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 It would mean that he’d find a reason soon to create distance, and he’d become inexplicably withdrawn and aloof.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.