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Empathy For The "refuser" & Why The Reason Does Actually Matter

When you have a free hour, have a listen to this podcast. Good stuff.

http://mentalpod.com/Listener-Lily-podcast
ModLulu ModLulu 36-40, F 8 Responses Jul 31, 2012

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If I've got the thrust of this right, I think a key fact needs to be looked at.<br />
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By far the majority of posters in this group are transients. They arrive, invariably with a position that "everything is great bar the sex" and looking for the magic bullet fix. On discovering there is no magic bullet fix, they depart again. Probably to seek the magic bullet fix elsewhere. They appear, drop their story in, mebbe argue a bit, then **** off, as quickly as they first appeared. About 4 out of 5 posters exhibit this.<br />
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Then you have the medium termers, who stay for a bit, but when things get a smidge too close to the bone, they too depart.<br />
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The long termers, who are either diligently working their way forward, or just continually re-spinning their original vent would be in no doubt as to what the position of ModLulu is. Just as they can probably predict (with great accuracy) what is likely to follow after the avatar of other long termers appears.<br />
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I guess MsMod, I am suggesting that your valuable input IS seen, IS understood by the (small) number of persons who come here and STAY.<br />
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For the majority (the transients) it wouldn't matter what you said or how you said it. If there is no easy magic bullet answer to be had, they depart as quickly as they arrive.<br />
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Tread your own path.

First up, most importantly, I value your ex<x>pression here and hope you can continue. Of course, if it's not helping you, then do what you need to do.<br />
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A variety of people are "here" in a variety of different stages. People listen to different forms of messages, and they may/may not help them at different times, when they're ready. And if you assess success in terms of popularity, this is one the most active space for SM sufferers on the internet.<br />
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Therefore, both from a personal perspective, and feeling that one or other form of ex<x>pression will help somebody - I value the diversity of feedback, learn from it - yet do not take it that personally.<br />
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Refuser/refused - if not used pejoratively - is desc<x>riptive and likely as good as any other. It is recognised elsewhere on the internet. The people who post here are most likely skewed to be people who are the refused and stewing in fear and stasis. But there is no monopoly on suffering in the SM.<br />
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And you might find that there are a fair number of the refusers here who do not post because they get a difficult reception and do not find it congenial. Which is understandable given the nature of the pain. Yet I think it is probably an important message for them to absorb, because quite often - and self-justifying as we all are prone to - they minimise the hurt and pain involved. So it is a service to bear witness to the horror of it, the enormity of the problem. And if they don't like it - go elsewhere, and be willing to accept that their partner will be making their own call.<br />
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I think it is extremely valuable for the refused to hear challenging messages (people say this precise thing when reporting back some time later) - amongst them the propositon that their spouse does not love them. For the very good reason that, at least in a substantial proportion of cases, that will be the case.<br />
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Yet whatever the reason, the most important thing is to shift perspectives so that you can take action, and build understanding in a way that causes someone - finally - to act in their own interests. And if the thing that shifts them is seemingly extremist, or denigrates or demonises the refuser, then that may be a useful tool or proposition to move from saying that everything is great bar the sex, to all that glitters....<br />
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Once you've done that, then empathy and whys may or may not be important - most of all for yourself.<br />
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My feeling is that there is a moral dimension to this, and while I can be empathetic and love the sinner (including myself) - I do not love the sin of the SM, the lies, and the careless or arrogant cruelty of refusers. As CWDYG says, what's wrong is not the refusal, it's not taking action at very high priority to sort it.<br />
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I want a wider recognition that the SM is a marital emergency, and that it is not acceptable to refuse whilst simultaneously not taking action to either improve the situation, or release the bonds of fidelity.<br />
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It is intellectually and morally indefensible to assert autonomy over your own actions (by refusing on a repeated basis) - whilst simultaneously constraining another person's autonomy by asserting that they cannot choose to deploy their emotional and sexual attentions in other directions.<br />
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And most of all, I'd want people working through what they need to do to change the SM is to do so as soon as possible because that way minimises the pain and wasted time. And if that means lighting a metaphorical rocket under their posteriors, then so be it.<br />
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Oh, I also trust people's own judgement about what advice they should or shouldn't take to suit their circumstances, and to hone their own understanding.<br />
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And yes, there is a responsibliity for posters to be helpful - but that doesn't mean anodyne or sugar-coated, particularly because that can trap people in false hope and delay them from doing what they need to do.

"It is [...] indefensible to assert autonomy over your own actions (by refusing on a repeated basis) - whilst simultaneously constraining another person's autonomy by asserting that they cannot choose to deploy their emotional and sexual attentions in other directions."

This is partly a cage of one's own making. How many of us simply avoid raising that as an option, anticipating our partner's response?

There is an element of that; yet the reaction I know I would have got from W would have been extreme and involving kitchen knives. I think most people here have had that kind of reaction or else disingenuous ones. And indeed, the open marriage option is not an easy road and few manage that. I would also note the extreme moral outrage that people profess when someone has an affair - even when they've not been fulfilling their side of the bargain and it's an SM, is hardly a good basis for fearlessly proposing such a thing. And until there's equal outrage for the SM (and other forms of emotional neglect), that puffed-up morality is nauseating self-serving tripe.

And yet, the anticipated reaction of kitchen knives, would be YOUR SPOUSE's reaction. That version of The Talk, would force your spouse to own a position on YOUR prospects for sexual expression and how important it is -- and you KNOW how difficult that would be for them to swallow. Can you imagine the wriggling? I think people come here looking for non-nuclear weapons. Surely the divorce option is like a self destruct A-Bomb. It becomes a game of "I dare you" when the only weapon you have will hurt your whole family. I choose not to subscribe to the notion that if a long term partnership has become dysfunctional to the point that sexual expression and intimacy has been compromised, that the whole thing needs to be tossed like a moldy carton of cream. I know folks come here looking for an easy solution. While there isn't one, there are conventional weapons, with more direct means, to focus attention so it can be treated by BOTH partners with the seriousness with which it is warranted. A covert affair (in my view), fits the Dr. Strangelove scenario, in which the General is scolded by the scientist who developed the Doomsday Weapon. The whole point of the Doomsday Weapon is to let your opponent KNOW you have it. If you keep it secret, the benefit is lost (the benefit being that nobody dares attack you). Whereas a sit down talk with your spouse about the hot date you've lined up for Friday... I imagine that's really going to change the conversation you've been having (or not having) for the past few years.

Well, actually I have transformed my relationship so I do know whereof I speak - and no, I chose not to go down that route. And few people here having in mind "tossing it aside like a moldy carton of cream". Rather, they're far too accomodating and go to unreasonable lengths to preserve the broken - not just mouldy, foul stinking rubbish. Furthermore, regardless of unauthorised surgery, I think people are sometimes backed into a corner lying about affairs because of the very extreme reaction to them and being trapped for financial/kids reasons. The prurient outrage to affairs professed by people who know nothing about the situation is pretty extreme from what I've seen. Personally, I reckon that if someone's consistently refusing, then the refused person should not even have to ask, and everyone should know that the fidelity requirement is over. And the refuser should be the one outed with opprobrium.

This conversation between you two is great. It say so much of what I think and am unable to put into words. From their version of the talk, which isn't always the real talk that should happen to avoiding the talk for sometimes years. The axtul problems are deeper rooted than sex alone yet sex is at the fore front and is said to be the problem. It's annoying to watch people spend years of unhappiness and then blame the so called refuser. So many become the refuser too, the "Talk refuser" that is. Ha. **** or get off the pot is the expression I believe..
There's a large group within the members of a SM where the issues that really need worked are not sex at all. If these other issues were worked our the sex would come naturally.

Actually, hl42, I'm a fan of your approach. Mine isn't or wasn't necessarily that different. It's just more of a high-pressure gambit to force-feed a near immediate consequence that is not divorce. The approach you took in your other story really isn't that different in the important ways - you remained authentic about your needs and made your wife clearly cognizant that she was making a choice about how to proceed. There are elements in my approach that I realize now are or were unique to my wife's needs. I see some similarities there with ModLulu's story as well. In our cases, our partners were willing to eventually own their role in this (just as we own our own roles in accepting what led to it). I'll definately cop to speaking against affairs, but largely my reaction was due to the wreckage inflicted when my "intimacy averse" wife became exhausted with me continual focus on that issue and decided to try things out on her own. But I certainly understand and empathize with the impetus. I wonder, if I might have done the same, if I'd had more of an opportunity.

I was very interested in your story too, and felt it showed a great deal of maturity - likely not something I'd have been able to hack!, but nevertheless, both showing a good level of commitment and flexibility (ultimately).

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Some psychologists use the terms Sexual Distancers and Sexual Pursuers instead of refusers and refused.

When you listen to Lily describe her sexual interactions with her husband, it is every bit the kind of behavior that thousands of stories describe here, and then that person is described as a refuser - by both the OP and the commenters. So, in the lexicon of ILIASM, yes, this person is a refuser. If you insist, I will go through and find specific examples that prove my point. Then, it is an accepted paradigm that the "why" doesn't matter - when clearly in this detailed case described on the podcast, this woman had very legitimate, traceable, and resolvable issues that were the "why" she hated sex with her husband. I think moving away from the "refuser" terminology would greatly benefit the group, and hopefully lead to a body of information that is more helpful to people. <br />
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I understand that this is an important forum for people to vent, be angry, and work through the demons - lord knows I did the same thing. However, when people write that they are desperate for advice, desperate for help, searching for answers,*specifically* asking for help, what I have seen the vast majority of the time is a lot of refuser-bashing and no accountability for the person who is the refused. Yes, I do understand that there are people that are abusive, cruel, out-and-out refusers out there with no desire to change. But writers here are the ones that choose to stay in those marriages - of course they are angry, but they stay for years, then want to blame someone else for their misery? Yeah, I am tired of reading those stories. I'm sorry to say my reservoir of empathy/sympathy has run out on those. I have cut down drastically on my reading here, only jumping in when someone asks about a success story, or I see someone that resembles me a couple years ago. <br />
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As I said in part 1 of my "What I Did About It" stories, I was ready to leave if my husband was not willing to change. I was dead serious about leaving. I am 100% supportive and proud of people who find the courage to leave when they know their spouse will never change - it is exactly what I would have done. I had the good fortune to have a willing partner in the work, in which I let go of the anger and got to the root of my own weaknesses that contributed to the dysfunction. I urge people to forgive. I disdain the pettiness, spite, and resentment I read here - even among those who rightly left their marriages. It feeds into the ILIASM paradigm that refusers/non-sex people are stupid, selfish, cruel, have no feelings, etc "because the why doesn't matter". I am saying that it is more complicated than that, marriage is more complicated than that, and sex in a decades-long relationship is more complicated than that. Telling a sobbing 20-something newlywed who is desperate for help that nothing can really be done does these people a great disservice, so I try (perhaps futilely) to provide a different point of view. I am not filled with bliss, I am not "over-the-moon"; I never said I was. I worked really ******* hard to get where I am, and went through a lot of misery to find joy and peace. I also know new love is powerful and different, and it becomes the bedrock of a long-term meaningful relationship. My brain-chemical haze talk is reserved for those who think their affair is the answer, or young people (or people my age) who seem to think a marriage that lacks certain 'in love feelings' is a failed marriage and a lost cause- they have thousands of comments in here to back that up. <br />
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Wow, this is my longest comment ever. But I wanted everyone to know that I read the comments and I hear you all, and I am re-evaluating how I present myself here so that I am better understood.

"clearly in this detailed case described on the podcast, this woman had very legitimate, traceable, and resolvable issues that were the "why" she hated sex with her husband." My XH had very legitimate, traceable and resolvable issues that were they "why" he stopped having sex with me too. Being legitimate, traceable and resolvable does not mean that they will be legitimately resolved or traced. That is on him to do. To me, that is what "the why does not matter" means. It is not up to me to resolve it, hope it gets resolved, figure out the problem or understand its source. His why -- if he chooses not to make progress in those issues -- matters not. If he really chooses to work at it, then it does matter to us both as he works on his issues, I work on mine and we work on ours. If he chooses not to pay it any mind or mock me when I think there's a problem (mine did) then his why doesn't matter. All that matters is the behavior and whether the behavior continues or not. Lily is NOT a refuser because she did all those things. In February I wrote "If I were a refuser" about how I would handle myself if I was refusing sex because I would still be true to myself. Many of the commenters said that in that case I wouldn't be a refuser, I would just be a stressed out spouse. The definition of a refuser (to me) is very specific. There are many "refusers" here I have specifically said "to me you are not a refuser" because they are authentically working on things. Those that are here just to complain that their spouse is no good in bed or they never found them attractive anyway can go take a long walk off a short pier.

ModLulu, I absolutely understand what you're saying, and I certainly agree with a majority of your points. I think many of the comments (not all, to be sure) that are made to the younger people who come here desperate for help come from a place of knowing that road and what lies ahead. I think there is room for all kinds of advice, and if you take your toys and go home, that's your decision, but this group would be losing a valuable perspective.

"Being legitimate, traceable and resolvable does not mean that they will be legitimately resolved or traced."---------
I don't think either I or ModLulu disagree with this statement. What we are doing, if I may speak for both of us, is calling for a quantum of empathy and forgiveness, even if it is only to release ourselves from anger to allow ourselves to move forward. There can be no solution at all if there is not empathy for one's spouse. I recall a tearful conversation with my own wife, where she reminded me that she, also, had been sexless, for years as well, through her stunted sense of desire (for me). This was not something she would have chosen. We and our spouses may not understand the motivation.

Refusing sex is a behavior. It should not define our spouses as a person. There IS a motivation in there somewhere. It might or might not matter in terms of the outcome - stay or go. I get that. But it DOES matter in terms of the level of respect and affection with which we treat the issue, either in working on it or in splitting amicably and moving on.

Thank you - yes, that's exactly what I mean.

I hear you both. And I agree with empathy for the spouse. I had huge amounts of empathy for mine, to the point that I made lots of excuses for his behavior. That's on me. And it's what I fixed, in part by telling myself and understanding that after a point the why does not matter. My empathy was giving him tacit permission to continue the behavior. If your spouse does not view empathy as permission to treat you poorly then you won't find the why doesn't matter as freeing I imagine.

I agree with you on the work on your own issues point. H and I are in sex therapy as a couple to work on our intimacy issues as a partnership, however I have been charged with seeking out adult children of alcoholics meetings so that I can work on that. So while it is our dual responsibility to work through where we are right now, he can NOT fix my ACOA problem. He can't understand it and so he can't fix it. He is affected by it, sure, but all he can do is react appropriately (whatever that means). I'm the only one who can fix what is individually going on with me. Together we fix our marriage. Individually we fix ourselves.

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I identify with a lot of what she said.

WT, yours is a case where you are technically the "refuser" spouse and yet there are specific, traceable and resolvable issues in your marriage that if resolved could change that, I believe. But some of the reason I have that hope in your situation is because you are here, working on your stuff. I do not have the faith that your H is working on his, based on what you've written. So it is the same incongruence, but in reverse. You are the refuser and yet since the refused spouse won't own his part or work on his part (based on what I've read) the dynamic isn't changing in your situation. The why he's a controlling man doesn't matter to you unless it's part of the solution that he presents. Post an update when you get a chance.

Yes...but I also relate to many things she said about herself -- strong need for attention, bad early sexual experience, body image issues, and so on. My husband had actually been good for the latter, because he has always been flattering of my body.

More a response to the responses rather than the original post, but sometimes I wonder if the terms "denied and "denier" might be more appropriate than "refused" and "refuser? The differences between the two word-pairs are subtle and interchangeable in many respects. However, while I accept that many people may be deliberate and wilful refusers, as that term infers, eg that they want to inflict pain and misery as punishment, many others are 'just' deniers, who can't cope, don't want to have to cope, deny that there is a problem, deny that that they are inflicting harm on someone else, deny that this is their reality, imposing the outcome on someone else. And as some have inferred, the denied can also be deniers. Pick your own mix over what that denial might all be about. I sometimes find the simple declaration that the troublesome party are 'just' simply refusers to be disturbingly over-simple, wilful and harmful in it's own respect.

Agreed, and in my experience, it can lead to the delusion that a "refuser" is simply aesexual, a point that some may find they have cause to challenge outside of the present relationship.

I don't disagree with the terminology change. Having listened to the podcast in its entirety, despite having gone through a period when she did not have sex with her husband nor did she **********, the guest on this podcast show was (IMO) not a refuser, denier or a low libido person. She was a wife who was stressed, disconnected from her H and willing to put forth major efforts to fix it because she determined after a lengthy separation he was the man she loved and wanted to be with forever. Kudos to her and to those who have been able to do something similar in their marriages with partners willing to engage at that level. I believe from personal experience that all marriages go through times of low sex or sexlessness that can crop up from either side.

The thing is, it took her some doing and trying to figure out some probably causes for being intimacy averse. When I was in that same boat, I didn't even realize my reasons until well after it was over (and even now, it's just a hypothesis based on some perspective I lacked at the time). Sure, Lilly sounds like she's got it buttoned down now and is well on her path, but from the perspective as she experienced it --and as her husband experienced it -- he may well be any of hundreds of members here, complaining about an aesexual wife -- just like so many of us do -- when that diagnosis is CLEARLY not the case. She is not aesexual at all. It's much more complicated than that.

Mine wasn't asexual either. But he refused to deal with it, go to a doctor, therapist, talk or think about it. We've got a lot of shut down folks here who don't want it to get "better". Lily wanted to deal with it according to her own words and was open to seeing her own part in it. And if you aren't there as a "refuser" then what responsibility does the refused have to get the refuser there? Better yet, what power does empathy have in getting a person who doesn't want to deal with something to deal with it? Empathy doesn't mean squat if the person doesn't wanna. Most of us have TOO MUCH empathy for our spouses, make excuses and try to fix ourselves or force them to change. The why doesn't matter is so powerful precisely because we need to know that it isn't our job to fix them. It's theirs. We simply don't have that power.

I readily accepted the term of asexual at first because I was more comfortable with something that was part of my chemical make up than considering the possibility that I have left over childhood traumas to deal with. It's very hard to accept -- for me anyway -- that an outside factor can have such a meaningful effect on your adult life. In my case I wasn't in a state of denial, I was in a state of ignorance. Once I was brought in to the light it would have been easier for me to ignore and deny it, but then neither me nor H would ever truly be happy as a couple and I'd never be fulfilled individually. It's just a very scary thing.

Pstt! Selina......Run with it! Be up for it! If you do, no matter what the eventual outcome you will not regret it. That alone is a fantasy worth having. Mastering yourself. You can get all warm and fuzzy and self-loving on that alone. Yo!

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I listened to this while driving this evening. <br />
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I don't see a "refuser" in Lily. I see a marriage having some rocky times for a variety of reasons (including the refused's serious alcoholism, which should not go overlooked or ignored in all fairness to the refuser's stress and disconnect with him) and two people committed to working on it and facing up to the issues in their lives that brought each of them and the relationship to this point. <br />
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I define a refuser as someone who also refuses to work on it. Through obfuscation, blame, excuses and moving the goal post in my experience things feel crazy and insane. They are shut down, disconnected, lacking in empathy (and so may the refused themselves) but refusers won't acknowledge their personal place, issues and need for change. The refused tend to be trying very hard to make things different because, quite simply, they are motivated. They are the ones who want something to be different.<br />
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Are they going about it correctly? In many cases, no. But the personal self exploration is often there, as it clearly is with Lily. She went to therapy, explored her personal history and the path of the relationship to figure out her reason for it and didn't expect her H to figure out her reason and fix it for her. A refuser is someone who will not do that, will not put in an effort to improve things and may not even be willing to admit that there is a problem in the relationship. A refuser mocks their spouse for saying there is a problem.<br />
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Modlulu, I notice that many of your stories and comments are about the normalcy of falling "out of love" with your spouse and how head over heels love fades (no disagreement there) and something deeper that you have to really work for comes into play in a long term loving relationship. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It also does not diminish the feeling of new love that happens in a new relationship that helps to bond a couple together in the beginning. While none of us want to be blinded by brain chemicals that are unhealthy and make us all make poor choices, it is important to see great things in someone new you are involved with and to celebrate the ways in which I am making better choices for myself going forward in my new life. It doesn't mean your love for your H that you have won through determination and tough personal and relational growth is any less valid. If anything, yours is a more mature kind of love... but mine is a new love, so it's going to be less developed. It's part of the process.<br />
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Sometimes it seems to me like you are admonishing those of us who have gotten out of our marriages for not having put in that effort. It is quite possible that is not in your head at all and that is my own "junk" coming out. I do understand that it is huge effort to maintain a marriage and I did try to put in the effort. I just didn't have a partner willing to put in the effort and after considerable time trying I realized I couldn't maintain both ends on my own.<br />
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Perhaps it's my stuff then that I feel sensitive about feeling apprehensive about some of your comments and stories because I know if I had a willing partner and was putting in the efforts to make things better things might have gone differently. It wasn't the case for me and my marriage, but I also know what that feels like when a relationship matures and changes. Hopefully it does so with love - the deeper kind you work for - still intact and germinating.

Meh.<br />
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I can count one one hand -- actually, less than one hand, the amount of people here who throw out the "He/She doesn't love you line." Most reasonable people know that it takes two to tango, and it takes two to tear down the marriage.<br />
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If, out of all the members here who give out opinions and advice, two or three people are getting under your skin with those four simple words (He doesn't love you), maybe it is indeed time for a break. It's bothersome for a reason I suppose. If you are completely, joyously over the moon that your marriage is back on track, full of sex and affection and emotional intimacy and you aren't still feeling like something is missing, I reckon those comments wouldn't be as annoying. Personally, I usually get annoyed when something hits a little too close to home. When it doesn't, I don't care what anyone says. <br />
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Some days it certainly feels like everyone here is rooting for only one outcome -- divorce. But I don't think that's true. I've not seen one person leave a marriage just because some Joe Schmoe on the interwebs spouted off with "HE DOESN'T LOVE YOU! GET A DIVORCE!!" The truth is, cooler heads usually prevail and most people languish in dysfunctional marriages for too damn long.

"I've not seen one person leave a marriage just because some Joe Schmoe on the interwebs spouted off with "HE DOESN'T LOVE YOU! GET A DIVORCE!!""

I would like to see this one day. See someone stand up in court and have the judge say "Why should I grant you a divorce?" "The internet said so."

Until then I will not believe that we have more power as a group than the ability to shift some paradigms. People leave if/when they are ready to go or if/when the other spouse picks the timeline. That's it.

"Why should I grant you a divorce?" "The internet said so."

I laughed.

And, you are correct.

Exactly MissLee, like x 100!

I'm not particularly concerned about the danger of someone quitting a marriage because someone on the Internet told them. I do get frustrated, somewhat, when I see people mired in their own anger and equally unable or unwilling to budge, applying advice that is rooted in their own hurt, as if it is general advice. It radiates such pain.

It may well be that the best a spouse can do isn't going to be nearly enought to sustain an inimate partnership, and that is very sad. But it doesn't always mean laziness malfeasance, as is often portrayed here. People come here , I think, to seek help or to find information. I don't know if my experience can be generalized, but I do know that in my lived experience, when I went off sex, I did indeed love my partner. I am NOT, by any stretch, a lazy partner or lover, and I knew full well that it was important. So, when my wife explains feeling like that to me, I'm inclined to be more sympathetic with the meaning around it. It may not change the outcome, ultimately, but it has given me cause to stick around long enough past "I'm done" to be as creative and ambitious as my wife in figuring out a way to change our conversation about intimacy.

And I think it works precisely because you are *both* creative and ambitious.

Vjerilood, really? Don't we all have the ability to take advice or not? I could understand if it was a lawyer giving that advice but us nameless/faceless folks? Wow.

Hmmm. Vjerilood, I must raise the B.S. flag until I see a link with some proof.

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