Floundering

Orchis: “Hi everyone. Uh...my name is Orchis.”

Everyone: “Hi Orchis.”

Orchis: “It's been almost two years without sex now.”

Everyone: claps

Orchis: “Yeah...just taking it one day at a time.”

(It's the little giggles that keep us going, don't you think?)

Like the rest of you, I live in what can reasonably be called a sexless marriage. And by that I don't mean that we have sex less than once a week. I mean that we have sex less than once a year. That is not to say that it is joyless or loveless. But the lack of physical intimacy does tend to cast a gloom over everything else.

In my case, it isn't that we have drifted apart or become apathetic about one another. My wife has a chronic illness that is very efficient at sapping the life out of her. By the end of a work day, she is ready to collapse on the couch and regains a lot of energy on the weekends. She is uncomfortable most of the time and that coupled with exhaustion doesn't lend itself well to a high libido. So I don't feel any animosity or malice towards her about the situation. But I do harbor a great deal of frustration, which is growing over time. Regardless of the "why" of the situation, the "what" remains.

I found this place by searching the web for some type of support group – a place with other people in a similar situation. I don't expect that anyone will have any answers or a solution to this problem. The way that our society and marriage are constructed, there are no positive options when one spouse is no longer interested. We have spoken with each other about it ad nauseum. We both understand the situation and we both want it to change. But her physical situation can't be changed by simply changing one's mind or putting forth more effort. It's simply not within her control.

A few years ago, my biggest fear about this situation was that I'd never have physical intimacy again. Today, my greatest fear is that I will, but not with my wife. As my frustration grows, my willpower shrinks. And, being aware of this, I try to avoid a full trifecta of means, motive and opportunity by eliminating the only piece that I can control – opportunity. Now, when I say that I can control opportunity, that is only half true. It isn't like I can go pick a lover off of the sex tree. If I go to a bar for a pint with friends, it isn't likely that some woman will be all over the married guy. But if I'm not at that bar, the chances are almost zero. So I don't get out much anymore, which has its own level of frustration.

When I was younger, and reasonably more naive, I couldn't understand why someone would cheat on their spouse. If you are that unhappy in the relationship, why not leave and then pursue one that is full? Now I find myself in a situation where I am unhappy, but can't conceive of leaving. I love my wife. I care more about her happiness than my own. And leaving everything that we have for sex seems shallow in the larger scheme of things.

Now, before anyone puts me on a pedestal or congratulates me on what a good husband I am, keep in mind that I am still a human being. Regardless of what friends, family and society expect of me, my mind and body don't care. And they are relentless about it. And I wish that I could just make them shut up. If I were able to simply medicate my libido, I'd welcome the lack of sex drive. It would be a grim solution to a sad problem, but a solution nonetheless. In simplest terms, I only see three options in my current situation:

  • celibacy (not working)

  • taking a lover (not cool)

  • medicating the symptoms (not available)

Of course, if anyone sees a fourth option, I'm all ears. At this point, I'd accept voodoo as an option if it looked remotely viable. Hand me the chicken head.

So, what's my point? I'm not sure that I have one (sad is the knowledge that brings no good to the wise). I think that I mostly just needed to say all of this to a group of people who weren't likely to think the less of me. It is amazing how much this problem seeps into every aspect of daily life. It's an ache. It is distracting. And talking about it is about the only outlet I can think of at the moment.

orchis orchis
36-40, M
15 Responses May 7, 2007

...and you notice every even remotely attractive woman that walks past, don't you...

I do notice sometimes even remotely attractice women but then I assume they probably are just as bitchy, selfish and cold as my wife then I very quickly lose interest and begin to resent and hate them as much as I do my wife.

Awww, c'mon.. You can't tar them all with the same brush. There's plenty of nice ones out there...

Orchis, man what can i say, I am right where you are at and ya know after reading Abby story and Idenity I think there just may be hope for my marriage, my wife is only 34 I am 47 she never ever has a desire so she just doesn't do it, she is on depression medicine that is the only thing I can say that might be responsible for this as when we met over 10 years ago she was game for "anything" now it is "nothing" my drive is the same as when i was 21 so I have been on the verge of all of your options and I think I just might try and focus on my marriage a little more before i get out and move on.

I know that it is tough to be in the situation that you are in. Not saying that you are a good husband, or your friends saying man your good, or the ladies saying , they feel sorry for you. But you are doing what you are suppose to do and that is to take care of each other till death do us apart. Now me I dont know you but I sure do admire you and give you the up most respect. I can imagine the frustration you must have. and the hand can only do so much, but is there anything that your wife can if you know what I mean that does not include sexual intercourse (smile).I can see that you are a devoted husband with need, and your right the 3 options dont sound like the right roads to take. Just hang in there and please keep on loving her like you said its not her fault. The reason why I responded to your story because I have a disease that just takes everybit of energy from be ,I am constanly in pain, and on so much medicine, and you know lots of medicines can make your sex drive disapear. But the type of husband I have he has no respect for me, now mind you we dont even sleep in the same bed, and he is so cruel to me, but about once a week he will come slide his a-- in my bed for sex regardless of and pain that I have. My disease 50% chance that I can be crippled, even though I hope and pray not. Do you think he cares I have been married for 25 years, and he tells me hes not happy and I am to dependent on him, he wants to leave me, but still will use my weak body foe sex, and then dont even speak nor lay in the bed with me, until hes ready again. That is why I praise you you are a loving and kind husband to your wife, my heart aches everyday with pain of how my husband treats me. If you did not support your wife or you did you options, she would be so unhappy. Please stay strong, and when she is able there are so many other things you can ask her to do,no matter what bucause the love you have it will still feel good. You take care continue loving her, dont make her go through anything sad. My husband mad me so sad I tried to end my life,its very special to be loved.

I understand your feelings. My marriage is completely sexless now. My wife had a complete (her insistence, not the doctor's) historectomy. Now she's cold, old and quite frankly, one of those blue-haired women that just say whatever **** they want to and doesn't care what other people think. And she's still in her 40's!<br />
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Argh.<br />
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For 20 years I performed oral sex on her hundreds upon hundreds of times. I did it because I wanted her to experience joy and pleasure. I did it because I cared about her sexual satisfaction. Did she ever return the favor? No. Did she ever try anything that I was interested in? No. Is she at all interested in establishing (it's gone) any kind of intimate bond? No. She was selfish when we were sexually active, and she's selfish now. I just have to accept what she wants, or leave. I'm a fool. I married a totally selfish woman, catered to her needs, and now I live with a cold, lifeless frankenstein. Worst thing: I rewarded her selfishness. I hate myself for doing that, and I hate her even more.

Hey - are you still around and are you still married to her ?
She sounds a lot like my wife. My wife doesn't even talk to me or look at me.

Abby,<br />
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First of all, thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like how I imagine the conflict in my wife’s head would sound like if I could hear it. We have been married over a decade and together over 16 years total. I know that she loves me and that actually makes all the difference. We would have fallen apart long ago were it otherwise.<br />
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I know that my anguish affects her. I’ve grown accustomed to hiding it as much as possible so that our environment doesn’t become just toxic and depressing. It’s very easy to fall into that spiral. We do a pretty good job of keeping each other from falling too far. <br />
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Applying pressure to a spouse about sex has the same effect as applying pressure to anyone about anything. It tends to become something negative and the subject elicits more and more anxiety every time it is brought up. So I’ve stopped bringing it up. In that regard, the circular pattern has been halted where it is. It gets no better, but no worse. We’ve managed to keep it from being the focal point of our lives (which is not to say I don’t think about it daily). I do have a lot of resentment, but not towards her. It’s the situation. She isn’t any more responsible for that than our cat or the mailbox. It simply is what it is.<br />
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She actually does have a sort of sleep in / day off day each weekend. And I do too (although I tend to spend it working). One day, she’ll sleep in as long as she wants to rest, read books or just hang out. And I’ll get up with the kids and try to just let her rest. It’s definitely good for her to get a real break. It hasn’t had an impact on our sex life, but she’s noticeably more energized the next day. And that benefits her, our children, family AND me. <br />
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And, yes, I am pretty much chore boy around the house. I’ve always been a bit compulsive about things like laundry, cleaning and yard work. There’s just more of it to do now. That's really no big deal.<br />
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Sorry it took so long to finally reply. I haven’t been visiting EP in a while in order to avoid becoming fixated (which is easy for me to do). And, yes, your post was long and deserved a proper reply. Thank you for taking the time to share everything as completely as you did. I truly appreciate your time, thoughts and advice.

DeadButAlive,<br />
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I know it's not much consolation, but it gets easier over time. At least, it has for me. And by "easier", I mean that you get acclimated to it. Over time, what happens or doesn't happen often becomes what is normal. It's amazing what you can get used to. <br />
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I've been through EXACTLY the same conversations and situations with the massage thing. When giving physical stimulation is well received but not reciprocated, it doesn't feel very good. <br />
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Also, I'm no saint. I've had my share of temptation in life. And I do worry that means and motive will eventually collide with opportunity. I consider myself a relatively principled, moral man. But I'm not cut out for priesthood. I'm as human as the next fellow.<br />
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Best of luck to you. I wish I had more ideas or encouragement for you. This is like some form of radical diet that no one chooses to go on. lol.

I, too, have found myself married to a woman who began developing an illness shortly after our wedding. She has recently developed another major illness, and all of this has happened in less than 2 1/2 years since our marriage. I call myself "The king of bad timing" as I have learned through conversations with my wife that before I came along she was both much healthier AND had a much higher sex drive. I do understand that her health, or lack thereof, has contributed to her now very low desire. As much as I love my wife, however, I also know that even when she is feeling well she has ignored my obvious excitement and readiness for sex.........again and again and again. I have even told her that the biggest turn off for her is when I have an erection, but she just laughed and said that wasn't true. Ok, if not true then why is it she ONLY reaches over for me when I am not excited? I press up against her when I massage her in bed at night, she can feel me getting turned on, but never responds to that part of me. Apparently she loves me and my massages, but not any other part of my body. I too can't see myself ever cheating on her, my dad cheated on my mom often and it broke her heart, I do NOT want to be my dad. I shall do like you and wage the lonley no sex battle, it seems preferable to the alternatives

Orchis - <br />
<br />
I'm not even sure where to begin ... I've been and am still in your wife's shoes. They are very painful and guilt ridden shoes to walk about your days in.<br />
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My history in short:<br />
I've been on both sides of the fence here. I have been married twice. The first marriage ended with my exspouse having a 3 yr affair and impregnating his mistress. For those 3 yrs my services were not needed. An extremely painful time to say the least as I knew what was going on but retained hope. The 2nd husband married me shortly after an injury. I'd turned him down repeatedly as I thought for sure the lack of sex would be an issue. I was reassured it would not. He knew of my injuries and the illnesses that ensued. He was well aware of the doctor's warnings against sexual activity. Despite the alternative methods I employed, the times I felt so guilty I gave in despite the pain, the offers I made for a 3rd party ... it made no difference in the end. We remain bestfriends to this day and most likely always will be, however, we are divorced.<br />
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It seems as time went by he became more and more neurotic (literally.). I became more and more depressed. I felt I possessed no worth as a woman if I couldn't please my husband. I saw the sadness and loss in his eyes each time he looked at me (sadness and loss not only of a sex life but also a sadness about my state of health) and it was very disturbing and depressing for me. Seeing his frustrations and developing neurotic tendencies only made me feel worse knowing it was my fault at the root of the issue. <br />
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I became conditioned to certain behaviour very quickly. I knew most certainly mental anguish would increase due to his words of blame, I might be in physical danger (and later was) if I didn't 'perform', etc. Yet these very behaviours he displayed rather than motivating or inspiring me, which I'm sure was what he thought he'd accomplish with them, ... only served to put such a negative energy around 'sex', love making and intimacy that eventually I wanted ZERO to do with all of it, and sadly that included him. <br />
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It was a circular problem wherein each component only served to make the next that much worse.<br />
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I wish I could help you. I wish I had the answer. I can feel the love you possess for your wife and I do know the pain from having been denied previously, yet I also know the very guilt ridden seat your wife sits in. <br />
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I do want to share something with you. I don't know much about your 'situation' beyond what you've shared so this may not relate very closely but on an over all level it should ... hopefully ...<br />
<br />
After my 2nd divorce, upon his departure from my life I began to feel better. I literally began healing. The oppression, the anguish, all the emotional mess caused by the dynamics in the marriage only served to keep me ill. Minus his presence in my life, I began to perk up like a plant in the sun. Yes, I'm still ill and always will be, however, I have since found someone that I'm completely in love with who is completely in love with me. He is understanding to a degree (YES to a degree) but what I feel for him literally makes me WANT to 'perform', bond, etc. for/with him despite the pain that may ensue. Thankfully, he and I share a rather fulfilling sex life.<br />
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Now, please, work with me here ... I'm NOT saying your wife does not love you. I'm NOT saying your wife is not attracted to you. I'm NOT saying your wife doesn't love you. What I AM saying is that from your story I get the feeling that you two have been married for quite a good stretch in comparison to the average length of a marriage, that she fell ill during the marriage without warning (you did not know of this illness and it's limitations prior to the 'I do's') ... Perhaps it's time for the two of you to re-focus on your love for one another - that which you found so wonderful in the beginning it inspired you two to marry. When she feels better on the weekend; take her places SHE will enjoy, participate in her hobbies and activities, show interest in HER and who she is rather than in her illness (we grow exhausted of talking about it all the time and want to be seen for who we are rather than the illness that rules our lives) etc. You might want to know why she's not interested in your hobbies, etc. The truth is ... when chronic illness hits it's as if someone put blinders on us. We can't or perhaps won't see outside our little circle - it causes more pain, grief, mourning, etc.<br />
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I'm sure you are already picking up a great amount of the household chores and for that I commend you. But on the weekend when she has more energy, don't allow her to mess with the house. Get a maid or have the kids do it or you yourself do it prior to Sat morning. Preserve that precious energy of hers for you and things the two of you can enjoy together - not just sexual intimacy but activities. <br />
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Another thing here and why I recommend the two of you rediscover your love ... Chronic illness and depression walk hand in hand. When this happens we tend to lose sight of those emotions, feelings and passions that once burned so brightly in us. We need to explore and rediscover these things regularly to keep the fires lit otherwise, depression and symptoms of illness snuff them out. Once they've been snuffed out it takes a while to come back and it takes lots of help, understanding and patience. And the truth is, not ALL of those interests will come back ... some of them will forever be dead to us due to our new limitations. And now we must re-make ourselves. Be sure to help her re-make herself WITH you. Try not to have expectations of the new person she's developing into. <br />
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As you rediscover that love together, as she grows into her new self (the one who is ill and has limitations) with your love and encouragement ... there's something very beautiful about that and THAT was the equation that worked for me - what helped me WANT it, CRAVE it, NEED it again ...<br />
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I know this is long but there's soooo much to your situation. I hope this helps. All my best!

Yes, I've actually considered a third party, but only with the knowledge and consent of my wife. She and I have talked about it. Surprisingly, she wasn't flat out against it, but didn't feel that she really had the strength to say it was o.k. Of course, I can't blame her.<br />
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I did actually look into the lives of priests and monks as my only real model for a celibate life. Unfortunately, I found that many of them have as much difficulty as the rest of us in denying themselves something that is built into your biology. Religious beliefs aside, I simply don't think that celibacy is healthy. <br />
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Dwelling on a problem isn't healthy either. But pretending it isn't there or trying to ignore it don't work very well. By definition, it's a problem. And human nature is to try to solve that problem. But the social construct of marriage rules out most of the potential solutions and sort of shrugs its shoulders at the desperation of a lonely mate.

What about a paid (professional/semi-professional) arrangement with a third party?

orchis, your story is intelligent, touching , poignant and hard to read. The last paragraph about how this seeps into all aspects of one's life, the ache and distraction of it, and the need to talk about it as the only outlet is so much my feeling too. And my spouse is not ill (at least physically) It is chilling to hear you talk about sinking deeper the longer you stand there. I know how this takes over your thoughts and makes doing everyday things so difficult. And the less I do, the more irritated my spouse gets with me and withdraws more and more until it becomes an unbreakable cycle. He hates that I am so "quiet" and he wants to be hyper, and how I am "unsocial" and he wants all these people around. And I cannot face all these people in the house and try to pretend to be happy and cheery when he out and out rejects me sexually and doesn't want a wife now. It is living a lie. I don't know what the answer is for you, I can't come up with option #4. As for me I am not going to remain living with this person who is my husband and will probably divorce because I believe he doesn't want to be married or fix things between us. How sad that he has the ability and won't. Best of luck, you need to have intimacy and I can only sympathize with your feelings.

i just gotta give ya kudos for the begining, as it really is the little giggles and laughs that keep ya outta what my 98 year old grandmother affectionately calls the "funny farm." you get my drift. ;)

Thanks for your frankness, Kent. I can't disagree with anything you've said. The interesting thing about this situation is that everyone's point of view makes sense and sounds "right". Because it is a situation that falls outside of typical socialization, there is no rule-of-thumb. In some ways, having a spouse with a chronic illness is different than having a spouse that simply isn't interested in you. And yet, the result is the same. <br />
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I do have needs and it is getting harder and harder to ignore them. I'm definitely not an uberman. I'm trying to be the man that everyone wants me to be. There is no praise to be had for being a self-made martyr. No one is congratulating me on my ability to prop myself up and appear fine. But fall from grace and you'll hear from everyone in short order. <br />
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I hate even saying this, but I feel trapped. I can get out of the situation at any time and yet I can't. And the longer I stand in this place, the deeper I sink. And, as you've said, it takes over your thoughts and makes reading, working and other things very difficult.

I am in the same situation as you.

Thanks for the input and reassurance. No, there is no foreplay. I'd actually be quite content with just foreplay or even kissing. Most of the affection I need occurs during that time anyway. We've talked about it (a lot). My guess is that she doesn't touch me or kiss me because she's afraid it would lead to things that are uncomfortable or even painful at times (she doesn't disagree with my guess). So she has just recoiled from the entire physical process. And we've talked about that as well. It's hard for both of us, but in different ways. But in talking, it's clear that she doesn't feel the loneliness and isolation that I do because she doesn't have the constant need. In that respect, I'm glad for her (and a bit envious). What she wants most is for me to be around and to spend time with her, which I do. So she is quite content and I'm anxious and often depressed. But I've gotten better at hiding it. She feels enough guilt about the situation without my help.

Sorry about your wife. I hope that it is something that will get better. I think its great that you are staying faithful to her. Having an affair will only complicate things and probably bring on more frustrations and problems.