Perspective, As We Continue To Improve.Dear ILIASMers, I read your stories and I feel so much sympathy. It is just shattering, to experience sexual refusal in marriage... especially when our spouse is still very much beloved and missed.
My own marriage continues to experience improvement and renewal, and I'm very grateful. But I see how my story had (and has) NO guaranteed outcome. The promises we make, when we marry, are more like *intentions*. I know it's less romantic to view the wedding day as a public setting of intentions, instead of a public proclamation of eternal vows set in stone, that we'd rather die than break. Less romantic, but more accurate.
How naive we are, when we first marry.
One thing I've learned over time: when a spouse becomes a Refuser, they take control of the existence of the sexual relationship. And the ONLY one who can choose to end the refusal, is the Refuser spouse. Yes, the Refused has the ability to influence that choice, in how they conduct themselves in marriage, and whether they remain open to sex if offered again. But the Refused cannot create a sexual relationship when the Refuser doesn't choose to change.
So basically, if the Refuser is actually unhappy with the present state of things, and is open to seeking help and working to heal the sexual bond, then the marriage can be saved. But if the Refuser is okay with sexlessness, or denying their responsibility for it, and refusing to talk about it or seek solutions... then the sexual relationship cannot exist.
Please, all you newcomers, save yourself years of misery. If you get truly honest with yourself, you KNOW whether your Refuser spouse is trying to make things better. If they're not, there is NOTHING you can do to make them try. NOTHING that you do-- losing weight, becoming more attractive, doing housework, getting a job, being extra nice, etc., etc.-- NOTHING will make them try. You can't control them. And they have chosen Refusal for the very purpose of demonstrating that they can't be controlled.
I know this sounds like a cliche, because people say it all the time... but it's really true: the only person you can control is yourself. You can't control whether your spouse is sexual. You can't convince them of what they should do. The only thing you can do, is be honest about your feelings and desires, and invite them to work with you to change the marriage. And if they choose Refusal, then you can choose what YOU do with YOUR life. Stay or go, have an affair, whatever is right for you. But don't blame someone else, and don't be fooled into carrying guilt.
Sexual refusal has taken the "romantic rose-colored glasses" from my view of my husband. I had always intended to view him in the most flattering, kindest, most romantic light. I wanted to be in a honeymoon phase for our whole life. Sometimes I still have to handle my feelings of disappointment that it couldn't last that way.
But I have become a better, more mature person as I've realized that my choices are my own. I have achieved a feeling of separateness in my marriage-- not from resentment, but from autonomy. Two separate people, living as our full selves, and loving each other because we are different. I now know that I am capable of divorce, if that's what I need. I also know that I am responsible for my own happiness, and there's nothing wrong with being true to myself.
Finally, I'd like to recommend Byron Katie's process of "inquiry" as an interesting tool for examining our thoughts and taking responsibility for our actions. The basic explanation of her process, also called "The Work," can be found here: http://thework.com/thework.php
It's not everyone's cup of tea. And I do NOT encourage anyone to treat her like a guru or spiritual leader. I've just found that this very rational process has been a helpful tool for me... a way of realizing my truth, without guilt or resentment controlling me.
See, we cannot control our spouse, and they cannot control us. And in the space of that separation between their life and ours, lives a Love that is mysterious and free.