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Stages Of Grief

It occurred to me that when you're the higher-desire partner and your lower-desire partner starts to withhold sex, it's similar to the stages of grief. So I looked up the stages of grief for a lost relationship, and tried to see if it fits with being the HD partner in a sexless or low-sex relationship.

I got the information from Psych Central Forums
http://www.psychforums.com/relationship/topic84035.html

My comments applying the ideas to the loss of the sex life are in parentheses.

The Stages of Grief:

Shock and Disbelief - The person may not be able to comprehend that the relationship has really ended, and these feelings may be all consuming. This stage may overlap with the next stage which is:

(End of sex life: Not sure how this applies, since the slowing down of the sex life is usually gradual, not sudden.)

Denial - The person may not accept that the relationship is over and may continue to pursue their ex partner.

(End of sex life: You don't understand how he or she could possibly be OK with having sex so rarely. You think it's a temporary bump in the road, and that things will get back to normal. You still behave pretty much the way you always have.)

Anger - The person may seek to blame their ex partner for the break up, ruminating on their faults and feeling and expressing a great deal of annoyance and hostility towards them.

(End of sex life: You think about leaving or having an affair. You're angry and hurt that your partner doesn't appreciate your good (and sexy) qualities. You're angry that he or she gets to make this unilateral decision not to be sexual, and does not even care that they're hurting you and taking away *your* sex life.)

Bargaining - The person may seek to win their partner back, promising to change or make compromises.

(End of sex life: You wonder if something is wrong with *you*, if you've lost your attractiveness. Or maybe it's a non-sexual part of your personality or behavior. You try to change yourself into whatever he or she wants. You try to be more domestic, less domestic, more romantic, less clingy, etc. You think if you can just be what he or she wants, they'll want to love you in a sexual way again.)

Guilt - The person may blame themselves for the break up, and may at this time have a very low sense of self esteem. They may wish they had done things differently, or said things differently and take on board all of the blame.

(End of sex life: Similar to this stage of grief in a breakup. Maybe twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to be what your partner wants didn't work so well, and you're beginning to think whatever is wrong with you just isn't fixable.)

Depression - The person may have feelings of sadness or hopelessness, withdraw from social relationships and spend a lot of time brooding and ruminating. They may cling on to memories of their partner, play the same songs repeatedly and day dream about what might have been.

(End of sex life: Continuation of the feelings in the guilt stage, but the hurt goes deeper. You feel like something horrible must be wrong with you, and maybe it's not just your partner who doesn't find you attractive - maybe *nobody* does, or ever could. You might have a liaison with someone else, more because you're hurting terribly and in need of comfort than because you're falling in love, or even just horny. If you still love your partner, these mercy f*cks won't really help, because you don't want another partner; you want *your* partner, the way things used to be. You see other things in your life - work, hobbies, friends - as a p*ss-poor substitute for the only thing you *really* want.)

Acceptance - The person now begins to feel a fresh sense of hope, and they think of their partner less often. They will not feel the same sense of raw pain, and will resume social relationships. They may even begin to seek out a new partner. From time to time they may feel nostalgic, but they will accept that the relationship is now over.

(End of sex life: Acceptance? What's that like? How does it happen? Do you lose interest in your partner and feel real intimacy with someone new (not just a revenge affair or a mercy ****, but your next real partner)? Do you lose interest in sex altogether, and become happy to stay with your partner and just hold hands occasionally like good little boys and girls? Do you have a religious conversion and suddenly find that religion is enough? Do you have a lobotomy? If anybody knows how acceptance happens, please share.)
SmartKat SmartKat 46-50, F 9 Responses Feb 20, 2013

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this made for a very interesting read :)

Thanks for posting this. I find it very informative.

I think you will find that he DOES accept that you are unhappy about it. He just doesn't care that this is a consequence of his behaviour. This consequence does not negatively affect him, only you.

Further, YOU do NOT "have to pretend everything's just peachy and this situation is fine with me?" You can respond to his behaviour in any way you choose. You can call him to account for his behaviour whenever you so choose.

Further, he WILL have to deal with the consequences of his behaviour. But when, and how, that consequence emerges is actually in YOUR control, not his.

If this gets bad enough for you to walk, then there is his consequence, then.

Meantime, whilst you choose to stay - in unhappiness - there is your consequence, now.

There are no free passes in life. For anyone. You can withdraw the free passes you've been giving him whenever you choose.

Tread your own path.

I know you're right. It's just taking me some time to get to where I need to be.

Another thought on acceptance: if I have to accept the fact that he doesn't want to have sex (or not often) - why doesn't he have to accept the fact that I'm unhappy about it? Why do I have to pretend everything's just peachy and this situation is fine with me? The consequences of his withholding sex are my crying, extreme quietness, not wanting to listen to him babble about something else, etc. Why shouldn't he have to deal with the consequences of his behavior?

This is the very question I have been asking myself lately. It's really quite an eye opener!

I hear you Kat - what it may boil down to is that he won't want to deal with the consequences of his behaviour in the relationship, but he may have to deal with the fallout - e.g. not being in a relationship with you any more.

The only way, I think most people agree who have been here for a while, the only way to go forward in a dysfunctional relationship is if TWO people are engaged in change. If one doesn't want to deal, well ... you may stay, more or less resigned or unhappily, or you go looking for green(er) pastures.

Too right: this is not YOUR problem, because anything that affects you, affects him as well, and vice versa. By association. Some folk are too dense to be able to appreciate that and, unless they happen to fit your expectations to a T, those are not good relationship material.

Agreed. My STBX has never had the desire to care enough about my pain of being rejected. And he never will. And I fought like hell for years to try to get him to just HEAR me for once, but the begging, pleading and crying gave way to anger, resentment and intolerance of him. None of that is healthy. And when we were in therapy, he said "all you do is make this about sex!" To which I said "because I need to feel loved! And it's a fundamental part of an effing marriage!" But, even with a third party there, it just didn't matter. So yes. I've gone through the stages you listed above both out of the SM part and now divorce. However I didn't do the bargaining part, because I wasn't the problem, he was.

Thx. I feel better knowing there are other women who have been through this.

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Angry and hurt? No, not as such. Sad about what might be, but wasn't/isn't happening.

Angry and hurt makes sense if there's a broken promise. If no explicit promise was made, then I start examining my expectations, and if they were overt, or not. Way too much marital strife happens over unvoiced expectations that somebody gets mad about their not being met.
Sad that you're not getting what you perceive as a need, now that's different, that's entirely reasonable in my frame of reference.

Loss of self esteem? Not as such. I've always seen myself as unattractive, yet never been short of willing partners or friends before. So that didn't faze me. I blamed the dynamics of the configuration. I know that many perceive this differently, though.

Depression? Yes, for a little bit. Maybe a few months. Mostly just sad. When I got seriously depressed I landed here very quickly, took stock, fastened a few screws in my head, set about changing the shape of things. They haven't changed to where I'd like them, but the abusive parts of the relationship have mostly faded away; we're both being more mindful of each other.

Guess I'm not that typical in this. I was/am not willing to accept or tolerate an abusive relationship, and it took this group to show me where that was happening. Hell, even FOIA played his part by chastising me. But then, there are two people in this house willing to engage and sort **** out. Her checking out of the sexual population is the least of the problems we had, although, as seems so typical, the most obvious symptom that something's not working. More of a red herring for us. The lack of affection and her indifference to any show of sexual interest were more the issues.

I generally agree that the grieving process for a dying relationship is obviously similar to the loss of a loved one in different circumstances. But I feel that likening it to the death of sex is forcing the comparison a bit, maybe.

Just a couple of points:

1 - Broken promises/unmet expectations:

A marriage, or long-term live-in relationship, IMPLIES that sex is part of the deal to almost every person on this planet. Not too many couples discuss the possibility of remaining celibate when they're deciding to get married or live together. So, I think the expectation that there's going to be sex is perfectly reasonable. Especially if you plan to obey the monogamy rule - because under monogamy, you're not allowed to get it anywhere else.

2 - Abusive relationships: I can't really speak to that. I don't consider my relationship to be abusive. Inconsiderate, maybe. And not just him; I can see the ways that I'm inconsiderate.

Yes, yes and yes :-) Yes it is implicit - no argument from me. The thing about different tastes wasn't even obvious to me at the time I wrote that comment, but you are soooo right about that also.

I remember my first wife - we had a sexual relationship. In fact, she told a friend-in-common that that's why she stayed with me. But she was unadventurous, mostly passive, liked to be 'serviced' ... whereas I like mixing things up and I like somebody who expresses their pleasure, and at least attempts to do something for me as well. Lets just say that after 4 years it was getting so boring, I was starting to lose interest .... but that's when we broke up anyhow. Would've been interesting to find myself in the position of being the person who is "just no longer interested in sex". Heh!

Rated up! Can't help with the "acceptance" part because I didn't and couldn't "accept" it as my life's lot. I encourage you to seriously consider the true implications of "acceptance" for you - without allowing the inevitable moral judgments, nostalgia, "what ifs?" or "I shoulds. . . " to interfere with your evaluation.

Can you genuinely and honestly endorse "acceptance" as the best alternative? At the time of a partner's death, we have no choice about this acceptance. The partner is gone - so failing to accept the situation is to live with denial.

Can you apply the same principle to living without sexual intimacy? It is GONE and we need to accept that it is GONE. Should this lead us to accept a life without that essential need - or should we accept that this need can never be met in our current relationship - and ACT accordingly??

Food for thought perhaps. . .

PS. NOT addressing this to you specifically SK, but to all who read your story.

Anecdote.

My version of "acceptance" went like this (see my first story "Recognise Reality" if you wish)

I came to the conclusion that there was no marital "we" in play in my dynamic, but there was still a financial partnership. I accepted that there was no actual marriage and conducted myself accordingly, with no expectation of my Financial Partner other than to be a Financial Partner.
This did NOT result in me going out chasing women, rather it did involve me going out pursuing my own interests, reviving old friendships that I had let lapse, and generally living a quite satisfying life (although bereft of any intimate engagement with women). There were a couple of opportunistic extramarital roots during this period, but that's about all.
It was quite good, in my world as I defined it at that stage.
Then, I changed jobs, into a field completely foreign to me. It involved being out in the public eye a lot. And a few chicks started to hit on me.
That rocked the foundation of the "Financial Partnership" strategy pretty severely, and eventually it collapsed and I had to get out.
BUT - the "Financial Partnership Strategy" worked. It worked for a far longer period than I ever thought it would - like about 5 years. Unfortunately, events then transpired that eroded the only thing left "Financial Responsibility".

It was a good solution, a good fit for me, and it worked. And that is all any solution ahs to do. And, when it no longer works, you craft another. My run of solutions eventually turned me back to the core problem, and I got out.

Tread your own path.

Wow! I could totally relate to those stages...I am in the depressed phase and also pondering what acceptance looks like. Thank you for your insightful synopsis.

Wow SmartKat, you really have some good info, and responses to this. Yes, it does suck being the horny one, and not getting satisfied, really sucks!