Basic Mismatch

I see lots of stories lately from people who are new and hopeful there will be a solution here they haven't thought of yet. They come here, post a story and get some feedback.  Then they go about trying to fix the marriage.  They read the same stories we've read and the same stories we've poured our hearts into writing.  But their hearts are not ready yet, so as part of the ILIASM process they keep working at it.

The hardest stories for me to see are the ones from people who have been working on things for a little while and have hope.  Inside I hope for them too.  But I know the reality of it.  Many people come on here after a while of working at it to report great progress.  And sometime after that - sometimes a few weeks, sometimes months - they come back to report that it was not a permanent fix and once the initial scramble to put things back the way they were faded, things went back the way they were before.

To me - at this point in my process - it's pretty simple.  No matter how much you compromise on something with your partner, no matter how much you are willing to accept and adjust your role in dysfunction, no matter how right you are or how right they are... if you want something in your life that they genuinely do not want then one (or both) of you will be unhappy and there will always be conflict in the relationship.

There is a basic mismatch if a relationship is made up of one person who likes physical touch and one who feels no value from it.  There is a basic mismatch if one person likes to talk deeply and vulnerably and another who is apprehensive about the vulnerability.  There is a basic incompatibility if one person wants to have children and another does not.  There is a basic mismatch if one person values a lot of alone time and the other craves near constant proximity to feel safe and secure in the relationship.  There is a basic incompatibility if one person thinks sex once a month is quite enough and another wants it daily.  You can compromise all you want on these basic things, but in the end both people will feel like they have given up a lot of what they view as a natural human desire and will see the other as somehow "broken" for not having it the same way.  That goes for refusers who think we are sex crazed and the refused who find them cold and dispassionate.

It's not that hard to find something better.   By better I mean a relationship with someone who wants something closer to what it is that I want.  That simply makes things easier.  It flows better.  You BOTH want the closeness (or not), the sex (or not), the touch (or not), the distance (or not) and so it is a) much more likely to happen and b) when it does happen, both members of the relationship don't feel they have compromised more than they wanted to.  When you both want the same thing - whether it be a strong sexual relationship, children or lots of snuggling and touch - things just go much more smoothly.

Incidentally, it is only when both members of the couple truly have the same goal first and foremost of the relationship being more important than whatever the reasons are that the marriage became so dysfunctional and sexless that there is any chance of saving the marriage.  Since most of us have that basic mismatch with our partners on several levels, what are the chances we will be able to agree long term about the importance of this issue?
Changewilldoyougood Changewilldoyougood
31-35, F
25 Responses Dec 10, 2012

Truer words were never posted. It's unreal that there is this whole subset of people who live with refusers and cycle through this awful drama. The same drama essentially. Something we are incapable to talk about because it's not socially acceptable and we want to protect our partner's privacy. So we come here. And we see the same thing happening over and over. It's really unreal. 25 year old me would not believe this was even possible. I'm beyond sad merely contemplating all of this.

1,000 Hearts to this one! After 3.5 years I fully realized everything you just said and pulled the plug. Now I am with someone who shares my priorities and it is amazing!


I am one of the hopeless ones who refuses to acknowledge the truth of your point, and as a result I live in daily torture. I have been through the moments where it seemed we were on a turn-around, only to be followed by months, and sometimes years, where there is not intimate contact at all. What is holding me back? A completely different life is possible. Yet I cannot give up on the marriage and I don't have the courage to ask permission for an alternative outlet (outsourcing). And every day I struggle with why. I am deeply damaged, and caught in an endless trap. And I don't have the strength or the courage or whatever it is that would liberate me. Thank you for your reminder of what is fundamentally happening here. Maybe this will finally push me to take the steps that only I can take.

My god, talk about cutting to the heart of the matter. This hits me right between the eyes, in terms of basic, highlight basic, mismatches. I feel like I'm constantly swimming upstream. It would be a relief to swim downstream, to be in alignment, naturally, with my partner. Thank you. This helped.


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Agreed. Some basic differences just can't be resolved, however hard you try. And some of these differences only emerge as the marriage progresses.
The need for sex and intimacy is one of these. The person who wants it can't turn it off; and the person who doesn't can fake attraction. Unless it's a medical problem, this type difference is probably insoluble.

Thanks a ton for writing such a good story and making several good points. I joined EP in 2011 as well so I've been struggling with this issue for quite a while. I do think that I was too young and naive when I got married. I saw an article recently about divorce.... and looking particularly at what ages people got married and how that impacted whether or not they ultimately divorced. There is a much higher rate of divorce among couples who got married before age 25. My W and I fall into that group. We were age 24, but I proposed at age 23, and I had no formal process for "determining" who would be a great wife / spouse. I just felt "in love" and blindly followed emotion.<br />
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Anyway, your story really hits home now that I stumbled across it. Thanks, and well done.<br />
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Feel free to separately message me or check out a new story of mine that I hopefully will post in the next week or so. Things are better with my W. There is now hope. Several things helped turn it around.


Thanks Change,

I have often wondered if my W and I are simply a mis-match. But, what bugs me is that in the beginning, we were a good match. People change....she changed....and we became a mis-match. I don't know if there is such a thing as a perfect match, if it exists it is rare indeed. So, perhaps all marriage relationships are a mis-match of sorts, the degree of which may determine the longevity of the relationship. And, of one person changes in a certain way and their partner does not likewise change, they begin to grow apart and become a mismatch.
I haven't read all the responses, so maybe someone already said this...but I think a mis-match does not necessary go all the way back to the beginning of a relationship, but rather can develop over time. If a mismatch does go back to the very beginning, then one or both partners were not being authentic with the other.
Thanks...this is an interesting concept.

I think that it's very possible that my X was both not being authentic and then we both changed. He's still not authentic but I think he believes he is because he is more honest around me than anywhere else or with anyone else so to him he's more authentic than any other place and time. Me, I know I was much more afraid of intimacy and much more comfortable with walls and distance when we got together because of my own development. I grew and that changed everything.

I reckon it can be "bits of this / bits of that" looking thru the rear view mirror.

My ex missus and I were a pretty good match sexually, but from the get go, not so much in attitude to various things in life.

I'm not sure to this day whether it was those basic attitudanal differences that tanked things sexually, or whether when the sex tap got turned off it exposed a pretty bare cupboard.

I suspect the latter.

"when the sex tap got turned off it exposed a pretty bare cupboard."

This definitely strikes a cord with me too, baz! Honestly, before we got married, we probably spent 50+% of the time we were together having, we're sort of just like, er, um, what do you want to talk about?

Honey you nailed it. Our obsession with another only lasts for a season. It's not that we're bad, but simply who we are. We are only human.

This is a very good post.

When I first came here I too was overly optimistic. Improvements were made, and things were better. Then I realized that the changes were short lived; they couldn't be sustained. Mental realization and acceptance takes a while to seep into your understanding. Now the core differences are clear to me. Your post really summarizes the basic mismatch problem which is all to common among us.

Yet most married couples thought they were a perfect match when they met. Just to some years later discover they no longer are the perfect match. Is it that our family values and our morals are non-existing! So much temptation out there. So little self controll. What happened to; "till death do us part". Maybe they should re-write the vows to; "till the neighbour walks past"!

Are you drunk? Or do you normally write like that?

Most married couples were blinded by rose colored glasses. Or one or both were pretending to want and be things they actually weren't. Or because they thought they SHOULD be a person who wanted sex (because all men want sex, right?) or they SHOULD be a person who wanted children (because all women are supposed to be nurturing, right?) they decided to fake it until they make it.

But at the end of the day, that is fake.

Till death do us part does not mean kill yourself miserably in a marriage that is dysfunctional, abusive and neglectful. It also does not mean compromise what is most important and central to your being to stay married to someone who may have a completely opposite value about it. If compromise is possible, even better. If it is not, continuing to try to force your spouse into doing something that makes you feel good but them feel awful is wrong. And vice versa. So what do you do? How do you "compromise" on having children, for instance?

All men want "sex" is the bullshyting thing i ever heard, actually only the sissies and gay ones are the one who are s*uts and wh0res.
Because being negative is a feminine trait.

Manly guys don`t act like ******* like you do.
Whining, complaining and being so needy.
All negative traits.

The only men who are in ILIASM - all have the same personality, character and traits.
Basically, all the same types of cookies in a jar.
Example ray: he once stated he have low self esteem(negativity), thus he fall for his ex-wife because of some "concern" given to him.
His negativity in his personality is what caused problems in his marriage, and the outcome?
Now old and lonely too, other relationship did not work out, things like that just proves that you people are the one who are the PROBLEM and REASON for your own misery and has nothing to do with others.

Would love to hear you discuss this subject with all the men that are in sexless marriages....I bet you have so much to share with them.

Actually i have noticed the uncanny similarities between the men and women in ILIASM.
Many have depression even before they are married - example of negativity.
I see many of the frustration are actually "low self esteem" due to "rejection of sex" and not actually the "lack of sex".
It makes it worse when a person is already depressed and the spouse isn`t comprimising.
All the "rejection" leads to "resentment" - more negativity.
And negative emotions lead to wanting to participate in negative activity, which ray is a life example, having other sexual relationships didn`t last or to help him get pass his own negative emotions.

Your spouse is a refuser is because, within he/she is not having negative emotions in the first place while people who place "sex" as very important are usually suffering from low self esteem(negativity) OR the "sl*ts" are emotionally hollows.

change the "having" to "suffering".

6 More Responses

Very well put together. But the way out of basic mismatches ?

If it's truly a mismatch and your partner or you can not be happy accepting what is important to the other so one of you will always feel unfulfilled or resentful, you both have to be strong enough and love the other and yourself enough to let them go. If it is something serious enough to be considered a basic mismatch of needs and personality and not just a preference for one thing or another then it is not ok to deny one of you something so important to them.

If you love them enough you have to set them free.

Hi Change,
I just read your story and enjoyed it very much. Your focus on a simple fact of a mis-match is quite helpful in my own situation.....and very likely true for many here seeking answers.

The best part was what you wrote above:
"If you love them enough, you have to set them free". That's one of the things I am doing...letting go with love, so thanks for sharing this perspective.

The comments to this story are most intriguing. In general the objections raised are similar and are all raised by new members here who still wish to believe they can turn things around. Their comments take a moderate story with all sorts of gray and paint it broadly in black and white.

For instance, there are several to the effect of "not every difference in a relationship can't be worked out." nowhere did I say that anytime there are differences between two people a relationship can't be successful. Any relationship where there are no differences is a relationship solely with oneself. That is choosing to interpret my story in a way that automatically rejects the entire premise.

It touches close to some raw nerves for those who really want/hope for the marriage to be saved AND the sex to be revived. I understand that. What is most interesting to me about that is that we get to define our own deal breakers that make a mismatch a fatal one in our marriage, so they could simply choose to define a SM as not a dealbreaker for themselves personally and move on. Instead they paint this story as black and white to be critical of the concept and make it wrong in general instead of looking at how it may apply or considering what mismatches are deal breakers for them.

Those who have been down this road understand and saw my story for what it was meant to be. Those who are still in the marriage and still have hope that theirs will be different had a very different take away. I remember what that hope felt like and I remember when I first realized hope was not my friend nor was it realistic in a dysfunctional marriage.

While I hope this story will help some here to evaluate their current and future relationships with a different eye on compatibility, I do not mean to burst the hope balloon for those who are still there. You all have to work through and get to your own place with your relationships.

Most of what you said, i agree with, but not all.
I don't think that this website can be used as a true indication of what will be the outcome of people trying to mend a SM. Like on any given topic , those that are upset are very vocal and those that are happy say little .
On EP you are likely to only hear the sad stories, and the sad outcomes of a SM.
Only a small % of people will talk about the fact that they have this problem in the first place, on any public arena and the people who remain silent would include a lot of couples that have solved their issues and returned to a happy sex life.
How did you come up with 5% ?
Mismatched sounds good, when you are rationalising what you see as hopeless.Not all SMs are. There can be many reasons for what has created the situation of a SM, and many of these can be corrected to both partners satisfaction ( not where one just gives in ).The people on EP who still have hope in mending their SM, can't all be doomed.
Not all disagreements or differences in priorities can be classed as a mismatch. Of course a total disagreement on a fundamental aspect of a marriage can't be resloved. But many reasons behind a partnership that has desintergrated into a SM can!
I will shut up now .
One last thing, take a look at the book Sex At argues that monogamy goes against human nature...we may all be destined to end up in the same boat.
This book takes a fascinating look at how humans are struggling in monogamous relationships in todays world, and suggests that maybe we were never designed to find a mate (more importantly , a sex mate ) for life.I am in a monogamous marriage with my husband for 26 years, and no , it's not perfect , like everyone else here....yet this made me understand why marriage has it's challenges.I don't believe that it is a case of mismatch , it's more a case of biology...And when people have given up on mending their marriage , they can move on to the next one , and still end up in the same situation. I don't think it is a simple case of choosing the RIGHT one , but making the choice you made right.. Marriage will always require maintenance......there is no easy way out.

I will say again what I have repeated in the comments to other new posters here. Nowhere in this did I say that all differences in two people in a relationship are a fatal mismatch or a deal breaker. I have repeated that YOU get to classify what your definition of a mismatch is.

And I did not limit this nor directly talk about a SM here. I used a sexual mismatch as one example but I also listed general connectedness &amp; vulnerability, having or not having children and so on. Others might include religious values if you are so inclined. But if there is a basic mismatch between you, the tenants above do hold true.

5% is a generous estimate of the number of marriages that reach this board that can be turned around. It's a commonly used figure here although I don't recall the original source.

No matter... This story is not in any way limited to a SM. there simply are things that just can't be compromised on without both feeling they compromised too much and both feeling the other didn't compromise enough. In some circles they are called deal breakers but I used mismatch because deal breakers refers to your own values about something while mismatch refers to the difference itself.

It's not an easy way out at all. But the dating process is often one person (or both) trying to be someone they're not or another trying to convince the other to act better, meet their needs more or otherwise coerce the other. There is FAR more value in truly allowing the other person to show you who they are without any manipulation, coercion or encouragement to be one way or the other. Only then do you really have a chance at learning or seeing what choices they wish to make with no pressure applied. That tells you a lot about them.

How many of us want to spend the rest of our lives disappointed in or coercing our mates? Better to authentically discover if there is a basic mismatch that means you both will be unhappy early on, through actions instead of words.

No one needs to stay in a miserable marriage when there are obvious differences between what each wants and needs to be happy.Everyone should do their best to ensure that the mate they are considering for life is someone who matches our wants and needs in the big picture.
We all want to be happy and achieve our goals in life , but we are all individuals and no one will be a perfect match .
Even if you do all of this .....people change over time , and change due to external pressures on the relationship.
Even if both people promise( and genuinely believe) to always make the relationship the priority , above whatever reasons the marriage becomes dysfunctional or sexless, it is not always a promise they can keep. Life gets in the way . It doesn't mean that one has changed their view on the importance of the relationship, they just become trapped in what ever it is that is preventing them from being able to nurture the bond with their mate.
( a bit like someone who is depressed and is no longer able to participate in activities that they once couldn't live without. They still love them ,they just can't find the drive they once had to do it. )
I realise that you are writing from your own frame of reference , just as i am writing from mine.I simply believe that there is no way to avoid some of the serious mismatches that can develop later on, in what was once a great relationship.Yes , people are on their best behaviour early on in the relationship, and some people even pretend that they are something that they are not. But even a couple who are a good match can end up in the same situation as the ones who aren't....
One more thing,something that can interfere with our ability to even select the best partner in the first place is the contraceptive pill. Studies have found that some women who selected their husbands while on the pill.....who then went off the pill to get pregnant...have looked at their husband and thought what am i doing here? I don't like you at all...why did i marry you? They believe that the pill interferes with our natural ability to select the mate that best matches our own wants and needs....?????????????? Just something to think about.
You are totally right in suggesting that we find someone who is more likely to keep the relationship on the top of the priority list , I'm just saying that this may not protect us from what the future will bring.
I wish you well ....

Thank you very much for your reply...
I have heard this from various sources ever many years too, most recently in the book "Sex At Dawn" which argues that monogamy goes against human nature..Excellent book ...It explains many reasons why people struggle in long term relationships and marriages, and it made a hell of a lot of sense.
I tend to think that the Basic Mismatch that exists in relationships is ..what we tell ourselves we want, verses what we were biologically designed for. This is the real battle.

Perfectly written!!

Thanks for this post. There is certainly balance in all things and it is probably not possible to find someone that matches you on every single thing (nor would you want to, and nor would a perfect match stay that way since people change).

But fundementally there has to be some "love language" that you both speak and if there are some areas big or small that are not working, perhaps they can be fixed provided language is there and both people want what it.
So many stories on this board seem to show at least one partner that doesn't care to speak the other's love language. Refusers who leave a relationship and end up becoming sexual in a new relationship makes me think that their love language wasn't being spoken, so they simply stopped speaking back.

The love language I like to be spoken to me is sex - I admit it.
The love language my partner likes is time and focus (she wants me to set aside more time and focus more, to be present with her).
these are examples. When I speak her love language then she becomes more willing to speak mine, and vice versa. First I had to recognize that I was failing at speaking her language.

So there is a basic mismatch, but there are also very many matches.

Perhaps things become irreversably broken when the mismatches become too numerous or too important to ignore any longer.

I like that you see how finding someone new also gives us a chance to grow, and to recognize at the start of the relationship what we need and perhaps to be more thoughtful, careful and insistent that we find the right partner with the right matches in the right areas.

So now what? Do you try to speak your partners love language, or do you seek out another who matches you more closely, so perhaps you already speak the same language?

Both paths can be made to work, if both partners are willing.

If both partners are willing then yes, that can be a solution that works for as long as both partners are able to put aside their natural tendencies for the other. Do either feel satisfied and fulfilled?

Sometimes refusers just don't like sex with their partner anymore. They have developed resentment and contempt for their spouse or they have developed another dynamic that means they don't want sex with their spouse. Sometimes the sexual dynamic was never very fulfilling to them. Many times the love is gone and their refusal to have sex with THAT spouse is just a symptom of the love being gone.

Nowhere did I say that all mismatches in a relationship are deal breakers. YOU get to decide what your basic mismatch or your deal breakers are.

Communicating in love languages is a kitchy way of saying "understanding your spouse and making them happy in the way that makes sense to them."

A mismatch is when one thing that you need is diametrically opposed to what they need. You can compromise but one of you will always feel lacking.

I know you are new here. You are going through a process that almost everyone here goes through of believing that you will be one of the rare successes. I hope you're right... but do you know how many times we've heard that and it turned out to be untrue? We all come to this on our own terms and timetable. I see that you are still in the "If I have some blame for the sexlessness in my marriage then I can also have some control over making it better." The statistics are not on your side, but I hope you are one of the 5% for your sake.

What anyone can do about sudden disappearance of sex ... after (wedding, children)... It seemed good match before (I read a lot of stories here)... Potential partner pretended BEFORE... and it seems some people manage to get into this trap twice...

Most stories have some red flags in them that we missed or ignored or thought weren't a big deal. Many, many stories talk about a current mismatch in levels of physical affection and intimacy desired between the two partners.

Some people do get into it twice, if they didn't learn themselves and to read others by their actions instead of their words. People do what they want unless pressure is put on them to do something else. Don't pressure or try to coerce a romantic interest, just watch and see what they choose or WANT to do. That tells you more about their wants than what they say that may be more about pleasing you than really their desires. As much as people like to please others after a while that stops and they revert back to their old ways. That is why it "SEEMED a good match before", even when it wasn't. The match was based on falseness or trying to be something they weren't.

Very wise, completely agree... Should be taught at primary schools! Unfortunately,I guess, there are many who are about to make the same mistake and later join this sad EP... I wish them well...

Yeah but mismatch is bound to exist with any two people. But if you love your partner and treat him/her as a part of you I feel it will not feel like an adjustment!

Mismatch on some things, sure. The point is that you have to decide what is a deal breaker and what your essential matches are. For some people, desire to have or not have children is one. For others they could maybe have kids or maybe not and are open to both possibilities. Some people need and crave physical affection, touch and so on. Others think it's nice but they don't feel empty without it. If you know yourself and your needs you can decide which things you can tolerate as a mismatch and which are deal breakers.

Change, you have nailed it. There are some mismatches that NO amount of adjusting will ever result in a positive outcome.

The denial of the mismatch is excruciatingly painful to watch and experience first- or second-hand. We have found the strength to escape...others we care about, deeply in some cases, have not...

Thank you!
I think the biggest problem that you start to realise all these after your own bitter experience... You fall in love and become blind,you think you met your soul mate and he/she has the same logic as you... but certainly everything will be different even if you had a lot of talk before .... you had different logic...

Good post C. The "us" that people refer to is often not based in any reality zone, and what's more cruel in a sense is that you have possibly both couples doing things that the other really really don't value.

And talking of value, understanding and connecting each person's values to real life action is the aspect that allows change to persist, and what makes a nonsense of "simple" compromise. Simple compromise - even if it occurs at all - is liable to result in a position that suits neither, and so the elastic snap-back to the status quo is semi-inevitable. This is why I bang on about the Getting to Yes type of negotiation because of its individual values-based exploration, which is more than zero-sum compromise.

One of the good things about that process is though, that you will at least understand yourself and your partner better - not the idealisms or presumptions that you thought "should", but what is.

And even with that, and with a basic goodwill that hasn't been killed by events, it's not always the case that the "right" answer is to be together. At least though, the process gives more honesty and genuine exploration of what is good for each.

This is a wonderfully clear post. I'd like to add as supporting evidence that there are instances when refusers have found better matches and re-engaged in sex again once the refused spouse has called time on the marriage? In these cases, it was not a lack of desire for sexual intimacy per se but a lack of desire for sexual intimacy specifically with the spouse.

One of the great strengths in functional relationships is "us" thinking. Where the individuals make informed choices on the basis of "what is good for US". The relationship benefits, and ipso facto, the individuals in the relationship benefit.

One of the huge weaknesses in dysfunctional relationships, is the spouse not getting their needs met continues with "us" thinking, indeed often redoubles it, in a solo effort to breathe life back into the non existent "us" (Basic Mismatch has murdered "us")
The futility of throwing time, resources and energy into a non existent "us" is a really sad thing to see happening.

Tread your own path.

It is a great post Sister C. I'd rate it up, but for the fact that since the great innovation by EP to allow people to "buy" extra Rate-Ups over and above the single unit, the credibility of the Rate-Up system has been fatally compromised.