Withholding sex as punishment

There’s been some infamously fascinating conversation about sex and the passive aggressive man in the comments on this post.

I don’t want to give the impression that we never have sex, or that we’ve never had great sex.  Like everything else with him, it’s consistently inconsistent.  (By the way, I’m still battling my privacy freak self to even have a discussion on the internet that includes the word sex and my private life.  I just feel this is one of those topics that too many of us have suffered in misplaced shame with.)

One of the posters that commented on the above linked post really nailed it down:

“in my experience a PA will do what you don’t want. …they find out what you want and desire and then withhold it or they find what hurts you and then they do that more…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… 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”
“…he would only want to have sex when I didn’t want to …anytime really that was inconvenient for me). Later when it was convenient for us both …he wouldn’t want it…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.”  (Bronze)

Oh my.  I remember an office Christmas party many years ago.  I was working a temp job for a large financial institution.  I had my hair done during my lunch hour, borrowed a smexy black beaded cocktail dress from my girlfriend, and brought my party makeup with me to jazz it up before I took off from work to meet up for his office party.  Conveniently, it was the day of the office party where I was working too.  I got ready for his party, and enjoyed a bit of ours before I left.  One of the very top men in the company swung my direction a few times to smile in obvious admiration.  (staring at myself today, I feel sure this was another person in another lifetime)  I was feeling the happy feeling of a woman when she’s looking her best, and on her way to a party.  The owner of his firm had an actress from a popular t.v. show on his arm that night.  It was kind of fun when the owner diverted his attention from her and flirted with me a little.  The actress he brought gave me the cutest smile, the barest shake of her head, and almost a wink as if to say, “Men!”  I had frequent invitations to dance, and someone snapped a romantic looking picture of us while we were sitting at a table.  I still have the picture.  My husband was very attentive, touched me often protectively, and did some flirting with me himself. We looked like a beautiful young couple destined for romance.

Only most of you reading probably know how the evening turned out.  No sooner did we walk out in the parking lot towards our car, when he mentioned he wasn’t feeling quite wellHad a bit of a headacheWas feeling tiredJust not feeling quite right.  Whatever the exact words, they rang a familiar dissonant chord that I recognized with unwelcome understanding.  I’d heard many verses of that same song so many times in our years together.  He had every sane reason to enjoy a willing, available, and attractive wife that night.  Let’s just say that I knew the stars were not going to align that night.  It would instead be one more night of lying in bed, wide awake and listening to him sleep.  Feeling the most painful alone feeling, hugging the edge of the bed with silent tears, and the panic feeling of hope grasping at nothing in the dark. I was in my late twenties.

Another poster (AlonewithGod) asked, “Can somebody explain to me how a man in the prime of life can just do without sex? Isn’t there a physical need?”

I’ve asked that question so many times.  I’ve asked him!  I remember asking him a few times if he was attracted to women or to men.  I wasn’t being mean or sarcastic when I asked.  I just needed to know and to understand.  He swore then and still does that he’s attracted to me.  I believe he was being truthful saying that, but oh how unattractive it made me feel to not have a husband acting on desire for me. I learned that attraction can be present and tightly controlled. Once I told him that I could describe myself to him in one word:  resistable.  In answer to the question posed above as to whether there’s a physical need,  his choice has been to secretly have sex alone.  And lie about that to me.  He’d choose that  many times over mutual enjoyment.  Even when we’ve seemingly been getting along.  Even when he’s lead me on by saying that we should be ‘close’ soon, and when I’ve responded with affectionate agreement to his comment.  The thing is that he’d make a comment like that when having sex wasn’t possible just then.  Later when it was, he’d act as though he hadn’t said it earlier.  Even when I approached him affectionately and openly, thinking that open communication would make it ‘safe’ for him.

Until I didn’t want it anymore.  Then he’d start pursuing me.  Only if I no longer wanted it.

Another poster mentioned the Madonna complex.  I’ve thought about that too, but the puzzle piece doesn’t quite fit here.  Feeling in control of himself and of me, and punishing me, does fit.

In years past, I was so easy going that I told him that if he was in the mood and I wasn’t, that I was still quite agreeable to have sex.  Touching and being touched was still a positive for me.  I also told him that I didn’t care about times he might want a ‘quickie’ (easy and quick, no foreplay needed, just one sided sexual release), as long as he was willing to have intimate making love intimacy later.  (That offer eventually soured for me when it became clear that he was only interested in his personal release, and didn’t follow through on the mutual intimacy much.  Then I felt used.)   It didn’t matter to me if I was coming on or off my period.  Nursing a baby or pregnant.  Whether I had a cold or was feeling under the weather.  I was extremely affectionate, open, and giving in this area of relationship.  Most always, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  If he said he wasn’t feeling well, I reluctantly accepted it and believed him most of the time.

A revealing thing happened in my early thirties that planted serious doubt for me.  I was at the end of the pregnancy with our fourth child, in fact, I was  a month over my due date.  Up until that time, I’d remained easy going and available through all four pregnancies.  Once I hit the third trimester, I’d always kind of given up on sex being fulfilling for me, other than just being touched and hugged.  I think that I was just naive, and questioned my ability to enjoy it past that point when I had such a big belly.  When I was pregnant, I would always reassure him that it didn’t matter, and he could still have sex as often as he felt like it.

Well.  What do you know.  His libido and health had this miraculous surge during my third trimester.  Four times in a row.  He became consistently interested in having sex often.  Sex that was all for him basically.  Still, I quelled my suspicions.  Since I was so overdue, I was advised to walk until I was tired, soak in a nice long bath, then I was instructed to have sex and be sure to reach orgasm.

Huh?  What?  Um… I stared doubtfully at the belly about to birth a twelve pound baby.  (twelve pounds and four ounces to be exact)  People routinely asked me if I was going to have twins or triplets.  Um…  how would this even be possible?  At that point, I was desperate and determined for labor and birth, so I followed the instructions.  All of them!  Let me now tell you that it is possible.  Just a few hours later, I was in labor.

I didn’t think much about it until I was pregnant with Baby number five.  I was actually kind of happy about the memory at that point, and said to my husband, “Isn’t it great?  Now I know that I can enjoy having sex all the way through the pregnancy!”

Or not.  For four pregnancies, he’d always told me how sexy and beautiful and attractive I was when pregnant.  Why should it be any different this time?  Because this time I wanted it, and I could enjoy it.

No more third trimester you’re-so-sexy-pregnant-that-I-want-sex-more-often.  Nope.  Back to the rare oasis of good sex, and then desert of withholding between.

There are also the times that we’ve argued about the lack of sex, or the times that I specifically would ask him ‘why not now’ and he would respond with some ridiculously petty thing.  Maybe I didn’t offer to make him lunch.  I was on a long phone call and ignored him when he wanted to talk to me.  He was sick of my books and papers on the end of the table.  He was tired of helping around the house and felt others weren’t doing enough.  The reason doesn’t really matter.  Not because I don’t care about how he feels or what any legitimate reason might be.  The reason doesn’t matter because like everything else, there was an endless supply of reasons.  No matter how many reasons or complaints or accusations I tried to address, just like whack-a-mole, new ones would pop up.  Endlessly.  I just gave up trying to pretzel myself or read his mind.  I told him once that it felt like he was saying, “If only you could jump ‘this’ high, then I’d be free to show love to you.”  So I’d jump and practice, and practice and jump, until one day I’d excitedly say, “Husband!  Watch this!”  And as I was running towards the bar to jump, he’d raise it a few inches.

I was Charlie Brown running at Lucy holding the blasted football over and over and over.

Only it was my heart and soul that was being wounded each time.

Does he feel attraction?  Yes, I think so.  But feeling any kind of need that he isn’t entirely in control of, feeling any kind of need that means he needs someone else to fill the need, is something for him to control and resist.  Since he also needs someone to push against and resist, I’m the one that he resents and resists.  He resents me for feeling the kind of love that he knows he doesn’t entirely experience.  For parts of my soul and being being vibrantly alive with passion while those parts in him were stunted and disconnected.  Maybe he resents me for being a living, daily reminder that he chooses not to do the work that would change that.  Rather than changing himself, he diminishes me, maybe to destroy the evidence that passion exists.  I don’t know.  The reasons are theories, but I just know how it plays out and what it looks like.

And feels like.  It looks and it feels lonely.  It feels unsafe.  And because of the times that we’ve had good windows of sweetness, tenderness, and making love, it feels incredibly sad.  To resist that is just insanity.  I cannot understand.  Heaven knows I can’t fix or change it.

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23 Responses to Withholding sex as punishment

  1. Exodus says:

    PJ’s, the more I learn about your husband, the more he seems to fit into the N mold to a lesser or greater degree. While masturbation can be a healthy activity, it is also very characteristic of narcissism when cobbled with other atypical behaviors like using it to replace sex with a spouse.

    If any of you are familiar with the world’s most famous narcissist, Dr. Sam Vaknin, he writes about this in depth in chapter 2 ” Uniqueness and Intimacy” of his book, Malignant Self Love ( it’s too much to copy and paste). http://samvak.tripod.com/narcissismintimacy.html

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  2. Amanda says:

    ” I cannot understand. Heaven knows I can’t fix or change it.”

    If the above isn’t within your control – maybe do some thinking around what is within your control to do or change in some way?

    Just to read your last two posts makes my heart heavy and so sad for you. Sexual intimacy is such a wonderful (and I feel) necessary part of a relationship – it keeps you connected, it helps you both to keep close and draws the line/distinction between being just room mates and being husband and wife.

    Your needs and wants for sexual intimacy are so very normal and I kind of think that your husband’s aren’t so normal – there’s probably research out there to back that statement up.

    I can’t speak for others but in all of my relationships the desire of me and the consequences of that desire (ie sexual intimacy) helped to make me feel very beautiful, very wanted and very special. I am an actions kind of gal – words don’t always cut it for me.

    You are still a very beautiful woman – both on the inside and the outside. Please don’t measure your sense of desirability against the actions (or indeed inactions) of a man who lacks emotional maturity in this area. The borrowed beaded cocktail dress may be a bit snug nowadays but you still have more than enough beauty to tide you over until you reach God’s waiting room.

    Believe it.
    xxx

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    • Exodus says:

      Amanda, Well said! You have such positive energy and I can feel it energizing me as I read your words. Thank you for the wisdom and the inspiration!

      Actions always prove why words mean nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Amanda, I can only seem to believe it in theory right now, but you have to know I’m working at the fake it till I make it anyway!

      I think I always knew my needs fell in the normal range, and that his part of that relationship didn’t, but the twists and turns of that road were painful to experience.

      I repeatedly debated whether or not to ever write about the sexual aspect of a relationship with a passive aggressive man, but my consideration of those who up until this point have wrestled with it alone, or may be young enough to avoid years of pain, tipped the balance against my wish to remain private.

      And yeah, lol, that beaded dress is not happening without about a year of intense working out. Which hasn’t happened yet 😉 Not to mention I had to return the original to my girlfriend. I’ll have to go poking around your closet when the time comes!

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      • Exodus says:

        It’s difficult to avoid the conversation about sex and intimacy in any dysfunctional relationship because, like most everything else, it gets affected. I think it’s good for you to openly examine that part of your life even though I know it can be uncomfortable. Believe it or not PJ’s, there are a LOT of couples that are living with intimacy issues and that is why Viagra is one of the leading pharmaceuticals ( next to antidepressants) sold in the US. Young 18 year old men are using these drugs. I’m not suggesting that your husband needs Viagra but, obviously if so many men have psychological issues that result in intimacy issues then we need to address the social, cultural and familial origins of this problem plaguing so many couples today. You might be surprised by the number of Americans live a platonic life with their spouses. I thought my platonic marriage was atypical until a therapist told me that most of her couples live that way. I suppose that since the economy is so bad many couples opt to stay together instead of trying to support two homes, two cars, two vitamixers, etc..

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    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Amanda, I want to let you know that when I write “I can’t fix it or change it” that it’s more of a blog post-it note affirmation. I do know it, but I also do need to remind myself because it’s so easy to slip into old unhealthy ways of thinking and interacting. My new mantra this week has been discovering an old Polish saying, ‘Not my circus, not my monkey’.
      Lol, isn’t that awesome? I need a t-shirt with that one day.

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      • Seeing the Light says:

        “Not my circus, not my monkey” – that is terrific! I’m going to write that down and keep it in my pocket. Thanks, PJs 🙂

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  3. AlonewithGod says:

    PJs thank you very much. Of course there is secret masturbation! Everything else is secretive. So now I understand…my ex resented me for all those things you just wrote about; he fears intimacy; he has to be in control and so…it was preferable to him to just have sex alone than with his wife. And I am no slouch. Wow, this knowledge is very liberating. It was absolutely not my fault, ANY OF IT!! He gave the tired excuses too. Even before getting into bed, he’d say how tired he was, rough day, whatever. And then turn his back to me. Resent, resist, push against, resist some more. You describe the situation perfectly.

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    • WritesinPJ's says:

      AlonewithGod, how I hate hearing the tired variations ad nauseum. He’s been tired, worn out, and not feeling well since I met him when he was only 22 years old. I actually suggested that he should see a doctor and get to the bottom of it.
      I not only know a thousand and one ways to hear that he’s tired, but I know the subtle sounds, nuances, and body language he uses to express it.

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  4. Seeing the Light says:

    I (fortunately, I guess) don’t have any history of a satisfying relationship with my PAH. I have no doubt that he was satisfied. A very quick fumbling, adolescent sort of encounter was satisfying to him. And I complied a long time. When he did put in any extra effort – at my request – it was worse than if he hadn’t and left me very frustrated. We are now in separate beds and it is only a relief to me! I have no successful encounters to look back on and wish to be repeated. These days since I know I can have no one else right now, I have been able – with God’s help, I think – to shut down almost all of those desires. (I do have to be careful what I watch on tv and in movies or my mind could run away with me). For me it’s a pragmatic decision not to feed something that will only hurt me. For those of you who aren’t so separated yet, I feel for you. But I would shudder and physically react to ever being touched again by someone that I know is only using me. I only want to be touched by sincere and genuine love.

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    • Exodus says:

      Seeing, you are wise now and will not allow anyone into your life that would use you. I have the same grotesque shuddering thoughts and I often question whether I’m even capable of finding a suitable and respectful mate. I think that I am so full of so much doubt and insecurity that I second guess myself all the time. But, I know in my heart that I will not ever allow anyone to use me or rob me of joy ever again. Losing my dogs and not being able to fill that void because of my husband was the over-the-cliff deal breaker for me. Although I feel like a loser most days, I must say that I am extremely alert and aware of toxic people around me and I avoid them like the plague. I think you would be that way too and I believe that one day you will surprise yourself by suddenly blooming once again. There is an old Chinese proverb that I like, ‘ Keep a green tree in your heart and the singing bird will come’. Stay true to yourself and to your good character and good things will come to you. I admire you for making the best of your situation and guarding your integrity. I know it may not seem like much right now but know in your heart that you are G-d’s child and you are honoring her by saving yourself for the right kind of love- the kind that you deserve.

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      • Seeing the Light says:

        Thank you for such kind words, Exodus. Yes, I am noticing, too, that I am much more tuned in which people are toxic. I wish there were more safe people out there. I would love nothing better than to bloom here among the weeds until there is no more room left for the weeds. May you do so, too 🙂

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      • newshoes says:

        Same here Exodus. I don’t think I will be able to tell whether someone is being genuine with me or not and me making the right decision or picking the right kind of guy. I have a feeling that I’m stuck in a pattern of unheathly mate picking and always pick the type of guys that will at some point reject or hurt me.

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        • Exodus says:

          Newshoes, the most important thing is that you are aware that you have doubt. That’s a good start! That awareness will protect you if you notice yourself doubting anything or anyone. I try to be logical when I find that I’m questioning people or trying to make a decision about something. When I get those uncomfortable feelings of doubt I tell myself that by walking away NOW won’t cost me anything but if I risk and lose, I will not be able to afford the cost. I now know to obey my intuitive feelings/thoughts almost to the point that I don’t even entertain the thought of an alternative, don’t want to even consider anyone else’s opinion. Some may find me to be stubborn and I really don’t care anymore. It’s my way or no way! This is why old people seem grumpy and stubborn! They are wise now! hahahah I believe that our intuition is G-d’s voice.
          Take time to actually write down the qualities that you must have in a mate and in friends and then adhere to them. If there are qualities that you can compromise on, then know when and why you will be willing to do so and when you won’t. Create a job description for being your friend and your spouse and your child. Obviously, we all need to compromise on some things in life but we should never compromise values, ethics and morals. Each of us needs to know ourselves and trust that what we want for ourselves is what we should have! We have spent so much time in a vacillating relationship that we have lost touch with who we are and we’ve lost the confidence to trust our own mind and heart.
          Just decide today that other people’s opinions of you- good or bad- don’t matter. Decide today that you will only consider someone else’s opinions but, never put them ahead of your own!! You are the most important person in your life so be your own CEO!

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        • Seeing the Light says:

          Newshoes, I agree with Exodus, especially the part about intuition. I believe it is God’s gift to us to protect us. I think it’s okay, too, to be concerned about being in a pattern of picking unhealthy mates. It’s really so circular, but I think with any kind of a troubled past, we tend to not trust our intuition when we should have and we end up making a bad choice. Then we develop this pattern that we keep gravitating to the wrong people. There is some truth to healing from the damage first so that we will listen to the right part of ourselves. When a new relationship is starting, there are all the things the other person says that we really want to hear and believe, hopes, desires, impressions…and then there is your gut. One of the biggest things I want my children to learn is: Trust your gut!!! It’s more quiet and consistent, but the things we want to believe are louder and more exciting. We have to pay attention and be so deliberate!

          I’ve been learning, too, to change perspective and ask, what advice would I give a friend about this relationship? Would I want my daughter in this situation, with this person? Or would I be okay with my son treating a woman the way this person is treating me? It helps to put a little objectivity in there and then to stop the rationalizations when they start…”well, I wouldn’t want this for my daughter, but my situation is an exception”. That’s where it has to stop. No. No exceptions. In my current situation, I have been thinking this way more in regard to an unhealthy friendship, but it can apply to other relationships, including romantic, I think, to begin to distance yourself a little in order to make a good decision.

          I think I ‘m rambling a bit. Hang in there!

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          • Exodus says:

            Seeing, Excellent advice! The objectivity is absolutely necessary and it CAN be achieved if we are aware and patient with ourselves. I love the part about how we can evaluate good and bad relationships in others. We need to realize that we can do that for ourselves too!
            I too am having to reconsider a very long term friendship. To be blunt, I’m fed up with my friend for good reason. Every time I talk to her she is stoned now ( medications that she abuses) and she just rambles on in negativity, never laughs anymore and worst of all is playing head games. She used to be a very honest and caring person but now she’s a self absorbed addict. I can’t wait to get off the phone. I used to call her every single day. For the last 3 weeks or so, I have only called her twice. She’s my only friend in the whole world and I’m having to let go. I just can’t handle anymore games and negativity. Please don’t misunderstand, I’ve always been there for her, always remembered her birthdays and holidays. I’ve always tried to help her with her health problems but she doesn’t put forth any effort to help herself or heed anyone’s advice because she enjoys misery. Misery is all she has and as we all know, misery loves company and I have certainly had enough to compliment hers. I don’t want that kind of friendship.

            I have a rule that I am always aware of: I never decide anything when I’m feeling desperate. This includes believing what someone is telling me when I’m feeling lonely, sad, poor, vulnerable in general, etc.. I have a tendency to fall hook, line and sinker for kindness because I get so little of it in my life these days. Anything good, loving and kind that anyone says or does for me is extremely magnified and elicits a strong emotional response that distorts my perception of people.

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            • Seeing the Light says:

              “I have a tendency to fall hook, line and sinker for kindness because I get so little of it in my life these days. Anything good, loving and kind that anyone says or does for me is extremely magnified and elicits a strong emotional response that distorts my perception of people.” This is some very wise insight into yourself, Exodus. I know exactly what you mean. I only learned this in the last couple of years! The hard way! I, too, have been starved for kindness and someone came into my life a few years ago and was so kind and complimented me all the time and expressed such concern and understanding for me and my situation and on and on. I ate it up and thought I had found the best friend in the world! I thought this person was a gift from God in my prison! Talk about my strong response distorting my perception! And yet…there were little red flags and my gut was trying to talk to me about them. Did I listen? No. And I ended up getting used again. Nothing like my marriage, but I was able to provide help and services according to my skill-set to this person’s family in their time of need – a lot of time and energy for free – and when I wasn’t useful anymore, boy, did things change fast. This one really hurt because I had thought that I finally had someone on my side, someone who would have my back for me. Now I know to be so careful not just in romantic situations, but in every relationship.

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              • Exodus says:

                It’s very true that our perception of anything is relative to how we are feeling in any given moment. When we are happy, few things annoy us and we tend to focus less on daily disruptions and struggles. One of the reasons that the effects of abuse has such a cumulative negative effect is because we are already in a state of emotional distress when each successive abusive event occurs. Sadly, I’ve been abused for so long that now when anyone does something similar to what my husband does to me, I get very triggered and hence, this is PTSD. I’m also very unhappy and depressed so just about anything negative in the world tends to bother me at a much higher degree than it would if I were happy.

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    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Seeing, it does hurt more to know he can be different (at least behave differently) if he chooses. In that sense, it’s a gift for you. Some day, I hope you get the chance to meet and be with a loving man of good character who loves you in every way.

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      • Seeing the Light says:

        Thank you for this, PJs. I’ve long for my freedom so much that singleness would be enough for me, but every now and then I think about what it would be like to actually have a real relationship with a good man. I honestly can’t imagine how good it could be.

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  5. jaded says:

    In my case, sex was always a chip on my pah’s shoulders, whether we had it or not, as often or not as often, it was always a way to punish me afterwards. If it was a lot of sex, it wasn’t that great and mostly all about him, if it wasn’t that often, it was hit or miss and mostly for his benefit again, and he would play a game of “push and pull”. Pull me in: flirt with me, promise beautiful things (always at the wrong time of course) and then push: got to bed early and fall asleep before I ever got to the bedroom and most of the time prentending to sleep. And the end results was always pretty much the same, he would make me pay for it afterwards by being mean (demeaning me) or looking for a fight, pushing my buttons and generally being negative and nasty with words. I never understood it until I found out what being pa was all about. It was so confusing!! How can you want to be intimate with someone like that?

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    • WritesinPJ's says:

      jaded, I’ve had lots of the flirt, promise, and then the ‘push’ that makes it unavailable. He wouldn’t pretend to be asleep here, he actually can fall asleep in a couple minutes time.

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