Marriage Of One

May 14, 2011

Different, but the same

Filed under: intimacy,love,relationships,sex — marriageofone @ 4:52 pm

I recently got directed through social media to an article on the British Daily Mail website.  The link was posted by a woman, and the article header was I felt instantly biased: insensitive stereotypical man ignores emotional and intimate needs of wife.   Nevertheless I read through it and it did open my eyes – a little at first then somemore.

I’ve become ever more convinced that Susan is asexual and I am wondering if that conclusion now hinders my understanding of her.  Everything she does or doesn’t do now appears to be an indication and often a further confirmation of her asexuality.  So I keep an eye out for articles such as this, on one hand hoping for further clarification of the [unqualified] diagnosis I have made, or for a new potential solution which will make everything okay and bring my marriage back from the precipice.

This article was of the former type.  It gave asexuality a new name or at least a new dimension.  And although I dug a bit further after reading the article it all came down to the same thing: if it is to get better, I need Susan to take ownership – proper ownership – of the problem and I need her to actively work towards the solution.  And that is something I don’t have.

I do see a small distinction between the ‘intimacy anorexia’ that the good doctor proposes and ‘asexuality’.  The intimacy anorexic is the way he or she is because of some kind of trauma (usually sexual).  Were it not for that, he or she would be normal.  Asexuals are apparently ‘born that way’ as far as I’ve learnt.  And as far as I can tell Susan has always been indifferent to sex.

But it is not that simple either.

Readers of this blog will know that Susan and I have had rather bad luck in our social lives and this continues to be the case.  Susan has a few (very few actually) acquaintances that with some effort could become her friends, but she has since we moved here been reluctant to reach out to them, saying she “doesn’t really know them”.  The hopeless circular reasoning (or lack thereof) set bells ringing in my head.  Then I realised that at no time in my marriage has Susan ever spoken about any friends she had grown up with. The only friends of hers I know about are her university friends – who she met whilst away from home.  Now unlike myself, Susan was born and spent the first 20+ years of her life in one neighbourhood.  So logic would suggest that she would have formed a bond with someone in the neighbourhood or school.

Susan’s sisters (older and younger) lived in the same house and attended the same schools (although different years) and I know they maintain friendships from their school days. So I suddenly realised that I had a question I had never asked her.

Susan celebrated her birthday recently and we went out to lunch (her suggestion).  I avoid suggesting this kind of thing because it is too easy to get awkward silences seeing as we can’t/won’t talk about ourselves.  Anyway, we were talking about one of my old school friends and I saw the opportunity to ask.

It was a strange sort of answer.  She wasn’t sure (perhaps she never realised it in quite that way) why she didn’t have any friends.  She said that she just didn’t connect with anyone “that way”.  She did have one friend in high school but she now has mental health issues herself and they don’t stay in touch any more.  She had a cousin in the year above her at high school and she formed a better bond with her – one which continues to today.  But there was no mention of primary school (and I would have thought that considering the neighbourhood she lived in, that most kids would have grown up through the same local primary and secondary school)  and the conversation went straight through to university to her current (and only) friends, as well as a few unpleasant acquaintances there (not sexual).

I didn’t expect her to give me a good answer or suddenly reveal that she had had loads of friends at school and was never short of someone to play or chat with.  It was the unconscious subtext that I was really listening out for.  And it came through loud and clear: she was an awkward and un-confidant child.  She was the middle child: her elder sibling was boisterous and deemed uncontrollable by her parents, and her younger sibling was the baby at one point then the rebellious teenager later on.  Throughout her life she was the target of her parents expectations and frustration.  Whilst her siblings grew up and developed she was only able to just keep herself together.

I asked one more thing – she brought it up actually – her dress sense, her appearance (make up, hair); why had she never taken any interest in learning this?  I would have thought it would normal for a young girl to experiment with this?  Again confidence was the issue.  And I guess without friends she would not have had any peers to experiment with.  What about her sisters – who are all very well presented?  Didn’t they do things together?  Share lipstick or go to the hairdressers together etc? Well they were both too busy living their own lives (although Susan didn’t say it quite like that).  For whatever reason (probably because she was too square and too much under her parents control), Susan got left behind – a child in an adolescent body.

And now she is a child in an adult body.  So what does all this mean?  Well I think what I’m coming to understand is that Susan is a victim here and although she hasn’t been sexually abused or raped – she has been emotionally abused and neglected by her family.  She never got to sexual development because long before that she never even got to proper social development.

The only reason she is even remotely functional now I think is because of the larger extended family and the presence of and frequent visits by relatives.

I’ve felt pity for her in the past because I felt she was throwing her life away and never going to experience the fullness of marriage.

Now I feel even worse for her – she is never even going to experience the fullness of life.  But I feel just as bad for myself because I am suffering through her.

And although her parents are ultimately to blame for this, the irony is that she’s inherited her father’s stubbornness.  This is what makes it impossible for her to admit that she cannot ever work through her problem on her own.

So asexual or sexual anorexic?  I guess now it makes sense for me to say she’s the latter.  The proof for me would be that apart from sexuality, asexuals are able to lead full, confident lives and careers.  Susan’s life is limited and stunted because of her upbringing.  Only a psychologist would be able to make the final diagnosis.

The professional diagnosis may be different. For me of course the outcome is the same.



  1. Hi, friend. Remember me? You and I start with the same problem, but diverge on how we address it: after eleven years in such a marriage (and fifteen or so total in the relationship), I’ve decided it’s time to move on, while you have decided so far to stick it out.

    Susan may have been a victim, to some extent, when she was younger. But I suspect there is also a genetic pre-disposition here; she was dealt a rough hand, but how she chose to play it was undoubtedly swayed by preferences that are inherent to her character. And at some point, you have to stop blaming your parents. I recall one comedian (although I don’t remember who) announcing that the statute of limitation for blaming your parents hits when you turn thirty, and it’s a good rule to live by. At some point, who you are and what you’ve become are more the result of your own decision than of the circumstances foisted upon you. Is Susan over thirty?

    Another item to consider is that whether you (or she) choose to ascribe responsibility for this mess to her parents, to circumstance, or to Susan herself, blame doesn’t help anybody. Nor does victimhood. Susan is now a mother of two (do I remember correctly?) children, and she needs to role model better behavior for them. For, while your own children must eventually take responsibility for *their* own lives, you and Susan nonetheless set the stage for how good a head start they are going to get. How well off are your kids going to be if they are raise by two proverbial Gloomy Gusses?

    By the way, I’m not advocating divorce. I don’t recommend it. I can’t stress that enough. My soon-to-be-ex-wife and I are getting along about as well as a divorcing couple can, and the process still sucks. But the status quo is killing you, my friend, and it is also likely harming your children.

    So: how can you break out of this status quo?

    You need to answer that question sooner rather than later. The stakes are higher than you realize. Your children’s lives hang in the balance. (Remember, you are ascribing Susan’s current problems to her own muddled childhood.)

    You say at the begining of this entry that your marriage is at the precipice, and yet I don’t get that sense. It seems more like you are still entrenched in your status quo. That’s not a precipice. There’s no urgency here.

    Again, I don’t recommend divorce. Ultimately, I was left with no other viable options. You may or may not have other options available to you. But please, don’t do nothing. That may be the worst option of all.

    Comment by itneverrainsinseattle — May 15, 2011 @ 6:24 am

  2. Hi INRIS. I feel really grateful that you visited and left a comment. I follow your blog and read what you write and the comments of your legion of friends. I agree that the responsibility for Susan’s behaviour and life lie firmly at Susan’s door. All I was saying is that I now understand – or understand better why she is the way she is. And her statute of limitations has definately passed: she is into her late 30’s now.

    When somebody says “I know how you feel” in most cases you can be pretty darn certain that actually they DON’T. But with you – I know you’ve been there so I know it means something when you correctly identify that the status quo is killing me. I would go so far as to say that much of me, the passionate, life-hungry man inside – is already dead. My children will probably never get to see the real me. I just feel that they are (for now) still getting a good part of my presence though.

    Thank you also for not being prescriptive (like many are) and recommend divorce. I have thought long and hard about this (as I’m sure you must have in your case) and made the decisions I have made under far from normal circumstances. If you’ve read into past posts and articles on this site, you’ll be aware that I’m actually supporting 3 generations of my family under one roof. The ripples of a divorce will spread not just downward to my children but upward to my parents too. My children have already lived in 3 houses in 3 parts of the country in less than 4 years. Each time they’ve had to start afresh. Knowing Susan as I do, I’m confidant that my divorce if it came to it would be as ‘amicable’ as yours has been (and hopefully continues to be). However if your divorce is complicated, mine would be doubly so, and would risk ruining several lives and indeed livelihoods. I have thought about it. Like it or not, I have to admit Susan is a good ‘partner’ and daughter-in-law to my live-in elderly parents. She frees me up to earn the living we need to make this whole machine run. I really couldn’t do it without her (or someone like her).

    As for status quo. Well it does feel like that. I don’t know what the alternatives to divorce really are. I think we’ve exhausted the option of therapy for Susan (she won’t buy it). There is the possibility of counselling as a couple but if I suggest it, I won’t get ‘buy in’ from Susan. To my mind the only one left in ‘The Marriage Without Compromise’ is well, compromise. Perhaps I have to compromise on the principles I’ve stuck to for the last 10+ years. Maybe I need a ‘friend with benefits’. Only I’m not sure I’m the kind of man who can make that work. Or maybe I am but just don’t know it yet.

    Comment by marriageofone — May 24, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

  3. I realised today after thinking about my comment that I have considered another option – one which is my ‘default’ position. As I feel I can’t divorce now without causing loads of anguish and hardship all round, how about ‘make do’ for now and plan a divorce for some time in the future? Perhaps when my parents are no longer with us? Or when the children leave for college or leave home?

    If Susan improves by some incredible and unlikely miracle, then I will be around to witness and benefit from it. If she doesn’t, well you could argue I’ve wasted around 25 years of my life.

    Or you could argue – as I do – that I gave my parents a good life, gave my wife a better than fair chance (and better life than she could ever have had on her own or with another less patient man), and most importantly gave my children the best start that I could under the circumstances.

    There is some flexibility in this… I don’t intend to hang on doggedly if the marriage turns sour. At present friendship, civility and the ‘distance’ I’ve established with Susan may be helping to keep us from having to discuss the elephant in the room. If we can’t be civil or the ‘partnership’ breaks down I’ll be out sooner.

    It may not be easy for some to understand let alone swallow. Why if I am resigned to divorce, wait for another 10-15 years? Mentally and emotionally the marriage is already over. I’m practically already single with none of the benefits! The answer is my sense of duty to my family. In a society which prizes individual ‘right to happiness’ I’ve decided on a postponement. One day I’ll reclaim my life.

    I think. I hope. Or maybe I’ll meet someone before then. Tomorrow. Next year. And I’ll then have a reason to think of that other life sooner. And I’ll have to choose.

    The difficulty now is that there is no real choice. I can stay in this marriage with all its warts and benefits. Or I can leave and pursue a free life in which I may never find love (and leave a trail of destruction in the wake). The comfortable place is with the former state.

    If I were to meet someone and start a relationship (have an affair – let’s be blunt), I would at least have some sense of life starting to cruise through me again. It would make the choice less stark. It is of course possible that Susan would upon hearing about the ‘other woman’ make the choice for me. But that is up to her.

    What is up to me is how I live my life: I hope I will find my happiness someday without hurting anyone.

    Comment by marriageofone — May 25, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

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