Marriage Of One

December 29, 2015

Accommodation: Compromise Without Promise

Filed under: marriage,relationships — marriageofone @ 11:31 pm
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I’ve stopped regular updates to this website as you can tell.

Since my last post some years ago, much has changed, and by the same token, some things have stayed the same and I didn’t want to keep repeating the same stuff again and again so I stopped writing.  But enough has changed now to add something to this story.

The first thing that has changed is that my parents are no longer living with us.  The second thing is that Susan made one huge compromise to her hitherto unwavering position (no pun intended) on sex.

Both of these changes stemmed from a huge and traumatic event that took place just over two years ago.

Crisis

The exact detail is not particularly important, but the essence is that we had a relation from Susan’s family stay with us with some other members of her family.  There was some altercation (to which neither Susan nor myself) were fully aware between my mum and this relation.  I wasn’t aware of how bad things were unfortunately because the women kept the situation to themselves and more importantly Susan ‘locked-up’ and stopped talking to me.  There was some awful tension in house with me trying to make things work as a host and not picking an obvious side.  My hope was to let the visit run it’s course over a few days and then we would just carry on as normal afterwords as a household, and let time and some mollification heal the larger family politics.  Unfortunately Susan did pick a side – and it wasn’t my parent’s.

Regrettably, once the visitors had left (and they cut their visit short as a result), Susan did what I guess she had felt like doing all these years.  She went to war.  Against my parents and even against me.  She asserted her complete and utter right as she sees it to her home, her house.  She blamed the whole altercation on my parents, and rolled this into her ongoing dissatisfaction with her life, our life, our marriage etc.  And she blamed me for not doing anything about it.  So the tension actually was even worse in our house.  I became the apex of three-way conversations between my parents and Susan.  If Susan needed my dad to do something she told me to tell him.  My parents tried to normalize things but Susan was not going to allow it.  Family dinner times were abandoned.  Mum and dad ate and even cooked dinner separately – in the same kitchen as Susan but at different times.  Susan wouldn’t eat anything Mum had cooked.  It was ridiculous and terrible at the same time.  The stress on me was horrible.  But I had nothing to offer Susan – firstly because we’d been through all this before regarding my folks, but secondly I didn’t feel like rewarding Susan for her selfishness and aggression was the the right thing to do.

Eventually it had to give.  I had to do what I had fought against for years: I pushed my parents out of my home.  I told myself that that was my only course of action: the tension in the house was affecting the children and they needed protecting from my parents on one hand but I’m afraid to say from Susan in particular.  I had never seen that side of her – it was a revelation.  To this day I think she is deeply embarrassed by her own behavior; although like everything else I’ve discussed on this website, she believes that she had no choice and she was somehow driven to it, especially as she has emotionally rolled the matter of a simple one-off family row together with all her other paranoias and feelings of failure and betrayal.

When I delivered Susan the news after an emotional discussion with my parents, she simply nodded.  There was no relief or sign of accomplishment in her face.  I guess she saw it simply as a means to reclaim her life.  She went a few days later to talk to my parents, apologizing for her behavior and offering alternatives – alternatives by which they could still be with us over much of the year; just not all year.  However, my parents are proud people and having made a decision to move out, were not going to negotiate terms for remaining.  From Susan’s perspective though, she’d made the effort to apologize and made an offer by which they could stay – part time.  Her conscience was cleared as far as she was concerned.

There were several months after the decision was taken for them to find a place and then to move into it.  I spoke to the children a couple of months before my parents moved out and put as positive a spin as I could on it.  They must have been a bit confused, but I’m sure they were feeling the tension as well.  I told them they could go and stay with their grandparents on holidays and some weekends.  The biggest risk in this was if my parents moved out of the local area – there was no guarantee that something suitable would turn up locally – the children (and indeed I) would not see them easily or regularly.  Thankfully they did find a place in the same town, and the children still have a good and persistent relationship with their grandparents.

Ultimatum

But I used the crisis too.  I told Susan that if my parents moved out, that meant the family home we have is redundant – we would have to move to a smaller, cheaper house.  And if we’re doing that we may as well discuss whether we actually have a family home at all – maybe now was the time to look at separation seriously.  To be honest Susan wasn’t surprised or shocked at the suggestion.  I think she knows deep down the marriage is a mess – the dispute for her is the extent of her own responsibility – to her mind minimal.  So she firmly believes that if anyone needs to come to terms with the marriage or kill it, it’s me.  So she shrugged and said she’ll wait until I decide what I want to do.

And I did look at it seriously.  I did the finances, I looked at prospective houses in the local area.  I considered what would happen with alimony/maintenance for the children.  I considered custody and visitation.  The one thing I told Susan was that she would get the lion’s share of our marriage assets.  It would have been financially crippling for the short – perhaps even medium term, but my experience of Susan did not – does not – give me confidence that she would be able to provide financially for the children.  And my fear was that if the going got tough for her, she would move back with her parents – or at least closer to them.  That would mean my relationship with the children would come under strain.  I’m convinced that the academic and social influence they would exert on the children would not be positive.  So I told her right there and then that the first thing I would do as part of the divorce would be to buy her a modest house (that she could afford to maintain on her own) – even if it meant I had to rent a small flat for myself and struggle to rebuild my own life.  I would have the girls regularly to stay with me, but their main home would be with her – until I could build my life and buy my own house again.  The deal would be that she in return would not lawyer up and “take me for every penny”.  She accepted this.

And so that’s how we left it.  I didn’t tell my parents about this.  But over the months that all this was brewing, Susan and I got pretty distant as well.  If it were not for the mechanics of managing a household and children, we would barely have said a word to each other.  I booked a holiday earlier that year fully expecting that we would not take it – or would not take it as a complete family.

Eventually around 6 months after it all started, my parents moved out and a few weeks later Susan decided that she was ready to make things right.

The first few weeks were the discussions over what had happened.  She accepted eventually (although I suspect with some reservation) that the course of events may have been exacerbated by her picking a side during that family row.  She accepted that she would have to rebuild or at least build a new relationship with my parents.

All this time we were considering whether to stay together or not.  During this time – as always I suppose – I think I was doing most of the thinking and contingency planning – so it was a pretty stressful and emotional time.  All along I had a terrible feeling of guilt that I had forced my parents out of my house.  That guilt is tempered of course by the knowledge that they probably should not have been living with me over all these past years in any case, so I have now come to terms with it.  It still feels awkward when we get guests though – who see our large home and my parents small flat – and know that we once all lived together.

We finally did get round to discussing what to do about our marriage – and our sex-life (or more accurately – the lack of one).  I said that if we were going to keep the marriage we needed to fix this.  She agreed of course, but had no suggestions – at least nothing practical.

So these were my suggestions (1-4 were stated right up front, 5 came a few weeks later when it became clear we needed a fixed point in the calendar for it):

  1. I said that we have to have sex twice a week.  No excuses.  The reluctance was palpable.  But with the real prospect of divorce in the air and no way for here to blame my parents for being in the house she had run out of excuses.  She wasn’t happy about what she calls “doing it like robots”, but accepted.
  2. I said with such an unprecedented amount of sex boredom or repetition were likely to become an issue for both of us.  To alleviate this she was also supposed to push the envelope and allow me to do the same.  New tricks, less of her prudish rules, more excitement and spontaneity.  She agreed, but I could really feel her internal walls wavering here.
  3. We were going to talk about sex, before, after and during.  Not to assign marks but to improve how we did it for each other and to keep each other’s satisfaction and desires in mind.
  4. She had to try to rebuild some civility with my parents.  I don’t expect her to love them, or even like them.  Just be civil and be able to indulge in small talk and arrange things that might affect the children.  (My parents had already decided on their side to make the same effort – if only for their relationship with their grandchildren, and to reduce the stress on me.)
  5. Lastly we also said we should have a dedicated ‘talk night’.  A night to talk about things of concern and improvement – a sort of bonding night.  We had some good discussions on this, but this too has fizzled somewhat.  We both still ask each other if we want to discuss anything but it’s rare to actually discuss anything ‘really’ important.  We often just end up talking about something that just happens to need discussing; whereas these talks are meant to be deep, emotional or intimate conversations – not about shopping lists or children issues.

Off the bat I can say that point 4 is probably the one which has been most fulfilled.  Susan has made a huge effort to regain the trust of my parents.  It still feels a bit awkward at times and especially more so when Susan’s other relations come over (we keep the one who caused the initial row away from my parents now).  There is always an elephant in the room, and it makes it practically impossible now for us to have a larger family event because we simply can’t combine all members of both sides of the family.   Nevertheless, by and large we have worked around this – and thanks to the forced interactions required for the kids, Susan actually speaks to my folks (and chats generally) more often than me!  I couldn’t have asked for more under the circumstances and I am immensely proud of how she has done it.  Over time she has realized that that family row could have been handled differently by herself (not least because the relation she sided with has shown her true colors to Susan on more than one other occasion).

Of course it is not all roses: Susan still holds on to her belief that if only they hadn’t forced themselves into our home all those years ago, our marriage would have been so much better and we wouldn’t have had any of our relationship issues.  Which, if you’ve read other parts of this site, will be obvious to you as sheer fantasy.

The other points are more complicated.  Point 1 was the first thing that we could start to develop and she did take this on – she really tried.  For many, many months we were having sex at least once a week, and frequently twice a week as planned.  We have managed to keep this up until maybe a few months ago.  More on that in a minute.  But I really expected her to throw in the towel and start making excuses quite early on.  She did make excuses – quite a few actually – but not nearly as many as I thought she would and she always apologized and made up for it when I pointed it out.  It was a remarkable turnaround for someone who actually believed for all of her adult life that a woman should NEVER compromise when it came to sex, should NEVER have sex if not in the mood, and should NEVER have sex unless it was spontaneous or had her explicit agreement to it in advance.

I said we kept up the twice/week sex plan until a few months ago (so for well over a year).  At least that’s how I remember it, but it is more than likely that it started tapering off a bit before that even.  I suspect that one or the other of us fell ill, postponed for the later that week, then the other caught the same virus, so it got postponed again, then something else came up the next time round and before we knew it, two weeks had passed.  And so a two week gap became acceptable, then maybe a 3-week gap.  I can’t recall (why?  – I’m coming to that!) but at some point we both started to make excuses based on tiredness or even mood.  And we have now got to the point where we’re having sex once a week (even though we still ask the question twice a week) – with frequent skipping.   In the grand scheme of our previous relationship this is still really frequent – this was a woman who thought nothing of having sex 3 or 4 times a year.  However, the downward trajectory is concerning – and Susan is either not seeing it or enjoying the reduction.  Regrettably I have to confess that I am also guilty.

Unraveling

I said we both started to make excuses.  Yes, I did too.  And that is because point 2 of the plan above never actually took off.  I tried initially to ease her into doing alternative things – but she pushed back.  I think the lack of variety became a probable issue a couple of months into the plan, but I let it lie because I thought that soon the boredom itself would spur her on to be experimental and expressive.  So I didn’t make an issue of it.  However, whereas boredom for me would mean “try something new or different”, to Susan it means “let’s not do it tonight”.

If I were being uncharitable, putting it simply and bluntly, Susan has successfully twisted a straightforward plan (yet again) by refusing to yield on how we do it and what we do.  And I gave her the space to do it in order to encourage her to stick to her initial compromise.

Okay, but looking down the list, we should be able to handle this by looking point 3 shouldn’t we?  Open and honest discussion about sex.  Except she won’t.  She’ll say she wants to talk about it – but she won’t say what I can do for her, and she NEVER asks what she can do for me.  For her, talking about sex means saying “Last night was nice” before the kids come down for breakfast.  If I ask what she would have liked different, it’s “nothing” (literally that word – one word).  What she would like more of or less of, its “everything was nice”.  And when she won’t return the favor by asking me the same questions, this makes for a very short discussion.  Incidentally that makes it pretty clear that she doesn’t want me to ask for anything for myself either.

She has a (sort of) new mechanism as well.  I have raised the issue of variety in recent months and her response has been that MY expectations are too high.  I want too much from our sex life and too soon apparently.  We need to give it time.  (That part I’ve heard before of course.)  Damn right my expectations are high.  We’re not getting any younger and it won’t be long before our kids are staying up later than we are!  What’ll happen to privacy then?  Yet even so, I don’t think I’m asking for much.  I don’t expect her to do anything that isn’t mainstream for this day and age.  I’m not into fetishes or pain or humiliation.  It’s nothing that wouldn’t make it at least conceptually into a 18-rated Hollywood film.

Finally, point 5.  We have talked about serious relationship issues – but too often they get hijacked by talk on family or house-keeping issues.  I don’t like interrupting these hijackings because I feel that if it is something that Susan needs to get let out, we ought to air it – even if I think she is wasting our “relationship chat” time.  Telling her to stop and talk about something on-topic will just make her bottle it up and she won’t talk about us anyway.

The hope is that by giving her space for these chats she’ll eventually start talking about things that matter solely to us.  Unfortunately, for most of our ‘chat days’ she has not had anything to bring to the discussion.  I’ve become a bit frustrated with my attempts to add variety to our sex-life so I let her know that that is still on my mind – and we agree to disagree and tacitly agree to not discuss it!

So it has been now for a few months.  Accommodation.  She accommodates the necessity of compromise on frequency and “doing it like robots”.  I accommodate her rejection of challenging herself sexually.  And we both accommodate the downward spiral as boredom and lack of interest eat away at what little we have achieved.  And so it goes on and on and backward.  I suppose at some point we’ll end up back where we were a few years ago.  Perhaps at that point Susan will know – really know and acknowledge – that her excuses over the years were just that.  Excuses.

Okay so this brings you right up to date.  In summary, we now have a sex-life.  In reality it is still not mine.

The Future

Well divorce is currently off the table.  I’m not entirely sure for how long or even if that might be permanent or if a crisis further down the line might put it back on the agenda.  One thing is clear is that the crisis that kicked this phase of our relationship off has shown both our bluffs: we’re both too afraid of divorce and what it might bring for us and our children.  Susan may not be determined to make this marriage work – but she is determined to stop it from failing, or at the very least determined to stop herself being exposed as a cause for the failure.

The second thing is the removal of false sentiment.  We used to occasionally say “I love you” pre-crisis.  I often wondered if we really meant it back then.  Now we’re under no such illusions.  The only time that phrase passes between us is via preprinted greeting cards.  I think our marriage is now laid bare – the broken bits and creaking machinery is visible.  There is no point in pretending; I think we’re both hoping that by staying together and making these attempts to fix the broken bits, we can patch it up enough to go on. (On to what?  For what? As Tina Turner would say “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”)

Of course, the bigger question is how long we continue with our sex-life – or rather how long it will survive.  I guess that remains to be seen.  If Susan does not make any effort to add variety or interest to it, then boredom is going to choke off the twice weekly sessions quite soon in my opinion, to the point that we may end up doing it once a month or even less than that.  Worse still,  if she decides that I’m pressuring her with my “high expectations”, she may circle her wagons and not even bother with the decency of asking twice a week.  For now we still have those fixed points in the weekly calendar.  We can still use them – in theory.

For some readers this ‘arrangement’ might seem odd – even grotesque.  And I have no comeback to that.  I suppose to move from a love-less, sex-less marriage to one that is merely love-less is still progress. The life I lead is not for everyone.

Perhaps I’ve never been ‘ordinary’ so I don’t know what it must be like to settle down with someone I love and who loves me and will do everything to keep and grow that love. I don’t know what it must feel like knowing where and with whom I truly belong.  I don’t know what is must feel like to know that the one you are with is the person you will grow old with and to never want that to change.  Or perhaps I did once – if only just for those few fleeting days following my marriage to Susan.  I can’t remember those feelings all these years and battles later.

The future doesn’t promise anything.

PS: Please comment if you feel like it and I’ll try to remember to approve it.  This website is no longer part of my life and it has served it’s purpose in moving me on from the dark days when I first started it.  It is thanks to the catharsis of writing these posts and reading the feedback that I am able to manage my life as positively as I now do.  I don’t want to dwell in the past or pick at scabs.

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