason to get one (true adultery which involves sexual relations with a third party, not just "emotional adultery"). Again, those are my beliefs ba<x>sed on my understanding of what the Bible teaches, and I hope you can respect that even if you disagree.<br />
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Elsewhere in this forum, I came across a post which stated that those in my position have one of two choices: either 1) leave, or 2) accept it and live with it. Because of my convictions, I made my choice: to accept it and live with it. If you cannot respect my decision and the fact that it is mine to make, well, so be it...I am me...I am not you.<br />
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So, if I have already made my choice, why did I even bother to post here? Because the last couple of weeks have been especially hard. For most of my marriage, I have been able to push my feelings of being neglected aside, but sometimes those feelings bubble up to the surface and overwhelm me. I know I made my choice, and I know I have to live with the consequences, but I thought sharing my experiences with others in the same situation would help me deal with those consequences...and it already has to a degree. And hopefully, my story will help and encourage someone else, as reading the stories of others here has helped me.

ACM, I can relate to the religious aspect of your situation. I know all too well the feelings you are going through. I don't think badly of you for your decision. We all have choices to make, and God gives us free will. I will say, though, that it will take much hard work by both you and your wife if there is to be any improvement. If she is unwilling to work at it, you will have a very long, difficult, and sad road.

Really? God says adultary is the only reason for a divorce? Really? What about if you are being beaten up every day by your spouse? what if your children are being beaten up by your spouse? What if your spouse is a child sexual abuser? Or a murderer? Can't get a divorce? What kind of God is this? I will never understand anyone who believes in a God that does not want his followers to be happy and content in their lives but wants to dictate that they must live in a miserable life because he/she is all powerful and right...I am glad I don't believe in that God and will choose my own path, the one that will make me happy...

No, I certainly do not believe God would expect anyone to stay in such abusive situations. I really don't want to get into a marriage-divorce-remarriage debate here, but I do believe God has the answers.

Last card I bought my H was for Valentines and I wrote "whatever" inside LOL, he stuck it on his fridge.<br />
You deserve so much more, why should you "have to learn the true meaning of love: unselfish giving without expecting anything (even a touch) in return" that's not love!<br />
That's a one way street a dead end, I wish you well.

I totally get it. I've been dreading card buying for years now.

AChristianMan, In your story you commented that "Years ago, I talked to her about this, I let her know how painful it was to me that our marriage was void of intimacy and affection. Her response was that she is not that type of person, that she married me for who I was without expecting me to change and I wouldn't expect her to change, would I?" <br />
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Well then she is a deceiver and a liar. She states that she married you for who you were without expecting you to change. She really should have finished her comments with, "But I don't care about your need for intimacy because regardless of the vow of marriage I made, a promise to cherish and love you, I had no intention of fulfilling my promise to you because it just isn't me and doesn't meet my needs". More or less, you can go pound sand. <br />
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But...., she is such a GOOD mother, and such a GOOD housekeeper. Well bully for her domestic apptitude but she sucks at being a woman who loves her man on every level of intimacy: mental, spiritual, emotinal and physical. <br />
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And so when the kids grow up and leave...., what will you have with her then besides a really empty nest?

I agree with you Sinmet, and wish I had the courage.

How incredibly sad... Let her read this post, and remind her of the obligation she agreed to honor with the "vow". Man you have allowed the most sexually active years of your life be taken from you by this " wife"! Repulsive,and you've quiet for how long? This is emotional cancer, I have complete empathy with the being inches away but seeming like miles syndrome, but it's only been a couple months, for me and I am at wits end!your chaste, barren marriage won't guarantee a place up there with the man in the sky, so go and **** something! Now!thats an order .

I laughed when I read about your devotion to your wedding vows, it was just like those cards you found did not apply to your marriage, maybe you should determine if the wedding vows you hold so dear apply to your marriage as well. Wedding vows = Hallmark card.

You hope she has an affair so you've got a legitimate reason (according to your beliefs) to divorce? Well you could always have an affair yourself and create a reason for a divorce.

You are living my life !!!!<br />
Is that too much to want to be wanted , touched,kissed ?

Been there myself. Good luck to you.

You have you let her know the depth of your feelings, maybe not the parts about fantasizing about affairs, but you can't keep your feeling inside of you!

Exactly what I am planning to do. Thank you for this comment.

Wow, so familiar! I applaud you for sharing your feelings. This is a huge problem for me when I try to buy a Valentine's card or anniversary card. We have had a lousy love life from the beginning as far as real passion and really bad the last 10 years or so. My prayers are with you.

GibbySan- You took the words right out of my mouth. Why even try to keep up this pretense anymore ? Like GotItNow said above- no cards that are available fit. There is nothing available that doesn't hype up and exaggerate the situation. Nothing works any more. I know the feeling so well. I just wish their were some painless way to end it. Painless for me and her, and our grown kids. But there isn't. I waited too long and just endured the situation. I guess I am destined to suffer the rest of my life in this pitiful situation. It's sad. I don't want to hurt anybody, but if I were to end it, I would and at my age it is highly improbable that I would find anyone anyway.

I know exactly what you mean about the card isle! As a matter of fact that was one of the things that kept happening to me that let me know I was really unhappy. Reading the cards and not finding anything that would work for us. Similar to that was listening to a girlfriend toast her husband at a big birthday party. I was so freaked out by the realization that I could never say any of those things about my husband and our love. I could never talk about him with such devotion. I would for sure say thank you for taking care of me financially and for never cheating on me, etc.....but that wouldn't go over too well I don't think! I'd get booed off the stage! Even though I would only be being honest. ):

" Her response was that she is not that type of person, that she married me for who I was without expecting me to change and I wouldn't expect her to change, would I? "<br />
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You said that in the beggining you had it all for 2 years but it stopped after that. So this means she has changed therefor her statement above is not true.

The 2 years was a girlfriend I had before I met my current wife. Sorry if I was unclear.

Oh...I see. Then if indeed she was like this from the very beginning I think she is right. You may have entered into the marriage blinded by love hoping that she will change and things will get better. Not her fault....I mean she did not lead you on then if that is how things stand. It looks like you either stay and find a way to accept it and be happy or you break free and find a woman that is compatible with you.