Marriage Of One

July 16, 2009

The End Of The Road Part 2

Filed under: marriage,relationships,sex — marriageofone @ 3:55 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It has been a long while but this is the first time I have been able to devote any length of time to writing about what has happened.  This entry has been put together over a few weeks actually.

A few days after Susan broke the astonishing news that she was quitting therapy, she said she wanted to talk.  We sat on the bed, she had surrounded herself with a few of the sex manuals she had bought for our wedding night nearly 9 years ago.  She wanted to get right to talking about restarting our sex-life. Her method was to use the books and pick things to try out from them (not right away of course).

I wasn’t impressed.  I needed answers.  Although the decision to get help was hers, I felt that the least she could have done is asked me before she had terminated her sessions with Marcia.  Especially as she had pretty much involved me along the way.  So my first question was why she had done that.

Sex chat

Her answer was that she felt that more could be achieved talking directly to me, rather than Marcia.  She felt that if she took it slowly and kept communicating with me she would be able to work it out as she had come to realise, she said, that it was “all in my [that is, her] mind”.

I felt like shouting at her.  She had basically put herself in the very same position that she had been in 8 years ago when she had wanted ‘time’ to work things out ‘in her mind’.  For the remainder of the conversation I was on the borderline of snapping.  But apart from a few harsh deliveries I did not lose my temper or let my frustration get the better of me.

I was not interested in her sex books at that stage.  I was also not really in the mood now for  a soft and gentle conversation.  I needed to show her what she was up against – if it would matter at all.

Right I said, what do you think the problem is?  Her answer was familiar but had a sting in the tail.  It was the usual “we didn’t have enough time to get to know each other”, “I wasn’t comfortable with you in the early days” and the like (which I have heard pretty much every year of my marriage) and then she said “and you make me feel guilty and feel bad about myself”.

If I was eating I would have choked to death!  I MADE her feel guilty?  I knew guilt was a dreadful thing in her book as I’ve said before (see About Her).  But I never ever set out to create that feeling in her.   Even if I did, surely she is in control of her feelings?  The one thing I have never gone down the road of is blame games or ‘I told you so’ – even though I think I could have (justifiably) many many times.  So I rejected that completely.

I said that there was only one thing that has destroyed our sex life.  Her own sexuality (or lack of) played its part but the primary cause was selfishness.  If she wasn’t so sexually selfish she would have at the very least tried to compromise and looked at the relationship from my point of view occasionally instead of her fixation on herself.

Now it was her turn to turn on me.  She shook her head indignantly.  “There!” she said “You’re doing it again – you’re making me feel guilty and bad about myself.  I am NOT selfish”.

“So you think” I said, “that your controlling every aspect of our sex life from when, what and how with no regard for what I want is not selfish?”

Susan wasn’t taking it lying down.  “What is wrong with my being able to say ‘no’? I have that right!”

“Sure you do” I said.  “If you were single, having casual sex or a one night stand it would be an absolute right. But you are in a relationship that means there are responsibilities and consequences to your saying no.  What you want is to say ‘no’ and for everything to be perfect.  And you want to be able to say ‘no’ whenever it suits you without any consequences.”

She paused.  Then came back with “You just want me to give you a blow job. I have a right to say ‘no'”.

“Yes I do want you to give me a blow job but you are perfectly within your rights to refuse.  You can refuse to do anything you don’t want to do.  Refuse sex a hundred times.  But own up to the reality and responsibility.”

“What does that mean?”  She was starting to see my point of view.

“It means when you say no, you have a responsibility to me and the relationship.  You have to make up for any hurt feelings or disappointment.”

“You mean like having sex the next day?”  She was now talking.

“Possibly.  But it could just be a short chat about the fact.  Or a promise to do something later or a few days later.  But at least I know that I have been acknowledged.”

Susan was thoughtful.  She finally seemed to understand what I meant.

The conversation would have stopped there.  But I felt that I should try and get to some resolution.  If she was honest about talking about sex more frequently then this would be the first of many chats.  But I needed to get the ball rolling.

“So what do you want from your sex life” I asked.

She clicked her tongue irritably again. “It’s not about me, it’s about us”.

“No” I said.  “It is about you.  Your body, your sex life. If you don’t know what you want how are you going to know when you get it or talk to me about giving you what you want?”

Susan sighed.   “I just want us to be normal.”

She didn’t have a clue.

And I knew in my heart of hearts that that was the one thing she nor we could ever be.  Notwithstanding that ‘normal’ just doesn’t exist.

It was a long meandering conversation and we quit as the night wore on and we went to sleep with me for the moment giving her sincerity in wanting to change the benefit of the doubt.

A few days later we had another conversation (which I initiated by passing her a flowchart) in which I approached the possibility of her being lesbian or asexual.  The flowchart I used indicated that she was not asexual or lesbian.  But the indication (to me) from the path she followed through the chart indicates that she has as low a libido you can get before actually having none.  She didn’t even come close to any of the physical sexual questions before finally dropping to the “You are not asexual” box.

This chat was particularly informative because it taught me some things that I did not know before.

The Facts of the Case

Susan doing the chart was quite frustrating to watch.  I always knew that she was sexually immature, what I had not trully grasped (or perhaps forgotten since we stopped talking about sex) was just how much.

Questions such as ‘Are you tactile?’ perhaps are understandable – she did not understand the meaning of the word.  But she could not understand ‘Have you ever wondered about your sexuality?’  It seemed a clear question to me.  Maybe it isn’t, but in a way her not being able to comprehend the gist of the question caused me to ask ‘better’ questions to help her move on.

Did she ever think about being a lesbian? Answer – no. (She hadn’t thought about it .)

Did she ever think about WHY she wanted to have sex?  Answer – no.  (She just assumed and accepted that she should.)

Did she feel sexual attraction (this question comes up near the end of the chart)?  This question stumped her.  I put it crudely.  Do you ever see a man or woman and think, wow I’d like to have sex with him/her – assuming it was possible (no strings, no consequences) of course.  Answer – not sure.  Which to me is about as close as you can get to a ‘no’.

But when the final question came (‘Do you experience sexual attraction?’), she answered yes.  I guess the reason is because she confuses the idea of being sexually attracted TO someone to the idea that someone can LOOK attactive and she can ‘experience’ that.

In many ways, the manner in which the flowchart was consumed was more important than the final answer.  (And now I think that she might just be asexual.)

So anyway what are the new facts?  I’ll do these as a Q and A.

What really happened on our honeymoon?
This was quite a surprise. Susan says she was put up to it by a friend – she won’t tell me who.  She was told to get the sex manuals and lingerie.  If she had been left to herself she would have taken things alot more slowly (and I would not have thought any worse of her, as I was prepared for a slow start).  As it was, I was deluded into thinking I was married to a real live wire.  All along she wasn’t really comfortable with me, and probably went along with some of the honeymoon things under some pressure.  Once the honeymoon was over, it was no surprise then that she just buckled and let sex drop completely because in her own words she was ‘not feeling comfortable’.

This begs the question, if she wasn’t ready for sex after the honeymoon and she has had all these years to become ‘comfortable’ with me, why has she not picked up the sexual pace as it were?  Have I over the last 8+ years continued to make her uncomfortable?

I asked this question and basically this is where all the other reasons for not having sex come in: work, family, time, children and of course overshadowing all this is the mounting tension over not having sex.

Was she comfortable with me now I asked?  She thinks so, but needs to start things slowly.

Maybe I’m just too cynical now, but she is really saying “leave it to me, I’ll set the pace of what, where and how we have sex, and don’t put pressure on me or expect anything from me”.  No change there then.

Has she ever been sexually attracted to me?
She says that when I ‘dress up’ she does find me attractive.  Not quite the same thing as I pointed out earlier. So the answer is no! If she doesn’t feel any sexual tingling when she is with me, does she feel it with anyone else – or can she imagine it with anyone else?  Even a fantasy such as an actor or pop star?  Same thing – she finds some of them ‘attractive’.  But she can’t commit to whether she might (or can) imagine sex with them.

Why does she want to have sex?
She says she thinks she just should.  Why? She doen’t really know.  She just thinks it is important.  Why? It’s important for the marriage.  How?  She doesn’t really know.

Why do I think she think she needs to have a sex life?  Maybe because she recognises that something is missing in our marriage.  She does recognise that our marriage is a really just a ‘shell’.  The problem is hasn’t got to grips (or doesn’t want to) with why that is.

I told Susan that she needs to really appreciate WHY she wants to have sex?  And the only answer that will work for her is if she feels lust in some way.  Failing that, the only answer that will work for us is if she accepts then that she will have to have sex for my sake – sex by compromise.  And finally failing that, she must accept that our marriage will be sex-less and we both can then accept this and forget about the whole thing and live our lives to the best we can.

One option is an open marriage (Susan shaking her head at the thought).  The problem with that – I was saying this – is that it gives me license to have a sex life but Susan would never get any ‘benefit’.  I said quite seriously that my respect for her was the one thing that held our relationship together.  And to that end, I would respect her decision if she said open marriage was out of the question.  She said immediately that it was.  So that left only one other option – a sex-less marriage.

She shook her head – there was one other option: we work on our sex life.   Which brings us back to the core question: Why?

The bottom line is that I think I have now confirmed that Susan just thinks she SHOULD have sex, but she doesn’t actually NEED it or even WANT it.

What about me?
This wasn’t an actual question, but I just want to give a personal view into these conversations.  The first point is that in neither of these conversations was I asked what I wanted or even how I felt.  That is nothing new.  Susan speaks of ‘us’ and ‘we’ as though those terms automatically include me, for example “It’s our sex life”, when if she thought just a little about that, she’ll realise that it is anything but.  It is an anti-guilt mechanism.

The second point is the assumption that I was going to be supportive of her plan to change.  Well first I didn’t actually see a plan.  Unless you think cherry picking sex acts from sex manuals is a plan. How long would she keep it up? When would she set aside the time to do these?  When was she going to have the sex chats?  There was no detail whatsoever.  I tried to delve into it but she immediately came back with “you’re putting pressure on me” and “Why don’t you just let it happen? Why must it all be planned out?”.

So this is how I left it: I told her that I had already done my bit over the years.  My last plan (see The Last Step) had been shot down almost entirely by her.  I had spent years and particularly the last year finding my own peace of mind and contentness (I won’t call it happiness) with my lifestyle and the life I was going to have to lead.  I was not going to sacrifice that mental equilibrium for a flash-in-the-pan ‘change’ that she was initiating and leading without any real plan or milestones or goals.  I told her how it affected my stress levels, my concentration at work, my health and my patience with our children.  No, until she proved to me that she was serious about changing, I was going to take a passive part in the plan.  In other words if she wants to talk, I’ll talk.  If she initiates sex – I’ll participate.  But I’ll not be putting my feelings, emotions, or even time and effort on the line.

And now?

She has invited me to bed once since then.  It was more of the usual although it was nice after so long.  We didn’t speak about it afterward.  And we haven’t spoken about sex since that second conversation. Some change.  And my reservations have pretty much been confirmed.

Based upon all this, I feel that the solution that Susan thinks she is working on is not really a solution at all and that nothing can or will change.  Susan is right about one thing: it IS all in her mind.  The problem is in her mind.  What she doesn’t know is that the solution she has fashioned is also just in her mind.  It is a crude rationalisation – another crutch to keep awful guilt at bay and convince herself that she is doing something.  In reality she is doing nothing and until she confronts the crucial issues of her sexuality and sexual immaturity she is just going to keep going round and round in circles.  Until she recognises that she is sexually ‘selfish’ she’ll not be able to address her role in causing and maintaining the ‘shell’ marriage.

And me?  Well she has never been and probably never will be sexually attracted to me.  So I guess it doesn’t really matter does it?



  1. I understand your situation, as my wife shares your wife’s problems regarding sex. But you can’t dump all of the blame on her. She is the end result of years of conditioning from all of her female friends and relatives, and there is little you can do about that. Only she can get past the “Thou Shalt Not!” state of mind imposed on her when she was young.

    Quitting the counseling may have been the right thing to do, as too many counselors don’t really know how to help anyone, but she does need to have some kind of input from other minds.

    Would she be willing to read Cosmo? As a male, I learned a lot about female attitudes toward sex. It might help her as well.

    Comment by ToppHogg — July 17, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  2. ToppHogg, I appreciate that negative conditioning may play a huge role in her sexual problems. However, although I can’t be sure, none of her siblings or close relations have the same issues.

    I don’t know about Cosmo – how would that be different from her sex books and web articles that I have passed in front of her time to time? I don’t know if knowledge is the issue here – it is the willingness to change and persevere with the change even though it might initially be uncomfortable.

    Whenever people (generally) put themselves through an ordeal which is initially difficult (e.g. studying for a test or training for a race etc) they have the unpleasantness of confronting their own limits. To succeed you have to believe the eventual goal is worth the effort of pushing these limits. You have to picture the success.

    With Susan (and perhaps your wife?) the ability to visualize success may be lacking. Or it could just be that she can visualize it, but just doesn’t think it is really really worth the commitment and effort required.

    Comment by marriageofone — July 19, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  3. “ToppHogg, I appreciate that negative conditioning may play a huge role in her sexual problems. However, although I can’t be sure, none of her siblings or close relations have the same issues.”

    Siblings are all different, and as I have six of them, I think I can speak with some authority. Every one of us has different issues, and yet we all came from the same household and parents. It only takes one negative incident or experience to bring about an inhibition, and the easiest to impose are those regarding sex.

    “I don’t know about Cosmo – how would that be different from her sex books and web articles that I have passed in front of her time to time?”

    These articles tend to be written -generally by females- as if the girls have gotten together over coffee and are just discussing the topic among themselves. Surrounded by all kinds of girly-girl issues, Cosmo tends to implant sex firmly within a modern female’s lifestyle. There is a certain informality about how the specific topic is discussed, and unlike too many of the food store tabloids, they actually do provide useful information delivered in the manner a best friend might use. You might locate some issues and check them out for yourself. You will discover things about how women think about sex that will surprise you.

    “I don’t know if knowledge is the issue here – it is the willingness to change and persevere with the change even though it might initially be uncomfortable.”

    It’s not the facts, it’s the acceptability of sex. That is where the informality of the Cosmo presentation might prove useful. A kind of “monkey see” effect. You know. the one the kids like to use on you: “everybody else gets to do it”.

    “Whenever people (generally) put themselves through an ordeal which is initially difficult (e.g. studying for a test or training for a race etc) they have the unpleasantness of confronting their own limits. To succeed you have to believe the eventual goal is worth the effort of pushing these limits. You have to picture the success.”

    An excellent set of points. I might point out that our mutual failures may center on our not focusing on promoting these successful outcomes successfully. We might think about this more.

    “With Susan (and perhaps your wife?) the ability to visualize success may be lacking.”

    I have noticed this regarding my wife in other areas of her life. You may well be on to something.

    “Or it could just be that she can visualize it, but just doesn’t think it is really really worth the commitment and effort required.”

    This would be sad indeed if it is so. But she certainly expects a great deal of effort out of me to maintain the marital commitment! I therefore wonder if there is no connection in the minds of our women between marriage and sex, as if one is a done deal so the other needs no attention or improvement. I have heard many times the sad tale of how wonderfully sexual the partner was – until you said “I do” – whereupon you never did again. I think we both can attest to this to some degree.

    Comment by marriageofone — July 19, 2009 @ 10:57 am

    Comment by ToppHogg — July 24, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  4. Some worthy points ToppHogg. I’ll have to read a few Cosmo articles and come back about that.

    The one point I’ll concede right away is the one regarding Susan’s siblings. The gist of my point was that their sexual conditioning at home would have been very similar. In other words the example of the relationship between her parents and the sex education/advice/lack thereof would have been the same to all the kids in the household.

    The difference really comes down to confidence – which was definitely not nurtured enough in Susan. Hence your point about visualizing long-term success is really poignant. She really finds it difficult to engage and persevere in projects or endeavours that do not provide rapid success. On the other hand she is the only of her siblings to push herself to University and get a degree.

    The downer on this is that she did not have the same courage to carry this into her career. She dropped out of her chosen career soon after university and took on junior work (by her educational standard) and until she had our kids (and left work) she pretty much stayed at that level.

    To this day, when we talk about work she says she just does not want the pressure of maintaining a career or taking on responsibility at work.

    Comment by marriageofone — August 1, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  5. My spouse also works well below her training level, which irks me because I put myself into seriously inconvenient and stressful work situations just to facilitate her education. It took her until about 6 weeks prior to her graduation with a Master’s degree to figure out what her training was leading to – a job terminating people out of jobs. Now I understand not wanting to do that. I don’t understand how an otherwise intelligent person doesn’t figure this out early enough to change majors into something more palatable. With the economy as it now is, we sure could have used a better income to get out of debt prior to the recession beginning. As it is, with her working a part-time job, we almost made it.

    In the case of sponsoring confidence, both our mothers were moved a serious distance away from their mothers due to our fathers’ job requirements. Neither was all that good at making friends, and neither had much confidence in being a part of the big city they were moved to. Both of us grew up with a confidence deficiency, But I had to develop confidence as I grew up to make my way in the world. Our society wouldn’t have understood me staying home like she did! But something went right in spite of my wife’s hesitancy to make something of herself, or my youngest daughter wouldn’t have become valedictorian (if I may brag for a moment!).

    The one positive thing I can say about my wife is she has met my expectations as a mother. My children are much happier and emotionally healthier than I was.

    This brings to mind the societal conditioning our wives underwent as they grew up. They were expected to be mothers, and the education they were given was just barely enough to facilitate the necessary processes to do so. All the while, they were being bombarded with the counter-message of Thou Shalt Not! Those young women who couldn’t or wouldn’t rebel against that may still find themselves wondering why their husbands have lost interest in them.

    “To this day, when we talk about work she says she just does not want the pressure of maintaining a career or taking on responsibility at work.”

    I get this excuse as well. The only conclusion I can draw in my case is that by allowing her to stay home while the kids were pre-school age, she got too comfortable with not being in the rat race. I have reminded her that only about 5% of the nation’s mothers were able to do this, and that she should give me some credit for making enough of myself to facilitate this. At least she does thank me, but action speak louder in my world – and her actions whisper.

    Comment by ToppHogg — August 2, 2009 @ 3:35 am

  6. Right, I’ve been browsing the Cosmopolitan website, looking at the articles and also the agony aunt Q&A bits. And yes, it is chatty, informal, low-pressure. The ‘most relevant’ bits I saw were 2 or 3 questions from readers along the lines of “I’m 23 and do not have any interest in sex”, “I’m in my 20s and can’t have an orgasm and I can’t get aroused”.

    The answers were “Everyone develops in their own time”, “Women reach their sexual peak at 37 so don’t push too hard – your sexuality will mature in its own time”, “If you are really concerned talk to your GP and arrange psychosexual counselling”.

    Of the hundreds of other questions the view is pretty clear – Cosmopolitan is for sexually curious people to explore and sate their sexuality. Cosmopolitan is no place for asexuals. At the very least you have to have a modicum of sexual interest to explore the tips, advice etc. Or you have to believe that not having a sex-drive is not acceptable within a relationship and would like to do something about it.

    So on balance, I don’t think Cosmo is going to help Susan. I don’t think the principle of peer-pressure (i.e. “everyone gets to do it”) will work with her. She knows everyone does it. We have watched ‘reality shows’ like The Sex Inspectors together. She knows what is missing. Hell, I’m certain she even knows what needs to happen to sort it. She just can’t/won’t do it.

    Sex is just a non-issue for her. With every passing day I’m becoming more and more convinced that Susan is asexual.

    How can I prove/disprove that? I think the only way to really be sure is to put her in a highly sexualized environment where peer pressure really can take effect, perhaps working with other women who talk frankly and continuously about their sex lives. Her reaction to this both at work (and at home) would be informative. But that is not going to happen.

    Comment by marriageofone — August 6, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

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