Marriage without sex with a passive aggressive man

The night before our anniversary when we were going to bed, he leaned over to kiss me goodnight.  This is rare.  Notice I didn’t say ‘rare anymore’ because it’s always been rare.  It usually means he’s considering sex, and it used to be my cue to shower him with physical affection and encouragement, happy and affectionate energy, so it would be something he could respond to (give in to?) and not need or want.  My approaching him for intimacy was always casting a loaded dice over past years.  If for some reason he wanted intimacy (this usually meant he felt entitled to it for some reason), then we’d have it.

In the past, that would take us to the next step.  Would it be a good experience or frustrating and sad for me?  That depended on his frame of mind.  If he felt entitled and was also feeling self-pity and resentment, then he could be a combination of clumsy, selfish, abruptly aggressive, rough, and seemingly oblivious to any signals of response or non-response from me.  Like being in bed with an adolescent who was trying to figure out where the parts were and how they worked.

If he felt entitled (he’d been behaving well) and felt friendly towards me, then the stars might align and everything would fall into place for that rarest of rares, a mutually enjoyable intimacy.  He would show he’s very capable of knowing how to do everything right. He’d always seem initially extremely happy when that happened.  When we were younger, I’d be filled with hope because why wouldn’t he want more of a good thing? Years later,  I’d enjoy it, but I’d soon become uneasy afterwards because I knew what usually followed that rare event.  It would mean that he’d find a reason soon to create distance, and he’d become inexplicably withdrawn and aloof.

His intentional withholding abstinence was horribly painful for the younger me, and I used to feel so desolate as a younger wife.  I hated knowing how it could be, while simultaneously knowing that just because it could be mutually great, didn’t mean it would happen again anytime soon.  That would be sane and logical, and I lived with the sexual insanity of a passive aggressive man.

Between these episodes, we’d live as platonic and mostly pleasant roommates.  It wouldn’t seem to bother him, and I’d try very hard to detach from the pain, and tend to the business of life.

The night before our anniversary, he leaned over to kiss me.  I kissed him back.  There was no coldness on my part.  He hugged and kissed me, and I hugged and kissed him back.  But that’s all I did.  I only reciprocated, but didn’t take it past that like I used to.  In the past months, I’ve told him that I can’t do that anymore.  I explained it more or less just as I’m trying to explain it here.  Pretty sure he understood, at least he seemed to say that he did.  Months ago, I told him that if he wanted intimacy, that he needed to push himself to show and express that.  Otherwise it felt too much like my being pushed into some twisted mommy-lover role.

We kissed for a few minutes, and it was as though he was waiting and debating.  Then he rolled over to sleep, and so did I.  And I felt so sad.  I felt angry too.  I felt like asking why he did that at all.  Why stir up even the possibility of normal relationship when he wasn’t going to follow through.  Why it was too much effort to fight his demons just once.  Why does he tell me that he loves me and wants to try, doesn’t want to lose me, but always retreats and leaves a canyon between us.  Why when I’ve told him that it makes me feel that I’m not enough, and he declares that I am enough and I am desirable to him, that he can’t fight to show it.  Just once.

After he rolled over,  I quietly told him how I was feeling.  I said that I was so sad, and wondered why that happened.  Why did he do that?  I told him that it seems that since I won’t ‘make it happen’ that it looks like we’ll never make love again.  I told him that if he wasn’t willing to fight to change that, then we never would.  I told him that I was relieved that I’ve gone through menopause, because the years and years of laying there with sexual need (heightened by hormones) were no longer an unbearable factor.  The need and desire is there, but it’s toned down to a more bearable level.  Emotionally?  It still hurts, but through much numbed scar tissue.

He just laid there.  He said he was sad to hear me say that.  Then nothing.

I tried not to be angry.  I tried not to think about all the times over the years that he’d choose relieving himself over being with me.  And lie about it.  And leave me alone.  Married, but alone.  The sexless life of a single wife.  I finally fell asleep.

I’ve really debated writing about sex at all.  It is maybe the biggest discomfort for my privacy freak self.  But the reality of being married to a passive aggressive man is that passive aggressive men withhold sex as a way to punish and control.  No physical bruise or words hurt me as much as repeatedly being left rejected as though I wasn’t good enough to have sex with.  Touching or stroking my skin as though he was petting the dog or cat, giving me no sign he felt any arousal or attraction.  Insanely, when we were younger, I’d reach over to physically check for signs of his arousal, and often found it.  But outwardly he would not act on it, would show no sign whatsoever of it.  Even his breathing was controlled.  He treated me as though he was entirely lukewarm about me.

Who do you show that wound to? Who will understand or even want to hear it? I actually had one fill-in-session therapist advise me to have an affair until my kids were grown. Good grief. My married friends all joked about their husbands cajoling them for sex.  Their ‘ready Eddy’ and they’d laugh and smile.  They smiled because their husbands wanted them.

I told myself that night to detach and sleep.  Detach, detach, detach.  I reminded myself that I needed sleep, and stressing out wouldn’t help.  I did manage to fall asleep, but the next morning I woke up to the terrible physical pain day.  I’m still hurting today, but it’s already somewhat notching down from yesterday.

Yesterday on our anniversary, I told him that his completely ignoring (no attempt to communicate) the night before made me just want to let the balls drop, and what happens, happens.  I asked him if he thought he could be part of a mature and civil divorce.  I said I wish I could make it happen soon.

He started to get mad (of course he said he wasn’t mad) and started accusing me of making it about me and not caring about his needs and wants.  He’s mad at me for being selfish?  Ignoring his needs?  Not caring about him?

I asked him if he could name anything that he’d tried talking to me about for over thirty years.  Name anything that he’d asked me to stop or change repeatedly.  Name any pattern or dynamic that he’s communicated about over and over for over three decades that I’ve ignored or refused to change.  Name one thing where he’s said, Please stop-change that.  Please, you’re hurting me.  I asked him to name one thing that he’d repeatedly over a few decades said, Please, I need-want, please.  And that I’d ignored.

He got more angry and snapped, “That’s irrelevant to me!”

I looked at him with some astonishment, and that made him more angry and snarky in a mocking tone.  That’s when I said I just wanted to be done.  Only I can tell he’s not ready to let go, and I don’t know that I have the strength to fight him right now on this.  He ended the conversation by saying we should spend time together later.  He started to move the conversation towards the ‘sex fix’ by using his normal euphimisms to refer to sex.  In the past, his ‘fixing me’ (dealing with my anger or pain) by finally having sex again could easily mean the abrupt, clumsy, and aggressive sex experience that ended up leaving me feeling even worse.  No thanks.  But as he used words like ‘skin to skin’, I just thought to myself, Did he just hear me say that I don’t want to be married to him anymore?

I’ve said it before to him.  This isn’t a new thing.  I just don’t think he believes it, because I haven’t yet been positioned or strong enough to do it.

Today, I’m still in physical pain, and still really sad.  When he came out for the business meeting, I said, Whatever you think.  Whatever you decide.

I just can’t care today.

I debated laying out my private diminishment and humiliation, bare and vulnerable to the world.  Maybe it will help someone.  Redeem the pain.

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37 Responses to Marriage without sex with a passive aggressive man

  1. wornout says:

    Pjs I am soo sorry to hear you aren’t feeling good and then on top of that you are dealing with that other garbage. It’s bad enough that PA husbands sulk, ignore us, make us feel like everything is our fault, play mind games, etc, etc. But the way they use sex, which is the ultimate expression of love and caring, sacred really, as a weapon to be used against us really brings them to new lows as husbands and men. How can someone treat someone else like that? It’s mind blowing. And your husband’s response in bed when you shared your feelings is heartbreaking and so familiar. It blows my mind when I share my hearfelt feelings with my husband how he can look at me with a blank face and walk away, or roll over and go to bed, completey ignoring a crying wife. How is it even possible for a human being to treat another human being that they supposedly care so much about the way our guys treat us. It continually astounds me. I’m thinking of you. I don’t know if this will help, but i found this scripture that has been comforting to me. “I will go before your face…I will be on your right hand and on your left…my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.”


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  3. marsocmom says:

    Thank you for writing this, PJs. It’s hard to talk about what has to be the hardest blow of all with a PA man. He isn’t showing any compassion at all for the way you are feeling, physically or emotionally. And totally bizarre that he treats you as if he doesn’t want or need you, then when you suggest it, he blows. For our tenth and twentieth anniversaries, I took him (note the role reversal here) on weekend trips thinking we might reconnect. Nothing happened either time. Crying doesn’t help, he either doesn’t notice or runs away in terror. I moved out of our bedroom over a year ago, after probably ten more years of hoping, and I feel a little more empowered. My excuse is that he once told me “I sleep better when you aren’t here.” Nice. And since he has sleep apnea and doesn’t sleep well anyway, I said “Okay, I can do that, if it will help you.” No problem.

    I can’t help but wonder if your physical distress will lessen when the emotional turmoil lessens…I hope you can find a way out so very soon!


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      marsocmom, I agree that it does feel like the hardest. I wonder the same about my physical health as you said.
      He does show at least semblances of compassion at times in the form of doing nice or considerate things. It’s inconsistent, but he does do it. It was part of my confusion during the times when he seemed willfully oblivious at other times.


  4. AlonewithGod says:

    Thank you very much for your raw, very real honesty. I love genuine people, and PAs are never real. Having recently become educated about my PA ex-husband, I now understand that they are fearful of intimacy as it exposes their vulnerabilities (as does heartfelt communication). Also fearful of failing at sexual performance. So…if he doesn’t try, he remains in control. If he did try, he made me responsible for my own sexual pleasure. He just laid there, usually with his hands behind his head, not moving while I did all the work. Very Exhausting!! I would say, “I NEED you to touch me”, and then he would place a lethargic hand on my hip. This was toward the end; it wasn’t always this bad. My husband had a hormone imbalance and I attributed his disinterest in sex to low T. He was also a raging alcoholic (the explosive kind of PA). The alcohol takes the PA personality disorder to a frightening, frenzied level. So I thought for yrs that the hormones and alcohol were his problems. When God led me to research passive aggressive personality disorder, I saw my husband in every behavior, every characteristic – EVERYTHING fit. And it was freeing for me because I thought a lot was MY fault; that something was wrong with me. Because the PA man blames others always, and he needs someone to blame.

    From what I have read on these blogs about other husbands, we should agree they are all extremely immature – like children. My husband let me mother him (he practically worshiped his mother and when she died, his PA kicked into high gear). He was irresponsible about most everything, would not pay his bills, did not keep our property maintained and generally had no relationships aside from me. So in response to “wornout” the PA guy is stunted emotionally; self-esteem is nonexistent and he never really puts others first. It may appear he’s doing something nice for you, but there is always a hidden agenda. My husband would apologize for being a dick, but his actions never changed. He did not care about how I was treated; he knew I was stronger than him, but he’d NEVER admit it. I think PA men do not really like women; my husband told me that several times. But they need us to fulfill their selfishness.

    Can somebody explain to me how a man in the prime of life can just do without sex? Isn’t there a
    physical need? How do they repress themselves in their minds? When pj’s husband was aroused and she saw physical proof of that, what’s happening in his mind?
    I really want to know, cause I don’t understand this part of the disorder.

    It is absolutely a lonely marriage to a PA. I do empathize with you. I felt beat-down many many days. The bad days were more frequent than the good. I don’t miss the reality of my ex; he is messed-up. I do miss some sort of concept of him that my mind has invented. I think the mind does that as a mechanism to cope with grief. And I am grieving the loss of a 17 yr relationship.
    But he is somebody else’s problem now. And I thank God for setting me free!!


    • lonelywife07 says:

      AlonewithGod…Who can know their mind?? The passive aggressive is a weird mix of several different personalities, all in one person.
      Yes, he’s aroused, he’s a male, he has a willing woman…and he does nothing about it?? Who can understand that??
      I really wish the medical community would take PA much more serious, and do more research!!
      In my case, he has an unwilling partner, he KNOWS he has an unwilling partner, and he KNOWS his partner just lays there, uninvolved and waiting for him to get done….and yet, It doesn’t faze him…he can still perform and smile afterwards and doesn’t say a word to the partner. What kind of man can do that??


      • Exodus says:

        Lonely you are so spot on about how these PA people have very different, even opposing, personalities!!! When I get upset and frustrated with my husband I will ask him, ‘ Who am I speaking to today…Harry, Garry, Larry, Barry, Jerry, Kerry????’
        My husband even negates himself all the time with opposing thoughts in one sentence!

        In all seriousness, to answer your question about what kind of man objectives his sexual partner/wife, a narcissist and a sociopath and a psychopath. Those are the types of men who only view women as a source of pleasure or a place to unload their anger with a vengeance. They don’t make eye contact because they need to remove the human elements from their victims. Many men today will only have sex with women from behind because they have been exposed to a culture that objectifies women by sexualizing us to such a degree that we are nothing but sex toys. Men in Japan are choosing life size dolls as sexual partners instead of real women. Where in the hell is our civilization headed?


    • jaded says:

      PA men do not really like women, true. But it’s like a love/hate relationship, they cannot do without women, obviously they had mothers and that’s what we end up fulfilling for them is this one and only role. But they will fight you about this role, they will tell you they don’t want you to be their mother but they consistently put you in that position. My pah is sometimes dismissive, explosive and sweet. It’s the most frustrating combination I’ve yet to encounter and I seem to have made that pattern all of my adult life. Any man I fell for had some form of pa behaviour. Some worse than others. You’re right, it is very lonely to be with these men, I’ve often felt like I was the only one in this relationship, I might has well have been alone, and I’ve also felt like his mother, more often than not even though I really didn’t want that role. He made sure that what’s I became. It’s left me frustrated and alone and crabby. I’m finally after all this time, learning to love myself (because being with these men changes you and your character) and to know myself again, it’s a long road, but it’s mine and mine alone.


      • lonelywife07 says:

        Jaded….I hear ya! My PAH doesn’t like his mother OR his PAH father. He hasn’t spoken to them in well over a year….I’ve never felt that PA Man wanted me to mother him…He just didn’t want to deal with life in general.
        I’m a very strong, independent woman….I wasn’t always like that, but being married to a PA will do that to ya! LOL! And I know PA Man is intimidated by it…he’s told me that himself!
        But what can I do? It’s who I am now…I’ve had to take care of myself and my boys for all these years…so I had to be strong!
        And PA Man has a fragile ego, as do all PA Men…so he wants me to praise him and tell him how great he is…well, that’s kinda hard to do when he hasn’t earned it! LOL!
        Anyway, I do believe I have it better than a lot of other women…I feel that PA Man is about a 5 on a scale of 1-10…he doesn’t fly into angry rages…as long as I’m pleasant, he’s a happy camper! Almost like a small boy…oh wait…a man-child! LOL!
        So I’m just trying to be happy, no matter what…I wrote a blog post about it today…I know a lot of what we go through as PA wives is mental. And if I can keep my mental attitude in a good place, it really does help me go through life with a better attitude.
        After PA Mans emotional affair, I was bitter, resentful and angry, and he knew it!
        But now that a few years have passed, I am almost back to the woman I was before…And I’m happy about that!!
        I didn’t like being that hateful, bitter woman….I liked the strong woman I had become over the years…and I lost that for a while…but I’m coming back…and that makes me feel so much more positive these days! 🙂


        • jaded says:

          That’s awesome. I was always a strong independent woman but the contrary happened for myself with my pah. I become a co-dependent fearful woman although I was still very strong in certain areas, in others I became weak and that frightened me after I figured it out. I’m happy to report that I’m doing very well since I started my transformation 5 years ago and proud to report that I’m back to the strong woman, taking care of my own stuff and raising my kids the best way I know how. There are still things I cannot do yet but I’m working on it though 🙂


          • Seeing the Light says:

            Same here, jaded. I was strong, independent, and confident. This is part of what draws them to us. I became completely dependent, very FEARFUL and anxious all the time, and had no confidence in making decisions. I still had to make the decisions, but it had to look like he made them if it turned out to be a good one. If there was a mistake made, it was mine. The revelation that I was sleeping with the enemy was mind-blowing. Are you still with him? Or did you manage to transform under the same roof? I am working so hard to gain more ground and keep it. I have detached, but the weight of his influence on the children and my disability (this ruined my health) is making it hard to build back up. I have to be so careful not to get lost in the shock of how this could have happened to me and be grateful for whatever little bits of my life I can claim back.


            • Exodus says:

              Seeing, this has ruined my health as well. I read your words and it’s like reading my very own. I feel so mentally, intellectually and physically disabled in so many ways. Have you ever talked to anyone about getting some sort of disability compensation?

              Everything you wrote about decision-making and mistakes and how your husband had to take the credit for the good and blame you for the bad is exactly what I go through every day. It’s no surprise that my husband’s mother is the same way about her children. One of the reasons I quit designing was because my husband would always somehow manage to make himself look like the brain-child behind all my work. He would run around saying, ‘ She loves me, they love me, I have their number and now they love me’. I just finished a project last week and it was ALL mine but sure enough he managed to ‘ seduce’ the wife into believing that HE was the project developer and manager and my client only communicates with my husband now. The really crazy thing about her new found respect is that we had an incident during the job where my husband took it upon himself to do exactly what the customer didn’t want. She hated brick and wanted it all removed and he decided to use the brick that I had removed to create his own project for her without even asking her first! The next day, she was absolutely over the top livid and my husband threw a tantrum and starting pulling out all the brick and throwing it into a pile. I was trying to mediate and keep everyone calm and I managed to work things out but somehow after I left, he managed to convince this woman to do the very thing she didn’t want to do and now she loves him. He reminds me every day that what he did made the job perfect and that is why she loves him. She writes him every day, sends him pictures and I can’t help but wonder if she’s not a PA/N magnet like the rest of us! I really don’t care that he gets the attention. I’m just grateful for the paycheck and a happy customer but it does annoy me that I am married to such a spineless shyster who would sell his wife down the river to stroke his own ego.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      AlonewithGod: “I would say, “I NEED you to touch me”

      I’ve said the same, and sometimes then he’ll try. I get touch deprivation, and there are times I’ll ask to be touched.
      You made some critical points in your post.
      “fearful of intimacy as it exposes their vulnerabilities…if he doesn’t try, he remains in control.”
      “his actions never changed”

      Regarding your question about how passive aggressive men do without sex, I rather suspect most of them find a way to have it alone.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      AlonewithGod, that is so true about PA’s not being real, at least I so often wonder what is ‘real’ and authentic with my husband.


    • Exodus says:

      Just reading about your experience with your husband really sickened me. My dear count your blessings and spend your time celebrating yourself and your freedom. Living with an alcoholic is so destructive and so horribly abusive. I hope that you will consider therapy with a good counselor that understands codependency and can help you understand better why you chose him and how to avoid other relationships like him.

      I may be able to help answer your question about your ex’s sexual dysfunction. For one thing he was an alcoholic which kills a man’s sex drive and or his ability to even have sex so whether the alcoholic is 20 or 70, they can have sexual dysfunction. Alcoholism also causes a lot of nutritional deficiencies and metabolic disorders that contribute to overall health including sexual performance. Alcohol also affects hormones though I doubt his problem was low T. There really is no such thing as low T. Rather it should be called high E (estrogen) because hormone levels are either normal or abnormal based on their ratio to other hormones. Given that we are all being saturated with estrogens from the air, water, food, furniture, plastics, car interiors, etc.., it’s no surprise that Testosterone levels appear to be abnormally low in everyone.


  5. lonelywife07 says:

    What about a PA man that wants sex all the time…I mean everyday if I said yes?
    I feel he’s doing it as a control thing, because he knows I DO NOT want it!
    Does that make sense?
    There’s no foreplay, no emotional intimacy and afterwards he gets up and takes a shower, right away.
    He has always closed his eyes when we had sex and it bugged me for years…and now I know why, because he didn’t want to be emotionally connected with me.
    But he’s always grabbing at me, putting his hand down my shirt to my breasts, etc….Its very humiliating and makes me feel cheap. And I’ve told him I don’t like it…and yet, he still does it and laughs.
    So why is my PA Man different then most this his way of proving he is in control. That he has control over me…
    Why would a man want to have sex with his wife, when she’s told him over and over again that she doesn’t enjoy it and feels used, like a prostitute? And he never says a word, other than, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” And yet, he’ll turn around the very next day, and want to have sex.

    PJs…I’m sorry you feel that way…I really am. He’s a jerk for doing that to you. And yes, I’ve had the exact same kind of talks with my PAH…and he stays silent also…that hurts me more than anything else that he does! I’ve opened up, shared my heart with him, my hurt…and he acts like I never said a word…I hear ya! It’s a very painful thing to endure.
    Marsocmom…if I do stay with PA Man, I hope to have your setup…separate rooms. Sounds like Heaven to me!


    • Exodus says:

      Lonely, my husband is like your husband and I feel the same way that you do. I can’t imagine having sex with my husband, the man that abuses me daily.
      I found a really awesome bed for myself on amazon that inflates and deflates very quickly and I’m sleeping better than I have in years simply because my husband is not near me. The bed was not expensive and it opens and folds by itself! What more could we ask for! The name of it: SimplySleeper Hideaway Guest Air Bed I love this bed and I can pack it up very quickly if I need to.

      I wanted to comment to PJ’s about men withholding sex. Not all PA men and women withhold sex but sex is always used in some way to help them cope with their fear of intimacy and insecurity. There are so many different reasons why men and women withhold sex and it’s not always about punishing the spouse as much as it is about protecting themselves from the fear or shame associated with relationships with certain women in certain roles. Are any of you familiar with the Madonna-Whore Complex? After reading so many posts describing husbands, I realized that many of the husbands that are withholding sex may actually be exhibiting the classic behaviors associated with this disorder/complex. “Elvis Presley had all the symptoms of the Madonna/Whore Complex: a young virginal wife, a devotion to his mother, a revolving door of other women, and a sex-starved wife who looked for sexual intimacy elsewhere. Priscilla Presley’s book Elvis And Me gives a brief glimpse into their marriage and its intimacy problems.”


    • jaded says:

      Mine has done that too, humiliate me in front of friends and family by grabbing my rear or slapping it, showing off to everyone that he was a “sexual” man. The reality was that most of the time we were intimate, it was half-a$$ed, very lazy, very mechanical. It always left me very empty inside. He would also use sex to “reconnect” after a fight or after he’d behaved badly, he also used it to punish me afterwards by “creating” a new fight or exploding into rage with something trivial or even ignoring me for days afterwards. Can you imagine the confusion every single time?


    • wornout says:

      Lonely, I hear ya! This is how my husband operates…If I am trying to reallly connect with him and have a “normal” relationship, he pulls back, is more moody and withdrawn on a day to day basis and withholds sex. However,if I emotionally disconnect (which is how i am most of the time now in order to survive and save my sanity), and just have surface limited interactions with him, he asks every night if I want to “play around”. I hate it. It’s so confusing. It makes me feel like an object. Being married to a PA husband is like being on a rollercoaster ride, isn’t it. If things are happy and going good, they find a way to sabatoge it and drop the bottom out from under you. It seems that with each “fall” it gets harder and harder to get back up. I am so tired of the ride, it’s exhausting!


      • Bronze says:

        Lonely, in my experience a PA will do want you don’t want. Just like a narcissist they find out what you want and desire and then withhold it or they find what hurts you and then they do that more. In your case – your PA man knows you don’t want it – so naturally he wants to have it. In my case my PA man knew I wanted sex and so even though he had sexual needs he withheld sex from me. I wonder how he would react if all of a sudden you started coming on to him numerous times a day. My suspicion is that at first he would like it and then if it was clear it wan’t a fad and you really did want sex with him – he would quickly turn that avenue off for you. Mine would try to come on to me – only at times he knew were inconvenient for me – so he knew there was no chance that sex would happen. If I made myself available or approached him later on when the kids were in bed etc. he wouldn’t want it then. That is a typical PA move. He would get my hopes up and dash them later on. And then he could also blame me for ‘never wanting sex’ because when he tried I rebuffed him.. His most common time of trying was when I was cooking dinner for the family – that was the most common time that he used to prove I ‘never wanted to have sex’. In that way he could be free to resent and blame for our lack of sex.
        In my case I knew the withholding sex was punishment for me. I lived in a punishing world and even though yours is opposite – you also live in a punishing world.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Lonelywife07, I hate the non-response acting like I didn’t say a word thing too.
      I tend to think Bronze was on the money about most PA men regarding sex. If you want it, they don’t. If you don’t, they do. It’s the stupid resist and thwart dynamic.


  6. Bronze says:

    My marriage started out very sexual. It blew me away. As time went on it became obvious I was a plaything. As more time went on he would only want to have sex when I didn’t want to (eg. soon after birth, on my period, while I’m making dinner and chopping vegetables, anytime really that was inconvenient for me). Later when it was convenient for us both – children in bed etc. he wouldn’t want it. At about the 14 year mark I said to him that our marriage was falling apart and that I was doing all the work and he needed to step up and put some effort into the marriage. He looked at me and sneered “I’m not doing f***ing anything’. and with that he took his pillows and moved out of the bedroom. He would come and get in bed with me only to have sex from then on. Thus, was the start of our mostly sexless marriage unless he needed it. He resented me for that fact he stayed downstairs and blamed ME for it. This was only ever alluded to during arguments when it became clear he blamed me in his own mind for him not being in the bedroom. So in his mind even though it was solely his decision and at any time he could have discussed it with me like an adult like I begged him to, he resented me and blamed me for his decision to punish me for asking him to step up in the marriage. He made passes, grabs and jokes in front of his family that would have indicated to them that we had a thriving sex life. I read a story by the psychologist about sexless marriage once that said in this opinion, the state of these marriages are so bad, that to have one spouse punishing the other in this manner is so heinous and hurtful on every level for the partner on the end of this abuse that the only solution for the victim is to flee and spend their time building their self esteem back up from it being brought so low. I would have to agree with him. It is shameful and hurtful to have a spouse, who pretends on the surface to be sexual, loving and who behind closed doors is mean, nasty and withholding and blames you for it.


    • Exodus says:

      Bronze, I wonder if some PA men withhold sex in an effort to coerce their partners into having affairs as a way to satisfy their belief that they are worthless men AND to be able to blame their partners for their failing marriage. Did I say that right?


  7. Pingback: Withholding sex as punishment | my life in pajamas

  8. Mo says:

    PJs, and all commenters — I have so many things to say!! So much so I am finding myself speechless. As I read PJs post, my jaw literally hung open as I read one scenario after the other that perfectly described my own life, marriage, and husband — as well as the pain, confusion, anger, conflicted emotions, rejection, denial, feeling trapped, helpless, sexless, with no one to turn to who could or would ever begin to believe me. PJ, As I read your very courageous post, I felt like I was reading my own story. I can’t list every similarity (that would be a blog post of its own), but I can try to mention the biggies … 1. My husband rejected me physically on our honeymoon, 19 years ago. I was delve stated. He acted like it was an obligation at the tail end of each day … For the first three days. What makes this even worse — we waited until we were married to have sex — with each other, that is. Both of us had been sexually active with other partners in the past. (Thank God, I can say now. At least I was able to experience it in my lifetime). Oh, already this is too long. Let me speed it up — For two years I did all I could to ‘fix’ this — I was sure a therapist would help us. I dragged him to three — a Christian marriage therapist who blamed me for “expecting too much” … and two ‘sex therapists I found in the yellow pages (remember when), who were very very strange and creepy (not for who they were, but how they acted — it was all very cryptic and weird; for example, neither one accepted money from us after the sessions. (Until we never went back. Then they made sure to collect. But who DOES that?!?). Anyway, they were no help at all. I tried initiating things once a week, then once a month … I tried workbooks and reading together … I tried anything I could think of. NEVER did it occur to me that he had no desire to ‘fix’ anything. After two years of trying to salvage — or, start — our sex lives, I had a miscarriage. It was then I told him, “I’m done trying to help our sex life. It’s your turn now — ball’s in your court.” He never picked up the ball. (Six years into the marriage he did this shocking turnaround and decided he wanted to have sex with me all the time — it was all he could think about, etc etc. this happened totally, utterly out of the clear blue. I tried to be with him a few times, but I felt violated and sick afterward. I begged him to tell me what happened, what possibly caused him to change so fast and so thoroughly? Was it porn? An affair? Playboy? … I couldn’t fathom what happened. His answer: “I have no idea.” So, anyway, that was the last time we had sex. That was in 2001. Why did I stay with him? Because ‘he was such a great guy’ (now that makes me want to barf). I learned about PA two years ago, from a blog that led me to this one. It felt surreal when I read all the characteristics of PA husbands — and my husband had every single one of them. He could be the poster child for PA. And all along I was so totally clueless!!! I’ve been chronically ill since 2005, with three Mono viruses that won’t go dormant, Lyme Disease, and severe inflammation in my body and brain. I have so much MORE to say … but I know this is ridiculously long. I just wanted to give PJ an idea of how similar our experiences are, and how deeply I feel for her. Also, how deeply grateful I am to you pj, for being so brave and vulnerable in telling your truth. You helped me feel less alone, less crazy. I hope I can help you too somehow. My best to you … I will surely be back to visit again soon.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Hi Mo! Thank you so much for your validating words. I have an ongoing (almost daily) struggle to post and then just let my words hang out there. When readers like you join the conversation and talk about feeling less alone, it gives me a bit more courage to hang in there and keep going.

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with so many health issues. It’s my biggest obstacle right now, that and how aging has added to the challenges to figure out becoming financially independent.

      I hope you’ll join more conversations in the future. It’s the voices of readers like you that truly enrich this place.


  9. Mo says:

    It’s me again … I wanted to thank everyone who commented here too. Just as with PJ, I could relate to so many of the stories and feelings each of you mentioned. Bronze, I was struck when you mentioned narcissism as a trait of PA men — I have been wondering about that. Recently — well, over the course of the past three years — I discovered through therapy and a lot of reading and observation and soul-searching, that my mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I have been living in a thick fog for 49 years, under her “spell”. As my awareness of the truth became clearer, I could see how my husband treated me almost exactly the same way my mother did. I did that classic Freudian move of recreating my childhood — to a perfect T … despite my determination not to fall into that trap. But see, I had no idea what was really going on with my mother. I was completely blinded. It’s been just in the past few months that I can say, I see it all so clearly now. It took me 50 years.


  10. Christine says:

    I’m not sure how long ago you wrote this blog- but If God had you share for only one purpose it was for me to read it. I cried through most of it- nodding my head up and down as if someone somewhere not only “got it” but lived the life I live with a passive aggressive husband. Things you can’t explain or comprehend unless it is you on the receiving end of the madness.
    The comment you shared “skin on skin” made me cringe- because to me from my PA husband, he used words such as “flesh on flesh” disregarding the very words I said- still hanging in the air above us which asked for a divorce- a peaceful way out if possible…
    The times he would much rather take care of his needs himself, yet explaining to me that at times he needs the feeling of flesh on flesh.. It let me know early on that I will only do when he can’t meet his own needs.
    It’s a disturbing and honestly dehumanizing experience to live life with this type of man. To have the years where they pout and prove they can withhold hugs or kisses, blame you for the lack of touching and if pushed- my husband could even go weeks without directly speaking to me or as in the last few years he can also manage to not make eye contact with me for days, weeks even a month at a time-
    I cease to exist as punishment- he will ask what’s for dinner and eat what I cook- never once looking me in the eye.
    27 years of marriage and I know every pattern, trick, point of blame, lie, deny and excuse that he can give.
    I asked him once what he meant when he said he was sorry. He says it- but like everything else his actions never and I mean never match his words.
    His answer floored me. At first he refused to answer- I pushed- asking again what the words I’m sorry meant to him. He said and I Quote “It means I’m sorry your pissed off about something”

    This question never got any farther because he shut down- refusing to consider it- or accept his wrong or even answer me.
    A year later- tonight- it came back up after he had been withholding affection via sex- hugs- kisses- any form of touching at all and then blaming me for not making it happen anyway for him. This man even accidentally forgot Mother’s Day- our Anniversary and my birthday this year- being that for most of the year he has been in rare form because I too told him that he had to put forth the effort, I had allowed my heart to be as broke and bruised as I could and that I had to protect myself since no one else was going to.
    I too have checked for erection; thinking he was systematically doing the basics- cold, fumbling, no feeling- and I’ve also had the crazy great and to the moon experiences that made me think he was more than just capable…. But the pain or absentminded thing he would do to hurt me after those nights of bliss made me dread them more than the awkward sex. I also asked him to name one thing that he had repeatedly for 27 years told me that I did to hurt him- one thing he asked me to change that I didn’t- one thing that he said he needed to be happy that I didn’t move hell to make happen for him?
    Instead of answering me- he gave the guilt trip where he blamed me for being a better person than him, I had people show me love- he didn’t have anyone show him how to love…
    I hit a wall tonight and reminded him that we married at 16 years old- he had 27 years of ME showing him love- and when he simply said “I’m sorry what else do you want me to say”
    I started back on what does the words I’m sorry even mean to you- his answer was he didn’t know what I wanted him to say!
    Again- I asked. What does it mean when you say that you are sorry.

    He sat and pouted then and like a two year old he refused to answer me- I know now the refusing to answer is a child play PA game to make the spouse angry and take the spotlight off his behavior when she looses her cool. So I kept calm- but asked again. His answer- blame. He said it didn’t matter what he said- I would just say it was wrong and he didn’t know what else I wanted he had already said he was sorry. I wanted to blow my lid- like someone rationalizing with a 4 year old who knows right from wrong but doesn’t want to accept his wrong.

    I wouldn’t let up this time. Maybe because all I have heard for years are the words Fine-your right- I’m sorry- yet nothing about the behavior he was apologizing for ever stopped and for me; that is what has made this marriage so confusing.

    The more I calmly asked him to answer me in regards to what the words IM SORRY meant to him: the more aggressive his normal passive aggressive behavior became. It was like watching a volcano about to erupt.
    He yelled or really suddenly screamed and started cussing me- red faced and slamming things while yelling that he didn’t have to answer me-and that I couldn’t make him answer me.

    It dawned on me then that by not getting angry at his lack of response and his pouting and his word play and blaming me: but staying calm and quietly asking the simple question- he ended up being the one who got angry.
    And his level of anger over such a simple question was so out of proportion to what he got angry about- a simple question- that like everything else with his behavior it made no sense at all.

    There is some major truth to the PA man frustrating the wife to points of crazy to have her express his anger.

    I took a shot and even with him yelling at me and cussing me, I quietly asked again exactly what he meant when he was saying that he was sorry and what was he sorry for and if that wasn’t clear, in a nutshell; what did the words I’m sorry mean to him.

    Instead of answering me, he kept his voice to a scream while he started saying things like “well I guess your right, I’m just a sorry azz husband, I can’t do anything right, you said it enough so now I admit it. It’s all me and you’re just perfect”
    In under 3 seconds flat he went from being sorry to pouting to screaming and blaming me to falsely paying a victim and saying he guessed he was just to messed up and cold hearted to know what sorry meant…

    I felt like I was watching some freak show for the first time- even though his Passive Aggressive behavior goes from pouting, withholding, blaming, frustrating and confusing those around him- to calm once I blow my fuse.
    This ONE time I didn’t blow the fuse and he cycled between each tactic like speedy gonzolous on steroids until he blew up in a 2 year old temper fit.

    Finally in his own fit of rarely shown rage- he yelled at the top of his lungs that “Being sorry meant that I thought he had done something to hurt me and he was SORRY that I felt that way”

    Talk about an eye opener. Not once had any of his I’m sorry speeches ever meant that HE was sorry for his behavior- he was just sorry that I perceived myself to be hurt by it. Because in his mind- he has never done anything deliberately to be sorry for. He doesn’t cause the hurt or set out to punish me. He doesn’t withhold sex in his mind- no- he finds something stupid to talk himself into being mad at me over first! He creates it, can’t see he did it and will deny to death that he caused it.

    After years and years of marriage I finally got an answer- and as crazy as it is- it’s really his answer.

    The words “I’m Sorry” to my PA husband means “I’m sorry you didn’t know what I wanted without me telling you clearly what I wanted and because I’m mad at at you, but not willing to have an adult conversation and tell you verbally that I’m mad at you because to say I’m mad at you for not reading my mind and knowing what I did or didn’t want to do would make me look like the bad guy if I said that out loud. SO I’m just going to show you I’m mad by refusing sex with you, making a point to not touch you or talk to you and tell you over and over that everything is fine when you ask me what’s wrong and just pout and wait for you to jump through hoops to fix what you don’t even know that I’m mad about” and if you get your feelings hurt and push me for any communication- I’m sorry means I’m sorry you feel that I’ve done these things; but I didn’t.” So don’t ever ever expect a change. Repentance can only come when someone can accept their actions. These men can’t.

    That is why there was never and will not ever be any change in someone who literally CANT acknowledge what their actions do to themselves or others.
    That’s why a PA always has excuses with much more details than any apology. They can’t own anything.

    This was an eye opener for me- it also started over an eerily similar situation to the one that you described above- if I’m not willing to make sex happen or pick up on his little clues like a kiss or finally rolling on to my side of the bed and take it from there, then he won’t and he will simply stop and fall asleep and leave me awake late into the night hurt and confused and yet these days I feel something similar to thankful because my heart has been battered by the storms he creates for far to long. I can handle the next day when he chooses to punish me by pouting or blaming me or guilting for not doing what he wanted without him having to put any effort into intimacy with me.

    He got so angry tonight when I kept my calm and just repeated that I wanted a divorce and that from that moment forward I would be working toward that goal. He hit below the belt in a sucker punch and told me I could get my divorce as soon as I got a job.
    I lost my breath a moment.
    I made the mistake of giving my ALL to this man- taking care of every need of his and our children’s for 27 years of my life; now at midlife and in the middle of a discussion about his behavior- he dropped the big one and began telling me how during the entire 27 years of our marriage he really wanted me working- but because he wasn’t a selfish man and knew I wanted to be home with the kids, he LET me be home with our kids: while failing to tell me for 27 years how it really made him feel angry and that he resented the fact that I didn’t work??
    That last guilt trip almost worked on my battered brain that for years has been trying to find the one more thing I could change to fix him- make him happy- make him love me.
    The problem was, he threw the fit and kept me from working long after the kids were in school. Anytime I worked part time or even when I attempted to go back to school, he passive aggressively made my life a living hell until I had no choice but to stay home to keep the kids safe and rules obeyed and homework done . With me out of the house my husband watched 10 hours a night of TV and let the kids run wild and told me years later that he did that to me on purpose so I could get a good idea of what he went through working all day?
    The man worked and came home to a five course meal and spotless house and never lifted a finger to clean anything .
    His statement telling me to get a job tonight to throw me off the real issue-his withholding sex in our marriage,
    let’s just say it was the wrong thing to do or say to me at the worst possible time.
    His withholding intimacy when confronted was ignored- kicked under the rug and instead twisted into something I did for 27 years at his request by not working but yet another thing I somehow should have known he didn’t mean? It was the straw that broke the camels back.

    I told him that I would have a job just as quick as I can find one- and that in all honestly-my own paycheck was the only thing left to do for myself- he didn’t meet any other need of mine in any way.
    I calmly explained that I wasn’t asking- him for a divorce but giving him a heads up that in my time- when I had everything in order that would benefit ME the best and make things easier on me not on him; that I would be filing for divorce whether he agreed or didn’t.

    I went on to calmly explain to him how the hormone octocin is a feel good boost and without sex he kept me from the very hormone release I needed to feel good- I explained that hugs also release octocin and that I’m a hugger- I always have been- I hug my friends- I hug my kids- I hug family… I calmly told him that he on the hand never hugs anyone but ME and those hugs of his are nothing but ammo that he uses as punishments- by withholding them from me when pouting and then blaming me when I ask about it by saying “well you didn’t act like you wanted me to hug you”
    In some kind of fit of enlightenment- I told him that I received hugs even on the days he withheld them from me- and while actually laughing- I informed this emotionally stunted man that he had spent years denying his own self the hormones needed to FEEL good! I was touched in love by others every single day!!! And that when he cut me off- he cut off the only hug or touch he was going to get from anyone!
    He hurt himself more than he ever hurt me. I likened him to an emotional cutter.

    For the first time in 15 years I saw him look slightly less than his normal nonchalance over the chaos he created.
    He may have even for a half a moment looked worried.
    Then he recovered enough to start the blame game and he blamed hard! He threw up my imperfections- my shortcomings which in actuality were things like not feeding him like I use too by 5pm or not washing his work clothes and hanging them up like I use to- he literally attempted a guilt trip on me based on what I wasn’t doing for him anymore. A grown man throwing a fit and comparing purposely not having sex with his wife to his wife forgetting to hang his clean uniforms. Insanity is all that registered with me.
    I came to bed- alone- he soon entered the “thou shall not speak to you again” phase.
    I searched passive aggression and there was your post- my exact evening in your words right up until I pushed this time for a direct answer-

    Instead of saying my normal morning pep talk which starts with “I can survive whatever mood he brings home today” I got ready for bed tonight saying “I can finally see clearly because I stepped out of the passive aggressive storm- tomorrow and each day after becomes a day of planning, sticking a little back, looking for that job, finding that little quaint one bedroom cottage somewhere I’ve always wanted to go- he can only play the game as long as your playing by his rules- play by yours and he suffers alone.
    He actually stormed into to get his pillow and took himself to the couch. The less attention I gave him the louder his stomping became in the other room. But now, instead of worrying over how I’m going to fix it or feeling sad over what type of marriage we were suppose to have, I am experiencing this bubble of excitement about the life outside of this crazy making chaos. I have a vision of a life that his moods and half truths don’t control and knowing that I’m not getting sucked back in again, but jumping out or sneaking out- which ever it takes while I’m still young enough to enjoy what MY life was meant to be like.


  11. WritesinPJ's says:

    ((( Christine ))) I have mere seconds for privacy and time, but I’m listening. Others will probably find our conversation soon. You are not crazy, and not alone. There are people here who truly understand your pain and frustration. I encourage you to post something on the most recent post so the (amazing) women here can say hello. I’ll come back tomorrow, but will be thinking of you.


  12. WritesinPJ's says:

    Christine, you said, “he blamed me for being a better person than him”. That’s so profound.

    “Anytime I worked part time or even when I attempted to go back to school, he passive aggressively made my life a living hell.” I also experienced this.

    “yet another thing I somehow should have known he didn’t mean?” (almost laughed reading this)

    “without sex he kept me from the very hormone release I needed to feel good” Had almost identical conversation here.

    “then blaming me when I ask about it by saying “well you didn’t act like you wanted me to hug you”
    I once told him that he reminded me of a little kid that misbehaves. Little kids don’t really remember that they misbehaved for long. They soon come around ‘expecting’ their mom to feed them, make sure they have clean clothes, hug them, and love them. It’s bizarre when an adult behaves this way.

    “He may have even for a half a moment looked worried.
    Then he recovered enough to start the blame game and he blamed hard! He threw up my imperfections- … a guilt trip on me based on what I wasn’t doing for him anymore. ”

    Have heard exactly that kind of stuff. How I’ve changed etc. How he hasn’t had much of a wife these last years. He should make sure I’m not holding pepper spray first when he says this kind of stuff though.


    • Christine says:

      I was unable to sleep (nothing new) and I was blessed beyond measure to read the responses to my comment (it was my first time posting on ANY message board; so it was kinda scary for me to begin with) I think I was just so astounded by the blog above describing my life and the things that you honestly believe are so weird that no one else could possibly understand much less be dealing with as well. One moment I was reading and then I was typing before I knew it.
      I have a feeling that this blog is exactly what God knew I needed to seperate my sanity from the cloud of confusion that this man has made out of my life. Knowing others DO live with it, survive it, analyze it and even suffer from it made me clearly see that I’m not the only person living through it.
      Thank you so very much


  13. Holy poop, I feel like I could have written these posts in my sleep. Its hardly any comfort, though, to know others suffer the same agonizing pain as me.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Hi momtomanyupnorth, and I do know what you mean. I feel sad you had a reason to find the blog, and glad to meet you. I hope you’ll share often. There are so many wonderful readers that share in comments, and make this place priceless. I look forward to getting to know you!


  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I was reading up on PA men and came across this post. I know it’s an old post. Hope you’re in a better place in life today.
    Reading this made me feel like you are relating about my life with my husband. I did not even realize he was passive aggressive all these 20 yrs. But it’s only recently that I realized that the problem is with him, while he’s conditioned me all these years to think I am controlling, demanding, sex starved and aggressive. I have made the decision to move out and get a divorce but I cannot right now as I’ve a minor daughter and no job. Hopefully I’ll be able to some day get out if this cycle and sleep peacefully at night, without crying myself to sleep or popping pills to make me sleep. Thank you for writing this and sharing.


  15. I choose me says:

    I can totally relate. After 26 years of marriage and 3 daughters I remain lonely and tired despite all my attempts to love him and try to make him happy. I have sacrificed so much and feel foolish for “falling” for his manipulation countless times and regret not leaving. I’m sad that our marriage no doubt has affected our children.

    Everyone on the outside thinks he is so wonderful and attentive. I cant take another day of pretending and ignoring the lack of intimacy in our relationship. I want to spend my remaining days living authentically and whole.

    I’ve come to the realization that I need to take responsibility for accepting his behavior and addressing my codependency. I will not allow him to determine how I feel, because I finally know that I am worthy of love and a healthy relationship. I am not trapped or hopeless unless I believe I am.

    I have admitted to myself that I am afraid of living outside this toxic habit- this cycle is all I know. I’m trying to work on being honest with myself so I can make a plan to leave and not succumb to his passive agressive behavior like I have in the past. This includes mourning the relationship & marriage (complete family) that I thought I would earn through time, patience and effort.

    I want to experience being made love to and not feeling like I should be grateful while waiting for it to happen again. As much as I would like to engage in an affair, I know I’m fragile and dont want to exacerbate the situation (heaven forbid if I make him feel disrespected or unloved!). I dont want to deal with the fall out- I just want our marriage to be over as civilly as possible for the sake of our youngest daughter. I’m also afraid I’ll attract another passive agressive man in my current emotional state.

    I dont like him- now that I see who he really is: a grown, scared, pitiful, helpless broken man. After over 2 decades, Ive been unable to “fix” him and I have nothing else to give.

    I choose me.


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