Am I To Blame?

Hello to everyone in SM land...

Had a few responses to my first post - looking forward to more feedback in the days to come.

One response has really stuck with me, though...

This one individual basically pointed a finger squarely at me and said "based on what you wrote, I think you're the problem in your relationship, not your wife - so you should be the one to do something about it."

You see...that's exactly what I'm worried about! This poster played into my worst fears about myself - that I'm a quitter, that I'm a blamer, that I'm bad, wrong, messed up - that I'M the problem.

After all (as this poster pointed out), I'm on my second sexless marriage - the common denominator in both marriages is ME - so it logically follows that I was the problem in both cases. Occum's Razor and all that (i.e. "all things being equal, the simplest explanation is often the one that is correct").

So could that be true? AM I the problem?

As I mentioned in my post (and in my response to this responder), I've done A LOT of personal work. How much is "a lot" you may ask? 10 years of individual therapy, and 10+ years of couple's work. Not a typo - you read that right.

And in ALL of those years of personal work, not once did any of those professionals ever say "you're the problem, not your wife." Including the couple's counselor, by the way. And by the way, I think she is a genius of a therapist (she's a coach actually, which explains the ongoing nature of the work - if you don't know what coaching vs. counseling is, feel free to ask - or maybe I'll post about it sometime).

That it possible that all of those professionals are not to be trusted? Am I'm JUST THAT good at fooling everyone into thinking the problem lies outside of me? Is that why none of them ever pointed that out?

By the way, none of my therapists or coaches or what-have-you have ever assigned "blame" to either party. It has always been about taking personal responsibility, communication, repair, etc. In my case, it seems my contribution to the problem is that I'm too diplomatic - that I don't stand up for myself and ask to be heard. That I'm willing to engage (and even enable) behavior on the part of my partner that is inconsistent with that of an integrated adult (if you don't understand this, feel free to ask). And, having allowed myself to violate my personal boundaries around these dynamics, I become moody and resentful - not because I'm mad at my wife, but because I'm upset with myself. Because allowing a boundary to be violated doesn't feel good. And moody and resentful is just not sexy.

But anyway...the question on the table is: just how much individual therapy is enough? What about couple's work? Is there an ever an end to it? Or are we always in process?

And furthermore, can people really become interested in having sex with each other again by doing this kind of work?

I firmly believe that we play out all of our personal issues within our primary relationships (that goes for relationships with our kids, by the way) - so by definition, it follows that I believe these kinds of challenges are EXACTLY what are supposed to come up within a marriage - and it is our job to deal with them as they arise.

So how much work should a couple do before they throw in the towel? 6 months? A year? 5? 10? Never? Would it ever be ok to admit defeat - to decide we've simply learned all we can from each other and move on? Or would that just make us quitters?

When is enough enough?

I wish I knew the answer. What do you think? a SECOND poster to my original post has agreed I need to do more personal work - in this case, the poster thinks if I am serious about fixing myself, I should find another therapist who is interested in more than taking my money. Wow. What do you all think of that?
AMusicalMind AMusicalMind 46-50, M 14 Responses Feb 4, 2013

Your Response


I think both parties in any marriage have things to work on. Marriage takes a lot of work! And yours sure sounds like it takes overtime. I don't know anything about you, but I do want to commend you for putting all those hours in for your wife and your marriage. Lots of people wouldn't even consider going once to a therapist. I think that is amazing and says a lot. BTW, I cannot for the life of me believe so many people are saying they are rarely intimate with their spouses. I mean, really? You have the love of your life with you every day, a warm body to love, and yes, aside from all the stresses of life, it's hard to imagine for me. Even when my husband disappointed me beyond belief, I'd say intimacy got even better, because we went to counseling and started opening up to one another. (Sorry, started rambling...). But yes, people come with all sorts of baggage. You've been an amazing husband to stick around for your wife. I'd encourage you, don't do anything you would regret or would be ashamed of. Hang in there!

Just last night I had a discusion with a friend about my sexless marriage. I told her.... that even if a miracle cure was invented tomorrow for our refusers.... I could never go back to having an intimate relationship with her. I guess that would now make me a refuser. BTW... it will be nine years in november since we last had sex

I wouldn't say that you're to blame. It's more likely that you are attracted to women with refuser personality traits.

This pretty much feels like a bullseye, Lance - many thanks.

Bullseye for me too. My wife played hard to get when we met. I liked it at the time.

You have been in therapy, both individual and couples', for a long time. You have also been in not one, but two SMs, much to your dissatisfaction. These two facts would indicate that you need to be doing something different with therapy. The evaluation is that simple.

Developing your personal "whys" in therapy is rather like trying to understand the "whys" of your non/asexual spouse (* hereby acknowledging Bazzar for the concept*). The real question is this: What, exactly, do you plan to do with the information? Will it calm you into meekly accepting the status quo, or give you the courage to take action? Or will it be a mental exercise to occupy your thoughts so you don't have to really consider what to do about the SM?

Well stated...but, yikes. I guess I have a lot of thinking to do - all really good points, though. No, I don't want this to just be another mental exercise - nor do I want to be meek, or calm or any other form of complacency with regards to my current situation. One thing is for sure - what I've been doing hasn't worked - you're absolutely right about that. Many thanks for taking the time to weigh in. AMM

So you basically let her get away with stuff, then resent her for it later...That's my pattern in relationships.
So...I set a deadline of a year to either fix it or forget it.
I defined what I needed to have a happy relationship-minimum standards.
Then I went forward trying to get those prerequisites met.
The more time I spent with her, the less time I WANTED to spend with her, funnily enough.

You aren't blameless. At the very least you own the fact you have stayed in the dysfunctional situation.

But I think you are falling into the "MinW" school of thought here where his glib answer is always that "you didn't try hard enough". (It doesn't matter what you did under the MinW model, it was not, and never will be, "enough")

Mate, there is one person, and one person only who decides when enough is enough. That's YOU. And no one here has any business second guessing you. If you say you've done enough, and had enough, that's good enough for me (and bear equally in mind that the 'approval' - or disapproval - from "bazzar" or anyone else here, is largely irrelevant to you. It's YOUR call. YOUR informed choice)

Tread your own path.

Thanks Bazz. Of course I realize that no one's opinion but my own really matters in the end - but sometimes a kick in the a** from a bunch of sympathetic strangers is exactly what a guy needs to get moving.

you asked: But anyway...the question on the table is: just how much individual therapy is enough? What about couple's work? Is there an ever an end to it? Or are we always in process?

I think you passed "enough" about 10 miles back. I did 2 years of work in my early 30's (individual childhood crap) and then 3+ years of individual/family/couples counseling.

It's like have a third person in the relationship. It's gets up into your head and messes you all up...

Now - this isn't applicable across the board for all people. I have a sister who has been in cousneling for most of 20 years and it's because of something she can't change and she will probably always need counseling. But - barring a mental illness (which my son also has) - I think too much counseling hurts as much or more than it helps.

I think you are there. Just my opinion which won't buy you a dang thing.

Thanks, LA - your perspective is much appreciated. AMM

I have a slightly different take. I see the rejection and distancing, when it has been made clear that this is hurtful, as emotional abuse; it's controlling and manipulative. And yes, there is blame there, abuse is *NOT* the fault of the abused. But we do have a responsibility to ourselves to not allow ourselves to be abused. The two issues are separate, but often conflated.

You shouldn't leave your keys in the car, but the person who steals it is to blame for stealing it, not you - but you are responsible for not having taken proper care of something you value. (ok it's a cr@p analogy...).

No, it isn't cr@p - I take your point perfectly. You see the sexual denial (especially after my feelings about it have been made clear) as emotional abuse - and while I'm not responsible for the abuse itself, I *am* responsible for getting into the situation in the first place, and for allowing it continue. Something like that?

Yep, something like that.

Getting into the situation is a more debateable one, it depends on how many 'red flags' there were, but allowing it to continue, that's clearer cut.

I recommend you switch out the word "blame" for the word "responsible".

Laying the blame, taking the blame or pointing fingers in blame does no good. It is passive and doesn't engender or foster actions to course corrections.

Thinking yourself responsible is being proactive and will enable you to do required course corrections within your own life.

In these dysfunctional dynamics we are all, to some degree, responsible for where we are at today and to how others treat us.

Once we acknowledge responsibility the path forward becomes a bit more clear.

AMM, pure gold from enna.

all i have to add is: we all own our contribution to the SM. whether it is ignoring red flags, trying harder despite problems, not standing g up for ourselves, any form of enabling their behavior, etc.

i too am in my second SM. my first (ex) cheated on me, and spent a ton of time and money on Internet **** and phone sex.

and my (stbx) current h is a different kettle of fish entirely. not sure exactly what all his story (why) is---he's given me a gazillion different reasons over the years--frankly don't care any more. stayed around a lot longer this time because we have a child together, and have concluded that no it ain't just the sex, there's a LOT more wrong here, and i wouldn't *want* to try any of the "other" solutions, in my case--so i have filed and it will get messy, and worse, before it gets better.

though fairly comfortable with myself, flaws and all, i do intend to go for therapy to help me deal with the issues and personality flaws (carer, giver, do-er) that i allow to lead me into lopsided relationships.

suggest your years of therapy have already given you a clear picture of who you are, flaws and all, but if you feel the need, you can continue therapy.

best of luck to you.

Please read my first comment below before you read this one! This one follows on from what I have said previously.

It seems very likely that, once you do create your own boundaries and relay these to your wife, your marriage WILL be over. In telling your wife, I encourage you to be honest, kind, respectful and avoid blame and anger.

Simply tell her that you feel you have BOTH worked very hard to achieve the relationship you need, but it is now abundantly clear that it is something that is beyond the two of you to forge together. Explain that you can no longer live without your needs being met. That you have seriously contemplated the future and can see the situation getting worse, rather than better.

The outcome of this is likely to go in a number of ways:

1) your wife is infuriated - angry, blaming you, criticising you, etc. etc. This may be a short term reaction, followed by a more reasoned one. Or she may stay in "angry" mode. You will know which is the more likely.

This one might be accompanied by threats . . . "I will take you for all you've got"; "I will never let you see the children". Recognise that these are the desperate attempts of someone losing control of her situation and cannot be enforced in real life.

2) your wife is desperately upset and cries a lot. This is quite possibly the HARDEST one to deal with, because your love for her will make you WANT to stop her distress. But retracting at this point is the WORST thing you can do.

3) your wife insists she will "change". Be aware that whilst she may truly mean this, it cannot happen. If she has been unable to alter her behaviour after all the years in counselling, NOTHING will make it happen now. The best SHE can hope for is that she might find it possible in another dynamic, with another partner.

That is also what YOU can hope for!


First, make NO promises. At this very distressing and emotional time she might extract a "promise" from you that you cannot keep later. Be sure to make NO definite commitments.

If you choose to give her "another chance", then set a time limit on it. You need not share that with her, but you are wise to set a limit in your own mind. As in "If I see no definite improvement in six weeks, I will accept that none will be forthcoming."

Take the high moral ground. And by that, I do not mean, treat her condescendingly!! Treat her with respect, caring and avoid criticism, blame and other negative behaviours.

YOU need to remain calm, assertive, non-combatant - but also immovable on your boundaries. Any back-tracking now (as in giving in on your boundaries) WILL result in the whole thing crumbling like a house of cards.

In the face of her pleading, fighting, cold-shouldering (whatever her response) avoid responding emotionally. (Be prepared for her to say you are "Cold" or that she "Doesn't know what has got into you" or that "You've changed!". She is NOT used to you behaving like this so it will be hard for her to make sense of it.)

But do reassure her that you know that the way you two have been going is NOT working and that things MUST change. She may not agree - because to a large extent she HAS been living in a marriage that suits her needs. But remember this - a marriage where only one spouse's needs are being met is NOT a marriage.

Sadly, I predict that your marriage IS over. It seems to me you have done all you can and more. To her credit she too has tried hard. But the bottom line is this "You two are not meant to be married to each other." If she and you both wish it, you CAN remain good friends and continue to have contact. Being good co-parents is your prime responsibility at this time.

The time ahead for you is going to be painful and difficult. But you CAN emerge from this situation wiser and also free to make a new start in your own life. Yes, it is challenging and daunting - but it is SO much better than living the "half life" that is long term SM!!

Hi enna -

This is fantastic advice - I so appreciate you taking the time to put it all in writing.

Remember, I've been through a divorce before, so I've had some experience with the kinds of things you described in your post. In my earlier situation, I tried to do many of the things you suggested. I also failed a lot! But I learned a tremendous amount in the process - and if it comes to dealing with something similar again in the future, I hope I will be able to handle it as gracefully and intelligently as you described.

All that said - your post is helping me to visualize what it might be like to go down that road again - and that is a really valuable exercise at this point.

Very much appreciating all of the kind words and advice here in EP - many thanks -


MM, there is some truth in it being "our" problem (our being the refused). At one time on ILIASM (more than a year ago) there was a BIG faction of people laying the blame entirely at the feet of the Refuser. And whilst there IS much truth in it being the Refuser's issue at heart, there is still much that we (the refused) unintentionally contribute.

For me, the best question for individual counselling is "What is it about me that has landed me in this situation?" After much counselling I came to recognise that my childhood experiences had shaped me to be a "carer" and to enable others. Without any wish to do so (!!), I was attracted to those needing to be enabled - and conversely, these people were attracted to me.

IMO it is not that you (or I, or any other Refused person) CAUSED the refusal - it is that we chose partners who had this characteristic.

Personally, I think your paragraph (quoted below) EXACTLY describes what has happened:

"In my case, it seems my contribution to the problem is that I'm too diplomatic - that I don't stand up for myself and ask to be heard. That I'm willing to engage (and even enable) behavior on the part of my partner that is inconsistent with that of an integrated adult (if you don't understand this, feel free to ask). And, having allowed myself to violate my personal boundaries around these dynamics, I become moody and resentful - not because I'm mad at my wife, but because I'm upset with myself. Because allowing a boundary to be violated doesn't feel good. And moody and resentful is just not sexy."

That being said, the issues that YOU now face are these:

1) Setting boundaries - very hard to do and needs a lot of practice. But you (and all refused) need to practice setting boundaries AND Keeping them. As in "I am no longer going to put up with . . . . " and KEEPING to this decision.

2) Recognising that you ARE an enabler. As you do not set boundaries, and allow your wife's needs to trump your's, you are enabling her behaviour. The message she has received is that, whilst you grumble and complain about her behaviour (or lack thereof!) you don't actually DO anything concrete about it. So she has learnt to ignore your entreaties. She probably doesn't do this consciously - but it IS what is happening.

3) Recognise that by deferring to her needs and not having your own met, you are NOT "keeping it real". You are instead choosing the path of least resistance. I can hear you saying "Wow! If this is the path of 'least resistance', I cannot imagine how hard the other path might be!!"

But in truth, once you set your own boundaries and your own needs are given an opportunity to be met, you will NOT find it as hard as you may dread.

Because this will lead you in another direction, I will post the rest as anotther comment.

Well, I haven't read your first post, I'll find it and read it. But I blame myself a lot because I see me as the problem in the sense of "why can't you just tolerate it this way?" "why are you rocking the boat?" "Why do you need more?" "Why isn't his 'Love' for you good enough?"
But I didn't get to feeling this way all by my lonesome. I didn't dream it up as some fun place to be, that is what my counselor has shown me, both of them, personal and marriage. They both say, "ok, you love him but you are NOT IN LOVE with him." "You don't have chemistry with him." "You are still angry and hurt at him never noticing how he was destroying you and ignoring you." So then I say, "I know, I hate myself, I'm feel so ashamed, so guilty, I should be able to get past this, I should just.... blah blah blah" to which they both say, no, you are entitled to those feelings, those are natural, you didn't get yourself to that spot. So they don't blame me, they just acknowledge where I am. But I blame me... since I am the one who would be destroying the family in his eyes, in my parents eyes, in so manys' eyes. Honestly, I keep waiting for him to ask for a divorce (again) (and this time not change his mind) and for me to just accept it and say ok. For some reason, I can handle that. I can't handle ME asking for it though. In anything and everything *almost* always both people involved are at *some* fault, its how these things work... but truly the majority of the blame if you want to assign it, lays on him. When we did have our 2 min sex, it didnt' bother him one bit (not that he showed me) that I laid there sobbing while he did his business. That will cause a bit of resentment... so should I blame myself for being resentful?( No, but hey, I do anyway, I was programmed to long ago.)
I think its something you have to come to a decision for, for yourself. And maybe next relationship you don't marry, you just stay committed and make sure the sex is great first.

Here I am again too!
I should start by saying, I love my therapist and he has really helped me decide to leave my SM. If you've read here you know that it is really impossible to find the "why" of your spouses behavior but you can find your own "why". If you read my stories you will see that I originally thought that my marriage was good except the sex. So I gave up on pursuing sex and worked on myself. Then there came a time when I really needed not sex but intimacy. This denial hurt me in a way that I can not explain. It took my therapist (who was my marriage counselor but I am keeping him in the divorce), on the day my STBX decided not to show for a session, asking, "So Maleficent, why do you think you have tolerated this for so long?" That was my why question. Why did I feel the need to continue in a situation that was damaging to me. I am in the middle of a horrible divorce and am probably a train wreck right now, but I haven't felt this good in years. I hope you find your "why" AMusicalMind and I hope you find happiness.

Thanks so much for the comments, Maleficant. Having been through an acrimonious divorce, I understand where you are at the moment - but know things will get better.

Your "why" question - i.e. "why have I tolerated this for so long" - definitely is THE question, isn't it!

Wishing you well...