On The Brink---need A Reality Check

Our temporary separation just ended (3 weeks) and I've told my H I want a three month real separation. So many tearful conversations. He doesn't want to separate, but I can't stand another month of sleeping next to a man that doesn't want to have sex with me. I don't want to cuddle, I don't want to do all the normal things like eat dinner or go out as a couple with someone who is basically just a friend at this point.

He says that he's tried as hard to fix things as possible, but I feel like he's done nothing. Showing up for therapy once a week for an hour---what else? I don't remember him doing anything else to make me feel desired other than saying, "I DO desire you. I just didn't act on it." and then a list of reasons he didn't act on it, from stress to performance anxiety to fatigue to ED to emotional dynamics etc etc etc. My feeling in life is that actions are what matter, not words. Does it really matter why? He didn't act on this supposed desire for over 5 years in anything but the most halfhearted way, if that, and all the excuses in the world don't change that fact. I know what it feels like to be truly desired by a man, and this ain't it.

My question is: how do you define "working on it?" What would be examples of an acceptable level of trying that you would need to move forward with your refuser? I love him, but I feel like he is totally delusional that he has tried to do anything to change the dynamic. I'm so tired of excuses. I just want to have a normal physical relationship with a man. Is there any chance a few months apart will help us reignite the spark?
nyartgal nyartgal
36-40, F
13 Responses Jul 21, 2012

The question of "what 5 things have you done?" is a good start. This should not be a case of him simply being a problem to be solved though. You BOTH need a plan that includes accountability to each other. Remember, your relationship dynamic includes a situation where HE is unsatisfied as well. He may be inarticulate about it, or non-communicative, or simply a lost cause, but if you still hold a candle for the two of you getting out together, you both need to be in this together.<br />
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I think the most effective way to do this would be for both of you to draw up separation plans that include self work and life recovery. Once the initial crash is over, most separated or divorced people go through a period of self-discovery and revitalization - picking up old interests or new ones, building social circles and habits that break co-dependency. The latter is probably an area that you should focus on in your get well plan. Get back to being interesting individual people again, both of you. <br />
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Then put in your calendars dates every few weeks to meet and discuss what you've done. Make sure you build into your plans the notion that you each will be looking for evidence of change.

All of your responses seem to be based in the notion that the refusing or disinterested spouses are self aware enough to tell you (or themselves even) what they need and want. Quite often, it is ONLY the final step of divorce that brings them to ask that question. You are going back to old stories and answering them anew... this one was in July and a lot has happened for nyartgal since then... she has discovered in her own evaluation that she was married to a passive aggressive emotional abuser. Read the rest of her stories. My question to you though is why the sudden need to go back and answer people's stories like this? What is going on within your marriage that you feel the need to go back to old stories and write out a list of how to fix things when those people have already gone in a different direction? Something seems to me like you are trying to convince yourself more than us of this solution being viable.

Actually, HellHath, several people have emailed me privately to share what I've been doing and to participate in EP by sharing my experience and insight, partly, I imagine, because it is quite different from their own. I thank you for trying to assign a motivation to me, but that is why. Actually, the kind of response and judgment I'm getting from you, encapsulates the frustration I have with many in this community, and illustrates effectively my hesitation in sharing anything at all.

"All of your responses seem to be based in the notion that the refusing or disinterested spouses are self aware enough to tell you (or themselves even) what they need and want. Quite often, it is ONLY the final step of divorce that brings them to ask that question. " -----------------

If you'd read one of my recent responses in another thread, you'd see me tackling the notion that intimacy averse people are even cognizant of explaining their aversion when they are in it. So rather than saying "ALL" of my responses, how about just saying "the ones I've read."

And yes, the whole point of my other story Asexuality is Overprescribed, which you have commented in extensively, is about the notion that to get an intimacy averse spouse to DO anything about a problem (as in, take an interest in it), you need to something on a scale that threatens the very foundation of what they and you, perceive the marriage to be. I'm not sure how that point eludes you, while at the same time you reference it. Forest for the trees?

This makes me think I should write an update on how I'm doing, which is very good. Obv there is no "one size fits all" solution, we are all searching, scrambling, fumbling to find a way through. For me, love is inextricably dependent on both trust and respect. I lost a huge amount of both of those for my H because of his manipulation and hurtful behavior. This in turn eroded a lot of love I had for him, and made me much less inclined to keep trying things that I didn't at all believe would work. I did in fact offer an open marriage but he was completely threatened by and against it. Sometimes the refuser refuses all help. In my case, that's what happened. And if you have no hope of positive change, there's nothing else to do but accept it or walk away.

"And if you have no hope of positive change, there's nothing else to do but accept it or walk away." --------------------- Based on what you wrote, nyartigal, I think we agree agree that the first duty is to be true to oneself. It sounds like you presented options and alternatives outside of leaving the relationship, and established parameters to work with --parameters that were true to your needs, but that he was unable or unwilling to work within them. As such, it can and will mean the end of the relationship, and it should. To that end, perhaps some of us here are in violent agreement. I don't necessarily see the termination of a chronically dysfunctional relationship as a bad ending.

Life without hope is not worth living, at least for me. Once I lost it completely, the path was clear.

3 More Responses

I am befuddled by the whole situation too. Have you reached the point at which you don't even long for him anymore? Have you thought of him as a sort of a eunuch? (I know this is a rude thought, it's just that I have it.)

A couple things strike me, with the conversation you had, which is familiar to me. <br />
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1. Desire is not a quality that can be approached directly. If your expectation is to demand him to simply desire you (he might succeed in having sex with you, but if he doesn't desire you, the quality and eventually quantity of the experience will be unsatisfying), then you are doomed to fail. It's like ordering someone to find that a joke is funny, or to enjoy fish. Going at it head on isn't going to work. You have to change the entire context around it, first, to think of it in a different way --to change the conversation about it. <br />
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2. If you are working on a therapeutic separation, then you need to actually sit down together and create a plan, with tangible actions and followup --what are you BOTH doing during your time apart to reconstitute so that you are ABLE to change the dynamic of the relationship. The idea is that you become different people in and of yourselves, rather than simply going directly to the dynamic between you. Again, indirectly. There are some helpful books that can guide you through that process "Getting Back Together" is ironically about separation. You can talk with a counsellor about separation as well - a third party mediator would be helpful in providing an external guide in this case, and keeping both of you on target.<br />
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Our counsellor explained that in his experience, partners who "temporarily split" without any tangible separation plan, stay split. It's just a separation and it eventually becomes habit. If you truly intend on doing a therapeutic separation, then you are going to have to get on a program.

Definition of "working on it" in this context would his actions demonstrating some level of improvement in the level of marital sexual ex<x>pression.<br />
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In the absence of any such observable action, you can only conclude that he is just bullshitting you along in a rear guard action in a desparate attempt to buy more time whilst he thinks up a 'get out of jail free' card - like the old "a priest touched me up when I was a kiddie' card or similar.<br />
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Putting him in a position where he is free to "work on it" at his own pace in his own way, at a locality many hours distant from you has a lot going for it - for you.<br />
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Tread your own path.

Frankly, I didn't have time to read all the comments/responses. But assuming that you're still attracted to him and truly want to have sex with HIM, there is an answer: that little blue pill (the name of which is, apparently, not allowed in this forum). Admittedly, they're not cheap (they're $20 per pill and that's WITH my insurance plan) so I buy them from India. The generic version works, believe me. But, as a test, his urologist will give him a free sample. You and he will be amazed.<br />
Seriously, performance anxiety is a real thing. I'm 53 and while I was getting divorced, I was going out with a girl and, on occassion, I couldn't get it up. (Who knows why?!?!?!?!). She suggested that pill and it totally changed our (and my) sex life. There's NOTHING to be ashamed of. Better living through chemistry. We're lucky to have that pill ... our parents didn't.

What will it make one to understand that you cannot demand sexual intimacy or performance from one who does not wish to do so. Passion naturally subsides in working marriage over the years and often life just becomes a habit or and accommodation. Not every one can accept that or should. What you seek here , regardless of his pronouncements will never happen. Consider your relationship beyond repair and begin looking forward to fulfilling your needs in a new life elsewhere.<br />
This of course is easy for me to say without any idea of your family dynamics but if children are involved and dependent on age divorce is not the catastrophe everyone says it is and you may well be better off away from this soul killing environment.<br />
I do wish you well but you should reconcile yourself to the fact that this spouse you have so long been with is not going to change one bit.

Thanks so much for your responses, everyone. I really am at the breaking point! I'm so tired of excuses and smokescreens and constantly moving goalposts!! This marriage has become such a head trip. Like I said below, I asked him, "what are 5 things you've done in the past 3 months to 'work on it' besides things I've forced/asked you to do, or things we've done together?" He couldn't come up with one thing. Is there anything left to say? <br />
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I'm worth fighting for---so I am fighting for ME. My life, my future, my happiness.<br />
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His desire to avoid the "discomfort" of dealing with it is so much deeper than his desire to work on things with me. I think he has some sort of anxiety issue around sex that is so deep, it just blots out anything else. Basically, the only times he wants to have sex is when the stars align in such a way that he feels NO stress at all: on vacation, after a massage, etc. He has to be completely lulled into a state of total relaxation in order to have any desire.

it actualy looks and sounds like a deeper issue that is going on with your partner. and he's not comfortable enough to talk to you about it yet. i think you need to show him a bit of empathy and patience. till he feels comfortable enough to speak with you... trying asking him if there is anythng he want to talk about. . . and when he's ready. just listen and then listen again with your heart and dont jump all over him...

...and you actually believe that she hasn't done that... forever... a million times... read some stories here before you start giving advice.

They haven't been sexless for a weekend, they've been sexless for YEARS

What constitutes "working on it" mean to you? What I or anyone else things matter not a jot. You will inevitably get a myriad of different responses and judgements in response to your question. Not a single one of them will satisfy you. You simply have to live by your own self-imposed standards and your husband, or soon to be ex-husband will have to live with them as well. As you have said he has reacted too little, too late. You are now rejecting him and the dynamics have done a 180 about-turn. I can see no reason why a few months apart will achieve anything magical. What exactly do you think it might achieve? Do you think he will come back better motivated in the absence of dealing with his actual issues or that you will feel any more favourable to him, have a greater sense that you have been missing something? Maybe, maybe not. Even if it was true how long do you suppose it would last? The bottom line is probably that he has issues about you that he simply won't admit to you hence the comment about "emotional dynamics". He is possibly simply not turned on by you and that probably has little to do with physical appearances. It happens often and it's tough, really.

Honestly, I don't know. I asked him, "what are 5 things you've done in the past 3 months to 'work on it' besides things I've forced/asked you to do, or things we've done together?" He couldn't come up with one thing.

How attracted are you to him and him to you?

I am---or was---attracted to him. I like everything about him, his body, his skin, the way he looks, smells. That said, years of really dreadful or no sex have finally killed my desire. I just can't face more bad sex yet I can't live with none at all.

Can't say how he feels---I just don't think he's a person who is very honest with himself. About anything.

"My feeling in life is that actions are what matter, not words." <br />
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That's all relationships, lovers, friends, in a nutshell. Uppermost.<br />
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Don't tell me you love me: show me.<br />
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Don't tell me you're my friend: *be* one.<br />
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Don't apologize: Be different.<br />
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"It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them."<br />
- P. G. Wodehouse<br />
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Truth in action, I call it. I wish we'd all judge people not by the words they use - good and bad - but, rather, by their actions. The things they do, and don't do. All of the truth we need is right in front of us: Are we all prepared to stare directly at it?<br />
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My husband didn't work on it, either, for years. We'd talk, I'd cry, he'd tell me that he knew I wasn't happy about it, I told him to stop taking so many medications, go see a doc, etc. Hardly any effort on his part. Just, "I'm sorry. We will work on it." <br />
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Until finally, I said, "**** it. He doesn't want to do anything about it, fine. I will dispatch my duties as a mother and get the kids raised, go to school to make myself employable, and I'm out!"<br />
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Well, lo and behold, NOW he's all about fixing the living **** out of our marriage. I'm not. I'm still done.

Too little, too late. I feel you.

That's a great question. My H feels like he's really working on it too, but the action doesn't follow. <br />
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My current thought is he really is working on it internally. He's trying to figure out why he doesn't/can't/won't have sex with me. Of course, the problem with that is his internal processing is something I can't see or feel or touch. So it may very well be he's working on it but hasn't come up with a solution yet.<br />
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But and it's a big BUT...the bottom line is it's not enough for you. One big problem with a SM is the deleterious effect it has on our feeling of desirability. His rejection makes me feel undesired and there's no bigger libido killer than lack of desire. None of us like to beg - it makes us cranky! So regardless of all his internal work, if it doesn't produce results that make you feel safe, there is little that can change this dynamic. <br />
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I think you are right to hold your ground. The great news about life is unless it's a death, it's never final. So, you lose nothing by giving yourselves a break to see what it's like out there without the attachment to the other. You may find being friends is enough or he may find he can finally overcome his fears and come back with his desire fully in tact. Or, you may find it's a lost cause. In any case, the separation will not hurt what is already broken.

I'm not sure how much I believe about "internal" work. Is this really the riddle of the Sphinx? Or is it as simple as, he just isn't that into me? Does it even matter why? The result is the result, regardless of the reason.

I do leave open the possibility of a miracle turnaround. In the meantime, however, I'm really tired of being hurt. I need to protect myself and seek my own happiness. Wherever that may be.

MTT - you're too wise to be fooled by this internal process malarky. Don't read into his behaviour what you would do. How much soul searching have you done? How much twisting of yourself have you done? Tons and tons, I bet. What does his look like? Self-pitying and searching for new excuses? I dunno. Surely the first thing you need to do is make some visible changes - which might just be acknowledging the hurt and listening.

I don't think his work is malarky (great word btw!). I have seen trememdous change in him. In fact this very weekend, he traveled across the country to tell his family about his sexual abuse, his **** addiction and the demise of our marriage. He's telling everyone the truth with the hope it sets others free in his family who've suffered from the effect of this trauma. I couldn't be more proud of his effort. But, there's the big BUT again, he still can't reach out to me. His work is about him and untangling all the crossed wires he created. I now believe he may eventually be ready for love fully and completely someday. At this point, however, it won't be with me. There's too much neglect and pain - too much time that I've given to this issue. I will strike out on my own and see what happens. Miracles do happen - my H's disclosure to his family is evidence of such. 6 years ago when we actively started working on our marriage, I couldn't have imagined that would happen. Now, we understand the scope of our love which is strong but doesn't include sex. I want to feel the desire of another and trust it.

Good luck to you, MTT. That is an incredibly tough situation, and most people do not come back from sexual abuse without years and years of therapy and hard work. And let's face it. Not everyone is as resilient or capable of change as we'd like them to be. Sometimes there is a hole inside a person that nothing can fill---and certainly no one else but that person can fill it for him/her.

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