The hardest part of this blog is here, the question about when a man can feel he has “done enough” and starts thinking about divorce.
“Jamesash” wrote in the comments on the “calculator” post:
Something different I have been wondering about – the title of this sub-site/blog (which is being really helpful and insightful for me) is “Why your wife won’t have sex with you”. The subtext here is that this is the man’s problem. To paraphrase JG – “if you want to change the sexual dynamic in your relationship, it is up to you to make the changes that will make your wife feel more amorous” (in fact, JG never used these words, but I beleive the intent expressed is close to what she has written).
As the blog is addressed to men, that’s pretty much the only attitude I can take. Because, as I have said over and over again, I’m trying to give guys a sense that there is something they can do. If I tell a guy he has to wait on his wife’s decision to straighten up and fly right, that their sexual impasse is entirely her problem, I’m essentially telling him he’s POWERLESS. That’s emasculating, and it’s the absolute worst thing a man who wants to recover sexual confidence and love can hear.
However, sometimes things are hopeless. Jamesash continues:
So my question is this – after 10 sexless years, I have reached the point where most of the feeling I have left for my wife is anger and resentment. No doubt I could be more sensitive and thoughtful in many ways but after 10+ years of trying I am not willing to try any more. So what happens next? Separation seems likely, although strangely (to me) I do not think my wife wants this.
I’m sure she doesn’t. There are a lot of merely practical reasons why a breakup now is not in her — or your — best interests. Setting up two separate households out of assets and income that are presently sustaining only one is an extremely expensive business, one which will essentially demolish you both financially, even leaving aside the cost of the divorce itself.
And although children can adjust to any divorce which is absolutely necessary (and they will certainly be better off if there is any question of physical danger), divorce is a major challenge to their sense of security, especially at younger ages. It could set them back in their emotional development. Some children are more sensitive than others to the loss of their father’s presence on a daily basis. I’d like to say girls are more at risk (because I’ve come to believe that losing my father to divorce had something to do with my sexual insecurities later in life), but it really depends on the individual child. Older children may be less fundamentally vulnerable, but the teen years are the ones in which a child often needs a father desperately.
But in any case divorce will loosen/weaken children’s relationships with their non-custodial parent, and even in these days of the Men’s Rights Movement, that still tends to be the father. And children’s relationships with the custodial parent change, too, when there are fewer options for a kid to resort to for interaction, advice or nurturance. Trying to be both parents to a kid by yourself is a rough emotional (and practical!) business, and excesses and lapses of varying intensity are inevitable. Major alterations to both parents’ relationships with their kids are part of the emotional sacrifices you make in divorce, and the sacrifice of your previous relationship with your kids often looms larger for a separated parent over time. Be sure you take that into account.
But, in the end, pure practicality and “considering the children” are not the only bases on which to make the divorce decision. Believe me, Jamesash, your wife knows within the height of a raised eyebrow what your feelings are toward her. She knows, although perhaps only half-consciously sometimes, that they are uniformly negative. So it’s unlikely that she can even think about opening herself to you and giving you pleasure now, because — let’s be absolutely frank — she realizes that you hate her. For her, sex with you these days would not only be a physical chore, but an admission that your ugly feelings toward her were somehow acceptable or right. Making love would require her to surrender herself to your opinion, to accept your dismal view of her as a human being. As long as she can continue to believe that it’s okay to live her life feeling Unloved if she doesn’t actually have to have sex with a person who despises her, she’ll refuse.
Jamesash, your situation is equally sad. You are living with a daily sense of failure, anger and helplessness. You’re feeling Unloved, too. So there is the possibility that both of you would be happier enough apart that the fury, emotional disruption and horrendous expense of divorce could be worth it. Because sometimes it is simply impossible to change a negative emotional spiral like the one you’re in once it gets underway. You continue:
My attitude has become “if she wants to keep this marriage together, she better start thinking about how to make me happy”. This would be a pretty alien concept for her – she tends to think she is always in the right and also has a ‘shoot first ask questions later’ approach to our relationship when it comes to discusions, sometimes apologizing days later for angry statements after the damage is done.
There are few people in the world who don’t more-or-less automatically assume that what they want and what they think is right and good, and that those who defy or disagree with them are wrong and bad. People without this basic confidence in their own judgment and needs are ordinarily very sick indeed. And as I’ve pointed out before, a pattern of blow-up/hurtfulness followed by a days-later apology is not unusual even in the best marriages. But, Jamesash, what you perceive as your wife’s radical personal protectiveness (“I’m always right” and that classic “the best defense is a good offense” thing) is clear evidence that she sees you as The Enemy.
I’m guessing this whole mess started fairly early in your marriage, when she somehow came to believe that there was no other way to deal with you than by defending herself, maintaining her self-esteem, keeping you at arm’s length so you couldn’t hurt her. True intimacy and trust between you became too dangerous somehow. So the negative spiral began, her defense engendering defense and anger in you, and thus (as she saw it) more need for defense on her part, and so on. The walls went up, the sniping and undermining began, and eventually the seige turned into the stalemate of the status quo.
Under those circumstances, Jamesash, there is no way in hell that she is ever going to start thinking about how to make you happy. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
But this is the most crucial thing you said:
No doubt I could be more sensitive and thoughtful in many ways but after 10+ years of trying I am not willing to try any more.
If YOU, Jamesash, — the one who is apparently least happy with thestatus quo, the one who is probably the most agitated, the one with the largest problem — if YOU are really, truly, absolutely not willing to try any more, for any reason, your marriage really is over. Again, this is no moral or emotional judgment on either of you, it is just a fact. Hang it up.
|Comments in response to this post:|
| Julia writes “There are few people in the world who don’t more-or-less automatically assume that what they want and what they think is right and good, and that those who defy or disagree with them are wrong and bad. People without this basic confidence in their own judgment and needs are ordinarily very sick indeed.”
Julia, you state this much too strongly. I understand EXACTLY what Jamesash was talking about in describing his wife’s inflexibility. I think mature, decent, sophisticated people (and there are many in this world) have a little voice in the back of their head, even during an argument, saying “hmm…am I biased here? Am I being fair? Is there more than one way to see this issue? I’m not being a selfish bastard am I?” Usually this voice is wrong, but it serves a necessary “Editor” function. Even when I am in an argument, I try to bend over backwards to see things from her perspective. What I have grown to resent is that my wife makes no such effort, has no internal Editor, never questions for one nanosecond the feelings that come straight out of her superego (or is it her id?). As my Dad would say, she has no filter – it’s just brain –> mouth. I resent that I take the effort to be so careful in what I say, and she makes none. It increasingly seems to me that this is the typical pattern of arguments in modern marriages (in vivid contrast to our parents’ generation)- feminism has beat in to me and other men that we should be ashamed of our crude, base instincts, yet women have a mandate to express every little desire as a demand as if straight from the mouth of God.
And finally, Julia, it is typical of a woman to denigrate a man’s decency and good manners in the setting of an argument as a lack of the All-Important CONFIDENCE, which apparently is to women what big tits and blonde hair are to men.
Patrick • 2/21/04; 10:59:56 AM
| Patrick, with that phrasing I never meant to “denigrate” anyone. In fact, I think I’m making a sincere effort here NOT to denigrate anyone, but only to explain why/how certain behaviors and communicative strategies come about.
What I was trying to say, and will repeat here, was that a pretty firm confidence in one’s own opinion is something we all share (including you, obviously, or you wouldn’t have been so sure that you saw an insult that I never meant or skirted so close to outright offensiveness in your reply).
But what I was trying to get across was that Jamesash’s wife’s (possibly extreme) outward surety might be indicative of her actually feeling MORE unsure and unconfident than people usually do, on the inside. I’m sure you’ve heard of inferiority complexes, which are usually compensated for by infuriatingly “superior” or intrusive behaviors.
Perhaps her defensiveness is too vigorous for anyone’s general standard of “decency and manners,” and apparently it’s at least too vigorous for Jamesash himself to tolerate, but there’s really no way for outsiders like you and me to take the data offered and make any strict judgments about the extent of her sins against The Universal Moral Order.
I don’t deny that some people are TOO confident of their inherent rightness, but I’m sure you’ll understand why I hestitate to agree that it’s only women who have this problem today, or that it’s caused by feminism, for pity’s sake.
Women have been assertive, aggressive and even downright abusive in defending their opinions or thrusting their (uncensored) complaints on their husbands LONG before Betty Friedan came along.
And vice versa, needless to say.
Back then AND today the involved parties on both sides have had to decide to either cope or quit. And back in the days of more difficult or more highly condemned divorce, people were more-or-less forced to cope.
But in any case the odds for all of us are better in attempting to cope if we at least acknowledge (if not approve) what could be going on in the “too defensive” or “too opinionated” person’s mind and heart.
Julia Grey • 2/21/04; 2:04:43 PM
| I am concerned that Jamesash has given up on happiness. In 1996, I found myself mired in the same relationship as Jamesash. I was in a situation where I was unhappy, undersexed, and spiraling into a depression that was choking me. I was the martyr. Poor me. Divorce was not an option. I took the vows and I made a bed I had to sleep in. I loved my wife but I was unhappy. How is that possible? I prayed, literally, for a change, for some intervention to change my suffocation.
One summer day after coming home from work, I found a note on the table. She was leaving. No explanation, no reasons, no nothing! I died inside. I lost 32 pounds in twelve days, I drank to ease the pain, and the pain was constant. The worst thing I had ever endured. The point is, I endured. 7 years of hell cleared up in 6 months. I was finally breathing again. I was single and in charge of my own happiness again. My prayer had been answered. God had a plan, he just didn’t let me in on it.
I soon found a wonderful woman who was interested in only making me happy. How had I given up on my own happiness so easily? I look back now and of course hindight being so clear, I had been in boot camp for the real relationship. Now I have a wonderful wife and 2, soon to be three, wonderful children, and everything I ever thought marriage was has come true (well maybe not the sex part, maybe there’s no pleasing some).
I guess my only advice to Jamesash is to listen to Julia and read between the lines of what she is saying. Only you can decide what and when. Ultimately only your happiness is important. A happy husband makes a happy wife. This all sounds hedonistic, but I belive this life is the only one you have, and 10 years of sexless marriage is a waste of quality time you could be having. I promise, it is difficult, but not as difficult as trying to wrestle from the quicksand where you reside. I certainly don’t want to sound preachy, but God does have a plan, but somehow he has forgot to let you in on it.
Genuine • 2/21/04; 2:13:41 PM
| Great column, Julia, but I agree with Patrick that you overstated the “confidence” thing a bit. “Very sick indeed” seems to me to be something one needs inpatient psych hospitalization for, not just an minor adjustment. I used to be a very confidant man, but after years of “take no prisoners/ win at any cost” arguments with my wife, I have a confidence problem. I don’t know if my wife’s tactics stem from feminism or just her feistiness, but either way, they don’t usually end up with a good result for me. Even when I pick my battles, I tend to lose them.
Patrick: I really liked the description of a filter between your brain and your mouth. I have that same filter installed. Another interesting filter is the one between my wife’s ears and her brain. I can ask in a straightforward way for a kiss or a hug and she hears it as whiny or pitiful. She says I should just kiss her or hug her, not ask. Yet, when I do go ahead and initiate the hug or kiss, I often feel like I am hugging a lump, or I end up kissing a cheek where the lips were initially the target. Which is worse…the cold shoulder when I take action, or the accusation that I’m whiny when I ask for something? Or is it all just kind of bad?
As for the initial blow up, followed by an apology a day or two later, yes, it’s very common. I deal with it all the time.
Harry • 2/23/04; 7:56:08 AM
| Unlike Genuine – great note, btw – I believe in a life hereafter. But I also believe you prepare best for that life by being the best at being yourself. If you’re miserable, you’re not being what you can be. If you’re contributing to the misery of your wife, same deal.
Some people take this idea and imagine the extreme, that you have to be nice to everyone all the time, that you then have to undertake the burden of always being your best, of always being a light shining in this world. Ain’t true. Every decision in life trades helping one versus hurting another. Can’t be avoided, don’t worry so much about it.
But you can and should be happy in your nearest and dearest relations. You should not be unhappy with the person you sleep with, with the family that you share a home with.
It may be that you’re married to the wrong person, that your motives and hers were a too confused when you wed (or when you had kids). It may also be that leaving is still not the right answer.
How willing are you to go through the mating process again? Are you willing to settle? To take on a different woman’s baggage – maybe her ex, maybe her kids’ problems?
Many people look in the mirror and ask themselves, “What happened to me? How did I get here?” The person you live with sees you much more clearly than anyone else can.
You already know this person. You may not like her. She may not like you. But you know each other. The simplest truth of all is that there’s a fine line between hate and love.
Bruce • 2/23/04; 10:12:40 AM
| I agree with Patrick that you overstated the “confidence” thing a bit. “Very sick indeed” seems to me to be something one needs inpatient psych hospitalization for, not just an minor adjustment.
Hmmm. Perhaps we’re just not understanding each other.
Let me try again. I was saying that these wives’ apparently outsized assertiveness might be just a higher degree of the kind of basic confidence we all have in ourselves. Even people who are not AS confident as these women appear to be still have that basic confidence, because if they didn’t, they would be total basket cases. You guys have at least enough confidence in yourselves to stay out of the loony bin. You’re talking to me in a forthright manner and standing up for yourselves quite well. Therefore you are normal, and clearly don’t need to be institutionalized!
I’m also saying that the very ferocity of this assertiveness in these women might be a defensive over-reaction to their more fundamental LACK of confidence in themselves, their situations, their needs, etc. It’s the “fight or flight” thing again. They’re fighting back like this and being “too aggressive” because they’re scared or unsure in some very basic way.
Harry, I think that asking for expressions of affection is pretty clearly not the way to go with your wife, but maybe you could pick your “moments of action” better to get a more welcoming response. Can you give me some more specifics about the times when you tried to hug or kiss her and didn’t get the reaction you wanted? What else was happening at the time? Was she doing something, like washing the dishes?
Maybe in her mind just allowing a hug or a cheek kiss (not totally, overtly pushing you away) is “enough.” I know it isn’t for you, though. If she let you kiss her lips but was still a “lump” would that be okay with you? If not, what would be?
You have to know what you really want before you can figure out how to get it. What exactly do you want in the way of a response from her when you go to hug or kiss her? Does she have to melt in your arms and return a big soul-kiss for her response to be satisfactory, or would something less be okay?
One reason I ask this is because she may have sensed that nothing short of the soul-kiss scenario will satisfy you, and she’s not prepared/able to instantly react that way whenever you happen to “request” it. So she just allows the contact and doesn’t actually respond because she knows anything short of total surrender will somehow disappoint you anyway, so it’s simpler and less trouble to just let it happen.
That’s why I’m thinking that finding more relaxed moments might be helpful. A move for a hug when she’s bringing in the groceries will be more likely to be refused (or merely tolerated) than pulling her into a hug while you’re sitting on the couch laughing at a movie together. Make eye contact first, though. Smile. Maybe say something nice. THEN move in. An unconnected “dive” at her out of the blue is likely to startle and dismay her, and remind her that you’re (supposedly, to her) too fixated on the Merely Physical.
Julia Grey • 2/23/04; 10:44:12 AM
| Ten years is a really long time. A long time to wear down all the marvelous qualities that drew Jamesash to his wife in the first place. A long time to build the resentment that finally festers into hate.
Who wouldn’t bet that those wonderful qualities are still there? Probably displayed more frequently to those friends and relatives with whom his wife seeks support and understanding. I even venture to guess that on occasion, these pleasant qualities are shared with Jamesash. Sometimes we just slip unconsciously into niceness. Maybe that provides the hope which has sustained Jamesash for ten years. Maintaining an unforgiving, constant hostility toward the person whose face you see on the pillow next to you every morning works better in literature than in life.
While I agree with Julia that the best chance for change comes from the person who most badly wants that change, we may also agree that doing nothing in a special way can open channels of communication. As the folks in Alanon suggest to the spouses of people with serious drinking problems, you have to let go and put your attention and effort into building your own life. You need to accept the idea that you are powerless to change another person.
Somehow when the partner is no longer being badgered by someone else’s desire for them to change they are freed from being constantly on the defensive. Then, with no one to resist and as they see their partner beginning to build a more satisfying life, they may wonder why they are being left out. When that happens in education it’s called learning readiness. In marital relations maybe it’s jealousy.
In any case, Jamesash wants it to turn out differently than it has so far. In despair he sends email to WYW instead of walking out the door. For most of us, hope is stronger than memory. But there is no guarantee that by letting go the alcoholic’s spouse has found a better tool to stop the drinking. That wouldn’t be letting go, would it? At the bottom, it is our own life that we can put together, and that is hard enough.
In the forty plus years of our marriage neither my wife nor I have been able to change the other to match our vision of the perfect spouse, the one we thought we were getting when we lived in that rosy glow at the beginning, and we have tried. The significant changes occurred when we both were independently motivated to change.
Jack • 2/23/04; 2:47:19 PM
| My discussion above had no intent of stating that Jamesash needs to run from his marriage. I am quite frankly against the easy way out without some constructive attempt, i.e. dum de dum dum, counselling or therapy. My first wife wanted no part of it. We knew we had problems, but people don’t “air their laundry” or have outside help.
We do change and we should adapt if we can. It sounds like there is an impasse to the adaptation. It sounds like the thing that is missing most is the thing that keeps Jamesash’s foundation solid. Without the brick of sex, and intimacy, the wall only crumbles. He sounds like he has adapted and learned to live with it. My point was merely questioning why anyone should live with it? Mrs. Jamesash will either concede to his wants, or Jamesash settles, or neither. In my first marriage, I settled, and lost. Thank God.
Genuine • 2/23/04; 6:33:58 PM
| It is valuable for me to have the insights you have all been sharing, thanks. As you know, it is hard to compress a long term marital problem down to a couple of paragraphs, so much is left out. For instance, my wife is an energetic, talented, life loving woman, her friends and co-workers all think the world of her. And, while I see more of her dark side, the do see the real her and they are right to think she is special.
We still share many interests and enjoy doing some things together, although it is hard for us to be together for more than a couple of hours without friction (relaxing vacations together do not seem possible). Sex is definitely not possible. I think our mutual commitment to the kids is what keeps us together, not leaving my kids is very important to me, more important than sex.
But the kids are almost out of the house, and the idea of being involved in a sexual relationship again is very appealing to me. What I have totally given up on is the idea of having sex with my wife, she is an attractive, fit person, but after all the sexual rejections I have experienced, the only way I have been able to sustain my own sanity is to no longer see her as a sex object, she’s become more like a sister or something. Plus, there is the anger.
I am an upbeat person though, I am thankful for my family’s health, thankful we have the roof over our heads and for the food we have on the table. It’s just that it would also be nice to get laid every now and again.
Patrick, I also misunderstood JG’s intent in the passage on “confidence”, but I understand it better after reading her follow-up comments.
Jamesash • 2/23/04; 8:01:50 PM
| Julia, I guess my comments at the beginning of this thread were a bit hostile, so I retract the nasty tone, if not my general praise for people who argue with good “sportsmanship.
I was set off because your comments inadvertently touched upon my personal sore spot, womens’ obsession with a man’s Confidence. You brought it up in an earlier post, but I think it bears more emphasis. My fellow men, listen up! I have learned way too late in life that women find Confidence VERY VERY attractive and important. More important than anything else, and in fact it apparently makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.
This quite frankly annoys me – a certain level of confidence is healthy, but I find excessively confident people to be abrasive – too much confidence also strikes me as a sign of mediocre intelligence, too. But it doesn’t matter what I think! Women love it, and I do think it is hardwired into their brains, just like the way men feel about T & A.
Harry, don’t kill the mesenger, but asking permission for a hug or kiss is a major turn off to most women because it isn’t Confident enough (whereas most men would find a woman who asks permission for a hug or to hold hands completely charming). Personally, my dilemma is that I have worked (too) hard to change my behavior, manner of speaking, body language, etc. so that my wife finds me more Confident and attractive, and yet I secretly know I’m a big phony.
Even though it’s working (!), I can’t enjoy it because I actually resent her for being attracted to Confident Phony guy. I feel like the wife who gets breast implants to please her husband and then hates him for treating her like an object.
Patrick • 2/23/04; 10:47:57 PM
| Thanks for the advice Patrick. I actually responded to Julia in an email, so I’ve kind of been sitting back and waiting.
I agree that asking for a kiss or a hug can be a turn off for my wife. One of the reasons I do this is that sometimes her responses to my “unannounced” kisses and hugs are not good…like kissing your grandma, or hugging Jabba the Hutt (after Leia does the number on him with her chains). So I ask, because I want some participation.
After this last time, however, I will just take what I can get from her without asking. Whether I get Grandma Jabba, or the sexy woman I thought I married, I’ll just be happy I have someone in my life who is a great mom to our daughter, a hard worker, and a funny companion
Harry • 2/24/04; 5:24:40 AM
| I am definitely loving the Grandma Jabba picture!
I too think Confidence begets a response. There is of course a fine line between Confidence and being a jerk. Some women actually like jerks.
Genuine • 2/24/04; 5:48:46 AM
| I’ve been married to my wife for 10 years. We knew each other and were dating for about 4 years before that. Sex became a problem for us about a year before we got married and it has only gotten worse. Now we are at the point where we rarely have sex. (I’m now the more limiting factor here, not her). As miserable as this situation makes me, when I weigh all the pros and cons of staying married (especially given that there are two kids now), I have decided I can eat the pain and stay with it and just let this aspect of my life be very unhappy.
I could say something like–If i could go back in time I would pick a different woman. But this kind of idle dreaming is both counterproductive and it masks the fact that I am and have been a large part of the problem in ways I am unable to detect even after years of introspection and reading everything I could find on the subject. She and I got to this point together, and since she is a good person I have to assume I’m at major fault (along with her or not).
I have read this website a lot and I think it is distinguished among things I have read in print and on the web by its honesty. It is honest in particular in the way it addresses the things I could do to change myself so that I am more lovable-sexier etc. When I consider what I would have to do to effect this change, I find that it entails making myself over into something I would rather not be. I’m not a cave man when it comes to my idea of what a man is, but I could not stand myself if I changed into the kind of emasculated emotional slave I’d have to be to change her attitudes about me. (By the way, a lot of the advice that seems to be given to women in the “sexing up your marriage” literature I’ve read seems to consist of–just do it to make him happy. This seems to me to be terrible advice for a variety of reasons.)
Whether I just guessed wrong on the girl all those years ago or created the situation myself does not really matter. I know I am going to be accused of loving self-righteous anger over solving the problem (and I have searched my soul about this precisely due to what gets talked about on THIS website), but I think it makes some sense to interrogate where this kind of self-righteous anger we all think is counterproductive comes from. If it comes from the defense of self-image–a self image or core concept of personhood, then I think it is worth defending IF YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY THE COSTS.
I can’t make myself into a doormat as a way of begging for her love and attention. That kind of emotional slavery is worse than no sex, because it would devalue everything in my life. I hope I am being clear about what I mean. Sometimes you just can’t make that deal. Sometimes the cost is too great, and you just have to face up to what hand you got dealt and how to play it. I’m staying in the game, but the pot I’m playing for is definitely smaller than my naive former self believed was possible. I don’t think we believe that you have to sacrifice your self respect to experience love, do we?
Frank • 2/26/04; 2:44:02 PM
| I could not stand myself if I changed into the kind of emasculated emotional slave I’d have to be to change her attitudes about me.
Frank, I’m so sorry you feel this way. Truly. It breaks my heart.
I understand what you are saying, though. You see the changes you would have to make as “emasculating” and “slavish,” whereas I, being who I am, see them as the kind of thing that can actually empower and elevate a man as a human being, making him more confident of his own worth and happier in his life.
But you can’t help the way you feel. And feeling that thinking/acting in a certain way makes you a “doormat” means you’re pretty much stuck, I guess. I disagree with your take on these things, but then, I would, wouldn’t I? <smile>
I don’t think we believe that you have to sacrifice your self respect to experience love, do we?
Absolutely not! Respecting yourself is crucial to a genuine relationship, and insecurity, desperately hidden fear and self-hatred are the real sources of many people’s inability to really love others. If you are, for example, so worried about your basic human value that you must always be in a position of greater overt or APPARENT power to maintain your “self-respect,” you do have to give up on intimate love and and real adult-to-adult partnership. You can’t have both. That is just a fact.
But if you can stand the pain of your situation, Frank, I guess you’ll be fine. *I* wouldn’t want to live that way, but, hey. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. We all have to make our own decisions about the inevitable trade-offs in life.
(And stop back by when you can…I’ll be talking more later on about defining and maintaining — even DEFENDING — real masculinity later on. Believe me, it isn’t going to consist of exhortation to be a Woman With A Penis. Yuck. That is NOT sexy!)
Julia Grey • 2/27/04; 8:32:22 AM
| Frank sounds like a man forced to be a “metrosexual”. I think that is what the are calling it. (I read a recent article on being a “Retrosexual” which was a great story) At least it appears to have this tone. I am not sure it is being something that you are not or actually changing something that you are. Frank sounds somewhat similar to me in that he is passive agressive when it comes to his sex life.
“As miserable as this situation makes me, when I weigh all the pros and cons of staying married (especially given that there are two kids now), I have decided I can eat the pain and stay with it and just let this aspect of my life be very unhappy.”
Why, is my question? Have you given up the battle, or is the war already over? I think that you should be the man you are wanting to be, and you should work out these problems, because I think that over time you will only have each other. The kids will grow up and the rest of your life will go away, and now you are left standing in an empty house with a roommate not a partner.
Genuine • 2/27/04; 6:24:10 PM
| One of the things some women do that men (alright, maybe just me!) find to be so upsetting in a relationship is using the witholding of sex as a tool to lever behavioral modification in the man. Now admittedly, this description embodies a male perspective on this occurence and, being a keen reader JG’s insightful writings, I know the female perspective is likely to be very different.
My sense is that from the woman’s perspective, with the onset of domestic life together, comes a sharper awareness of all the annoying habits and behaviors of the male partner (belching, never washing the dishes, leaving the toilet seat up, whatever). As the woman’s annoiance builds, it ultimately manifests itself as a diminishing of the woman’s sexual interest in the male.
The man sees this lessened interest as a rejection of his person, the woman sees it as a stuburn reluctance of the man to “grow” into the behavior required for a successful long term relationship.
Interestingly, I know a few divorced people (men and women) who say the best sex they ever had with their spouse was at the end of the marriage! Probably not the case for anyone reading this.
Jamesash • 2/27/04; 9:06:06 PM
| “Metrosexual” doesn’t sound sexy to me, because it sounds like a man who is overfussy about his appearance (good looks are sexy, but looking too obviously as if you spend a lot of time in front of the mirror isn’t).
I’m not quite sure what in Julia’s advice inspired the talk about not wanting to be an emasculated emotional slave; somehow I suspect that what Frank sees as emasculated slavery would be something I’d see entirely differently.
Actually, my husband does belch, never washes the dishes, and leaves the toilet seat up, and that’s fine, since belching and leaving the toilet seat up don’t happen to be on my particular list of dislikes, and as long as he puts the dishes in the sink, I’m happy to move them to the dishwasher. But I do expect respect from him on the things that do matter to me; I sure wouldn’t be a happy camper if he saw that as meaning sacrificing his self-respect.
Lynn Gazis-Sax • 2/27/04; 11:06:58 PM
| Why, is my question? Have you given up the battle, or is the war already over?
The kids will grow up and the rest of your life will go away, and now you are left standing in an empty house with a roommate not a partner.
You’ve got to be kidding. When my children grow up and no longer need me to “take care of them” in my half-assed way – which, as far as I can tell, is probably, maybe, all in all, a small bit better than if I weren’t moping around and paying them bills, then again maybe not, who knows… anyway when that day comes, and there’s a specific day I have in mind too, the youngest one’s high school graduation, the very next day I’m gone, absolutely one hundred percent for sure. If at that time I can’t afford to rent a dump of my own, there remain razor blades and high bridges, and think of the old-age medical bills I’d elude! But there’s no way I’ll stay with this horrible bitch who has smashed my life one second longer than my duty to my children demands.
no lie • 3/9/04; 6:56:47 PM
| So what do you do if you have lost your confidence and stature in your wife’s eyes, when she’s seen your depression and self-doubt and has to live with the lowered bank balance from your business mistakes?
How can you hope to come back from this situation?
enndee • 5/20/04; 7:49:55 PM
| My wife uses sex as leverage too. We’re both 29 with no kids. I’ve had enough… I gained confidence after completing the bodyforlife challenge and completely changing my mind and body
I love my wife like I love my sister. I have no interest in her sexually at all. I could deal with 6 times in 7 years, but there’s no spark, no feelings, no nothing. Kissing is disgusting to her because saliva is gross. Sex is unbearable to her. I honestly believe I’ve raped my wife 6 times in our 7 years of marriage. I can’t take it.
I don’t want to hurt her because I consider her my best friend, but I’m drowning inside. I’m afraid if I don’t get out I’ll die inside. My religious beliefs prohibit divorce… I can always repent later, I think I will. Should I tell her I’m leaving or just wait until I receive the advance for my book? I’ve already planned on giving her half — she deserves it and I want to make sure she’s ok. I still love her, just not like a man loves his wife.
Mr. Disgusted • 7/25/04; 8:47:27 PM
November 19, 2003 Two No-Brainer “GO” Signals
Further to the brief discussion of divorce in the comments thread, here are two situations in which the Big Split is almost always inevitable, sooner or later: alcoholism/addiction and domestic violence.
An alcoholic/addict spouse should be given a chance to get her act cleaned up, and if you are a person of unique lovingkindness and bravery, you could also stick around for precisely one relapse and subsequent detox (sometimes it takes a relapse for people to GENUINELY understand their situation in relation to the seductive substance). But a second “fall” should prompt you go out the door and never look back. You can waste years in these sad “it’s-okay-now-oh-wait-no-it’s-not” relationships, and as wonderful as many of these damaged folks are when they’re clean (alcoholics in particular tend to be marvelous when sober), they’re pretty much hopeless if they don’t “get it” after two tries. Save yourself what could be decades of pain and cut your losses.
If you get hit (shoved, deliberately tripped, crashed into with a car, threatened with a gun…the “first violence” variations are endless), leave instantly. I guarantee it’s all downhill from there, and when it comes to violence, “forgiveness” only encourages more of the same. Of course, if you’re one of those people who’s silly enough to think such things are exciting, high romantic drama — or if you have a death wish — sure, go ahead and give your spouse a second chance (to do a better job on you the next time). But at least you should know enough to run like a fire-tailed rabbit if it even LOOKS like it’s going to happen again. At which point you should also (figuratively, at least) move to Montana and change your name.
And let me just say this additional pompous bit of obviousness, although, yes, it should go without saying: your case, your marriage, your violent or drunken spouse is not different from all the others in the world, and there is no movie miracle on the way Just For You.
I’m sorry about that. I really am.
|COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG POST:|
| I just want to provide a single counter: I was hit, pretty hard, with intent to injure, once, a few years ago in my current relationship. She instantly realized what had happened, and took that as a strong indicator that she really needed help, and it was a catalyst to some beautiful changes.
I’ve no idea what kept me there and wanting to see those changes happen, but changes can happen.
However, to those who’d take this as a strong reason to stay together, she got the first punch in, but if push came to shove I am the physically stronger person and could protect myself if a second punch were imminent.
If you can’t protect yourself, or if you’ve any inkling that the second attack might involve a weapon of any sort (even just a frying pan), get the hell out.
Dan Lyke 11/19/03; 12:03:21 PM
| the whole “staying with an abusive man (or woman)” phenomenon is so foreign to me. i can’t even imagine hanging around after the first punch–i’d be therelong enough to call the police and pack up my things.
i used to have a friend with a seriously abusive boyfriend, and this ruined our friendship: i didn’t understand why she wouldn’t leave. more so, i was tired of getting emotionally involved in her problems. i don’t mean that to sound cold, but what would always happenn was that she’d come over, crying, saying things were bad and she wanted to leave. that she would go back and pack her things. then she’s leave my place and vanish for a few days. each time, i was sick with worry, convinced she’d confronted him and left her for dead in her apartment… and each time she’d show up a few days later saying they’d made up and gone away for a few days. seems her relationship upset me far more than her. not surprisingly, we’re not friends anymore (which actually came about because in one of their “together” periods, she wanted me to socialize with them (meaning him) and i refused… –alyssa
alyssa ettinger 11/20/03; 8:28:50 AM
| “If you can’t protect yourself, or if you’ve any inkling that the second attack might involve a weapon of any sort (even just a frying pan), get the hell out.”
I see what you’re saying, but there should be no need “to protect yourself.” If you find the need to protect yourself, that’s a clue right there to get the heck out of there.
Josh 11/21/03; 3:18:37 AM
|My husband and I were (are) both alcoholics and we got sober within six months of each other. I could go on for a while about the sexual problems of active addiction and of early sobriety (I also work with addicts professionally, now), but I don’t necessarily want to do it here in the public comments section. If anyone has any questions or concerns in that area, feel free to e-mail me. If you like, send a copy to Julia, and I’ll copy my responses to her, too– that way she can contribute her always valuable insights, and maybe she can disguise it and cycle it back through the main pages later, if it’s interesting.Marijo 11/21/03; 6:12:17 PM|
|Marrijo- My name is Jason I am an alcoholic. I was a drug addict from 9-18 yrs. old. I stoped doing drugs when I found out I was going to be a father 6 yrs. ago & i’m clean to this vary day, but then I started drinking more. I met a lovely woman 4 yrs. ago married and had a child with here. in the begining i drank alot of beer prety heavy. She kept telling me to stop, and I didn’t listen. After a near death car crash 2 dui’s fines jail time ect., I still didn’t listen, I just cut down my drinking to once a week or once every 2 weeks for about a year now. I have never hit my wife or abused her in any way,and we fight quite a bit, but I know that I have hurt her emotionaly. We are seperated at this time as of 10 day’s ago. I am now realizing what I have done. We still talk & see each other, but she is having mixed feelings on our future together. I havent drank since and I never want to again, but because of things I have said in the past she has her gaurd up. I am entering a program, and I’m just going to better my life all together. I will always be in love with her, & I love her very much. What can I do to speed this up? Jason 12/23/03; 10:43:25 PM|